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Review of “Mr. Blue”

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Mr. Blue

Who is Mr. Blue? A modern day saint? A communist? A lunatic? A practical businessman encounters the charismatic Blue and is confounded. Fascinated and repulsed all at once, the businessman compiles a book of his own impressions, interviews with others who have known Blue, and letters.

So who is Mr. Blue? At times, an affluent gentleman who buys houses and fills them with decrepit servants. Other times, a young man with a brilliant smile, dressed in burlap sacks and living in a packing crate. A daredevil flying a kite on the precipice of a 30 story building. A philosopher. A film writer.

In each incarnation of Blue, you glimpse some of the fierce joy that makes him special.

Joy and Wonder

I love Mr. Blue for the same reason I love G. K. Chesterton’s fiction and Gerald Manley Hopkin’s poetry. These modern day mystics had a sacramental view of creation, a childlike sense of wonder, and find a passionate joy in the simple process of everyday life. Although in some ways a book about a very different type of wonder- for the ingenuity and life of a city versus the beauty of nature- Mr. Blue firmly falls into the category of books which reawaken our appreciation for seeing the true, good, and beautiful in our daily life. As a deeply Catholic book, Mr. Blue also reminds us about the wonders of Catholicism.

The Movie Script

The author Myles Connolly was actually a screenwriter for many years. Inside the story of Mr. Blue, Connolly tucks in the plot for a movie Blue wants to make. It’s a dystopian film, a singularly hopeless flight of fancy for such a enthusiastic and joyful character as Blue. A one world government has decimated and subjugated the population. Christianity has been intentionally extinguished. In the end, the last Christian on earth, a priest, manages to grow a few grains of wheat and offer one last Mass as a the world ends and Christ comes in glory.

Does the secret to Blue’s intentional joy lie in this rather dark imagining? Perhaps. Connolly paints Blue as a young man with a dark past, perhaps a man who once lived in the depths of depression or pessimism. But now, Blue intentionally eschews worldly values and lives for poverty and the simple joys of life.

Great for Teens and Adults

This is a book that teens tend to connect with. Blue’s passion and idealism inspires and engages teenagers. I recommend reading Mr. Blue in the high school years, perhaps as part of an American literature year. Adults also find Mr. Blue rather fascinating. Like the first person narrator, we pause and wonder at this St. Francis like modern city man with a heart for the poor and a passion for Christ.

You can buy this book through my amazon affiliate link: Mr. Blue

To see more of my favorite books for Catholic high schoolers and adults, check out my book lists, especially:

Review of “Portrait of the Son”

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A new book from Josephine Nobisso!

Is anyone else a huge fan of of Josephine Nobisso’s The Weight of a Mass and Take it to the Queen? These gorgeous books combine luminous illustrations with fantastic stories in a truly transcendent experience. I’ve been waiting for years for her to add to this series of allegories and it’s finally happening!

Portrait of the Son

In her new book Portrait of the Son, Josephine Nobisso tells a story about charity: love. It’s a variation on an allegory that’s been told many times over the centuries to help us understand a little about the love between the Father and the Son. In the story, an old father and his son live in a world of superlatives. Their great love for each other spills over into helping everyone around them. They create the most amazing art collection in the world, live in the most wonderful house, are kindest to their neighbors, and love each other dearly. When the son dies in the war, what will the father do? To whom will he bequeath his precious art collection?

A Fitting Third Book

The Weight of a Mass reminds us to have faith. Take it to the Queen gives us hope for our fallen world. Now, Portrait of the Son concludes the Theological Virtues Trilogy with an allegory about true charity. I was disappointed at first to see a new illustrator, but then was impressed how the continuity of the illustrations was maintained. Illustrator Ted Schluenderfritz really did a fantastic job keeping the style of the luminous watercolor illustrations in the first two books. Parents will appreciate the extensive symbolism used throughout Portrait of the Son. See how much symbolism you notice, then turn to the beginning and end of the book for a full explanation.

Portrait of the Son is being released November 2021! It would be a great Christmas present or addition to your family library.

