Review of “The Melendy Quartet”

Recently, I’ve been sharing one of my childhood favorites with my 7 and 9 year olds at read-aloud time. I love everything I’ve ever read by Elizabeth Enright, but The Melendy Quartet holds a special place in my heart. In a truly unique way, these books capture the magic and wonder of a childhood lived with reasonable freedom and endless imagination.

Meet the Melendy Quartet

In The Satudays, you meet the four Melendy children: Mona, who can’t wait to grow up; Rush, who plays the piano remarkably well; dreamy and creative Randy; and young Oliver, full of curiosity and determination. You see the streets of mid-nineteenth century New York City through their eyes as they venture forth singly and together in a series of magnificent adventures. You’ll love how these children have the capacity to listen and learn from the adults they meet, whether it’s an old French aristocrat or a Bronx hairdresser with a big personality.

But it’s in The Four Story Mistake that the Melendy adventures really come to life with the family’s move to an eccentrically constructed old house in the country. In this book and its sequel And Then There Five, the Melendy kids enjoy the freedom of country life and make new friends young and old. Building their own swimming pool, trying to surprise the adults by doing all the canning alone, helping an orphan, and building tree houses are just a smattering of their excitements.

Spiderweb for Two is my absolute favorite and, sadly, the end of the series. With the older Melendy kids away at boarding school, Randy and Oliver look forward to a dismal year alone. But then a mysterious blue letter comes with a riddle that starts them on a rollicking book-long treasure hunt from clue to clue and adventure to adventure.

Why We Love Them

My kids immediately fell in love with these books and the characters. Elizabeth Enright creates real kids, kids you could see meeting at your local park, in the four Melendys. They’re quirky and creative and fun.

The Melendy kids show us that having a curious mind and an imagination can make everyday life intriguing whether you live in the city or country. They teach today’s kids that you don’t need video games or cell phones to have heaps of fun. Adventure isn’t in a screen; it’s outside your doorstep.

These books also celebrate sibling relationships without glossing over the inevitable squabbles that come with living in close proximity. Despite their occasional quarrels, the Meledy kids find genuine joy in being together and go out of their way, as in Spiderweb for Two, to show each other they care.

They’re beautifully clean and content-free. The only violence is that in And Then There Were Five, the kids befriend Mark Herron, a boy who lives with a mean relative. Said mean relative dies in a fire eventually; no graphic description.

I recommend them as a read aloud for 7-9 year old or for independent reading at 8-12 years old.

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

If you’re looking for more great books for Middle Grade Readers, check out my lists: 60 Classic Books For Middle Grade Boys and 50 Classic Books that Middle Grade Girls Love!

white and brown animals near fence

Homesteading Picture Books

In 2019 our family made the big decision to leave military life and settle down to live in our homestate and start a small homesteading style farm. The last year and a half have been a whirlwind of planting, building, and learning. Many sheep, goats, ducks, dogs, and cats later, we’re thriving and so is the farm! Part of the joy of farm life for me has been discovering new (mostly old actually) homesteading picture books that capture the joy of farm life. Here are some of the homesteading picture books that we’ve grown to love this last year!

Homeplace is a wonderful exploration of a 6 generation farmstead. Each spread describes and pictures how the farm changed as each generation added on to the tiny log cabin and expanded farming operations.

Ox-Cart Man features pictures by the marvelous Barbara Cooney. This story follows a homestead family through the year as they grow and prepare products for the yearly market visit.

Yonder is a moving multi-generational story about a family who begins a homestead on a mountain. They plant a single tree in their orchard to begin, and add another for each birth, death, and important family event. Watch their orchard grow with the family as the circle of life continues.

In Apple Tree Christmas, a family lives above the farm animals in the barn. Poor but happy, the children take delight in the ancient apple tree- until one day a storm blows it down. Can their parents save Christmas?

Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm was the book that made me want a homestead complete with all the animals when I was about 5 years old. Alice and Martin Provensen charmingly describe their array of animal friends with all their unique personalities and quirks.

Also check out The Year At Maple Hill Farm which takes you through each month of the year on the farm and the work that happens as the seasons change.

Head across the Pacific Ocean to a New Zealand farm with Days on the Farm. Author Kim Lewis lovingly paints and narrates simple stories about farm animals and children.

