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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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The Best Picture Books for Little Horse Lovers

Do you have a little one who loves, loves, loves horses? I was that child, and to this day I love horses. Here are my favorite picture books old and new which capture the beauty and spirit of this special animal.

One of Jan Brett’s lesser known books, but still a charming story with lovely illustrations. Fritz is a short, ugly pony that the people say is unworthy to carry the children. But when the beautiful horses shy away in a crisis, Fritz is there for the children.

Buy it through my affiliate link: Fritz and the Beautiful Horses

Buy it through my BookShop Page: https://bookshop.org/lists/the-best-picture-books-for-little-horse-lovers

The Perfect Pony is another pony story about looks being less important than a sweet nature. Katie dreams of a beautiful, prancing horse, but finds that her wise mother is right that the perfect pony may be different than she imagined.

Buy it through my affiliate link: The Perfect Pony

Who doesn’t love Marguerite Henry’s Misty of Chincoteague? In Five O’Clock Charlie, Marguerite Henry tells a memorable story about a winsome old draft horse named Charlie. Love the Wesley Dennis illustrations.

Buy through my affiliate link: Five o’clock Charlie

Buy it through my Bookshop Page: https://bookshop.org/lists/the-best-picture-books-for-little-horse-lovers

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This gorgeous Jane Yolen and Ruth Sanderson story makes a gentle bedtime story about mother love.

Buy it through my affiliate link: Hush, Little Horsie

This touching historical fiction story set in 1843 tells about little Gretchen, separated from her wagon train, and The White Stallion who saved her life.

Buy it through my affiliate link: The White Stallion

Buy it through my Bookshop page: https://bookshop.org/lists/the-best-picture-books-for-little-horse-lovers

Two sisters remember their mother telling them that the Carousel horses waking to life in early spring. They go on an imaginative journey which brings them healing after the death of their mother (trigger warning: mother has died). Gorgeously illustrated by Jim LaMarche.

Buy it through my affiliate link: The Carousel

Once upon a time, there was a boy who “loved horses more than anything else in the world”… The Billy and Blaze series are classic adventures about a boy and his pony. A little lengthier than other picture books, these are also great for young readers.

Buy through my affiliate link: Billy and Blaze Collection

Buy through my Bookshop page: https://bookshop.org/lists/the-best-picture-books-for-little-horse-lovers

In this Caldecott Winning story, a Native American girl cares for her tribe’s horses and eventually becomes a horse herself.

Amazon affiliate link: The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses

Bookshop affiliate page: https://bookshop.org/lists/the-best-picture-books-for-little-horse-lovers

A sleepy child learns from her grandmother how to visualize imaginary Sleep Ponies carrying her away to sweet dreams.

Amazon affiliate link: The Sleep Ponies

A little girl longs for a horse more than anything, but her parents carefully explain why buying one isn’t possible. Instead, she uses her imagination and drawings to fly through the stars with her dream pony.

Amazon affiliate link: My Pony

Bookshop affiliate page: https://bookshop.org/lists/the-best-picture-books-for-little-horse-lovers

Cowboy Small and his pony Cactus explain to little cowpokes how to take good care of a pony and what a cowboy does every day.

Buy it through my affiliate link: Cowboy Small

Bookshop affiliate page: https://bookshop.org/lists/the-best-picture-books-for-little-horse-lovers

Alice and Martin Provensen’s whimsical story about their farm animal perfectly captures the memorable personalities of their herd of horses. This has been one of my favorite books for 25 years.

Buy it through my affiliate link: Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm

Bookshop affiliate page: https://bookshop.org/lists/the-best-picture-books-for-little-horse-lovers

Virginia Lee Burton of Mike Mulligan fame wrote and illustrated this hilarious story about Calico the Wonder Horse. Calico not only outsmarts a band of ornery bad men but convinces them to reform.

Buy through my affiliate link: Calico the Wonder Horse

Bookshop affiliate page: https://bookshop.org/lists/the-best-picture-books-for-little-horse-lovers

For more of my favorite picture books for children, check out my Book Lists!

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20 Beautiful Winter Picture Books

We were blessed with the magic of a white Christmas this year, so I’m in hte mood to share some beautiful winter picture books! Here’s some of my family’s favorite winter picture books that celebrate the beauty of snowy winter wonderlands.

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A lovely poem by Robert Frost with serene illustrations by Susan Jeffers: what could be better? The whole family can enjoy this beautiful book.

Affiliate link: Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

We just love Jim LaMarche’s magical illustrations that capture the wonder of the tail end of fall and beginning of winter. A little girl observes animals preparing for winter in the wild as she sketches in her nature journal.

Affiliate link: Winter Is Coming

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Who doesn’t love Margaret Wise Brown’s rhythmic text in A Home in the Barn? Jerry Pinkney’s detailed illustrations capture the warmth of the farm animals hunkered down for the cold season.

Affiliate link: A Home in the Barn

The Little Fir Tree is another Margaret Wise Brown illustrated beautifully by Jim LaMarche. This touching story captures the love of a father who digs up a live tree for his bedridden son to bring Christmas magic indoors.

Affiliate link: The Little Fir Tree

This sweet and simple story captures a father and daughter’s special sled ride On a Wintry Morning.

Affiliate link: On a Wintry Morning

A very curious child goes exploring with his parents to discover what happens to all his animal friends When Winter Comes.

Affiliate link: When Winter Comes

An adorable red fox wanders through the forest asking the other animals how to get ready for winter in Winter Dance.

Affiliate link: Winter Dance

Read these fun acrostics with your child as you explore the winter wonderland in the pages.

Affiliate link: Winter: An Alphabet Acrostic

In The Tomten, beloved Swedish author Astrid Lindgren gives children a charming little story about a Tomten who whispers to the farm animals that winter will pass and spring will come again.

Affiliate link: The Tomten

Who doesn’t love Jan Brett’s gorgeous detailed illustrations? We love her hedgehog stories, all set in winter: The Snowy Nap, The Hat, and Hedgie’s Surprise.

Brett has many more charming stories with dazzling winter artwork such as: The Mitten, Cinders: A Chicken Cinderella, Cozy, The Three Snow Bears, Annie and the Wild Animals, Trouble with Trolls, and Christmas Trolls.

A little boy and his family take a moonlight hike to decorate a Christmas tree with snacks for the wild animals in Night Tree.

Affiliate link: Night Tree

Snow tells children about the different types of snow with a lyrical flow and beautiful snowflake close ups.

Affiliate link: Snow

Kevin Henkes’ simple picture book portrays kids and animals enjoying old-fashioned snow play.

Affiliate link: Winter Is Here

I hope you enjoy these beautiful wintery picture books! If you are looking for Christmas-specific picture books, check out my list Good Christmas Books for Catholic Kids.

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Review of “Where is Jesus Hidden?”

Where is Jesus Hidden cover

Where is Jesus Hidden?

Do you have a little one who asks why they can’t see Jesus? This innovative book from talented author Maura Roan McKeegan helps children learn to “see” Jesus in their daily lives. Using clues from Bible, your child will search each picture of everyday life to find Jesus.

So, where is Jesus hidden?

In the words of the Bible, in Mary’s womb, in the sick, in those in need, in children’s hearts, in the Eucharist. In Where is Jesus Hidden, children become familiar with simple Bible verses about Jesus’ life and teaching. Each verse is accompanied by a full page illustration with a real-life scene for children to search for Jesus. The solution follows on the next page. My 3 and 6 year olds immediately grasped the concept and loved “finding” Jesu son each page!

Great for the 2-5 year old crowd

Where is Jesus Hidden? makes using the eyes of the heart to notice Jesus in our daily life a fun game for preschoolers. Little children will internalize the important practice of thinking about God throughout their day: a valuable spiritual tool for their future. This book would make an affordable Christmas, Easter, or Baptismal anniversary gift.

Buy Where is Jesus Hidden? through my Amazon affiliate link: Where Is Jesus Hidden?

Or buy it from the publisher Emmaus Road Publishing.

Also check out this favorite of mine, also by Maura McKeegan: Review of “St. Conrad and the Wildfire”!

Disclaimer: I received a copy of “Where is Jesus Hidden?” from Emmaus Road Publishing in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

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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.

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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 “God the Father and the Best Day Ever”

God the Father and the Best Day Ever is a brand-new approach to introducing little ones to salvation and God the Father. Gracie Jagla offers a fresh perspective about Salvation to little ones with this book that focuses especially on God the Father’s love for us, his children.

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

Most salvation books for younger children focus on the second person in the Blessed Trinity, Jesus Christ, and the details of his Passion, Death, and Resurrection. God the Father and the Best Day Ever looks at salvation from God the Father’s perspective. This book draws children to reflect on the Father’s love for his children, his sorrow at their exile from heaven, and his joy when the gates of heaven opened.

