The People’s Pope shows that he is a down-to-earth man who understands both religion and children.
Left-hand pages show 30 actual letters and hand-drawn pictures from children around the world, culled from 259 submitted, along with snapshots of the children, their names, ages, and countries, and the typed English texts of their letters. Right-hand pages, on paper meant to look like Vatican stationery, bear the pope’s answers, given in an interview with editor Father Antonio Spadaro, many talking about the pictures the children have drawn. The questions (“these are tough...!”) are all over the map in terms of both theology and intimacy. An 8-year-old girl from Kenya wants to know how Jesus walked on water, a 10-year-old girl from the Philippines wants to know why parents argue, and Prajla, 6, from Albania wants to know if Francis enjoyed dancing in his youth. Answering in terms children can understand, Pope Francis addresses both their questions and the fears and hopes that lie beneath them. While these questions were likely chosen to present the pope’s vision and stances on many matters of Roman Catholic faith—dealing with the poor, the afterlife, prayer, evangelization, mercy (oddly, none address the environment)— that doesn’t mean that his answers to these youngest of his flock are anything other than important or relevant.
As Spadaro writes, Pope Francis understands that “One must not complicate God, especially if this complication distances God from the people.” People’s Pope indeed.
Teaching our daughters how to love themselves is the first step toward the next generation’s owning its power.
It’s heady stuff for a picture book, but it’s never too soon for a woman—even a little woman—to know her worth. Denhollander (the first of sex offender Larry Nassar’s abuse victims to speak out) presents a poetic discourse that resonates beyond its young intended audience. Her simple rhyming couplets speak to the power of image and the messages that shape how we become who we are. The eloquence comes not from the words or phrasing as much as the message as well as the passion. Denhollander, an attorney, a mother, and a former gymnast–turned-coach for a time, delivers stanzas infused with sweet sentimentality as well as fiery fierceness. New artist Huff provides lovely, expressive illustrations depicting girls of many racial presentations in various stages of self-discovery and acceptance. The figures are smiling and cartoonlike, with oversized, round heads and sturdy bodies—though none could be called fat, none exhibits twiglike proportions. Denhollander’s book is unapologetically Christian in approach, with more than one reference to “Him” or a creation by a greater power. With sincerity helping to mitigate occasionally artless text, this is a worthwhile message for young girls who, in an age of shrinking women’s rights, need all the encouragement possible to find their voices and love themselves.
Girls will hear the answer to the titular question.
(Picture book. 4-8)
Rhyming text and colorful multicultural illustrations reassure young readers of God’s omnipresence and still small voice.
“Where in the world is God’s voice found?” Perhaps in ocean waves, bird song, or mountain vistas, suggest the couplet rhymes. Even when readers might be faced with difficult emotions and distractions of all kinds, the text reassures them that God is still there and still speaking, if only one pauses to listen. His voice can be found in nature, in starlight, in the love of family and friends, in dreams, and “through His Word.” Admirably, the bright illustrations, reminiscent of mid-20th-century Disney artist Mary Blair’s stylings, depict children and families with a diverse array of skin tones and ages. There is also a refreshing mix of urban, suburban, and rural settings. Yet, despite the appealing illustrations, the rhymes and scansion are often forced (“your feelings, they matter, / even if they’re all mixed up like / pancake batter”), which detracts from the overall message. Contrived couplets notwithstanding, this title will likely find an audience among Christian households seeking reassuring bedtime reads.
Though the rhyme tumbles and at times bumbles, enticing imagery will lure readers in.
(Picture book. 4-6)