The election of Pope Francis happened roughly nine months before I was hired at Novalis, so most of what I remember is following news accounts and Twitter updates. My favourite still remains @ConclaveSeagull—the (completely real) Twitter account of a seagull that had perched itself on top of the conclave’s chimney while the world watched for results.
And while the seagull shared thoughts like “The Swiss guard makes for nice, easy-to-spot targets! #habemuspoopam #whitesmoke” and “Wait, what’s this I hear about doves?! #notmything #habemuspapam”, the announcement of the Pope himself prompted this tweet: “Francisco. St. Francis was a good friend of my kind. #habemuspapam”
The Pope, by Paul Harrison, is designed for kids who will understand—and use—hashtags and retweets on Twitter. It includes a list of websites among the “Further information” section in the back, and breaks down the life of Pope Francis into small, easily digestible bites. Well-paced and well written, the book strikes the perfect balance between short enough to keep a kid’s attention and informative enough to fill out a school project.
The Pope also doesn’t talk down to kids, or gloss over the difficult or unimportant stuff. It explains what happened to the previous pope, Benedict XVI, and why he chose to resign; tells the story of Jorge Bergoglio’s early years in school, where he worked from seven in the morning and went to college until eight in the evening; talks about his illness when he was younger, and the lung surgery that resulted.
Most notably, The Pope includes sidebars about various important elements of Pope Francis’s story. There’s one dedicated to the Jesuits, and one about Argentina’s “dirty war” of the 1970s and early 80s on the next page. The sidebars explain the distinction between various titles of the Church (deacon, priest, bishop, archbishop, cardinal and Pope) and give Francis’s many names: Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Christ, Holy Father and Papa. For young readers who are new to Catholicism or even non-Catholic, these short five-or-six-line paragraphs can make a huge difference in learning and exploring their subject.
While I write this, I’ve got the book open on my desk next to an open browser window on my computer: @Pontifex, the Pope’s personal Twitter account. “Looking to the future,” Paul Harrison writes, “Pope Francis continues to search for ways to continue his mission and spread his message about caring for one another and including everyone.” Pope Francis’s most recent tweet was on February 21st, stating, “There is no sin that God cannot pardon. All we need to do is ask for forgiveness.”; it was retweeted over 13,000 times and selected as a favorite over 20,000 times.
So far, it seems like a good success.
-Gillian Robinson, Production Editor