Books for the young

Published December 1, 1998

OF ALL THE Christmas gift books for children, this year’s pride of place goes to a pair written by a woman rabbi whose titles often appear on Christian best-seller lists. Others, less explicitly “religious,” nevertheless offer insights that reflect Christian values; there is also one here that may help parents share their own Christianity with their offspring. [pullquote]Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso writes and lectures on such issues as the renewal of spirituality and women and religion. She is also an expert on the spiritual imagination and religious discovery of children of all faiths, all backgrounds. She uses this to weave magical stories that encourage conversation about God between adults and children. Their poetic text and vibrant illustrations combine the flavour of ancient myth with contemporary reality.In God’s Name explores the ancient argument about the true name of God among the seekers of the world. This modern fable about the search for God’s name celebrates the diversity and, at the same time, the unity of all the people of the world. As each searcher claims alone to know God’s name, they come together to discover the ultimate harmony of belief in one God. For an adult, this can be goosepimple stuff; for the young, the awakening of the natural mystic that is in every child. (age 4-up)God In Between deals with the question “If you wanted to find God, where would you look?” The townsfolk of the book’s mythical village turn to the only two people in the entire town who they know can help. The Ones who Could See Out Windows venture into the unknown world beyond the hill, and soon find that the object of their search is nearer than they had imagined. The villagers needed only to learn where – and how – to look: within us and the relationships between us. (age 4-up)Fog Cat is a moving story about relationships and the trust, understanding, patience and love it takes to build them. Hannah first sees the stray cat the summer she comes to live with her grandfather on the foggy seacoast. Determined to tame her, Hannah spends months patiently leaving tempting titbits to win the wild creature over. By winter they have become friends, but come spring Fog Cat disappears again into the fog, leaving behind a special gift for Hannah. The message, that unconditional love sets a person free, is enriched by the illustrations which capture the foggy atmosphere. (ages 4 – 9) The Last Safe House is set at the end of the underground railroad that enabled slaves from the U.S. south to escape to Canada. It is the story of two young girls: Eliza, a runaway slave from Virginia, and Johanna, whose family gives Eliza refuge in their home in St. Catharines, Ont. Johanna has never before imagined the horrors of slavery, but through Eliza she begins to understand – especially when the girls are alone and a slave-hunter appears at the door. Chapters of compelling adventure are combined with historical background information on the U.S. south, the efforts to abolish slavery, and the real-life Canadians who helped fugitive slaves to freedom, making this a really substantial book. Beautifully detailed drawings accompany each chapter – there is even a map of the major routes of the underground railroad. (ages 8 – 12)Growing In the Dark is not so much for children as for parents seeking to cultivate a child’s faith, even while struggling with their own. The author, a retreat leader, spiritual director, chaplain, and teacher, suggests prayers, stories, and simple activities drawn from everyday life. Best of all, she encourages parents, grandparents, and godparents to trust their own wisdom when it comes to nurturing a child’s faith: “Relax and let God surprise you.” There are delightful watercolour illustrations on each page.


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