Saturday, 5 April 2008

Benjamin's Box

I ordered Benjamin's Box: The Story of the Resurrection Eggs (Melody Carlson and Jack Stockman) for Easter, but Amazon UK's supply was delayed and it didn't arrive until today. My little one is still enjoying her Resurrection Box, and the book is a little old for her, so although it is still Eastertide I'm going to put it away for next year.

Benjamin's Box was written to use alongside this set of Resurrection Eggs. Benjamin, a young boy living in Jerusalem, collects a number of items in his treasure box as he follows Jesus during his final days. The items in the eggs match the book, and give the child both a tactile way to explore the story and an aide-memoire to recall the events of the first Easter.

The text is fairly simple - fine for preschoolers, though too wordy for toddlers. If I had used it this year I would just have looked at the pictures with my Little Cherub and talked about the items rather than try to read the book to her. Great literature it is not, but it is readable enough. Here is a sample:
One bright spring morning, Benjamin sat outside in the sunshine. In his hands was a wooden box.
"Hi Benjamin," called his friend, Eli. "What's that you've got?"
"It's my treasure box," said Benjamin. "My grandfather gave it to me before he died last year. He said it was very,very special."
Eli opened it and looked in. "There's nothing in it except for some old straw. How can this be a treasure box?"
Benjamin shrugged. "I don't have any real treasures yet. But my grandfather said this straw came from the bed of a baby who was born in a stable. My grandfather was a shepherd then, and he said the baby would grow up to be a king."
The option to buy the resurrection eggs ready made make this a very simple way of setting up a hands-on Easter story activity ... one that can be repeated year after year. It would also be quite easy to fill one's own set of eggs, or to put the items into a treasure box filled with straw (shredded yellow tissue paper would do nicely). To make your own set you would need:
  1. Small toy donkey (or fake fur would also fit with the text)
  2. Coins
  3. Cup or goblet
  4. Praying hands (a printed picture would do, and a twig would work as an alternative - again, this fits with the text)
  5. Leather strip
  6. Crown of thorns (or points broken of cocktail sticks to represent thorns)
  7. Nails
  8. Dice
  9. Spear (I would use a Playmobil spear)
  10. Small piece of white cloth
  11. A stone
  12. Nothing! - the twelfth egg is empty to represent the empty tomb
The book is published by an evangelical Christian apostolate, with a "Ten Tips to Leading Children to Christ" included at the end. As an adult it is easy to see that the last page of the story has an evangelical slant, with the emphasis on forgiveness and telling others the good news, though I personally wouldn't have a problem reading it to my daughter. During the page about the Last Supper the book says "But what did Jesus mean when he said the wine was like his blood and would be spilled, and the bread was to be broken like his body. It made no sense." I would either tweak the wording or point out that of course, we know that it does make sense because the wine and bread really were His Body and Blood. These quibbles aside, I think the book can easily be used by Catholic families to help bring the Easter story alive for young children.


Robin said...

Love this! I made Resurrection Eggs as a project at one of my mom's groups this year. My 3 and 4 year old loved them and still ask to open them and for me to read the verse. I'm going to have to get this book for next year to add more depth to their understanding. Love your blog!

Cindy said...

oop - posted as my aunt!

Mrs Pea said...

I find it so sad how many Christian books are spoiled by weak writing or illustrations lacking artistic merit. We have a few books I kept because they are Christian only to consign them to the charity shop bag in despair because of dumbed down or clunky text or ugly pictures. Why is this so often the way?

Melanie B said...

Mrs Pea,

I so agree! It is hard to find books for children with both excellent writing and beautiful, elevating art.
I wish I knew why, when with our rich heritage of the world's best art, it is so hard to find books for children that reflect our cultural patrimony. Why do publishers so routinely serve up pap?