When Julia Harrell’s new book, How To Be a Hero: Train With the Saints (Pauline Kids, 2017) arrived in the mail, my shoulders slumped for a minute. I just didn’t expect much from it, based on the cover.
Happily, my first impressions were way off!
It’s a manual on the virtues for kids age 9-11 (although I think older kids would benefit from it, as well). In each chapter, Harrell defines a cardinal, theological, or little virtue, gives a short biography of a saint who exemplified that virtue, and ends with a short prayer and a list of questions to elicit further thought about how to apply the virtue to our own lives.
The language is plain and frank, and the ideas are much more challenging than you normally see in a religion book for kids. The saints included are:
Pope Saint John Paul II (prudence)
Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati (justice)
Saints Peter Yu Tae-chol and Agatha Yi (fortitude)
Ven. Matt Talbot (fortitude)
The Children of Fatima (faith)
St. Josephine Bakhita (hope)
B. Chiara Badano (love)
St. Joan of Arc (humility)
Bl. Dina Belanger (obedience)
St. Monica (patience)
St. Charbel Makhlouf (gentleness)
Nice list, right? And not the most obvious match-ups, either (maybe you’d expect to see St. Joan with fortitude, for instance.)
I think the book could have done just as well without the premise that virtues are superpowers that we must master to become heroes, or saints; and the drawn illustrations are lackluster. It does include plenty of black-and-white photographs of the saints, though, and overall, the presentation is brisk and accessible. Here, you can leaf through the book page by page and get an idea of how the content is presented.
We’re taking a break from The How-To Book of the Mass, which we’ve been working our way through verrrrry slowly, and reading a section of How To Be a Hero in the evening now. (I firmly believe it’s better to do even five minutes of reading very often, than to work harder and burn out faster.) I’m dragging in all the kids, including the five teenagers, because the subject matter is presented simply, but it’s not childish.
Very pleased with this book so far. It would make a good Easter gift.