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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, January 3, 2010

Hawaii art, French text make wonderful book


By Jolie Jean Cotton
Special to The Advertiser

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

The book's cover was painted by the late Peggy Chun, with the help of 142 Holy Trinity students.

Bess Press

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'FATHER DAMIEN: HAWAI'I'S SAINT'

By Rene Berthier and Marie-Helene Sigaut in collaboration with the Fathers of the Sacred Hearts French and Belgian Provinces

Bess Press, ages 6 and up, $14.95

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

The Belgian priest who devoted his life to Moloka'iís outcasts was canonized in October.

Advertiser library photo

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Of the slew of new titles surrounding Father Damien's canonization last year, this is my favorite. The story of Joseph de Veuster's life is told in comic book style. Don't let that fool you. All the rich details are here ó in words and pictures. The soft cover and large format is perfectly suited to elementary school students, a niche previous Father Damien books had not filled.

This book already has a track record. It was originally published in France. The Hawai'i version is the culmination of a unique collaboration.

Local publisher Bess Press partnered with the Peggy Chun Galley to use the late artist's "The Damien" painting for the book's cover.

Paralyzed by ALS, Chun used the help of 142 Holy Trinity students to create the image used on the book's cover. Directing with her eyes, using a computer, and with the support of teacher Shelly Mecum, the students painted over 52,000 1/4-inch square watercolor papers to give the painting a mural effect.

Mecum and two students traveled to the Vatican in October and presented the painting to Pope Benedict XVI just before the canonization.

Bess Press procured the English rights and rendered the text from the original French language edition. This is a wonderful book that no Hawai'i school library should be without.