Category Archives: Holy Week

Through the Eyes of a Young Reader: “Queen Abigail the Wise” by Grace Brooks

You may remember the blog post we published about the recently-published Orthodox children’s book, “Queen Abigail the Wise,” by Grace Brooks. Our blog post was published in May 2015. (If you did not get a chance to read the blog before, find it here: https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2016/05/27/gleanings-from-a-book-queen-abigail-the-wise-by-grace-brooks/

We are in the new calendar year, which means that Great Lent is not too far off. The entire story of “Queen Abigail the Wise” takes place during Great Lent. We are revisiting the book in this blog post for two reasons. First and foremost refers to my statement in the first blog post about the book, “I must share this book with my 10-year-old goddaughter.” I did exactly that, and gave my then-10-year-old goddaughter Hope her own copy to read. After she read the book, we got together and talked about it. I thought you may be interested to hear Hope’s perspective on the book, not just mine, so here it is! (Mind you, there are spoilers, so if you haven’t read the book yet, don’t say we didn’t warn you about them!)

When Hope and I got together to discuss this book, I came with a series of questions for her. I tried to think of questions that would help “grownups” have a sense of how relative and enjoyable the book is for a young Orthodox Christian. (As you may have read in the prior blog post, the book is geared to children, but I found it to be uplifting even though I am an adult. I thought it was a great book, and I was pretty sure that Hope would like it. The older I get, though, the more I realize that what I think is nice for a person of a certain age may not necessarily sit as well with them as I thought it would. So I wanted to test this in-my-opinion-wonderful book with Hope to get her opinion of it. Here it is.)

The first question I asked Hope was whether or not she liked “Queen Abigail the Wise.” I was rewarded with the anticipated resounding “Yes!” and a huge smile on her face. Curious, I asked why, and she said, “I liked how [Abigail] had to do something to get something.” and “I like that she figured out that the young priest was the the iconographer by the end of the story.” (Remember, I already warned you that there are spoilers!)

I went on to ask Hope if there were parts of the book that she could relate to, and she said “Yes…” So I asked her which parts of the story she could relate to. She said, “Well, sometimes I get bored in church, too…” and went on to explain that she can understand how that felt to Abigail. She also said that she could relate to Abigail’s feelings at Pascha, when Abigail felt hot and cramped. Hope said that, like Abigail, she’s also not a crowd person and also, she is not hungry when she’s tired — just like Abigail.

Hope named Abigail as her favorite character in the book when asked, because, “I liked how she didn’t want to give up; and she felt bummed about missing church. I do that too sometimes. I also liked how she was willing to work hard and help others because she wanted the icon so badly.”

I couldn’t just ask about a favorite character, so I wondered aloud if Hope had a least favorite character? She said, “Well, at the beginning probably Vanessa because she seems snobby but I changed my opinion at the end. I could also say baby Jacob but he did play an important role.” (Again, spoilers! Well, almost…)

Although “Queen Abigail the Wise” is a chapter book, it contain a few illustrations. I am a visual person and love pictures, so I was delighted with the sketches: I found them charming. But, as mentioned above, I wondered if my personal theory fit with the actual practice and thus, how the illustrations would sit with a young lady of her age. So, I asked Hope if the illustrations added to the story. She said, “Yes, I like to have visuals!” (Like godmother, like goddaughter, I suppose!) But she mentioned that she wished for color, not just blackline illustrations. (I suggested that since the book is her very own, she could go through and color any illustrations that she wanted to, if she wished. A few weeks later, she came to church with her book and showed me that she had colored part of it with colored pencils! It was beautiful.)

I then asked an all-encompassing question about the theme of the book. I wondered what Hope thinks that the author, Grace Brooks, was trying to say with this story. What does Hope think is the book’s message? She give me two excellent answers: “If you set your mind to something and if you work hard you can achieve it… And no matter how much you dislike something or someone, in the end you may find that you actually love them.” Both answers were insightful. Sage words, coming from a 10-year-old.

