person with toy airplane on world map

Around Europe in 20 Chapter Books

Europe map with chapter book covers

Tour Europe Through Living Books!

These 20 Classic Chapter books set in Europe capture the culture and flavor of life in a variety of European countries. Since most of us can’t travel the world right now in person, entering these countries through our imagination may be the next best option. Here’s my picks for a literary tour of Europe this summer!

Ireland

Visit the Emerald Isle and experience everyday life in The Cottage at Bantry Bay by Hilda Van Stockum.

Amazon affiliate link: The Cottage at Bantry Bay

England

In The Secret Garden, experience England for the first time through the eyes of Mary Lennox, a sickly child from India. Discover the magic of an English country garden and the moors.

Amazon affiliate link: The Secret Garden

England (Lake Country)

Join the Swallows and Amazons on their summer holidays in England’s beautiful lake country. Capture the flag, camp on a deserted island, and find some treasure in this classic.

Amazon afflink: Swallows and Amazons

Scotland

From the shores of Scotland to early America and back, this sweeping story of the Catholic persecution in Scotland includes realistic Scotch dialect and plenty of castles.

Amazon afflink: Outlaws of Ravenhurst

Sweden

Come join The Children of Noisy Village in life in a tiny Swedish village. Astrid Lindgren of Pippi Longstocking fame brings Sweden to life in this charming chapter book.

Amazon affiliate link: The Children of Noisy Village

Norway

Our part-Norwegian family love Snow Treasure: a true story of brave Norwegian children who smuggled their country’s treasure away from the Nazis on sleds.

Amazon affiliate link: Snow Treasure

Netherlands

In this sadly hard to find Newberry Medal winner, a group of Dutch schoolchildren bring their community together as they work to bring back the storks.

Amazon affiliate link: The Wheel on the School

Netherlands

Learn about windmills and the Dutch resistance in The Winged Watchman.

Amazon Affiliate link: The Winged Watchman

Denmark

In Number the Stars, a young Danish girl and her family embody the heroism of the Danish people who helped save almost all the Jewish citizens of their country during World War II.

Amazon affiliate link: Number the Stars

Poland

Enter the adventures and intrigues of medieval Poland with Josef in The Trumpeter of Krakow.

Amazon affiliate link: The Trumpeter of Krakow

Germany

The Grimm Brothers traveled through the Black Forest collecting the tales that are at the essence of the German soul.

Amazon affiliate link: Fairy Tales

France (Paris)

A homeless man meets three homeless children who take shelter under “his” bridge. An unlikely family emerges.

Amazon affiliate link: The Family Under the Bridge

France (Rural)

Twenty Catholic children living in the French mountains help save ten Jewish refugee children.

Amazon affiliate link: Twenty and Ten

Hungary

The Good Master takes you right into the heart of Hungary with a fantastic description of farm life, the countryside, the celebrations, and folk tale retellings.

Amazon Affiliate link: The Good Master

Switzerland

Everyone has to read Heidi, of course!

Amazon affiliate link: Heidi

Switzerland/Alps

This fantastic book about a boy determined to scale a mountain to fulfill his father’s dream brings the Alps to life in all their majesty and danger.

Amazon affiliate link: Banner in the Sky

Austria

Come visit the White Stallion of Lipizza at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna.

Amazon affiliate link: White Stallion of Lipizza

Italy (Northern)

A boy and his donkey work to save the local monastery and an American soldier during World War II.

Amazon affiliate link: The Small War of Sergeant Donkey

Italy (Southern)

Everyone is terrified of a cursed grotto; everyone but the mysterious strangers who are determined to uncover its secrets. A story of the discovery of the famed blue grotto of Capri.

Amazon affiliate link: Red Sails to Capri

Greece

Travel back to the days of Greek heroes with Padraic Colum in the iconic Golden Fleece.

Amazon affiliate link: The Golden Fleece: And the Heroes Who Lived Before Achilles

Enjoyed this visit to Europe in chapter books? Check out more great books for Catholic kids on My Book lists!

duckling on black soil during daytime

The Best Farm Animal Picture Books

In the last month, we’ve added three dwarf goats, two giant dogs, and nine loud ducklings to our farm. Farm animals are so funny and heartwarming; it’s little wonder that so many children’s classics feature these furry and feathery friends. I thought in honor of all our new animal friends, I’d share some of our favorite farm animal picture books.

These picture books about farm animals combine beautiful illustrations with stories old and new. Enjoy fables and folk tales, funny stories, and classics favorites all about our favorite fuzzy and feathery farm friends.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. This simply means that I receive a small payment for purchases through my affiliate links at no additional cost to you.