You can buy this book through my Amazon affiliate link: Portrait of the Son: A Tale of Love

Or, buy it through my Bookshop Page: https://bookshop.org/lists/book-review-books

Disclaimer: I received a copy of “Portrait of the Son” from Gingerbread House Books in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

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

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Review of “The Haunted Cathedral

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The Haunted Cathedral

The second installment in Antony Barone Kolenc’s The Hardwood Mysteries, The Haunted Cathedral picks up right where we left Xan at the end of The Shadow in the Dark. This fast-paced historical fiction trilogy set in Middle Age England follows the adventures and misadventures of young Xan, an orphaned boy trying to find his family- and God’s will. In Shadows in the Dark, Xan tries to recover his memory after a group of bandits leaves him wounded and burns his home. In this second book, The Haunted Cathedral, Xan struggles to learn how to forgive and move on. A little mystery might be just what he needs to help distract him from his hatred.

Meticulous Historical Fiction

I really appreciate the care Kolenc takes to accurately represent Middle Age England. From monasteries to towns to castles to cathedrals, Kolenc takes the reader on a tour of what life was like for an orphaned serf boy in the Middle Ages. Speaking of serfs, these books subtly explore the relationships between serfs and lords, monasteries and patrons, merchants and monks. The intricate castes of the Middle Ages get attention in this book as Xan realizes that as a serf he doesn’t have the freedom to choose a vocation or even where to live.

In keeping with the setting, there are some fundamental lifestyle differences. For example, 12 and 14 year old children are already considering courtship, which is of course strange to our modern sensibilities. Xan’s interest in the girls is handled very gently and discreetly though. Kolenc includes a section at the back of the book which outlines many of the unique traditions of the Middle Ages for readers.

An Intriguing Mystery

What are ghosts? Xan and his friends Lucy, Simon, and Christina are fascinated by tales of a ghost in the Cathedral. A wise monk and priest give the different Catholic perspectives on ghosts. In the end, Xan realizes that trying to reconnect with his parents through a ghost isn’t the wisest idea. Instead, he and his friends help solve the Cathedral mystery and restore another orphan to his parents.

A Fresh Catholic Series

It’s fun to see new Catholic historical fiction getting published. Parents will appreciate the discussion questions in the beginning and historical enrichment at the end. Best of all, this series takes on a slippery topic- the Church in the Middle Ages- with an honest and unapologetic tone. There are very good monks, and troubled monks. There are pros and cons to the power the Church and its ministers held in that time period. These are good reflections for the intended tween and teen audience to begin to consider.

You can buy The Hardwood Mysteries: The Haunted Cathedral through my Amazon affiliate link: The Haunted Cathedral

Or through my BookShop page: The Haunted Cathedral

I received a copy of The Haunted Cathedral from Loyola Press in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

Review of “Classic Bible Comics”

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Classic Bible Comics from Sophia Press

Lovers of vintage comic books will enjoy this recently published reprinting of a series of classic comic strips. These comic strips retell over 20 famous Bible stories. The book starts with Adam and Eve and continues through to the Ascension and Pentecost. With vivid full color pictures and all the action, I think Classic Bible Comics will appeal to most kids in the 6-8 year old range.

What we liked

My 8 and 6 year olds snapped this book right up and spent a couple hours pouring over the vivid pictures and simple text. They gave it a thumbs up as an exciting and engaging way to learn basic Bible stories such as Joseph, David & Goliath, and Jonah. Their only complaint was that this book was too short!

Comparing to other Picture Bibles

If you’ve seen my list Good Graphic Novels and Comic Books for Catholic Kids, you know we enjoy exploring all the great religious-themed comic books out there. So to compare with some others I talk about on that list, Classic Bible Comics is easier to read than The Picture Bible or The Action Bible. It’s also much shorter: it hits the famous stories, but doesn’t attempt to provide a comprehensive picture of salvation history. Basically, this book is short and sweet, like your favorite comic strips from an old newspaper.

You can buy Classic Bible Comics through my Amazon affiliate link: Classic Bible Comics

Or you can buy it through the publisher: Sophia Institute Press.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of “Classic Bible Comics” from Sophia Press in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

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Review of “Saved by the Lamb: Moses and Jesus”

Saved by the Lamb: Moses and Jesus

Like author Maura McKeegan, I discovered Biblical typology in college and was utterly fascinated. As a well-catechized, homeschooled cradle Catholic, I couldn’t believe I had never learned about all the amazing parallels between the Old and New Testament. Now, with the Old and New series of picture books, you can teach your 5-10 year olds about typology as they become familiar with Bible stories.

What is Biblical Typology?

