Author: Natasha Wing
Illustrator: Amy Wummer
Publisher: Grosset and Dunlap, an imprint of Penguin Random House
Ages: 4 – 7
I enjoyed this little picture book far more than I thought I would! For years the only Catholic Children’s books I’ve seen on the shelves of Catholic Book Stores have been about the sacraments and the Saints – and that’s all. So, I have a bit of an expectation that books about the sacraments are going to be cheap, second rate and very, very old. Well I was wrong about this one!
Natasha Wing has created a really warm and heart felt story about a Catholic family that celebrates the First Communion of twins, Maria and Max. Time is taken to show how much preparation and excitement is involved getting ready for the big day. I loved how Maria and Max’s extended family come to stay and celebrate with the twins.
Maria begins to get nervous, but then the story changes pace. I was impressed by how two full pages are devoted to the consecration of the bread and wine. This ‘pause’ in the story is a great place to discuss consecration with children as you read the book to them.
Back to the story and nerves start to get the better of poor Maria. Her hands begin to shake – will she even be able to hold on to the holy Host?
Rescue comes in the form of a statue of Jesus that gazes down upon Maria. The gaze of the gentle Lord Jesus provides her with comfort and reassurance. Phew! Maria sails through her First Communion – then the party begins!
This picture book is aimed at young readers so it could be used as an early preparation for Holy Communion. It’s aim is not to provide a theological explanation of the Holy Eucharist for children. It provides a simple and endearing story of a family’s experiences of First Holy Communion day.
I only wish there were more stories out there for children that portray multi-generational families and communities supporting and loving each other. This is a delightful story which does not minimize the centrality of the Eucharist or reverence of the occasion. But it also celebrates the joy of family and ritual. The family portrayed could be South American, but their cultural background is not specified. Particularly for a multicultural classroom this is an appropriate addition to your Catholic Children’s Books collection.
You can purchase Natasha Wing’s picture book from Amazon HERE
There’s also a read aloud of the book HERE
For teachers and homeschoolers:
I would be using this story book for children in the first grade to introduce the idea of First Holy Communion. It could also be used in conjunction with other material that children are using as they prepare for Holy Communion. As I noted in the review this is not a book that explains the consecration or Holy Communion – but it portrays what it is like for children on the day of their First Holy Communion.
Because I would be using this book for younger children, I’d probably focus on art and craft ideas. Here are a few of the good ones on the internet:
- https://www.thereligionteacher.com/first-communion-activities/ This is a great place to start – it has links to many other activities.
- https://www.catholicicing.com/first-communion-resources-for-kids/ An emphasis on art and craft and cooking ideas.
- https://www.catholicicing.com/first-communion-day/ This is a beautiful photographic portrayal of the catholic icing lady’s daughter’s first communion – very similar to the sequence of events in the story I just reviewed.
- https://www.pinterest.com.au/catholicicing/first-communion-ideas/ A wealth of ideas here – I love Pinterest!