Every mom knows the experience of having her child unwrap a birthday or Christmas toy, only to find that the child has more fun playing with the box it came in. It’s a near-universal experience, one that points to a certain truth: Kids need fewer toys than they think they do (or than we think they do).
It’s a tough truth to live by, though, especially this time of year when ads and store windows try to convince our kids that they need more. That’s why a book like The Christmas Stick (written by Tim J. Myers, illustrated by Necdet Yilmaz) is such a welcome one.
In this colorful new picture book, a spoiled young prince receives a stick for Christmas. He’s not sure what to do with it at first — it gets ignored as he focuses on the other, flashier toys — but then as the novelty of those toys begins to fade, he turns to the stick and finds that it’s a lot more fun than the others.
A stick can be a sword! It can be a lute! It can be a giant’s club! The book shows the prince letting his imagination rip as he explores all the possibilities of a simple stick. In the end, he also learns about kindness and giving in a lovely little twist in the plot. It’s an utterly charming book, with a message that we can’t get enough of this time of year. It just may inspire you to wrap up an old broom handle as a gift for your kids and see where their imagination goes.
A while back, my son and I thoroughly enjoyed the book Saint Francis and Brother Duck by Jay Stoeckl, OFS . This year, together we’re reading his new book Saint Nicholas and the Mouse of Myra. Like its predecessor, Saint Nicholas and the Mouse of Myra is a graphic novel about the spiritual journey of a saint. Like its predecessor, it also features an adorably-drawn animal sidekick to help convey the story of the saint in question. The mouse in this book is full of personality, cheeky and smart and frequently challenging Nicholas to explain his life choices in a way that allows for the saint’s beliefs to unfold easily throughout the story.
The book moves along at a nice pace and is a very engaging and colorful introduction to the saint upon whom Santa Claus is based; I particularly like its message about generous giving to the poor. It’s a great read for kids eight and up (and for their parents, too — I’m learning a lot about Saint Nicholas that I didn’t know before).
Both The Christmas Stick and Saint Nicholas and the Mouse of Myra were review copies courtesy of Paraclete Press, which publishes all sorts of great spiritual books for kids and adults. Check them out — I promise you’ll find something you like.