As far as I’m concerned, a book is the perfect gift for every occasion. And if the occasion is a baby shower or a baptism or a toddler’s birthday, I Pray Today, is the perfect gift.
The names on the cover of I Pray Today might look familiar to you. The book was written by Angela Isaacs, who also wrote Goodnight Jesus. It was illustrated by Amandine Wanert, who also illustrated In the Candle’s Glow.
The story follows a sweet little girl through the ups and downs of an ordinary day, from the time she gets up in the morning until she goes to bed that night. And all along the way, the little girl fills her day with prayer: Lord, have mercy.
The beauty of repetition
Children, of course, love repetition. They love to read the same books over and over and over. And in a book, they love to hear the same words again and again.
And they especially love repetition with variation. They love it when the text is the same but different.
They love it because it meets important developmental needs. Repetition with variation is key to building language skills. A rhyme with a refrain, like a song, does this perfectly. For example, in “Old McDonald,” the repeated words – Old McDonald had a farm – help a child build vocabulary, verbal memory, and sound sense. The variation – cow, or pig, or horse – helps them learn to put words together in novel ways. It helps them understand context, and how meaning is built.
In I Pray Today, every spread has a simple rhyming couplet, followed by “Lord, have mercy.” The simple prayer functions as the refrain of the song. It’s familiar to the child who has heard it over and over in litanies of the Divine Liturgy. And the book provides new contexts for the phrase.
It starts, “Good morning, God. The day is new. I say my first small prayer to you. Lord, have mercy.”
The rhyming couplets are perfect. There is never an odd inversion to make the rhythm or the rhyme work out. The vocabulary is appropriately simple and sweet. The refrain follows naturally from the couplet.
Because the text flows so well, I Pray Today will stand up to being read over and over again. And that’s a good thing, because I expect it will be a bedtime favorite.
The beauty of art
Wanert’s illustrations are charming. The background of each page is washed in saturated color that brings out the mood for the page. The people and objects in the foreground are simple pen-and-ink drawings, highlighted with bits of color.
Interestingly, the color of the polka dots on the little girl’s dress change to match the background on the page. On the peaceful blue page, the dress has blue dots; on the angry red page, the dress has red dots.
I Pray Today is just delightful in every way.
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Buy the Books!
These delightfully diverse books will give Orthodox Christian children the chance to see themselves in books. And they’ll give other children the chance to see books that feature cultural practices they may not be familiar with.
FINALIST IN THE 2015 USA BEST BOOK AWARDS
Catherine doesn’t like vegetables. She doesn’t like naps. She doesn’t like it when her mom combs her hair. She loves hot dogs, chocolate cake, and her best friend, Elizabeth. Most of all, she loves Pascha! Pascha, the Orthodox Christian Easter, is celebrated in the middle of the night, with processions and candles and bells and singing. And Catherine insists that she’s not a bit sleepy.
The Saint Nicholas Day Snow
Shoes or stockings? Horse or sleigh? Does St. Nicholas visit on December 6 or on Christmas Eve? Will a little girl’s prayer be answered? When Elizabeth has to stay at Catherine’s house, she’s worried about her grandmother, and worried that St. Nicholas won’t find her. The grownups, though, are worried about snow.