Book Review: Simon Godsell’s “Everything”

This review sent me down memory lane to childhood. I read a lot of picture books back then so it felt like I was reconnecting with a part of myself I had forgotten about. Today’s review is of Simon Godsell’s “Everything” which you may have correctly guessed is a children’s picture book. I don’t think we’ve ever reviewed anything quite like this.

This book is a very simple read despite there being quite a few pages for a children’s book (just under 50 pages). That being said, some of the words used are longer, so I would recommend this book for children that have been reading for a while. I think children that have only started learning to read will struggle a bit, so perhaps this is a book best read with an adult at least the first time around. The book conveys the central theme of how everything is a result of God’s work in a way that I think children can grasp, so I think the book is also a good option for people that wish to read aloud to children. In this way this book can also be suitable for children that can understand English but not yet read. There are also mentions of dinosaurs and outer space which are topics that often capture the imagination and interest of children. For this reason, “Everything” a nice way to connect what a child is interested in to something important that they may not otherwise think much of.

This book reads like poetry to me. There is some rhyming, juxtaposition and repetition of both sounds and whole words. The poetic aspect of the way the book was written makes it really satisfying for me to read. This use of literary devices prevents the book from being a dry read, particularly because there really is no plot to this book.

I find the illustrations really cute and appropriate for a children’s book. The art style is very simple without taking away from what is being depicted; I don’t find myself doing any guessing as to what it is I am looking at. I also think the simplicity of the style creates a sense of approachability for children. My inner amateur artist also thinks that this more (for lack of better word) abstract style can help expose children to art that is not classical/realist art. This is important to me – as beautiful classical/realist art is, there is not one “right” kind of art and I think we risk stifling children’s creativity by limiting the kind of art they see.

Overall, I would recommend Godsell’s “Everything” if you saw a sneak peak of it, are curious, and like the message behind the book. If you would like to purchase your own copy you can do so here.

Learn more about Simon Godsell’s work here.

Some words from The Catholic Man (updated May 15, 2022): Thanks, Ivy, for delivering a review that considered a number of unique aspects of this beautiful children’s book by Simon Godsell. Before reading the description of the book, I realized the book was inspired by the hymn, All Things Bright and Beautiful by Cecil Frances Alexander, which speaks to the beauty and diversity of God’s creation. I remember being taught the hymn in music class in elementary school. The beauty of God’s creation and appreciation for this gift in this “common home” is what Pope Francis emphasizes in Laudato Si’. Everything by Godsell is a step to introduce children to the message of Laudato Si’, I think. This is an approachable, very child-friendly text and illustration that allows children to be aware of the work of God the Creator. Thank you, Mr. Godsell for allowing my sister and I opportunity to review this beautiful children’s book of yours.

To close, presenting a rendition of All Things Bright and Beautiful:

Disclaimer: The Catholic Man Reviews was provided a review copy of “Everything” to provide an honest review of it on this blog. The Catholic Man Reviews thanks Simon Godsell for the opportunity for us to review this title on our blog and look forward to future reviews. All thoughts and opinions expressed in here are our own and reflect our sincere thoughts about the title.


Day 2: BlessedMart Jesus Christ the Pantocrator Icon

Hello, and welcome to day 2 of 12 Days of Christmas season 2! Today, you are with The Catholic Man’s sister, Ivy Pham who has reappeared in time for the holidays.  I present to you an icon of Jesus Christ the Pantocrator from BlessedMart.  

If you know someone who is a fan of Byzantine art, or if you are a fan – no shame in gift shopping for yourself – then I think you would love this.  It stays true to the Byzantine style as far as I know, which makes sense because BlessedMart sells art in this style. It is hand painted on a wood panel that is 22cm tall, 16cm wide, and 2cm thick.  You can see and feel the different layers of paint as the artist added more detail. There is so much attention to detail that was put into this piece. The precision required with each stroke is very high; the artist executed that wonderfully.  From the standpoint of just comparing the images of this piece and a print-out, it really does compete.  

The image depicted in this piece is a fairly common Byzantine piece.  If you were considering getting this for someone who collects icons that are painted, or on wood panels, I don’t know if this piece would really add to their collection.  However, that is a very specific instance and I would imagine most of us are just looking for something to hang on our wall or set on a desk. In that case, I think it would be a great addition to your space.  

In terms of the painting, I noticed that the halo goes right up to the top while the rest of the picture has a border that is a little thinner than 1 cm in width.  I kind of wish there was a continuous border all the way around or they made it so that there was no border at all and the artist would paint right to the end of the panel.  I also think they could’ve given Jesus’ hair a bit more contrast compared to his face and the background. His clothes are so vibrant by comparison that my eyes automatically travel to them, and then they have to wander upwards to find His face.  Overall, I still think it’s beautiful and would satisfy anyone who is looking for something like this.  

There are two things that I think are worth noting.  Firstly, the photos for this particular icon on the BlessedMart website – in my opinion – does not do the actual product justice.  I feel a bit bad saying this because on the website it says photographs were carefully taken, but I think they could’ve done a better job.  The second thing is the ink used for the text on the book is water soluble (yes, I learned this from experience from having the icon blessed with Holy Water by a priest, as custom in the Roman Rite), so if you have particularly sweaty hands I suggest being a bit more cautious.  

This piece is close to $100 CAD.  I don’t think that is an unfair price considering the quality and the fact that it was hand painted with such care.  If you can get it on sale, then that is an even better deal. Overall, I think this would be a great gift for a Byzantine art lover.  If you already have something similar, you can go through the BlessedMart website and I think you will find something else you’d like.  

The Catholic Man’s thoughts and Review

BlessedMart really brought me to the Byzantine tradition. Besides the beautiful hand painted icon of also offered a candle holder, beeswax candles and even incense.
On my part, I am going to speak about the candle holder, which holds a thin taper. It is a custom for Eastern Catholics and Orthodox Christians to burn beeswax candles in front of icons just as Roman Catholics often light votive candles in front of statues. While the candle holder is brass (I think), small but beautiful, I admire the candles the most. When I opened them from the package, the first thing I smelled were the beeswax candles. 100% beeswax has such as distinct smell, a “sweet” smell to it which I love. When burnt, the candles release a wonderful aroma.
Just as Roman Catholics reverence sacred images with incense in the liturgy, the Christians of the East do so more frequentlly not only during worship but within household “icon corners” or prayer space. The incense I received from Blessed Mart is quite unique – I am used to the “Three Kings” incense used at my parish, and therefore, have only used a small number of incense (yes, there are hundreds of aromas for incense). Blessed Mart’s incense has a unique smell that seemed somewhat citrus. It had a very pleasant aroma – and trust me, going on pilgrimages, even down to the United States, I have had bad experiences with incense aroma; one I remember, smelled like burnt rubber.
My sister very eloquently reviewed the beautiful icon which I have used on several occasions and I have only received positive feedback. The items that came with it only dignified the icon.
I understand the Eastern Christians have much reverence for icons. I love Byzantine icons and I recommend this gift for Catholic lovers of art, and those who love to pray with icons.
Thank you BlessedMart for giving us the opportunity to feature you on The Catholic Man Reviews.

That’s all for today’s review; I hope to see you back for day 3 of 12 Days of Christmas!