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I’m quite sure the last time you picked up the Bible to read Luke chapter 2 you missed the part about two little red-headed twins, Patrick and Katie, kicking a soccer ball around in the fields with the shepherds. You’ve probably wondered about how Joseph managed to work his way through the crowds to find a place for he and Mary to Bethlehem – even if the only thing he managed was a lowly stable. Surely he must have had help? And why would it not have been those irascible little red-headed Irish Catholics?
Okay. Probably not. But Lisa Hendey has managed to transport her two “Chime Travelers” back in history in this 5th book of the series, The Strangers at the Manger, with grace and poise. It’s no small feat, inserting modern children into The Greatest Story Ever Told without modernizing the story or, worse, dumbing it down. Hendey transports her characters so that they blend seamlessly and she accomplishes this between the covers of a light hearted chapter book that children will actually enjoy reading.
I say “children” will enjoy reading the book, but I enjoyed reading it too. In fact, when young Katie picks up the baby Jesus in an effort to soothe him to sleep, I grew just a wee bit sentimental. Can you imagine having the opportunity to hold and to cuddle and snuggle the infant Jesus? To smell that sweet baby head? Lisa Hendey did imagine it, and let Katie experience it. Or, how frightening must it have been for the family to pick up and flee to Egypt for the sake of their lives? We hear the story so often, we read it so often, that it grow familiar and some of the nitty gritty and uncomfortableness of the story is smoothed away in Christmas carols. Little Patrick recognizes this, too, when he fears for the lives of the Holy Family, acknowledging, “it was scarier in real life.” Indeed.
The Strangers at the Manger is not just about the Gospel story. There is modern dilemma the kids are sorting out, too. Strangers, refugees, have arrived at their parish. Patrick and Katie learn the virtues of charity and hospitality through their own experiences in the Holy Land. Will they be able to put into practice what they have learned on their journey?
Although this my first Chime Traveler’s book, it was not Patrick and Katie’s first “chime travel.” This didn’t affect my reading of the book, though. Readers can easily start the series at book 5 and enter the story without feeling that they’ve missed anything. In fact, my guess is that once you’ve read this book 5, you’ll want to go back and hit the other books in the series.
I’m posting this review the day after Christmas. But for us Catholics, that is just the first day of Christmas. We still have 11 more to go! In fact, many of Patrick and Katie’s adventures in this book are happening outside of the actual birth day of Christ. If you are reading this and would like to buy a little gift for one of your children during this extended Christmas season, I can’t recommend it enough. It’s a cute story with staying power, perfect for those early and voracious readers.
Note: The publisher sent me a complimentary copy of this book with the hope that I would provide a (favorable) review. Complimentary books don’t necessarily make good books, though. My opinions are my own.