ethnic mother and little kids reading book in bed

Review of “My Book House” Series

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My Book House

Looking for a delightful collection of classic stories, poetry, and unique tales from around the world? My Book House has all this and more! My children all love these charming volumes, full of detailed illustrations and stories we’ve never read anywhere else.

12 Volumes: Something for the Whole Family

In 1928, Olive Beaupre Miller created the My Book House collection to encourage a love of literature in children from the nursery up through high school. There’s an appropriate volume for each child in your family! Volume 1, In The Nursery, contains a wealth of nursery rhymes and short poems from around the world divided by country. In the next book, Story Time, you’ll find short stories, mostly folk tales from a diverse variety of countries: India, Norway, France, Germany, Russia, South Africa, and more. There’s also a variety of poetry interspersed with the stories.

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The subsequent 10 volumes continue the pattern of alternating poetry and prose.

For example, in The Magic Garden you’ll find the Greek myth about Phaeton, fairy tales from Romania, Hungary, Serbia and more, folk tales from New Zealand and Egypt, and selections from Dickens, Shakespeare, and Hawthorn.

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In the other volumes, you’ll find composer sketches, biographies of famous men, myths, and more. From classic fairy tales to folk lore from around the world to great poems, this collection has something to offer every child.

Various Editions

My Book House was in print for nearly 50 years, so several editions have appeared. The very earliest editions were bound in black. Pictured below is the “Rainbow Set” from the 1950s, which was edited and updated by Miller herself. She continued to be involved in the updating of the volumes until her retirement in the early 1960s. The last edition, the white covered one, was published in 1972 and may have had changes made that Miller did not approve.

Why buy it for your family library?

These books are worth buying if you have young children. By listening to, and later reading themselves, these stories from around the world, your children will broaden their horizons and expand their understanding of a variety of cultures and countries. They’ll pour over the detailed artwork. They’ll be inspired to read more by the authors featured. They’ll even have a decent basis for a liberal arts education just by reading these volumes.

Since My Book House has been out of print for almost 50 years, it’s a bit pricey to buy. You can usually find sets on Amazon available for $150-300 depending on the edition.

Rainbow set (affiliate link): My Book House, Volumes 1-12 and Parents’ Guide

White set (affiliate link): My Book House (12 Volume Set)

Volume 1, In the Nursery, has been reprinted recently and is available as a standalone volume on my Bookshop page: https://bookshop.org/a/15310/9780486499062

For more great books for Catholic Kids, check out my Book Lists!

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The Best Picture Books for Little Horse Lovers

Do you have a little one who loves, loves, loves horses? I was that child, and to this day I love horses. Here are my favorite picture books old and new which capture the beauty and spirit of this special animal.

One of Jan Brett’s lesser known books, but still a charming story with lovely illustrations. Fritz is a short, ugly pony that the people say is unworthy to carry the children. But when the beautiful horses shy away in a crisis, Fritz is there for the children.

Buy it through my affiliate link: Fritz and the Beautiful Horses

Buy it through my BookShop Page: https://bookshop.org/lists/the-best-picture-books-for-little-horse-lovers

The Perfect Pony is another pony story about looks being less important than a sweet nature. Katie dreams of a beautiful, prancing horse, but finds that her wise mother is right that the perfect pony may be different than she imagined.

Buy it through my affiliate link: The Perfect Pony

Who doesn’t love Marguerite Henry’s Misty of Chincoteague? In Five O’Clock Charlie, Marguerite Henry tells a memorable story about a winsome old draft horse named Charlie. Love the Wesley Dennis illustrations.

Buy through my affiliate link: Five o’clock Charlie

Buy it through my Bookshop Page: https://bookshop.org/lists/the-best-picture-books-for-little-horse-lovers

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This gorgeous Jane Yolen and Ruth Sanderson story makes a gentle bedtime story about mother love.

Buy it through my affiliate link: Hush, Little Horsie

This touching historical fiction story set in 1843 tells about little Gretchen, separated from her wagon train, and The White Stallion who saved her life.

