If anyone is familiar with Lisa Hendey, s/he knows that Lisa is a Catholic powerhouse.  For over ten years now, Lisa has been evangelizing internationally through her speaking engagements, book writing, editing, and radio show.  Her work with Catholic Mom has been dynamic, engaging, and encouraging to families all over the world.  And, more recently, she has ventured on a new journey as a children’s author with her Chime Travelers series.

In book #5, The Strangers at the Manger, Lisa tells the Christmas story in a fascinating and adventurous way.  Children from about ages 5-9 will love this chapter book, filled with whimsical illustrations by Jenn Bower.  I read this book, chapter by chapter, to my oldest daughter, Felicity, during Advent – and we just finished it not long ago.  As I read each chapter, Felicity would ask questions, and we would discuss certain points.

I found The Strangers at the Manger to be an educational supplement for my homeschooling, as well.  It reinforced what we were learning throughout Advent and the Christmas season, and the underpinning of welcoming others who are displaced from home really resonated with my daughter, who cares deeply for the marginalized and poor of the world.

The crux of the book was its message, often reiterated: “A stranger is just a friend waiting to be loved!”

And that is truly the message of this heartening tale of the Perez family, immigrants from Mexico who are poor and cannot speak English.  At first, twins Patrick and Katie are reluctant to even speak to them, but after “chime traveling” to Bethlehem and staying with Mary and Joseph for quite a while, the twins realize that the Perez family is much like the Holy Family: far from home and in need of hospitality.

Once the twins return back home, they experience an awakening and long to get to know the Perez family, even to the point of inviting them over for their family’s annual Christmas pizza dinner!  In the end, we all remember that being Catholic isn’t just about what is comfortable – it’s about welcoming and loving those who are lonely, forgotten, and unwanted.  In a sense, it’s about living the charism of St. Teresa of Calcutta.

Lisa Hendey has an entire series of her Chime Travelers books, all of which teach kids important lessons in a fun and engaging manner.  She can be reached for interviews, speaking engagements, and review copies on her website.  I highly recommend this book to teachers in Catholic schools, religious education instructors for younger kids, homeschooling moms, and families everywhere.  What the world needs now is love…and some wholesome family fiction!

Text Copyright 2017 Jeannie Ewing, all rights reserved.