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.

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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 “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

50 Beautiful Picture Books You Will Want to Own

The function of all art lies in fact in breaking through the narrow and tortuous enclosure of the finite, in which man is immersed while living here below, and in providing a window to the infinite for his hungry soul.

“The Function of Art” ~ Pope Pius XII

In our family, one way we find that glimpse into the infinite is through beautiful picture books. The artists and illustrators of the books listed here have used their talents to provide children with truly beautiful pictures which fill their hearts with a love for beauty. As they grow older, that foundation will prepare them to contemplate the beauty and majesty of their Creator.

We love Josephine Nobisso’s wonderful Catholic stories which are beautifully complemented by Katlin Szegedi’s luminous illustrations. Check out both their collaborations: The Weight of a Mass: A Tale of Faith and Take It to the Queen: A Tale of Hope.

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Elsa Beskow’s attention to detail and soft watercolors are so enchanting! Peter’s Old House is a heart-warming story of a community coming together to rebuild a kind but poor neighbor’s house.

Many of Elsa Beskow’s stories, like Peter in Blueberry Land, have a fairy tale quality that works perfectly with her delicate, lovely illustrations.

Demi’s masterful and original artwork complement several beautiful books about the saints, including: Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Bernadette, and Hildegard of Bingen.

Demi’s masterful and original artwork complement several beautiful books about the saints, including: Saint Francis of Assisi, Joan of Arc, and Saint Bernadette and the Miracles of Lourdes.

Ruth Sanderson’s Cinderella retelling has the most gorgeous fairy tale illustrations with lots of silvers and magical glows. She also hsa other incredibly beautiful versions of classic fairy tales like Rose Red and Snow White.

We also enjoy Sanderson’s versions of unique fairy tales from around the world such as The Golden Mare, the Firebird, and the Magic Ring and The Enchanted Wood.

Ruth Sanderson also has illustrated some lovely religious books, like The Nativity and Saints: Lives & Illuminations.

The Complete Brambly Hedge is chock-full of lovely, detailed nature illustrations and perfectly whiskered mice. We love these peaceful stories, perfect for a summer day.

British author and illustrator Jane Hissey draws the most charming pictures of huggable stuffed animals. We love The Old Bear Collection and all its sequels.

Miss Rumphius wants to make the world a more beautiful place. So, apparently, does author and illustrator Barbara Cooney, whose delicate depictions of coastal New England make me want to visit.

Jan Brett has perfected picture books for children. Simple but entertaining stories, often based on fairy tales, and the most detailed artwork you’ll ever see. Children spend hours pouring over her books. Some of our favorites include: Mossy, Annie and the Wild Animals, The Hat, Town Mouse, Country Mouse, and Cinders.

The talented Trina Hyman’s retelling of Little Red Riding Hood features a sweet, very young Red Riding Hood and rich woodland scenes. Warning for littler readers: this retelling includes the wolf swallowing both Red and Grandma, and then the Woodsman cutting up the wolf to rescue them.

We also enjoy the Trina Schart Hyman illustrions in Margaret Hodges’ retellings of The Kitchen Knight: A Tale of King Arthur and Saint George and the Dragon

The oil paintings in Heckedy Peg provide a richness and depth seldom found in picture books. In this fairy tale, a mother must rescue her 7 children from an evil witch.

Rechenka’s Eggs is the story of a miracle for a lonely old woman. Patricia Polacco captures the Russian flavor of this story with intricate, colorful illustrations.

The artwork in Claire Nivola’s childhood memoir, Orani, glows with a warm Mediterranean vibe. A simple description of an American girl’s impressions of the vibrant everyday life in a traditional Italian village.

In Jerry Pinkney’s wordless version of The Lion & the Mouse, the pictures themselves tell the classic fable. Other beautifully executed Pinkney books include The Three Billy Goats Gruff and The Tortoise & the Hare.

Out and About is a perfect introduction to poetry, complemented by lovely drawings of the changing seasons and family life.

Another beautiful Shirley Hughes book is Lucy and Tom at the Seaside. Hughes’ style lends itself well to the detailed beach scenes depicting a family’s day at the seaside.