Buy it through my affiliate link: The White Stallion

Buy it through my Bookshop page: https://bookshop.org/lists/the-best-picture-books-for-little-horse-lovers

Two sisters remember their mother telling them that the Carousel horses waking to life in early spring. They go on an imaginative journey which brings them healing after the death of their mother (trigger warning: mother has died). Gorgeously illustrated by Jim LaMarche.

Buy it through my affiliate link: The Carousel

Once upon a time, there was a boy who “loved horses more than anything else in the world”… The Billy and Blaze series are classic adventures about a boy and his pony. A little lengthier than other picture books, these are also great for young readers.

Buy through my affiliate link: Billy and Blaze Collection

Buy through my Bookshop page: https://bookshop.org/lists/the-best-picture-books-for-little-horse-lovers

In this Caldecott Winning story, a Native American girl cares for her tribe’s horses and eventually becomes a horse herself.

Amazon affiliate link: The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses

Bookshop affiliate page: https://bookshop.org/lists/the-best-picture-books-for-little-horse-lovers

A sleepy child learns from her grandmother how to visualize imaginary Sleep Ponies carrying her away to sweet dreams.

Amazon affiliate link: The Sleep Ponies

A little girl longs for a horse more than anything, but her parents carefully explain why buying one isn’t possible. Instead, she uses her imagination and drawings to fly through the stars with her dream pony.

Amazon affiliate link: My Pony

Bookshop affiliate page: https://bookshop.org/lists/the-best-picture-books-for-little-horse-lovers

Cowboy Small and his pony Cactus explain to little cowpokes how to take good care of a pony and what a cowboy does every day.

Buy it through my affiliate link: Cowboy Small

Bookshop affiliate page: https://bookshop.org/lists/the-best-picture-books-for-little-horse-lovers

Alice and Martin Provensen’s whimsical story about their farm animal perfectly captures the memorable personalities of their herd of horses. This has been one of my favorite books for 25 years.

Buy it through my affiliate link: Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm

Bookshop affiliate page: https://bookshop.org/lists/the-best-picture-books-for-little-horse-lovers

Virginia Lee Burton of Mike Mulligan fame wrote and illustrated this hilarious story about Calico the Wonder Horse. Calico not only outsmarts a band of ornery bad men but convinces them to reform.

Buy through my affiliate link: Calico the Wonder Horse

Bookshop affiliate page: https://bookshop.org/lists/the-best-picture-books-for-little-horse-lovers

For more of my favorite picture books for children, check out my Book Lists!

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Review of “Mistborn” Series

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The Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson

Mistborn: a person born with the ability to burn metals in their stomach to feed super powers. Flying over cities, ripping walls apart, controlling others’ emotions, and turning any metal object into a projectile are all possibilities in Brandon Sanderson’s iconic Mistborn Series. This high-adrenaline series is high on the list of fantasy I often hear recommended to Catholic teens so I’m chiming in with my review this week.

A Very Brief Series Synopsis

In Book 1, Mistborn, you’ll meet Vin, a teenage street Skaa (peasant) with a surprisingly talent: she’s Mistborn. A daring band of rebels led by Kelsier recruit Vin as part of their plan to overthrow the tyrannical Lord Ruler (who has seeming omniscience and omnipotence) and free the Skaa. During the course of the plotting, Vin falls for Elend Venture, a rich noble, who ends up assisting Kelsier’s crew to kill the Lord Ruler. To kill the Lord Ruler, Kelsier voluntarily sacrifices his life to become a hero to inspire the Skaa revolution.

Then in Book 2, The Well of Ascension, Vin, Elend, and the surviving crew struggle to set up a fair government, fight antagonistic nobles, and figure out why the environment is spiraling into chaos around them. Vin eventually releases a great power from the Well of Ascension, thinking she is releasing a power which will save the world. Unfortunately, turns out she unleashed the power of Ruin: one of the two forces on this Dualistic planet.

Finally, in Book 3, The Hero of the Ages, Vin and Elend rush around trying to find a way to defeat Ruin before it destroys the world with earthquakes and volcanic ash. Eventually, they find a way past seemingly insurmountable obstacles to destroy Ruin’s body and mind, allowing Sazed, one of the crew, to balance the power of Ruin with the power of Preservation and remake the world.

