Tag Archives: books for kids

What Are You Reading for Lent?

Lent is next week, and even though I’ve been allegedly “looking ahead” since right after Christmas, but I feel ill-prepared and not a bit “ready” for Lent, whether in body, or spirit, or in books.

Many books have arrived recently with Lenten themes, and I hope to review some of them, but this will not be happening before Lent, much as I’d like to be able to tell you about them.  They will have to be mid-Lent reading pick-me-ups, so look ahead for that.

Do you have a practice of spiritual reading for Lent?  I usually take out my well-worn copy of St. Francis de Sales Introduction to the Devout Life, and I will do so again.  I always get something new from it.

Last year, I highly recommended God Will Provide: How God’s Bounty Opened to Saints–And 9 Ways It can Open for You, Too by Patricia Treece, pointing out that the book “brims with wisdom and grace.”  I really love Paraclete Press books–they are always well-produced and just feel good in your hand, both because the size of the books feel “right” and the paper is very… I don’t know, I’m not a book-making expert–but the paper feels heavy and nice.

Here is my Q&A with Patricia  that ran last year.

Also last year, I blogged about the Prayer of St. Ephram. (And my friend Marcia also posted about this ancient prayer last week–well worth a look).   I’ll be printing off copies of this prayer to leave in conspicuous places (bathroom mirrors and such) for us to pray at our house.  Do you have a special prayer to say as a family during Lent?

If you might be looking around for Lenten reading, here are past reviews with some ideas:

2012:  This Lent, Let Mercy Lead

2011:  A Good Spiritual Library is a Hospital for the Soul

Finally, on the Lenten theme, one of my most popular posts is “Do Sundays Count During Lent”?  As I wrote there, I’m definitely in the taking-Sundays-off camp, but I’m always interested in hearing what other people and families do.

Do you have a plan for Lent?  Care to share?  I’d love to get some great ideas.

Meet a Reader: Katie Bogner

I’m so delighted to feature a delightful young woman of my acquaintance–Katie Bogner–as this month’s Reader.  I got to know her a little through working on the Behold Conference together the last several years, and I wish I knew her better as she is very funny and spirited in person.  Katie blogs charmingly at Look to Him and Be Radiant

 How you know me:   I am blessed to spend all day as the teacher of the 5th graders at St. Joseph School in Pekin, and I also serve as the DRE at my parish, Immaculate Conception in Lacon.  You may have met me around the Diocese at one of the presentations that I have done for the Office of Catechetics “Let My People Come” Series.

Why I love reading:  I always like to say that people learn best through stories because we were created and immersed in a grand story.  Every book we read moves us outside of ourselves and gives us a glimpse of that story.  Whether it is as a journey into another world, a way to challenge and expand our minds, or as a source of inspiration in our faith, books can be tools to help us learn about who we are and the plans that God has for us.

What I’m reading now:  I just finished A Man for Others: Maximilian Kolbe, Saint of Auschwitz by Patricia Treece.  It was published the year that he was canonized, and while the book is threaded together by the author, the content is filled with firsthand accounts of people who knew him as a child, priest, and victim of Auschwitz. The countless interviews of those that witnessed St. Max’s life give a unique perspective on his incredible story.

A book that I couldn’t put down was The Breath of Dawn by Kristen Heitzmann.  It is a new emotion-packed inspirational thriller that makes a great stand-alone novel, but is actually the third in a series that was last published ten years ago.  Exploring grief, forgiveness, and the meaning of family, this would be a great book to enjoy on a snow day with a good cup of coffee.

My fifth graders and I just read Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare, and we enjoyed discussing the problems young Matt faced and the hard decisions he had to make.  We all really liked this coming-of-age tale.

I also recently finished reading/rereading all of Jane Austen’s novels.  A group of friends and I worked through them over the course of a year, and we had a lot of fun comparing them to our modern culture, which doesn’t always seem that different from Austen’s world.

