Saint Bernadette: The Miracle at LourdesThe reformed bad boy. The martyred warrior. The innocent child. The scholar. Of the Church’s assemblage of saints, those chosen for this collection of four hagiographic graphic novels seem to best represent the virtues that humanity is exhorted to aspire to, but rarely achieves. Intended to introduce children to the lives and stories of four Catholic saints: Joan of Arc, Ignatius of Loyola, Francis of Assisi, and Bernadette of Lourdes, these works are well-suited to that goal.

The art is simple, but lovely in its naturalism. The bright primary colors and pops of brightness found in many graphic works for children are not used here. Rather, the art is almost understated, but yet it is carefully detailed to enhance the story of each saint. Darker and potentially disturbing moments in the stories – Joan’s martyrdom by fire, the attempted rape of one of Ignatius’s traveling companions, Ignatius’s own surgery, even Francis’s stigmata – are handled delicately in both word and image for a young audience. Indeed, if there is a complaint to be made about this collection, it would be that the stories are much sanitized, almost too reverent in their approach to storytelling. Obviously, given their intended audience, this decision makes sense, but older children might be less interested in these works because of their overall nicety and lack of dramatic excitement. Even Joan’s involvement in the Hundred Years War is downplayed by the focus on Joan’s spiritual life, and Francis’s partying lifestyle is glossed over in favor of his post-conversion acts of redemption. For young readers who may be familiar with mainstream comics or graphic novels, the lack of villains may be disappointing. The “bad guys” of these stories, often the Church authorities, are not really evil as much as they are misguided in their understanding, and the heroes are so virtuous as to be lacking in human frailties.

The short length and graphic format of these titles make them more approachable than many prose lives of the saints, and parents and teachers are likely to find these titles helpful for beginning students’ introductions to the key Church figures. Additionally, the titles for Saint Joan and Saint Bernadette offer appendices with “What Happened to Them” information on key story figures, and the Saint Ignatius volume includes a brief historical introduction to the Inquisition. Informative and accessible, these graphic novels, either individually or as a set, are ideal for inclusion in church school libraries or for use in Sunday School or youth group activities.

Saint Francis of Assisi: Messenger of Peace
by Toni Matas, Brunor
Art by Picanyol, Dominique Bar
ISBN:9780819872975
Pauline Books and Media, 2013
Publisher Age Rating: 8-10

Saint Ignatius of Loyola: Leading the Way
by Toni Matas, Brunor
Art by Picanyol, Carlos Rojas
ISBN: 9780819872982
Pauline Books and Media, 2013
Publisher Age Rating: 8-10

Saint Joan of Arc: Quest for Peace
by Brunor, Dominique Bar
Art by Picanyol, Dominique Bar
ISBN: 9780819871305
Pauline Books and Media, 2010
Publisher Age Rating: 8-10

Saint Bernadette: The Miracle of Lourdes
by Toni Matas, Brunor
Art by Picanyol, Dominique Bar
ISBN:9780819871312
Pauline Books and Media, 2010
Publisher Age Rating: 8-10

  • Beth Rogers

    Past Reviewer

    This reviewer is not longer actively working on our site, but we would not be here if not for our many dedicated contributors over the years. We thank all of them for their reviews, features, and support! Beth Rogers is Coordinator of Reference, Instruction, and Outreach at the Annie Merner Pfeiffer Library at West Virginia Wesleyan College, where she has worked to introduce and develop the library’s graphic novel collection. Also a part-time lecturer in English, Beth has taught courses on graphic novels for college students, lead book discussions on graphic novels including Watchmen and American-Born Chinese, and guest lectured on superheroes in American culture. She also maintains a book review blog, Do I Wanna Read THAT?!?!? When she’s not working, Beth enjoys action movies, knitting wee Avengers, and spoiling her dog.

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