A Thrilling Journey

Mistborn is an addictive roller coaster ride of a series. You see plenty of epic battles, duals between powerful Mistborns, truly disturbing villainous monsters, and inspiring heroes. What really makes you like Mistborn is the solid cast of characters who believe in trying to save their world from Ruin no matter what, superhero style. The main characters, Vin and Elend, are actually a likeable, sweet couple who are surprisingly chaste. They even have a subplot of learning to love in a very unselfish and self-giving way. The minor characters are well-developed and memorable also.

Positive Themes

Plenty of good themes to point to in this series. One repeated thread is that fighting a losing battle is preferable to sitting by and letting evil conquer. The protagonists in Mistborn understand that dying is not the worst thing; dying is preferable to disloyalty, cowardice, or shirking responsibility. Others includes that self-sacrifice for a greater good is a noble choice, and trusting your friends and being hurt is preferable to never trusting at all.

Grappling with Tough Topics

Book 2, The Well of Ascension tackles some tough topics. Many fantasy novels center around a plot to topple a corrupt government. In The Well of Ascension, Brandon Sanderson takes this one step further to the aftermath. You’re a group of reckless rebels who vanquished an oppressive ruler against impossible odds: but what now? What kind of government do you form? How do you bring democracy to people who have lived under a tyrant for a millennia?

This book was the most interesting to me because it actually forces the reader to think critically about different forms of government. Elend, always the white knight (or now, king) is a well-educated idealist who thinks he has the theory for an ideal government structure. But how does his ideal government hold up to the reality of a war-torn country? Is it better to back down or seize the power by force? There are no easy answers to these and other political questions in The Well of Ascension.

Content?

There’s almost no language in Mistborn. Alcohol use is common, but not glorified. Sexual content is fairly low, but there are several mentions in Mistborn about nobles taking Skaa women as their mistresses then killing them to avoid diluting the noble bloodlines. Elend admits to being forced by his father to bed a Skaa woman at the age of 13, but is very guilty about this part of his past. In The Well of Acsension, there is mention that some people assume Vin is Elend’s mistress since they are dating, but that she is actually not.

However, the violence score for this series would very high. Vin, Kelsier, and others engage in frequent and bloody hand to hand combat involving details such as heads being ripped off. There’s also a cast of truly disturbing enemies including Inquisitors with bloody spokes for eyes and Kollosses, which are mutated humans with bloody ripping skin. These villains go around violently slaughtering entire villages of Skaa peasants. They also engage in a really unsettling method of stealing power from Mistborn by pounding spikes through their living bodies.

Negatives

One downside of Mistborn is the confusing spirituality and theology of Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere.

First, you have what I consider a somewhat anti-religious agenda. In Book 1, Mistborn, you have a paralleling of a Redeemer figure dying for his people, and appearing subsequently to inspire his followers. But (Spoiler), the appearances are a hoax. Kelsier studies other religions and decides he must die heroically to start a revolution. Before dying, he hires a Kandra, a shape changing being who eats someone then mimics their mannerisms. After Kelesier’s heroic death, this Kandra will eat him and appear to his followers for maximum psychological impact in starting the revolution.

EDITED TO ADD: A “Mistborn” fan has informed me that Kelsier’s character arc continues in other Sanderson books in a way that shows Kelsier is an anti-Christ figure of sorts, so that context makes me less concerned about this agenda in “Mistborn.” I plan to read more of the series to verify this.

Dualism?

Dualism is the belief that the world is the result of two opposing forces such as dark and light, good and evil, or some other pair of conflicting powers. This belief is primarily seen in Eastern religions, though has also appeared as the basis for early Christian heresies such as Manichaeism. Dualism is utterly incompatible with the Christian monotheistic worldview, which labels evil as an absence or privation of goodness (God).

Taken by itself, the Mistborn Trilogy seems to be pushing a dualistic worldview. The plots in the second and third books are primarily focused around the conflict between the two opposing forces of Ruin and Preservation. One of the protagonists, Sazed, spends most of The Hero of the Ages going through a crisis of faith rejecting all religions that have ever existed as illogical and false. He eventually finds peace by deciding the true “religion” is a balancing of the two forces. In fact, (SPOILER) the series concludes with Vin sacrificing her life to destroy the mind of Ruin, then Sazed taking over the task of balancing the forces of Ruin and Preservation to shape a better world.

