Thursday, February 1, 2018

Enjoy this True Story about St. John Bosco and His Dog

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My youngest child received a book about St. John Bosco for Christmas, and, in reading it, became curious to learn more about the dog who saved the saint on more than one occasion.  His curiosity reminded me that the folks at Caritas Press had been kind enough to send me a copy of Saint John Bosco and His Big Gray Dog by Hayley Medeiros some time ago and that I had yet to review it here.  So, since yesterday was St. John the Bosco's feast day and I had a household full of feverish children that sought cuddly read-together time, I unearthed our copy of Saint John Bosco and His Big Gray Dog, enjoyed it with my children, and asked them to narrate their thoughts about the book.  

A True - But Maybe Unfamiliar Story - of Saint John Bosco

Before sharing what my kiddoes thought about Saint John Bosco and His Big Gray Dog, I'd like to share my take on this little gem of a saint-based picture book.  

Saint John Bosco and His Big Gray Dog is a sweet story with richly-colored, child-like illustrations, which chronicles how a huge, wolf-like dog befriended and protected Saint John Bosco during the mid- to late-1800's.  In doing so, the book engages children and adults alike in thinking about how God is always present in our lives - sometimes offering miraculous protection.

The one-page afterward in 
Saint John Bosco and His Big Gray Dog makes it clear that author and illustrator Hayley Medeiros researched the story of Saint John Bosco and his dog Grigio well and chose to share only episodes about the duo that could be found in a primary resource.  I appreciate her efforts to write a charming children's story about Saint John Bosco that is as historically accurate as possible.

I also appreciate how the story of 
Saint John Bosco and His Big Gray Dog highlights the humanness of Saint John Bosco and some of the ways God stepped in to help him live his calling.  As Saint John Bosco goes about his life,we see him facing fears and challenges, as well as delighting in friendship and love.  Part of that friendship and love is shared with his beloved dog Grigio - a dog that often seems like a literal Godsend. 

As my children and I read Saint John Bosco and His Big Gray Dog, even before getting to the overt questions on the final page of the story, we began to wonder:  Was Grigio's appearance in Saint John Bosco's life a miracle?  Was Grigio an angel in dog form?  Isn't it amazing how God works to protect us so that we can do His work?  Then, as we closed the book, we thought about all the people and experiences in our own lives that seem heaven-sent. 

Truly, becoming a saint may seem an unattainable goal at times and miracles may seem like they only happened in days of old, but, as my children and I paused to reflect after reading Saint John Bosco and His Big Gray Dog, we couldn't help be to remind ourselves that all saints are merely humans who say "yes" to God's call and that God, indeed, offers us miracles - tiny and tremendous - every day.

Don't you just love when an enjoyable children's book offers uplifting reminders?!

My Children's Thoughts

After reading Saint John Bosco and His Big Gray Dog, my youngest, 7, said:

I liked the part about when the dog came when the bandits were attacking St. John Bosco.  I liked the illustration where the dog is jumping up to attack the bandits to save St. John Bosco, and, then, St. John Bosco calmed his dog and was safe.  

I also like the illustration where the man had a huge amount of pasta for the doggy, but the doggy disappeared. 
The illustrations are colorful and bright and the story is good.

Obviously, he liked the vibrant illustrations as much as the story.  My daughter, 10, did, too.  She said:

I like the picture on the cover.  The dog's eyes are so blue! 
I also like the illustration when St. John Bosco and the dog are looking at the stars at the beginning of the book when they first become friends.

And, I like the illustration where the man has a big plate of pasta, and the dog has vanished.  It's funny how the man prepared a ton of pasta for the dog, but the dog disappeared.  Before that, in the story, I was thinking that the dog might be St. John Bosco's guardian angel.  Then, when we read the page with the pasta, I thought, The dog is definitely an angel.  The end of the story said I might be right. 
It's a good book.  It tells a fun - and true - tale about a saint.  I know it's true, because we read on the final page of the book about how the story came from Saint John Bosco's autobiography.

My oldest, 12, appreciated the book, too.  He said:

I like this story, because, at the beginning, it tells a little background about St. John Bosco, and, then, starts talking more about the dog Grigio. 
Grigio was a wolf-like dog that defended and guarded St. John Bosco against bad guys a number of times.  For example, when two guys attacked John Bosco because they didn't like what he was doing in helping kids, Grigio defended him.  When John Bosco was walking home in the evenings, Grigio walked next to him to guard him. 
When we were reading the book, I began thinking Grigio was St. John Bosco's guardian angel.  Then, I learned at the end of the book that many people think Grigio was an angel or a miracle.  I think Grigio was St. John Bosco's guardian angel, because God can do anything and might have sent St John Bosco's guardian angel as a dog instead of sending a giant angel coming at people with a flaming sword terrifying everyone. 
Saint John Bosco and His Big Gray Dog is a good book.  I am glad we have it.  I like the story it told, and the illustrations are interesting.  They look like they were made with colored pencil and paint.  I think I might be able to copy some.  I'd like to try it.  Maybe I will start with the silhouette one that goes with when St. John Bosco was walking during the evening wishing his dog was near him. 

I think other children will like this book.

I agree with my son: Children - and adults- will enjoy this lovely picture book which reminds us of how God sends us the help we need to fulfill His work for us on earth.  

Learn More

Saint John Bosco and His Big Day Dog comes in print or e-book format.  The e-book is currently FREE to borrow with KindleUnlimited and just $3.99 to purchase to read on Kindle.

Obviously, the book is a perfect read for St. John Bosco's feast day (January 31).  It might also be ideal:

  • on the Guardian Angels Feast Day (October 2), reminding us that angels can come in many forms.
  • when learning about Salesian Missions, since Saint John Bosco began the Salesian Congregation.
  • when studying about dogs or pets, because it is always lovely to connect saints to unit studies.
  • seeking inspiration for art projects, because the illustrations are almost child-like at times and invite children like mine to say, "I might be able to do that!"
  • when focusing on love and friendship, as Grigio is a prime example of a faithful (furry) friend.
  • when introducing miracles, since Grigio's appearance often seems miraculous and since other stories of John Bosco invite us to think even more deeply about miracles.
  • when studying primary and secondary sources or comparing and contrasting tales and truth, since the afterword points us to these directions.

Or, of course, just for fun!  Saint John Bosco and His Big Day Dog is a short and enjoyable saint-based read!

Caritas Press publishes a host of other wonderful faith-focused books, including the fuEncyclopedia of Peg Saints that I have previously reviewed.

I encourage you to check out other fiction, non-fiction, rosary books, and children's books from Caritas Press at their website, or they have an expanding line of Catholic and pro-life books with a wonderful mission:

"...shedding light on things eternal in a culture that is becoming increasingly blind to the wonders of God’s works and numb to his boundless love. Making use of the subtle and the beautiful.. to play a part in igniting in children and adults a desire to know God more fully."

Caritas Press can also be found on Facebook and Instagram.

{Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this book and said I would write an honest review of it.  I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way.  All opinions expressed are my own of those of my family.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.}


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