Summer Reading for Kids – North Star: Saint Herman of Alaska

North Star: Saint Herman of Alaska by Dorrie Papdemetriou (published by St. Vladimir’s Press in 2001), is a gentle retelling of this early American saint’s life through the eyes of an Aleut child. Saint Herman was a Russian missionary who came from Russia in the late 1700’s with nine other Russian missionaries to live among the Native Americans in what is now Alaska. St. Herman moved by himself to Spruce Island where he prayed for and lived near the Aleuts, gently leading many of them into the Orthodox faith. Today, Alaska has the highest percentage of Orthodox people of any state in the United States, showing the strength of the prayers and labors of Saint Herman and others like him.

An Aleut boy narrates the book, describing Saint Herman as the “North Star”, one who guides the Aleuts on the right path. The richly colored illustrations highlight the natural beauty of Alaska and show the warmth of the love of God that radiated from Saint Herman not just to the people, but even to wild bears which he hand fed.

North Star is written for children in grades 1-3, but can be adapted for use by younger and older children. Each page has about three paragraphs, making it a little long for very young readers, but you can easily break it up into smaller segments because it contains several independent tales of Saint Herman which could work alone as bedtime stories.

This book would also be effective as an introduction to Saint Herman for older children to inspire them to learn more about his life and the faith of the Aleuts. There is a craft described in the book, carving a whale from Balsa wood, which could be done in a few sessions by older kids. There is also a hymn included in the book which could be sung. North Star is a rich introduction to Saint Herman which contains enough details of his life to make it easily adaptable for church or home reading and many extended activities.

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