Next on my stack is St. Thérèse: A Treasured Love Story, which is a collection of sermons given by Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen about one of his favorite Saints.  I am enjoying his view into her life, as well as his various teachings about prayer, suffering, being a saint, and spiritual warfare.

My favorite book:  My favorite fiction has to be the O’Malley Series by Dee Henderson.  Favorite non-fiction is a little harder to choose; maybe My Life with the Saints by Fr. James Martin or The World’s First Love by Fulton Sheen or A Father Who Keeps His Promises by Scott Hahn.  There are just too many great books to pick one!

Jane Austen Monday: Various and Sundry Sharing

No, I’m not starting a new blog series of Jane Austen Monday, though I would dearly love to.  I just wanted to share some links before this month ends.  January 2013 marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Austen’s Pride &Prejudice.  As longtime readers will know here, Austen is probably my favorite author and I read and re-read her books regularly.  I have at least four shelves on two different bookcases full of multiple copies of her novels (including The Oxford Illustrated Jane Austen, a present from my husband several years back), biographies, graphic novel versions, retellings and so forth.

I discovered from getting the newsletter of the Jane Austen Centre that it was planning a live reading of P&P.  I can’t seem to find the latest news on the read-a-thon (here is an earlier story about it), but I think it is a great idea, and I would enjoy getting to stream parts of it if they still do it.

Earlier this month my daughters and I hosted a Jane Austen tea party that was surprisingly fun for all ages.  We had lots of tea, some of my favorite scones. My cell phone photos snapped throughout the day did not turn out very well.  I’m sure that is shocking and never happens to you.  So I’m sharing images and video here from around the web.

We played the “Pride & Prejudice” board game, available from the game designer here.  Actually, the moms were busy visiting and laughing in the kitchen, so none of us got to play the game.  The teens and little girls played the game.  From what I can gather, it was quite a competitive event.  Very fun. (and yes, I would love to get A Christmas Carol game made by the same company, in case anyone is looking for present ideas for me for next Christmas).

On the subject of Jane Austen-inspired games, here is a link to a Jane Austen trivia game.  I may have to add this to my wish list for next year’s party, though nothing can top the P&P board game, in my mind.

More details from the party:

Food and drink.  We had many kinds of tea, as well as hot chocolate.  But the tea was the biggest hit, even for the younger ones.

This mug, also a gift from my husband, reads, “There is nothing like staying at home, for real comfort.”  This was actually not used at the party, since I had out our “good” china teacups, and various other assorted proper teacups (with saucers).

I made my famous scones in two versions: plain cream scones, and cinnamon chip scones.  How I make my scones is a state secret. Actually, it’s too complicated for me to share in a n online recipe.  If any of the party-goers would like to know how to make my scones, I would be glad to have you over for a personal tutorial.

My favorite find of the last year was a recipe for homemade cinnamon chip scones.  They absolutely make the scones!  Here the DIY recipe that I basically use–I don’t think I changed anything.  (I am infamous for changing recipes a little here or there, which is what makes my scone recipe so unreliable read off the page).

I also made (and changed slightly) Pippa Middleton’s Millionaire Shortbread (this is a link to Pippa’s tumblr recipe for it; unfortunately, it’s in British measures, but this is the recipe).  This is from her newish book, Celebrations, that I picked up off the new books shelf at our local library.  It’s actually a really nicely done book–reminiscent of Martha Stewart books, but not quite as fussy.

When I was cutting the layered shortbread the night before the party, my husband and I sampled it, and we thought “meh.”  I was sort of annoyed to have spent the time and butter for it, because as I said, plain shortbread would have been just fine.

Apparently a night’s rest does wonders for the stuff, because it was the huge hit of the party and praised by everyone, and there were not even crumbs left over.  I tried some again when everyone was raving about how good it was, and I did like it better.

