Virtuous Actions of Mercy: A Review of ‘Boxes for Katje’

“Love has hands to help others.  It has feet to hasten to the poor and needy.  It has eyes to see misery and want. It has ears to hear the sights and sorrows of men. This is what love looks like.”  – St. Augustine

Reading Level

Pre K – K, 1-2      [Scholastic – reflects the grade level at which a student reading on grade could read the book independently]

Grade 3.5            [AR]

Interest Level

Ages 4-8

Review and Comments

Boxes for Katje is a wonderful story and an outstanding example of actually living Jesus’ commandment, “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” (John 13:34)

This true story begins after WWII when the people of Europe are suffering deprivations of all kinds, and charities in America are working together to relieve those affected. Katje’s tale is intertwined beautifully with the seasons, the growing needs of the citizens of Holland, the expanding generosity of the citizens of the United States, and the engaging letters of two little girls.

 The story begins in the springtime when Katje receives a surprise package from an American girl named Rosie.  The package contains gifts of soap, wool socks, and chocolate.  These few items are meant to brighten Katje’s day, and they certainly do.  In an unselfish response to these gifts, Katje opens her heart and generously shares them with others. The story continues with each new season of the year bringing more packages from America containing desperately needed foodstuffs.  The increasing amount of items in each delivery allows Katje to share with more and more people.  Finally, at the year’s end the dreaded winter is made easier with many deliveries of warm winter clothes and food enough for everyone in the town.  They acknowledge it as an absolute miracle.  At the same time a sincere friendship develops between Katje and Rosie – a friendship truly of the heart.  They exchange many notes and begin to learn about each other and the people in their towns.

At the conclusion of the story, the very harsh winter ends and the tulips bloom once again. This rebirth sets in motion a plan of gratitude.  Katje decides to send tulip bulbs to Rosie with a hope that the tulips might brighten the days of all the loving people in her town who were so kind.

This story vividly expresses love of neighbor so it is the perfect story to introduce a service project or present an explicit example of the virtue of charity.  For “love always involves bearing the burden of another.” (Bishop Robert Barron) I feel this book is a worthwhile addition to a child’s library.  Very young children may not appreciate the story as well as a slightly older child because of the length and the scope of the story.  They will easily understand that the characters are being generous and helping others however.

The colorful and very detailed illustrations begin as close up views of Katje and a few other people, but just as the packages and supplies increase, the pictures also become larger.  The illustrations begin to fill the pages with more and more people and the bounty of gifts.  They also perfectly express the growing joy of everyone.

The true story this book is based on is explained in an interesting segment at the end of the book.

It is in these details that the Catholic Relief Services is specifically mentioned.  CRS began after World War II because of the extreme needs of the people of Europe. This is an important history lesson that makes one proud to be Catholic.

Possible Concerns

There are no concerns with this book.

Further Discussion

  • There are a few vocabulary words and phrases that should be defined to improve comprehension.
  1. savored, cobbled street, cake of soap, lifted our spirit, Children’s Aid Society, charities
  2. Dutch words: wonder bar, ja, ach, dank u (Some of these words have context clues.)

 

  • Write a letter to Katje or Rosie and express your personal thoughts about their story.  Use the following steps to organize the letter:
  1. Begin with a greeting. (Dear Katje, or Dear Rosie,)
  2. Introduce yourself and mention at least two things you have in common with the character.

Express your ideas by answering three of the following questions in the body of the letter.

  1. What do you think about the people of her town?
  2. How would you feel if you received (or sent) the packages?
  3. Explain what you learned from the character you chose?
  4. What was your favorite part of the story?
  5. How do the charitable actions make you feel?

End the letter with a closing and signature. (Yours truly, Sincerely, Your friend, etc.)

 

  • Art project ideas:
  1. Make a collage about the story using pictures (examples: Katje, Rosie, tulips, windmill, mailing label), fabric (examples: wool, knits), labels from food items (examples: milk, sugar, chocolate), flower seeds, etc.
  2. Design stationery you think would be appropriate for Katje or Rosie.
  3. Design a postcard from Olst, Holland (Netherlands) or Mayfield, Michigan that illustrates information from the story.

 

 

  •  GeographyLocate Mayfield, Michigan and Olst, Netherlands (Holland) on a map.

 

  • Netherlands. These sites provide good, basic information about the Netherlands:
  1. “Netherlands” 
  2. “Holland” [A to Z Kids Stuff, Fun Educational Activities] – very simple for younger children
  3. “The Netherlands” (art activities)

 

  • Tulips.  These sites offer interesting information and activities about tulips.
  1. “Tulip Facts for Kids” [Science Kids]
  2. “Beautiful Tulip Crafts That Kids Can Make”

 

Other books by Candace Fleming: Click on image for affiliate link

PreK-2

PreK-2

PreK-K

PreK-2

PreK-K

PreK-2

PreK-2

PreK-2

Grades 3-5

Grades 3-5

Grades 3-5

Grades 6-8

Grades 6-8

Grades 6-8

Catholic Resources

 

Bible References:

  • The Greatest Commandment Matthew 22: 34-40, Mark 12: 28-34,  Luke 10:25-28,  [The New Commandment ] John 13: 31-35

 

Katje’s story demonstrates how to live the Corporal Works of Mercy.

  • CCC 2447 “The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities. …… The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead. Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God.

[Bible references: Proverbs 22:9; Isaiah 58:10;  2 Kings 4:42-44; Matthew 14:15-21; 25:35;  Luke 3:11; 9:12-17;  John 6:35]

  1. Clothe the Naked: CCC 2448 “Hence, those who are oppressed by poverty are the object of apreferential love on the part of the Church” [Matthew 25:36]

 

  1. Give Alms to the Poor: “Donate money to organizations that have the ability to provide support and services for those in need.  Do research and find organizations that put people in need first, rather than profit. “ (example – Catholic Relief Services)

 

Patron Saints:

  1. Saint Willibrord is the patron saint of Holland. His feast day is November 7.
  2. Mary, The Immaculate Conception, is the patroness of the United States. This was officially declared by the first Council of Baltimore in 1846.

Catholic Relief Services began after World War II for the purpose of sending contributions to the citizens of Europe who were suffering greatly from a severe lack of basic needs.

 

CCC 1803 A virtue is an habitual and firm disposition to do the good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself. The virtuous person tends toward the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions.

 

CCC 1807 Justice is the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor. Justice toward God is called the “virtue of religion.” Justice toward men disposes one to respect the rights of each and to establish in human relationships the harmony that promotes equity with regard to persons and to the common good. The just man, often mentioned in the Sacred Scriptures, is distinguished by habitual right thinking and the uprightness of his conduct toward his neighbor. “You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.”

CCC 1822 Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God.

CCC 1823 Jesus makes charity the new commandment. By loving his own “to the end,” he makes manifest the Father’s love which he receives. By loving one another, the disciples imitate the love of Jesus which they themselves receive. Whence Jesus says: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love.” And again: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

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