Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Karol: The Boy Who Became Pope (Neumann Press)

There have been a handful of children's books written about Pope John Paul II. Some focus on his papacy, and others focus on his life as a child. Neumann Press has recently released one entitled Karol: The Boy Who Became Pope. Unlike other John Paul II children's books, this book takes a different focus in the life of Karol Wotyla - his spirit of adventure. This characteristic of his was something that those around him knew all too well. It was also a trait which he didn't suddenly lose when he became Pope, as evidenced by the cover of the book, which shows him skiing even late in life.

The book begins with a bit of information on when Karol was born, who his parents were, and who his brother was. The bulk of the story deals with Karol at age seven, though. He will be making his First Communion when he turns eight, so his father decides that the family should go on a pilgrimage to prepare Karol for his First Communion, and because he believes it would be good for the whole family. Interspersed in the story of the pilgrimage, we find out a few other details of Karol's life, such as sports he played, friends he had, and what his family life was like. After the conclusion of the story, we have an excerpt from his Letter to Children that he wrote in 1994 during the Year of the Family.

I'm still trying to decide how I feel about this book, as I'm conflicted. For starters, the book said that it was going to talk about a few of Karol's adventures, but really only focused on one. Had they just said, this is a story about his pilgrimage before his First Holy Communion, that would be fine. But since they didn't, I can see children feeling mislead. For another thing, there are A LOT of words in this book. The illustrations (cartoonish line drawings that are in color) seem like the book would be geared toward younger children, but the sheer amount of words would say that it would be more suited for 4th graders at a minimum, which is a shame since it mainly talks about him when he is a seven year old. The story was good, but it did jump around a bit. The insertion of bits of his childhood in the story felt unnecessary, especially when there are already books that tell some of the facts this book did. It would have been better suited to just tell the pilgrimage story and nothing else. The pilgrimage story is at least interesting and that's what raises my rating to 4 stars.

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