Mo Willems is a genius, particularly when Elephant and Piggie peek past the fourth wall.
When we push past the fourth wall of a children’s book, though, we find two readers. We find the child and the adult.
Why does this matter for the readers of children’s books?
Jesus’ invitation to “become like children” is, at least in part, an invitation to become as deeply perceptive as a child. My son is young, but I am sure he can pick up on the fact that I think the Elephant and Piggie books are brilliant while others are fairly forgettable.
The child is reading the book as well as the adult’s opinion of the book.
This is a deeply important question for religious resources, as a parent’s attitudes and practices of religion form that of the child.
This is why Audacious Ignatius strives for delight and depth. The book aims to captivate the young person and also strike a chord with the adult, so that when our children read us, they find joy and wonder.
Audacious Ignatius was featured on the Sorta Awesome Show this week! In the latest episode, I spoke with host Meg Tietz all about the creative journey of illustrating Audacious Ignatius. Hope you enjoy it!
The episode and show notes are available here, and Sorta Awesome is available in every podcast app, and from Spotify, Pandora, and Stitcher.
As parents and teachers, Paul and I think a lot about how to best communicate the message of Audacious Ignatius with kids of all ages. We have created some educational resources to give you an opportunity for further discussion of the book. Great to use at home or in a classroom!
The Examen handprint activity is a way to begin praying the examen with your child. I was recently asked to do an Audacious Ignatius event for a group of 2 and 3 year olds. I wanted to read them the book, and also do an activity that would allow them to create something related to St. Ignatius’s story. How could I introduce an element of Ignatian spirituality to children so young?
I thought of the examen, a traditional Jesuit prayer where we review our day with God. My young kids and I often “talk about our day” before they go to bed, recognizing the blessings of the day, and it is very much like an examen. I thought it would be a fun challenge to take the next step and make an activity to help children and parents (like us!) pray the examen together.
The result is a fun paint/cut/paste activity that becomes a tool you can use during prayer time to walk through the steps of the examen. This activity uses a handprint as a guide to the five steps of the examen (and handprint crafts are my favorite! So cute!)
My friend Molly made it with her 2 and 4 year old sons, and now they ask to do the “plate prayer” every night! Her 4 year old particularly likes the numbered steps, and enjoys counting which step they’re on.
Cut these colorful cards apart and use them to play any of the following games, or make up your own!
Sequence game: Put the cards in order of how the events happened in the book. Talk about what is happening in each picture.
Search game: For younger children, you hide one copy of each card around the room, and keep the other copies in your hand. Your child can do a treasure hunt for the cards, matching them to the cards in your hand.
Matching game: Put the cards face down on the table and take turns finding cards that match.
It’s no secret that Audacious Ignatius will build your vocabulary! If you want to spend some time learning some new words that rhyme with Ignatius, this activity will help you make a vocabulary booklet. Kids can read the words and definitions, and draw a picture of what the word means. This has been our most requested resource from teachers!
In The Religious Potential of the Child, Sophia Cavaletti says that our job isn’t so much to teach children to pray, as it is to create the environment where prayer can arise in them. I hope that these activities can help you create an environment conducive to prayer for your family or classroom, and to having conversations about God that are enriching for you and the children in your life!
“First, know well that I’m loved even though oh so flawed. Next, spend time with the Lord and walk where he trod. Offer all I possess, beg for my stony heart thawed, And act from a deep love, the love that is God”
From Audacious Ignatius, page 15
One of the questions I got asked yesterday at an elementary school “Meet the Illustrator” Day was which page was the hardest to make. No question– the page depicting the Spiritual Exercises! Paul and I both sweated over this scene. Paul rewrote the words multiple times, and I struggled with showing the idea of the exercises with images. It’s such an important moment in the book; it’s the scene I thought about first when I read Paul’s words, and I returned to it again and again during the illustration process.
I had originally thought I would divide it up into four different panels, since there are four weeks in the Spiritual Exercises. One panel for each week. But the layout looked strange, the first picture looked too much like St. Ignatius hugging Santa Claus… it just wasn’t right.
The breakthrough happened one day (June 28th, to be exact– thanks, technology!) when Paul texted me a picture he had drawn of a layout. I know– Paul is the writer, not the illustrator! But he has a knack for thinking of good layouts. Here’s the picture he sent me:
Awesome, right?? Love those eyebrows.
It soon became this:
Having a strong visual connection between Ignatius in prayer and the images of his baptism and walking with Jesus was the key! We knew we had our layout.
The video at the beginning of this post shows my process of combining the images digitally, after they had been painted and scanned. I am so happy with how this page turned out, and I love asking my kids what they think about St. Ignatius’s imaginative prayer exercise!
Now if I could only learn to work as fast as the time-lapse video shows…