National Catholic Register

Culture of Life

All Things Great and John Paul

Children’s Book Picks: For the 28th October since Cardinal Karol Wojtyla became Pope John Paul II, a look at kids’ books about or inspired by the late Holy Father. By Patricia Crawford and Kerry Crawford.


October 1-7, 2006 Issue | Posted 9/27/06 at 11:00 AM


At the time of Cardinal Karol Wojtyla’s ascendance to the Chair of St. Peter — 28 years ago this month — the world marveled at the Church’s choice of a man unknown to the masses. Pope John Paul II was the first Slavic pope in history and the first non-Italian one in 455 years.

From the beginning, he was impressive: multilingual, academic, warm, blessed with a sort of savvy that had never been seen in the Vatican. This thoroughly modern Pope would touch the entire world, and Catholic youth in particular, in ways that no one imagined at that time.

Thanks to his ease with political leaders and the media — not to mention his unprecedented travel schedule — he was one evangelist who proved a world-changer.

Now, nearly a year and a half after his passing, we are only beginning to uncover the depth of his legacy. Here are some books to help young readers come to better know this Pope who truly was a “papa” to so many of us.

Pope John Paul II

by Alison Behnke

Lerner, 2006

112 pages, $7.95

To order: (800) 328-4929

A passion for family, friends, poetry, drama, and academe — all this and holiness, too! Pope John Paul’s life had so many different dimensions, and this biography does a good job addressing them all. Presented in a journalistic style, the material not only covers key events in the Holy Father’s life, but also shares information about his spirituality, personal warmth and the ways in which he took firm stands in a world that did not always welcome the Catholic faith. An in-depth text, authentic photos and history hints make the book a good bet for young adults. Ages 14 and up.

I Pray the Rosary

by Margaret Rose Scarfi

Pauline, 2005

48 pages, $4.95

To order: (800) 836-9723

The late Holy Father gave the Church a special gift by introducing the Luminous Mysteries and asking Catholics to pray the Rosary regularly. This book serves as a terrific primer for little ones who will respond to John Paul’s call. It introduces basic prayers, includes all 20 mysteries and provides a step-by-step chart that provides a “how-to” for praying the beads. Simple language and bright illustrations invite young readers to join in this prayer of the Church. Ages 7 and up.

Saint Maximilian Kolbe: Mary’s Knight

by Patricia Edward Jablonski, FSP

Pauline, 2001

115 pages, $6.95

To order: (800) 836-9723

Not only did Pope John Paul proclaim Maximilian Kolbe a saint, but the two men had much in common, too. Both were priests, Poles and witnesses to the horrors of World War II. More than this, both entrusted themselves totally to Christ through the hands of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This biography traces the inspiring life of St. Maximilian, highlighting his early vision of martyrdom, the nurturing of his vocation and apostolic work, and the heroic offering of his life in a concentration camp so that another man might live. Ages 9 to 14.

Padre Pio

by Fabio Fenzo

Pauline, 2003

62 pages, $7.95

To order: (800) 836-9723

Clark Kent has nothing on this mild-mannered reporter who sets out to get the facts on Padre Pio. Presented in comic-book form, Padre Pio’s story unfolds image by image as a reporter gets the scoop on the life of this saint canonized by Pope John Paul. In the end, the reporter gets more than he bargains for. He gets his story and a special touch from Padre Pio, as well. The fun format, cool storyline and great background info will reel in even resistant readers. Ages 9 and up.

Every Child a Light: The Pope’s Message to Young People

edited by Jerome M. Vereb, C.P.

Boyds Mills Press, 2002

48 pages, $16.95

To order: (800) 490-5111

John Paul’s connection with the young was legendary. And why not? In visits near to Rome and far from it, the Pope always found time to interact with youth — greeting, talking, smiling, hugging, encouraging and exhorting Catholic youth to holiness. This collection of quotes and photos captures the paternal spirit and warmth that the Holy Father brought to each of these interactions. Ages 8 and up.

Blesseds Jacinta and Francisco Marto: Shepherds of Fatima

by Anne Eileen Heffernan, FSP

and Patricia Edward

Jablonski, FSP

Pauline, 2000

103 pages, $5.95

To order: (800) 836-9723

Jacinta and Francisco Marto were just children when they became little witnesses to the miracle of Fatima. Their ordinary childhoods were changed forever as they received extraordinary visions and visits from the Mother of God. This book shows how the children’s lives were transformed by love, sacrifice and prayer. Although they succumbed to early deaths, their legacy lives on. Pope John Paul beatified them in 2000, making them the youngest children whom the Church has ever recognized as blesseds. What terrific models for young readers who want to lead saintly lives. Ages 9 to 14.

Pope John Paul II: Young Man of the Church

by George E. Stanley

Aladdin, 2006

170 pages, $4.99

Available in bookstores

By all accounts, Pope John Paul led an exceptional life from an early age. In addition to excelling in academics and sports, the young Karol Wojtyla also displayed an unswerving loyalty to his family, friends, country and Church. This fictionalized biography focuses on the Pope’s early years and gives readers a sense of the outside forces and interior character traits that helped him develop into the great leader the whole world came to know and love. An abundance of dialogue and snippets from daily life in the Wojtyla household make this an engaging read for independent readers. Ages 10 and up.

Patricia A. Crawford writes from Steubenville, Ohio. Kerry Crawford writes from Pittsburgh.