A year ago my sister, Janae, told me to follow this lady named Anita Mathias on Twitter. My sister is cool, so I did what she said. And I’m glad I did. Anita has been a dependable source of refreshment and peace on my otherwise maniacal Twitter feed. Her writing is filled with spiritual insights and joy — but what I love the most about her is how ordinary she seems. We’re so used to following these wildly hilarious and profoundly daring personalities, none of which are very much like me. That Anita is just herself gives me hope.
A few weeks ago, she sent out a Twitter offer to send an e-copy of her newest picture book — Francesco, Artist of Florence: The Man Who Gave Too Much — in exchange for a review. I took her up on it, read it myself and then to my youngest daughter. And here’s what we decided:
This is a great little book. It deserves to be read on a couch, all cozied up, ideally with a child in your arms.
It’s a quiet and slow-paced read, without the razzmatazz often present in children’s books. It reminds me of the European fables I read or heard growing up, those by Leo Tolstoy, for example, that take you to a time and place other than here, where the lives of simple, honest villagers teach you a lot about your own.
In Francesco, Artist of Florence: The Man Who Gave Too Much we head to Renaissance-era Italy, where Francesco — a pietre dure artist — sells his inlaid, cut-stone creations. He’s a softie, to be sure, and finds himself in conflict between his heart and his family and his customers. We find out not the “right thing to do”, but how we respond when we feel that perhaps we didn’t do the right thing.
My 7-year old enjoyed the story. Even with the calm-and-easy telling of the story and her can’t-sit-still nature, she was happy to rest on my lap and just listen as the story unfolded. The first thing she said she liked about the story was the pictures, which surprised me. The pictures are traditional — both pietre dure pieces and Renaissance-style portraits — and I didn’t expect her to be engaged. But the opposite took place: she was intrigued by the bright colors and unique style of art.
It’s the message of the story, though, that’s the very best part and the reason I’d recommend this book to all parents and those that influence kids’ lives — both for the kids AND for themselves! Learning to make mistakes, learning to accept our weakness without giving it free-reign, learning what our souls need when we’ve been wronged — this is essential stuff. Anita Mathias gives simple, accessible, engaging instruction via story on taking care of our souls when we and others mess up.
It’s a story my daughter needed to hear and it’s a story I needed hear — and probably more than once.
You can buy Francesco, Artist of Florence: The Man Who Gave Too Much as an e-book on Amazon for $2.99 or as a paperback for $4.99, along with other of her books, and you can read more of Anita’s work at her www.anitamathias.com.