Biblical typology is the study of seeing the prefiguring of people and events of the New Testament and covenant in the Old Testament and covenants. McKeegan quotes Augustine’s explanation:

The New Testament lies hidden in the Old, and the Old is unveiled in the New.

Saint augustine

In McKeegan’s Old and New Series, of which Saved by the Lamb is the fourth volume, you and your children can see how Old Testament figures like Jonah, Adam, and Moses are types of Christ.

Saved by the Lamb: how Moses foreshadows Jesus

In Saved by the Lamb, McKeegan traces Moses’ life and the events of Passover. On each page, you’ll read a paragraph about Moses, then a paragraph about Jesus. The parallel placement of the text with carefully selected similar meter and diction really brings home to children the parallels. You’ll be crying out in surprise with your kids as the amazing parallels unfold.

You’ll understand the Gospel of Matthew better: why Matthew, the learned Jew, was so excited about Jesus’ fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. You’ll learn how the centuries of Passover sacrifice was conditioning the Jews to understand Jesus as the Paschal lamb that must be slain to save the people. And so much more!

An Important Catechesis

These simple picture books really provide an amazing opportunity for early catechesis. I believe they’ll awaken an interest in Biblical typology and scriptural exegesis in many children. The target age is 5-10, and I found this spot on for my own children: it went over my 4 year olds head mostly, but my 6 and 8 year olds loved it and kept interrupting to restate the connections. You can buy these books through my Amazon affiliate link: Saved by the Lamb: Moses and Jesus

Disclaimer: I received a copy of “Saved by the Lamb” from Emmaus Road Publishing in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

Check out my some of my other favorite books on My Book Lists page!

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Review of “Through the Year with Jesus”

A hit at my house!

This year, I’ve been testing out Katherine Bogner’s new children’s Bible Study book: Through the Year with Jesus. And I have to say, it has just blown me away! Not only that, my kids love this book too and now look forward to our weekly Bible study time.

What I love about it!

First, I love the fact that this is a weekly book. Once a week is so much more doable with a busy family with littles than aiming for a daily reflection and feeling bad about how many days you end up skipping. In Through the Year with Jesus, you can just pick one time weekly to read and reflect with your children, whether it’s Sunday before Mass, as part of a morning basket rotation, or during a special family dinner night.

Also, I love that this book follows the Liturgical year. It begins with Advent, the beginning of the Liturgical year, and provides a reflection for each week of Advent, Ordinary Time, Lent, Easter Season, and the second Ordinary Time. Is this book specific to a particular Gregorian Calendar year, you ask? No. The readings are chosen to be in the spirit of the season of the Liturgical year but are timeless and appropriate for any given Gregorian year.

Lectio Divina …

These Gospel Reflections are written in the time-tested Lectio Divina method of Bible study. Saints through the ages have practiced this simple but effective method of meditation on God’s Word. There are 4 steps to Lectio Divina: Lectio. Meditatio, Oratio, and Contemplatio. Katherine Bogner simplifies and translates the steps to: Read, Meditate, Pray, Listen. In Through the Year with Jesus, you’ll find a Bible story for each week, discussion prompts for meditation, journaling, or discussion, prayer prompts, and suggestions for practical application.

and Visio Divina

I also love that Through the Year with Jesus uses a lot of Visio Divina. Similar to Lectio Divina, in Visio Divina, you gaze on religious art, meditate on the insights the art gives us into the scene, pray about it, and listen for what God is trying to teach you in this picture. Sound complicated? Really, it’s not, I promise! This is my kids favorite part of this book. We spend about 60 seconds silently looking at the religious painting, then talk about it, often using the prompts from the book. And if you’re wondering, the artwork is high-quality reproductions in full color! You’ll see art from Rubens, Fra Angelico, Barocci, Raphael, Caravaggio, and dozens of other great artists.

You can start at any time!

Since this book follows the Liturgical seasons, you can jump in at any point. It would make a great Easter basket gift, and you could begin the readings with the Easter season section and continue through all the way to the following Lent and beyond. This beautiful and inspiring devotional will be sure to help your family understand- and pray- the Bible like never before!

You can buy it through my Good News Book Shop link: Through the Year with Jesus

Or through my Amazon affiliate link: Through the Year with Jesus

Disclaimer: I received a copy of “Through the Year with Jesus” from Emmaus Road Publishing in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

Check out more great books for Catholic kids on My Book Lists!