I also enlisted a friend who volunteered to come early to make cucumber sandwiches.  She had several teens on an assembly line, and they turned out two terrific versions of cucumber sandwiches.  I don’t have a photo of them, unfortunately!

I had put on the invitation that promptly at 3 p.m., we would start a showing of the 1995 BBC version of Pride & Prejudice (the Colin Firth version).  I thought perhaps a few of the teens and moms not too busy would want to stay, but it was a busy weekend.  It turns out it was just the Picciones, so we opted to wait until everyone left shortly before 5 p.m. to start watching.  We only got through the first DVD of this (meaning the first 3 hours) that day, and still haven’t watched the rest.  We really need to finish it before the month is out.

Now for one more book to relate specifically to Jane Austen in the modern culture.  Last year,  I received a review copy of The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After by Elizabeth Kantor.  Kantor argues compellingly how Jane Austen-manners (not dancing the right way or wearing Regency gowns, but rather guarding your emotions, learn about potential partners within the context of your family & friends, and so forth).  It’s a pretty sensible guide, but definitely meant for college or post-college aged women. Worth a read!

Do you have an obsession for Jane Austen, like me?  What are you doing to celebrate the 200th Anniversary of Pride & Prejudice?

Finally, here is one super sweet British video about the lure of Jane Austen and Bath.  Makes me want to go back right now.

Five Ideas for the Anniversary of Roe v. Wade

Today is the 40th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion throughout pregnancy.  It’s a sad anniversary, but one we need to keep marking.

I’m glad to see a lot of discussion about the anniversary, the March for Life and other pro-life events and ideas, on Facebook and Twitter.  And it’s the younger people who are really active about this, (along with some of us more seasoned veterans of pro-life work).  I’d like to share five quick thoughts about marking the anniversary, though even as I compiled this list I came up with many more.

1.  Day of Prayer for the Protection of Unborn Children.  The U.S. Bishops have declared January 22 each year as “a particular day of prayer and penance for abortion.”  Consider attending Mass, giving up something, or saying a Rosary or other prayers specifically for unborn children.

2.  The March for Life.  The March actually doesn’t take place until this Friday, January 25.  I wish I could be there this year, especially to be able to participate in #3 (see below), but I hope to in future years.  The night before the March, there is a Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.  Both events will air on EWTN, so we will be watching along at our house.

3.  The 5K for Life.  As I wrote about here and here, I’m a LIFE Runner now, and I so wish I could be in Washington, D.C. this Saturday for the inaugural 5K Run for Life.  Race director for it is Jeff Grabosky, who wrote Running With God Across America (my review is here and Q&A with him here).  I may try to run a 5K if schedule permit this Saturday, so I can run along in spirit with my fellow LIFE Runners.  Any one who r

Last year, I wrote about three books on pro-life themes.  I’ll share two of those for the remaining two “ideas.”

4.  Angel in the Waters by Regina Doman.  This stands the test of time as a beautiful reflection of unborn life, suitable for the littlest children.  It should be read to kids of every age, and I dare you to do so without choking up.  Wonderful!

5.  UnPlanned: The Dramatic True Story of a Former Planned Parenthood Director’s Eye-Opening Journey Across the Life Line by Abby Johnson (here’s my review and Q&A with Abby . For local readers, Abby Johnson will be speaking at St. Jude’s Parish in Dunlap, IL, February 5 (the best way I could find to give details was by directing to the parish bulletin here.  I, for one, cannot wait to hear her speak in person, and I think I will bring along my copy of UnPlanned for her to sign.  Her book is a great read and very eye-opening.

What are you doing to mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade?  Do you have any other ideas to share to mark the occasion?

First, What Are You Reading? New Year’s Edition (Volume 29)

Well, I jumped the gun a little by doing my traditional new year’s post several days back, so I’m going to re-post here as my “first, what are you reading?” since it’s a survey about what were my favorite books of 2012, and resolutions for the new year.  I’d love to hear yours!

