“The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.”
One icy cold night, an innkeeper’s daughter awakens angry at her discomfort and poverty. But then, she remembers someone who must be even colder than she is: a tiny newborn baby in the family stable. Moved by pity for the young family in the drafty stable, the girl decides to bring them light to make a fire. But when she meets the infant Jesus, her own heart fills with fire and her life is changed forever.
A Wonderful Picture Book for the Family Collection
This lovely new Christmas story would make a perfect edition to your family Christmas Book Collection! I loved the evocative descriptions of the textures, sounds, and feelings the girl experiences. Author Claudia Cangilla McAdam really brings a cold night in Bethlehem to life for readers. I also loved the light symbolism throughout.
The best part of the story is the transformation from anger to joy that the young girl experiences after encountering the Christ Child. This book illustrates that when we reach out to help others, we find unexpected happiness ourselves. In serving a stranger, the girl unknowingly serves Christ. This is a powerful message that will stick in children’s minds long after they’re grown up.
“You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness.”
Releasing for Christmas 2021
This book is available to order in time for Christmas 2021. It looks perfect for a St. Nicholas Day gift or Christmas present. I’ll be wrapping my copy to surprise my kids in our annual Christmas Book Advent Calendar tradition! They unwrap a book a day until Christmas. Some our old favorites and others are new surprises. Stay tuned over the next month as I check out some of the other exciting new Christmas books Catholic publishers are releasing this year!
You can see a full preview of “The Christmas Light” on the publisher website: Sophia Institute Press.
Who else is studying ancient civilizations this year? After testing out a pyramid of Egyptian picture and chapter books, I wanted to share our favorite stories. Immerse yourself in the art, legends, and culture of Ancient Egypt with these beautiful books!
Note that although many books on this list are picture books, they are not for babies! Elementary and middle school aged readers will enjoy and benefit from the wealth of detail in these beautiful books.
This newly back in print classic strikingly illustrates the building of the boat that is buried at the Great Pyramid at Giza. Learn about the Egyptian belief in the afterlife and their boatbuilding skills.
Explore hieroglyphics with this ancient Egyptian story based on hieroglpys from an ancient papyrus scroll. Each page has a replica of a section of the ancient scroll, along with a translation and gorgeous illustrations.
Join Will, the son of an archaeologist, on an unforgettable trip to help uncover the ruins at Giza. Will hopes to make a great discovery- like a mummy! This book has lots of cool period details about excavation and archaeology.
Demi’s style lends itself well to Egyptian art. This biography of Tutankhamun is quite thorough, going from birth to death. It does include details that may require parental discussion such as the fact that Tutankhamun married his half sister. There’s also an interesting account of the period of Egyptian monotheism in which they worshipped one God, Aten. Tutankhamun allowed his subjects to choose whether to worship the traditional cast of Egyptian gods or this one god, Aten.
Traditional history textbook meets oral tradition in The Story of Civilization. I love that the author includes frequent “Living History” sections with tales, legends, or historical fiction accounts that bring important characters to life for young readers. We like this best as the audiobook, which is professionally dramatized.
Mara, Daughter of the Nile is Eloise McGraw’s other masterful historical fiction novel set in Ancient Egypt. Most appropriate for ages 12 and up due to a strong Romantic subplot, this exciting espionage story brings the court of Hatshepsut to life like no other!
You’ve started them on the path to a lifelong love of reading! Now for that tricky transition to chapter books. You’re longing to share The Hobbit, Narnia, and Anne of Green Gables with your five year old (or your three or four year old if he or she has a long attention span), but WAIT!
First chapter books are an important and memorable experience for your preschooler or kindergartener!
And believe me, the transition to chapter books will be much smoother if you begin with one of these delightful books written just for children listening to their first chapter books. These classic first chapter books have charming illustrations scattered throughout and short chapters the perfect length for a limited attention span.
This post contains Amazon affiliate links. This means that I may receive a small fee if you purchase a book through my link at no additional cost to you.
Milly-Molly-Mandy is a sweet little girl enjoying family and small town life in a multi-generational home. Nostalgic and innocent stories with lots and lots of illustrations!
Jenny is a fashion-loving little black cat who longs for some friends. In Jenny and the Cat Club, she meets a memorable group of beautiful and ragged felines. A book about making friends, finding your own talents, and appreciating others’ differences. There are several more books about Jenny’s adventures available!
Raggedy Ann‘s cheerful nature and simple adventures have delighted children for over 100 years! Always a hit with 4-5 year old girls!
Twig‘s impoverished family lives in a tenement house. But one memorable day, a tomato soup can, a dandelion, and her imagination bring the best kind of magic into her life. After that day, Twig sees her life and neighbors through new eyes.
