By Br. Gabriel María, St. John Priory, Laredo
Over the last year and a half I have had the privilege of working on a storybook for Catholic children. The book is called The Littlest Bread, and follows the adventures of Hostie, a (unconsecrated!) communion host accidentally abandoned in a convent bakery. Though snubbed by his fellow baked goods, Hostie through various trials eventually discovers his lofty destiny.
Though as a former newspaper cartoonist this was not my first book, I quickly realized storybooks were a different ballgame; just because I had read many kids’ books did not necessarily mean I could make one. The piles of well-intentioned but mediocre derelicts languishing in discount bookstores served as a haunting reminder of this fact.
So what makes a good children’s storybook? I decided on three essentials:
- Brevity: As a kid, I was bored to death by wordy, preachy kids’ books. I needed to boil the story down to its utter essentials: 999 words, not one more.
- Mysticism: The idea that some tiny switch can move the grand clockwork of the universe (as G.K. Chesterton would say) entrances children. Hence the success of Harry Potter, and the staying power of fairy tales. And what could be more “magical”, like a fairy tale come true, than the mystery of the Eucharist
- Clear, beautiful illustrations: Having been spoon-fed Looney Tunes and Silly Symphonies along with my strained peas, I was annoyed as a child by poorly drawn cartoons and books. No matter how good the tale, if the pictures are carelessly executed, the story will fall flat.
In an age of excessive novelty in children’s literature, The Littlest Bread draws on an ancient truth of our Faith: He has lifted up the lowly. I pray this book will help open young minds to the wonder and mystery of the Eucharist.