Several fantastic resources have recently come to our attention. Some of them have been around for a few years, while others are recently published, but all of them were new to us and we consider them well worth sharing! Here they are:
- The SuperHolies series of books by Mireille Mishriky includes three books from 2016 to date, with more to come: Philo and the SuperHolies, Philo and the Patience SuperHoly, and Philo, Rose, and the Joy SuperHoly. Each book explores the “SuperHolies” (the virtues mentioned in the Scriptures as the fruit of the Holy Spirit), which can be “activated” in our life when we ask for God’s help. Each book tells about a time when Philo (a Coptic Orthodox boy) finds himself in a tough spot, remembers the SuperHolies, and then prays by making the sign of the cross. This activates the “SuperHolies” in his life and helps him respond as he should!
Philo and the SuperHolies introduces Philo to the SuperHolies and offers him the opportunity to activate the Kindness SuperHoly when he unexpectedly meets up (again!) with a neighborhood bully.
Philo and the Patience SuperHoly tells about one time when Philo was feeling impatient during liturgy at his Coptic parish, and how activating the Patience SuperHoly helps him not just during the service, but throughout the remainder of the day!
Philo, Rose, and the Joy SuperHoly follows Philo to the hospital early one summer when he falls and breaks his arm. He laments all the summer fun that he will have to miss because of his cast. His new friend Rose (who has a heart condition) encourages Philo to activate the Joy SuperHoly in his life; demonstrates her own Joy SuperHoly in the way that she lives; and gives Philo ideas of ways to rejoice in the midst of his suffering.
- Love & Joy Coloring Book by Draw Near Designs, copyrighted 2017, is a child-sized (or purse sized!) coloring book with 25 spreads featuring saints of the Orthodox Church and a quote from/about each.
- Beautiful Things: An Orthodox Coloring Book for Children, illustrated by Megan Elizabeth Gilbert, was just published in 2018 by Ancient Faith Publishing. It features 64 pages of illustrations to color or activities to complete that are based on beautiful things that we learn about in the Church.
Find the Philo books here: https://www.mireillemishriky.com/books/
Find Love & Joy here: https://amazon.com/Love-Joy-Coloring-Book-Gann/dp/1977981887
Find Beautiful Things here: http://store.ancientfaith.com/beautiful-things-an-orthodox-coloring-book-for-children/
Read on to find more about each resource, as well as a few suggestions of how to use each one of them with your Sunday Church School class:
The Philo/SuperHolies books offer a story-based way to help children think about the virtues of peace, love, joy, kindness, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – the fruit of the Spirit of God. Each book stands well on its own, and the entire series will be a great addition to a Sunday Church School classroom where the virtues, especially the fruit of the Spirit, are studied. In each book, Philo learns how to demonstrate a fruit of the Spirit, after asking for God’s help.
Philo and the SuperHolies gives its readers a chance to learn and talk about virtues in the context of a story. Author Mireille Mishriky has cleverly written each “fruit of the Spirit” virtue into a superhero-styled person called a “SuperHoly.” Each SuperHoly is briefly explained in this first book, along with a very realistic example of how it can help us to live a truly Orthodox life. The SuperHolies are introduced in the context of a story about Philo and a neighborhood bully. Philo gets to test out the power of the Kindness SuperHoly when that bully shows up in a place where Philo least expected to meet him. While this book is not “preachy,” it is cleverly educational, and an excellent way for Sunday Church School teachers to introduce the fruit of the Spirit. The superhero qualities of the SuperHolies will help all of us want to have them “activated” in our life!
Philo and the SuperHolies is a great introduction to the fruit of the Spirit. After reading it, invite each of your students to draw or write about their favorite SuperHoly. Give them opportunity to share with the class if they wish, including why they like the one that they do. Create a few scenarios of times students might need to activate one of these SuperHolies in their own life, and ask them to tell which SuperHoly they’d activate for each scenario. You could even act these out, depending on your class and time limit! Before the end of class, see how many SuperHolies your students can name without looking at the book. Then invite them to personally reflect on which one they most often fail to activate. Pray and ask God to help each member of the class (yourself included!) to remember that this help is available to them, when they need it!
