Not only am I a busy father, but I am also a busy godfather. It is sometimes hard for me to keep track of all my godchildren, but I am pretty sure I could field a baseball team by now. Our team would probably be called the Discalced Crusaders, or something similar.
(Incidentally, I have a hard time thinking of a good way of incorporating Catholicism into the name of a baseball team. Think of baseball words: ball, bat, base, diamond, catch, pop, run, out, strike. I can’t think of a way to pun on any of them in a religious sense. When I was on the physics department’s baseball team we were called the Magnetic Fielders; I wish I could think of something with that kind of wit. This might explain why baseball is not popular in predominantly Catholic countries.)
Anyway, one of the pleasures of being a godfather is that I get to give gifts to my godchildren from time to time, when the fancy strikes me, and I am fond of giving books. The trouble is that when I go to my local Catholic bookstore and peruse the books for kids and young adults (my godchildren range in age from 4 to 21) I can’t help noticing something: there’s a lot of crap.
So I am looking for recommendations of good Catholic books for kids and teenagers. (I don’t have as much trouble with adults.) Suggestions are most welcome.
Let me mention a few of my own favourite books of this kind:
The Little Juggler was adapted by Barbara Cooney from a French legend, and was first published in 1961. It tells the story of a young boy in medieval Europe who wants to serve God but only knows how to juggle. The story has been adapted, with some differences, by others (such as in Tomie dePaola’s The Clown of God), but this one is the best. The illustrations are wonderful, and the text is elegant and moving.
Margaret Hodges has adapted a few classic tales about saints for children, and I really like her Legend of St Christopher. The story, which comes from The Golden Legend, tells the story of a strong man who wants to serve the world’s most powerful king. He first serves in the court of a great ruler, then he serves the devil, and finally he serves Christ. The illustrations are superb; they were done by Richard Jesse Watson.
There are shelves of books about St Francis, but my favourite (of those I have seen) is The Wolf of Gubbio by Michael Bedard, with illustrations by Murray Kimber. It tells the story of how Francis tamed the wolf of Gubbio. Once again, the illustations are a big part of the draw here; they are fantastic.
One begins to discern the limits of my knowledge: these are all picture books suitable for young children. They are all narrative and quasi-legendary, rather than Biblical or catechetical. I’m not saying that’s a problem, but it is a limitation.
I’d be grateful for recommendations of other good books for Catholic children.