Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Boy, a Kitchen, and His Cave

Written by Catherine K. Contopoulos, illustrated by Chrissanth Greene-Gross, published by St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press

Hardback, 32 fully illustrated pages

God bless the authors and illustrators who utilize their talents to touch the life of a young person in a positive and godly way. I’m always glad to find children’s books about the Church or her saints to add to our home library. This book is no exception; it’s a beautifully written tale about the life of St. Euphrosynos, a 9th century monk of Greek origin.

Illustration by Chrissanth Greene-Gross

Even though I was familiar with his icon from church and the homes of Orthodox friends, I was mostly unaware of Euphrosynos’ (Ef RO’ see noos) story. The author begins with a glimpse of Euphrosynos as a small boy, tending the gardens and animals on his family farm in the northern mountains of Greece. Although poor, his family raised him with an abundance of love for God. We follow his journey as he grows into a young man, finding his own way and eventually discovering the monasteries of Mount Athos.

It is in this setting that Euphrosynos’ character & virtue come into full bloom, as God’s grace allows him to transform hurtful insults into great lessons of faith, humility and gratitude. His work as the monastery cook, tending the fruits & vegetables and preparing food for his fellow monks enables him to practice an uncommon appreciation for simple things.

Euphrosynos working in the kitchen; illustration by Chrissanth Greene-Gross

I particularly like the Troparion (hymn) and historical note found at the end of the story, as it provides context for how this saint is remembered in the Orthodox Church.

The story flows easily, which has made this another favorite on our bookshelf. The recommended ages are 4 -8 years, but I’ve found it to be a story for any age. Our teenage son loves the story as much as I do.

Incidentally, I realized just how much Euphrosynos’ life had touched my son when he made reference to this saint recently in an unrelated conversation. My son said:

“I think the happiest people on earth are those who live simply.... just like St. Euphrosynos. He was happy just working in the garden or preparing food for people..”

Icon of St. Euphrosynos. Feastday, September 11


Kh.Nicole said...

We love that book! My favorite picture is the one of the monk slipping on the puddle. I must have read the book several dozen times before I noticed that the icon on the wall in the background is the Ladder of Divine Ascent. LOL!

Elizabeth @ The Garden Window said...

It is one of our family favourites too :-)

elizabeth said...

beautiful... I love this Saint story... I wrote a small version of the story years ago for my library school class on storytelling and actually told it to kids in a pubic library! :) His story is so beautiful...

amy said...

Ah, a favorite all around = ' )

Kh. Nicole, what an appropriate icon for that part of the story, eh?!

GretchenJoanna said...

Just last week a friend told me about this saint, whose story in this book I had completely overlooked in our church bookstore. I'm so glad you wrote about him and the book; I will read it tomorrow when I am working in the store!

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