I didn’t find Pascha at the Duckpond until after Pascha last year. But I’m so glad I found it! If your child already knows and loves Mother Melania’s Fearless and Friends series, they’ll recognize Fearless the Fire Duck and all the other animals who live near the duck pond.

This story follows the animals through their Lenten journey. Rigid Rooster, as you might expect, decides to keep Lent better than anyone has ever kept it before. He wants to follow all the rules, and then some. And he wants to make sure everyone else does as well.

Capers the Cat can’t be bothered to keep Lent at all.

Henry Hamster is too sick to keep Lent. Charity the Churchmouse spends time every day in Lent looking after Henry, bringing him thermoses of hot soup, and making sure he is safe and warm.

Sounds like people at your parish, doesn’t it?

The animals reach the end of Great Lent, and go to the church near the duck pond to watch the service for Pascha, the Orthodox celebration of Easter.

At least most of them do. But Rigid and Capers don’t show up. They still have other lessons to learn.

A Story in Allegory

It has been a long time since Pilgrim’s Progress was the most widely read book after the Bible. Allegories have fallen out of fashion. They tend to be heavy handed and didactic. I mean, that’s sort of the point, right? You create the allegorical structure because you want to use the story to teach something.

I don’t feel bad about not liking allegories. J.R.R. Tolkien didn’t like them either. But even though it’s not my genre, there are a few allegorical stories that I like very much. They don’t beat you over the head. The allegory is there, but so is the story. And it works.

The Chronicles of Narnia. The Starbellied Sneetches.

And Pascha at the Duckpond.

If you’re teaching Sunday school, especially if you’re teaching preschoolers or lower elementary kids, you should definitely use Pascha at the Duckpond in your lessons.

And if you’re shopping for books for your own children, or for your godchildren? I think they should have it, too. I’ll be sending a copy to my godson.

Although it’s allegorical, and therefore a bit didactic, Pascha at the Duckpond is light and winsome. The animals are so relatable, and the attitudes are so familiar, that it can’t help but make you smile. There’s no heaviness to it at all. I think younger children, especially, will just love it. And there are lines, here and there, that will make the grownups smile, even as they are reading the story to their little ones over and over and over again.

If you have a young child who is keeping Lent, they should have this book. Especially if you have a child who cares very much about rules.

Illustrations by Cayce Halsell

Besides being an illustrator, Cayce Halsell is an iconographer. She is, according to her website, a student of Bonnie Gillis. Gillis illustrated many of Mother Melania’s other books, including her series on the Great Feasts and her Old Testament stories.

But Halsell’s style is very different from Gillis’s. The illustrations in Pascha at the Duckpond are soft and dark and muted. Like Lent itself.

Read More

The complete list of multicultural Easter picture books: If you’re looking for picture books that show people celebrating the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, you’ll find them on this list. All of them. (Well, almost all.)

Easter Picture Books Keep Pascha Present: A stack of beautiful books about Easter helps children connect with the Feast. Keep the books around from the beginning of Lent at least through Ascension.

17 essential picture books for Orthodox Christian kids: If you’re looking for picture books that include stories about Orthodox Christian people and traditions, you’ll find them on this list.

Books by Charlotte Riggle

Make Catherine's Pascha part of your Easter celebration.
This holiday classic shares the joy of Pascha through the eyes of a child. Find it on Amazon or Bookshop.org.

This delightful story is filled with friendship, prayer, sibling squabbles, a godparent’s story of St. Nicholas, and snow. Lots and lots of snow. Find it on Amazon or Bookshop.org.

In this collection of essays, women who are, or have been, single mothers share stories of their relationships with saints who were also single mothers. Charlotte’s story of the widow of Zarephath highlights the virtue of philoxenia. Find it on Amazon or Park End Books.

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