close up of rosary on table

Review of “The Catholic Treasury of Prayers and Verses”

"catholic treasury of prayers and verses"

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.

abstract arachnid close up cobweb

Review of “The Spider Who Saved Christmas”

the spider who saved christmas cover

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.

wrapped presents

Book Lovers’ Christmas Gift Guide 2020

Recommendations for the best quality books to gift this Christmas season! By age and category!

Jump to a category:

Picture Books

Early Elementary

Middle Grade

Tweens and Teens

Adults

Family

Favorite Picture Book Gifts

Saint Story

A beautifully illustrated picture book with an equally beautiful theme about lying, reparation, and forgiveness. Read my full review here!

Affiliate link: St. Conrad and the Wildfire

Christmas Books
54888119. sx318

Here’s a brand new Christmas book so you can be sure they won’t already have it! A simple book with a nice theme about spiritual blindness and the power of a little kindness.

Affiliate link: The Grumpy Old Ox

We love this reworking of the beloved Christmas poem. Twas the Evening of Christmas reclaims the traditional Christmas story while keeping the familiar rhythm children love in The Night Before Christmas.

Affiliate link: ‘Twas the Evening of Christmas

For more of my favorite Christmas picture books, check out my list: Good Christmas Books for Catholic Kids!

Classics

Little Annie dearly wants a new friend after her cat Taffy disappears. Despite her best efforts, she finds the forest animals unmanagable. Fortunately, Taffy comes home in time for spring.

Affiliate link: Annie and the Wild Animals

1145614. sx318

Dogger always makes me cry, in a good way. Dave loses his favorite stuffed animal, and his older sister gets it back with an act of sacrifice.

Affiliate link: Dogger

421569. sx318

The Brambly Hedge stories are completely charming with the cutest detailed illustrations. This collection is quality hardcover.

Affiliate link: The Complete Brambly Hedge

Recently Published:
52606517. sx318

Our Lady’s Wardrobe is a gorgeous introduction to various Marian Apparitions. With a hardcover and high-quality artwork, this book makes a great gift. Full review here: Review of “Our Lady’s Wardrobe”

Affiliate link: Our Lady’s Wardrobe

Poetry Collection

Shirley Hughes is a wonderful British author and illustrator. Out and About is a collection of her poetry about the changing seasons. Follow a little girl and her brother through the year in poems.

Affiliate link: Out and About: A First Book of Poems

Favorite Early Elementary Books Gifts

Saint/Religious Book:
35454625. sx318

The “Along the paths of the Gospel” series of Saint stories are wonderful for young readers with only a couple sentences per page and beautiful illustrations. They can be hard to find, but Seton Educational media has some for sale right now.

9705390

In The Adventures of Loupio, a young boy encounters St. Francis of Assisi and his life is transformed. This simple graphic novel series particularly delights young boys.

Affiliate link: The Adventures of Loupio

Christmas Book:
54974268

This beautifully illustrated newly published Christmas books retells a Eastern European legend about a spider who saves Christmas.

Affiliate link: The Spider Who Saved Christmas

861302

The Miracle of Saint Nicholas is a heart-warming story of a community coming together to create a miraculous Christmas. One of my very favorites.

Affiliate link: The Miracle of Saint Nicholas

Classics:

The Children of Noisy Village play hard, fight occasionally, and always entertain. These charming tales from beloved Swedish author Astrid Lindgren are sure to be a hit with their short chapters and vivid descriptions of village life.

Affiliate link: The Children of Noisy Village

764302

Jenny and the Cat Club is part of the classics about a little black cat named Jenny’s many adventures. Short chapters and simple stories.

Affiliate link: Jenny and the Cat Club

Recently Published:

Prince Martin is a brave young lad who wins his sword by courage and loyalty. Full review of this awesome contemporary series here: Review of the “Prince Martin” Books

Affiliate link: Prince Martin Wins His Sword

Favorite Middle Grade Books Gifts

Saint Book:

The five volumes of The Saints Chronicles tell the stories of over 25 saints both ancient and modern in a compelling way. The bold graphic novel art style really captures the attention of 8-12 year olds!