Love Garth Williams classic Little House on the Prairie illustrations? Check out Baby Farm Animals for his adorable versions of baby farm animals.

In Charlie the Ranch Dog, meet lovable farm dog Charlie, his friend Susie, the troublesome cattle, and the sneaky chipmunk. There are several equally fun sequels about ranch life, like Charlie and the New Baby in which Charlie and his family rescue a lost calf and reunite it with its mother.

Text from Margaret Wise Brown, and illustrations by award-winning Jerry Pinkney: what could be better? A Home in the Barn follows the coming of winter and all the animals large and small who find shelter in a barn.

Kids love the simple rhythmic text of the Little Blue Truck books. In the original, Little Blue picks up all the farm animals and even does a grumpy passerby a good turn. A celebration of teamwork.

Five o’clock Charlie may be old, but he doesn’t want to just sit in a field all day. He feels useless until one day he finds a new job and new friends at a nearby inn.

Based on the author’s life on an English sheep farm, Days on the Farm is a collection of short stories that capture sheep farm life. Gorgeous watercolor illustrations we just love.

In Tractor Mac Arrives at the Farm, you’ll meet Tractor Mac, Sibley the Horse, Pete and Paul the Pigs, and all the animals on Stony Meadow Farm. One of our favorite farm series, we particularly enjoy the detailed diagrams of farm equipment at beginning and end of each book.

Farm Morning is a simple but lovely story about a father and daughter’s morning routine on their farm.

This is unquestionably a farm animal favorite at our house. Alice and Martin Provenson describe all Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm in a humorous and memorable fashion.

Lois Lenski’s The Little Farm is an adorable board book about Farmer Small and his day on the farm.

Paul Galdone’s memorable illustrations recapture the charm of classic farm animal folk tales like The Little Red Hen and The Three Billy Goats Gruff.

My favorite version of The Three Billy Goats Gruff is Jerry Pinkney’s Caldecott version. The troll in this one is a wee bit scary for very littles though!

If you love Margaret Wise Brown’s well-known Good Night Moon, you’ll also love Big Red Barn, her gentle farm animal story.

You probably know I adore James Herriot’s stories for adults. James Herriot’s Treasury for Children takes some of his gentlest tales and pairs them with lovely illustrations to keep children’s interest. These stories are longer, so best for a child with a good attention span.

Sensitive child warning: in the Christmas story, the mama cat does die in the beginning of the story, though there is a happy ending.

These cute woolies get into all sorts of mischief in Sheep Take a Hike and Sheep in a Jeep. We enjoy the fun frolics and rhythmic text.

Cowpoke Clyde and Dirty Dawg are sure to make you and your child laugh. Clyde wants a bath, Dawg sure doesn’t. This is a fun and funny read aloud.

The littlest listeners love the idea of a farmful of animals getting a ride in a dump tuck! The Happy Man and His Dump Truck is one of those good old classic Little Golden Books.

What happens when one boy brings his pet boa constrictor on a field trip to a farm? Find out in The Day Jimmy’s Boa Ate the Wash.

To find more great book recommendations, check out My Book Lists!

red flower near white flower during daytime

Review of “The Good Master”

The Good Master

Although only time will tell what books of the last century last through the centuries as true classics, I’ll venture to predict Kate Seredy’s The Good Master and The Singing Tree will be on that short list. Hungarian born Kate Seredy was a brilliant children’s author who lived from 1899-1975. She wrote prolifically and was also a talented artist who illustrated her own books. My favorite books by Seredy are the The Good Master and its sequel. Both books were Newberry Honor books and much lauded. Best of all, these books tell an engaging story: a story about two cousins and a farm and a war and a lost way of life. They’re a window that gives a glimpse into the early twentieth century your family will never forget.

These books are living history at its best!

The Good Master tells a simple story of Hungarian farm life in the early twentieth century. Jansci’s father is a successful farmer known far and wide as “The Good Master” for his gentle but firm way with animals and children. When Jansci’s difficult city cousin Kate comes to visit, the peaceful farm life is thoroughly shaken up. But in the end, the magic of animals, country life, and never ending family love cure Kate of her willfulness. Mostly. This first book showcases the simple beauty of country life and the Hungarian traditions throughout the year.

In sharp contrast, The Singing Tree begins with the advent of The Great War: World War I. Jansci and Kate are barely in their teens, but suddenly having to take charge of the farm as Jansci’s father must leave for war. In this sequel, Seredy draws a poignant picture of the challenges the impoverished Hungarian farmers and peasants faced, their confusion about the war, and how they survived by helping one another. This book, though sad, is even more beautiful than The Good Master. If you’re studying the early twentieth century or World War I, The Singing Tree is a must-read.

