My long time friend, fondly known in our parts as “the other Bonnie” has done a remarkable thing! She’s recently written a fabulous children’s activity book on the North American Martyrs, North American Martyrs Kids Saint Book. Darling that she is, she sent me a copy and, not only was I BLOWN AWAY, but I was totally blown away.
Bonnie, sporting five relatively small children, is a powerhouse of faith and energy and I’m delighted to know her and watch her blossom in her family life. Homeschooled herself, Bonnie gets it. Gets age range, gets what moms need for their kids and what kids will love. Having been a homeschooled kid, and now having several homeschooled kids probably helps a lot.
A pithy biography of each of the North American Martyrs is included; St. Isaac Jogues, St. Jean de Brebeuf, St. Antoine Daniel, St. Rene Goupil, St. Charles Garnier, St. Noel Chabanel, St. Jean de la Lande and St. Gabriel Lalement – and activities to know them better, and understand our relationship to our heavenly friends. Encompassing several age and skill levels, there are games, puzzles, challenges and writing prompts.
I asked the other Bonnie if she’d answer a few questions so you can get to know her, and her new book, a little better.
The original Bonnie: How old are your children? The book seems to cover a wide age range.
The other Bonnie: I have five kids ages 11, 9, 6, 4 and 2. As a homeschool mom, I use a lot of materials that work with a wide range of ages and grade levels. I intended North American Martyrs Kids Saint Book to be a similar “unit study” that would be useful with kids of varying ages and interests.
My 4-year-old enjoys doing the colouring pages. My 6-year-old enjoys the mazes and the “Translate Time” activities. And my older girls like the crosswords and writing ideas. I did target the book for kids who can read and write on their own (about Grade 2 or over age 7), so younger kids would need more help.
I also wanted to provide kids with a wide range of activities to do as they think about the saints. I’m a very pen-and-paper person myself and I find that reading, then drawing or writing, is a great way to process what I’m learning. I’ve seen my daughters do the same as they learn. I hope the activities in this book will really encourage kids to get to know these saints.
The original Bonnie: You must be very busy, how did you conceive this idea?
The other Bonnie: Life is definitely busy—which means I have tons of ideas and little time to create them! I fell in love with Canadian history in high school. At university, I did a history minor and took as many Canadian history courses as I could. I also met my husband, who introduced me to the Catholic Church. And one day I wondered, “Are there any Canadian saints?”
I actually started researching the Canadian Martyrs about eight years ago. Their stories had been brushed over quickly in any history course I’d done—maybe a sideways mention of some Jesuit priests. These men left everything and endured great hardships for the love of God, and I wanted to know more. But life intervened, and I forgot about their stories for a time.
Last year, a friend and I organized a Canadian Catholic history homeschool co-op here in Vancouver. We had about five families studying the roots of our faith and our country together. Every couple of weeks, we’d get together to do crafts and group activities. For the end of October, we planned a Canadian All Saints Day party. All the kids dressed up as a Canadian saint or blessed.
I went online to look for Canadian saint activities for the kids to do during the party. Aside from a few colouring pages for St. Kateri (a popular saint) and St. Andre (a recent saint), there was nothing. The Canadian saints seemed largely overlooked and forgotten. I ended up creating a Bingo game for our party, as well as a series of crossword puzzles and word searches. (Those activities are now available for free on my blog as part of a kids’ saint activity pack.)
And that started the North American Martyrs Kids Activity Book. I wanted a resource to teach my kids about these amazing saints, and I couldn’t find it, so I made it myself.
The original Bonnie: Why the North American martyrs? Do they hold a particularly special meaning for you?
The other Bonnie: My husband has always liked St. Isaac Jogues. We even talked about naming our first two babies Isaac, but they were both girls, so we didn’t.
For a book, the North American Martyrs were easy to group together. They all knew each other and worked in the same geographic area. That made it easy to create a bigger story around their stories. And yes, the more I’ve researched them, the more I’ve gotten to love them.
St. Noel Chabanel holds a special meaning for me. Out of all the Canadian Martyrs, he struggled the most in leaving France and trying to fit in with the Hurons in New France. He’d been a great orator and writer in France, but he couldn’t learn the Huron language. He literally hated it here. He questioned his vocation as a missionary and what God wanted him to do. He suffered deep depression.
I’ve also been in places that I don’t want to be, wondering where God is, and feeling depressed, and so his story really spoke to me.
The original Bonnie: And finally…are there more coming??
The other Bonnie: YES! I’m hoping to turn this book into a series (Saints 4 Kids). In the new year, I’ll be working on Canadian Saints Kids Activity Book, about the other six Canadian saints—St. Kateri, St. Andre, three nuns and a bishop. Hopefully it doesn’t take me a full year to write that book!
Thank you, so much, other Bonnie, for your contribution to the wealth of our faith and the resources for homeschool families, you are a blessing to all of us.
CLICK HERE for the other Bonnie’s book on amazon.