Affiliate links: Saints Chronicles Collection 1, Saints Chronicles Collection 2, Saints Chronicles Collection 3, Saints Chronicles Collection 4, and Saints Chronicles Collection 5

18939040

I love Mary Fabyan Windeatt’s Saint biographies! This set has all 20 of her classic books for youth.

Affiliate link: Mary Fabyan Windeatt 20 Book Set

Christmas Book:
7331

J. R. R. Tolkien’s Letters from Father Christmas were one of my favorite Christmas season reads growing up. Kids who love the Hobbit will be delighted with these!

Affiliate link: Letters From Father Christmas

Classics:

The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald is a fairy tale for older kids. This book with its deep symbolism and evil goblins inspired both Lewis and Tolkien!

Affiliate link: The Princess and the Goblin

Little Britches and his family’s experiences farming in the rural west a century ago will fascinate today’s children. Complete with round-ups, rodeos, natural disasters, and beautiful scenery, it’s hard to believe these books are autobiographical!

Affiliate link: Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers

Home

Check out one of my favorite publishers, Bethlehem Books, for an amazing assortment of historical fiction titles for hte middle grades, all wonderful classics. Some notable series on their site include: The Mitchells series, The Bantry Bay Books, The Letzenstein Chronicles, The Drover’s Road Books, and the Fairchild Family series.

Favorite Gift Books for Teens and Tweens

Religious:

Here’s a saint book modern teens can relate too: one about teens like them! Stories of 8 teenage saints from around the world.

Affiliate link: Ablaze: Stories of Daring Teen Saints

The Shadow of His Wings is Fr. Goldman’s incredible story of his ordination to the priesthood while serving as an unwilling Nazi soldier. Amazing memoir from a great priest, sure to make a deep impact on teens.

Affiliate link: The Shadow of His Wings: The True Story of Fr. Gereon Goldmann, OFM

The Plans God has for You is an uplifting little book perfect for the teenage girl in your life! Full review here: Review of “The Plans God Has for You”

Affiliate link: The Plans God Has for You: Hopeful Lessons for Young Women

Classics:

How about a nice edition of a classic series? I love these gorgeous hard-cover editions!

Every teenage girl must read Austen as an inoculation against unsuitable young men! Love this beautiful matched edition!

Affiliate link: Jane Austen: The Complete Works

Here’s another set every teen should own! What better story than The Lord of the Rings to give us hope these days?

Affiliate link: Lord Of The Rings Boxed Set

102549

C. S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy is a perennial favorite with teens. Some editions have unfortunate covers, so buy all 3 volumes of the Scribner edition for the most visually appealing collection.

Affiliate link: Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength

Favorite Gift Books for Adults

Christmas:

This gorgeous newly published cookbook/coffee table book is sure to delight. Full review here: Review of “The Vatican Christmas Cookbook”

Affiliate link: The Vatican Christmas Cookbook

Advent:

Kendra Tierney’s newest book is the hit of the season this year. In O Come, Emmanuel Tierney brings her years of mothering wisdom to a family-friendly Jesse Tree guide.

Affiliate link: O Come, Emmanuel

Religious:

Any philosophy or theology lover will enjoy this collection of 8 of Lewis’s most popular works including The Four Loves and The Screwtape Letters.

Affiliate link: The C. S. Lewis Signature Classics

Ever silently wondered about the point of the Responsorial Psalms? Fr. Hanson offers a convicting and helpful perspective to understanding and praying the Psalms. I really enjoyed this little book.

Affiliate link: Praying from the Depths of the Psalms

Classics:

Who doesn’t love James Herriot’s heart-warming stories of life as a country vet in the beautiful Yorkshire dales?

Affiliate link: James Herriot Box Set

17343

Till We Have Faces is Lewis’s last and perhaps greatest achievement. A simple myth with complex layers of meaning, this book appeals to a wide range of interests.

