Blessed Carlo Acutis: The Amazing Discovery of a Teenager in Heaven
Last fall, my family “discovered” Blessed Carlo Acutis through a Holy Heroes Glory Story CD. We learned about this amazing youth who managed to accomplish so much in just fifteen short years of life. My kids were enthralled not only by how young he was but how recently he had lived and how similar his life was to theirs. He died only a few years before they were born! He wore jeans! He used a computer!
A Saint for 21st Century Kids
My kids aren’t the only ones who love Blessed Carlo and feel an instant connection to his story. This young man is inspiring kids around the world as his story spreads. Blessed Carlo Acutis: The Amazing Discovery of a Teenager in Heaven is a brand-new book by Sabrina Arena Ferrisi. Drawing on Church documents and interviews, especially personal interviews with Carlo’s mother, Ferrisi retells Carlo’s life story. Kids (and adults!) can learn about his Eucharistic devotion, charity work, favorite pets, love for computer programming and film making, and much more!
But Ferrisi also includes an explanation of the official path to a declaration of sainthood. Kids will learn about the 3 stages on the way and what is required at each stage. They’ll be even more amazed that Carlo was declared a Blessed less than 15 years after his death!
There’s also plenty of color photos of Carlo, his family, and more for kids who love visuals.
Who Will Enjoy This Book?
Target age: middle grades through high school. But younger kids will enjoy hearing parts of the book read aloud, especially if they’re already familiar with Blessed Carlo’s life from Glory Stories. I enjoyed this short book thoroughly as an adult. I was touched and inspired by Blessed Carlo’s love for both God and neighbor. This young Blessed’s life truly exemplifies the two great commandments!
You can order your copy of Blessed Carlo Acutis from publisher Holy Heroes. Enter the discount cod CARLO15 to get 15% off your purchase to celebrate this new relase!
No affiliate link here, just a really awesome saint and story I wanted to share!
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of “Blessed Carlo Acutis: The Amazing Discovery of a Teenager” in Heaven in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.
For more of my favorite books for Catholic kids, check out My Book Lists!
In his latest picture book, How the Angels Got Their Wings, Anthony DeStefano continues his pattern of producing beautiful books for children. In this new book, he explains in his trademark gently rhythmic verse who the angels are, why some angels are bad, who the archangels are and what they’re known for, and where we might find them.
An Exciting Drama
Angels are a fun topic for kids. These amazing rational beings with real superpowers fascinate my kids. My five year old loved the vivid illustrations in How the Angels Got Their Wings, especially the cosmic battle between the good and bad angels. She also loved the concept of looking for angels in daily life. Whether they’re in disguise or invisible, we’re surrounded by these amazing beings all the time and definitely don’t think about it enough! This picture book will help kids of all ages to connect more deeply with these heavenly friends.
Find Out More
Note that particularly young or very sensitive children may be upset by the images of the devil, so be sure and check out the full length picture preview of the book on Sophia Institute Press before buying if you have very young ones.
Chivalry and Catholic Virtues meet in Theresa Linden’s Armor of God series, specially written for First Communicants.
Have or know a child who’s preparing for or just made their First Holy Communion? This series is just for them! Theresa Linden explores the six parts of the Armor of God listed in Ephesians 6 against a interest-catching backdrop of knights and quests. These books are sure to captivate 6-8 year old Catholic children and help them internalize and desire the virtues!
In the first book, Belt of Truth, George, a young page, has a lying problem.
George wants more than anything to be a knight. When he learns that Truthfulness is a necessary virtue, he’s dismayed. How can he stop lying when it seems like the best way to solve his problems and keep out of trouble? Watch George grow and practice virtue throughout this first book so that when he really gets in trouble, he is able to stand strong and tell the truth. He earns his first piece of armor: the Belt of Truth.
As the series continues, George learns about the other parts of a knight’s armor and other virtues including Righteousness, Peacefulness, and Faithfulness.
There’s also plenty of scuffles, sword fighting, horses, dragons, and more. Parents can feel good about giving this clean, virtue-driven series to their young kids to read. And kids can enjoy the fun of the chivalric era while imbibing some good morals.
Is the Armor of God series just for boys?
Nope! Girls will enjoy the fact that the knight school is for boys and girls! Boys train to be knights, and girls train to be dames. But they all get to practice all the fun parts of training. A girl is one of the three main characters that carry the series.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Wonderlandand 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.
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.
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!
Who else is studying ancient civilizations this year? After testing out a pyramid of Egyptian picture and chapter books, I wanted to share our favorite stories. Immerse yourself in the art, legends, and culture of Ancient Egypt with these beautiful books!