Have a child who doesn’t have the attention span for Little House on the Prairie yet? Check out the Little House Picture Books like Sugar Snow and Winter on the Farm that tell some of the best loved stories from the Little House series with lots of illustrations.

You may also enjoy my list The Best Farm Animal Picture Books!

wood landscape water summer

BritNotes on Jane Austen

Catholic Book Review of Jane Austen

You can’t get much more classic and classier than Jane Austen! But busy moms ask: when should my kids read Austen? And is she really squeaky clean? Here’s a short and sweet skim through Jane Austen’s six finished novels in order of publication.

Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibility, published in 1811, is the story of the two Dashwood sisters, one emotional and extroverted, the other sensible and introverted. Their loves and disappointments are recounted against the backdrop of their family’s failing fortune and fall in the eyes of the world. Will they find true love and financial security? Will they learn to balance their different gifts?

Content: Marianne Dashwood loves a no-good philanderer who it is revealed has previously seduced, impregnated, and abandoned at least one other girl. Of course this is all recounted very properly with no unnecessary details.

Recommended reading age: high school and older

Buy through my Amazon affiliate link: Sense and Sensibility

Buy through my Good News Book Shop link: Sense and Sensibility

Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen’s best-loved novel, Pride and Prejudice is a masterpiece of subtle comedy, character development, social commentary, and beyond all that an amazingly enjoyable story. The five Bennet sisters face a bleak future until two rich men join their neighborhood. Will their family’s lack of propriety ruin the two oldest daughters’ chance at happiness? Can Lizzie and Darcy overcome their pride and prejudice?

This is a wonderful book with so many Catholic themes about virtue and happiness! Check out a podcast I did with Elevate Ordinary about this fantastic book: Elevate Ordinary: Pride and Prejudice from a Catholic Perspective

Content: sixteen year old Lydia Bennet runs away with the villain Wickham. The implication is that they enter a sexual relationship but no details, as is Austen’s norm in this situation. Eventually Wickham is prevailed upon to rectify the situation and marry Lydia.

Recommended reading age: high school and older

Buy through my Amazon affiliate link: Pride and Prejudice

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Mansfield Park

Mansfield Park is often rated least popular among Jane Austen’s works. Fanny Price, a poor dependent in her rich cousins’ home, quietly watches as the cousin she loves is tempted to turn aside from his calling to the clergy by a sophisticated city girl. Fanny is an introverted, quiet girl: not at all the typical heroine type. On the one hand, introverts everywhere rejoice. On the other hand, this makes for a slower book lacking in the conversational repartee which makes Pride and Prejudice and other Austen novels so memorable. There’s a fantastic talk that really opens up this book available for free on The Literary Life Podcast page. It helped me see that Fanny’s quiet conviction and patience show that she is representing the virtue of Temperance in this book.

Content: Fanny’s cousins insist on staging a scandalous play about infidelity and an illegitimate child. This is, as always, subtle. The point is that the play is scandalous so Fanny refuses to participate.

Recommended reading age: high school and older

Buy it through my Amazon affiliate link: Mansfield Park

Emma

Emma is young, rich, beautiful, and very clever- at least she considers herself so. She manages her father, her neighbors, and her friends’ lives with perfect happiness and confidence. Until her best laid plans to matchmake go comically and tragically awry.

In many ways Emma is a coming of age story. It’s also a story about friendship: true and false, deep and superficial, lasting and ephemeral. I find it one of Austen’s best crafted stories and a great reflection piece for high school aged girls.

Content: none that I can find.

Recommended reading age: high school and older

Buy it through my Amazon affiliate link: Emma

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Persuasion

Persuasion is one of Austen’s two posthumously published novels. Years ago, gentle Anne Elliot broke off her engagement to the man she loved due to his lack of fortune. When they meet again, will they find true love? Can they forgive each other?

A novel about second chances, forgiveness, and seeing past lies. Austen often structures her novels on the characters’ increasing abilities to see reality truly. Seeing clearly leads to happiness in life. Willful blindness leads to unhappiness and misfortune.

Content: an implied affair.

Recommended reading level: high school and older.

Buy it through my Amazon affiliate link: Persuasion

Northanger Abbey

The other posthumously published Austen novel, Northanger Abbey is actually one of Austen’s earliest book in order written. This Gothic satire is funny and fairly fast moving. Young and naïve Catherine Moreland visits “the city” for the first time and finds true and false friends surrounding her. She learns to trust her own values and good sense and stand firm for her convictions in this coming of age style novel.