I asked Hope if she had a favorite part of “Queen Abigail the Wise.” She answered, “The end, when Abigail gets her icon… And the way she describes the icon was pretty, too.”  I asked her if she would recommend this story to others, and she answered,”Yes!” She went on to say, “I would recommend it especially to those new to the Orthodox faith.”

Hope could not think of any part of the story that she did not like. Rather, she liked the book so much that sometimes she stayed up reading it past her bedtime! She was reading it in summer, so she could lie in bed reading until it got too dark outside to read by the snatches of light shining through her window. She got in trouble for doing so (oops!), but she really liked the book, and that’s what she does when she likes a book. (Again, like godmother, like goddaughter!)

So, as I had expected, Hope liked the book. She could relate to the characters and enjoyed learning along with them. Her experience with the story was similar to mine, and I am glad. But you’ll recall that I mentioned two reasons for this blog post, and you may be wondering about the second.

Well, the second reason I am posting about this book right now is all about timing. In a matter of weeks we will be in Great Lent again! You may want to get this book to share with an Orthodox youngster of your own, so that he/she can read it during Great Lent this year! Or perhaps you personally want to follow the related blog posts as the weeks go by: they are very challenging and encouraging for Orthodox Christians of any age! Or maybe you just want to read the book yourself, for your own growth. We’re sharing this blog post now because both Hope and I want to give you plenty of time so that you can do any (or all!) of the above!

Taking one final glimpse at my interview with Hope, my final question for her was whether or not she would be willing to read a sequel when it comes out? She answered with a resounding, “YES!.” So now there are TWO of us eagerly anticipating the second book in the “Every Tuesday Girls Club!” Our guess is that if you and/or your young Orthodox friends get a chance to read “Queen Abigail the Wise,” you will feel the same way. We certainly hope so!

Here are some important links related to the book:

***

Purchase “Queen Abigail the Wise” by Grace Brooks, either for yourself or for young friends, here: https://www.amazon.com/Queen-Abigail-Wise-Grace-Brooks/dp/1518600115/  
There is also an ebook available. (But you can’t color in the illustrations of an ebook with colored pencil!)

***

Meet all the girls in the “Every Tuesday Girls Club” at the Queen Abigail website: http://queenabigail.com/

***

According to this blog post by “Queen Abigail the Wise” author Grace Brooks, http://queenabigail.com/2016/11/27/december-news-with-queen-abigail/, the second book in the series will be available soon! This one is called “Vanessa the Wonderworker!”

***

Follow along on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/QueenAbigailtheWise/ for a variety of interesting posts including fresh creations by “Queen Abigail the Wise” author Grace Brooks, new blog posts that she writes, and other interesting things that she finds online and shares which are enjoyable to children and adults alike!

***

Consider reading your way through “Queen Abigail the Wise” bit by bit, meditating on these wonderful blog posts by author Grace Brooks. http://queenabigail.com/2016/07/20/reading-through-queen-abigail-with-me/ Perhaps you can do this with a young friend, or even an entire Sunday Church School Class, throughout the course of Great Lent. Consider using these “Abigail” notebooks to document your learning along the way: http://www.cafepress.com/+queen_abigail_the_wise_journal,1908228623!

Advertisements

Gleanings from a Book: “Queen Abigail the Wise” by Grace Brooks

I wish I had “Queen Abigail the Wise”in my hands two months ago. I had heard about the book online somewhere, so I found and liked its Facebook page, in hopes that I would get to the book itself some day. Throughout Great Lent, Holy Week, and Pascha, author Grace Brooks kept posting links to the book’s blog. I chose not to read the blog posts, because I didn’t want to have any spoilers before I finally got my hands on the book and read it. Now that Lent is finished and I got a copy of the book, I can’t help wishing I had read both it and the related blog posts months ago! So many of the experiences that Abigail and her friends (oops, that’s a spoiler, sorry!) have throughout the course of this book are things that I can relate to, even though I’m a “grownup.”

