By Bethany Kilcrease
As my daughter’s first baptismal birthday was approaching earlier this month, I decided to find a gift by perusing the Concordia Publishing House website. The new book Whisper, Whisper: Learning about Church by Mary Moerbe caught my eye. My now nearly 13-month old daughter is a human dynamo. We like to say she is “enthusiastic about life.” Getting her to remain sort of silent and relatively still in the pew entails so much physical exertion that I generally break into a sweat and figure I can skip the gym later. Obviously I’m on the look out for age-appropriate books to introduce her to the Divine Service and help her focus her attention on God’s good gifts for us. So I bought Whisper, Whisper.
The book has a hard back (good – she can’t chew through it too quickly) and glossy pages (also good – she prefers that more pulpy regular paper texture). It begins with an “introduction for parents” informing the reader that “This book helps explain what is happening there [in the Divine Service] so you can help your child learn to participate with respectful behavior and proper responses” (6). Perfect! The main part of the book consists of a poem of sorts describing what takes place during the different parts of the Service. Ideally, parents should read this to young children prior to Sunday morning in order to practice for worship. As children grow, parents can add in the hand motions and actions interspersed with the main poem text. For example “Whisper, whisper, now God’s Word [Make a book with your hands.] / Brings God’s gifts so we can learn. [Bring hands together over your heart.] / Whisper, whisper, standing tall, [Make a two-finger cross.] / Pastors preach Good News for all! [Spread out hands, palms up.]” (15). Each page of text also includes a “teaching moment” for older children. Finally, the book ends with a series of “in-sanctuary tips” for handling small unruly children.
Overall, I really like this book. As my daughter gets a little older, I can actually see us reading the poem and then adding in the hand motions. Usually “teaching moments” in books like these induce serious eye rolls, but the material Moerbe includes is solid; it’s actually things I would want to teach my daughter. If you’re a first-time mom like me, then the in-sanctuary tips should be helpful as well. To me, at least, the illustrations, by Martha Avilés, are also visually appealing. Of course, the real test is the baby test. What would my daughter think? Apparently, she also finds them appealing, because she’s made several (usually successful) attempts to swipe the book out of my hands, run off with it, and then privately investigate the pictures with her index finger. I’m assuming this is a sign of approval.
In terms of quibbles with the book, I really don’t have many. It did take me a minute to make the connection between “whisper, whisper” and being quiet in church. But that’s probably just me being slow on the uptake. Personally, I would have liked to have seen the ordinaries of the liturgy addressed more clearly, but that’s a minor point and doing so may not even be age appropriate. My only other nitpickings are with the illustrations. Any altar guild veteran will immediately have the same thought upon turning to page 14: “The paraments and vestments are green, but the Pascal candle is burning? There must be a baptism or a funeral!” Additionally, this picture appears to show a children’s sermon. I’ve definitely seen these done well, but – and someone can correct me if I’m wrong – I don’t believe they have a place in any of the rites included in LSB. Therefore, I would have chosen something else to illustrate. Maybe the pastor running to the sacristy to get the ewer. Also, referencing page 22, what’s up with all the illustrations in CPH children’s books of people receiving Holy Communion while standing up? And why isn’t the pastor distributing the hosts? Again, this is all adiaphora, but in my experience, most LCMS congregants kneel at an altar rail. Why not portray the standard practice more often? Personally, knowing the utter destruction of Roman Catholic Eucharistic piety caused at least in part by standing and receiving communion carelessly in the hand, I would very much prefer my daughter to see pictures of parishioners kneeling around the altar. But, as I said, these are quibbles.
Overall, I would recommend this book to parents of young children and I would definitely recommend this book to first-time parents who are still trying to figure out how to introduce their children to the rites and ceremonies of the Divine Service.
Photo Credit to Roy Costello. Creative Commons license.