By Regina Lordan
The following books are suitable for summer reading:
“Road Signs for Catholic Teens,” edited by Jennessa Terraccino. Our Sunday Visitor (Huntington, Indiana, 2019). 199 pp., $21.95
Tap into your teen’s excitement at earning a driver’s license by giving them this book to accompany their new independence and freedom. Better yet, give them “Road Signs for Catholic Teens” to read as part of your own family’s driver’s education class. The contributions are relevant, interesting, direct and impactful for teen readers. Divided cleverly into chapters using road signs as titles, authors offer personal anecdotes and lessons intended to help shape a teen’s understanding of God’s role in his or her life during this incredible phase of impressionable change and independence. Each chapter includes points of discussion, making it user-friendly for summer book clubs or family catechesis. Topics include relativism, sin, purgatory, Christian charity, prayer and dating. Ages 16 and up.
“Sydney and Calvin Have a Baby” by Adrienne Thorne. Gracewatch Media (Winona, Minnesota, 2018). 212 pp., $13.00
Parents, brace yourselves. The concepts addressed in this book — rape, references to pornography and casual teenage birth control and sex, intentional parental deception, and abortion — are not new to your teens. However, what might be new is a fictional discussion of these themes within a Catholic framework. Author Adrienne Thorne offers a compelling, albeit distressing, novel about a teen who was brutally date-raped then pressured to have an abortion. Her rapist is vile, and her only friend is pathetic. But her true hero encompasses a morally mature teen eager to fuel her inner strength. The young man, whose selfless compassion regardless of his own personal struggles, gives readers a solid role model of decency. Good versus evil is clear here, and in the true promise of the Catholic faith, light and life shine over darkness and death. This book is intended for mature teens. It might be beneficial for parents to read with younger teens. Ages 16 and up.
“Stories of the Blessed Sacrament” by Francine Ray. Ignatius Press (San Francisco, 2019). 96 pp., $16.99
Young readers will be pulled into a greater understanding and love of Jesus in the Eucharist through these engaging and beautifully illustrated stories. In the Old Testament, God gave the Hebrews manna in the desert to sustain their physical and spiritual survival. In the New Testament, the Blessed Sacrament was revealed to the faithful through the story of the multiplication of the loaves, the Last Supper and more. The stories in this book do not stop there and continue into modern times, making this book truly special. Children will learn about saints’ special devotion to the Eucharist and eucharistic miracles through the stories of St. Thomas Aquinas, the miracle in the church of Faverney, France, and the clandestine ordination of Father Karl Leisner at the Dachau concentration camp in Germany. Ages 7-12.
“The Word of the Lord,” edited by Katie Warner, illustrated by Meg Whalen. Tan Books. (Charlotte, North Carolina, 2019). 24 pp., $9.95.
Many parents will agree that board books are a saving grace for occupying wiggly toddlers at Mass. Here is another to add to the lot. Within its sturdy pages, interestingly paired vivid color patterns with simple figures illustrate familiar Bible quotes. A smiling shepherd, a beaming pregnant mother and a gentle-looking Jesus help bring the Bible to life for little ones and will hold their attention. Ages 0-4.
“Jesus Invites Me to Mass” by Sabine du Mesnil. Ignatius Press (San Francisco, 2019). 18 pp., $7.99.
Simple and sweet, this book is a good primer for preschool and young elementary school students who are starting to build an awareness that the Mass is not just a place to go on Sundays. Intended for children who do not yet fully participate in the Mass through the Eucharist, it gives gentle reminders of appropriate behavior and what to do during times of silence. Direct and to the point, it explains to children why Catholics go to Mass, and what exactly goes on while they are there. Ages 3-6.
“Little Prayers for Little Ones” by Pauline Sister Patricia Edward Jablonski, illustrated by Becky Fawson. Pauline Books and Media (Boston, 2019). 24 pp., $12.95.
Here is another sturdy board book to add to the collection of quality ways to survive Mass with young children. “Little Prayers for Little Ones” taps into the innate (though sadly fleeting) ability for children to innocently see joy and God’s grace in so many things adults take for granted: bouncing raindrops, tweeting birds, tall trees, or even sad friends. The illustrations are refreshingly multicultural, a stark contrast from similar, generations-old prayer books. The characters are children with and without physical disabilities, representing many ethnicities, and they see God everywhere: in the city, at the zoo, in nature, at home, and within each other. Ages 0-4.
“Sweet Dreamers” by Isabelle Simler. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. (Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2019). 74 pp., $19.
Isabelle Simler has done it again. The author and illustrator of “Plume” and “The Blue Hour” offers children an opportunity to pause and truly escape the world in her uniquely whimsical illustrations and beautifully written prose. The colors she chooses illuminate an almost iridescence and her language and use of vocabulary show attention to purpose and restraint from unnecessary superlatives. Ages 2-5.
“Mozart: Gift of God” by Demi. Ignatius Press (San Francisco, 2019). 42 pp., $15.99.
Mozart is well-known for his musical talents, which he revealed to his musically gifted family as a 5-year-old prodigy. However, his faith isn’t often a topic of conversation when discussing his impressive repertoire. But indeed, Mozart and his family were Catholic: They went to Mass, prayed together and participated in liturgical celebrations and traditions. At 13, he wrote “Te Deum” in praise of God. He told his father in letters that he feared God but knew his love, mercy and compassion. Mozart also attributed his happiness to God. This book is a children’s biography of Mozart, told from a perspective appealing to Catholic families and illustrated with great detail. Ages 8-12.
“The Life of Jesus According to Luke” by Sophie de Mullenheim. Ignatius Press (San Francisco, 2019). 96 pp., $16.99.
Clear off your kitchen table for some home-grown vacation Bible school and use “The Life of Jesus” to get you started. Although this resembles a textbook to the savvy parent, its expert layout and design can be quite appealing to a willing younger learner. Biblical stories are expanded with foundational sidebars and visually welcoming extensions, giving readers a chance to digest and further explore the Bible study. Ages 7 and up.
Regina Lordan, a mother to three young children, has master’s degrees in education and political science and is a former assistant international editor of Catholic News Service. She is a freelance editor for various online and print publications.