Affiliate link: Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold

9671213

Anything Chesterton always comes highly recommended on this blog! The Everlasting Man is Chesterton’s sweeping look at how all history leads to the coming of Christ.

Affiliate link: The Everlasting Man by G K Chesterton

Comedy:

For light comedic relief, Wodehouse can’t be beat. The Code of the Woosters is Wodehouse at his best with the hilarious Jeeves-Wooster duo. If you prefer audiobooks, the Jonathan Cecil narrations are spot-on.

Affiliate link: The Code of the Woosters

Contemporary:
2728527

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a modern classic. The historical fiction is exceptionally well done, the characters memorable, and the story pulls on the heart strings.

Affiliate link: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Favorite Family Gifts

For the whole family, I love quality hardcover collections like these!

Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women books are wonderful read alouds for the whole family. These gorgeous hardcovers are sure to be treasured.

Affiliate link: Juniper Books Little Women Book Set

This beautifully designed edition of The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and The Silmarillion is my favorite set!

Affiliate link: Juniper Books Lord of The Rings: The Complete Writings Five-Volume Book Set

My paperback copies of The Chronicles of Narnia are literally falling apart. Any family will love these hardcover copies that will hold up to frequent reading.

Affiliate link: The Chronicles of Narnia | Seven-Volume Hardcover Book Set

An Anthology of Intriguing Animals is a not-too-expensive coffee table style hardcover full of eye-catching animal drawings and fun facts.

Affiliate link: An Anthology of Intriguing Animals

green plants

Review of “O Come, Emmanuel”

O Come Emmanuel book cover advent reflection  Jesse Tree

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:

brown christmas ceramic figurines

Review of “The Grumpy Old Ox”

The Grumpy Old Ox book cover

Just in time for Christmas shopping, here’s an original new Christmas story from Anthony DeStefano and Sophia Institute Press. In The Grumpy Old Ox, a blind and curmudgeonly ox lives with an equally crabby innkeeper in Bethlehem. When the innkeeper grudgingly allows a man and his pregnant wife to sleep in his stable, the ox encounters the miracle of Christ’s birth. His life will never be the same.

A Unique Theme

The Grumpy Old Ox is a simple rhythmic story on the surface, but as is typical for DeStefano’s books, there’s a profound theme lurking beneath the surface. The grumpy ox’s blindness is a physical symbol of his spiritual pride and selfishness: a form of spiritual blindness. When the ox opens his soul to welcome the Christ Child with simple gifts, his spiritual and physical blindness are healed. With this story for children, DeStefano foreshadows the many examples in Jesus’ life where pride and blindness intersect to prevent people from recognizing him as the Messiah. But in this hopeful story, the grumpy ox has a change of heart and is healed.

One for the Christmas Basket

If you’re like me, you love collecting special books for the Advent and Christmas Season. I wrap all our Christmas books into bundles and my children take turns opening one a day until Christmas. I’m excited to add this new book to our basket this Advent. I know my kids will love the bright illustrations and rhythmic story!

Buy The Grumpy Old Ox through my Amazon Affiliate link: The Grumpy Old Ox.

Wondering what other books are in our Christmas basket this year? Check out my Christmas Picture Book List!

Disclaimer: I received a copy of The Grumpy Old Ox from Sophia Institute Press in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

white clouds and blue sky

Review of “Marian Consecration for Families with Young Children”

They say never judge a book by its cover, but…

As soon as I saw the luminous cover of Marian Consecration for Families with Young Children I knew I was going to love this book!

Marian Consecration for Families with Young Children, book cover

This book fills an important need for a young child oriented Marian Consecration.

My family had recently completed a more traditional adult-oriented Marian Consecration and I was feeling let down. While it was a moving experience for me, I felt like most of the teaching went right over my little kiddos heads. In fact, there was a lot of wiggling and complaining from my littles.

So when Marian Consecration for Families with Young Children arrived in the mail, I knew I needed to try again with my littles with this brand-new child-centric consecration. And sure enough, I found Colleen Pressprich’s book makes a Consecration with young children doable and even enjoyable!