This is a transformation through imagination story in the tradition of Nesbit and MacDonald, so I personally liked it. But if you are very sensitive to the use of “magic” in stories, you may want to avoid this one.
Of course every child needs to listen to The Complete Tales of Winnie-The-Pooh! This beautiful hardcover edition includes lots of full color illustrations to make this beloved first chapter book even more enjoyable.
The Thornton Burgess 26-Book Set brings you to the world of the little forest animals. Most chapters are only 2-4 pages. Not as many pictures as some of the other books on this list, but still held the attention of my 4 year old.
Happy Little Family focuses on Bonnie, the youngest in an Appalachian family. At 4 years old, Bonnie feels quite grown up and ready to participate in all the family fun. All 4 years old can relate to her little joys and disappointments.
Continue reading Bonnie’s adventures in Schoolhouse in the Woods. Bonnie starts school, learns to read, and makes friends.
This little gem of a chapter book has been around for 15 years, but is newish to Americans. Norwegian author Maria Parr must have channeled Astrid Lindgren (you know, Pippi Longstocking?) to create the memorable duo in Adventures with Waffles. Beautiful Norway is the stunning backdrop to this memorable story about childhood friendship, family camaraderie, and overcoming loss.
Enter a remote Scandinavian village
It isn’t even a village. Just a few houses tucked in a remote cove. 8 year old friends Trille and Lena have to make their excitement and they do: boatloads of it! You’ll be charmed by sweet Trille’s narration of life in his hamlet, his love for his family, and his loyalty to his difficult best friend. From sledding in winter to bonfires in summer, the neighbors in this wintery wonderland enjoy everyday life.
I loved the fact that Trille has an intact family with parents who love each other. He has three siblings, one of whom is adopted and comfortable with that. He lives in an intergenerational household; his grandfather has a flat in their basement and Trille loves having him there.
On the other hand, Lena lives with her single mother. She’s okay with this at first, but eventually begins to ask why she doesn’t have a father. In one of their notorious escapades, Lena and Trille decide to advertise and find a fitting father, confidently assuming her mother will be thrilled. While celebrating hardworking single parents, Adventures with Waffles conveys the intrinsic desire children have for both a mother and a father. It’s an affirmation of the importance of fathers! Now that is something you rarely see in a new children’s book!
Dealing with Grief and Loss
Adventures with Waffles isn’t all butterflies and daisies. Trille’s beloved waffle-making Auntie Granny dies midway through the book. Subtly but unmistakably Trille watches his family deal with the grief in their various ways. And he too has to come to terms with loss- and find ways to reawaken hope.
Trille and Lena also experience smaller losses and traumas: a horse they love is sent to the butcher and they scramble to save it. A fire threatens to destroy the family barn and animals. A bad sledding accident lands them in the hospital for a bit. In fact, they manage to crowd an inordinate number of misadventures into 230 pages! There’s no graphic violence though so all but the most sensitive readers shouldn’t be bothered.
Although I loved this book overall, I had two caveats when I went over my reading notes.
First, there’s a tiny bit of cruder humor at times, along the lines of putting out a bonfire with cow manure. Or a child making up a rhyme about moo and poo rhyming. I think it’s supposed to reflect that these are farm children used to the nitty gritty parts of farm life, so it didn’t bother me in this particular book. But just in case, note it’s there.
Second, there’s a little confusion about whether lying is always wrong. Some of this is a translation issue. I’m fairly certain that when the characters talk about “what good lies” someone tells in reference to tall tales, the translation should have been “what good stories” or “what good tales.”
Later on, there is a “ends justify means” message about lying. Trille, Lena, and his grandfather tell a string of lies to expedite their rescue of the aforementioned horse destined for the slaughter house. Trille is shocked by all the lying and his grandfather tells him, “Sometimes it’s all right to tell white lies, Trille.” I didn’t love this scenario in a book meant for 8-10 year olds. I would handle it with a discussion about how it lines up with what we believe as Catholics and how else the characters might have better handled the scenario.
Although most of the characters in this book are areligious, there’s a motif about a picture of Jesus. Trille’s Auntie Granny keeps a special picture of Jesus as the Good Shepherd to remind her not to worry: he’s in control. After her death, Trille is allowed to pick anything from her entire house to keep for his very own. He chooses the special picture. Thenceforth, it’s a source of comfort to both him and Lena: a reminder that someone is watching over them. Kind of neat to see this in a secular book!
If you want to buy Adventures with Waffles, you can support Good Books for Catholic Kids by buying through my Amazon affiliate link: Adventures with Waffles
For the 6-8 year old, just becoming independent reader stage, I love the Saints and Friendly Beasts saint book series.
