The Treasure Box books are a sweetly illustrated, old-timey series reprinted by Tan Books. Dating back to the 1950s, the Treasure Box series was published as a Catholic children’s magazine. Written and edited by the Maryknoll Sisters, this series is a throwback to a more innocent time in primarily good but occasionally troublesome ways.
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Following in the steps of the Good Shepherd, Treasure Box uses original parables to teach Catholic doctrine and virtues in a way a 3-6 year old can readily understand. For example, one story is about a rich, selfish man who dreams he goes to heaven and finds his clothing there tattered and holey because of his selfish behavior on earth. Other stories have messages about lying, rumors, hard work, honoring the elderly, and stewardship.
Each Treasure Box has an installment in at least one or two serial-style stories, which kids love to follow from volume to volume. My kids’ favorite serial describes the efforts of a charming guardian angel to care for his young African charge and bring missionaries to his remote village. This serial has some great themes about spiritual warfare, supporting missionaries, and devotion to your guardian angel. Other serials follow St. Therese of Lisieux, the story of Creation, and the story of the Holy Family.
Each Treasure Box contains a fun nostalgic section of toy-free play activities, games, and crafts with everyday items. There are also a short poetry selection, fun rhymes, and prayers. Each volume is full of beautiful illustrations and vintage charm.
Overall, we love the Treasure Box books, but there are a few areas where the old-school flavor isn’t an unmitigated positive. There are a few places I either skip a story or provide careful commentary.
For example, Volume 3 has an installment in the St. Therese story where little Therese’s father asks her for a kiss, and she says “No!” Then her father goes inside sadly and her sisters tell her how naughty she was to say no. You see where I’m going with this. I’m sure that back in 1950, this was an entirely innocent story that was supposed to be about listening to your parents or being polite or something. However, in our modern world with our greater awareness of the prevalence of sexual abuse, we definitely don’t want our kids to get the idea it’s wrong to say “No” when someone in authority asks for a kiss, or more! So this part of Volume 3 I either skip or explain carefully that her sisters meant Therese said “No” in a sassy way and she should have said “No, thank you!” And we talk about how it’s always okay to say no to someone touching you, bodily autonomy, and so on.
Another place that 1950’s norms don’t exactly match with modern sensibilities is when it come to corporal punishment. There are a few occasions over the 20 volumes of Treasure Box where someone gets a spanking or is threatened with a spanking. A lot of families nowadays are anti-corporal punishment so this is another place where a simple omission or commentary might be needed.
There’s also the rare intense story with a little violence that might disturb sensitive children. Notably in Volume 17, there’s a German folk tale about Shepherd Honest, who is coerced by a scheming courtier to kill the king’s favorite white lamb and deliver the heart to be eaten. My sensitive daughter was quite upset about the fact that the lamb was killed and it’s heart eaten. No illustration of this scene thankfully, but even hearing about this upsets some children!
All things considered
Overall, I do recommend the Treasure Box books. Their sweet vintage illustrations, virtue-building stories, and fun activities make them great for bedtime read-alouds or as a bi-weekly “magazine” to surprise your little ones with. The 2 serial stories per volume make using these as a “magazine” particularly enjoyable. It’s fun waiting to hear what happens to Therese or Wupsy next! With just the few issues I mentioned above which are sections easily omitted, these volumes are very enjoyable for little Catholic children. I think the ideal age to read these aloud is 3-6, though slightly older siblings often enjoy listening in too!