Book review: Teaching children about the ‘Real Presence’

By Amber Backus | For The Compass | February 22, 2022

Ascension Press

“The Real Presence,” by Claudia Cangilla McAdam and illustrated by Gina Capaldi, published by Ascension Press. Hardback (32 pages), $11.95. 

“God said we’re getting a pair,” my 3-year-old said to me one evening at bedtime. Fast-forward a few months and there I was — pregnant with twins! From the moment they arrived, my sons vied for my time and attention. I wondered how I could split myself in two. Who would I greet first? Feed first? Praise first?  

Now, as they’ve arrived to kindergarten, their competitiveness has only grown. One excels with learning to read and the other with flying across the monkey bars. They are different, but they want to be compared. Who did it better? Quicker? Smarter? Many of us do the same and, in our quest for success, we often lose sight of Jesus and his plan for our lives.  

“The Real Presence,” a children’s book written by Claudia Cangilla McAdam and released by Ascension Press, helps tackle this dilemma. The rival characters are a pair of young cousins from Capernaum, a village on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, living in Jesus’ time. Zedekiah’s folks grow grain, supplying a bounty of bread. Meanwhile, Abigail’s family produces grapes, further providing wine and raisins.  

At the beginning of the 32-page book, the cousins relentlessly debate which product is more valuable. To bolster their arguments, they introduce two of the miracles of Jesus — turning water into wine and feeding 5,000 from five loaves of bread. The stories are brought to life in the beautiful illustrations by Gina Capaldi and made easy to understand by McAdam’s clear descriptions.  

After Zedekiah and Abigail present their creations to Jesus at the Last Supper, in the hope he will declare a winner, they learn that each of them has brought a useful and unique piece to the table. Along with the readers, they are introduced to the Eucharist and the Real Presence of Jesus in the bread and wine offered at Sunday Mass — an experience more precious than any present offered or contest won.  

It is a lesson I continue to share with my four children, especially my tiny twins. This book explains the profound mystery of the Eucharist in a relatable manner, prompts readers to a follow-up discussion about the Catholic faith and reminds them to focus their eyes on Jesus. 

It is a perfect addition to any home library and an ideal companion to the U.S. bishops’ plan for a three-year eucharistic revival, beginning this summer on the feast of Corpus Christi, June 19, and concluding with a national pilgrimage to the 2024 National Eucharistic Congress. Schools and religious education programs could incorporate this text as part of the grassroots initiative to rediscover the core of Catholicism.  

“The Real Presence,” written by Claudia Cangilla McAdam and illustrated by Gina Capaldi, is published by Ascension Press. Hardback (32 pages), $11.95. 

Backus is a journalist turned stay-at-home mother. She previously worked as a Catholic newspaper reporter and in the communications office for the Diocese of Green Bay.

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