Content: none that I can find.

Recommended reading age: high school and older

Buy it through my Amazon affiliate link: The Annotated Northanger Abbey

city skyline during night time

BritNotes on Amor Towles

Amor Towles is a contemporary American novelist whose historical fiction has been topping charts in recent years. He’s notable for his ability to capture the spirit and emotional quality of a time and place in his novels. I think his second book in particular has the staying power and universal appeal which will make it stand the test of time.

rules-of-civility-by-amor-towles

Rules of Civility

Towles’ first book, Rules of Civility, plunges the reader into 1938 New York City nightlife. Katy, a secretary with social ambition, rides the ebb and flow of New York social life, rubbing elbows with millionaires, playboys, and beggars. A coming of age, rise and fall type of story.

I appreciate how Towles captures the spirit of his historical setting. The reader feels a part of the aimless, pleasure-seeking New York nightlife scene of the rich and troubled.

Content: promiscuous relationships, a man engaging in sexual relationships with women for their money, the main character engaging in a sexual relationship with a man she doesn’t love. Their is some explicit sexual content and some fade outs.

Recommended reading age: adult only, and you’re not missing much by skipping this one.

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A Gentleman in Moscow

Simply put: I loved A Gentleman in Moscow. This one is in a whole other class than Towles’ other two novels.

This may be because it’s got a unique storyline going for it. In 1922 amidst the outbreak of the communist revolution, aristocrat Count Alexander Rostov is placed on house arrest in the attic of the Metropol, a magnificent hotel across the street from the Kremlin. The entire book takes place in the Metropol. You’ll meet an unforgettable cast of characters who live in the hotel. You’ll learn how Rostov keeps his sanity for decades of imprisonment. You’ll learn about Russian cuisine and etiquette and emotions. You’ll fall in love with the Metropol and Rostov’s adopted family there. There’s even a devious villain to hate. This is a beautiful, lyrically told, memorable story.

Content: Rostov eventually begins an affair with a famous actress. Although it’s clear they are engaging in a sexual relationship, there is nothing too explicit or offensive.

Recommended reading age: adults.

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

amor-towles-lincoln-highway

The Lincoln Highway

The Lincoln Highway is the poignant story of a wide cast of characters who are brought together in one memorable road trip along the Lincoln Highway, the first continental highway. A young man released from prison early, his bookish little brother, his estranged sweetheart, his two escaped prison buddies, their families, the drifters they meet… this book peeks through the windows of their lives in mid-twentieth century America.

This is not an easy book to read. There’s death: intended and unintended. There’s manslaughter and straight up murder and suicide. There’s mental illness and child abandonment and sin and broken families. But there’s also friendship and sacrifice and glimpses of hope. Once again, Towles manages to capture the emotional atmosphere of a particular place and time.

Content: one unfortunate (and needless) description of a “circus” at a brothel with naked women riding horses and other scantily clad women. One teenage boy tries to force another to go to bed with a prostitute.

Recommended reading age: adult only.

You may also enjoy my list Good Books for Catholic Adults.

happy ethnic children lying on bed

Classic Chapter Books that are Funny!

My 9 year old was laughing so hard the other night over a book that he woke up his youngest sister. He just loves a laugh out loud funny book, and I bet he isn’t the only one! Depending on who you ask, laughter keeps us sane, is good medicine, and makes life worth living.

“Life is worth living as long as there’s a laugh in it.”

Lucy Maud Montgomery

It’s Robert Frost who said laughter keeps us sane by the way. And Byron says it’s cheap medicine.

Anyway, here’s a list of the funniest chapter books for 8-12 year old middle grade readers.

Homer Price captures bank robbers- with a little help from his pet skunk Aroma. He watches the donut shop for his uncle- and ends up making thousands of donuts. Robert McCloskey’s wry illustrations help make this comic classic memorable. Our world is so much more complicated, but kids still laugh about Homer Price’s small-town escapades.

Speaking of McCloskey, he also illustrated Henry Reed, Inc.. Diplomat’s kid Henry Reed speaks several languages and has traveled the world, but knows very little about America. He returns to spend the summer in suburbia at Grover’s Corner and mayhem ensues. We love all the other books in the series: Henry Reed’s Babysitting Service, Henry Reed’s Journey, Henry Reed’s Big Show, and Henry Reed’s Think Tank.