Faith at “Strewing”answered a series of book-related questions about the books she read this year, and that inspired me to come up with a quick list of questions related to books and invite you to share your favorites, too.

I want to clarify that I do always recommend all of the books that I review, and you can find them all in the book review tab up at the top of the blog.  (Note:  I need to add the last few months, but I resolve to do so as a year’s end housekeeping).

So here is my 2012 Book Survey and Reading Resolutions for 2013.  Please share your answers on your own blog, or here in the comments if you are so inclined. Happy reading!

What was the most important/best book that you read this year?

I’ve got two here, and I reviewed them both in my July columnAdam and Eve After the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution by Mary Eberstadt and My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints by Dawn Eden.  Must reads.

What book was most spiritually fruitful for you this year?

God Will Provide by Patricia Treece is a tremendous book.

What was the most enjoyable read this year?

Two memoirs come to mind.  Amy Welborn’s Wish You Were Here and Colleen Carroll Campbell’s My Sisters the Saints were both great reads.

Actually, I really enjoyed and found lots to ponder from all the memoirs I read this year, from Alberto Salazar’s 14 Minutes to Chris Haw’s From Willow Creek to Sacred Heart.  

What was the favorite book you read (or re-read) this year?

Re-reading (and reading out loud to my children) Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy has been a highlight.

What are your reading resolutions for the new year?

I have three:

Get more organized. Just in the last few weeks, I’ve started a list for review books that I add to each time books come in with the title, author and publisher.  If I get a chance to glance through it or even read it, I give it a grade and a couple of notes about the book.

I also hope to get up to speed on GoodReads or one of the other websites to help organize reading with everything I am reading, including with the kids, and books I want to share with my husband.  For many months, I kept a book log on my phone of all the books I read–usually a dozen or more a month, yay me!– but I’ve gotten out of that habit and I need to do so again.  I find it so satisfying to look back at the list of all that I have read.

Get more opinions.  I really enjoy getting to host other bloggers or other people reviewing books, and I want to make that a bigger part of Reading Catholic next year.  I really hope to tap into the local Catholic community for this, and have more voices chime in on all the great books out there.

Share more in real life.  I am determined to start an in-real-life book group again, and this one will not be about Catholic books–there, I said it!  I am definitely up for the fun I had several years back with a now-defunct Jane Austen book group.  I need that kind of talk and enjoyment with fellow readers.

What about you?  What are your favorite reads from 2012, and are you making any reading resolutions for 2013?

2012 Book Survey and 2013 Reading Resolutions

Year’s end is a great time to take stock of the past calendar year and make some new-year resolutions.

Faith at “Strewing”answered a series of book-related questions about the books she read this year, and that inspired me to come up with a quick list of questions related to books and invite you to share your favorites, too.

I want to clarify that I do always recommend all of the books that I review, and you can find them all in the book review tab up at the top of the blog.  (Note:  I need to add the last few months, but I promise to do so as a year’s end housekeeping).

So here is my 2012 Book Survey and Reading Resolutions for 2013.  Please share your answers on your own blog, or here in the comments if you are so inclined. Happy reading!

What was the most important/best book that you read this year?

I’ve got two here, and I reviewed them both in my July columnAdam and Eve After the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution by Mary Eberstadt and My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints by Dawn Eden.  Must reads.

What book was most spiritually fruitful for you this year?

God Will Provide by Patricia Treece is a tremendous book.

What was the most enjoyable read this year?

Two memoirs come to mind.  Amy Welborn’s Wish You Were Here and Colleen Carroll Campbell’s My Sisters the Saints were both great reads.

Actually, I really enjoyed and found lots to ponder from all the memoirs I read this year, from Alberto Salazar’s 14 Minutes to Chris Haw’s From Willow Creek to Sacred Heart.  

What was the favorite book you read (or re-read) this year?

Re-reading (and reading out loud to my children) Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy has been a highlight.

