Category Archives: Kidlit Corner

A Commonplace Book {Talk to St. Jude Moms Group}

As promised, following are the notes of books & resources I mentioned during my talk today to the St. Jude Moms Group.

Father Solanus Casey, “Gratitude is the first sign of a thinking, rational creature.” and “Thank God ahead of time.”

Father Solanus Casey Guild 

St. John Bosco

Philippians 2:15-16 (read entire passage)

Mini-Weapons of Mass Destruction 

Night Prayer (and the entire Liturgy of the Hours, daily plus Mass Readings)

from Universalis.com

Ephesians 4:26

1 Peter 5

Humana Vitae

How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk 

The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age by Catherine Steiner-Adair 

The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr 

Good Pictures, Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Kids (highly recommended)

John Milton’s Commonplace book

John Locke’s “A New Method of Making Commonplace Books”

Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen 

The How of Happiness

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin 

Rilla of Ingleside by Lucy Maud Montgomery 

(but if you haven’t read the rest of the series, consider starting with a $0.99 Kindle version of the whole series, starting with Anne of Green Gables . 

The Mistmantle Series by M.I. Mcallister 

Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher (highly recommended):

Emily of Deep Valley by Maud Hart Lovelace 

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter

Rumer Godden:

The Kitchen Madonna 

The Story of Holly & Ivy 

In This House of Brede

Forming Intentional Disciples by Sherry Weddell

an incomplete list of “Catholic memoirs” from a talk I gave last summer 

The New York Times Crossword app

The Book of Three (The Chronicles of Prydain) by Lloyd Alexander 

The Perfect Blindside by Leslea Wahl {Kidlit Corner}

It is really hard to get Catholic fiction “right” for younger readers, especially for tweens and teens. That’s why it is so satisfying to finish a book like The Perfect Blindside by Leslea Wahl.

The Perfect Blindside is a fast-paced mystery/romance told through the lives of two teens in a small Colorado town— Jake, an Olympic medalist snowboarder who’s new in town, and Sophie, an honor student who’s judgmental and skeptical of Jake’s intentions.  The book is an excellent novel, period, and it also happens to weave in Catholic themes.  That’s a win.

“Mystery” is the primary focus of the novel, as the two teens, often at odds, improbably work together to find out what’s going on in a nearby abandoned silver mine.  The romance is a subordinate, but lighthearted aspect.

At times, The Perfect Blindside reminded me of a Nancy Drew novels, which I adored as a young reader.  What I loved was all the excitement of solving a mystery by yourself, or with the help of a few trusted same-age friends.  When I began to introduce Nancy Drew to my children when they were young, I was momentarily horrified to see how much Nancy put herself and her friends in danger solving mysteries.  But the situations she puts herself in are so improbable that it’s not really an active inspiration to younger readers.  They just enjoy the stories and the excitement, as I did as a kid.

In the same way, the teens in The Perfect Blindside make over-adventerous decisions when it comes solving their mystery, but it’s so far “out there” that it wouldn’t inspire younger readers to be reckless in solving their own mysteries.  Instead, it’s just a diverting and an entertaining plot device to move the story along.

A “blindside” in snowboarding is a trick that a boarder makes without being able to see the path, and this book improvises on that theme to explore how the teens try to make their way without being able to see the path ahead.

While the primary enjoyment of this book is in the mystery and the perilous situations, it is also present in the very natural progress of both teens’ spiritual and emotional development.  Both Jake and Sophie learn where they’ve been wrong, where they can improve, and how to avoid rash judgment and rash decisions.  Catholic life and faith is woven seamlessly throughout the book without seeming “preachy” or moralistic.

Leslea Wahl has written in an interview (here) that she “simply wanted to write good, moral, young adult novels full of adventure and excitement.”  Consider that goal richly fulfilled in The Perfect Blindside.

Chesterton Mystery Book a Charming Introduction to Catholic Literary Giant {Kidlit Corner}

Today I’m introducing a new feature called “Kidlit Corner.” I’ve long wanted to be more intentional about introducing readers here and in The Catholic Post to good children’s literature (sometimes called “kidlit”), both old and new. So I’m just going to jump in and start.  I’m sure it will evolve over time, and perhaps have a name change. Stay tuned!

“Whatever is true whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” — Philippians 4:8

Keeping younger kids in chapter books, the shorter, interesting stories to help readers transition from easy readers to full-length novels, can be a challenge.  There are always the classic series like The Boxcar Children and The Magic Tree House series, which offer enjoyable and well-told mysteries for younger readers. 

But sadly, this category in recent years has also filled up with many “branded” or commercialized stories that promote the latest movie or television show, and are the equivalent of processed food.  Kids might be “reading” these books, but they are not especially nourishing.  It’s like chips for the mind.

Younger readers deserve hearty fare as they are beginning to love reading—books that are fun and relatively easy to read, but provide an interesting and worthy subject matter. Consider such books meat & potatoes, or healthy comfort food, for the emergent reader.

One great new offering in the chapter-book genre is The Chestertons and the Golden Key by Nancy Carpentier Brown, with Regina Doman, and lovely period-style illustrations by Ann Kissane Englelhart. 

The Chestertons and the Golden Key is a charming story about GK Chesterton and his wife, on vacation one summer, meeting and befriending a young family, and helping them solve a child-friendly mystery.

As I read the story, I thought it was mostly fiction.  It turns out the story is based on the real-life Nicholls family, whom the Chestertons did meet and befriend when they  visited Lyme Regis, England.  The afterward describes the actual story, and how Carpentier Brown’s research lead her to the Nicholls family and relatives who were still alive to tell her some stories.

You might also be interested in:

Previously, Nancy Carpentier Brown also has adapted for younger readers a good variety of Chesterton’s most famous Father Brown mystery stories. 

The Father Brown Reader: Stories from Chesterton, and The Father Brown Reader II: More Stories from Chesterton offer budding mystery lovers a chance to be introduced to one of the classic sleuths from the prolific Chesterton.

Carpentier Brown is also the author of the well-regarded adult biography of Frances Chesterton, The Woman Who Was Chesterton.  You can read my review of that book here.