We Have a Winner!

Congratulations to Mark Evans of Silver Spring, Maryland, who won the contest for two patriotic children’s books by Amelia Hamilton! They will be winding their way to you soon, Mark. For those who didn’t win but still want to pick up some copies, why not drop on by the Growing Patriots site, were you can check out not only the two books, but related items for sale.

Thanks again to Amelia for the opportunity to share her work with you, to all who read these pages, and to the dozens of you who entered the contest.  I am currently making my way back to Smallville for the Independence Day weekend, so hope you are enjoying yours wherever you are.  I’ll be sure to save you some Amish potato salad.


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Independence Day Giveaway: Books for Little Patriots

In honor of Independence Day – and courtesy of my friend, the lovely and talented Amelia Hamilton – this Friday, July 4th, we’re giving away a free copy of each of her two fantastic children’s books: “One Nation Under God: A Book for Little Patriots”, and “10 Steps to Freedom: A Growing Patriot’s Guide to the American Revolution”.

One Nation Under God is a wonderful teaching tool, which uses counting and poetry to explain concepts which can sometimes be tough for young readers to grasp.  Beginning, appropriately enough, with the number 1 for God, Hamilton takes each number from 1-10 in turn, and explains different aspects of the American republic and its history, from the Bill of Rights to the branches of the military services.  For example, for the number 4, Hamilton explains who each of the four U.S. Presidents carved on Mount Rushmore were, while for the number 9, the nine Justices of the Supreme Court are engaged, appropriately enough, in a tug-of-war.

In 10 Steps to Freedom, Hamilton again uses numbers to great effect, only this time by tracing ten key moments in the path to Independence, from the Boston Tea Party to the election of George Washington as the first President of the United States.  Along the way, we get to meet important figures from our country’s history, including Paul Revere, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin.  It’s not easy to explain concepts like the Declaration of Independence or the ratification of the Constitution to children, but Hamilton’s poetry and the colorful accompanying images draw readers in, encouraging them to learn more about the people, situations, and concepts presented.

Anyone who has read to a child knows that oftentimes these books can be a chore for adults.  So often these days, children’s books seem to talk down to their audience, using babyish or relativist terms.  This is not the case here, and those who have children to teach or entertain will enjoy reading these books as much as their charges will.  In her poem about what the Statue of Liberty symbolizes, for example, Hamilton explains the seven rays which emanate from the crown atop Lady Liberty’s head in a way children can understand, and adults will ponder over, giving both an opportunity for further reflection and discussion:

On her crown, those seven rays

Remind Americans every day

That on seven lands and seven seas

Many still are not yet free.

It’s also a delicate balance, presenting stories of warfare to children without intentionally and unnecessarily frightening them.  Hamilton admirably handles the task, by pointing out that brains and brawn had to work together in order to gain the freedoms which Americans enjoy today.  In asking children to remember why we celebrate Independence Day every year, she notes how freedom came at a cost, and was achieved by two different types of fighters: “Some with guns, and some with pens.” Realizing that both were necessary to form and preserve the United States is a crucial step for children to reach, in their civic understanding.

Both books are beautifully illustrated, with bright, dynamic pictures by illustrator Anthony Resto.  Using a mixture of imagined historical scenes and elements from everyday life to accompany Hamilton’s poems, there are many charming details.  In the illustration of the three branches of the federal government for example, we are shown a large tree, with a boy in a tire swing.  And while Betsy Ross sews the American flag, two colonial children play alongside her with a hoop and a drum.  The pictures give adults the opportunity to go into greater detail with children, about the history and ideas being brought to life through these images.

Interested in seeing more for yourself, or as a gift for some little ones in your life? Visit the entry form by following this link; you may enter to win between now and midnight tomorrow.  One entry per reader, please.  The winner will be announced Friday morning here on the blog.

My special thanks to Amelia Hamilton for allowing me to share these terrific books with all of you, and of course to all of my readers for their support.  Good luck!