I am an adult, but I freely admit that I love children’s literature. I have always enjoyed a good story, especially one with takeaway value whether in the overall story, the ethical choices of the story’s characters, or the lessons that they learn along the way. “Queen Abigail the Wise” offers all three: it is a package deal. The storyline is filled with the ups and downs of a very realistic Orthodox Christian girl, Abigail, as she lives her life during one Lenten season. Each of the main characters – the girls in the Every Tuesday Girls Club – have struggles, but they are determined to do their best, and the reader is invited along for the ride. Throughout the book there are many lessons learned, as well! Many chapters of the story contain their own mini-lessons, but the story is told so effectively that the reader doesn’t even notice that they are learning.

This book does an excellent job of presenting the Orthodox Christian life as real, applicable, and desirable for modern day girls. The charming illustrations enhance the storyline, adding delight to the story itself (and tempting this reader to break out her colored pencils!). The saints whose lives are appropriately introduced throughout the story are presented realistically, and the things that the characters learn from both the saints and the scriptures are relevant for life. Each of the girls in the Every Tuesday Girls Club is very different from all of the others, yet they interact with the Faith and each other in a genuine manner. This means they sometimes get along and sometimes they are just being, well, pre-teen American girls! The characters are so believable that the reader steps away from the story feeling like she has several new young friends.

I have a daughter who will soon turn 20. She has always loved to read, and has loved the Church and her girlfriends at church. Like Abigail and her friends, my daughter and hers have not always gotten along at every step of their journey, but they have learned together and grown closer to God along the way. To be honest, I wish I had this book ten years ago. She would have inhaled it, learned a lot, and shared it with her friends. And she probably would have made up a song about it. But I won’t say more about that: I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone who hasn’t read it yet!

Since I have the book now, instead, I will just have to share it with my 10-year-old goddaughter… so we can BOTH wait impatiently for the second in the series!

To learn more about “Queen Abigail the Wise” by Grace Brooks, or to purchase your own copy, visit the book’s website at http://queenabigail.com/. Follow along on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/QueenAbigailtheWise/.


“Queen Abigail the Wise” is a great story for young girls to read. It would be an excellent book to use for discussion (or a book club) if your Sunday Church School class is composed of pre-teen girls! But it is not just for young girls! Here are just a few of my favorite “quotes to ponder” that I found as I enjoyed the book and the blog posts related to it:

*

Words to ponder from pp. 66- 67, when Abigail is talking to her mom and trying to figure out how to help her friend:

“Abigail… felt disappointed. ‘But isn’t there something to do?’

‘Praying is doing, Abby. Didn’t you hear what father Boris said in the homily? …He said that if you didn’t remember anything else about St. Gregory [of Palomas] you should just pray this week. Not just with words. Pray with your heart. And then—?’


‘Listen?’


‘Yes. Pray and then listen. Because God hears our prayers, but we don’t always hear His answers…’”  

*

Words to ponder from page 138, in a discussion with one of her parish’s priests, Fr. Andrew tells Abigail, “There’s a lot more to the Cross of Christ than you understand right now. But then, there’s more to the Cross than any of us understand. It’s certainly more than just an expression about someone being your cross to bear. And the crosses God brings into our lives aren’t just bad things — they’re the things that can save us.”

13226934_10208325405884549_8170938434312376144_n

*

Words to ponder from Fr. Andrew’s sermon on Holy Saturday (pg. 234): “‘We’ve come to the end,’ he said. ‘Lent is over… Tonight we will meet here again when the sun is gone and the stars are out… We all know what will happen tonight, but what happens now, in the present? What will happen at the end of the service?’

Abigail couldn’t help jumping a little at the question. On the other side of the church, where Vanessa stood with Noah, she grimaced and pulled him a little closer to her. Fr. Andrew paused again, gazing around the church at the assembled people. ‘That part is up to you. May we use these last hours before the blessed Pascha service in ways that bring glory to the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.’