However, further research into other Sanderson books and his fantasy world, the Cosmere, reveals that the seemingly dualistic theology of the planet in Mistborn is misleading. Sanderson’s Cosmere is not actually dualistic, but neither is it Christian in its theological premises. The powers, or gods, in the Cosmere are 16 “shards” of a single destroyed Creator god.

In the end, there is no God in the Christian sense in Mistborn. Sanderson’s Creator has been shattered into 16 forces, which men have assumed, making them demigods of sorts. Sanderson is still working on the series, so only time will tell how he concludes the theological side of his Cosmere.

Conclusions with a little help from C. S. Lewis

Master fantasy writers George MacDonald and C. S. Lewis believed that the purpose of fantasy was to enter another world, learn truths in that world, then bring them back to your own world to help live a good life. Applying this to Mistborn, what truths might your children bring back through the wardrobe, or perhaps in this case through the mists? Well, all the postives I mentioned above: self sacrifice, loyalty, choosing the good even against seemingly insurmountable odds. But on the other hand, they will also have spent quite a lot of time in a rather confusing theological headspace. It’s definitely a tradeoff, and not one I’d recommend except for older, mature teens.

So if you have older, mature teens who really love fantasy and want to read Mistborn, here’s what I’d recommend doing first: make sure your teens are solidly grounded in Catholic theology. Be sure they have the maturity to not be seduced by the mists into applying any of the false theology of the Sanderson universe to our world.

For other great books for Catholic teens, check out my Book Lists!

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Review of “The Thief Who Stole Heaven”

The Thief Who Stole Heaven: A Legend

Following up his bestselling The Spider Who Saved Christmas, Raymond Arroyo and illustrator Randy Gallegos offer another gorgeous and inspiring picture book for Catholic kids. Just in time for Lent, The Thief Who Stole Heaven tells the unforgettable story of St. Dismas

In the Spirit of Lent

The spirit of Lent can be summed up in the brief words the priest offers to each of us on Ash Wednesday: “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” The legend of St. Dismas fits perfectly with this Lenten message. As you’ll read in The Thief Who Stole Heaven, Dismas lived a life of sin and violence. Nevertheless, he achieved perfect repentance and believed in Jesus as they died side by side. We’re all sinners, and we all need to repent. St. Dismas teaches us how to do this with humility and faith.

The Journey to Egypt

In addition to telling the story of St. Dismas, The Thief Who Stole Heaven tells us what might have happened after the Holy Family fled the cave and soldiers. We don’t know what adventures the Holy Family encountered as they journeyed to Egypt, bags full of treasure from the Magi. Raymond Arroyo fills in the blanks of what might have happened, weaving a meeting with a young Dismas into their journey.

Luminous Artwork

What I love most about The Thief Whole Stole Heaven is the detailed art. A clever use of light draws your attention to the infant and Mary each time they appear, mirroring the book’s message about the mesmerizing gaze of Christ.

Who Should Read It?

St. Dismas’ life was violent and sad. Smaller children may be distubed to hear about his miserable childhood and violent deeds, though Arroyo does a good job of wording the story to go over the littlest listeners’ heads. I think 6-8 year olds will enjoy this story, while less sensitive younger children could also handle the vague descriptions of violence.

Where to buy it?

If you would like to purchase this wonderful new book for your family, you can buy it at:

My BookShop affiliate page: https://bookshop.org/lists/book-review-books

My Amazon affiliate link: The Thief Who Stole Heaven

Disclaimer: I received a copy of “The Thief Who Stole Heaven” from Sophia Institute Press in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

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Review of “The Imitation of Mary”

On this feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, I want to tell you about The Imitation of Mary, an exceptional new book from Father Quan Tran.

The Imitation of Mary

The Imitation of Mary: Keys to Growth in Virtue and Grace isn’t just a reflection on the life of Mary. It’s a handbook to help any Catholic deepen their spirituality with concrete, practical advice and exercises. Father Tran chooses 12 essential qualities of Mary and uses each quality as a springboard to explain many different ways to deepen your relationship with God and transform your spiritual disposition. The Marian qualities Father Tran focuses on include: humility, confidence in God, union with God, joy in the Lord, docility to God’s will, abandonment to Divine Providence, and more! Each chapter ends with specific suggestions to help you implement the studied quality in your own life.

