When Fr. Antonio Spadaro, S.J., arrived at Pope Francis’s door, he was told to knock and go in.

“There you go,” he writes, “what’s more normal than knocking on a door, right? But it’s Pope Francis’s door.”

He continues with an account of the couple of hours he spent with the pope. Fr. Spadaro arrived with a pack of letters from children all over the world. They wrote questions for the Pope, drew him pictures, and sent them via Fr. Spadaro.

The questions, admittedly, weren’t easy ones. “But these are tough questions!” Pope Francis responds after leafing through them.

You don’t have to spend much time reading Dear Pope Francis: The Pope Answers Letters from Children Around the World (2016, Loyola Press) to understand that.

For anyone who spends much time around children, these are standard fare. But that doesn’t make them any easier.

The letters that made the cut into the book are delightful, both for their content and for the art that accompanies them. Of the 259 letters received from 26 different countries, 31 were printed.

(Can you imagine being that editor?)

The Pope’s answers vary in length, but all share a warmth that will make you smile and feel a bit like he’s sitting beside you, answering a question you would have asked, given the chance.

On the other hand, this book includes many questions I’ve never thought of asking, but that, upon reading, I did immediately wonder about.

For example:

Dear Pope Francis,

I would like to know more about Jesus Christ. How did he walk on water?

Love,

Natasha

Age 8, Kenya

Dear Natasha,

You have to imagine Jesus walking naturally, normally. He did not fly over the water or turn somersaults while swimming. He walked as you walk! He walked, one foot after the other, as if the water were land. He walked on the water’s surface as he saw the fish frolicking or racing around.

Jesus is God, and so he can do anything! He can walk safely on water. God cannot sink, you know!

Franciscus

Have you spent much time thinking about the action of walking on water? And the fish going about their business beneath you?

Me neither.

That’s just one of the many gems found in this compilation, which is beautifully illustrated by the children themselves. Each letter also includes a picture of the writer, so you get the feeling that you’re included in a conversation.

My kids wouldn’t sit through the entire book; we made it through a few pages before the younger ones scampered off. I caught my nine-year-old curled up with it at two different times, though, and she told me she really liked it.

And, to be truthful, I liked it a lot myself. This is a book we’ll be keeping around and paging back through.

It’s wonderful to have a real-life glimpse of Pope Francis to share with my children, and even better to have a look for myself. This book is a reminder that questions are important, and having the courage to ask them—and hear them—is at the heart of our Catholic faith.