Review of Saint Spotting; Or, How to Read a Church

Saint Spotting; Or, How to Read a Church
by Chris Raschka; illus. by the author
Primary, Intermediate    Eerdmans    40 pp.    g
4/21    978-0-8028-5521-3    $17.99

Framing the book as an autobiographical recollection, Raschka provides a guide to “Saint Spotting,” a sort of game he and his mother would play while visiting a (saints-having) Christian church and looking for the images of saints throughout. For each of the thirty-plus saints shown in small, icon-like watercolor vignettes, Raschka provides a thumbnail, child-friendly description of how the saint is generally portrayed (“Saint Nicholas’s symbol is three bags of gold, which he gave to the poor”) and why he or she is remembered (“Our story of Santa Claus comes from him”). While the tone is always gentle and devout, Raschka is honest about the gruesome appeal of some of the hagiographical detail, such as Saint Lucy’s eyes on a ­platter and Saint Sebastian’s piercings (“Saint Sebastian was always my favorite, because he’s easy to spot”). When the narrator and his mother get to the front of the church and the images of Jesus and Mary, Raschka explains the Crucifixion well enough but, oddly, omits any mention or image of the Resurrection. But the book is respectful, agreeably idiosyncratic, and conveys much of the mystery of a space deemed sacred. The tall and narrow orientation of the volume suggests both a church spire and a tourist’s guidebook and definitely invites opening.

From the May/June 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

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