A Church , a Saint and a Feast , catechism children spilling all over the holy halls and we had a perfect setting for our FIRST read aloud of our new book Once Upon a Feast – Mia Marie Lourenco and Illustrated by Fatema Barot Mota.
Brian and Natasha Farias MOP parents and parishoners of the Church had organized this special reading on the day before the feast. 2nd December, 2012.
Niju and I trotted off, braving tourist vehicles and pilgrims blocking the one bridge we need to cross from my village in Neura to Chicalim.
We got there to see the brass band tuning up – Vespers – it all comes back from childhood feasts and fests! The brass band plays on the last day of the novena before the feast, heralding the special day.
We walked into the beautiful Church dedicated to St Francis Xavier and found catechism classes alive and well. Little groups of children were clustered around their teachers listening, reading and absorbing lessons about the faith.
We waited and gathered them for a listening of Once Upon a Feast. I sensed it was a first read aloud and in a Church, I began with the OOOOOOOOOwwwwww that Brownie opens the story with and many little ears and eyes opened up to listen to the story. It was magical, because even though the story is not written for a read aloud in structure and form, it is the content that speaks to the audience. The children could understand Aquina’s plight, the geography of the Church, the presence of Brownie and the stress from a misplaced stick – that too one that belongs to a Saint! It was all going well, up to a point. The story seemed to not be ending and just when we reached the point of Brownie coming back to Church, and Caetano raising a fuss, the brass band started up. Almost on cue the entire group turned towards the back and were I Aquina I would have picked my stick and run to the top of the Church !
We finished quickly to make way for seemingly more serious matters like prayers but as I left the Church I know that the story will stay with the listeners, not because of the way it was read or the setting but because it was real and made sense. It reflected a world they are immersed in and to my mind that is one of the most distinguishing features of this story by the young Mia Marie Lourenco.