It's hard to believe Lent is almost over! With less than two and a half weeks left, I've started thinking of some of my favorite stories for Passiontide and Easter.
Benjamin's Box is a sweet story about a young boy witnessing the events leading up to the Resurrection. We follow Benjamin as he sees Jesus come into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, as he helps prepare the upper room for the Passover, as he sees Christ carry his cross, and finally as he sees the stone that was rolled from the tomb, as well as many steps along the way. As the story progresses, he collects things from each event and puts him in the box his grandfather gave him. This is a great story to read to children during Holy Week, because they see the events from the perspective of a child like themselves. You can buy the Resurrection Eggs to go with this book and there are Easter eggs with each of the items Benjamin collected. Or, you can turn it into a scavenger hunt and create your own treasure box with items collected around the house.
The one issue I have with this book is that during the Last Supper, it says Jesus said that the bread was LIKE His Body, and the wine LIKE His Blood. This is easily fixed with a sharpie, though.
The Country Bunny, I admit, does not say anything about the true meaning of Easter. It is about the Easter Bunny, or rather many Easter Bunnies. Still, it is one of my favorite stories from my childhood. It is also an excellent reminder that you can't judge a book by it's cover. The cover of this sweet tale suggests that it is a "modern feminist tale." I disagree. I think it is a very traditional look at motherhood. The country bunny always dreamed of being one of the official Easter Bunnies, running around the world delivering baskets of eggs to children. However, she found herself mother of no less than twenty-one children. When they were very young, she undoubtably spent much time running after them, but as they got older, she trained her children well, until they were able to keep house as well as she could. So now she has time to go be an Easter bunny once a year. What's more, her children have kept her young and strong trying to keep up with the all, so she is able to compete with the much bigger bunnies for the job of Easter bunny. I thing this story highlights the importance of diligence, kindness, perseverance, industry, and knowing that there is a time for everything. And the illustrations are adorable!
Before you say that Easter has nothing to do with Easter Bunnies, I present my defense. The First Easter Bunny was written by a Catholic Priest, and tells the story of a little bunny who was the first to witness the Resurrection. I admit, I don't know for sure if I have read this book, but I do recall the story, and I think that by explaining the Easter Bunny to children this way, they are able to make the connection between the colored eggs, the baskets of candy, and the bunny and the Easter Story. For those who find the Easter bunny a fondly remembered part of childhood, or who have family who insist on sharing the story with your children, this is a great story.
Another story that I remember from my childhood is The Proud Tree. It's the story
of the tree that became the cross. Poor Rex, the proudest tree in the forest, is thrilled when two soldiers come to find a cross for a king. He pictures himself moved to a palace garden, but is cruelly disappointed when he is chopped down instead. I'm sure you can guess the rest of the story. Another, similar story is The Tale of the Three Trees.
Finally, a book for adults. The Spear, by Louis De Wohl, tells the story of the centurian who pierced Christ's side. This book does an excellent job of weaving together the Easter story, the characters witnessing it, and, perhaps most of all, the historical background, all while building a believable character and a great plot. I must warn you that there is an act of adultery between the main character and a young woman, but it is essential to the plot. This book, like all of De Whol's stories, is hard to put down and really brings the events to life.