All the people murmured, ‘Amen,’ and Abigail exhaled. That had been a bit of a shock. It seemed that things in  church sometimes mirrored what was going on in her life to an astonishing degree.”

*

(Warning: spoiler alert!!! Skip this until AFTER you read the book!)

Words to ponder from p. 264: “For the girls to walk in such sweet and simple harmony was more touching than they new. It had been a hard year at St. Michael the Archangel Church. There had been a lot of arguments and problems that had to get solved that year, and some people worried that they would never stop fussing and carrying grudges. But if the daughters of the Murphys, Peasles and Jenkinses could go along together, then maybe they could as well. If Abigail Alverson and Vanessa Taybeck could walk hand in hand, then really anything was possible.

“Abigail didn’t know it then, but that was when the Every Tuesday Girls Club began in earnest. That was when those five girls truly began to help the church.”

*

Insights to ponder: “‘Queen Abigail’ is really just the story of how one girl ‘woke up’ to the Living God, to Christ present in every moment. That is really the very heart of any Christianity that is alive, intelligent and active. There are many of us — young and old, ‘cradle’ Christians and converts — who are going along in a kind of sleep-walk. We talk about God all the time — we talk and sing and hear about Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But do we believe that the Trinity is active and present in every moment — not 2000 years ago or at the Second Coming, but now?” ~ from author Grace Brooks’ blog post http://queenabigail.com/2016/05/10/last-thoughts-comments-and-some-secrets/

13232916_10208325405484539_3572494085727557896_n

*

Insights to ponder: “Whether we grew up Christian or not, chances are we were hearing the story of Jesus Christ’s life and death from the time we were young. We probably heard Christian claims that this man, who declared Himself to be the Son of God, died for us and rose from the dead. But do we really try to take that in? Do we let ourselves be amazed, as a child would be amazed?

Abigail’s eyes strayed up to the dome and the great image of Christ Himself looking down on them all. That image larger than any other, seeming to fill up the sky. One hand was raised in blessing. The other was on a book and on the book, a cross. She seemed to hear that voice again. Do you see, Abigail? Do you see?

“I wrote that passage for me, to give me a little kick. Do I really look, when I’m in church? Do I really listen? Lent is halfway over, so it’s worth thinking about, because we’ll arrive at the days of Holy Week sooner than we know. The cross of Christ is there every week in church, and extra attention is paid at the feasts of the Cross. But do we see?” ~ Grace Brooks, author of “Queen Abigail the Wise”, in her blog post http://queenabigail.com/2016/04/05/so-many-crosses-from-one-cross/

Holy Week Resources for Sunday Church School Teachers

Holy Week is a wonderful, special week for Orthodox Christians. It is also filled with long services that can be challenging to anyone, but especially to young children. This post offers suggestions for Holy Week that can be helpful for children of different ages. There are many ideas here, ranging from activities to do together as a Sunday Church School class to ways to help your students understand the services to crafty things you can do together to prepare for/learn about the week.

May these ideas help us to better love our Lord and each other throughout Holy Week. May we live this week together as a Church family, in awe of His compassion and mercy, and in gratitude for His great gift to us. May all that we do during Holy Week prepare us to celebrate His holy resurrection!

Blessed Holy Week!

The following ideas and resources can help you as you teach your Sunday Church School students about what lies ahead in Holy Week:

Play this board game together to review what happens during Great Lent and Holy Week. http://www.annunciationakron.org/phyllisonest/pdf/Great%20Lent%20Board%20Game%202011%202-19.pdf

Here are craft ideas for Holy Week, including everything from Palm Sunday, to the Cross, and the Resurrection: http://www.craftymorning.com/sunday-school-easter-crafts-for-kids-to-make/

Consider having each student create their own kouvouklion as you discuss the Lamentations service on Holy Friday. Translate this page if you don’t speak Greek, but even just the pictures give you a great idea of how this one was made: http://fountoukakia.blogspot.com/2014/04/blog-post_10.html