The Sleep Ponies is a whimsical dream story with appropriately dreamy, luminous watercolors throughout.

Paul Zelinsky’s gorgeous retelling of Rapunzel is rich and compelling.

I love the old English folk song Over in the Meadow, and have two favorite versions. I appreciate the colorful slavic style in Feodor Rojankovsky’s illustrations.

But I also love the incredibly realistic illustrations in Feirabend’s version of Over in the Meadow. These animals could leap right off the page!

This book is beautiful, every margin is full of delicate drawings of seeds and plants, and it helps kids appreciate the gorgeous bounty of a garden. We love How Groundhog’s Garden Grew!

Days on the Farm: This lovely storybook collection has six stories of farm life with delicate, detailed illustrations inspired by life on a sheep farm.

Our Lady's Wardrobe

The amazing illustrations in Our Lady’s Wardrobe fit perfectly with the heavenly theme! Check out my full review here!

Penny Dale’s sweet pictures of children mesh well with Martin Waddell’s insightful stories about the dynamics of dealing with a new sibling in Rosie’s Babie and When the Teddy Bears Came.

Little Donkey Close Your Eyes is a classic Margaret Wise Brown story paired with gorgeous bright illustrations in sunset shades.

Home Sweet Home: This beautiful poem blessing creation is paired with Ashley Wolff’s detailed illustrations.

Unique illustrations and perspectives capture these adorable Owl Babies to a feather.

David Wiesner’s realistic illustrations capture the motion and force of the Hurricane.

Graeme Base’s Animalia is a new height in alphabet books. Abundant alliteration, vibrant illustrations, and a unique meshing of fantasy and reality make this book memorable.

Box Turtle at Long Pond depicts a day in the life of a turtle with vibrant, realistic pictures.

GreatRedwallFeast.jpg

In The Great Redwall Feast, Brian Jacques describes a merry feast in the Abbey, rife with cheerful animals.

Jim Arnosky’s love for plants and animals can be seen in his carefully executed drawings. We enjoy his children’s picture books such Rabbits and Raindrops and Every Autumn Comes the Bear.

Maurice Pledger draws intricate, colorful books for little ones. His touch and feel books like Nature Trails are perfect for nurturing an appreciation for nature and wildlife.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of beautiful picture books! Feel free to comment with books you would like to see added to this list!

Review of “St. Conrad and the Wildfire”

St. Conrad and the Wildfire Book Cover

St. Conrad and the Wildfire is a brand-new children’s book by Maura McKeegan. Our family had never heard of St. Conrad of Piacenza before, but after reading this book he is one of our new favorite saints. Both adults and children can appreciate this inspiring true story about the importance of telling the truth and owning up to one’s mistakes.

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

Who was St. Conrad?

St. Conrad of Piacenza was an Italian nobleman in the fourteenth century. He ordered his servants to set a fire to smoke out a stag while hunting, but the fire grew out of control and razed nearby villages and fields. At first, Conrad is ashamed to admit he caused the fire. But after an innocent man is arrested and charged with his crime, Conrad chooses to step forward and take responsibility for the fire. The process of making restitution to his victims costs Conrad nearly all his wealth. But to his surprise, Conrad feels happier as a poor but honest man than ever before in his life.

These Themes!

Already, you can see the beauty and power of this story. Without being at all didactic, the facts of this story illustrate so clearly the importance of telling the truth, owning up to one’s mistakes, having contrition, and making restitution. My 5 year old immediately compared this story to going to Confession.

Another part of this story we loved was Conrad’s sweet, loyal wife Euphrosyne. Euphrosyne stands by Conrad at his worst moment when he admits he has destroyed the village, saying, “I will stand by my husband, and we will make amends together, even if it means relinquishing all that we own.” What an awesome example of an inspiring married couple, moving towards sainthood hand in hand!

One of the Best Picture Books I’ve Read This Year

On top of being a simply fantastic story, this picture book is graced with beautiful, peaceful illustrations. I enjoyed the subtle medieval notes such as the illuminated first letter on some pages, which fit with St. Conrad’s fourteenth century life. St. Conrad and the Wildfire is one of my new favorites. It certainly deserved a place on any Catholic family’s bookshelf.

