by Megan Dunsmore illustrations by Lawrence Klimecki. (More of Klimecki’s art is available online here.)
I picked up this little gem of a book last Saturday at the Proud to Be Catholic concert. It’s a traditional alphabet picture book. i love alphabet books and am always on the lookout for well-done religious books.
The title is actually a little misleading. Some of the people included are not canonized saints but rather blessed or venerable (5 blessed, 2 venerables). One, Dorothy of Montau, is neither a saint nor blessed or venerable. That puzzled me a bit as there are certainly female saints whose names begin with D—perhaps she was included because, as the appendix indicates, she’s the patron of Prussia? Otherwise, the choices make sense and most of the names were familiar to me. I especially liked the inclusion of Blessed Isabel of France as she is one of my Bella’s patrons. One nice touch is that there are two saints for each letter, one male and one female. So A is St Anthony of Padua and St Angela Merici, B is St Brendan and St Bernadette Soubirous, etc.
The artwork was what really caught my eye. It’s a modern interpretation of traditional iconography and reminds me of some of the artwork Matthew Alderman of the Shrine of the Holy Whapping has posted on that blog from time to time. I’m not terribly fond of the image of St Teresa of Avila who I think has a sly look (though I do like the pierced heart she carries) or of the too-skinny St. Thomas Aquinas who hardly fits the sobriquet “Dumb Ox”.
Each saint is given a very brief bio, two or three sentences long. It’s not enough on its own; but it’s a nice introduction or supplement to accompany other saints books. There are two nice appendices in the back of the book: one a list of patron saints (St Luke the patron of artists, St Monica the patron of mothers, etc.) the other a list of patron saints of countries (eg. St Rose of Lima the patron of North America). There is also a nice list of books suggested for further reading.
Maybe I’m too picky after years of teaching writing, but I had a couple of quibbles about the book’s introduction in which the author explained what makes a saint and the process of canonization. I thought weak writing resulted in a watered down explanation—specifically some weak language and poor stylistic choices: “If someone was so good and so holy that he or she was special, the church may decide that this person was a saint.” They were so good that they were special? Ugh. Maybe it’s just me but the word “special” makes me cringe. Why not just say that they were so good that we are sure they are in heaven? I don’t think that is over the heads of children. Likewise a series of rhetorical questions seems to obscure rather than illuminate the process of the examination of the saint’s life “‘What did they do and say and write while alive? Were they so good, so brave, and so holy that they were a hero in some ways? Was the person responsible for miracles, either during his or her life or afterwards?” Why are these phrased as questions? What exactly is the right answer? I can guess; but it would be simpler if the text just stated what the examiners look for.
All in all, however, this book is a great addition to our library.