Anything parents should be aware of?

No violence, sexual content, language, and so on. These books are squeaky clean and beautifully written! There is some dramatic tension in the second book about whether Jansci’s father will come home. Other soldiers from their village die in the war. There are orphans and homeless who shelter on Jansci’s farm. Undeniably, the Singing Tree is a very sad book at times. But it’s also a story of strength and courage and heroic charity. I recommend reading these books in the middle grades, around age 10-12. But like true classics, they’re very enjoyable read aloud as a family also!

You can buy The Good Master through my Amazon affiliate link: The Good Master and The Singing Tree.

For more great books for Middle Grade kids, check out My Book Lists, especially:

mount rushmore

American Revolutionary War Chapter Books for Catholic Kids

Living History Books blend fiction and historical events in a unique way that captures kids’ interest. The chapter books on this list are a great springboard for getting your kids interested in learning more about the American Revolutionary War and the great men who helped found our country!

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. This simply means that I will receive a small fee if you buy through my link at no additional cost to you.

Ben and Me American Revolutionary War

Ben and Me is a unique biography of Benjamin Franklin, cleverly written by his trusty sidekick Amos the Mouse. This book is hilarious, memorable, and easy to read. Perfect for 8-10 year olds.

Mr. Revere and I
American Revolutionary War Chapter book

Scheherazade the chesnut Mare used to belong to a cruel British officer. When she begins a new life with Paul Revere she ends up playing a pivotal role in helping the American patriots when Paul makes his famous ride to sound the alarm. After your children read Mr. Revere and I, your whole family can enjoy reading Longfellow’s fantastic poem Paul Revere’s Ride aloud.

On the other side of the Atlantic, George III of England seemingly inexplicable treatment of the American colonists gets a fresh look in Can’t You Make Them Behave, King George? Newberry Winning author Jean Fritz draws on amusing anecdotes of King George’s childhood to help children understand this man who drove a country to revolt.

10 year old Ellen bravely takes her ailing grandfather’s place in a dangerous spy mission to help the American patriots in Toliver’s Secret. A thrilling story of a shy girl’s courage and patriotism.

The Childhood of Famous Americans series has over 50 volumes that teach history through engagingly writing about the childhood and young adulthood of famous Americans. For a Revolutionary War character study, I recommend their biographies of George Washington, Martha Washington, and Benjamin Franklin.

The Reb and the Redcoats follows the American Revolution from the perspective of a British family. When they are forced to house an American POW, it changes everyone’s perspective. A thought-provoking book that gives “both sides” of the story.

The Minute Boys of Lexington and The Minute Boys of Bunker Hill are by the author of The Hardy Boys! These old classics bring alive the story of the Minute Men and several famous American Revolutionary War battles.

Guns for General Washington retells the story of a courageous 19 year old who transported 183 guns across a state to help General Washington win an important battle in Boston.

In True to the Old Flag, prolific historical fiction writer G. A. Henty focuses on a young British soldier’s experiences fighting in America and Canada during World War II. I found this book gave a fascinating and often unheard perspective, focusing on the Loyalist American arguments and the British cooperation with the Native Americans. 10+

Johnny Tremain is a young silversmith who tragically injures his hand, ending his budding career. But soon, he finds himself working for the Patriot newspapers and being drawn into the fight for independence. 10+

A centuries old feud and some friendly ghosts lead orphaned Peggy on a journey back in time to interact with her American Revolutionary War ancestors. A touch of mystery, a touch of Romance, and a lot of masterful historical fiction make The Sherwood Ring a favorite of mine. 12+

Looking for more living history chapter books? Check out my list of World War II Chapter Books or my other books lists:

shiny monstrance in catholic church

Good Books to give First Communicants

May is First Communion time for many families across the country! Looking for a gift for your First Communicant, or a First Communicant you know? Here are some of my favorite books to gift on this very special occasion!

Bibles & Catechism

The Action Bible is a sure-fire way to get an 8 year old obsessed with reading the Bible. My 8 year old knows the Old Testament prophets better than I do, really.

Buy it through Amazon affiliate link: The Action Bible

The Catechism of the Seven Sacraments, or “The Lego Catechism” as my kids call it, can’t help but be a hit with the 7-8 year old crowd. This fantastic resource ties together Biblical history, Catechism, and Legos together in a fun and memorable way.

