Author: Paul L. Maier
Illustrated: Francisco Ordaz
Published: Concordia Publishing House
Age Range: 5 – 10
This Easter picture book is twenty years old but has a 1950’s or 1960’s feel to it. The story revolves around young Christopher and his parents who appear to be a relatively well off and conservatively traditional Christian family. While mom bakes in the kitchen, dad talks to his son about the true story of Easter.
If you require a book which does not represent traditional family roles and reflects cultural diversity then this book is not for you. Jesus does not look middle eastern, rather he is portrayed as a white looking guy with a golden tinge to his hair. On the other hand, this is one of the better-quality Easter books around. Once again it is not a specifically Catholic book, but I have had enormous trouble finding truly Catholic Easter books for children. I will point out the positive aspects of this story book, and also some of my reservations.
The story draws on scripture, particularly the gospel of Luke. Scripture is quoted throughout the story as the family encourages Christopher to read the biblical account of Easter. Children are drawn into the story by the use of Christopher’s child like questions, for example “Who would want to steal a dead body?” or “If Jesus was God, why would He pray to Himself?” His father attempts to answer Christopher’s questions in a way that the boy will understand. Author Paul L. Maier tackles some hard questions about the human and divine nature of Jesus and where Jesus went when he ascended. I’m not comfortable with the father’s explanation of Jesus “moving into a higher dimension of reality” after the ascension. But apart from that, the book does a good job of tackling some complex questions. Unfortunately though, I know that many Catholic children of this age group are not familiar with the Bible references made by Christopher’s father in his explanations, for example David, Corinthians and Paul in Acts.
The greatest strength of this picture book is the artwork. The illustrations are glorious – facial expressions are engaging and the full-page pictures are lifelike and beautifully executed. The crucifixion is not too gruesome or bloodthirsty but shows Jesus on the cross, and bleeding from the crown of thorns. His dead body and weeping women are also graphically depicted.
Paul L. Maier is an ancient historian and so there are some interesting facts peppered throughout such as King Herod being the son of the original King Herod who had all the baby boys killed after Jesus was born. He also clarifies how it was the Romans who had the final authority to order the death penalty and explains why the crowd had turned against Jesus. These details are interesting and give clarity to the story. Personally, I think the story is too advanced for five-year-olds, but younger children will enjoy following the story by gazing at the pictures as you read it to them.
From a Catholic perspective the story is factual and there is mention of the Last Supper with the words:
“Believers who eat the bread and drink the wine receive the body and blood of Christ and remember all he did to win our salvation. The Lord’s Supper is called a sacrament – something through which God offers his grace and grants forgiveness of sins.”
Close to Catholic, but not specifically Catholic. We believe that mortal sins can only be forgiven via the sacrament of confession/reconciliation/penance, and the Church highly recommends the confessing of venial sins as well. So, the choice is yours: there are some really good aspects to the way this story is presented and told. There are also some drawbacks which I have made you aware of.
You can purchase The Very First Easter HERE.
And watch a reading of this book on YouTube HERE.
Homeschool and Teacher Ideas
General easter activities and ideas:
- big list of links for Easter activities and resources
- Great ideas here, including science lessons.
- Nail your sins to a cross – literally; great ‘doing’ style lesson. Make your cross. Write your sins on cards and fix them to the cross.
- Some ready made workbooks and worksheets (for just a few dollars).