The National Catholic Review
Patricia A. Kossmann
Book briefs

How to Raise a Drug-Free Kid: The Straight Dope for Parents by Joseph A. Califano Jr. (Simon & Schuster/Fireside, $15), is based on two decades of research at The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, of which Califano is founder and chair. The book is practical, easy to use, packed with valuable information and survey data as well as needed advice and resources for concerned parents. Califano provides, in his own words, “some effective, straightforward substance abuse-prevention techniques that are...‘evidence based.’”

Communication and conversation are, as expected, vital in family relationships; the book also advises on incorporating religious and spiritual practices. Media influence and other factors exert a potent influence on youngsters, presenting concerned parents with many worries: Where do teens get drugs? When is my child at increased risk? What are the signs to look for? And what do I do if “siren signals” are present? How can behavioral or conduct problems be overcome? Califano is a wise and reassuring guide, leading parents toward greater and more effective engagement with their children. Parents will also welcome the extensive glossary of commonly used terms. 

The Book of the Shepherd: The Story of One Simple Prayer and How It Changed the World, by The Scribe, as discovered by JoAnn Davis (HarperStudio, $19.99), is a fable of the first order. Davis made her discovery in an old farmhouse she purchased. Since the deceased owner/author had no heirs, she inherited the house’s contents, which included a book written “in an unusual hybrid of Middle English and Dutch.” A team of experts spent a year translating it for today’s reader.

The fable itself follows the long journey of a simple shepherd named Joshua and his deeds of mercy. His fellow travelers are an abused, abandoned young boy, David, and the boy’s adoptive sister, Elizabeth, who are in search of some new way about which the shepherd had dreamed. “My grandfather spoke of the new way,” Elizabeth recounts, “as he lay dying. He predicted,” she went on, “that an age of miracles would come when it is discovered.” Along the way they meet various characters—the Old Man, the Blind Man, the Storyteller and others, who share tales and parables (and an occasional warning of peril to the travelers). As to the real story here, suffice to say it involves threats and pitfalls, a map, a virtually impenetrable cave, mysterious symbols and a jug containing a parchment scroll, which they called “The Law of Substitution.” The first line is, “Make me a channel of your peace.” You know the rest (of the prayer, that is); but hang on for the rest of the story and the punch it packs. This timeless tale deserves a wide readership—and it makes an excellent gift for the coming holiday season.

A Taste of Heaven: A Guide to Food and Drink Made by Monks and Nuns, by Madeline Scherb (Tarcher/Penguin, $15.95), is an appealing and well put-together package that just may help transform your holiday meal-making and presentation. The foreword is written by Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourrette, author of several books—my favorite being Twelve Months of Monastery Soups (Liguori). The present work surveys food and drink products made by monks and nuns from monasteries in both the United States (12) and Europe (9). Interesting historical background information about the monasteries (as well as advice to prospective travelers) accompanies the “heavenly” recipes, which span several categories. From the section on spirits, for example, the cook may choose monk’s tonic, abbot’s elixir or Trappist beer, among others, or a holy cheese dish, like flamiche, as well as tantalizing soups, entrees, side dishes and “sweet temptations.” The publisher notes that almost all the products are available either online, by telephone order or at specialty food stores. If you enjoy experimental cooking (as I do), you will grab hold of this book, don your chef’s hat and dig in. Bon Appetit!

Will I See My Dog in Heaven?: God’s Saving Love for the Whole Family of Creation, by Jack Wintz, O.F.M. (Paraclete Press, $14.99), addresses an area of concern that extends well beyond the kindergarten set. A Franciscan friar for more than 50 years and an editor of St. Anthony Messenger magazine, Wintz explores the question raised in the book’s title in a broader context: “Does God intend the whole created world to share in God’s saving plan?” And while no one can know with certitude what God has planned for his creatures, the author draws compelling insights from Scripture, our Judeo-Christian tradition and of course the example of St. Francis. In 10 chapters, ranging from the creation story in Genesis (“And It Was Very Good”) to the stories of Noah and Jonah, the Gospels, the life and teachings of St. Francis and more, Wintz includes personal stories, anecdotes, spiritual reflection and Scriptural commentary that demonstrate God’s inclusive love for the whole family of creation, along with images from the Book of Revelation—making “all things new.” Smoothly written, well grounded and advancing a compelling case on behalf of God’s beloved creatures (while eschewing sentimentality), this book is a satisfying read for the millions of pet owners who care.

 

Patricia A. Kossmann, literary editor of America.