Note that although many books on this list are picture books, they are not for babies! Elementary and middle school aged readers will enjoy and benefit from the wealth of detail in these beautiful books.
This newly back in print classic strikingly illustrates the building of the boat that is buried at the Great Pyramid at Giza. Learn about the Egyptian belief in the afterlife and their boatbuilding skills.
Explore hieroglyphics with this ancient Egyptian story based on hieroglpys from an ancient papyrus scroll. Each page has a replica of a section of the ancient scroll, along with a translation and gorgeous illustrations.
Join Will, the son of an archaeologist, on an unforgettable trip to help uncover the ruins at Giza. Will hopes to make a great discovery- like a mummy! This book has lots of cool period details about excavation and archaeology.
Demi’s style lends itself well to Egyptian art. This biography of Tutankhamun is quite thorough, going from birth to death. It does include details that may require parental discussion such as the fact that Tutankhamun married his half sister. There’s also an interesting account of the period of Egyptian monotheism in which they worshipped one God, Aten. Tutankhamun allowed his subjects to choose whether to worship the traditional cast of Egyptian gods or this one god, Aten.
Traditional history textbook meets oral tradition in The Story of Civilization. I love that the author includes frequent “Living History” sections with tales, legends, or historical fiction accounts that bring important characters to life for young readers. We like this best as the audiobook, which is professionally dramatized.
Mara, Daughter of the Nile is Eloise McGraw’s other masterful historical fiction novel set in Ancient Egypt. Most appropriate for ages 12 and up due to a strong Romantic subplot, this exciting espionage story brings the court of Hatshepsut to life like no other!
You’ve started them on the path to a lifelong love of reading! Now for that tricky transition to chapter books. You’re longing to share The Hobbit, Narnia, and Anne of Green Gables with your five year old (or your three or four year old if he or she has a long attention span), but WAIT!
First chapter books are an important and memorable experience for your preschooler or kindergartener!
And believe me, the transition to chapter books will be much smoother if you begin with one of these delightful books written just for children listening to their first chapter books. These classic first chapter books have charming illustrations scattered throughout and short chapters the perfect length for a limited attention span.
This post contains Amazon affiliate links. This means that I may receive a small fee if you purchase a book through my link at no additional cost to you.
Milly-Molly-Mandy is a sweet little girl enjoying family and small town life in a multi-generational home. Nostalgic and innocent stories with lots and lots of illustrations!
Jenny is a fashion-loving little black cat who longs for some friends. In Jenny and the Cat Club, she meets a memorable group of beautiful and ragged felines. A book about making friends, finding your own talents, and appreciating others’ differences. There are several more books about Jenny’s adventures available!
Raggedy Ann‘s cheerful nature and simple adventures have delighted children for over 100 years! Always a hit with 4-5 year old girls!
Twig‘s impoverished family lives in a tenement house. But one memorable day, a tomato soup can, a dandelion, and her imagination bring the best kind of magic into her life. After that day, Twig sees her life and neighbors through new eyes.
This is a transformation through imagination story in the tradition of Nesbit and MacDonald, so I personally liked it. But if you are very sensitive to the use of “magic” in stories, you may want to avoid this one.
Of course every child needs to listen to The Complete Tales of Winnie-The-Pooh! This beautiful hardcover edition includes lots of full color illustrations to make this beloved first chapter book even more enjoyable.
The Thornton Burgess 26-Book Set brings you to the world of the little forest animals. Most chapters are only 2-4 pages. Not as many pictures as some of the other books on this list, but still held the attention of my 4 year old.
Happy Little Family focuses on Bonnie, the youngest in an Appalachian family. At 4 years old, Bonnie feels quite grown up and ready to participate in all the family fun. All 4 years old can relate to her little joys and disappointments.
Continue reading Bonnie’s adventures in Schoolhouse in the Woods. Bonnie starts school, learns to read, and makes friends.
This little gem of a chapter book has been around for 15 years, but is newish to Americans. Norwegian author Maria Parr must have channeled Astrid Lindgren (you know, Pippi Longstocking?) to create the memorable duo in Adventures with Waffles. Beautiful Norway is the stunning backdrop to this memorable story about childhood friendship, family camaraderie, and overcoming loss.
Enter a remote Scandinavian village
It isn’t even a village. Just a few houses tucked in a remote cove. 8 year old friends Trille and Lena have to make their excitement and they do: boatloads of it! You’ll be charmed by sweet Trille’s narration of life in his hamlet, his love for his family, and his loyalty to his difficult best friend. From sledding in winter to bonfires in summer, the neighbors in this wintery wonderland enjoy everyday life.
