The build up to Christmas is often such a busy and hectic time that we struggle to make space for the quiet reflection that Advent calls for in our own lives as adults, let alone in the lives of our children. That’s why we’ve been busy behind-the-scenes here at Second Spring working on two brand new beautiful Christmas books for kids that we hope will help you slow down and enter more deeply into the mystery of the Nativity with your little ones.
The Bethlehem Shepherds is the full colour storybook edition of the popular colouring book of the same title which we released last year, by writer and mother Madeleine Carroll, with lovely illustrations by Michelle Pitt. It’s been lovingly designed for children ages 3-8, telling the story of Christmas night through the experience of the shepherds and gently drawing parallels between the shepherds of Bethlehem and the Good Shepherd himself.
Here’s a little bit from the author, Madeleine, about where she got the idea for the book, and how she approaches the season of Advent with her family:
“I am a Catholic homeschooling mother to 5 children with another due next May. I myself was one of a family of six children in a busy and close home environment. I was homeschooled from age 6 up. As a teenager I loved traveling, before training as a Montessori teacher for 3-6 year olds, and then becoming a nanny and teacher to a homeschooling family with two young boys.
I love to walk over our local common and often jot down ideas for stories as I walk. This story came from my love of the Nativity story and the images that used to come to mind when I prayed the Third Joyful Mystery of the Rosary.
I really hope children and their parents will feel the joy and excitement I imagine the shepherds would have felt as soon as they heard about, and then found the Baby Jesus.
For each day of Advent we love to hang decorations on our Jesse tree, and also to read from a beautiful book by Ann Voskamp called Unwrapping the Greatest Gift.
Since I also love singing Christmas carols, I am trying to build a tradition where the children, my husband and I sing carols to our friends and neighbours and hand out chocolates. I have discovered that my 8 year old daughter is now learning lots of carols by heart and sings them around the house which is so nice.”
Sheba’s Journey is a charming story for children from 7-11 (though younger children will love the vibrant illustrations, too), telling the tale of a special camel who is chosen to carry valuable gifts to a mysterious king. Designed to unpack the mystery of the Epiphany story in Matthew 2:1-12, Sheba’s Journey charts the long journey of the Magi through the desert to reach the Holy Land, from Sheba the camel’s perspective.
This book has been many years in the making, and we’re so excited to finally be able to share it with you. Here’s some background from the illustrator, Susan Bateman:
“Ever since I was a child I have written and illustrated stories. I was an avid reader, supported by my parents—my Dad gave me Tom Sawyer to read at a young age, and always supplied me with endless paper and the best quality colouring pencils! And then life started in earnest and I studied to be a teacher, had kids, went back to teaching, when I fell in love with children’s books all over again.
Sheba’s Journey has been a huge learning curve for me, not least in terms of confidence, but there have been moments of such pure joy, that I would be thrilled if it can touch the heart of even just one child!
The idea of Sheba’s Journey is entirely Leonie’s. She has such a good sense of humour, and it seemed that the idea of a proud camel who thought she was the best and then discovered Jesus, and so learnt worship and humility (we hope!) always brought laughter. My hope is that through reading the stories together it would give parents the opportunity to talk with their children about what it feels like to be proud of yourself—important to believe in yourself, but it can go too far! And to also see the humility of Our Lord, Maker of the world, who chose to be born in such humble surroundings, and close to animals. I loved exploring the colours of the desert at different times of the day and night, and I learnt so much about camels.
Christmas for our family means a small house filled with lots of rapidly growing children, but the memories are so precious—the crib, and the candles, and the music—carols played on the piano and later the flute and cello), and the wonderful smells of the spices and the stuffings and the puddings and the cakes, and the joy of being together. When the children were old enough to attend Midnight Mass, we had to wait until they fell asleep before filling their stockings! Now they are grown up and some of them are married—we have a Polish Christmas Eve, with blessings and thanks to all our family and friends for what they have given us in terms of love and friendship; an English roast turkey on Christmas Day, a Boxing day walk after the St Stephen’s day Mass, followed by cold turkey and chips and peas!
But before we get to Christmas Day, there is the ‘journey’, Advent, sometimes difficult, sometimes rewarding, but a precious time of reflection—candles, children playing with the crib, bringing the shepherds and the wise men and the animals to share in the Christmas story. And children love singing, and acting out the story, so seeing it from different perspectives is another way to encounter those hidden meanings.”