Buy it through Good News Book Shop: The Catechism of the Seven Sacraments

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My First Communion Bible (White) by Benedict

This children’s New Testament includes a forward by Father Benedict Groeschel. 26 Bible stories from the New Testament invite the child to know Jesus better.

Buy through Good News Book Shop: My First Communion Bible

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Looking for a more traditionally illustrated, simpler Bible? The Illustrated Catholic Children’s Bible has your basic Bible stories told in a simple and easy to read format for your younger First Communicant.

Buy it through Good News Book Shop: The Complete Illustrated Children’s Bible

Buy it through Amazon aff link: Catholic Children’s Illustrated Bible

Prayer Books

Through the Year with Jesus: Gospel Readings and Reflections for Children

I’m a huge fan of this book of Gospel Readings and Reflections for Children. I love that it combines Lectio Divina and Visio Divina into a simple and effective devotional kids can understand. Check out my full review here! ADD

Buy it through Good News Book Shop: Through the Year with Jesus

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This lovely hardcover prayer book makes a great gift for a First Communicant with its section of Eucharistic prayers. Perfect for reading before or after Mass. Full review here.

Buy it through my Amazon affiliate link: The Catholic Treasury of Prayers and Verses

My First Holy Communion: Prayers for a Lifetime by Piper, Sophie

This keepsake book has lovely watercolor illustrations and prayers on a wide variety of topics.

Buy it through Good News Book Shop: My First Holy Communion

‘Buy it through my Amazon Affiliate link: My First Holy Communion

A small traditional prayer book perfect for little hands to carry to Mass or for slipping in a purse.

Buy it through my Amazon affiliate link: The Catholic Children’s Prayer Book

Religious Fiction and More

This beautifully illustrated picture book tells a legend about a town that had lost faith in the miracle of the Eucharist… until a miracle occurs in the town bakery.

Buy it through Good News Book Shop: The Weight of a Mass

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The King of the Golden City is a lovely allegory by Mother Mary Loyola that helps children understand readying their hearts for Jesus. There are two editions: the original that appeals more to girls and a special edition for boys.

Buy the original edition through my Amazon affiliate link: The King of the Golden City

Buy the boys’ edition: The King of the Golden City: Special Edition for Boys

Life of Our Lord for Children, A | Catholic Books Direct

A Life of Our Lord for Children by Marigold Hunt is a story-like telling of Jesus’ life, ministry, establishment of His Church on earth, and death.

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Heavenly Hosts tells the stories of real Eucharistic miracles! Kids will love learning about the power of the Eucharistic through these stories.

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Patron Saint of First Communicants: The Story of Blessed Imelda Lambertini by Windeatt, Mary Fabyan

Did you know Blessed Imelda is the patron saint of First Communicants? Learn all about her in this book from Mary Fabyan Windeatt.

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Saints Chronicles Collection 1 by Sophia Institute Press

The Saint Chronicles series now has 5 exciting and vibrantly illustrated volumes. These books are “cool” even to kids who usually don’t like reading!

Buy through Good News Book Shop: The Saints Chronicles

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My Path to Heaven is a fantastic meditative book that introduces children to Visio Divina and Ignatian spirituality.

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Buy it through my Amazon affiliate link: My Path to Heaven: A Young Person’s Guide to the Faith

Made for Greatness is a one of a kind journal that encourages 8-12 year olds to develop a positive growth mindset. By reading about recent saints and using journaling prompts, kids will gain confidence and develop habits they can be proud of. Check out my full review here.

Buy it through my affiliate link: Made for Greatness: A Growth Mindset Journal for Courageous Catholic Youth

black horse running on grass field with flowers

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.

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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.

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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.

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

hush little horsie cover

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

snow landscape water weather

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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aerial photography of snow covered trees

20 Beautiful Winter Picture Books

We were blessed with the magic of a white Christmas this year, so I’m in hte mood to share some beautiful winter picture books! Here’s some of my family’s favorite winter picture books that celebrate the beauty of snowy winter wonderlands.

stopping by woods on a snowy evening

A lovely poem by Robert Frost with serene illustrations by Susan Jeffers: what could be better? The whole family can enjoy this beautiful book.

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We just love Jim LaMarche’s magical illustrations that capture the wonder of the tail end of fall and beginning of winter. A little girl observes animals preparing for winter in the wild as she sketches in her nature journal.

Affiliate link: Winter Is Coming

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Who doesn’t love Margaret Wise Brown’s rhythmic text in A Home in the Barn? Jerry Pinkney’s detailed illustrations capture the warmth of the farm animals hunkered down for the cold season.

