Several weeks back, I received a review copy of Spyridon’s Shoes by Khouria Christine Rodgers and I have been meaning to get that review actually written and not just outlined. Every time I sit down to work on it, another of my kids picks up this book and starts it so I wait for them to finish. Today, I had a teen get the book for me and one of the middle schoolers called out, “I put it there to wait for me! I was going to start it today!”
“Haven’t you read it once already?”
“No! I read it to the little girls, this time it is for me!”
This is the kind of book it is. It's a quick read, taking only about an hour, and is well suited to kids in the middle school years but was easily read by my ten-year-old. It is engaging enough that my sixteen-year-old read it as soon as the mail was delivered, in a single sitting.
It opens on the main character, a boy, which is well noticed by my children who feel like most main characters these days are girls. I think this an important point because even though I have six daughters, I also have five sons and I know that often boys like to read about other boys. The cover shows a scene in the second chapter in which Spyros is helped by an elderly monk who washes and bandages his foot and gives him his own shoe to keep those wraps in place. The story grows from this very tender and compassionate beginning.
This story is about St. Spyridon but rather than an account of his life, it is rather a story about this boy’s encounter with him. I like this perspective. While it might be in my daily life that I come across people who are living saints, I won’t be able to appreciate them. It’s a sad truth. I think that this is something that kids can agree with because their lives are often full of not truly appreciating what they have. This is okay, it's a learned skill, one I am still not very good at yet. I can be patient with them on this.
There is another reason I really like this approach. As a child, I liked reading about saints but I always wondered about the people they interceded for and what happened in their lives. Growing up, I was surrounded by images of saints. My Mexican grandmother had a print of the Christ Child, the Santo Niño, surrounded by smaller little images of people being saved by Christ. Around the frame of the print, she tucked in photos of people she had prayed for or was currently prayed for so that they could be another widening circle of grateful recipients. Sometimes I would ask about this person or that one and she would happily tell me. Only one little image on the print was unknown to her. It featured two women with their hands held up in the air as a bandit wielding a gun approached them. They had been saved and I always wanted to know more but she didn’t have more to offer.
As an adult, I carry this wonder with me. I think about St Spyridon and his worn-out shoes and wonder about all those people he has walked out to help. I can wonder how it would feel to approach him and offer a small measure of gratitude. In this book, the boy has this very opportunity. Khouria Christine gives us an opportunity to think about this saint and his very real work in the world and what it would be like to approach him. I think this is why my children keep returning to this book again and again. They want to know what it would be like to step into his shoe and walk with Spyros, touching holiness and being healed by it.
I won’t spoil this book for you but I will tell you that I, with my tender little heart, cried at the ending. I think I will also have to pick this book up again and again. You will, too.
I was not compensated for my review and was not required to provide a positive review. I did receive a free copy which is super cool because we really, really liked it. The book is available from major online retailers but also through the publisher HERE. Ask your church bookstore to carry it.