What are your reading resolutions for the new year?

I have three:

Get more organized.  First, just in the last few weeks, I’ve started a list for review books that I add to each time books come in with the title, author and publisher.  If I get a chance to glance through it or even read it, I give it a grade and a couple of notes about the book.

I also hope to get up to speed on GoodReads or one of the other websites to help organize reading with everything I am reading, including with the kids, and books I want to share with my husband.  For many months, I kept a book log on my phone of all the books I read–usually a dozen or more a month, yay me!– but I’ve gotten out of that habit and I need to do so again.  I find it so satisfying to look back at the list of all that I have read.

Get more opinions.  I really enjoy getting to host other bloggers or other people reviewing books, and I want to make that a bigger part of Reading Catholic next year.  I really hope to tap into the local Catholic community for this, and have more voices chime in on all the great books out there.

Share more in real life.  I am determined to start an in-real-life book group again, and this one will not be about Catholic books–there, I said it!  I am definitely up for the fun I had several years back with a now-defunct Jane Austen book group.  I need that kind of talk and enjoyment with fellow readers.

What about you?  What are your favorite reads from 2012, and are you making any reading resolutions for 2013?

10 Great Free or Nearly Free E-Books for Kids

This post was inspired by two of my (four) sisters.

One sister has a daughter with a Kindle and is always looking for something new to read.

The other sister has two girls who received a Kindle Fire for Christmas, and was looking for ideas of good free or nearly free books for the device.

I wanted to put out a quick list of good reads that would keep a younger reader (I’m thinking middle-grade level on up) busy for a long time.  I’ve chosen books that are classics and ones our family has returned to again and again.

There are so many great books in the public domain that free or nearly free reads are plentiful.  I think there are also some series and books worth spending out for, and having them in your Kindle library for reading anytime.

I can picture that my sisters, and some others, might complain, “oh, my kids have read that,” but honestly, having favorite books around to read “just because” can be a really good thing.  Who said one must not re-read a great book?  Not me!

I’m only providing the Amazon links to this, since Kindle and Kindle Apps are what we use for e-reading.  If you use a Nook or read in iBooks or GoogleBooks, what is your experience with free or near-free books on those platforms?  Please share away with your experiences, and your favorites.

These are in no particular order, by the way:

1. Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher.  I’m pretty sure I got this as a free book several years back, but I can’t find a free edition.   This is 99 cents and well worthwhile

2. The Anne of Green Gables series (11 book set), $1.99 by Lucy Maud Montgomery.  This has all of the Anne books in the public domain, plus a few other LMM titles.  I think it’s well worthwhile, or if you just wanted to go with the 99 cents Anne of Green Gables, you could, but why stop there?

Certain LMM titles are free on the Kindle–I think the first one we got was Rilla of Ingleside, but it shouldn’t be legal to read that one first since it is very last in the series.  So go spend the $1.99 and read through the series and enjoy.

3. Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter.  Finally, a truly free one!  The story itself is beautiful, and after finishing you can watch one of the two really nice movie versions of this old classic, one starring Hayley Mills as Pollyanna, and one newer one that was on PBS some years back.

4. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  Free.

5. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  Free.  I like this one best of all of Burnett’s books.

6. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Free.  Also several good movie versions if you read through this one.

7. Betsy-Tacy Treasury (first 4 books of Betsy-Tacy editions) is $9.78.  This is really worthwhile because it is the first 4 books in the Betsy-Tacy series, at less than $2.50 each.

8. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.  It is $6.38 on Kindle, not a bad price.

9. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy in One Volume by J.R.R. Tolkien.  Only $9, or $3 a book.  A great value.

10.  For splurging:  The Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis.  I was shocked that the Narnia series cannot be purchased as a set, and need to be purchased inidividually at about $6.50 each.  Not bad but it does add up.