Gorgeous artwork and simple guidance make this book perfect for use with little children.

First, you and your children take in the sublime artwork for each day. I loved how talented illustrator Rebecca Gorzynska chose to portray Mary in a diverse variety of ethnicities! My kids are obsessed with the beautiful images of Mary, and I am thrilled that they are experiencing the many ways Mary is envisioned around the world.

Then, you read a short paragraph about Mary and Marian devotion. Finally, Colleen provides conversation starters: simple questions to inspire your children to think about Mary and engage in discussion. For example:

Have you done any tracing? Was it easier or harder for you to draw a picture of the thing you traced?

What do you think it means for God to trace Mary’s love in our hearts?

Marian Consecration for Families with Young Children

It’s only 5 Minutes a Day, and even the littlest children can benefit!

Colleen Pressprich’s evident devotion to Mary and experience as a mother brings an authentic spirituality and natural flow to this guide to consecration for young children. When I say “young children” you may be wondering how young? I think children as young as 2 will benefit from completing this consecration. My 3-7 year olds are all enjoying it. This book will certainly help your little ones draw closer to Mary as a mother, queen, and guide.

Do you have 5 extra minutes a day and young children at home? Then this is the perfect addition to your day!

To buy Marian Consecration for Families with Young Children through my affiliate link, click here: Marian Consecration for Families with Young Children!

This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which means I earn a small fee for qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of Marian Consecration for Families with Young Children in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

To check out Colleen Pressprich’s blog and preview more of the gorgeous artwork, go here: Elevator to Heaven.

To see my favorite Catholic books for young children, check out my book list: Good Catholic Books for Young Children.

For a Marian Consecration for children over the age of 7 check out my Review of “Family Consecration to Jesus Through Mary”.

Review of “Maximilian Kolbe: The Saint of Auschwitz”

St. Maximilian Kolbe is truly a saint for day modern-day Catholics to admire and emulate. From his successful media outreach work to his missionary work to his sacrificial death, St. Maximilian Kolbe lived a life of charity and love. This exciting new graphic novel from Sophia Institute Press brings St. Maximilian Koble’s story to life with high quality illustrations and photographs of the saint.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which means I earn a small fee for qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you.

The Whole Story

Most Catholics are familiar with St. Maximilian Kolbe’s dramatic sacrificial death as Auschwitz: so much so that he is often known as The Saint of Auschwitz. But this graphic novel delves deeper and follows the thread of Maximilian’s life from childhood to death. Through St. Maximilian’s remembrances in concentration camp, you will learn about Saint Maximilian Kolbe’s work establishing the Militia of the Immaculata, establishment of Catholic magazines and newspapers, missionary work in Japan, and more. As I read The Saint of Auschwitz, I was blown away by how much a young priest with tuberculosis accomplished in his short life.

Inspiration for Today’s Teens

This graphic novel will powerfully motivate tweens, teens, and even adults to live life with joy, charity, and a missionary zeal in the spirit of St. Maximilian Kolbe. I think most tweens will be fine with the level of intensity. St. Maximilian Kolbe’s story is sad and intense; fifteen days in a bunker waiting to die of hunger and thirst is a horrifying death. But his choice to embrace this death out of charity for a stranger and his joy in suffering is an inspiration that today’s youth will respond to with enthusiasm.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of “Maximilian Kolbe: The Saint of Auschwitz” from Sophia Institute Press in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

Looking for more great graphic novels for Catholic kids? Check out my list of Graphic Novels and Comic Books!

Review of “The Day-by-Day Coloring Book of Saints”

day-by-day coloring book of saints volume 2 cover image

It never ceases to amaze me what riches Catholic authors and publishers are creating to enrich our liturgical year! Author Anna Maria Mendell and illustrator Mary MacArthur recently teamed up with Sophia Institute Press to produce a truly wonderful resource. The Day-by-Day Coloring Book of Saints invites you to delve deep into the feast of inspiration that our Catholic Church offers through the liturgical year. Celebrate heroic men and women of faith every day this year as you create beauty with this coloring book!

