If you are looking for one single volume of literary master pieces to read to your kids during the Easter season, obtain a copy of The Easter Book of Legends and Stories, collected by Alice Isabel Hazeltine and Elva Sophronia Smith. Unfortunately, the book is out of print but there are still quite a few used copies available at amazon.com and other online used book sellers.
The Easter Book of Legends and Stories is an anthology of Easter literature. You will not find any cute tales about fuzzy bunnies for your little ones, but a magnificent collection of 70 high-quality readings about the Resurrection of Christ, which will fascinate children of all ages as well as adults. The book contains all the Easter passages from Scripture, liturgical texts, stories, legends, drama, poetry, songs and lyrics including translations from French, German, Latin and Russian authors.
Authors in this book include well-known names such as Emily Dickinson, A.E. Housman, Robert Frost, Joyce Kilmer, Carol Ryrie Brink and Apollon Nikolaevitch Maikow, but also a number of great poets and storytellers whose work has not received much attention in recent years but deserves to be remembered, such as Selma Lagerlöf from Sweden, Marguerite Clement from France, Irish ex-patriots Padraic Colum and Ella Young and American Agnes Sligh Turnbull.
Especially recommended for reading aloud to your children are the following:
- The Maid of Emmaus by Agnes Sligh Turnbull is the beautiful story of Martha, a fictitious servant girl from the inn at Emmaus who, while on an errand in Jerusalem, has a short encounter with Christ preaching at the temple. Back at the inn, her only desire is to bake some perfect wheaten loaves for the strange rabbi and to take them to Jerusalem as a gift. She succeeds in baking the loaves despite enormous difficulties and takes them to Jerusalem only to find that the “strange Master” has been crucified. Her sorrow turns into joy when, a few days later, back at the inn of Emmaus, in the breaking of her own little loaves of bread, the Master reveals himself to his disciples Simon and Cleopas as well as to his new disciple Martha.
- Ys and Her Bells is Marguerite Clement’s rendition of an ancient legend from Brittany delivered in the lively, traditional, first-person style of Celtic storytellers. The ghost of King Gralon, a gentle, well-meaning ghost, wanders the paths of Britanny at Easter time to warn pretty young girls to remain pure, kind and happy. This is the task King Gralon has taken upon himself as a penance for loving his wicked daughter Dahut more than God, thereby causing the downfall of many young men and finally of his great city, Ys, which sank into the sea with all her beautiful bells.
- Saint Patrick at Tara is an adaptation by Alice Isabel Hazeltine from early sources narrating the events surrounding Saint Patrick’s lighting of the Easter fire on the sacred hill of Tara. This act is considered sacrilegious by the pagan Irish and is followed by a battle of magic between High King Loguire’s chief druids Lucetmael and Lochru and Saint Patrick. With the help of God, the saint wins the battle as a result of which the High King, and soon after all of Ireland, convert to Christianity.
The large number of poems in The Easter Book of Legends and Stories will make you marvel at the multitude of variations the poetic imagination is able to create from the simple Easter greeting: “Christ is Risen!” Here is a sample by Irish poet and mystic Ella Young, which needs to be read aloud to appreciate the beautiful rhythm:
All so frail,so white,
The blossoms on the thorn,
So pale this first daylight
On Easter morn.
Hear the cry: ”Christ is risen!
Our Lord sets free
The souls in prison.”
The sun acclaims it
Christ! Christ is risen
From the dead.
Alice Isabel Hazeltine, who compiled this anthology, was a children’s librarian who promoted good reading for all children. Her Easter Book of Legend and Stories is a treasure for your children, which may soon be hard to find. Some copies already sell for over $50.00 but there are still some inexpensive used copies available at amazon.com and other online sellers. The book is also available in the Timberland Library System.
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