Affiliate link: A Home in the Barn

The Little Fir Tree is another Margaret Wise Brown illustrated beautifully by Jim LaMarche. This touching story captures the love of a father who digs up a live tree for his bedridden son to bring Christmas magic indoors.

Affiliate link: The Little Fir Tree

This sweet and simple story captures a father and daughter’s special sled ride On a Wintry Morning.

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A very curious child goes exploring with his parents to discover what happens to all his animal friends When Winter Comes.

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An adorable red fox wanders through the forest asking the other animals how to get ready for winter in Winter Dance.

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Read these fun acrostics with your child as you explore the winter wonderland in the pages.

Affiliate link: Winter: An Alphabet Acrostic

In The Tomten, beloved Swedish author Astrid Lindgren gives children a charming little story about a Tomten who whispers to the farm animals that winter will pass and spring will come again.

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Who doesn’t love Jan Brett’s gorgeous detailed illustrations? We love her hedgehog stories, all set in winter: The Snowy Nap, The Hat, and Hedgie’s Surprise.

Brett has many more charming stories with dazzling winter artwork such as: The Mitten, Cinders: A Chicken Cinderella, Cozy, The Three Snow Bears, Annie and the Wild Animals, Trouble with Trolls, and Christmas Trolls.

A little boy and his family take a moonlight hike to decorate a Christmas tree with snacks for the wild animals in Night Tree.

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Snow tells children about the different types of snow with a lyrical flow and beautiful snowflake close ups.

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Kevin Henkes’ simple picture book portrays kids and animals enjoying old-fashioned snow play.

Affiliate link: Winter Is Here

I hope you enjoy these beautiful wintery picture books! If you are looking for Christmas-specific picture books, check out my list Good Christmas Books for Catholic Kids.

wrapped presents

Book Lovers’ Christmas Gift Guide 2020

Recommendations for the best quality books to gift this Christmas season! By age and category!

Jump to a category:

Picture Books

Early Elementary

Middle Grade

Tweens and Teens

Adults

Family

Favorite Picture Book Gifts

Saint Story

A beautifully illustrated picture book with an equally beautiful theme about lying, reparation, and forgiveness. Read my full review here!

Affiliate link: St. Conrad and the Wildfire

Christmas Books
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Here’s a brand new Christmas book so you can be sure they won’t already have it! A simple book with a nice theme about spiritual blindness and the power of a little kindness.

Affiliate link: The Grumpy Old Ox

We love this reworking of the beloved Christmas poem. Twas the Evening of Christmas reclaims the traditional Christmas story while keeping the familiar rhythm children love in The Night Before Christmas.

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For more of my favorite Christmas picture books, check out my list: Good Christmas Books for Catholic Kids!

Classics

Little Annie dearly wants a new friend after her cat Taffy disappears. Despite her best efforts, she finds the forest animals unmanagable. Fortunately, Taffy comes home in time for spring.

Affiliate link: Annie and the Wild Animals

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Dogger always makes me cry, in a good way. Dave loses his favorite stuffed animal, and his older sister gets it back with an act of sacrifice.

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The Brambly Hedge stories are completely charming with the cutest detailed illustrations. This collection is quality hardcover.

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Recently Published:
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Our Lady’s Wardrobe is a gorgeous introduction to various Marian Apparitions. With a hardcover and high-quality artwork, this book makes a great gift. Full review here: Review of “Our Lady’s Wardrobe”

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Poetry Collection

Shirley Hughes is a wonderful British author and illustrator. Out and About is a collection of her poetry about the changing seasons. Follow a little girl and her brother through the year in poems.

Affiliate link: Out and About: A First Book of Poems

Favorite Early Elementary Books Gifts

Saint/Religious Book:
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The “Along the paths of the Gospel” series of Saint stories are wonderful for young readers with only a couple sentences per page and beautiful illustrations. They can be hard to find, but Seton Educational media has some for sale right now.

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In The Adventures of Loupio, a young boy encounters St. Francis of Assisi and his life is transformed. This simple graphic novel series particularly delights young boys.

Affiliate link: The Adventures of Loupio

Christmas Book:
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This beautifully illustrated newly published Christmas books retells a Eastern European legend about a spider who saves Christmas.

Affiliate link: The Spider Who Saved Christmas

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The Miracle of Saint Nicholas is a heart-warming story of a community coming together to create a miraculous Christmas. One of my very favorites.

Affiliate link: The Miracle of Saint Nicholas

Classics:

The Children of Noisy Village play hard, fight occasionally, and always entertain. These charming tales from beloved Swedish author Astrid Lindgren are sure to be a hit with their short chapters and vivid descriptions of village life.