However, I see that in April Harper Collins will be releasing a complete Kindle “set” of the seven Narnia books for $50 (FIFTY DOLLARS!).  I must confess that my first reaction is WOW, that is steep!!!!!!  I hope there is a lot of great content to justify that kind of purchase, since you can purchase the entire set separately for about $45.

We only have one of the Narnia books on Kindle; when we first got our Kindle one of the kids accidentally purchased Prince Caspian, and since I didn’t realize you can return a book you bought by mistake, we kept it.  We have at least three full “real book” copies of the series (just like with LOTR), and so  we don’t “have to have” the Kindle version.

If a Kindle owner purchased all the books listed above (excluding the pricey Narnia series), you would spend less than $30 for a great collection of classics to enjoy again and again.  Even if you bought the nearly free ones, you would spend $3 to get a ton of classics.

I know I will be adding more books to this list, and I can think of a few right now. Which ones did I leave out?  What are some of your favorites?

Kids Books for Christmas: Focus on Trusted Authors

Did you know that some families have a tradition of giving books on Epiphany instead of Christmas?

I sincerely hope families still have this tradition, because otherwise I fear this post on great Christmas books will be a little late for giving on Christmas Day itself.  Remember, though, Christmas season goes for much longer, so consider giving books after Christmas for great reading.

My general principle this year: focus on TrustedAuthorsTM.

What is a TrustedAuthorTM? I’m joking (mostly), when I make the phrase a TM. There are some writers, whether Jane Austen, C.S. Lewis, Lucy Maud Montgomery, and J.R.R. Tolkien, who can be trusted for their entire canon.  Certain authors can be relied on to write from a certain worldview that is compatible with a Catholic ethic.  I feel like I wanted to add a Trusted AuthorTM after the author’s name when I write about writers like C.S. Lewis.  You can basically trust everything they have written.

Not surprisingly, most of these are not living authors, but there are a few that are go-to authors at our house, and we anxiously await each new book.  So who are some of our other TrustedAuthorsTM?  John Flanagan (for children; we discovered about a year ago that he has written some grown-up thrillers, but there’s a little too much violence in them for kids), and his  Ranger’s Apprentice and Brotherband series; Regina Doman, who writes excellent and compelling fairy-tale retellings; and of course many more.  Most of these are known as Catholic or Christian authors, or we suspect as much because their work is entertaining and is in line with a Catholic worldview.  And of course Catholic authors writing on Catholic themes (such as saint books) also would be in this category.

Other authors we put in a “good, but be careful” category.  A good example of such an author (and there are plenty, I’m just picking one at random) is Wendy Mass.  She’s written a slew of popular middle-grade novels, most with some great themes about being yourself.  But there are some cautions about her books, and annoying things like having someone “thanking the universe” instead of God.  Since I’ve read a few of her books, I’ve been able to have some discussions with my younger readers about her style and what I don’t like about her style.

Some authors we don’t even consider–Philip Pullman, for example. We just won’t even start a book by this kind of author.

What I want for my own children is for them to love and enjoy TrustedAuthorsTM best of all, but be able to read and enjoy stories by “careful” authors with discernment.

Here are just a few good book gift suggestions that would be for Christmas, Epiphany or any other nearby giving opportunity. Consider them pre-screened for your family as wholesome, enjoyable books:

*Legends of Zita the Spacegirl by TrustedAuthorTM Ben Hatke.  My kids devoured this second in the series about Zita.  Graphic novels can be fun reading, but sometimes the illustrations can be less than appealing.  Not so Ben Hatke’s works–they are delightful to read and enjoy.

*Habemus Papem: Pope Benedict XVI.  Another graphic novel, this one by Trusted AuthorTM Regina Doman, portrays the life of Joseph Ratzinger before he became pope, from his earliest days.  Even though I’m not a huge fan of manga, I really love the books by Manga Hero (Should I make a TrustedPublisherTM?).  We own and love all the Manga Hero titles.  Here’s one small thing we didn’t like about Habemus Papem (that’s new from the prior Manga Hero titles): it’s written in the traditional manga fashion, so you read it from the back to the front.  This takes some getting used to, and I definitely prefer normal way.  It’s still a great story and shouldn’t deter people from reading it.

