Breathe, by Laura Alary
My friend Laura Alary has a lovely new book coming out: Breathe: A Child’s Guide to Ascension, Pentecost and the Growing Time (Paraclete Press, 2021). It is designed as a children’s book, but it would be so good for grown-ups too. Don’t miss out just because you don’t have kids around to read it to.
I’ve written about Laura’s work before. This new book makes a Church year trilogy of sorts, following on her Look! A Child’s Guide to Advent and Christmas and Make Room: A Child’s Guide to Lent and Easter.
Laura has a gentle storytelling style, growing from her work with children in churches, as well as from being a mom. And she has a solid academic background, including a Ph.D. in New Testament.
The book takes kids into two great, but sometimes neglected, holy days of the Christian calendar, Ascension and Pentecost. And she does something very unusual by giving thoughtful consideration to the great swath of “ordinary time.” She reframes it nicely as “growing time.”
How often have you heard anything meaningful or useful about “ordinary time”? Here’s your chance.
Her focus alternates between poetically retelling the relevant biblical stories, and discussing the life of faith today.
- She reminds us of events that bring up the same emotions as the biblical scenes.
- She notices how the cycles of nature echo the events of the Church’s seasons.
- She reflects on things she, her family, and her church do to live into the events of the Christian year.
It is all inviting, warm, and lovely. One thing I love about Laura’s books is that they are so wisely real.
This is in contrast to so many Christian books for kids. They often come across either as cloyingly sweet, or they try to drive home a very narrow (and complex) slice of Christian teaching. They end up unpleasantly teachy and preachy.
Laura’s exploration of living the Church’s year instead seem like they show real people nurturing a real faith.
The illustrations by Cathrin Peterslund capture the mood well. In the images of today she shows an admirably wide range of people in terms of ages, races, etc.
Still, I think a couple of the illustrations of Bible passages missed a key mark.
An image of the resurrected Christ accompanies a text about disciples wanting to cling to him. In the picture, all the disciples are male. Scripture most explicitly records this as part of a conversation between Jesus and a female disciple, Mary Magdalene (John 20:17)
The images of the gathered disciples at Pentecost also are all male. The text does not specifically state that those present were all male. Nor does it say the women disciples were there with them. But why assume that they were absent?
Don’t let my critiques of two illustrations turn you away from this winsome invitation to the abiding usefulness and relevance of the Christian calendar.
I don’t know of anything else like it. And our kids really need our help in finding ways to full and growing faith.
Breathe: A Child’s Guide to Ascension, Pentecost and the Growing Time is available for pre-order on Amazon. It’s in both print and Kindle. Order your copy now, and it should reach you April 13.
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