Barb Szyszkiewicz reviews four new books for young readers to enjoy this fall.
Are your kids looking for some new reading material? You can count on the content of these four new books to be fascinating and faithfully Catholic. They're listed in order from youngest to oldest audience. Three of these books are parts of series, but thanks to their skillful authors, readers can jump right into the stories (though they'll probably want to catch up on the rest after reading one).
I will never miss a chance to read an installment of the Sisters of the Last Straw series by Karen Kelly Boyce (TAN Books). Written for young readers age 6 to 12, the characters in these chapter books form a community of religious sisters who struggle, not always successfully (but always hilariously), with bad habits. Even though they don't succeed all the time, they do try to be patient with their own faults and those of others, and to help and encourage each other along the way.
In The Case of the Campground Creature, the Sisters are given a camper and decide to take a much-needed vacation. When the camper breaks down on the way to their destination, they're towed to a new campground while the repair shop waits for parts to fix the camper. But the new campground isn't as welcoming as it seems at first: dark woods, strange noises, and a mysterious creature frighten the Sisters, most of whom have never camped before.
You don't have to read the books in this series in order. The Case of the Campground Creature would make a fun family (or classroom) read-aloud, especially at this time of year since the book has a spooky (but not too scary) theme.
Lucia of Fatima by Catholic Mom contributor Kathryn Griffin Swegart is an excellent introduction to the story of the apparitions at Fatima. It is the third book in a series of children's books about courageous Catholics whose faith changed their lives in extraordinary ways.
Told from the point of view of Lucia, who was 10 years old when the Blessed Mother first appeared to her and her younger cousins at Fatima, this historical novel gives readers a look into what it was like for the young visionary and how her life was changed afterward. The author, a gifted storyteller, skillfully portrayed each scene. The story brings home the message that you are never too young to follow God's call. Lucia of Fatima is written for ages 10 and up, but would be a good read-aloud for age 7 and up.
Antony Kolenc's third book in The Harwood Mysteries series of historical novels for readers 10 and up is a suspenseful novel set in 12th-century England (Loyola Press). The Fire of Eden continues the story of Xan, a teenage orphan who lives with other orphans at a monastery. Parents and teachers will appreciate the 2-page readers guide, "How to read historical fiction," at the front of the book, and the author has also provided a map of Xan's world, a glossary of religious and historical terms, and an author's historical note that explains Church and feudal practices of that time and place.
In The Fire of Eden, an accident causes John, who's been Xan's nemesis in the monastery for quite some time, to lose his sight. Angry at his sudden dependence on those around him, John is more cruel than ever, but Xan is forced to cooperate with him as they seek to solve the mystery of a missing precious ruby belonging to a young monk who's about to be ordained to the priesthood. Along the way, they encounter dishonest monks, traitorous guards, and a frightening magician who lives in the woods. (This novel would make a very exciting movie!)
Julie Ash's novel for middle-school readers and up follows two young girls as they try to make sense of their place in the world and God's place in their hearts. In the Palace of the Great King explores themes of religious vocation, teenage pregnancy, poverty's effects on the family, and the call to conversion.
Three teens from two very different backgrounds meet when they take shelter in an urban church during a terrible storm. Char, who lives in the shadow of her younger sister Kayla, feels overcome by loneliness; Tia is overwhelmed by school, her job, and caring for her little brother when the adults in her life are unable to watch him after school. All three are changed after they stumble into that church, with Char struggling to make sense of her mother's violent objections to religion and the prolife movement, and Tia wondering if God is calling her to join the community of nuns who welcomed the girls during the storm. Currently In the Palace of the Great King is available only on Kindle; a bound version is due out later this year.
Copyright 2021 Barb Szyszkiewicz
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About the Author
Barb Szyszkiewicz, editor at CatholicMom.com, is a wife, mom of 3 young adults, and a Secular Franciscan. Barb enjoys writing, cooking, and reading, and is a music minister at her parish. Find her blog at FranciscanMom and her family’s favorite recipes with nutrition information at Cook and Count. Barb is the author of The Handy Little Guide to Prayer and The Handy Little Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours, available from Our Sunday Visitor.