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 “Saints Around the World”

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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!

2. Share my site and book lists with your friends, parish, homeschool group and school! Search engines judge sites on views and shares, so this really helps bring the site to more people!

3. Sign up below to receive notifications of new posts. Only one a week, I promise! (And don’t worry, I never sell or share email addresses.)

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:

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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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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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.

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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 “My Book House” Series

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My Book House

Looking for a delightful collection of classic stories, poetry, and unique tales from around the world? My Book House has all this and more! My children all love these charming volumes, full of detailed illustrations and stories we’ve never read anywhere else.

12 Volumes: Something for the Whole Family

In 1928, Olive Beaupre Miller created the My Book House collection to encourage a love of literature in children from the nursery up through high school. There’s an appropriate volume for each child in your family! Volume 1, In The Nursery, contains a wealth of nursery rhymes and short poems from around the world divided by country. In the next book, Story Time, you’ll find short stories, mostly folk tales from a diverse variety of countries: India, Norway, France, Germany, Russia, South Africa, and more. There’s also a variety of poetry interspersed with the stories.

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The subsequent 10 volumes continue the pattern of alternating poetry and prose.

For example, in The Magic Garden you’ll find the Greek myth about Phaeton, fairy tales from Romania, Hungary, Serbia and more, folk tales from New Zealand and Egypt, and selections from Dickens, Shakespeare, and Hawthorn.

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In the other volumes, you’ll find composer sketches, biographies of famous men, myths, and more. From classic fairy tales to folk lore from around the world to great poems, this collection has something to offer every child.

Various Editions

My Book House was in print for nearly 50 years, so several editions have appeared. The very earliest editions were bound in black. Pictured below is the “Rainbow Set” from the 1950s, which was edited and updated by Miller herself. She continued to be involved in the updating of the volumes until her retirement in the early 1960s. The last edition, the white covered one, was published in 1972 and may have had changes made that Miller did not approve.

Why buy it for your family library?

These books are worth buying if you have young children. By listening to, and later reading themselves, these stories from around the world, your children will broaden their horizons and expand their understanding of a variety of cultures and countries. They’ll pour over the detailed artwork. They’ll be inspired to read more by the authors featured. They’ll even have a decent basis for a liberal arts education just by reading these volumes.

Since My Book House has been out of print for almost 50 years, it’s a bit pricey to buy. You can usually find sets on Amazon available for $150-300 depending on the edition.

Rainbow set (affiliate link): My Book House, Volumes 1-12 and Parents’ Guide

White set (affiliate link): My Book House (12 Volume Set)

Volume 1, In the Nursery, has been reprinted recently and is available as a standalone volume on my Bookshop page: https://bookshop.org/a/15310/9780486499062

For more great books for Catholic Kids, check out my Book Lists!

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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!