Monday, January 08, 2007

Children's Book Monday

Christmas is over. The decorations have been boxed away, the floors are swept, and the presents have taken on a comfortable familiarity, as if they’ve always been with us. Even our generosity gets boxed up, put away for the same time next year, out of sight, out of mind.
But the spirit of generosity and the joy of blessing can and should remain, as this week’s book selection so beautifully reminds us.

Good King Wenceslas
Written by John Mason Neale
Illustrated by Tim Ladwig

The watercolor and oil drawing of a statue in Prague, sitting in the center of the square, will be the first thing your eyes fall upon when you open this book.

Turn the pages, and you are drawn into a story of the past, a story of Good King Wenceslas and his day-after-Christmas journey.

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the Feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about,
Deep and crisp and even.

The words to this old carol tell the story. The good king sees a poor man, gathering “winter fuel” in the cold, frosty night. He asks his page to tell him where the poor man lives, and once he knows, he takes action, ordering meat and wine and logs, to bear to the poor man and his family.
Together, page and monarch, they leave the warmth and grandeur of the castle, traveling through the “rude wind’s wild lament and the bitter weather.”

When the page’s heart fails, and he cannot go any longer, the king bids him to step in his own large footprints, boldly, and on they go.

A commission, if you will, closes this beautiful song –

Therefore, Christians all, be sure,
wealth or rank possessing,
ye who now will bless the poor,
shall yourselves find blessing.”

I could not read the last lines of the book out loud. The image of the good king, holding a baby in the small hut of the poor man, a fire blazing, meat roasting, the page handing bread to the family, overwhelmed me.

Did you know the story behind this carol? Did you stop listening after the first two verses when it was sung, simply thinking, “What a beautiful melody”, as I did? Vaclav Wenceslas was a real man, a king, who ruled the land fairly, gave aid to the poor, and sought to spread Christianity throughout Bohemia. When an Anglican priest, John Mason Neale, heard stories of the king’s kindness, he wrote “Good King Wenceslas” in 1853 to inspire children to be generous on Saint Stephen’s Day, December 26.

This is a beautiful picture of how we, as man, can spend our time wisely. Really seeing those around us – whether we are high up in a castle, or spending our time in the square, may we see the poor man, poor in money, poor in spirit.

The combination of prose and pictures will captivate you. The message will inspire you, and your children.

Read this, even though the season is over. The season for living – really living - has already begun.

4 fellow travelers shared:

Stacy said...

I SO look forward to your Children's Book Mondays.
Thank you.

Wendy @ WMF said...

I have always wondered exactly who King Wenceslas was!
I also want to thank you for your comments on my blog. I hope I did not do any disservice Frank Lloyd Wright with my graham cracker house!

I'm glad you commented! I'm really enjoying your blog.

Randi said...

This sounds like a great book, Elise! I often get hung up at the end of a book because of my emotions. My silly boys just stare and wait for me to ask one of them to finish!

Kevin said...

Randi and all who have trouble at the end of books . . . it is there we connect with the universal themes of humanity, salvation, joy, hope, peace, love. These are connections that our children need - as do we.

Elise, I love looking at these - can't wait for the books to come in at the library so we can read them!

Love - Papa

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