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Book Review + Christina's Counting Book by Maria Khoury

Dear Friends of Saint George Taybeh,

Greetings from the Holy Land on this holy day of the Annunciation which we celebrate here 13 days later. God grant many years for all celebrating on this special feast day! Happy Greek Independence Day for all of our Greek friends too!

To avoid sending you too many emails I am finding this chance to ask you to please recommend Christina Books to your Sunday School and Bookstore during this Holy Great Lent. Thank you for sharing this Book Review by my dear friend Marilyn Rouvelas. With the great blessing to be in Jerusalem today at the most sacred Holy Life Giving Tomb of Christ, I did light a candle especially for the Lord to rest in peace the soul of His Eminence Metropolitan Philip. Memory Eternal!

Our sincere sympathy from Taybeh, in Christ, maria

In Christ,


Book Review by Marilyn Rouvelas

Maria Khoury, Christina's Counting Book, Second Edition
Canaan David Khoury Publications, 2013. Pp. 32, $10

Fortunately the number of Orthodox children's books keeps multiplying, yet it is encouraging to see that Maria Khoury's Christina books continue to anchor the shelves! Her books communicate to our little ones so sweetly and effectively about our faith. Christina's Counting Book, Second Edition, is another treasure, and I highly recommend it.

This book for preschoolers and older is an old friend with a brand-new, come-read-me look. The basic purpose of the book remains the same: to help a child learn to count while learning about the Orthodox faith through text and pictures that "stimulate spiritual growth and development." The child is invited to count one to twelve items relating to Orthodoxy: a censer, Easter eggs, crosses, evangelists, loaves, Holy Communion, candles, altar boys, memorial wheat dishes, holy bread, choir members, and censer bells. The items are described in simple language so the child can learn about traditions and values he/she will experience while attending the Divine Liturgy and other services. For example, "Having Holy Communion is the best way to tell Jesus our Lord that we love Him." Rev. Protopresvyter Athanosios (Al) Demos, former Chancellor of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston, remarked, "Maria chose clear examples of what the children actually see, relate to and understand in church. I love this book and thank her for helping me to learn to count in six languages [English, Greek, Spanish, French, Russian and Arabic], a special feature that lends to creating a linguistic learning interest."

While the purpose remains the same, there are four improvements in this second edition. First, the illustrations by Nicole Hillas Minetos (replacing the fuzzy photographs in the first edition) are bright and done in a "primitive" style that children can relate to. On the purple cover, Christina's bright blue eyes sparkle as she lights her candle in the church narthex. The eight altar boys in procession look both mischievous and serious. Second, the book has more interactive content asking the child to look for other things in the church and to learn special vocabulary relating to the faith. Third, the pronunciation layout for each number is more reader friendly, and the addition of the Russian language welcome. Fourth, the print and paper quality are much improved.

The reissuing of Christina's Counting Book is not just about more books to sell. The author's determination to continue the Christina series speaks to her tenacious personality. Not only has she given us delightful children books, but for many years she has been an educator about and advocate for the few remaining Christians in the Holy Land where she lives north of Jerusalem in Taybeh, the last Christian village in Palestine. Reading the fine print of this second edition, gives small glimpses of her life and work on this cause. The book was "Printed in the Holy Land." Because unemployment is so high in Palestine, she always uses printers there to help the local economy. The book's dedication to her twenty-five-year-old cousin, Yousef Ghassan Khouri (drowned in Louisiana, but buried in Taybeh) speaks to the closeness of this Palestinian family that has sacrificed so much to maintain a living Christian presence in the land of our Savior. Also acknowledged is Sophia Nibi (+), an invaluable assistant in the chancellor's office of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston, who helped with the collection of donations for the construction of homes for Orthodox families in Taybeh. When Maria comes to the United States for part of the year, she raises awareness about the plight of Holy Land Christians, and raises money for their housing and scholarships for Palestinian college students. It is all for the glory of God, and may He continue to bless Maria and her family in her ministry of the word and works. Find out more about Maria Khoury's books and her Holy Land work at

Christina's Counting Book, Second Edition, is available at, 800-245-0599 or the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese Department of Religious Education,, 800-566-1088.

Reviewed by Marilyn Rouvelas, author of A Guide to Greek Traditions and Customs in America; co-author with Jeanette Aydlette of Peter Clashes with Anger, and Eleni Looks at Jealousy; and a Greek Orthodox Archdiocese representative on the leadership council of Churches for Middle East Peace.