Author Bonnie Way has brought to life and made accessible the lives of saints in her book North American Martyrs Kids Activity Book.
This book is best for children ages 7+, which was perfect for my oldest, who is nine, and is studying the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada this year. I was thrilled to be able to include a resource like this into our homeschool curriculum. All the pages are reproducible, which will make it a great resource for our family for years to come.
This activity book shares information about each of the eight martyrs, along with a collection of activities which range from crosswords, mazes, and colouring pages, to imagining oneself in the position of the saint and writing a letter. There are many creative activities to help kids (and myself as well!) learn and remember the lives of these saints.
We are planning on taking one saint a month (at most) right now, and I believe that mixed with the other studies on Aboriginal Peoples, this resource gives a great faith perspective into this topic. There are in-depth biographies (well, in-depth for kids) of each saint except one (though that’s not due to lack of research, but of lack of written history). This helps to place each saint within a history and a relationship with people not far from our own histories – many of the places mentioned are still living hubs of activity today and can be visited (hello Montréal!). This book introduces us to Saint Jean de Brébeuf, Gabriel Lalemant, Isaac Jogues, René Goupil, Jean de Lalande, Antoine Daniel, Noël Chabanel, and Charles Garnier.
We have managed to learn about St. Jean de Brébeuf so far, and my 9-year-old enjoyed greatly the crossword puzzle though it was during this book work that I learned that he is not, in fact, partial to word searches like I am. He also found it interesting and curious that St. Jean de Brébeuf’s heart was eaten by his tormentors because they respected his courage so much. It definitely sparked further discussion about different cultures and also what it means and can look like to be a martyr for Jesus.
Perhaps this is a good time to point out that while this book is informative and interesting for young Catholics, due to the nature of martyrdom and depending on the age of your child, these biographies are best placed within a conversation with a parent or care giver afterward. Gruesome deaths are the honest reality of most martyrdoms and may need more special attention with your child, especially if they are sensitive to this reality. This is where I feel the age recommendation is right-on. I would not recommend this text be read to younger than age seven due to the capabilities and limitations of children’s ability to understand at younger ages (see Montessori’s Planes of Development).
The martyrs of North America all engaged in worthy pursuits in their task of evangelism, which is why I feel that this is a great aid to helping understand what evangelization looked like for these early explorers. I would caution use of this book as being the only source of information about Aboriginal peoples; that is not the purpose of the book, and adding in other resources to learn about the First Nations is recommendable as well.
I found North American Martyrs Kids Activity Book to be a great companion to our year learning about Aboriginal peoples in Canada. The Martyrs feast day in Canada is September 26; in the USA it is October 18. If you do not already mark this day with your family, perhaps Bonnie Way’s book will help to encourage remembering the work these saints did to share our faith in Jesus in North America.
One last note: St. Jean de Brébeuf wrote the Huron Carol, a markedly haunting hymn that is a great example of enculturation of our faith (not pluralism — they are different and can be read about in the document Dominus Iesus). Several of the verses are quoted in the book and I encourage you to listen to the song in the original Huron language (this video does it in Huron, French, American Sign Language, and English).
The North American Martyrs Kids Activity Book is a great introduction to the North American martyrs. It’s sure to spark both your child’s curiosity and your own!
Have you learned about martyrs with your kids yet? How have they responded?
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Copyright 2020 Jane Korvemaker