For those of us in the USA, it’s time to head back to school. Whether children attend public or private schools, or are homeschooled, there is always a need for them to continue to grow in their faith. These three books from Newrome Press offer ways to help them learn and grow.
O is for Orthodox, written by Theofanis Sawabe and illustrated by Vladimir Ilievski is a board book unlike any other. This book with “peek-a-boo” pages introduces its readers to Orthodox vocabulary, offering one familiar* Orthodox word per letter of the alphabet. Each letter has its own page, most of which have been cut around the letter to allow the reader to “peek” onto the next page, where the featured word is revealed and illustrated. Each spread is painted with colors common to iconography, and include recognizable icons when appropriate.
This book can simply be read to the youngest learners, who will enjoy turning the partial pages, and proclaiming the word related to the letter (once they have read the book enough times to know what is coming). However, it would also be an excellent launching pad for 26 studies of Orthodox words that enhance the learners’ faith, regardless of the age of the learner. Families or Church school classrooms will benefit from starting with each of these Orthodox words and pulling together a lesson of study about that word. For each word, they can talk together about questions like “When do we see this word? Is this found in the scriptures or the Church fathers? What else is said about it there? How does it apply to our life?” There are children’s books related to many of the words that would greatly enhance such a study, and simple crafts or games could also be incorporated, depending on the length of the lesson desired.
So, it is this reader’s opinion that O is for Orthodox is a book that can grow with a child. It welcomes the youngest Orthodox Christians by gently teaching them important vocabulary, associating these words with its colorfully peaceful illustrations. But if the book is used as a family or Church school launching pad for study, each letter and its related word will stay in the mind of its readers for long after they’ve “outgrown” board books, because of the lessons related to its content.
Purchase a copy of O is for Orthodox at https://newromepress.com/o-is-for-orthodox/.
*Note: All of the words are about concepts familiar to the Orthodox Christian way of life. This reader was not familiar with the Greek word zōnē, the last word in the book, and had to look it up. It means “belt or sash,” in this case, of the Theotokos, which fits perfectly with the illustration. All of the other words were quite familiar to a native English speaking Orthodox Christian.
Christ Amongst Us: An Easy to Understand Commentary on the Divine Liturgy According to the Writings of the Holy Fathers and the Experiences of the Saints, by George Danias and Christina Hatzithanasi-Dania, illustrated by Paraskevi Hatzithanasi-Antonatou both explains and contains the Divine Liturgy. The first two thirds of the book offer insights, stories, and explanations about each part of the Divine Liturgy, written at a level that anyone mid-elementary-aged or older can understand. The last third is the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, followed by a thorough glossary. The book comes with a poster featuring twelve parts of the Liturgy, with an illustration and brief exposition for each.
Readers will find out the answers to questions like these:
- When in the Liturgy is Christ “appearing for the first time to begin preaching the Divine Word?”
- Why is the Trisagion Hymn repeated three times?
- Besides clergy and altar servers, who is always present at the altar during the liturgy? (Read the answer in two eyewitness accounts from St. John Chrysostom and Elder Iakovos Tsalikis!)
- What are each of us meant to watch, when we hear the reminder “The doors! The doors! Let us be attentive!”?
- Why is it so important that we not talk during the Liturgy? What should we do instead?
- Have you ever had doubts about Holy Communion? What happened to the priest Pelagios when he had doubts about Holy Communion being the Body and Blood of Christ?
- What kind of fear should we have as we come to communion?
The book itself is a sizable, sturdy paperback that will last through many readings. Its front and back covers have fold-in flaps that will serve well to mark the reader’s place, or make it easy to jump to a particular spot (for example, the back flap could mark the Creed if the book is taken along to the Liturgy). The text is carefully translated from the Greek and is easy to follow. There are perhaps a few parts of the book that may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. For example, the reader’s parish may very likely have catechumens, different from the book’s statement on p. 43, “While there may not be any unbaptized catechumens in our own parish, we should still call to mind the catechumens throughout the whole world.” Also, the reader’s entire parish may exchange the kiss of peace, while the book says on p. 54, “Today the Kiss of Peace is only exchanged amongst the serving clergy.” Paraskevi Hatzithanasi-Antonatou’s beautiful and detailed pencil illustrations throughout the book will help each reader appreciate and better understand the part of the Liturgy it is illustrating.
This book is an invaluable resource for families and Church school teachers who desire that their young charges understand, appreciate, and participate in the Divine Liturgy, instead of merely attending it. There is so much information in this book that it may be advisable to read and discuss just one small portion at a time. It will take quite a while to get through the entire Liturgy if it is read that way, but everyone involved will likely have a more lasting understanding of each piece of the service if they take it on bit by bit.
Find your copy of this very helpful book at https://newromepress.com/christ-amongst-us/
Vested in Christ: Understanding the Mysteries of Holy Baptism and Sacred Chrismation by George Danias and Christina Hatzithanasi-Dania, illustrated by Paraskevi Hatzithanasi-Antonatou is a well-made paperback book that takes a closer look at the Holy Mystery of baptism. The first three quarters of the book feature information, stories, and teachings about baptism, and the last quarter contains the actual baptismal service (translated from the service celebrated by the Church of Greece) and a helpful glossary. The book also includes a poster about the different parts of the baptismal service, illustrated and succinctly explained. Paraskevi Hatzithanasi-Antonatou’s beautiful pencil illustrations (scattered throughout the book) add dimension to the text, helping the reader to better understand the information being presented.
- Name at least two Old Testament events that allegorically foreshadow baptism.
- In what miraculous way was St. Philemon baptized just before his death?
- What exactly is our second birth?
- What athletic event from ancient times is recalled when the baptismal candidate has their whole body anointed with oil before their baptism?
- Who baptized St. Christina?
- The newly-baptized person is dressed in white. Why?
- In the early Church, how long did the newly-baptized person wear white?
Readers will find the answers to all of these questions, and much more, in this book!
Parents and Sunday Church school teachers will find this book to be a helpful resource as they teach the children in their care about baptism. There is much information here, written at a level appropriate for upper elementary (and older) learners. The book is made with a very sturdy paper cover, with front and back flaps that will help to mark pages for its readers.
Purchase your copy at https://newromepress.com/vested-in-christ/
The Antiochian Department of Christian Education thanks Newrome Press for sharing these books so that we could read and review them.
Reviewed by Kristina Wenger, educator, podcaster, co-author of Tending the Garden of Our Hearts.