By Andrea Perkins
Sarah Howell, creator of Sacramental Kids, has written and illustrated several catechetical books for children. Her fourth and most recent publication is an illustrated and abbreviated liturgy for Compline called An Order for Compline.
Howell’s artwork is simple and does not distract from the text. Some illustrations depict the coming of evening and the family at prayer, while others reflect the content of the text and could be helpful teaching tools. For instance, parents can explain the story of Simeon using the illustration of the old man holding a baby on the page of the Nunc Dimittis. The understated illustrations appeal to children without succumbing to cartoonish characteristics (exaggerated or unrealistic features). Her color palette is warm and calming – very appropriate for ushering in the end of the day. While the artwork will be eye-catching to young ones of any age, the format (call-and-response indicated by bold text) makes it particularly useful for young readers learning liturgical prayers.
An Order for Compline is more of a booklet than a book – which is appropriate, given that it is one short service. However, the lightweight pages and cover may not hold up under heavy use, especially from little ones.
Howell preserves the old Elizabethan English of the classic prayer book tradition. The text fits nicely alongside the 1928 Book of Common Prayer or other traditional-language prayer books. The Nunc Dimittis and the Apostle’s Creed, for instance, are identical to the 1928’s wording. Other prayers, though still written in traditional language, differ significantly – for instance, the Benedictus, es domine (“Blessed art thou O Lord”). It would be helpful if she had listed her source, which appears to be the traditional language Compline service from the Church of England’s Common Worship.
Parents who use children’s prayer books to introduce young children and early readers to liturgical prayer will certainly find this book useful, as will families who wish to add Compline to their family devotional life (the 1928 does not include a Compline service, though the family services for evening prayer beginning on page 589 can serve the same purpose). Even those who prefer to stick with their Church’s common prayer on a regular basis will find it helpful in illustrating and contextualizing the prayers.
Buy your own copy here.
Andrea Perkins lives in Oviedo, FL with her husband, Fr. Mark, and three children. She is a parishioner at St. Alban's Anglican Cathedral.