A Valuable Synthesis of Spiritual Wisdom over the Ages

Father Tran gleans kernels of spiritual advice from centuries of Catholic saints and theologians and collects them into this well-organized book. You’ll find a phenomenal explanation of Ignatian discernment, a straightforward take on the four common obstacles to faith, and a thoughtful reflection on the mystery of suffering- all in one book! Drawing on everything from St. Faustina to Pascal to the Catechism to the Summa Theologica to the Bible, Father Tran explains how to implement theMarian qualities which will lead us to holiness.

A Must-have for the Catholic Family Library

The Imitation of Mary achieves that delicate balance of being both easily readable and extremely educational. It’s a book I plan to keep to share with my children as they reach the high school years. This book would make an excellent gift for a new adult Catholic or Confirmandi, but also has many riches to offer for Catholics who are looking for a way to deepen their faith in concrete and practical ways.

Buy The Imitation of Mary through my amazon affiliate link: The Imitation of Mary: Keys to Growth in Virtue and Grace

Buy The Imitation of Mary through my Bookshop affiliate page: https://bookshop.org/lists/book-review-books

Disclaimer: I received a copy of “The Imitation of Mary” from Sophia Institute Press in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

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World War II Chapter Books for Catholic Kids

Living Books bring history to life like never before for kids.

As Charlotte Mason taught, living books use well-written stories to capture the imagination and inspire an interest in the subject. History is a perfect subject to utilize living books as a teaching or enrichment tool.

World War II is both a fascinating and a tragic time period to study. The pathos and heroism showed during the terrible war has inspired many authors to write inspiring historical fiction stories for children.

And it’s very, very important that we encourage our children to read these books. As some schools, and even countries like Iran, deny that the Holocaust happened, we need our children to understand the truth of what happened during World War II. These living history books will bring alive the events of World War II in a way that children will remember. Stories are powerful!

“To forget [the Holocaust] would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.”

Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Auschwitz Survivor.

Here are some of my favorite chapter books about World War II.

In Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars, ten year old Annemarie and her family become one of the many heroic Christian families who hid Jewish children to save them from the death camps. This unforgettable story highlights the heroism of the Danish people and underground.

Buy it through my Amazon affiliate link: Number the Stars

Buy it through my BookShop affiliate link: https://bookshop.org/lists/world-war-ii-chapter-books-for-catholic-kids

Hilda Van Stockum’s The Winged Watchman is the perfect World War II resistance story: exciting, fast-paced, with a touch of sadness. The young Verhagen brothers get a once in a lifetime opportunity for heroism when they find a downed British pilot hiding in a windmill. Also contains a true story of how windmills were used for underground signaling during the war. A memorable story about a Catholic family’s efforts to save the innocent in Holland. 8-12 year olds.

Buy it through my Amazon affiliate link: The Winged Watchman

Moving to the Norwegian resistance, Snow Treasure retells the true story of how Swedish children helped smuggle the country’s gold out of the country to keep it from Nazi seizure. Great for 8-12 year olds.

Buy it through my Amazon affiliate link: Snow Treasure

Buy it through my Bookshop link: https://bookshop.org/lists/world-war-ii-chapter-books-for-catholic-kids

In Twenty and Ten, a group of 20 French Catholic schoolchildren get their chance to make a difference in the war when they’re asked to hide 10 Jewish children. A sweet story with a funny ending perfect for 8-12 year olds.

Buy it through my Amazon affiliate link: Twenty and Ten

Buy it through my BookShop link: https://bookshop.org/lists/world-war-ii-chapter-books-for-catholic-kids

In Italy, 12 year old Chico’s village becomes a headquarters for American soldiers during the last months of World War II. Chico’s friendship with the local monks and American soldiers will lead him into an unforgettable adventure.

Buy through my Amazon affiliate link: The Small War of Sergeant Donkey

Buy it through the publisher: https://bethlehembooks.com/

I Am David is the touching story of a 12 year old boy who has spent most of his memory in a death camp. Escaping, he travels across Europe with only his compass and wits to help him survive. 10 and older.

