Will You Come to Mass by Susan Joy Bellavance, Illustrations by Sara Tang

Will You Come to Mass by Susan Joy Bellavance, Illustrations by Sara Tang

Reviewed by A.R.K. Watson

The lyrical poetry of this book, coupled with full-spread watercolor paintings captured even this weary adult reader’s imagination and brought a quiet moment of peace to me on the chilly autumn evening when I picked up this book.

  • Genre: Children’s Book
  • Author’s Worldview: Catholic
  • Year Published: 2018
  • Themes: Mass, Discipline, Jesus, church, angels
  • Audience: Ages 3-5

            “The church bells in the little town ring out like angel voices. ‘Come, come, come,’ they sing. ‘Come to Holy Mass!’”

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            Above this opening verse is a hand-painted image of a church with angels flying out of the bell tower, wings the color of the sunset. The pictures and poem follow the angels throughout the town.  They carry little bells to gather the townsfolk to Mass. One by one the various townsfolk, made of anthropomorphized animals, give various excuses as to why they can’t or won’t come to Mass. The excuses are the sort everyone has heard before, though your young child may not have heard them yet. “Mr. Sloth rolls over on Sunday morning complaining that he’s too tired to get up for Mass.  Mr. Robin is too busy.  Mr. snake is too lazy.”

The content is simple, but the rhyme scheme effective for calming children down at the end of the day.

            The paintings really make this book shine with their bright colors and funny details. If you want to inspire some artistic talent in your little one, this would be a good start. There are also little jokes in the details that a child can search for independently if you can’t read the book aloud to them—probably after reading it to them 99 times before. There are some decent jokes in there too, even for adults. I had to laugh when I saw the painting of the snake sunning himself on the beach, his body resting in one leg of a pair of swim trunks, the other leg lying neatly empty beside him.

            After flying up and down the streets, the angels finally find someone to go to Mass, a little lamb in a red baseball cap. There follows a two-page spread of the inside of a peaceful cathedral and the words, “Can you find the little lamb?” asking your children to play a little “I spy” game. The peace and contentment on Jesus’ and the lamb’s face make words quite unnecessary. And after Mass, the lamb joins the other villagers to play, though he seems much more at peace than his distracted neighbors.

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            Bellavance has written a cute little book, excellent for tucking your children into bed on Saturday nights and preparing them to be in the right mindset for getting up early on Sunday morning. You could even bring it with you to Mass to entertain your little one in the pew beside you. It makes a great gift for children and a good bedtime story for their tired and distracted parents.