For more of my favorite Catholic picture books for Catholic children, check out this list!

Gardening Books for Kids

I love, love, love gardening! I think the process of planting and watching seeds grow is renewing and nourishing for our souls. Of course I want my kids to love gardening too, so we found some lovely picture books to get them excited for planting our spring garden! Check out these beautiful picture books and get motivated to start gardening!

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gardening book

How Groundhog’s Garden Grew is my top pick for children’s gardening books! Gorgeous illustrations combine with great themes about hard work and sharing to make this a winner!

Miss Rumphius wants to make the world more beautiful, so she plants lupine wherever she goes. A beautifully illustrated book that encourages you to start planting wherever you are!

We Are the Gardeners by [Gaines, Joanna]

We Are the Gardeners is a sweet story from Joanna Gaines and family of Fixer Upper fame. The Gaines kids learn lessons about hard work, perseverance, and gardening.

In Whose Garden Is It? the gardener, animals, plants, insects, and weather all make a case for ownership of a beautiful garden. But Mrs. McGee ponders, whose garden is it really? I love that this book gets kids thinking about first causes! My 3 year old immediately said everyone was wrong and it was God’s garden really!

A Seed Is Sleepy (Nature Books) by [Aston, Dianna Hutts]

A Seed Is Sleepy is a simply lovely book all about seeds. From the mighty redwood to the sunflower to the mountain laurel, illustrator Sylvia Long makes each species come alive with her talented pen.

Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt: (Nature Book for Kids, Gardening and Vegetable Planting, Outdoor Nature Book) by [Messner, Kate]

Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt is a lyrical, creative book that bounces back and forth to show what’s going on below the soil and above it at the same time.

Bumpety Bump! is a very simply written picture book from Pat Hutchins. There are few words, perfect for the littlest readers. We love this story about a little boy, his grandpa, and a little red hen working in the garden.

Don’t have the space or ability to have an outdoor garden? Flower Garden is the perfect book for you! A sweet little girl helps her father buy the supplies and plant a window box worth of flowers to brighten their city apartment.

Sunflower House is a fun story about children who plant a circle of sunflower seeds to create their own living house! A great idea to try at home if you have the space!

Paddington Bear in the Garden is a cute story about everyone’s favorite affable bear, Paddington, and his attempts to build a garden in the Brown’s yard. With the help of some new friends, he builds a beautiful garden and wins a prize.

The Rose in My Garden starts with a single rose growing. In this cumulative story, a new flower is added to the garden on each page. Great to help children learn to identify flowers!

Each month in Lily’s Garden, Lily describes the work she does in her garden. Each page is decorated with useful information about how to actually garden. Great for slightly older kids who want to understand how to start seeds and plant.

From Seed to Plant by [Gibbons, Gail]

For the factual-minded, Gail Gibbons clear illustrations and explanations are the perfect match. From Seed to Plant is a great introduction to seed and plant growth.

In The Tiny Seed, Eric Carle describes one tiny seed’s process of germination, growth, and flowering. Great for helping kids understand the cycle of seed growth and production.

Looking for more great books for Catholic kids? Check out my book lists!

Review of “The Island of the Two Trees”

Cover of "The Island of the Two Trees"
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The plot of The Island of Two Trees is written in the tradition of C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia. Three siblings are “called” into a fantasy world at a pivotal moment in that world’s history. But in The Island of the Two Trees, Brian Kennelly brings a fresh twist to the classic story line by having the children called into their father’s imagination in order to save his very life.

Allegory & Symbolism

Like Lewis and George MacDonald, Brian Kennelly uses fantasy as a means of shedding light on Christianity. In The Island of the Two Trees, Kennelly uses a variety of allegories which can help children understand aspects of our Christian faith such as the battle between good and evil, devotion to Mary, and Jesus’ role in salvation history. The most obvious symbolism is in the two trees: the one a gift from the “good Counselor” which provides life-giving water to the island, the other an extension of the evil shoot Radicle which wants to destroy the island.

