All art ©2020 Meg Whalen
Written by Katie Warner and illustrated by Meg Whalen, my son received the sweet, sweet book, This is the Church, as a Christmas gift. At 18 months, he still doesn’t quite have the patience for the whole thing, but when I read it to his best friend who is almost three, I found some greater appreciation.
This is the Church follows a young girl as she explores a beautiful church building; the story unfolds as she looks at the stained glass windows therein. Her story is our story- the story of the Catholic Church. Beginning with Christ as the focal point, she gazes at the central window above the altar of Jesus enthroned. Here we learn about Jesus Christ and his mission; ultimately to “share God’s love with the world.” Reminiscent of the style of the old poem, “The House that Jack Built,” most of the verses in this gently rhymed book lead back to that refrain. From Christ, we proceed backwards through time, observing windows depicting the Apostles, Jesus’ parents, the Jewish people, prophets and patriarchs… all the way down to Adam, Eve and the whole of Creation! At the end, it circles back to us, and our calling. The ending reminds me of the Concluding Rites we hear every Sunday as Mass ends- words that remind us of our mission!
Time to talk about the art! If the book flap didn’t tell me that it was all drawn digitally, I would not have known. Meg’s figures have sweet and serene faces that exude peacefulness. Her black and white charcoal style renderings serve (as I see it) to separate normal space and time from the realms and history depicted in brilliantly colorful stained glass windows. It’s a device that works well in the story and to my mind, brings the eternal and the past into the present, much like the Mass does in reality. The colors also represent the transforming effect of the light of Christ, as can be seen especially on the last page. I recall learning in an art history class that part of the point of having stained glass windows in churches was to bathe the worshippers in transformative light. This book captures that well.
Looking for a lovingly rendered book that teaches profound truths about the Catholic faith in a simple and straightforward manner? Then This is the Church is the book for you and your family!
Author: Katie Warner
Illustrator: Meg Whalen
Publisher: Tan Books
Age Range: 4-6 years