Philo and the Patience SuperHoly tells the story of one Sunday when Philo is looking forward to a family barbecue after church. He finds himself feeling very impatient during liturgy at his Coptic parish. He tries so hard to be still and quiet, but does not succeed. Activating the Patience SuperHoly by praying with the sign of the Cross helps Philo during the remainder of the Divine Service and even throughout the rest of the day!
Philo’s Patience SuperHoly offers him a variety of ideas of ways to be patient during liturgy. Invite your students to share their stories of times when they’ve felt impatient (not just in church!). How did they handle it? What worked? What did not work? Do they have additional ideas to share with each other for times that they feel impatient (including at church!)? Let each student write or draw their own illustration of a time when the Patience SuperHoly helped (or could help) them. Pray together, asking God to help each of you activate His gift of patience in your life when you need it the most.
Philo, Rose, and the Joy SuperHoly naturally causes the reader to consider whether or not they are living joyfully. Readers compare themselves to Philo, who is whining and lamenting all that he’ll miss during summer vacation in the four weeks he must wear a cast after breaking his arm. They also compare themselves to Rose, born with a heart condition causing her to spend much of her life in the hospital, whose very disposition radiates gratitude and joy. Most readers are somewhere between the two. In the story itself, Rose sets aside her own struggles and instead gently encourages Philo to activate the Joy SuperHoly in his own life. She then gives him ideas of ways to rejoice in the midst of his suffering (even though it’s much less permanent than hers).
This book pairs well with a lesson on suffering as well as it’s obvious value, teaching about joy. Share the book with your class, then ask the students what stood out to them in the story, and why? Why do they think that Rose says, “Thankful people are always joyful?” Does anyone in your class know someone who is thankful and/or joyful? What’s it like to be around that person? Did that person ever have any hardships in their life? How do you think they came to be so joyful, if they did? If you don’t know anyone personally, can you think of any saints or biblical stories that demonstrate this kind of thankfulness and joy? Invite your students to design on paper a sticker, magnet, or button that reminds them to activate the Joy SuperHoly in their life. Provide the materials that they need to actually create the final product. Encourage them to place it where they will see it and be reminded to live a life of joy and gratitude. Close with a prayer asking God to help each of you to live joyfully.
Love & Joy Coloring Book by Draw Near Designs is a beautiful little coloring book that is not just a coloring book! Each of the 25 spreads offers a simplified-icon-like drawing of a saint (or two), along with a quote related to them. We love the size of this book (it is a compact 5”x7”), the carefully drawn saints, and the wisdom of the quotes. This book is unique in that even after the entire book is colored, it will be useful because of the saints’ pictures and quotes which can be read and pondered.
This coloring book could be used by middle-years or older students as a focusing activity at the beginning of class, as people are gathering, if you have one for each student. Or, it could be the basis of almost an entire year’s curriculum, if you studied one of each of the 25 saints depicted and considered/discussed the quotes each week. Of course a third option would be to give this book as a Christmas or Pascha gift to classes of older children or teens. (If you do this, we recommend that you pair it with colored pencils, as the paper will likely bleed with markers.)
Beautiful Things: An Orthodox Coloring Book for Children, illustrated by Megan Elizabeth Gilbert, is a coloring book for all ages. There are a range of drawings from simple to complex, and all feature beautiful things about our Faith. The book is not just a coloring book: it also includes a variety of activity pages, as well as open-ended drawing pages.
Depending on your lesson plans for the year, this book could be an occasional lesson companion for younger Sunday Church School students. It is not reproducible, so you would need one copy for each of student. Amongst its 64 sturdy pages are illustrations and activities related to stories from the scriptures; beauty that is found in different parts of the Divine Liturgy; tools that help us on our journey (for example, a prayer corner, a pile of books, a censor, etc.); symbols used in iconography/the Church; and a few “lower-case t” traditions from different jurisdictions. So, for example, the dove and the ark pages could accompany a lesson on Noah; the grapes and the wheat pages could be colored during a lesson on the eucharist; the draw-yourself-praying page could be used in a lesson about icon corners or prayer; etc. If it does not fit with your lesson plans, be sure to keep this beautiful book in mind for your students’ birthdays, Christmas, or Pascha gifts!