A Family Story

One neat thing about The Island of the Two Trees is that unlike most fantasy stories, the three children’s parents actually get chapter space in the book. Kennelly wants to convey the interconnected consequences the choices of each family member have on the others. The story bounces back between the children’s and parents’ perspective. He also wants to show that the love between parents and children is a powerful force. The children’s love for their father motivates them to face danger to save the island of his mind.

Evil: Not To Be Ignored

In the Screwtape Letters, Lewis writes a letter in which a devil describes the demonic strategy of urging humans to ignore the reality of demons and evil. This passage may well be the inspiration behind the premise of The Island of the Two Trees. The darkness begins to take over the father’s mind when he ignores the evil in the story he has created. When he refuses to address the dark aspects of his make-believe, they gain power, until as a last resort his children must defeat them in an alternative reality.

An Exciting Family Read-Aloud

I think this book makes a great read-aloud that many fathers would particularly appreciate reading to their children. Yes, there are some dark parts where the children battle demonic creatures. But it is not graphic at all, so not too scary for most little children. I think most 5-10 year olds would enjoy this book as a read-aloud or independent read.

Check out The Island of Two Trees on Amazon or from its Catholic publisher, Tan Books.

For more great fantasy books for Catholic kids, check out my list:

The Invisible Thread Symbolism in Three Great Authors

A fairy tale from a Christian minister. A mystery story from a famous Catholic convert and apologist. A tragic novel from a troubled revert. Three great stories with one common theme: the hand of Divine Providence.

Invisible Threads

Do you ever try to see the workings Divine Providence in your life- and fail? I certainly do. God’s wise plan for the universe can seem mysterious and opaque to our limited human intelligence. Many different symbols and analogies have been used over the centuries to help us grasp this challenging concept. But three very different stories over the course of three quarters of a century have used the same powerful imagery of an invisible thread to help us envision and contemplate God’s hand in our lives.

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The Princess and the Goblin

In 1872, George MacDonald wrote The Princess and the Goblin. A Christian minister of loosely Calvinist beliefs, MacDonald consciously wrote this fairy tale to illustrate Divine Providence in our lives. In the story, MacDonald uses several symbols for Divine Providence such as a lamp, a grandmother’s love, and pigeons. But his most powerful image is the invisible thread.

Princess Irene receives a ring with an invisible thread attached from her grandmother. Irene’s grandmother tells her that if she is ever in peril, she must place the ring under her pillow and feel the invisible thread with her fingers. By following the thread with a trusting heart, she will find her way to safety. Throughout The Princess and the Goblin, Irene trust in and follows the invisible thread when she feels afraid. By so doing she not only finds personal safety from the goblins but also rescues her friend Curdie. Obviously, the thread is an analogy for trust in God’s providence. As long as Irene trusts in God’s plan and follows it with childlike confidence, all things work for good in her life.

Father Brown

George MacDonald’s fairy tales were an inspiration to one of the most beloved writers and prodigious intellects of the 20th century: G. K. Chesterton. It’s little surprise to see Chesterton repeating MacDonald’s invisible thread motif in his Father Brown stories. In the story “The Queer Feet” in The Innocence of Father Brown, Father Brown describes his calling as being a fisher of men.

Father Brown has found a repentant thief. Explaining how the thief was caught, the good priest uses the analogy of a fisherman with an invisible thread: “I caught him, with an unseen hook and an invisible line which is long enough to let him wander to the ends of the world, and still to bring him back with a twitch upon the thread.”

“I caught him, with an unseen hook and an invisible line which is long enough to let him wander to the ends of the world, and still to bring him back with a twitch upon the thread.”

“The queer feet,” G. K. Chesterton

Brideshead Revisited

In 1945, Evelyn Waugh published Brideshead Revisited, the seemingly dark story of a Catholic family tragedy. On the surface, this book which portrays a dysfunctional Catholic family with an overbearing mother, two rebellious children who flee from God towards homosexuality and adultery. But paradoxically, Brideshead Revisited is in essence an apologia for the Catholic faith.