I loved the fact that Trille has an intact family with parents who love each other. He has three siblings, one of whom is adopted and comfortable with that. He lives in an intergenerational household; his grandfather has a flat in their basement and Trille loves having him there.
On the other hand, Lena lives with her single mother. She’s okay with this at first, but eventually begins to ask why she doesn’t have a father. In one of their notorious escapades, Lena and Trille decide to advertise and find a fitting father, confidently assuming her mother will be thrilled. While celebrating hardworking single parents, Adventures with Waffles conveys the intrinsic desire children have for both a mother and a father. It’s an affirmation of the importance of fathers! Now that is something you rarely see in a new children’s book!
Dealing with Grief and Loss
Adventures with Waffles isn’t all butterflies and daisies. Trille’s beloved waffle-making Auntie Granny dies midway through the book. Subtly but unmistakably Trille watches his family deal with the grief in their various ways. And he too has to come to terms with loss- and find ways to reawaken hope.
Trille and Lena also experience smaller losses and traumas: a horse they love is sent to the butcher and they scramble to save it. A fire threatens to destroy the family barn and animals. A bad sledding accident lands them in the hospital for a bit. In fact, they manage to crowd an inordinate number of misadventures into 230 pages! There’s no graphic violence though so all but the most sensitive readers shouldn’t be bothered.
Although I loved this book overall, I had two caveats when I went over my reading notes.
First, there’s a tiny bit of cruder humor at times, along the lines of putting out a bonfire with cow manure. Or a child making up a rhyme about moo and poo rhyming. I think it’s supposed to reflect that these are farm children used to the nitty gritty parts of farm life, so it didn’t bother me in this particular book. But just in case, note it’s there.
Second, there’s a little confusion about whether lying is always wrong. Some of this is a translation issue. I’m fairly certain that when the characters talk about “what good lies” someone tells in reference to tall tales, the translation should have been “what good stories” or “what good tales.”
Later on, there is a “ends justify means” message about lying. Trille, Lena, and his grandfather tell a string of lies to expedite their rescue of the aforementioned horse destined for the slaughter house. Trille is shocked by all the lying and his grandfather tells him, “Sometimes it’s all right to tell white lies, Trille.” I didn’t love this scenario in a book meant for 8-10 year olds. I would handle it with a discussion about how it lines up with what we believe as Catholics and how else the characters might have better handled the scenario.
Although most of the characters in this book are areligious, there’s a motif about a picture of Jesus. Trille’s Auntie Granny keeps a special picture of Jesus as the Good Shepherd to remind her not to worry: he’s in control. After her death, Trille is allowed to pick anything from her entire house to keep for his very own. He chooses the special picture. Thenceforth, it’s a source of comfort to both him and Lena: a reminder that someone is watching over them. Kind of neat to see this in a secular book!
If you want to buy Adventures with Waffles, you can support Good Books for Catholic Kids by buying through my Amazon affiliate link: Adventures with Waffles
For the 6-8 year old, just becoming independent reader stage, I love the Saints and Friendly Beasts saint book series.
In the Saints and Friendly Beasts series, young readers will enjoy the large print and wealth of pictures. At the same time, they’ll become familiar with saints who loved animals. Popular Holy Hour books with my 6 and 8 year olds. Note: the pictures in these books are all black and white.
A recently published book that is awesome for this age is Meg Hunter-Kilmer’s Saints Around the World.
This is a saint book like no other! Meg Hunter Kilmer tells stories about many saints we’ve never heard of in a conversational style that makes these saints your kids’ new best friends. Check out my full Review of “Saints Around the World”!
Another series of saint books that’s wonderful for a 3rd grade reading level (or younger reader with help!) is the Life of a Saint series from Ignatius Press.
Learn about popular saints in these colorful, picture-rich books from reliable Ignatius Press.
Mayr Fabyan Windeatt brings the saints to life for children aged 9-99.
These saint biographies are 50-100 pages and perfect for book reports or spiritual reading. My kids bring these to Holy Hour all the time. Not very many pictures, but simple and inspiring stories about a variety of saints from Hyacinth to Martin de Porres.
A final awesome saint book series for the 9+ crowd is the Vision Series from Ignatius Press
Up to 24 books, the acclaimed Vision series offers inspiring saint biographies for 4th-8th graders. With longer chapters and more details, these books will satisfy kids who want to know more about their favorite saints- or maybe discover some new favorites!