*The Prairie Thief by TrustedAuthorTM Melissa Wiley. Wiley writes the lovely blog “Bonny Glen” and she’s definitely a kindred spirit when it comes to reading. She loves and blogs about Betsy-Tacy, the Anne of Green Gables books, and many other TrustedAuthorsTM.  She has six children, she’s a homeschooling mom, and in all her free time she writes books, most notably the “Little House” Martha and Charlotte books.  The Prairie Thief is her latest middle-grade novel, and it’s a little silly, a little sweet and all great read about prairie and family life.  Here’s a wonderful review that captures what’s so terrific about this book.

*Wonder by R.J. Palacio.  I can’t say whether or not Palacio is a TrustedAuthorTM, because this is her first book, but what a great beginning.  Palacio writes about Auggie Pullman, who has a facial deformity that prevents him from going to school–until now.  Auggie’s experience of belonging and rejection is beautifully crafted. I must admit that when I started it, I thought it might be depressing or otherwise too realistic and gritty, as these kinds of modern novels for kids can be. But instead, it is a gently realistic and hopeful story.

Here are a few really excellent saint books for younger readers:

My Soul Magnifies the Greatness of the Lord: Saint Kateri Tekakwitha by Bernadette Nippert and Brenda & George Nippert.  This book was very sweet!  I especially liked this for being multifaceted and having a pro-environmental theme that’s not done for PC reasons but just naturally in the story and Kateri’s life.  Best to order this book from Hillside Education (A TrustedVendorTM ? Are you getting annoyed with me yet?)

Juan Diego:  Mary’s Humble Messenger by Barbara Yoffie and also Kateri Tekakwitha: Model of Bravery by the same author.  These are nice little volumes with the saint stories for little ones.

My St. Nicholas Day Present–Radiate by Colleen Swaim

I was so grateful when Bonnie Engstrom of “A Knotted Life” (as part of her Advent series) asked me to write about Advent traditions in our family.  I must have been feeling a little discouraged when I wrote about not being well-prepared for Advent, because it was very encouraging for me to have the   chance to articulate what we do well this time of year.

I write about “go with your strengths” and our family’s strength, of course, is using books to celebrate Advent and Christmastime.  The one book I featured was The Miracle of St. Nicholas by Gloria Whelan and beautifully illustrated by Judith Brown.  We finally read our copy of The Miracle of St. Nicholas  until after dinner, but it was a nice quiet after-dinner time.  There was a lot of chocolate eaten today (including by me!)

But my St. Nicholas Day present (a surprise, and welcome surprise!) came in the mail this afternoon–when I picked up the mail and saw a copy of Radiate: More Stories of Daring Teen Saints by Colleen Swaim.

I am a huge Colleen Swaim fan since I read her first book Ablaze: Stories of Daring Teen Saints.  It’s a book intended for teen readers, but I loved and all my kids (8-13 at the time) loved it.  I’ve given it as a gift multiple times, and everyone I’ve given it to or recommended it to has loved it, without exception.  I reviewed Ablaze here (calling it a “gem”) and interviewed Colleen here.  I hope to have another Q&A with Colleen again soon, since she is willing. Look for that here soon!

I’ve been anxiously awaiting this book’s release ever since I saw it had a November 1 release date, and actually planned to review it for my November print column in The Catholic Post.  The publisher told me it was a little delayed, so I held off so I could review it for my December gift books column.  Unfortunately, I wanted to be absolutely sure it was officially available, so that prevented me from reviewing it for my December column, which appears in this weekend’s Post.

But I was really, truly excited to see in the mail this afternoon a hot-off-the-presses copy of Radiate.  Now do you believe me that I am really into books? 🙂

This isn’t actually a review of the book, since one of the kids has run off with it.  From my first look at it, it looks just as handsome and well-produced as Ablaze, with both new and well-loved saints.  Review soon!  In the meantime, if you need a book suggestion for a tween or teen reader, Radiate is your book.

 

First, What Are You Reading? Volume 28

Here are the questions I ask and answer on the first of each month.  The questions, as always, are:

first, what are you reading?
what do you like best about it?
what do you like least?
what’s next on your list to read?

As always, I hope you’ll consider your current reads on your blog and/or sharing here in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter.  Happy reading!

First, what are you reading?

Thornton Wilder:  A Life by Penelope Niven, a brand-new biography of the playwright and author.  Niven had unprecedented access to Wilder family letters and papers in writing the book.

I’m slowly making my way through reading aloud  The Lord of the Rings trilogy, with the younger kids.  We are almost finished with The Fellowship of the Ring.

What do you like best about it?

I picked up Thornton Wilder at the new book shelf of the library after a book I’m highlighting as a good kids book features his play Our Town.  Our Town was a favorite of and oft-quoted by my late father.  He was fond of saying with a wry smile to one of us daughters at various times, “You’re pretty enough for all ordinary purposes.”  This was emphatically not a put-down, as it’s a famous line from the play.  My dad also loved The Bridge at San Luis Rey, probably Wilder’s most famous novel, as do I.

I very much enjoyed reading how Wilder’s family spent part of his childhood in China, as well as the time he spent at boarding school in China away from his family. (He was required to write long letters to his family every Sunday, which gives me ideas).  There must be something about spending part of one’s childhood in a foreign country that makes for great writers.  I can think off the top of my head of Rumer Godden and Jean Fritz, and I’m sure there are many others.

What do you like least about it?

I’m sure I won’t finish Thornton Wilder–I’m about halfway through– but what I have read has been great.

I both love and don’t love reading The Fellowship of the Ring aloud.  Reading aloud is the best and most connected way to share a book in a family, but it is hard work.

I have so far resisted getting an audiobook version so we could all listen together, or let my nine-year-old read it to himself.  He has mentioned reading it to himself a few times, and he certainly could.  But there truly is nothing to having a book read aloud, and by reading it aloud myself I am learning much more from Tolkein’s excellent writing, as well as highlighting quotes.

The reason I resist having us just read the books individually is that we are all really fast readers.

Case in point:  this week, when my nine-year-old was looking for a good book, I gave him my childhood copy of The 21 Balloons by William Pene Dubois, a Newberry winner from the mid-20th century.  He had not read it before, and when he looked a little dubious, I challenged him to give it 30 minutes and if he didn’t like it, he  could put it aside.

Forty-five minutes later, I called the kids for lunch.  He came walking in reading it (breaking our family rule, “no reading & walking” as I tell kids on the walk home from the library, trying to train them for not texting & driving).  He was already nearly halfway through the book.  Total time for him to finish the book?  Less than two hours.

I know this is technically a “good problem to have” but I find it super annoying, in a sort of funny way, and I told him so.  I already have enough trouble keeping older kids in books that are well-written and good!    More importantly, I have been concerned in the past that kids are not comprehending anything they read, getting through books so quickly, but I have found that comprehension is not a problem.  For instance, I asked him to tell me about The 21 Balloons, and he talked intelligently about the book for five minutes until I had to answer the phone.

Even though he was able to relate the plot and interesting vignettes from the book, I still feel we all miss out by reading too quickly.  Sometimes I try to slow myself down by taking notes of a book.  Reading aloud, especially with a classic like The Lord of the Rings, is completely worthwhile.

What’s next on your list?

Finishing The Lord of the Rings.

So many review books have come in lately I feel a bit overwhelmed, so I’m sure I will be taking some time in the next month to organize what I’ve got and try to map out the next few months.

What are you reading this month?