In the second half of the story, which Waugh titled “A Twitch Upon the Thread,” the various members of the Flyte family are called back to their childhood faith by circuitous paths. In the novel, Waugh doffs his hat to Chesterton’s influence by using the image of the thread to describe the Flyte children’s reversion to Catholicism. Cordelia even repeats the quote about the invisible thread from The Innocence of Father Brown at one point in the novel.

Life Lessons from Literature

In all three of these books, the imagery of Divine Providence as an invisible thread is used as a tangible, familiar image to describe the hand of God protecting and guiding all back to Him. When the Princess is in mortal danger, when the thief flees with his plunder, when the Flytes have rebelled in every imaginable way, we wonder how this can possibly be part of God’s plan.

Similarly, when we experience suffering, loss, misfortune in our lives, our faith in God’s good plan can waver. The imagery of the invisible thread can steady us in troubled times and help us trust in God’s promise in Jeremiah 29:11: “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” We can believe that, like the Princess and the Thief and the Flytes, we too will find our way to safety and peace one day.

Needless to say, these are three of my favorite stories, all of which I highly recommend!

Cozy Fiction for Dark Days

When the days are dark- whether from winter dreariness or a period of suffering in life- some light, comforting fiction can do wonders to lift the spirits. Or at least push back the darkness for a little while!

“Where there is darkness let me bring your light.”

St. Francis of Assisi

Here are a dozen or so of my favorite “cozy” fiction books for the days when your spirit feels weighed down!

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James Herriot takes the blue ribbon for cozy in my opinion. The lovely Yorkshire Dales, the friendly country people, the memorable animals, and the never-ending cups of English tea create a comforting picture of a calm, peaceful world to escape into.

For sheer comedic genius, it’s hard to beat P. G. Wodehouse. The Most Of P.G. Wodehouse is a great introductory volume to this master writer. You get a little Jeeves and Wooster, a little of the Blandings crew, and some other short stories. Wodehouse’s eccentric characters are guaranteed to lift the spirits with their hilarious escapades.

D. E. Stevenson’s Miss Buncle’s Book is another cozy English country novel. In the lethargic village of Wandlebury, Miss Buncle writes a book about a girl who writes a book about a girl who writes a book. Yes, really. It sounds confusing, but is quite humorous in quiet, soft-spoken English fashion. This is one English village novel which doesn’t involve a murder!

However, if an engaging, light mystery is your cup of poison, I mean tea, then you can’t beat the Golden Age of Mystery writers! Dorthy Sayers’ charming Lord Peter Wimsey series begins with Whose Body? Agatha Christie has some lighter mysteries, particularly her Miss Marple Short Stories. Marjory Allighham’s Albert Campion stories and G. K. Chesterton’s Father Brown mysteries are also great choices in this genre.

To leave England for a moment, the international bestseller from Spain, The Awakening of Miss Prim is a Catholic book lover’s delight, full of references to great literature. Read my full review here!

L. M. Montgomery excels at drawing amusing, poignant, and memorable characters. Nearly everyone has read the Anne books, but her other books are charming too. Try The Blue Castle, The Complete Chronicles of Avonlea, and The Story Girl. Or just re-read the Anne books because, what can beat Anne of Windy Poplars for a cozy book to curl up with?

Jane Austen is another great choice to revisit for a comfortable reading experience. If you haven’t read some of her lesser works, Northranger Abbey is hilarious satire, while Mansfield Park has a likable quieter heroine. You can rest assured everyone lives happily ever after in Jane Austen. Well, the likable characters do anyway.

For a modern tribute to Austen, check out Katherine Reay’s Dear Mr. Knightley.

The vibrant blues and greens of this Mediterranean paradise leap straight from the pages of the Corfu Trilogy into your imagination. Gerald Durrell’s awe-inspiring descriptions of the antics of the abundant wildlife on the island is punctuated by laugh out loud memories of his eccentric family’s life.

The Club of Queer Trades, like most of Chesterton’s fiction, is rife with flights of fantasy, paradoxes, and an exuberant affirmation of the sheer interestingness of life. My other Chesterton favorites for comfort fiction and general hilarity include Manalive and The Flying Inn.