This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which means I earn a small fee for qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you.

Day-by-Day Coloring Book of Saints Volume 1 covers January-June, and Volume 2 spans the rest of the year from July-December. Each day your child can read a one page biography of the saint complete with memorable anecdotes. And, of course, there’s a beautiful coloring page for your child. By the end of the year, your child will have learned a ton about a range of saints, ancient to modern, and created a uniquely illustrated book they can keep!

Yes, you can find coloring pages for some of these saints online these days. But you really can’t match the convenience of these coloring books! You have all the saints for the year, details about their life, and all in one place. These books make liturgical living easy!

I’m planning on using these coloring books as part of my religion program for my 1st grader, who will love coloring the pictures as I read to her about the saints. A 3rd grader or older could read the biographies independently and color as part of a personal prayer time. These coloring books would be a great addition to a religion program, a morning time basket, or family prayer time!

Coloring Contest Day by Day Coloring Book of Saints

Interested in getting The Day-By-Day Coloring Book of Saints free? Until August 8th, Sophia Institute Press is holding a Coloring Contest with prizes being copies of this coloring book set!

The Rules are simple:

1. Follow Sophia Institute Press and The Catholic Company on your favorite social media platform (Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter).

2. Print out the coloring page and color it in: SophiaInstitute.com/ColoringPage

3. Post a photo of the colored page on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter and tag Sophia.

4. Open to US residents only.

Day-by-Day Coloring Book of Saints Set book cover

Disclaimer: I received a copy of “The Day-by-Day Coloring Book of Saints” from Sophia Institute Press in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

For more great resources for Catholic kids check out my book lists!

Review of “Shadow in the Dark”

Shadow in the Dark book cover. Catholic book review.

Step straight into Medieval England as you open Shadow in the Dark, the first volume in a brand new series by Antony Kolenc. With a meticulous attention to the historical setting and thoughtful insight into Medieval Catholicism, Kolenc weaves a fascinating and exciting tale. The story begins with young Xan’s dramatic conflict with a band of robbers, which results in Xan losing his family, memory, and feeling of identity. While packing in plenty of action, what makes Shadow in the Dark really stand out among middle grade historical fiction is Xan’s insightful search for the meaning of his suffering and journey of faith.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which means I earn a small fee for qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you.

What is Identity?

12 year old Xan loses his memory completely at the beginning of the book which leads him to question who he is, and seek a purpose in life. Although most tweens and young teens don’t have to deal with amnesia, they will identify with Xan’s quest to define himself and his place in life. A major theme in Shadow in the Dark is Xan’s quest for identity. He looks to his new “family” of monks at Hardwell Abbey for assistance in his search.

A wise nun tells him: “If you find our purpose- where you fit into this new life of yours- then you will find your joy again.” One of the monks suggests that Xan may find meaning in learning to read and write and study. Later, Xan begins to see himself as an integral part of God’s plan for the Abbey: the boy who can solve the mystery. When Xan begins to see himself as following God’s plan, he begins to find peace. This message about identity being found in your vocation, in doing God’s will, is a great one for young teens to read!

Meaning in Suffering

Twined with Xan’s search for meaning is his struggle to understand his own suffering: why did his parents die? Why did he lose his memory? Difficult questions, and Shadow in the Dark doesn’t give a trite answer. Eventually, with prayer and thought, Xan accepts that his parents are in heaven and, in a way, better off, though he will always miss them. As he sees his purpose in God’s plan for the Abbey, he begins to glimpse meaning in his own suffering. The question of suffering is another great subject for tweens and teens to begin to ponder, since this is an inevitable question in any Christian’s life.