The simple, rhythmic text tells the salvation story in a way that young children will understand and enjoy:

You’ve heard Easter’s story,
You know how it goes:
Christ died for our sins
And on Easter, he rose.

But there’s more to the story
That you might not know.
What happened above when God
Triumphed below?

As far as the illustrations, I’ll admit I’ve more of a preference for classical and realistic art, so the more contemporary style pictures in this book aren’t my favorite. But kids who like cartoons will probably be engaged by these lively and engaging modern pictures.

Overall, I appreciated this picture book’s unique focus on God the Father. It’s worth checking out and considering if you have 3-7 year old children!

Disclaimer: I received a copy of “God the Father and the Best Day Ever” in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

Check out my favorite Catholic books for preschoolers and kindergartners here!

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.

Review of “Catholic Children’s Treasure Box” Series

 The Treasure Box books are a sweetly illustrated, old-timey series reprinted by Tan Books. Dating back to the 1950s, the Treasure Box series was published as a Catholic children’s magazine. Written and edited by the Maryknoll Sisters, this series is a throwback to a more innocent time in primarily good but occasionally troublesome ways.

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

The Positives

Following in the steps of the Good Shepherd, Treasure Box uses original parables to teach Catholic doctrine and virtues in a way a 3-6 year old can readily understand. For example, one story is about a rich, selfish man who dreams he goes to heaven and finds his clothing there tattered and holey because of his selfish behavior on earth. Other stories have messages about lying, rumors, hard work, honoring the elderly, and stewardship.

Each Treasure Box has an installment in at least one or two serial-style stories, which kids love to follow from volume to volume. My kids’ favorite serial describes the efforts of a charming guardian angel to care for his young African charge and bring missionaries to his remote village. This serial has some great themes about spiritual warfare, supporting missionaries, and devotion to your guardian angel. Other serials follow St. Therese of Lisieux, the story of Creation, and the story of the Holy Family.

Each Treasure Box contains a fun nostalgic section of toy-free play activities, games, and crafts with everyday items. There are also a short poetry selection, fun rhymes, and prayers. Each volume is full of beautiful illustrations and vintage charm.

The Negatives

Overall, we love the Treasure Box books, but there are a few areas where the old-school flavor isn’t an unmitigated positive. There are a few places I either skip a story or provide careful commentary.

For example, Volume 3 has an installment in the St. Therese story where little Therese’s father asks her for a kiss, and she says “No!” Then her father goes inside sadly and her sisters tell her how naughty she was to say no. You see where I’m going with this. I’m sure that back in 1950, this was an entirely innocent story that was supposed to be about listening to your parents or being polite or something. However, in our modern world with our greater awareness of the prevalence of sexual abuse, we definitely don’t want our kids to get the idea it’s wrong to say “No” when someone in authority asks for a kiss, or more! So this part of Volume 3 I either skip or explain carefully that her sisters meant Therese said “No” in a sassy way and she should have said “No, thank you!” And we talk about how it’s always okay to say no to someone touching you, bodily autonomy, and so on.

Another place that 1950’s norms don’t exactly match with modern sensibilities is when it come to corporal punishment. There are a few occasions over the 20 volumes of Treasure Box where someone gets a spanking or is threatened with a spanking. A lot of families nowadays are anti-corporal punishment so this is another place where a simple omission or commentary might be needed.

There’s also the rare intense story with a little violence that might disturb sensitive children. Notably in Volume 17, there’s a German folk tale about Shepherd Honest, who is coerced by a scheming courtier to kill the king’s favorite white lamb and deliver the heart to be eaten. My sensitive daughter was quite upset about the fact that the lamb was killed and it’s heart eaten. No illustration of this scene thankfully, but even hearing about this upsets some children!

All things considered

Overall, I do recommend the Treasure Box books. Their sweet vintage illustrations, virtue-building stories, and fun activities make them great for bedtime read-alouds or as a bi-weekly “magazine” to surprise your little ones with. The 2 serial stories per volume make using these as a “magazine” particularly enjoyable. It’s fun waiting to hear what happens to Therese or Wupsy next! With just the few issues I mentioned above which are sections easily omitted, these volumes are very enjoyable for little Catholic children. I think the ideal age to read these aloud is 3-6, though slightly older siblings often enjoy listening in too!