The Grand Sophy (Regency Romances Book 10) by [Heyer, Georgette]

Georgette Heyer is known as the Queen of Regency Romance for a reason. The Grand Sophy is one of her best loved and hilarious novels, filled with characters both charming and devilish, romantic entanglements, and misunderstandings.

The Story of the Trapp Family Singers   -     By: Maria von Trapp

The Story of the Trapp Family Singers is such a sweet, calming read about a famous Catholic family. Maria Augusta Trapp’s story of meeting her husband and children is only the beginning of this family’s adventures. She recounts their escape from the Nazis, immigration to America, and determination to create a home in the New World in the most charming prose imaginable.

I don’t love many of Gene Stratton Porter’s books, but Laddie: A True Blue Story is simply too sweet and appealing a story to miss. This semi-autobiographical novel is told by Little Sister, the youngest in a large family. Little Sister’s fierce family loyalty, delight in God’s creation, and inspiring faith will charm you.

At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon is a slow-paced, engaging small-town story about an Episcopalian minister and his “ordinary” congregation. But is any person really ordinary?

Warning: given the Protestant author and protagonist, there are some obvious clashes with Catholic beliefs (i.e. married priests).

Great Books about Sexual Education and Theology of the Body for Catholic Parents

As a Theology major, I had the joy of taking classes focused on reading and studying John Paul II’s Theology of the Body at Christendom College. Approaching sexual education as a Catholic parent can be a daunting task. Here are some of my favorite resources to help you introduce sexual morality and education to your children in light of Theology of the Body.

From introducing basic concepts about human dignity, the body as a gift, and the value of life to tricky questions about contraceptive mentality and transgenderism, these books have answers! Feel educated and empowered to prepare your child to face questions of sexual morality in this fallen world!

Books for Parents to Read with Kids

Angel in the Waters is a lovely story about an unborn baby’s experience in the womb and experiencing the world for the first time. A great introduction to fetal development and sanctity of life for very little ones.

Book cover "God Made all of Me"

God Made All of Me is a well-done and age-appropriate approach to teaching children basic body safety. It focuses on the inherent goodness of the body, appropriate and inappropriate ways of touching the body, and how to ask for help if someone makes you uncomfortable. We read this with our children starting around age 3.

***Warning: the first two pages, before the story proper begins, are a list of sexual assault statistics that could disturb young readers. Cutting or gluing together these pages easily solves this problem.

Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr. sets up your sons (and daughters) to understand and avoid the dangers of pornography. Without becoming inappropriately graphic in the least, this phenomenal picture book introduces the concept that some pictures and videos are bad. It helps your children learn an action plan involving telling a parent if they are ever exposed to pornography. We use this beginning at age 5.

Good Pictures Bad Pictures is a more advanced porn-proofing book aimed at 8-12 year olds. This book is intended for parent and child to use and discuss together. It includes a story, discussion questions, and strategies to deal with potential porn exposure.

Wonderfully Made! Babies is an absolutely awesome Theology of the Body based approach to teaching exactly where babies come from and why. The why is so important! This book uses medically correct language to explain biological differences and sex, but also dives into why God designed sex to be so good, why marriage is a necessity, and why babies are amazing!

Books for Parents about Talking with Kids about Sex

Beyond the Birds and the Bees is a Catholic psychologist’s advice on what to say to your kids and when! The book is handily divided into chapters by age so it can easily be referenced over the years for age-appropriate discussion topics and information.

Made This Way is probably my favorite book on this list. Leila Miller and Trent Horn take a brilliant natural-law-heavy approach in this book. As a mom and grandma, Leila recognizes that teens in our culture need more than simple do’s and don’t’s when it comes to sexual ethics. So in this book, she provides:

1. The Church’s teaching on a moral issue such as homosexuality, transgenderism, pornography, contraception, divorce, etc.

2. Discussion points from the natural law to use in forming younger children on the topic.

3. Natural law, common sense, and research-based explanations for teens on the why of each issue.

Books about Sexual Morality and Theology of the Body for Adults

Three to Get Married by Fulton Sheen is my favorite book to give to newly engaged or married couples. With his typical clarity, Sheen explains God’s irreplaceable role in marriage. A thought-provoking book on the meaning and beauty of marriage, children, and human love.