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Review of “The Imitation of Mary”

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

The Imitation of Mary

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

A Valuable Synthesis of Spiritual Wisdom over the Ages

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

A Must-have for the Catholic Family Library

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

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

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

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

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Review of “The Catholic Treasury of Prayers and Verses”

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

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

Prayers both familiar and uncommon

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

Great to take to Mass or Adoration

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

Accessible Size and High Quality Binding

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

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

Or buy it through my affiliate link on Bookshop: https://bookshop.org/lists/book-review-books

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

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Review of “The Spider Who Saved Christmas”

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An Eastern European Christmas Legend

In The Spider Who Saved Christmas, Raymond Arroyo brings a popular Eastern European Christmas legend to life. This gorgeous book tells the story of the Golden Orb Weaver spider who protected the Christ child.

An Unusual Christmas Ornament

In Poland and Ukraine, spider ornaments are commonly placed on Christmas trees. According to a legend little-known in America, a spider made a web to camouflage the cave where the Holy Family hid while fleeing Herod’ slaughter of the innocents. While the Holy Family slept, the spider spun a web across the opening of the cave which saved the Christ child’s life.

Beautiful Illustrations for a Beautiful Story

My favorite part of this book is Rand Gallegos’ luminous illustrations! The light seems to emanate from the Christ Child’s peaceful face in a way that fascinated my children and charmed me. To scroll through a full preview of these amazing pictures, check out the sales page from publisher Sophia Press.

Not for the Littlest Ones

This is a beautiful and unique Christmas picture book which older kids will enjoy, but I wouldn’t recommend it for the littlest children. My 3 year old (who’s a bit sensitive) was upset by the references to Herod slaughtering the innocent baby boys. The actual slaughtering isn’t described, of course, but there are descriptions of the wails and shrieks of dying babies, which may be upsetting to very young or sensitive children.

Great Present for 5-7 year olds

This beautiful book makes a great St. Nicholas Day or Christmas present for Catholic children 5+. Even your non-Catholic friends will enjoy this unique Christmas legend! We’ll be adding it to our Christmas book basket books this Advent.

Buy it through my Amazon affiliate link: The Spider Who Saved Christmas

Or through my Bookshop affiliate link: The Spider Who Saved Christmas

the spider who saved christmas cover

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

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Review of “O Come, Emmanuel”

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An Advent Reflection for Families

Catholic blogger and homeschooling mother Kendra Tierney is an expert at making Liturgical living accessible and fun for Catholic families. Following up on her popular Catholic All Year Compendium, Kendra and Emmaus Road Publishing are releasing an exciting new Advent book this Christmas season: O Come, Emmanuel.

Gather ’round the Jesse Tree

What better way to prepare for the birth of Christ than through tracing Salvation history with the Jesse Tree? Whether you’re new to this Catholic practice or your Christmas bin is already full of handcrafted ornaments, you’ll find something to enrich your Advent in O Come, Emmanuel.

For each day of Advent, Kendra gives you a Bible reading, a short reflection, and a prayer to pray as a family. Each day’s reading and meditations pair with the Jesse Tree ornament for the day. My little ones love taking turns hanging the ornament of the day on the tree as we read the Scripture reading.

Symbols of Faith

Grow in your faith as a family as you remember God’s faithfulness from generation to generation. Learn what each Jesse Tree symbol has to teach about God’s promises and growing relationship with mankind. For example, Kendra explains some of the levels of meaning in Jacob’s ladder:

Jacob’s ladder reminds us of the very real connection between heaven and earth. Angels bring messages down from God. Our prayers ascend to heaven. Our work to overcome our defects and grow in personal holiness throughout our lives can be seen as an ascent of this ladder, one rung at a time, towards heaven. The ladder itself can be seen as a symbol of Jesus, through whom we can reach heaven.

o Come, Emmanuel, Kendra tierney

Available in time for Advent 2020

O Come, Emmanuel is available in time for Advent through Emmaus Road Publishing. Order now and you’ll even get a special bonus: a FREE download printable of all the Jesse Tree ornaments so your children can color an ornament each day as you read the meditation.

Buy O Come, Emmanuel through the publisher: O Come, Emmanuel .

Or, buy through my Amazon affiliate link: O Come, Emmanuel.

O Come Emmanuel book cover advent reflection  Jesse Tree

Disclaimer: I received a copy of “O Come, Emmanuel” from Emmaus Road Publishing in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

For more of my favorite Advent and Christmas books, check out my Christmas list: