Betsy Kerekes reviews a re-released classic children's book on the life of Mary.
Prolific children’s author, Tomie DePaola, who died last year at age 85, (not from Covid!) utilizes more than just the usual Bible verses in Mary, The Mother of Jesus. In his own words: “I have drawn on Scripture, Church tradition, and pious legend for this praise of Mary, the mother of Jesus.”
Each page is topped with a verse, often from the Benedictine Breviary, and illustrates, in DePaola’s inimitable style, an aspect of Mary’s life. He begins with an angel appearing separately to Anne and Joachim, letting them know that their stressful childless state would soon come to an end. The image of Mary’s parents going to meet each, bursting with the joy of this news, nearly brought tears to my eyes.
Next mentioned is the presentation of three-year-old Mary at the temple. The eager child climbed all the temple stairs by herself. (I wonder how many steps my three-year-old would have taken before demanding to be carried.) Even at a young age, Mary knew what was up, and was eager to present herself to God.
A word of caution: at the Annunciation, instead of using the common, “How can this be since I have no relations with a man,” DePaola uses, “I am a virgin.” Although she’s often called The Virgin Mary, I tell my kids the word refers to her purity. That might not cut it in this context, however, so I recommend having an age-appropriate definition at the ready should your little ones ask for an explanation.
On the Visitation page, Joseph is troubled by Mary’s pregnancy because “they had not come together.” Likewise, you may want to be ready for questions regarding that phrase. On the plus side, the circumcision of our Lord is bypassed entirely.
On the page for the flight into Egypt, which talks about Herod ordering the deaths of children up to two years, a child lying face down with a weeping mother next to him is depicted. Though non-bloody, this may be disturbing for some children.
I appreciated that at the crucifixion, DePaola ties back in the words of Simeon mentioned earlier, that Mary’s heart would seem as though pierced by a sword. Kids may find the fulfillment of that prophecy, and a further explanation of what it meant, cool.
When Mary is taken to heaven, DePaola conveys her death as being “so gentle it was as if she fell asleep.” This is, undoubtedly, nice for children to hear. The last page, rather than offering an explanation in words, simply illustrates Mary as the Queen of Heaven.
Though as adults we’ve heard these Bible stories again and again, they may be fresh for children. Then, when your children hear them at Mass, their ears may perk with recognition, bringing the stories to them in a more personal way and further connecting them to the Mass. And, of course, growing in their love and appreciation for our best intercessor to Jesus, is never a bad thing!
Succinctly told, this book serves as a guide to children (the back recommends ages 7 and up) of the basics of Mary’s and, of course, to an extent, Jesus’ life, with teachable moments throughout. Mary, The Mother of Jesus is a great addition to the DePaola enthusiast’s library.
Copyright 2021 Betsy Kerekes
Image: Canva Pro
About the Author
Betsy Kerekes is the author of Be a Happier Parent or Laugh Trying (Our Sunday Visitor 2019) and coauthor with Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse of 101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person (Ave Maria Press 2016) and 101 Tips for a Happier Marriage (Ave Maria Press 2019). She homeschools her four children and writes about her experiences in motherhood at ParentingIsFunny.wordpress.com.