Growing Patriots

The “Golden Summer” of Patrick Madrid

In his brand-new book Why Be Catholic? Ten Answers to a Very Important Question, well-known Catholic author Patrick Madrid gives a comprehensive overview of what he does best: teaching, explaining, and defending the Catholic faith.  Ahead of his visit here to Washington this Saturday, June 21st, where he will be signing copies of his new book at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, I had a chance to read his latest release.  A combination of solid, readable apologetics, and personal examples of how faith and real-life events often interact, this superb overview of the Catholic faith and the challenges it has faced and will continue to face is a genuine pleasure to read.

If you ever wished that you could have Madrid, one of the most competent, well-spoken, and clear voices speaking on behalf of the Church, available to you 24-7, or you’ve always wanted to get an overview from a well-informed source about why we practitioners of popery believe what we do, you will find much to learn from and savor here.  Yet as rich as the book is in explaining the underpinnings of Catholic teaching, from the Sacraments to the Papacy to the Communion of Saints, what I personally enjoyed most was the thread that ties the combination of narrative and apologetics together, a time the author refers to as his “golden summer”.  By this, Madrid doesn’t mean an idyllic, hedonistic moment in the sun.  Rather, he’s referring to a period that one can look back on and say, “Here’s where it all started coming together.”

Chances are, you’ve had one of these “golden summers” as well, perhaps not even in the summertime.  It’s a stretch when some interest strongly asserts itself, or an endeavour comes to fruition, when everything seems to be clicking.  Sometimes it can even be a period of personal growth through the intervention of a crisis or challenge, when you realize that you are capable of doing a great deal more than you would have believed at the start.

In Patrick Madrid’s case, the “golden summer” in question was the summer of 1977, when he spent a considerable amount of time over at the home of his then-girlfriend.  The 17-year-old Madrid had grown up in a devoutly Catholic home, but was still in that nebulous period between childhood and adulthood in the faith, where the cradle Catholic can go either way.  Through his interactions with people of other faiths, or indeed no faith at all, he was beginning to realize that he did not have answers to those who challenged the basis for his belief in Catholicism.

Enter his girlfriend’s father, armed with notoriously anti-Catholic comic books known as “Chick Tracts”.  He liked to take Madrid aside into his study, when the young man came over to hang out at their swimming pool, and challenge his beliefs about Catholicism.  At first, Madrid was overwhelmed, because although he sensed that his girlfriend’s father was wrong, he didn’t know how to respond to the man’s claims.

At the same time however, Madrid realized that he had a wealth of research and reading material available to him at home, thanks to his parents’ library of Catholic books.  Over the course of that golden summer, Madrid would grow into a better understanding of his faith through research, interactions, and debates with his girlfriend’s father.  In the process, without even realizing it, he was laying the foundations for what would become a career as a prominent Catholic apologist, writer, speaker, and broadcaster.

There are many other areas of the book I could point to as being worthy of your attention, but two other aspects of it particularly struck me.  The first is how it begins: whether you’re a Catholic or not, you’re going to be blown away by the first chapter.  Madrid takes no prisoners in pointing out that the Catholic Church has done a lot of very, very sinful and stupid things, including the still-festering sores of the clergy sex abuse scandal, and how the clergy and bishops have failed us.  Yet he also excoriates a society which has fallen so far into celebrating, rather than shunning, the seven deadly sins, that we are reverting to the kind of selfish, me-first pit of paganism which it took centuries for Western civilization to crawl out of.

Second, Madrid peppers his chapters with fascinating stories of truly remarkable experiences from his own life, which for him illustrate how God moves in mysterious ways.  From narrowly missing being a passenger on a jet destroyed in a mid-air collision, to how he unexpectedly brought a fallen-away Catholic back into the fold after he thought he blew it, Madrid is constantly reminded of the fact that God has something for him to do, and he needs to move as he is directed.  More of us, myself included, need to remember to keep that in mind when we’re not entirely sure of what we’re doing or where we’re going.

Whether you are interested in Catholic apologetics and spirituality, or simply enjoy clear, authoritative writing, Madrid’s book is an excellent addition to your summer reading list, and one I suspect readers will return to again and again, as a resource for explaining Catholicism to others.

Why Be Catholic Patrick Madrid