Simon and the Easter Miracle: A Traditional Tale for Easter, a hardcover children’s book written by Mary Joslin, and illustrated by Anna Luraschi [Kregel].
About the book: The gospels tell of Simon of Cyrene—”a man coming in from the country”—who was ordered to carry Jesus’ cross. Over the centuries, his story has been woven into a Polish folktale. In the tradition of The Three Trees this folk tale gives a fresh perspective on the Easter story. When Simon the farmer brings his wares to market, little does he expect how he will be involved in the events of that very special day, nor how his items—bread, eggs, and wine—will become important symbols of Jesus’ passion and resurrection, remembered throughout the ages. (Intended for ages 5-7.)
The book arrived in February, and so we read it together one evening last month during family story (and “snuggle”) time. This week we picked it back up and the kids instantly recalled the whole story.
Our kids (five and three) became really interested in the story of Simon and the implications for Easter. Last night they asked to read it again. This morning our son (a bibliophile; it runs in the family) sounded out the words on the cover during breakfast, and was especially interested in the name “Simon,” which led to a discussion on the differences between Simon of Cyrene and Simon Peter the Apostle. The value in this book is revisiting it, more than getting through it one time. (Connection and communication is as important as content in teaching your children.) This is true of all Gospel stories. We shall never grow tired of discovering the true of Jesus.
The illustrations are masterfully done, realistic and inviting. Each scene highlights actions accompanying the narrative. (See and read an excerpt [PDF]).
By “a traditional tale” the publisher means the nuances of the story came through a tradition passed down, aimed at teaching the meaning of Easter, though not rooted in history necessarily. That’s okay when we help older kids delineate between events “based” on a true story, and the truth of Jesus, come to as as the true Story of the ages. While moving beyond the exact events of the Gospel accounts, imagining what encountering Jesus would be like, the story of Simon and the Easter Miracle help us see the wonder and joy we find when Jesus comes to suffer in our place.
The Gospel is mostly implicit in this book, which means parents — we are our kids’ primary teachers in all of life — yes, us parents, will want to linger on the Easter story and ask how this story’s main character (Simon) interacts with the true story of Jesus. As the story focuses on Simon’s perspective, his questions and thoughts drive the narrative. Jesus crosses paths with Simon while stumbling along the via de la rosa (in Catholic tradition the 5th station of the cross).
Who is this un-named man? He is a preacher with a “message of peace,” killed for that reason, and whose life and resurrection lead to the powerful effects realized by Simon in the end. Though not named specifically, Jesus is clearly significant in making all the noted effects become reality, the reason why Simon’s discouraging day at the market is redeemed by Sunday. The effects are not immediate, for all must wait through the Sabbath (Saturday), while Jesus is in the grave. As you can tell, I’ve connected the dots for my kids, helping them discover a bit more of the underlying reality each time through the story. The Gospel story never gets old; it’s full of wonder and discovery.
The storyline fits more in the Gospel Story (or “gospel of the air”) of Creation » Fall (& Rebellion) « Redemption » New Creation, and less in the thematic Gospel of God—Man—Sin—Christ—faith/response (or “gospel on the ground”).
The rich symbolism can lead to thoughtful family discussions, where kids can begin to put two-and-two together, like how the eggs, bread, and doves reveal the effects of the Gospel of Jesus, the real hope and abiding we now have in Him. Because He makes Peace with God for us, we can live in His peace, reconciled with the created order. Because Jesus embodies Hope, we have a hope that does not disappoint, even when our lives do not go as we planned (Romans 5:1-5).
I give Simon and the Easter Miracle 2-½ stars out of five.
Disclosure: Kregel Publications sent me the book to review, and I have otherwise not received compensation from them. I was not required to write a positive review.
I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”