Bullying and Friendship

When Xan joins the other orphan boys at the Abbey, he immediately runs afoul of the bully, John. Shadow in the Dark does a wonderful job depicting Xan’s initial attempts to avoid trouble and eventual rise to the occasion to protect the younger boys. Even better, Xan later works as a peacemaker and gives John a role in solving the Abbey mystery. In the end, Xan and John are striking up a friendship.

Reading Historical Fiction Critically

Although I loved Shadow in the Dark as a whole, there are a few points parents may want to be aware of for an advance discussion with their children. Author Kolenc definitely agrees with this; he provides a handy preface that encourages his young readers to notice historical differences in practice and attitude and evaluate whether these differences are positive or negative. For example, there’s one old monk who has special permission from his Abbot to engage in self flagellation to unite himself with Christ’s sufferings. The other monks emphasize that this is a “dangerous” practice and only to be undertaken with special permission from a religious superior.

Emotional Cliff Hanger Conclusion

Although I loved the emphasis on identity and meaning in suffering, and Xan grew a lot over the course of the book, he still has a long way to go in his spiritual journey! In the poignant conclusion, Xan witnesses the Abbot forgive and spare the life of a bandit. This bandit not only tried to kill the Abbot, but is also responsible for the death of Xan’s parents and many others. The Abbot, with infinite wisdom and holiness, extends forgiveness and touches the bandit’s heart, moving him to repentance. However, Xan, furious still about his parents’ deaths, feels no forgiveness towards the man who is responsible. Clearly, Xan still has a long way to go on his spiritual journey! Hopefully the second volume will follow soon so we can find out how he learns to forgive!

Great for the Middle Grades

5th-8th grade tweens and teens will enjoy this masterfully constructed historical fiction novel. There’s adventure, there’s mystery, there’s justice, there’s friendship. Xan is a relatable hero grappling with common coming of age problems. The overall positive depiction of a medieval Abbey as a center of learning and charitable works is refreshing and inspiring. I look forward to seeing the future volumes in this series!

Shadow in the Dark is available for pre-order now!

I received a copy of “Shadow in the Dark” from Loyola Press in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

Book cover "Shadow in the Dark" book review Catholic kids

Sleepy Bedtime Stories for Little Ones

Looking for that quintessential bedtime story that your little one will listen to every single night before going to bed? These books have gentle, rhythmic text, sweet illustrations, and timeless themes about bedtime and sleep.

Sylvia Long’s lovely new version of the classic lullaby Hush Little Baby has an amazing nature theme. A mother rabbit soothes her little one to bed by pointing out the natural beauty around them. A great improvement on the mercenary motif in the traditional version of this popular bedtime song!

This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which means I earn a small fee for qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you.

Each beautiful page of Time for Bed shows a mother baby and her animal preparing for bed. We love the gorgeous illustrations in this soothing book.

In Baby’s Boat, an adorable little boy sails across a sleepy sea in his moonboat, fishing with star bait. A sure recipe for sweet dreams.

In Little Donkey Close Your Eyes, animal mothers urge their babies to close their eyes in this simple, calming poem by beloved author Margaret Wise Brown.

A soothing poem about falling asleep by Eric Metaxas is complemented by Nancy Tillman’s gorgeous illustrations in It’s Time to Sleep, My Love. Animals around the world prepare for bed and coax their babies to sleep.

In The Sleep Ponies, a grandmother teaches her rosy-cheeked grandchild to calm her body and mind by picturing a herd of adorable ponies carrying her off to sweet dreams.

Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site is a favorite with the boys! Each might machine on a construction site prepares for bed and goes to sleep in this goodnight story.

Bear Can’t Sleep and Bear Snores On are two adorable books about a bear who can’t sleep (and then oversleeps!)

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown is the quintessential bedtime classic that children love hearing again and again.

Donald and his rabbit both can’t sleep! Donald begins to emphasize with his mother as he keeps trying to settle down his rambunctious rabbit friend in Are You Asleep, Rabbit?

In this gorgeously illustrated bedtime story, a little boy asks his dad how each animal on the farm goes to sleep. I love the patient, sleepy dad and the curious boy in Going to Sleep on the Farm.