Tom Sawyer: American legend. Kids would have to read this book anyway for cultural literacy, but it’s so funny they read it voluntarily. Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer still have charm.

Life is an adventure on McBroom’s Wonderful One-Acre Farm where beanstalks grow sky high overnight. Sid Fleischman tells original American tall tales about a large family on a miraculously productive farm.

Good Old Archibald is a vintage schoolboy story of accepting differences and forging friendships through sports and pranks. Reprinted and available from Bethlehem Books.

My kids loved and laughed at Owls in the Family from about age 3 onwards. It’s got that universal appeal that makes all ages laugh out loud. Farley Mowat humorously recounts his childhood complete with a menagerie of pets including two Great Horned Owls that thought they were human.

In The Adventures of Pippi Longstocking, you get a three books in one volume! This illustrated edition of the beloved Pippi stories brings the irrepressible red-head to life for today’s kids.

Speaking of today’s kids, Adventures with Waffles is a modern day Scandinavian author’s Pippi-inspired comedy story. You can read my in-depth review here: “Adventures with Waffles” Review.

Edward Eager’s Tales of Magic series follows sibling groups on unlikely magical escapades usually with a twist. Like in Half Magic the children find a magic charm that gives them get exactly half of whatever they wish. Of course general hilarity ensues and they learn the hard way to be careful what they wish for!

The “magic” in Eager’s books is in the the Nesbit tradition: fairy-tale like magic that just happens to everyday people. The children are not trying to be witches or wizards. The magic happens through a toad that grants wishes in one book, a magic penny in another.

The Mad Scientists’ Club is vintage boys’ fiction with lots of science, pranks, and brainy kids saving the day. Overall I recommend these books for older middle grade readers with a few reservations. Things I don’t like: outsmarting domineering adults such as the Mad Scientists’ archenemy the mayor of the town is a common part of this collection of stories. There’s also some “fibbing” and disobedience to parents without real consequences.

But on the other hand, there’s a lot of positive themes about loyalty, friendship, problem-solving, and good clean fun. It’s quite funny and will inspire kids to explore and delve deep into STEM. This review from First Things captures the positives and negatives of the series well.

BritNotes on Steinbeck

John Steinbeck, 1902-1968, was a famous American writer and Nobel Prize winner for his work in literature.

Today I’ll fill you in as concisely as possible on what a parent wants to know about some of his more popular novels.

Of Mice and Men

Two men, drifting cowboys, one of them mentally handicapped. Friends with a dream. It sounds sort of sweet, but this is a brutal book to read. When the mentally handicapped giant can’t control his strength and keeps killing animals, then people, what should his friend do?

Steinbeck raises some good questions about racism, mental illness, culpability, and justice. But he also creates a scenario where euthanasia seems like the best option. Of course as Catholics, we believe that euthanasia is never the right answer to dealing with mental illness or any other human failing. But in Of Mice and Men it’s hard to come up with a different solution for the situation Steinbeck creates.

This is difficult moral ground for high schoolers to think through. So if your high schooler is assigned Of Mice and Men, be prepared to discuss euthanasia- and why it’s never the right solution. Also be advised that Of Mice and Men is heavy on the language with almost daily instances of swearing and cursing. There’s also a sexually promiscuous female character who is married but trying to seduce the single cowboys. No sex scenes or graphic violence.

The Pearl

The Pearl is the Steinbeck gem I think should be assigned in high school. This is an equally thought-provoking story of similar short length as Of Mice and Men. But without the language and super hopeless theme. In The Pearl, a poor but happy couple finds a rare pearl and vistas of wealth and social ascension rise before their naïve eyes. But what will they have to sacrifice as they pursue a better life for their son? Themes about greed, poverty, peace, happiness, and human nature predominate.

Unlike other Steinbeck books, there is no sexual content or language. There is some violence though: domestic, shootings, and the death of an infant.

East of Eden

My favorite Steinbeck, but not an easy book on multiple levels. East of Eden is very long: a saga of several generations. Steinbeck called East of Eden “THE book” and his best work. Allegorical at many places, East of Eden explores Biblical themes and tropes against the breathtaking beauty and daunting hardship of life in the Salinas Valley of California. With characters as unforgettable as a Dickens cast and themes that keep you up thinking at night, East of Eden is one of those books you should read in your lifetime if you possibly can.