Affiliate link: The Children of Noisy Village

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Jenny and the Cat Club is part of the classics about a little black cat named Jenny’s many adventures. Short chapters and simple stories.

Affiliate link: Jenny and the Cat Club

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Prince Martin is a brave young lad who wins his sword by courage and loyalty. Full review of this awesome contemporary series here: Review of the “Prince Martin” Books

Affiliate link: Prince Martin Wins His Sword

Favorite Middle Grade Books Gifts

Saint Book:

The five volumes of The Saints Chronicles tell the stories of over 25 saints both ancient and modern in a compelling way. The bold graphic novel art style really captures the attention of 8-12 year olds!

Affiliate links: Saints Chronicles Collection 1, Saints Chronicles Collection 2, Saints Chronicles Collection 3, Saints Chronicles Collection 4, and Saints Chronicles Collection 5

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I love Mary Fabyan Windeatt’s Saint biographies! This set has all 20 of her classic books for youth.

Affiliate link: Mary Fabyan Windeatt 20 Book Set

Christmas Book:
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J. R. R. Tolkien’s Letters from Father Christmas were one of my favorite Christmas season reads growing up. Kids who love the Hobbit will be delighted with these!

Affiliate link: Letters From Father Christmas

Classics:

The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald is a fairy tale for older kids. This book with its deep symbolism and evil goblins inspired both Lewis and Tolkien!

Affiliate link: The Princess and the Goblin

Little Britches and his family’s experiences farming in the rural west a century ago will fascinate today’s children. Complete with round-ups, rodeos, natural disasters, and beautiful scenery, it’s hard to believe these books are autobiographical!

Affiliate link: Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers

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Check out one of my favorite publishers, Bethlehem Books, for an amazing assortment of historical fiction titles for hte middle grades, all wonderful classics. Some notable series on their site include: The Mitchells series, The Bantry Bay Books, The Letzenstein Chronicles, The Drover’s Road Books, and the Fairchild Family series.

Favorite Gift Books for Teens and Tweens

Religious:

Here’s a saint book modern teens can relate too: one about teens like them! Stories of 8 teenage saints from around the world.

Affiliate link: Ablaze: Stories of Daring Teen Saints

The Shadow of His Wings is Fr. Goldman’s incredible story of his ordination to the priesthood while serving as an unwilling Nazi soldier. Amazing memoir from a great priest, sure to make a deep impact on teens.

Affiliate link: The Shadow of His Wings: The True Story of Fr. Gereon Goldmann, OFM

The Plans God has for You is an uplifting little book perfect for the teenage girl in your life! Full review here: Review of “The Plans God Has for You”

Affiliate link: The Plans God Has for You: Hopeful Lessons for Young Women

Classics:

How about a nice edition of a classic series? I love these gorgeous hard-cover editions!

Every teenage girl must read Austen as an inoculation against unsuitable young men! Love this beautiful matched edition!

Affiliate link: Jane Austen: The Complete Works

Here’s another set every teen should own! What better story than The Lord of the Rings to give us hope these days?

Affiliate link: Lord Of The Rings Boxed Set

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C. S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy is a perennial favorite with teens. Some editions have unfortunate covers, so buy all 3 volumes of the Scribner edition for the most visually appealing collection.

Affiliate link: Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength

Favorite Gift Books for Adults

Christmas:

This gorgeous newly published cookbook/coffee table book is sure to delight. Full review here: Review of “The Vatican Christmas Cookbook”

Affiliate link: The Vatican Christmas Cookbook

Advent:

Kendra Tierney’s newest book is the hit of the season this year. In O Come, Emmanuel Tierney brings her years of mothering wisdom to a family-friendly Jesse Tree guide.

Affiliate link: O Come, Emmanuel

Religious:

Any philosophy or theology lover will enjoy this collection of 8 of Lewis’s most popular works including The Four Loves and The Screwtape Letters.

Affiliate link: The C. S. Lewis Signature Classics

Ever silently wondered about the point of the Responsorial Psalms? Fr. Hanson offers a convicting and helpful perspective to understanding and praying the Psalms. I really enjoyed this little book.

Affiliate link: Praying from the Depths of the Psalms

Classics:

Who doesn’t love James Herriot’s heart-warming stories of life as a country vet in the beautiful Yorkshire dales?

Affiliate link: James Herriot Box Set

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Till We Have Faces is Lewis’s last and perhaps greatest achievement. A simple myth with complex layers of meaning, this book appeals to a wide range of interests.