Share this Daily Guide to Holy Week with your students’ families. They can read and study the guide before each service that they attend: http://lent.goarch.org/bulletins/documents/8.5x11_JourneyToPascha_1.0.pdf

Here’s a free printable “passport” with a colorable icon for each day of Holy Week: http://www.themccallums.org/michelle/2015/04/02/holy-week-passport/

Find suggested highlights for you and your students to look for in each Holy Week service, here: http://orthodoxeducation.blogspot.com/2010/03/holy-week-for-kids.html?m=1

Find brief descriptions of each service of Holy Week here: http://www.antiochian.org/1175027131, and find background information, customs, and scripture references for each of the services of Holy Week here: http://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/ourfaith8432

Share this book list for Holy Week with your students’ families:: http://www.theorthodoxmama.com/the-lenten-journey-best-childrens-books-for-lent-and-holy-week/

The Creed: And Was Crucified for Us Under Pontius Pilate, and Suffered, and Was Buried

At His crucifixion, Jesus took on our sins, and true to his human nature, suffered sin’s consequence: death. In this final act of selfless love and service, Jesus Christ died and burst the bonds of death.

In the icon of the Crucifixion, the skull under the cross represents the place where Adam was buried and reminds us that Jesus is the New Adam. Unlike Adam, who disobeys God’s command, Jesus was obedient to the Father and cooperated with Him. It is important that Jesus became man in order to overturn Adam’s sin. “For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15: 21-22) Orthodox Christians can never speak of the Crucifixion without remembering the Resurrection. We participate not only in the suffering of Christ, but also in His victory. Through His cross, joy is come into the world!

(An aside: the mention of Pontius Pilate in the Creed is intentional. It points to the fact that Christ’s death and resurrection are historical events and can be traced to a specific date in human history.)

“For when all was sinful, cursed and dead, Christ became sin, a curse, and dead for us—though He Himself never ceased to be the righteousness and blessedness and life of God Himself. It is to this depth… that Christ has humiliated Himself ‘for us men and for our salvation.’ For being God, he became man; and being man, he became a slave; and being a slave, he became dead and not only dead, but dead on a cross. From this deepest degradation of God flows the eternal exaltation of man. This is the pivotal doctrine of the Orthodox Christian faith… the doctrine of the atonement—for we are made to be ‘at one’ with God. It is the doctrine of redemption—for we are redeemed, i.e., ‘bought with a price,’ the great price of the blood of God.” (Hopko, “Doctrine,” p. 88)

Try this: Together as a Sunday Church School class, talk about “spoiler alerts.” What are they? When and where do we see them? How do they change our perspective on the movie, book, or story that they “spoil?”

When our family first joined the Orthodox Church, one of the things that we noticed and loved are all the “spoiler alerts” about Christ’s resurrection that the Church gives. Whenever Orthodox Christians talk in Church about Christ’s death, immediately we also find ourselves proclaiming His resurrection. (The Church Fathers did that on purpose, placing the focus on His bursting of the bonds of Hades and His opening of paradise to us once again, rather than focusing on His death.)

Talk together about the importance of this spoiler alert. Why SHOULD we always remember His resurrection when we talk about His death? When does the Church give us these “spoiler alerts?” Look for them during the Divine Liturgy. If you have time, get out your Holy Week service book, and flip through those services (especially near the end of the week) for these “spoiler alerts.” These services are full of them!

Holy Week Activities

Following are suggested activities to help make journeying through Holy Week with children more focused and holy. Use these ideas with your class this year, save them to use next year, or pass the ideas on to your students’ parents.

Lazarus Saturday activities:

Divide your class into two teams and have a Lazarus Race as described on p. 9 of http://www.phyllisonest.com/.

Practice folding palm crosses like this: http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/Palm-Crosses.pdf.

Palm Sunday activities:

Palm Sunday word search: http://www.sundayschoolzone.com/activities/phj05-triumphal-entry-hidden-message-word-search.pdf.