But not at 12. Or 14. Or 16.

East of Eden has some monsters, as Steinbeck labels them. One is Cathy, a prostitute who takes pleasure in shocking others with her coarseness and committing the most offensive acts possible. Steinbeck intends to shock the reader with her evil so there’s some dwelling on the details of prostitution. Other plot points include adultery and fornication. For most teens from fairly sheltered backgrounds, East of Eden‘s sexual content would probably shock so much it would overshadow the great themes this book really explores.

In re other parental concerns, there’s some language, some violence, but nothing too graphic. There’s quite a lot of questioning of God: his existence, his goodness, his love. There’s also an overall disparaging of organized religion as a path to heaven or true happiness.

But to end on a positive note here: a big theme in East of Eden is facing reality. Two sets of brothers a generation apart each are faced with the reality of sin and darkness in human hearts. Do they pretend, avoid, shun, accept, participate? This is a novel about blindness and sight, the existence of free will, and the power of our choices.

Thou Mayest Choose

Review of “Brave Books”

The Island of Free Ice Cream - Book 3 - Jack Posobiec

Discover Freedom Island, where “The Brave” citizens fight against the villains who strive to take away their freedoms and corrupt their culture.

This new series presents issues like Communism, Critical Race Theory, the Sanctity of Life, and 2nd Amendment Rights in a way that 4-10 year olds can understand. Each book contains an animal story in the time-honored tradition of Aesop.

An animal on Freedom Island confronts a tricky situation in each book. For example, in “Elephants are Not Birds” Kevin the elephant loves to sing. A “friend” suggests that this means he is actually a bird. But will trying to be a bird make Kevin happy and fulfilled and free?

In “The Island of Free Ice Cream,” the animals of Freedom Island discover that when something is presented as “free” they need to be skeptical. In “Little Lives Matter” Mother Bear refuses to give up on her disabled bear cub Mobi. And when she is old he won’t give up on her either. In “Paws off My Cannon,” the animals keep losing their cupcakes to the aggressive hyenas and can’t agree on whether the cannons or the hyenas are the problem until they try an experiment.

A story, games, missions, and more!

Each book contains a story, family or classroom game ideas, missions, discussion points for further clarification, and more! There’s even a giant map of the island so you can really immerse your kids in the “Brave” universe. These books would be great to use as a framework for a weekly or monthly class. I think they’re best for 6-10 year olds although a mature 4-5 year old would also understand most of the stories.

So far, there are 7 books in the The Brave series with many more planned. This is an inspiring effort by a collaboration of established writers and media figures who believe strongly in core American values and freedoms. There is no specific political agenda being pushed here per se. Rather, the focus is on individual issues such as sanctity of life, cancel culture, truth, gender identity, and so forth.

The author and publisher clearly put a lot of thought and work into creating a quality teaching product with Brave Books. I think you’ll be impressed!

You can order Brave Books as a monthly subscription or as single books through the publisher: Brave Books.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of Saga One from Brave Books in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

You may also be interested in some of my other Book Lists and Reviews such as:

Review of “Discover the Brothers”

Introduce your children to a plethora of religious orders with Jake Thibault’s unique new books: Discover the Brothers and It’s Fun to be a Nun.

Do you know how many religious orders there are? Actually, I don’t either! But I learned about many I have never heard of in these colorful and engaging new books. On each page, there’s a detailed drawing of a Religious Brother (or Sister in the companion book) carrying out the particular charism of his order. Some brothers are serving the poor, others teaching, others praying, singing, even cooking! Each page also has the charism or motto of the order written out for you.

In the tradition of religious brothers having a special devotion to Our Lady, each page also contains a Marian image. Play I-Spy with a younger kid, or have an older kid try to remember all the different titles of Our Lady as you page through Discover the Brothers.

Also check out the sister book (haha, get it, Sister book?) about nuns: It’s Fun to be a Nun. You’ll learn about many orders of Sisters and their missions and charisms.

Carthusian? Dominican? Trappist? Franciscan?