Affiliate link: Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold

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Anything Chesterton always comes highly recommended on this blog! The Everlasting Man is Chesterton’s sweeping look at how all history leads to the coming of Christ.

Affiliate link: The Everlasting Man by G K Chesterton

Comedy:

For light comedic relief, Wodehouse can’t be beat. The Code of the Woosters is Wodehouse at his best with the hilarious Jeeves-Wooster duo. If you prefer audiobooks, the Jonathan Cecil narrations are spot-on.

Affiliate link: The Code of the Woosters

Contemporary:
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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a modern classic. The historical fiction is exceptionally well done, the characters memorable, and the story pulls on the heart strings.

Affiliate link: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Favorite Family Gifts

For the whole family, I love quality hardcover collections like these!

Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women books are wonderful read alouds for the whole family. These gorgeous hardcovers are sure to be treasured.

Affiliate link: Juniper Books Little Women Book Set

This beautifully designed edition of The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and The Silmarillion is my favorite set!

Affiliate link: Juniper Books Lord of The Rings: The Complete Writings Five-Volume Book Set

My paperback copies of The Chronicles of Narnia are literally falling apart. Any family will love these hardcover copies that will hold up to frequent reading.

Affiliate link: The Chronicles of Narnia | Seven-Volume Hardcover Book Set

An Anthology of Intriguing Animals is a not-too-expensive coffee table style hardcover full of eye-catching animal drawings and fun facts.

Affiliate link: An Anthology of Intriguing Animals

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28 Favorite Books for Catholic Book Clubs

Would it surprise you to learn I don’t have a single favorite book of all time? As any true bibliophile knows, asking a book worm to choose a favorite book is like asking a parent to pick a favorite child. It’s just not done.

Even choosing a list of favorites is almost impossible. The only way I can pick favorites is by having a clear purpose. So here you have my favorite books for Catholic book clubs. You’ll find a mix of classics and modern classics and a few quirky little known titles. In a book club, the main criterion is that the book provokes a good discussion, so don’t be surprised to see controversial titles on here!

7 Classic Books for your Book Club

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Evelyn Waugh’s classic story about Charles Ryder’s unexpected conversion is sure to spark a lively discussion. Does he convert due to the troubled Catholic family he meets or despite them?

Buy it through my affiliate link: Brideshead Revisited

Wendell Berry’s Hannah Coulter is a lovely, thoughtful social commentary on the evolution and disappearance of family farming over the course of one woman’s life. Bittersweet and thought-provoking, this is one of the best books I read this year.

Buy it through my affiliate link: Hannah Coulter

This accessible Russian classic is a lengthy but very rewarding story of sin and redemption.

Buy it through my affiliate link: Crime and Punishment

Love it or hate it, Kristin Lavansdatter is a Scandinavian classic. Every woman identifies with some of Kristin’s struggles, joys, sins, disappointments, and atonement.

Buy it through my affiliate link: Kristin Lavransdatter

Steinbeck’s East of Eden is a sweeping American generational story. His very realistic characters plumb the depths of sin yet show the flashes of grace in everyday life. For a much shorter yet equally gripping Steinbeck novel, try The Pearl.

Buy it through my affiliate link: East of Eden and The Pearl

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Consider Golden Age of Mystery detective story writers like Dorothy Sayers or Agatha Christie for a lighter classic book club pick. Gaudy Night is often called Dorothy Sayers’ best work. Agatha Christie said one of her favorite mysteries was Crooked house.

Buy them through my affiliate links: Gaudy Night and Crooked House

Here’s an early example of dystopian literature that is particularly relevant today. Bradbury’s creepy yet captivating story about freedom of speech and thought is as timely now as when it was published.

Buy it through my affiliate link: Fahrenheit 451

7 Christian Classics for your Book club

A love story, a conversion story, and a story of loss: this book is complex and beautiful. Perfect for fans of C. S. Lewis!

Buy it through my affiliate link: A Severe Mercy

Speaking of C. S. Lewis, one of my favorite books is his retelling of the Cupid and Psyche myth in Till We Have Faces. This book inspired one of the best discussion nights at my book club!

Buy it through my affiliate link: Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold

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One more C. S. Lewis book! If you are looking for a shorter allegorical type book, The Great Divorce is a fine contribution to the tradition of spiritual journey books such as The Divine Comedy.

Buy it through my affiliate link: The Great Divorce

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Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy and In this House of Brede are two Rumer Godden books guaranteed to thrill and surprise you. Soaring stories with deep insight into human nature. Check out my review of Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy here!

