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Review of “Saints Around the World”

saints around the world cover by Meg Hunter-Kilmer

Saints Around the World

If you haven’t heard the hype yet, the internet is buzzing about this amazing new book by Meg Hunter-Kilmer! And with good reason! This is hands down the most thorough look at saints from all around the world I’ve ever seen. From Africa to South America to Asia to the Caribbeans, there really are saints from all corners of the world featured in Saints Around the World!

Around the World and Down to Earth

Although this book features Saints from all sorts of cultures and walks of life, the emphasis is on their common humanity. You’ll hear how saints changed diapers, saints gave their grandchildren pony rides, saints did laundry. This is so important for our kids (and us) to understand: the saints were not just great preachers and theologians, they were moms and dads and kids like us!

Broken and Beautiful: The Body of Christ

This book is a celebration of the diversity of the Body of Christ. You’ll read the stories of Saints from Papua New Guineau to Iceland. You’ll learn about Saints in wheel chairs and Saints with birth defects and Saints who were blind. You’ll read about Saints with learning disabilities and speech impediments. You’ll learn about saints with big personalities and saints who were desperately shy. You’ll see Saints from various ethnicities with a great variety of skin tones.

Beautiful Watercolors

To match the beautiful souls described in Saints Around the World, Lindsey Sanders illustrated this book with beautiful watercolor pictures. Many pictures feature everyday items as symbols. This emphasizes the theme that these saints lived seemingly ordinary lives. You may spot a soccer ball, some musical instruments, horses, and more in the background of these illustrations.

You can get a preview of the gorgeous illustrations and read excerpts from the book on the launch site: https://saintsaroundtheworld.com/excerpts/

You can buy Saints Around the World through my Amazon affiliate link: Saints Around the World

Disclaimer: I received a copy of “Saints Around the World” from Emmaus Road Publishing in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

Interested in more of my favorite Catholic books for Catholic Kids? Check out this list: Good Catholic Books for Catholic Preschoolers and Kindergartners 

Around Europe in 20 Chapter Books: Printable List

You all enjoyed touring Europe in Chapter Books so much I got requests for a printable version of this list!

So here it is: a short and sweet 20 book list perfect for a summer reading challenge. Travel around Europe from the comfort of your living room with these classic chapter books!

printable list europe chapter books
printable europe chapter books list

Here is a FREE printable PDF download link of the color version:

Or, if you’re like me and chronically out of color ink in your printer, here’s a tamer black and white printable version:

Want to help keep the book lists coming?

1. Go to my Book Lists and buy a few books for your family through my links! Your family gets new books, and I get a small affiliate fee at no additional cost to you. Win for us both!

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4. Most important, pray for my mission to continue. I love connecting Catholic families with great books in this easy, free way and hope to be able to continue to do so for many years!

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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:

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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:

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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.

retro cupboard with painted boxes and emblem

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!

house surrounded by rice field

Review of “Our Boy”

our boy cover

Our Boy

From Catholic publisher Te Deum Press comes this translation of Fr. Hublet’s novel Our Boy. Set at the onset of World War II, this book follows the adventures of an orphaned Belgian boy, Jackie. Never before printed in English, this beloved Belgian book has great themes about family, friendship, and temptation.

Material versus Spiritual Wealth

10 year old Jackie comes from a world of wealth and privilege, but finds happiness with the poorer, holy Arcueil family. When Jackie is offered a return to a comfortable but Godless life, he has to make a tough decision. Will he choose to stay with the family that loves him and continue learning about Catholicism? Or will he choose material possessions and a life spent pursuing pleasure?

Great for 10-14 year olds

10-14 year olds will enjoy Our Boy. There is moderate suspense in the beginning as the Germans invade France. There’s also a violent car accident that kills Jackie’s grandfather and aunt. The most mature content is when a troubled Jackie briefly contemplates taking his own life. No graphic violence, language, or inappropriate content, so overall this is quite appropriate for a young audience. The historical fiction setting in occupied Belgium makes this book an interesting addition to learning about occupied Europe during World War II.

Our Boy is available to buy through Te Deum Press: https://www.tedeumpress.com/product/our-boy/

For more good books for 10-14 year olds , check out My Book Lists!

Disclaimer: I received a copy of “Our Boy” from Te Deum Press in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

golden monstrance against blurred church interior

Review of “Giorgio’s Miracle”

Giorgio's Miracle

Giorgio’s Miracle by Laurie Schmitt is a charming little story about a Eucharistic Miracle. Giorgio is a sweet, devout boy who loves our Eucharistic Lord and is troubled by the lack of faith he sees around him in Turin. He begins to pray for a miracle to reignite the faith of the townspeople of Turin. Little does he know that his beloved donkey friend Franca will play a part in the miracle!

Giorgio’s Miracle is a wonderful book to read to 4th-6th graders to inspire a love of Jesus in the Eucharistic. I think some aspects of this book would be great for first communicants, but can’t recommend for that young an age due to some violence from the two villains in the story. These two thieves are cruel to each other and to Franca the donkey; sensitive children may be upset by this part of the story.

This book is an imagined version of how the the Eucharistic Miracle of Turin in 1453 occurred. It will be sure to inspire faith and interest in Eucharistic Miracles. Overall, Giorgio’s Miracle would make a great addition to a Catholic library or study of the Eucharist.

Giorgio’s Miracle is available to purchase here at Shop Mercy, where purchases help support the Marian priests and brothers at the National Shrine for Divine Mercy.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of “Giorgio’s Miracle” from the author in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

Printable Reading List: 110 Classic Books for Middle Grade Boys

Did you enjoy my recent printable reading list of 90 Classic Books for Middle Grade Girls? Here’s a similar list for the boys!

Check out this FREE downloadable printable list to help your sons track their reading throughout the middle grade! It’s based on my popular book list 60 Classic Books for Middle Grade Boys, but has even more awesome book ideas!

Here’s a preview of what the first page looks like!

Both boys and adventure-loving girls will love these classic books about high adventure, funny talking animals, mysteries, and more!

To download this FREE pdf, click on the link below!

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