Thursday 5 January 2017

The Strangers at the Manger - Lisa M. Hendey and Jenn Bower - Chime Travelers Book 5

The Strangers at the Manger
Chime Travelers Book 5
Lisa M. Hendey
Jenn Bower (Illustrator)
Servant Books a division of
Franciscan  Media
ISBN 9781632531001

Lisa M. Hendey is an editor and founder of she has written numerous books and contributed to a number as well. She has also written the forward to a number of other books. But this is the first book of hers that I have read, and it was wonderful. It was a little weird starting with the fifth book in a series but it was also a good test. For starting with this book  it was easy to determine that though there are references to earlier books, or at least events from them, this book stands well on its own!

The Brady twins Patrick and Katie have had some unique adventures after the family became more active in the parish of Saint Anne's, and specifically joined the cleaning team. The reason for joining the cleaning team might have something to do with Patrick's pet frog ending up in the baptismal font. (But alas that is part of another story.) For it seems that at certain points after hearing the church bells chime they have each travelled into the past. They then stay there until they learn a lesson. This book begins on the last day before Christmas break, as school is letting out the Brady twins notice a new family at the school with Fr. Miguel and Sr. Margaret. The newcomers are the Perez family and they do not look like anyone else at the parish. Patrick and Katie learn that the Perez's need a safe place to stay and are staying at the parish centre. While helping clean the church for Christmas service, the twins Chime Travel, the appear on a hillside outside a cave with a donkey braying nearby.

The children end up back in time at the first Christmas story. They meet Mary and Joseph as they travel to Bethlehem and join them on the journey. Over their time in the past they learn many lessons and start thinking about life back home in their own time. The children interact with a number of biblical characters, but most closely with Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus. The children also meet the shepherds, the wise men, the visit to the temple, and more. When the Magi arrive, Katie asks Mary, “Are you sure you want all of these strangers around the baby?" Mary smiles. "Strangers are simply new friends, just waiting to be loved.” And that is a sentiment needed today. And once they are home their attitude and interactions with the Perez family change drastically. Overall it is a very moving read. It is a powerful story and really brings the Christmas story alive for kids and those who read to and with them.

The illustrations are a great addition to the story and Jenn Bower does a great job with capturing the sentiment of the book in the pictures. This book is a wonderful retelling of the nativity story and makes it very real. If the rest of the books in the series are as good there is some amazing reading ahead for the kids and me! And I hope that this is not the last in the series. Well done.

Books by Lisa M. Hendey:
The Handbook for Catholic Moms
A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms
The Grace of Yes: Eight Virtues for Generous Living
O Radiant Dawn: 5-Minute Prayers Around the Advent Wreath

As Morning Breaks: Daily Gospel Reflection.
I Am God's Storyteller 

Chime Travelers Series:
The Secret of the Shamrock
The Sign of the Carved Cross
The Whisper in the Ruins
The Mystery at Midnight
The Strangers at the Manger

Contributed to:
Beautiful Mercy
Beautiful Eucharist
Small Steps for Catholic Moms
The Catholic Baby Name Book
One Body, Many Blogs: A Guide for Christian Bloggers
The Catholic Mom S Prayer Companion: A Book of Daily Reflections
The Church and New Media

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2017 Catholic Reading Plan!

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