Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Saints and Friendly Beasts (Neumann Press)

Back in October 2013, TAN Books did something truly awesome and acquired Neumann Press. In doing so, TAN Books not only acquired a publisher that tripled their selection of children's titles, but Neumann Press also provides a comprehensive homeschooling line. For those unfamiliar with Neumann Press, they specialize in reprinting vintage children's books and homeschooling resources. Some of these series include, Angel Food for Boys and Girls, American Cardinal Readers, and Saints and Friendly Beasts (of which I will be reviewing two of today). Without further ado, here are my reviews.

Saint Martin de Porres and the Mice is a 6'' x 8" hardcover reprint of a 1960s children's classic. It is 45 pages in length with semi-thick paper, and it contains pencil sketches (classic to the 1960s) on almost every page. The book starts off explaining the rough childhood of young Martin. He grew up in a poor family in Peru in the late 1500s. His father left when he was young, and his mother was tasked with raising the children as a single mother. Martin always showed a kindness to all, but especially animals. He would feed and doctor all the hungry and sick animals of the world if he could. We continue on in this story and see Martin gain an education, apprentice as a barber-doctor, and eventually find his true calling as a Lay Brother of the Dominican Order. You may be asking, "What about the mice?" You'll have to buy the book to hear those wonderful tales.

When reading through this book, you will have to instruct your children about the era in which it is written. There are hints of racism that St. Martin must overcome for being black. The language with which St. Martin speaks also comes off uneducated. That doesn't make this book bad. It just means you can use it as a teaching tool for how people viewed black people, both in the late 1500s (when St. Martin lived) and in the 1960s (when this book was published.) I did enjoy the book, and I like the message of loving all of God's creatures, even those as tiny as the mouse. I also liked the message of overcoming obstacles in life, and keeping your soul "shining and white." If I had one thing to change, I would want the title on the spine of the book, so it's easy to pick out on a bookshelf. Highly recommended book for Catholic homeschooling families and those who want to learn more about St. Martin de Porres.

Saint Germaine and the Sheep is also a 6" x 8" hardcover reprint of a 1960s classic. It is 48 pages in length with semi-thick paper, and it contains pencil sketches (classic to the 1960s) on almost every page. The book starts off with children gathering around a young shepherdess named Germaine and asking her for a story. Germaine was born with a skin disease and a withered hand in Pibrac, France in the late 1500s. Despite her unattractive appearance, the children who love her and her stories don't notice, because she is so beautiful on the inside. Unfortunately, her mother died at a young age and her father remarried a nasty woman who was mean to Germaine. To make matters worse, villagers accused Germaine of false piety with the logic that a pious person would not be ugly. How wrong they were.

Being a shepherdess was mostly rewarding for Germaine, but she missed being able to go to Mass often. Eventually, she decided she just had to go to Mass, and she found a way to keep the sheep safe while she went to church. You'll have to buy the book to find out how. This went on for a while, and she grew holier and her step-mother and the villagers grew nicer toward Germaine. Your children will learn many lessons from this book, but two stood out to me most of all. The first lesson is to always put God first in everything. The second lesson is to not judge someone by outward appearances. I have nothing negative to say about the content of this book, but like the other books in this series, I wish that the title were written on the spine. That small lament aside, I still highly recommend this book for all Catholic families.

These books were provided to be my by Neumann Press in exchange for an honest review. If you found the reviews helpful, please click here or here and hit Yes!