Wednesday, August 12, 2015

TOB for Kids and Catholic Manga (Pauline Books and Media)

I have to admit that I have a lot of books in my queue to read currently. I once reached a point where my review stack was dwindling, and I was worried I wasn't going to be able to continue this blog so I reached out to secular publishers for kids books. That opened up my blog to a whole new demographic, which I hope brings in regular non-Catholic readers, who might see the beauty in the Catholic books I review and it can be a tool for evangelization. Because of this influx of secular kids books, I have neglected a company that holds a dear place in my heart, Pauline Books and MediaPauline Books and Media gave me a chance as a fledgling blogger and sent me several kids books to review. They are still my go-to store for great Catholic kids books, so today I would like to tell you about several of their new books.

You may recall that earlier this year I reviewed three board books from the TOB for Tots series. (For people not hip to the acronym, the TOB stands for Theology of the Body.) This Fall the author, Monica Ashour, is back with three more books in a series called TOB for Kids! The books are entitled Every Body Has Something to Say, Everybody Has Something to Give, and God Has a Plan for Boys and Girls. If your children previously read the TOB for Tots series, then they will recognize that their new series is paperback, because no "big kid" wants to read a board book for babies. At the beginning of each book is a note to the parents that tells you what the book will be teaching your children and can help foster discussion between you and your children. Every Body Has Something to Say tells us that our bodies communicate with us; how to listen to what our body is telling us, and most importantly how to appropriately respond to what our body is telling us. Everybody Has Something to Give talks about giving and receiving the gift of one's self, in the form of kind deeds, God Has a Plan for Boys and Girls addresses gender, how boys and girls are alike, and how they are different. It is easily my favorite book, as it explains that even though men and women are different, they each have unique gifts and callings in life that only they can answer as a man or woman. This was a 5 star series of books, which I am proud for my son to have in his library. He isn't quite old enough for them yet, but I know he will love them as much as he loves the TOB for Tots series, which we have read at least 100 times! Hopefully Ms. Ashour will continue this progression and do one for teens next.

I used to be a big fan of manga (Japanese comic books). They were so unlike traditional American comic books in the stories seemed to be a bit deeper and wasn't just the same old superhero beats supervillain each and every issue. Now, there were negative elements in these comics as well, including some sexual humor that is apparently more acceptable/prevalent in Japanese culture. Therefore, when I found out that Pauline Books and Media was releasing two children's books in manga-style, I was cautiously optimistic. The two titles are based on two well-known Catholic saints - St. Philip Neri and St. Teresa of Avila.

Philip Neri: The Laughing Saint is a children's book in the Shounen-style. This means that it is aimed at boys, high-action, and lots of humor. Some of the most popular mangas in Japan are Shounen and include series such as Dragon Ball, Naruto, and InuYasha. Unlike traditional Japanese manga, this title reads from left to right. My guess is that this was done to avoid confusion among those unfamiliar with this comic style. The artwork is spot on in the characters having over-exaggerated eyes and the sound effects where necessary.

The book begins with a classmate asking Philip for help with their Latin work. Philip is too distracted to help, because he is focusing on his hunger and all the bananas being gone. There are plenty of comical pieces like this littered throughout the book. However, behind the immaturity, the love for people is seen on almost every page, in Philip's words and deeds. All he wants to do is help take care of the poor and those less fortunate than him. He is able to do this both physically (curing illnesses) and spiritually (in the sacrament of Confession where he helped a young man who had a problem with stealing). This great saint never gave up on people, and that caused the people to never enter ultimate despair by turning away entirely from God. The book closes with information on his canonization and a list of his sayings and maxims. This was an exciting read and one that will greatly appeal to boys ages 10 and up. I even know some 30+ men who will enjoy this book as well.

Saint Teresa of Avila: God's Troublemaker is a children's book in the Shoujo-style. This means that is is aimed at girls and focuses more on emotions and relationships. Some popular Japanese series from this genre include Boys Over Flowers, Fruits Basket, and Sailor Moon. As a male, I have no familiarity with the titles, I just obtained them from research, so someone more familiar with them can tell me if the artwork is similar. Like the book Philip Neri: The Laughing Saint, this one is read left to right and not right to left in traditional Japanese manga. The art seems very flowery and places a great focus on light.

The story is divided into five chapters and begins with Teresa at an early age dealing with the reality of her mother dying. Her father and sister believe she is acting out, looking to be the center of attention, so they come to the conclusion that they should send her to study at a convent. Through the rest of the chapters, we see Teresa's struggle to mature and focus on others and not herself. We also see glimpses of the visions she received while in the convent, and the impact that she had on everyone around her. The book closes with information on her canonization and personal words found in her notebook. This manga is unique, which is good and bad. It will definitely appeal to fans of St. Teresa, but I wonder how successful this style will be among girls, because there are very few girls I know that read manga. Hopefully, I'm wrong and it's wildly successful!

These book were provided to me for free by Pauline Books and Media in exchange for honest reviews.