It can be difficult to find books about Saint Patrick that are suitable for Protestants, but The Story of Saint Patrick by James A. Janda is one such book.
Janda's book is a blend of stories from Patrick's autobiography and legends created about him, beginning with his boyhood in England and his capture by Celts. Patrick is sold as a slave in Ireland and becomes a shepherd.
"He missed his family and friends. He had no one to turn to. It was in his sadness that Patrick started to pray. He began talking to God and God listened."
After six long years, Patrick has a dream he'll soon leave Ireland. Upon waking, he rushes to the harbor and, indeed, finds a ship ready to take him back to England.
However, once in England, Patrick dreams the Irish are begging him to return to the Emerald Isle. Patrick knows he wants to be a priest so he can bring "the peace of Christ" to the Irish, and promptly begins his studies.
Now a priest, Patrick sails back to Ireland, but before he can begin preaching, Patrick must obtain permission to do so from the king. On the way to the palace, a number of people become his followers. On Easter Eve, the group makes camp and builds a fire to warm themselves. The king sees the fire in the distance. His chief Druid, Lochru, says it is "against the law to light a fire during these sacred days;" therefore, Patrick must die. Hearing horses in the distance, Patrick walks ahead to meet Lochru. He says "Let us see whose weapons are more powerful - the angels' shield of light or weapons made to hurt and harm." When Lochru's men come upon Patrick, they are physically unable to attack him. Finally the king invites Patrick to the castle.
On the day Patrick and his men are to see the king, however, Lochru plans to ambush and kill them. But he and his men never see Patrick pass by; they only see a group of deer. Patrick greets the king and tells him about Christ. The king and queen are moved, and the king says:
"Let all know that Patrick has my protection and consent to spread the message of Christ, his God, throughout my kingdom."
Patrick spends the rest of his life preaching in Ireland. He teaches the Irish about the trinity by pointing to the shamrock and it's three leaves: "See, the clover has three leaves, but it is one." He dies in Ireland at an old age.
What I Like: I appreciate Janda's use of Patrick's autobiography and that he emphasizes the man's constant trust in the Lord. I also like how this book portrays Patrick's fight against the pagans of Ireland (although the author never explains what Druids are), and how he won them over with love. The illustrations by Christopher Fay are simple black and white drawings but they do an excellent job of portraying character.
What I Dislike: I appreciate that the author chooses some lesser-known tales about Patrick, but I would have liked a mention of Patrick banishing snakes from the land. And while overall I like Fay's illustrations, it's a little odd that they are in several different styles. Some are sketchy, others far more detailed, and some resemble woodcuts; it's as if several illustrators worked on the book, instead of one.
Overall Rating: Good.
Age Appeal: According to the publisher, 4 to 8, but do note the illustrations are black and white drawings, which don't appeal to many young kids.
Publisher Info: Paulist Press, 2005; ISBN: 0809166232; softcover; $6.95