In the Saints and Friendly Beasts series, young readers will enjoy the large print and wealth of pictures. At the same time, they’ll become familiar with saints who loved animals. Popular Holy Hour books with my 6 and 8 year olds. Note: the pictures in these books are all black and white.
A recently published book that is awesome for this age is Meg Hunter-Kilmer’s Saints Around the World.
This is a saint book like no other! Meg Hunter Kilmer tells stories about many saints we’ve never heard of in a conversational style that makes these saints your kids’ new best friends. Check out my full Review of “Saints Around the World”!
Another series of saint books that’s wonderful for a 3rd grade reading level (or younger reader with help!) is the Life of a Saint series from Ignatius Press.
Learn about popular saints in these colorful, picture-rich books from reliable Ignatius Press.
Mayr Fabyan Windeatt brings the saints to life for children aged 9-99.
These saint biographies are 50-100 pages and perfect for book reports or spiritual reading. My kids bring these to Holy Hour all the time. Not very many pictures, but simple and inspiring stories about a variety of saints from Hyacinth to Martin de Porres.
A final awesome saint book series for the 9+ crowd is the Vision Series from Ignatius Press
Up to 24 books, the acclaimed Vision series offers inspiring saint biographies for 4th-8th graders. With longer chapters and more details, these books will satisfy kids who want to know more about their favorite saints- or maybe discover some new favorites!
Star Wars meets Catholic apologetics in Heaven’s Hunter. In this literary debut from Marie Keiser, a young man comes of age in a futuristic world where interplanetary travel is the norm. Born to wealth and privilege, Randall Yung walks away from it all to pursue justice with the interplanetary fleet hunting down the worst criminals of all: the Catholics.
Catholic Apologetics meets Interplanetary Travel
If you have a teen who likes sci fi and the Catholic faith, Heaven’s Hunter will be a hit. Starting from the perspective of an atheist, Marie Keiser leads her protagonist on a rambling interplanetary quest for truth. Randall Yung is a seeker: he desires deeper meaning in life. At first he thinks he’s found it by infiltrating and betraying underground Catholic communities. But the more time he spends with the Catholics, the less certain he becomes that they are a threat to humanity.
Teens will enjoy this twisty tale. Seeing the Catholic faith from the outsider perspective is a valuable tool. It helps us rediscover our own love and appreciation for just how radically, beautifully unique our faith is.
Another important take-away that this book will give teens is that often the most important apologetics is simply our good example. What impacts atheist Randall is the kindness and mercy he experiences from the people he is hunting a la St. Paul.
Nope! This is a squeaky clean novel from a Catholic author. There’s a touch of mild romance, very clean. No language. There’s a little violence, but nothing too graphic. One major character gives his life for another.
A Commendable First Novel
Overall, Heaven’s Hunter is a worthwhile novel for lovers of space fiction. Like many first novels, there were places where the pacing stumbled. I’d like to see more world-development and detail added if future books are written to make this a series. But as it is, it’s a quick and enjoyable read with great theme about loving your enemy, forgiveness, persecution, and being a witness.
You can buy Heaven’s Hunter through my Amazon affiliate link: Heaven’s Hunter.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of “Heaven’s Hunter” from the author in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.
My kids are addicted to audiobooks on long car rides. I’ll take that over movies any day so I’m not trying to cure them.
But really, who else is always looking for that perfect audiobook that will entertain ALL the kids on the next roadtrip? Or even just the next trip to the grocery store if you live rural like we do!
I’ve spent more time than I’d like on Audible listening to samples and trying to figure out what’s the best quality and number of hours for the price. Here’s a list of some of my best finds: unabridged recordings with great narrators who bring the stories to life. These are the books my kids ask for again and again until they can recite them!
This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which means that if you buy through my link I receive a small fee at no additional cost to you.
Who else wants to hear Kenneth Branagh read The Chronicles of Narnia? This unabridged version is pricey but if you have an audible account you can snag it for 1 credit- awesome deal!
We have 5 Little House books on audiobook and they are some of the most requested recordings we own. The fiddle music to accompany these recordings fits perfectly.
Family adventures on a lake? Friendships, alliances of offense and defense, and buried treasure? Swallows and Amazons has it all. Charming British children’s classics.
If your crew is slightly older, they’ll love The Hobbit read by no less than Gollum himself. A great performance by Andy Serkis.
We love the five joyful sisters’ escapades in All of a Kind Family. You get a perfect picture of life for a poor but happy Jewish family in early 21st century New York city. Thanks to this book, my kids understand Jewish holidays and traditions!
With their father away during World War II, the 5 Mitchell children pull together to help their mother on the Homefront. Their Five for Victory club brings them friends and helps the war effort. We love the sequel, Canadian Summer, even more. The Mitchell family moves to a remote Canadian ski cottage for the summer and adventure naturally follows.
