A new children’s book aims to tell the heroic stories of saints in a way that captures the interest, and imagination, of Catholic kids.
Elizabeth Hanna Pham, a Catholic mother of four boys with another on the way, said she decided to write “A Storybook of Saints” when she struggled to find a book on the saints that was relatable and inspiring to her own children.
“I just found that it was really hard to find a saint book that worked for all of their ages and that was engaging, where they really understood the stories and appreciated them. A lot of saint books have a lot of facts and a lot of things that maybe they didn't really understand,” she told CNA
“A Storybook of Saints” was published April 16 by Sophia Institute Press. The book highlights the memorable and heroic aspects of more than 50 saints. Each section includes pictures from illustrator Cecilia Vu.
Among the saints featured are St. John the Evangelist, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Maximilian Kolbe, and the Vietnamese Martyrs.
Growing up, Pham was inspired by stories of heroes and fairy tales, and she wanted to create a similar experience for her children, while focusing on the saints.
“I wanted them to have something kind of more like a fairy tale anthology that just had these awesome stories, because I've seen how much of an effect really, really good stories has on them,” she said.
“It actually was really prompted by Saint Nicholas because my second child is named Nicholas and all of them have a great devotion to Saint Nicholas,” she said “It was hard to find a short, concise story about Nicholas that was as captivating as Santa Claus.”
Pham said her two oldest kids - one seven and the other four - were essential to the writing process.
“I would test some of the stories on them and they really enjoyed that. My oldest, who's pretty analytical, gave critique and helped me decide which stories were best. It was really fun,” she said.
Since she introduced the book to her children, Pham said, she has been amazed by the details they have retained about the saints’ lives. She said some of her children know the stories better than she does.
When she was writing the book, Pham had concerns that some of the saints would be irrelevant and off-putting to her children.
Pham didn’t expect, she said, that St. Gianna Molla, a woman who refused an abortion and sacrificed her life for her unborn child, would capture the attention of young boys. But to Pham’s surprise, her oldest has gravitated to St. Gianna.
“They love her and it's so funny because it's like she's sort of an older woman, like it doesn't seem like it would connect with a seven-year-old boy, but he just thinks she's like the most inspirational, wonderful person,” Pham said.
Pham said she tried to select a diverse group of saints.
“So many children have different personalities and they're going to be inspired by different things. I have one son who's, like I said, very analytical, very passionate. I have another son who's very, very gentle and quiet. They're so different from each other and different things speak to them,” she said.
“Children need heroes and are going to look for heroes, and the saints are the very best heroes. It's even better that they're actually real people that the children can have a relationship with them and ask them to pray for them.”
“I just know that that's had a profound impact on my faith and on so many other people I know on their faith. [It inspires] us to live our lives the way they live their lives and to know that it's possible to live like that.”