Buy through my affiliate link: Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy and In this House of Brede

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G. K. Chesterton’s name is synonymous with perfect paradoxes and incredible ingenuity in imagination in the best literary circles. For a first foray into this masterful Catholic writer’s fiction, try Manalive or The Man Who was Thursday. For non-fiction, I recommend trying The Everlasting Man.

Buy through my affiliate link: Manalive, The Man Who Was Thursday, The Everlasting Man

The beloved Little Way of St. Therese of Lisieux is brought to Catholics in a reader-friendly meditation style in I Believe in Love. This makes a lovely book to read during Lent, Advent, or any time you desire a spiritual classic.

Buy through my affiliate link: I Believe in Love

Caryll Houselander’s The Reed of Godis one of the most lovely and transformative Marian books I’ve ever read.

Buy it through my affiliate link: The Reed of God

7 Non-fiction Titles for your Book Club

Quiet was a transformative book for me in accepting and even embracing my identity as an introvert. I recommend it for a book club that likes science-backed books. Introverted Mom is a similar introvert-focused book with a more personal, feelings-based flavor. For a full review of Introverted Mom click here!

Buy either through my affiliate link: Quiet and Introverted Mom

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The Girl with the Seven Names is a saddening, surprising, enlightening book about what it’s really like to grow up in North Korea. This is a great contemporary book pick that highlights current day issues.

Buy through my affiliate link: The Girl with Seven Names

I’ve read most of Malcolm Gladwell’s books with great interest. You may find yourself disagreeing with his conclusions at times, but Outliers, Blink, and his other books are fascinating and may startle you out of preconceptions about how success is achieved, how we make decisions, and more.

Buy through my affiliate links: Outliers: The Story of Success and Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks highlights ethical and racial issues in American medicine. Sure to generate a spirited discussion!

Buy through my affiliate link: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Boys in the Boat is a quintessential American success story about nine working class young men who are determined to beat the odds and win a rowing gold in the 1936 Olympics.

Buy through my affiliate link: The Boys in the Boat

J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy is a modern day Cinderella story. This young man from a broken, addiction-ridden family succeeded in attending Harvard Law. Vance’s thought-provoking take on Appalachian America problems is balanced by his obvious love for his region and family. Quite a bit of language and domestic violence.

Buy through my affiliate link: Hillbilly Elegy

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Educated is another memoir about a girl from a dysfunctional family who achieved academic success. Lots to discuss in this controversial memoir! Check out my full review here! Trigger warning: domestic violence.

Buy through my affiliate link: Educated: A Memoir

7 Contemporary Fiction Titles for your Book Club

A Man Called Ove is one of those books that sticks with you long after you’ve closed the cover. An isolated elderly man has just decided to commit suicide when his friendly neighbors move in and turn his life upside down. A little crass, some language, but still very worth reading.

Buy it through my affiliate link: A Man Called Ove

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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is quickly becoming a modern day classic. This charming story pulls at your heart strings, and every book club will love the themes about books changing the course of peoples’ lives.

Buy it through my affiliate link: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

A Russian aristocrat is told he must live the rest of his life in a luxury hotel. Great themes about friendship, isolation, civility, and community.

Buy through my affiliate link: A Gentleman in Moscow: A Novel

This lyrical bestseller by Delia Owens is such a beautifully written book I had to include it despite some reservations. Pros: gripping coming of age story about an isolated child in the swamps; beautiful language and tribute to the beauty of creation. Cons: unnecessary sensuality and sex scene, not integral to plot and easily skipped.

Buy through my affiliate link:

Where the Crawdads Sing

The Nightingale is a book that delves deep into the horror of life in occupied France during World War II. But it’s also a celebration of the strength and courage of the French women who helped win the war in diverse ways.

Trigger warning: lots of violence, rape, a little language.

Buy through my affiliate link: The Nightingale: A Novel

One last WWII novel! All the Light We Cannot See is a fascinating story about two children, one French and one German, growing up in the years leading up to WWII. A clever juxtaposition of their points of view carries the story towards their inevitable meeting in occupied France.

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In this unexpected novel by a Spanish author, a typical young woman comes to an eccentric town that seems to exist outside of (or in spite of) the modern world. Lots to unpack in this book about distributism, classical education, the role of women and men, and more.

Buy through my affiliate link: The Awakening of Miss Prim: A Novel

To buy these books through Bookshop, a website that supports indpendent bookshops, check out my affiliate page there: https://bookshop.org/lists/book-club-picks-4625ebbd-eec9-421b-bf20-91cbf1cbd5a2