Relevant Fiction Reviews: Catholic Books for Kids

Relevant Fiction Reviews

I stray just slightly from all fiction this month as I review a couple of prayer books for children. I titled this Catholic Books for  “Kids,” but this selection covers a wide range and includes a board book, two picture books, a chapter book/coloring book, and a novel for teens and up.

I’ll let my (short) reviews speak for themselves save for three notes:

  • In glancing at the reviews for This Little Prayer of Mine, it seems some readers take grave issue with the penultimate line of the prayer: “Please love me, God, forevermore.” The issue, which is more obvious in context, is that no one needs ask God to love him. He is love. He does love, always, no matter what. Did I feel a pinprick of unease when I read the book? Yes. Would I have written the prayer the same way? Probably not. Will it stop me from sharing this book with my children? No. If this book were the source and summit of my children’s religious formation, then maybe I’d take more issue with it. But it’s not. And it’s not meant to be. I don’t find that it detracts from the value of this lesson in turning to God in simple, personal, regular prayer.
  • As we’re nearing First Communion Season,both Finding Patience and Animals of God (particularly “The Hungry Gray Mule”) would make excellent First Communion gifts.
  • If I have a pet peeve with saint depictions, in art especially, it’s that the men are rendered effeminate. I love A Soldier Surrenders and Saint Magnus, The Last Viking, both by Susan Peek, because her saint stories depict men as strong, courageous, and utterly masculine yet docile (eventually) to the Holy Spirit’s promptings.

Praying with My Fingers: An Easy Way to Talk with GodPraying with My Fingers: An Easy Way to Talk with God by Paraclete Press
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This simple book geared to very young children is a great tool for teaching simple prayer. It’s especially appealing to my preschoolers, who are at the perfect age for manipulating their fingers one by one. Inspired by Pope Francis, the book uses the fingers to remind children (and adults) for whom to pray: family and friends, teachers, leaders, the weak and sick, and ourselves. The illustrations are bright, simple, and appealing.

This Little Prayer of MineThis Little Prayer of Mine by Anthony DeStefano
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This children’s prayer picture book, written from a young child’s point of view, emphasizes turning to God in all things – fear, sadness, joy, thanksgiving, etc. My preschoolers enjoy incorporating it into our nighttime prayers on occasion. The illustrations are warm and engaging, contributing to the personal, informal nature of the prayer.

Adventures of Faith, Hope, and Charity - Finding PatienceAdventures of Faith, Hope, and Charity – Finding Patience by Virginia Lieto
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this book aloud with my seven-year-old daughter, who declared it, “The best book ever!”

The story was simple yet engaging. She particularly enjoyed the surprise “twist” at the end in which God answers Faith’s prayer quite literally.

I also read the book to my four-year-old daughter and two-year-old son. They enjoyed the bright illustrations. My daughter particularly liked the cuddly puppies, and my son occupied himself by pointing out the teddy bear and turtle as they appear in the pictures.

So often when I speak to my children about patience, I focus on short-term patience – waiting your turn, not whining while awaiting dinner, not nagging for when it’s time to go, etc. This book focuses on the importance of long-term patience – waiting for a circumstance to change or God to answer a prayer. Long-term patience may be difficult to model visibly to children. They cannot see the inner disposition that trusts and waits, knowing that the Lord hears and answers our prayers. This book does a good job in taking that somewhat abstract action and giving it a concrete application.

I’d recommend it for ages 2-8, with older children reaping the most benefit from its message.

Animals of GodAnimals of God by Susan Peek
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this book aloud to my three- and four-year-old children. The younger child caught bits of the stories and illustrations, but he’s probably a bit younger than the target audience for a short chapter book. My four-year-old, who’s closer to five, paid close attention to the stories and relished the illustrations that go with it.

The three stories are simple and engaging, featuring gentle animals that kids naturally find appealing. The little lamb who witnesses the first Christmas, the mule who is moved by the presence of God, and the little fawn who takes refuge in a cave along with a saint.

“The Hungry Gray Mule,” in particular, would be appropriate for children making their First Communion. My eight-year-old will be reading it next, as she prepares for the sacrament.

The coloring pages at the end are an added bonus. My kids enjoyed reliving the details of the stories and the characters through them.

A Soldier Surrenders: The Conversion of Saint Camillus de LellisA Soldier Surrenders: The Conversion of Saint Camillus de Lellis by Susan Peek
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love how Susan Peek brings obscure saints to life. Rather than relegated to dusty tomes, Saint Camillus springs from the page – masculine, lively, and deeply flawed – but never out of God’s reach.

Deeply affected by the bedside vigil at his father’s deathbed, even when he’s strayed from the practice of his faith or lapsed into habitual sins, Camillus is drawn to the sick and dying. Whatever his sins, he recognizes the dignity of the ill and injured and is rankled by the callous injustices they endure.

The story is well-written and fast-paced and appropriate for teens and older. The battle scenes include enough detail to intrigue without becoming gory. The relationships among the men depict authentic friendship and fraternal affection contrasted with selfish acquaintance. I think the story would be especially appealing to boys and young men.


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