Man, Woman, and the Meaning of Love and other titles by Dietrich Von Hildebrand are a great option if you are looking for a more succinct yet still highly insightful and philosophical look at God’s plan for marriage and love.

Alice Von Hildebrand, like her husband, wrote brilliant and eloquent books about marriage, sexuality, and human nature. In Man & Woman: A Divine Invention, Von Hildebrand explores the intrinsic complimentary of men and women, God’s design for them, and how sin destroyed this perfect harmony.

Going to the source is best! If you are looking for a challenging and life-changing book to read, consider undertaking St. John Paul II’s masterwork Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body.

Not quite ready to take on the nearly 800 pages of Man and Woman He Created Them? Try Love and Responsibility, St. John Paul II’s precursor which contains many of the same themes about understanding the human person as a whole in a more manageable length book.

William May is a respected moral theologian with a plethora of interesting works on marriage and life ethics. Marriage The Rock On Which The Family Is Built is his explanation of the importance of marriage and family in the context of society. He draws on the writings of Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI.

With his customary brilliance, Fr. Michael Schmitz takes on the tricky question of navigating same-sex attraction in yourself or someone close to you. Made for Love is a concise, thorough guide to the correct Catholic response to homosexuality.

Edith Stein’s life is the stuff of a fascinating drama. Her journey from being Jewish to atheist to Catholic is captivating enough, but this great saint had a formidable intellect and was a respected writer. And she also became a nun. And also died in a Nazi death camp. Her writings are a great resource if you want to explore the nature and vocation of women in depth with your daughters.

Programs to Teach Theology of the Body to Kids and Teens

Ruah Woods Press offers a comprehensive K-12 Theology of the Body program. I appreciate the literature-based approach in the lower levels.

Theology of the Body Evangelization Team: TOBET

TOBET provides a great assortment of books geared for K-12 that reinforce the basic concepts of Theology of the Body such as: the goodness of the body, the purpose of the body, male and female differences, etc.

Ascension Press has a DVD/parental discussion guide/student workbook combination package to introduce Theology of the Body to teens. They have a special edition just for middle schoolers also.

Looking for more great books? Check out my book lists!

Review of “A Lenten Journey with Mother Mary”

Book cover of "A Lenten Journey with Mother Mary"

Looking for a daily Lenten Meditation? A way to grow closer to Mary and Jesus this Lent? Check out Lenten Journey with Mother Mary by Fr. Edward Looney, a brand new book from Sophia Institute Press. Whether you’re new to Marian devotion or already pray the rosary every day, this book will help enrich your relationship with Mary and Jesus.

This post may contain Amazon Affiliate links. This simply means that if a purchase is made I will receive a small percentage of the sale, at no additional cost to you, of course.

A Meditation a Day

Lenten Journey with Mother Mary has a meditation for every single day of Lent beginning on Ash Wednesday! As an additional bonus, Fr. Looney continues the devotions through the Easter Octave to Divine Mercy Sunday! Each day’s devotion begins on a very personal note with a direct quote from Our Lady, such as: “Let nothing else worry you, disturb you.” These quotes are drawn from a variety of approved Marian apparitions and set the theme for the day. The devotion then continues with a 2-3 page meditation, a sentence-long prayer, and a suggestion for a Lenten action.

Theme of the Week

Each week has a broad theme under which the individual days fall. Themes include intentional prayer, praying for others, healing, and examination of conscience. I particularly enjoyed the meditations during the Easter Octave, which focus on faith and trust in Divine Providence.

A Lenten Journey

The title about journeying is very appropriate for this book, which certainly leads you on a journey to deepen your relationship with Mary. By increasing your Marian knowledge and deepening your prayer life, this book leads you closer to Jesus through Mary. The heart-warming takeaway message in this Lenten devotional is: Mary prays for you. Mary loves you.

Want to learn more? See a full preview of Lenten Journey with Mother Mary on the publisher page.

Have children? Check out my list of favorite picture books to prepare for Lent and Easter!

I received a free copy of “Lenten Journey with Mother Mary” from Sophia Institute Press in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

"Lenten Journey with Mother Mary" cover