Tag: crucifixion

Easter | Jan Pienkowski

First of all, congratulations to Carolyn of House Full of Bookworms! She is the official, randomly chosen winner of the Slugs & Bugs giveaway. She is also a fellow children’s book blogger, so in a way, I suppose that you all win a little something, too, because now you know about her blog (if you didn’t already). I think you’re going to like it.

Thank you so much to all of you who entered! That giveaway was great fun, and I really enjoyed hearing from so many of you in the comments—so much so that I find myself wondering, “What else can I give you all?” I just may have to do something like that again in the future.

And now, down to business: this is the last post before I take a little break to celebrate our baby.


This post originally appeared on this blog on March 20, 2015.

Christmas books are easy to come by. We have many, and there are many more waiting on my “To Read” list, and that is good. But Easter books are scarce—really good Easter books, I mean, the kind that have less to do with eggs and bunnies and the beauty of nature than they do with the glory of God and the death and resurrection of his Son. We have some, but not many. And I was hard pressed to find new ones this year.

Easter, by Jan Pienkowski | Little Book, Big Story

Perhaps, I mused in the comments at Aslan’s Library, that is because there is no baby in the Easter story and so few farm animals (just that donkey that crops up again and again). Later on, it struck me: there is no baby in the Easter story and there are few farm animals. But what is in the story is not the usual fodder for children’s books: Execution. Betrayal. Suicide. Torture, death, abandonment. Grief.

How does an author or illustrator of books for children handle those subjects with delicacy and honesty? No wonder so many authors prefer to come at the story through peripheral characters; no wonder authors tell this story from a slight distance.

Easter, by Jan Pienkowski | Little Book, Big Story

I touched lightly on this in an earlier post when I mentioned my surprise at finding that we had only one book that told the story head on, without some sort of literary filter. After that, a wise commenter directed me toward Jan Pieńkowski’s book, Easter, which I found later that week at our library and lo! It was beautiful. (We have since purchased our own copy.)

The text is that of the King James Bible, so it is rich and elegant and somehow just right. Pieńkowski’s silhouetted illustrations are unique and powerful, yet so simple, that they suit the intensity of the story of Christ’s Crucifixion and Resurrection, allowing him to depict details that would be too disturbing if shown head on without losing any of their gravity. (How he pulls so much expression out of black paper, I don’t know, but he does and he does it well.)

Easter, by Jan Pienkowski | Little Book, Big Story

Easter is a moving book—one that is hard to read without sniffling at least a little. It is a book that doesn’t look away from the horror of the Crucifixion of Christ, but one that opens and closes with these radiant endpapers meant to remind us that Christ’s death was neither the beginning nor the end of the story, for after it came the Resurrection. After that, everything changed.

Easter, by Jan Pienkowski | Little Book, Big Story


Easter
Jan Pieńkowski (1989)

Easter | Fiona French

I have reviewed quite a few different Easter books since starting this blog, and most of them approach the story of Christ’s death and resurrection from a fresh perspective: through the lens of history and tradition, perhaps, or by letting a typically peripheral character tell the story.

It wasn’t until I read through Fiona French’s book, Easter, that I realized that the one thing our library of Easter books lacked was a simple, straight-forward telling of the Easter story—no frills, no fresh perspective. Just the story itself.

Easter, by Fiona French | Little Book, Big Story

French centers her book around text from the RSV, and the text informs her illustrations, which are “inspired by” (and I quote the dust jacket here) “the glorious English cathedral windows of Ely, Lincoln, York and Canterbury.” They are done in the style of stained glass windows, which lends a beautiful sobriety to the narrative of the events of Christ’s life between the Triumphal Entry and the Ascension.

Easter, by Fiona French | Little Book, Big Story

As Protestants of the reformed stripe, we don’t have much experience with elaborate stained glass windows—not on a weekly basis, anyway—so I loved giving our girls the opportunity to explore them through the pages of Easter. Between the clean, direct text and the beautiful illustrations, I can already tell that this book will be a staple in our house from year to year.

Easter, by Fiona French: an ornately illustrated yet simply told version of the Easter story, from Triumphal Entry to Christ's Ascension | Little Book, Big Story


Easter
Fiona French (2004)

Petook: An Easter Story | Caryll Houselander

I have good news for you, and I have bad news. I’m going to operate off the assumption that you, like me, would rather hear the worst first, so here’s the bad news: Petook: An Easter Story is out of print and going for something like $60 (minimum) on Amazon. The good news is that there are still copies out there available for less than that (I did not pay $60 for mine), and this book is worth the work of checking Amazon regularly or haunting book sales, garage sales, or Goodwill. Better yet, our library here in town has a copy, so, quick! Race to our library website and put a hold on it now! (Or read on to find out why I’m being so bossy about a book about a chicken.)

Petook | Little Book, Big Story

To say that Petook is a beautifully written book would be entirely true. But to say that without mentioning Tomie dePaola’s illustrations would be a critical omission: the best bits of this story are not written, but are embedded within the artwork, making Petook an incredibly moving book, unforgettable and lovely to look at.

To explain exactly how this works is a tricky business, because the bulk of the book’s beauty rests in the subtlety with which it tells the story of Easter, and subtlety is hard to pin down. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been more tempted to skip the summary of a story entirely and simply order you to go get a copy, but we’ve already discussed the difficulty of doing exactly that (see above), so I’ll have to take a stab at it.

Petook: An Easter Story | Little Book, Big Story

Petook is a story with a foreground and a background. In the foreground is Petook (a rooster), his mate, Martha, and their chicks. Petook doesn’t do anything terribly exciting, really, but Houselander’s telling of his story stands alone so beautifully that it’s tempting miss the drama unfolding behind the rooster, where dePaola draws out the events of Holy Week so quietly that they nearly slipped past me during my first reading of Petook.

As Petook passes an uneasy night or anticipates the hatching of his newest chicks, tiny figures in the background of the paintings show Jesus and his disciples in the Garden of Gethsamene, with a line of soldiers marching toward them, or depict the tomb, shut up and under guard. As Petook stretches his wings restlessly, there on the hilltop behind him stand three crosses in silhouette. Petook responds to these events with the rest of Creation, grieving when Jesus is crucified, rejoicing when he rises again. At points, his story touches that of Christ (you’ll know them when you see them).

Petook: An Easter Story | Little Book, Big Story

Petook is a modest tale at first glance, but it deepens with each reading, thanks to dePaola’s unusual approach. It has become one of our favorite Easter stories, and tends to be the first to emerge from the attic each year and the last one to retire. If you’re able to get your hands on a copy, do! If not, keep your eyes open; be patient. Petook is a book worth hunting for.


Petook: An Easter Story
Caryll Houselander, Tomie de Paola (1988)