As someone who never learned to identify religious orders by their habits, I’m hoping these books will help my kids and I become more knowledgeable about the differences between orders. I’m envisioning this turning into a Catholic card game: name the religious habit and charism!

(Note that both books focus primarily on traditional orders with religious habits but there is one to two orders featured, out of 30 plus in each book, that do not have a habit.)

I really like the idea of giving my kids more exposure to religious orders. These books seem like a great place to start! They reminded me of what a wealth of different orders are out there- one to fit any person drawn to a religious vocation.

You can buy both books through my affiliate links: Discover the Brothers and It’s Fun to be a Nun.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of “Discover the Brothers’ and “It’s Fun to be a Nun” from the author in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

Find more of my favorite Catholic picture books on my list Good Catholic Books for Catholic Preschoolers and Kindergartners .

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Book Lovers’ Christmas Gift Guide 2021

Give someone you love the gift of getting lost in a good story this Christmas!

What’s better than a book for Christmas? It doesn’t take up much space, is easy to mail, and gives the gift of an experience without leaving the comfort of your home! Find picture books, chapter books, picks for teens, and even the adult who won’t read on your list here this year!

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you buy through my link I recieve a small fee at no additional cost to you.

Beautiful picture books to treasure

Swedish author Elsa Beskow’s beautifully illustrated picture books are favorites at our house. In Peter’s Old House, a community comes together to help renovate an old neighbor’s house.

Or if you’re looking for a classic fairy tale gift, Beskow’s rendition of Thumbelina may be the perfect fit.

Classic Picture Books that no one knows about

Flicka, Dicka, and Ricka are three sisters who always dress the same. In Flicka, Ricka, Dicka Bake a Cake, they learn how to make the perfect cake for their mothers’ birthday. This vintage series of charming stories about three sisters is over 100 years old, but back in print in collectible hardcover editions at a reasonable price! Only $10 a book!

Have little boys? No worries, there’s a brother series about three little boys named Snipp, Snapp, Snurr that is equally charming! (Note that these are only available in paperback that I could find).

For the Little Girl in Your Life

Have a 3-6 year old girl in your life? She’s sure to love The Milly-Molly-Mandy Storybook. These simple and sweet stories about a little girl’s small everyday village adventures will charm you. Plenty of illustrations and short chapters help hold interest making this a great first chapter book.

For the small boy with the heart for big adventure

Tall tales are always a hit with the 4-6 year old boy crowd. Try Steven Kellog’s renditions of Paul Bunyan, Mike Fink, and Pecos Bill with their detailed illustrations.

Or for a really unique and neat gift, give this little-known classic story from Virginia Lee Burton: Calico the Wonder Horse: Christmas Gift Edition. Calico is a smart ranch horse who saves the day when Stewy Stinker and his Bad Men come to town to try to steal Christmas.

For the elementary schoolers in your life

This interactive edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass is amazingly detailed! Tons of illustrations and even movable elements. Watch the Cheshire Cat appear and disappear, help Alice get bigger and smaller, and more. Hardcover quality edition at a very good price!

Or for the adventurous child, you can’t go wrong with this beautiful hardcover illustrated edition of The Hobbit. Again, quality illustrations, paper quality, and binding make this a great gift edition of a beloved classic.

For your godchild, niece or nephew, or child who loves audiobooks

My kids will listen to Glory Stories on repeat if I let them! These full cast productions bring the saint to life in a vivid and memorable way. There’s a nice variety of Saint Stories to choose from, ancient to modern. My kids’ current favorite is the newly released story of Blessed Carlo Acutis, available from publisher Holy Heroes.

The book that every teen should read

Even middle schoolers can understand the message in Animal Farm, George Orwell’s classic dystopian allegory about the dangers of Communism.

For the teen who enjoys historical fiction

I really enjoyed Sword and Serpent, the first in a Catholic historical fiction series which imagines the lives of St. George, St. Catherine of Alexandria, St. Nicholas, St. Blaise, and other early saints.

For the teen who loves fantasy and fairy tales

Shannon Hale’s rendition of the fairy tale The Goose Girl is masterfully done! A little romance, a lot of adventure, and great themes about friendship and courage make this a great teen novel.

For the teen who’s ready for a classic mystery

I’ve gotten the question of which Agatha Christie to start a teen on a few times. You can’t go wrong with The Secret Adversary, Crooked House, or Murder on the Orient Express. (Note that some Agatha Christie books mentions adulterous relationships as a plot point but there is never any sexual content.)