Buy through my Amazon affiliate link: I Am David

Buy through my Bookshop page: https://bookshop.org/lists/world-war-ii-chapter-books-for-catholic-kids

In Enemy Brothers, Nazi-raised Max finds his world turned upside down when he is returned to his English family. A great story about family love and its power to change hearts. 10 and older.

Buy it through my Amazon affiliate link: Enemy Brothers

In The Silver Sword (also published as Escape from Warsaw) three Polish children scramble to survive in the ruins of Warsaw. But unexpectedly they find purpose and hope when they learn their parents may have also survived the war. Now they just have to find them. 10 and older.

Buy through my Amazon affiliate link: The Silver Sword

The Mitchells: Five for Victory is a Homefront story about an American Catholic family whose five children help in their small ways to win the war and keep the house going. Read my full review here. Perfect for 8-12 year old readers or also great as a family read aloud.

Buy through my Amazon Affiliate link: Five for Victory

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Review of “The Mitchells” Series

The Mitchells Five for Victory

A Hilarious Read Aloud

Do you want to enjoy reading aloud to your children but sometimes feel bored with the standard childhood read aloud canon? Check out The Michells series by Hilda Van Stockum, a Catholic mom of six. In this semi-autobiographical series, Hilda Van Stockum perfectly captures the love, chaos, and hilarity of family life. It’s the perfect read aloud for parent and kids: the kids love the Mitchell children’s antics, and I laugh out loud in sympathy with the overwhelmed parents.

A Relatable Catholic Family

Any Anne of Green Gables fans out there? Do you remember the notoroious cake story and Anne’s early writing struggles? She only begins to achieve success when she begins writing about what she knows: small town life on the island.

Similarly, Hilda Van Stockum, a Catholic convert and mother, writes this absolutely charming series about what she knows: life with half a dozen Catholic children.

The Mitchells aren’t a perfect family. Kids break things, lose their siblings, and lose their tempers. But they take care of each other, they apologize, and they work together to keep the home fires burning during World War II.

The first book, The Mitchells: Five for Victory, has the least overtly Catholic content. But in the second book, Canadian Summer, you will see the family going to great lengths to attend Mass. Actually, Mother’s determination to bring the whole family to Mass despite no car, mud puddles, dusty roads, only two bikes, and runaway dogs is quite touching.

Meet the Mitchells

Joan is the responsible oldest girl who’s determined to keep all the children in line. Patsy is a dreamy artist. Peter’s a sturdy boy who feels responsible for protecting his sisters. Angela has the golden curls and blue eyes of an angel and makes more trouble than a houseful of animals. Timmy is a serious baby who bites everything.

Then there’s Granny, a delightful Dutchwoman who doesn’t let her age keep her from adventure. Mother is, refreshingly, an achingly realistic parent who rushes around distributing love and discipline in equal measures. Last but not least, there’s Father, who leaves to fight in World War II as Five for Victory begins with the parting admonition: “NO PETS!”

Of course, the family somehow ends up with a rabbit, some fish, a parrot, a kitten, a squirrel, and a dog by the last chapter…

Subsequent Books

In Canadian Summer, the Mitchells move to Canada. Housing is difficult to find, so Father optimistically rents a remote ski cabin miles inaccessible by road and without power. Mother is not pleased to put it mildly, but over the course of the summer the Mitchells all learn the grace of having less and make new French Canadian Catholic friends.

The last book, Friendly Gables, picks up years later with the oldest Mitchells children in high school. This one has more focus on school interactions and Joan coming of age so is generally more interesting for the 11+ crowd.

Where can I buy the books?

In addition to being a fantastic read aloud, the Mitchell series is a wonderful choice for a middle grade independent reader.

The Mitchells: Five for Victory and its sequels are kept in print by Catholic publisher Bethlehem Books. You can buy the books on their website. The best time to buy is when they run a 50% off sale, usually in November/December.

You can also buy the books through my affiliate links: Five for Victory, Canadian Summer, and Friendly Gables.