The Happy Little Family books are often compared to Little House with their gentle lessons and anecdotes from family life. Warning that the narrator’s accent is fittingly Southern for these stories from Appalachia. So if you have a vendetta against a drawl skip this series!
The Cinnamon Bear is a classic oldschool radio drama with music and a full cast. I listened to it over and over growing up, and now my kids ask to hear it even out of season; it’s a Christmas drama. Brother and sister Judy and Jimmy have their star stolen by a crazy-quilt dragon. A tiny cinnamon bear comes to life and helps them travel through Maybe-land to rescue it from a wicked witch.
My younger kids love all the Jim Weiss retellings they’ve heard. Fairytale Favorites includes the Elves and the Shoemaker, Stone Soup, Rapunzel, and more. He includes memorable songs and sometimes poetry in these retellings. Also, it’s less than $3 to buy. Sweet.
If you’ve followed the news about the politically-motivated censoring of several Seuss books, you’ll know why the author of this recently published book went with a Seuss theme. This book uses Seuss’s distinctive style, color scheme, and rhythmic text to create a thought-provoking commentary on what the last couple years may have done to American children.
A young boy is scared to walk to school because he is convinced that everyone is out to hurt him. This poor kid is scared of touching people, the police, anyone with religious beliefs, and so on. But by the time he gets to school, he has to admit that he is safe and no one he met was truly scary.
As you might have figured out by now, this book comes from a staunchly conservative perspective on current events. I consider it a clever and well-executed commentary that will amuse adults and older kids who are politically savvy- and conservative. I do think the political commentary would go over the heads of the 3-5 year old crowd who usually enjoy Seuss. My 4 year old definitely did not “get” what was going on with the little boy being unreasonably paranoid about everyone he met.
I think And to Think I Saw It on MLK Street makes an excellent gift for a conservative older kid or adult who will enjoy the Seuss nostalgia and message. But if you are of more liberal inclinations, this book isn’t for you, unless you have an excellent sense of humor. The message is pro-police, pro-religion, and pro-life.
“A Theology of the Body for Babies and Little Ones”
If you love John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, this little book is a great introduction for the very littlest Catholic kids. Babies, toddlers, and preschoolers will enjoy the simple text that teaches important concepts about personhood in very few sentences. Little ones will hear: who made them, what their bodies are for, how they are like Jesus, and what the ultimate end of life is. These concepts form the basis for an understanding of authentic Christian Humanism. It’s great to find them in such a simple form for the littlest listeners.
In addition to awesome Theology of the Body concepts, your child can enjoy playing “I Spy” for the Lily of the Valley hidden on each page. The Lily of the Valley is a traditional Marian symbol.
Author Caroline Fisher tells me that she has a second Theology of the Body-inspired book for slightly older kids (5-8 year old crowd) with more realistic pictures coming out soon. I’m super excited to see what she creates! Keep up the good work Caroline!
A percentage of all sales for this book are donated to the Sisters of Life.
I’ve ragged on a few New York Times Bestseller’s recently, so I wanted to share one I did love. Piranesi is that rare contemporary book I can wholeheartedly recommend to all my friends with no reservations. It’s well-written, superbly plotted, and has just the right amount of nods to the classics without coming across as trying too hard. Probably I mostly like it because the author is clearly playing with a Magician’s Nephew theme and you all may have noticed that I’ve never outgrown my childhood love of Narnia.
For the Moms
To be clear, this book is for you, mom, not your kids. Well, if you have a high schooler they might like it too, but mostly I’m thinking of moms here. If you love fantasy, or mystery, or art, or fairy tales, or books about social issues, you’ll probably enjoy this book. That’s a pretty eclectic list, I know, but this is a book that keeps you guessing. It defies categorization. I was telling a friend, “It’s like a mystery… noooo, more of a suspense…. no, actually, more fantasy. You just have to read it.”
Piranesi plays with contrasts: ancient versus modern consciousness, freedom versus bondage, contemplation versus action. There’s a compelling sense of place. A touch of art history. It deals with important topics like misuse of power, but in the most powerful way: through the story. It’s that rare book with great depths to ponder, but you read it in 24 hours. Then, if you’re me, you re-read it.
I really don’t want to give away any spoilers, but here’s a few tips on how to read it. First, this book is all told in diary form by an unreliable narrator (echoes of Wilkie Collins). Second, it helps to have read The Magician’s Nephew recently. Third, enjoy the mystery of it and don’t get turned off by the intentional strangeness of the first few chapters!
You can buy Piranesi through my Amazon affiliate link: Piranesi