Friday, July 3, 2015

Just So Stories (Groundwood Books)

Rudyard Kipling was an English writer who was born in Bombay. He was known primarily for his short stories, which made him famous in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In fact, he won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1907, when he was only 42. He is still the youngest winner to this day. His most famous work was The Jungle Book, which though many have not read, recognize from Disney's adaptation of it. Today, I am reviewing my favorite Kipling work, his Just So Stories. Groundwood Books produced these books in two beautifully illustrated volumes.

Just So Stories, Volume 1 is an 87 page hardcover with illustrations by Ian Wallace. The stories included in this volume are as follows:

1. How the Whale Got His Throat
2. How the Camel Got His Hump
3. How the Rhinoceros Got His Skin
4. How the Leopard Got His Spots
5. The Elephant's Child
6. The Sing-Song of Old Man Kangaroo

Just So Stories, Volume 2 is at thicker 139 page hardcover also illustrated by Ian Wallace. The stories included in this volume are as follows:

1. The Beginning of the Armadilloes
2. How the First Letter Was Written
3. How the Alphabet Was Made
4. The Crab The Played with the Sea
5. The Cat That Walked by Himself
6. The Butterfly That Stamped

Missing from this collection is The Tabu Tale, which to be fair, is omitted from most British versions. Unlike most of Kipling's works which smack of a very pro-empire view of Britain, these stories are written for children, more specifically Kipling's niece. However, I believe children come in all ages, so even those children in their twenties and thirties will be amused and enlightened by these tales as well. For example, did you know that a whale can only eat small fish, because a whale once swallowed a boy, and that boy built a gate in the whale's throat to prevent it from swallowing big fish and people? Or did you know that a rhinoceros is irritable and has folds in his skin because he got cake crumbs in his skin and as much as he scratched, all he could accomplish was stretching his skin out but not getting rid of the crumbs?

The stories that deal with animals are easily the most enjoyable for me and my family, but the ones involving the alphabet proved to be interesting. What really makes these stories though, is the illustrations! The pictures are gorgeous and plentiful! It's always disappointing when children's books don't have many pictures, but they occur in these volumes, about every third page. Most take up the whole page as well, so you and your little ones don't have to squint when reading together. Though these stories are well over 100 years old, they still stand the test of time. So, I encourage you to read them to your kids. If you have adult kids, read them to your grandkids. Make it a family affair, and keep these beautiful stories alive for future generations.

These books were provided to me for free by Groundwood Books in exchange for honest reviews. If you found these reviews helpful, please click here and/or here and hit Yes!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Encountering Truth (Image Books)

I am the first Catholic to tell you that I am suffering "Francis fatigue." I'm not sure if it is an official term or one I made up, but it deals with fatigue at the attention he garners, not the man himself. He's in the news everyday. Every Catholic publisher has 5 new books about/by Pope Francis, St. Francis, or both. It's actually been a bit of challenge to find books to review that don't focus on Francis. So when Image Books asked me to review their latest book, Encountering Truth: Meeting God in the Everyday, I thought long and hard about it. That's saying a lot seeing that I love free books. I ultimately decided to give it a try, and here is my review of it.

Encountering Truth is a collection of Pope Francis' daily homilies given from St. Martha's Chapel. Fr. Antonio Spadaro wrote the introduction for this 400 page tome. In it he explains the nature of the homilies, Pope Francis' method of delivery, as well as the people who normally attend these homilies, This sets the stage for the homilies and puts them in the correct light before reading them. There are 186 homilies in total with each of them approximately two pages long. They are presented chronologically from March 2013 to March 2014. At the end of every homily are the Scripture passages from that particular. I'd recommend reading the Scripture passages first for context, and then reading the homily. The homilies are vast and varying, and include topics such as hypocrisy, prayer for the Middle East, the idolatry of money.

While I recommend reading every homily, you can just look at the Table of Contents and pick a topic that you think you need to read. One of the ones that spoke to me recently was "Never judge, never bad-mouth." In this homily, Pope Francis tells us, "Do not judge anyone because only the Lord can judge." Next, he tells us to "zip it," and if we have something to say, then say it to the person directly or someone who can help the situation, and not to everybody. Gossip is a big struggle of mine, and you can hear and read so eloquently on why it is harmful or bad for you and the people you are gossiping about. However, hearing it put so bluntly is what some people (myself included) need from time to time.

Encountering Truth: Meeting God in the Everyday is one of the latest books from Image Books and sadly is among the list of last books Image will be publishing. (Read more here.) I'm not sure if we can change Image's mind, but if more Catholics read more and bought more books, we might could. So if you are looking for a solid read, straight from the mouth of Pope Francis, this is the book for you! So pick up a copy, and try and read at least one a day.

This book was provided to me for free by Image Books in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive (Our Sunday Visitor)

Conservative Christians were dealt a blow with the Supreme Court's decision to legalize same-sex union, and yes it is a union. Marriage is and always will be between one man and one woman, no matter what society says. No one can be surprised by the decision that was reached, and as outraged as we might be, it was only a matter of time. In fact, Christians are partly to blame for it being legalized. We accepted civil unions as marriage. We accepted no-fault divorces and second and third marriages without batting an eye and calling it what it was...adultery. The pendulum may never swing fully back in favor of conservative Christians, but we can continue to fight the best way possible...by showing what real, authentic marriage is. With that in mind, I am reviewing a book called Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive.

Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive is a preparatory manual for the upcoming World Meeting of Families being held September 22-27, 2015 in Philadelphia, PA. What exactly is a Woeld Meeting of Families? It is a meeting that was started by Pope John Paul II in 1994, and it occurs every three years. The book is divided into ten parts:

1. Created for Joy
2. The Mission of Love
3. The Meaning of Human Sexuality
4. Two Become One
5. Creating the Future
6. All Love Bears Fruit
7.  Light in a Dark World
8. A Home for the Wounded Heart
9. Mother, Teacher, Family: The Nature and Role of the Church
10, Choosing Life

When I requested this book, I wasn't sure what to expect, but it turns out that this book is simply a summary of the Catholic Church's teachings on marriage, love, and family. There is no spin or agenda, just the truth in black and white. This book explains to us that we are in this world to both receive and show God's love. It explains what true marriage is, and that human sexuality is designed for creation. An especially interesting chapter is "All Love Bears Fruit." In this chapter, it tells us that not everyone is called to marriage. This might be a harsh reality for some, but it is a truth that needs to be said. However, this chapter also tells us that even though we are not all called to marriage, we can "nurture new life" through forms of self-giving and service to others.

At the end of every chapter are questions for discussion. Discussion questions in books have always been a hallmark of Our Sunday Visitor books, because they know we sometimes need questions to call us in deeper. They also produce books that are good for small group study. The book then closes with a prayer for the World Meeting of Families, which we should try and pray everyday so that the meeting is fruitful. In this day and age, we need to be able and prepared to articulate what we believe and why our way is correct. We need to do it lovingly, mind you, but we are under attack and must be prepared. Therefore, I recommend picking up this brief book so that you will be ready for the inevitable defense you will have to make about your beliefs on love, marriage, and family. It's also available in Spanish!

This book was provided to me for free by Our Sunday Visitor in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!