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Good News Book Shop: A Catholic Bookstore

Looking for an online Catholic Book Store to browse and support? Check out Good News Book Shop, a Catholic-owned online bookstore also that provides quality books for School Book Sales and Homeschool Fundraisers.

Good News Book Shop - Catholic books, Christian books and clean reads for kids and adults

What makes Good News Book Shop different? The owners are committed to only offering titles whose content is in line with our Catholic faith. You (or your kids) can safely peruse this book store without being bombarded with graphic or offensive titles.

You can find many of the books which I recommend for your family library at this online Catholic bookstore. Their pricing is affordable and they offer free shipping on orders over $35. I’m excited to use this Amazon alternative when I can.

Check out this sampling of favorites from my lists that are now available through this online Catholic bookstore! And stay tuned for Good News Book Shop to begin carrying more of the titles we love here at Good Books for Catholic Kids.

Children’s Classics

Adult Classics

Saint Books

Children’s Classics

The Boxcar Children Fully Illustrated Edition by Warner, Gertrude Chandler
The Wind in the Willows by Grahame, Kenneth
Around the World in Eighty Days by Verne, Jules
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Twain, Mark
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Twain, Mark
The Hobbit: Or, There and Back Again by Tolkien, J. R. R.
Anne of Green Gables by Montgomery, L. M.
The Railway Children by Nesbit, E.
The Red Badge of Courage by Crane, Stephen

Adult Classics

A Tale of Two Cities: A Story of the French Revolution by Dickens, Charles
Voyage to Alpha Centauri by O'Brien, Michael D.
Joan of Arc by Twain, Mark

Saint Books

A Soldier Surrenders: The Conversion of Saint Camillus de Lellis by Peek, Susan
Maximilian Kolbe: A Saint in Auschwitz by Vivier, Jean- Francois
Saint Francis of the Seven Seas by Nevins, Albert J.
Blessed Francisco Marto of Fatima by Cirrincione
Father Miguel Pro: A Modern Mexican Martyr by Muller, Gerald
Ablaze: Stories of Daring Teen Saints by Swaim, Colleen
Saints Chronicles Collection 5 by Sophia Institute Press
Francis and Clare, Saints of Assisi by Homan, Helen Walker
Lay Saints: Models of Family Life by Cruz, Joan Carroll

Check out these titles and more at Good News Book Shop!

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Review of “100 Cupboards” Series

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Synopsis

I’ll admit it: I actually enjoyed the 100 Cupboards books. This fast-paced series from N. D. Wilson has some good depth in terms of world-building and some great themes. The adventure begins when nervous, quirky 12 year old Henry discovers a wall of cupboards hidden behind the drywall in his uncle’s attic. With the help of his cousin Henrietta, he learns the secret of traveling to other worlds through the cupboards. In the process, he accidentally frees an evil sorceress, finds the world he came from, and is reunited with his long lost family. In the sequels, Dandelion Fire and The Chestnut King, Henry and his family fight the evil sorceress to save their world from destruction. Although I enjoyed this engaging series, I have a few reservations, especially considering the target audience age. This is a series where parents need to check their own comfort level with my “cons” list below.

Pros

One huge positive in 100 Cupboards is the unequivocal good versus evil theme. In a kids’ fantasy series, I appreciate Narnia-esque clear-cut villains. In 100 Cupboards, the antagonist is the terrible sorceress Nimiane. She wants to gain power by draining all living things of life. On the other side, you have Henry’s family trying to stop Nimiane in a desperate bid to save their world and protect their freedom.

My favorite theme in 100 Cupboards is the power of a loving family. Throughout his adventures, Henry is supported and empowered by his parents, aunt, uncles, grandmother, cousins, and siblings. In many ways, this series is a celebration of the special “magic” of a large, loving family network.

Another great theme is growth in virtues, especially courage. Henry is a timid 12 year old at the beginning of the series. His overprotective adoptive parents have kept him in bubble wrap his whole life. He can’t even throw a baseball. As the books progress, Henry grows tremendously in courage, resourcefulness, and unselfishness. He becomes a Christ figure in some ways, showing willingness to risk or lay down his life for his friends and family.

