by Maria Riley
Reviewed by Susan Jones
Maria Riley is writing a series of books with Saints for children in grades 1 - 3 at the 3rd grade reading level.
Her first book, Saint Joseph, The Foster-Father Saint, takes us on an inside look into the adoption of Joshua, who is joining the Martin Family - David and Molly and their children Becca and Luke. Becca is their natural born daughter and Luke was adopted by the Martins. Joshua comes to love the Martin family for their welcoming nature and adventures that he, Luke and Becca take with Molly since it's summer. He feels safer without pressure of simultaneously getting to know a new family along with a new school. He begins to find comfort and care for the Martin family. However, Joshua becomes worried that he will be moved to a new family when his social worker makes an appointment to see the Martins. Joshua becomes frustrated and acts out in anger on possessions that were special to Luke. Because the Martins teach their children how to be slow to anger and quick to forgive, reconciliation between the boys occur and unite in an appreciation for items that were given to them. For Joshua, it was cross necklace from his mother. For Becca, it was a bible her parents bought her when she was born and for Luke, it was a candle from his Baptism. These three items fantastically take the children on a journey to the day Jesus was born and to meet his father, Joseph. Joseph reminds the children that they are all children of God and all are special in his eyes. The children return from their journey, renewed in their faith and the faith of their blended family. Joshua finds out his case worker is with the Martins to finalize his adoption into the family.
This will be a beneficial series for children and their families to explore the lives of the Saints as they relate to our daily lives. We know that Joseph was not the biological birth father of Jesus, but he played just an important role in caretaking for both Mary and Jesus. Often, there is a stigma around fostering and adopting children who are from broken backgrounds and homes. Students can learn that in a home that values the teaching of Christ, we acknowledge our differences but do not cast judgment for them. We remind each other to love equally and to share that joy in an inclusive family. This book was very dependent on the background leading up to the interaction with Joseph, so I think it would have been interesting to integrate this figure sooner into the plot.