King of the Shattered Glass: beautiful Catholic picture book

Author: Susan Joy Bellavance

Illustrator: Sara Tang

Publisher: Tan Books

Age Range: 7 – 10

This distinctive picture book was not what I expected at all! It contains a beautiful story that has layers of meaning.  The more I contemplate it, the more I find to appreciate.  Basically, this is the story of a little girl who keeps breaking the King’s precious glass.  It’s also the story of a kindly King who continues to forgive this little girl, and who ultimately creates something beautiful out of the shards of broken glass.

I can’t emphasize how enchanting and ‘old worldly’ this book is. It beautifully captures something of past fairy tales and folk lore. And yet, it still has a relevant and contemporary message. Set in an unnamed foreign land, characters have names such as Marguerite or Olivero or Giovanni. The King is presented as a wise, kind and all-knowing leader who is loved and served faithfully by his household.

The King is described thus:

“No one could hold his gaze for long for his eyes searched and pierced the heart”

A dear little girl, Marguerite, seems to be anxious about her life.  Her heart is in the right place, but she always seems to find herself in some sort of strife.  She is either running late, or side tracked by the mischievous Giovanni, or stumbling across some other sort of problem.  But Marguerite’s most endearing character is her courage.  When Marguerite accidentally breaks the King’s precious glass, she immediately knows that she must be honest and tell him the truth.  Other characters hint that she would be better off burying the evidence out in the forest, but no… little Marguerite stands trembling and frightened before the King and shows him the broken shards piled into her apron.

I found myself swept up in the emotions of the moment.  Imagine the horror of breaking the King’s most precious possessions.  Oh dear. My heart sank as this dear little girl regarded the broken shards of glass before her.  Who hasn’t been in that situation before?  Thankfully, the King is kindly and forgiving.  I breathed a sigh of relief.

But wouldn’t you know it?  Marguerite manages to break more of the King’s glass two more times – this really is a story that contains emotional ups and downs. And each time, the King forgives her.  By the end of the story, the King has decided to accept Marguerite as his own beloved daughter.  Marguerite finds her home.

What can I say? From the shards of broken glass, a beautiful stained-glass window is created. This is a story about how God will always ensure that good is born from even the most evil and terrible moments. It’s a story about the sacrament of confession, and how God will forgive us and ultimately, we will become a child of God if we but repent and love Him.

I like the nuances of this story.  There are actually no evil, horrible characters which is somewhat refreshing. Marguerite battles the sin within herself – she gives in to pride, to recklessness, to impatience. Instead of running and hiding the evidence of her weaknesses and failings, she confronts them and asks the King for forgiveness.

Such a universal story.  Who hasn’t felt disheartened and let down by our own weaknesses and failings?  This is a lesson that you won’t find in many stories for children nowadays. I’m reminded of the one-hundred-year-old story, The King and the Golden City, where ‘self’ is the one entity that needs to be guarded against and confronted above all else.

The book itself is a beautifully produced hard cover picture book.  Author, Joy Bellavance has clearly taken great care to write an emotionally charged story. There is a lot of text which would make it most suitable for early primary school, perhaps ages 7 – 10.  Younger children will enjoy having the book read to them and they will appreciate the horror of breaking the King’s precious glass only too well. They will be extremely relieved that the King is merciful and forgiving.  It’s the perfect book for explaining the sacrament of confession and is a great tool for introducing the concepts of sin and honesty and seeking forgiveness.

Highly recommended, very useful for Catholic children.

Pacific Island and Australian people can purchase this book form Veritatis Publishing HERE.

Others can purchase from Amazon HERE.

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