Lesson 4 (of this first grade level printable book) is on Palm Sunday: http://www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/religioused/folder.2012-03-22.9458973042/unit-7.pdf.

Read the Palm Sunday story, written in easy-to-understand language, here: http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/131.pdf.

Palm Sunday and Holy Week printable guide for kids: http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/125.pdf.

(Also, find Bridegroom Services info for parents here: http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/42.pdf.)

Holy Week activities:

Listen to these helpful webinars on ideas of ways to help children participate in Holy Week: http://www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/family/files/lent/holyweek and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lX3UyHAKMac&feature=youtu.be.

Find brief descriptions of the Holy Week services, written in a way that children can understand, here: http://www.antiochian.org/node/25635.

Find links to articles on the Holy Week services (and more) that can help you better understand and experience the week here: http://www.antiochian.org/lent/holy-week.

Find practical, hands-on tips for helping children to better experience Holy Week here: http://orthodoxeducation.blogspot.com/2010/03/holy-week-for-kids.html?m=1 and here: http://www.orthodoxmom.com/2011/04/18/holy-week-activities-for-kids/.

Find a fantastic selection of lesson plans, discussion ideas, and activity suggestions for helping children “Journey to Pascha” here: http://dce.oca.org/focus/pascha/. The lessons are leveled by age group, so be sure to check out each lesson for the ages of your children! (There are also many printable pdfs including a “Guide to Holy Week” that children can take with them or read, prior to each service.)

Together answer questions related to the Holy Week icons that are found at: http://orthodoxeducation.blogspot.com/2009/03/holy-week-scrapbook.html.

Make a mural for the events of Holy Week as suggested here: http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/1832.pdf.

Find the Bridegroom Matins “Teaching Picture,” along with its description for use with children, at http://www.antiochian.org/teaching-pictures-holy-week-and-pascha.
Read about the Bridegroom Matins services here: file:///home/chronos/u-a7946be60baa093c55717211fa16f6ff84c0651b/Downloads/42.pdf.

Watch a 5-minute story, animated with Legos, from the Last Supper through the resurrection: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-M8Yesnt1V8&feature=youtu.be.

See the 25-minute animated story of Holy Week through the resurrection from The Beginner’s Bible: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0PSgoPdKQFQ.

Find printable coloring pages for Holy Week here: http://meaburrelareligion.blogspot.com/2012/03/colorear-pascua.html.

Play this board game together: http://www.annunciationakron.org/phyllisonest/pdf/Great%20Lent%20Board%20Game%202011%202-19.pdf.

Holy Thursday activities:

Jesus washed His disciples’ feet word search: http://www.sundayschoolzone.com/activities/jesus-washed-the-disciples-feet-word-search.pdf.

Find a printable Holy Thursday notebooking page here: http://www.catholicicing.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Holy-Thursday-Notebooking-Page.pdf.

Find printable “Last Supper” coloring pictures here: http://meaburrelareligion.blogspot.com/2013/10/ultima-cena-colorear.html.

Read the Last Supper story written in easy-to-understand language, at: http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/107.pdf.

Find the Last Supper icon to color at http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/LastSupper1.pdf.

There is a footwashing icon to print and color at http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/175.pdf.

Holy Friday activities:

Find quiet activities for Holy Friday and Saturday here: http://goodbooksforyoungsouls.blogspot.com/2014/04/quiet-activities-for-holy-friday-and.html.

Find the Holy Friday Vespers “Teaching Pictures” photo and description for use with children at http://www.antiochian.org/teaching-pictures-holy-week-and-pascha.

Find printable coloring pages for Holy Friday here: http://meaburrelareligion.blogspot.com/2012/03/historia-ilustrada-para-colorear-muerte.html.

Read the story of the crucifixion written in easy-to-understand language, at: http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/100.pdf.

Print the crown of thorns icon to color, from: http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/54.pdf.

Print a colorable icon of the crucifixion at  http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/53.pdf.

Find a printable, colorable icon of the burial of Christ at http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/43.pdf.