For that teen or adult who won’t read a book

What about Andy Serkis’s amazing new performance of the Lord of the Rings? An unabridged reading by the man who voiced Gollum- what could be better!? Audio Books still count as books!

For the adult story lover on your list

Reading Piranesi was a highlight in my 2021 Literary Adventures. This thought-provoking story inspired by The Magician’s Nephew brings together mystery, art, philosophy, and suspense into a unique and gripping plot. My full Review of “Piranesi” is up on the blog.

For the adult who loves the classics and beautiful editions

Check out the beautiful editions at The Folio Society! Most book lovers would drool over these gorgeous illustrated copies of favorites like Around the World in 80 Days, Austen’s books, the Bronte classics, or The Wind in the Willows.

Image of Around the World in Eighty Days book

For that person who likes looooonnnngggg (and amazing!) books

I’ve read pretty much everything Michael O’Brien has written. The Island of the World is my favorite. So if you need a tome for someone like me who thinks 1000+ pages is a positive, then you’ve found the perfect reflection on art, love, and the power of suffering.

For the Mystery Lover

For those who love classic mysteries but have read all the greats like Sayers and Christie and Allingham, Alan Bradley’s The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is a contemporary mystery in the classic tradition. Full review up on the blog here.

For the adult who loves historical fiction

A Gentleman in Moscow is one of those books that draws you right back into a particular time period and way of life. Aristocrat Alexi is sentenced to lifelong house arrest in the attic of the Grand Hotel in Moscow as the Communists take over Russia. How does the last Gentleman remaining in Moscow maintain sanity, find community, and even thrive over the next decades?

For more ideas, check out my 2020 Christmas book guide!

Looking for books ABOUT Christmas?

Check out my Christmas book round up: Good Christmas Books for Catholic Kids

GIVEAWAY and Review of “Champions of the Rosary”

Have you ever heard of the only approved American apparition of Our Lady?

I’d read about Fatima, Lourdes, Guadalupe with my kids. All the famous apparitions. But when it came to our own country, I knew just enough to know that there had been an American apparition in Wisconsin, but that was it. If your family is like mine, you’ll be as excited as we were to learn more about the apparitions and miracles right here in our own country! Let me tell you about Champions of the Rosary, a new historical fiction novel from author Laurie Schmitt.

champions of the rosary book cover

In 1859, Our Lady appeared to a young girl named Adele Brise in Wisconsin.

Our Lady asked Adele to pray and teach the children in rural Wisconsin their Catechism. A convent and Chapel were eventually built to fulfil the request of Our Lady of Good Help, as this apparition was dubbed. And did she ever help the people of Wisconsin! This book recounts the miracles that occurred at the apparition site in future years such as miraculous healings.

The most stunning miracle occurred during the terrible Peshtigo Fire of 1871. As thousands of acres around burned, then-Sister Adele led the local people in a rosary procession around the grounds of the convent. Miraculously, the convent acreage was completely spared: a verdant green island in the midst of hundreds of miles of devastation on all sides.

This is a beautiful story about a family struggling through tough times and turning to Our Lady for hope and healing.

It’s also an intense story since the backdrop is the Peshtigo Fire which ravaged the countryside (I recommend for ages 10 and up). Tweens and teens will be caught up in the drama of a natural disaster unfolding while also learning about this beautiful apparition with a message of hope for our country.

If you’re as excited to read this book as my family was, I have good news: I’m giving away FREE copies of Champions of the Rosary and Laurie Schmitt’s other historical fiction novel, Lepanto’s Lady!

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Lepanto’s Lady is another great historical fiction novel with a Marian theme. In Lepanto’s Lady, watch the events of the momentous Battle of Lepanto unfold through the eyes of young Rosa. Learn about the origins of the October 8th feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.

You can buy Champions of the Rosary through my amazon affiliate link: Champions of the Rosary

Our Lady of Good Help, Pray for Us! Our Lady of the Rosary, Pray for Us!

Disclaimer: I received a copy of “Champions of the Rosary” and “Lepanto’s Lady” from the St. Paul Center in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

National Novena to Our Lady of Good Help | The National ...
Image of Our Lady of Good Help- isn’t she beautiful?