Cons

One negative in 100 Cupboards is the ambivalence about magic. There’s a ton of debate about “magic” in Catholic circles. Some of the arguments I’ve heard about magic include: magic is good, magic is always bad, magic is sometimes bad, magic is ambivalent, magic is from the devil, and magic is a type or use of natural wisdom. Unfortunately, I don’t know that there’s a clear cut answer to this question; different authors use the word “magic” to mean vastly different things, so really there’s no substitute here for a close reading of individual authors.

In 100 Cupboards, the magic question is far from clear cut, which is one reason I hesitate to hand it to the young audience. In the first book, magic is a dark power used by the witch and her minions. But in subsequent books, magic is also used to mean various things. For example, the word magic is also used for an innate power which Henry and some of his family possess to manipulate natural elements such as plants, wind, and water. And magic is also used to describe the fairen race’s special powers. Overall, this implies that in 100 Cupboards magic can refer to any type of unusual power.

Now here’s the pivotal point: there’s this evil object everyone is looking for in Book 3 since it’s the root source of Nimiane’s power: the Blackstar, an ancient orb which holds imprisoned dark jinns (demons, as far as I can tell). Henry eventually receives the Blackstar as part of a trade and uses it to help defeat the witch Nimiane, drawing strength from it, then hurling it into the witch. Now this, I didn’t see as a positive. It’s never a good lesson when the good character uses an evil object/means to attain a good end.

I was really disappointed that this was the resolution of the “defeat Nimiane” problem. I was all excited for a Christ-like sacrificial death for his family and friends (Henry was willing). Or even a tribute to the power of love: Henry defeating the witch with the help of his family’s love. Or better yet a simple good triumphs over evil: Henry defeats the witch because good is more powerful than evil. So that ending was a major bummer in my opinion and really undermines the other positives in 100 Cupboards.

Other negatives are mild sibling bickering and snotty behavior in book 1, and a decent amount of violence and suspense. The violence isn’t described graphically as a general rule. It’s mostly offscreen, along the lines of someone seeing the knife coming, then fade out. However, lots of people die, including some minor characters. There’s also quite a bit of suspense and scariness, including: a witch who drinks blood, witch dogs, possessed men with fingers growing out of their skulls, kidnapping, disturbing dreams, souls being separated from bodies, and Henry and his family frequently being in danger of imminent death.

In Conclusion

100 Cupboards has many positive aspects, countered by a few major negatives. I think it’s the sort of series that is often read at too young an age; it’s often recommended for children as young as 8, which I think too young for these type of themes and level of suspense. For older readers (11+ perhaps) it could be enjoyed with some parental discussion about the problem with the use of evil means to a good end. Or you could skip it, and enjoy some better fantasy series I wholeheartedly recommend. Check out my list Beyond Narnia: More Great Fantasy Series for Catholic Kids and Teens for ideas!

close up of rosary on table

Review of “The Catholic Treasury of Prayers and Verses”

"catholic treasury of prayers and verses"

Looking for the perfect prayer book for your 6-10 year old? You’ve found it!

The Catholic Treasury of Prayers and Verses is sure to delight both parents and children! This collection of beautiful prayers is complemented with tranquil illustrations to create the perfect prayer time companion for elementary schoolers.

Prayers both familiar and uncommon

I think this collection found a great balance between the classic prayers (Our Father, Apostles Creed, Hail Mary, Rosary instructions, etc) and lesser known prayers and Bible verses. You’ll find short prayers from St. Teresa Benedict of the Cross (Edith Stein), St. John Neumann, St. Ignatius of Loyola, and more!

Great to take to Mass or Adoration

My favorite section includes prayers before the Eucharist, perfect for before and after Communion and during Adoration. There’s the classic Anima Christi, and little known prayers from Padre Pio and St. Francis of Assisi. There’s also an act of spiritual communion children can use daily.

Accessible Size and High Quality Binding

At 55 pages, The Catholic Treasury of Prayers and Verses won’t intimidate children. The length of the prayers and beautiful page embellishments are carefully selected to hold the interest of the elementary school crowd. With the quality hardcover binding, this little book would make a great gift for a First Communicant!

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Disclaimer: I received a copy of “The Catholic Treasury of Prayers and Verses” from Emmaus Road Publishing in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.