By Regina Lordan
The following children’s books are suitable for Christmas giving:
“The Advent of Christmas” by Matt Maher, illustrated by Merce Tous. Wellspring Books (North Palm Beach, Florida, 2019). 32 pp., $16.95.
If the name Matt Maher sounds familiar to you, it might be because you’ve heard his voice. Not to be confused with John Mayer, Matt Maher is a Catholic award-winning songwriter and recording artist. A nine-time Grammy nominee, he can now stick children’s book author as a feather in his multitalented cap. “The Advent of Christmas” is beautifully illustrated and simply told. Although nothing particularly unique amid the lot of Christmas books for children, this book can be paired with Maher’s new Christmas album of the same name, allowing families to create moments focusing on the birth of Christ. Ages 2-10.
“Drawing God” by Karen Kiefer, illustrated by Kathy De Wit. Paraclete Press (Brewster, Massachusetts, 2019). 32 pp., $17.99.
“Drawing God” authentically captures the innocence, excitement and imagination of faith-filled children. The book tells the story of a young girl inspired by a recent trip to the art museum to draw a picture of God. She starts with a glorious sun, but is met at school with disagreement at her creation. Then she tries to draw her mother’s warm loaf of bread. Again, she is met with criticism. After another try, the depleted little girl turns to God. God speaks to her the following day in a way she never expected, revealing to the reader that faith shared joyfully is contagious. A gently told original story, “Drawing God” leaves readers feeling hopeful. Parents and catechists will be glad to find passages for extension and reflection at the end of the book. Ages 3-10.
“Made for Greatness: A Growth Mindset Journal for Catholic Youth” by Ginny Kochis. Not So Formulaic/Zelie Press (Stafford, Virginia, 2019). 108 pp., $22.50.
The growth mindset is an empowering pedological theory that achievement and intelligence can improve with belief and effort. Here, in journal form for Catholic youth, the growth mindset is put into practice. Author Ginny Kochis focuses on the virtues to help guide readers into finding their purpose. Sparingly illustrated in color, the book uses holy men and women as role models, and incorporates moments for writing, reflecting and putting faith into action. “Made for Greatness” would be an appropriate gift for Christmas, to kick start a New Year’s resolution, or in celebration of the sacrament of confirmation. Ages 10 and up.
“The Seed Who Was Afraid to be Planted” by Anthony DeStefano, illustrated by Erwin Madrid. Sophia Institute Press (Manchester, New Hampshire, 2019). 30 pp., $16.95.
Maybe it is the sweet, frowning seed with sad dripping tears on the cover that draws children to the book. Or perhaps it is that familiar childhood feelings of apprehension and delight at a happy ending that makes children come back for more. Regardless, “The Seed Who Was Afraid to Be Planted” hooks little readers. The book tells the story of a seed who, without his choice and despite his fear, is burrowed into the earth and becomes a large joyful tree. The book has several themes: hope, conversion and faith, to name a few. It is up to the parents and child to explore the book’s messages and make it their own. Ages 4 and up.
“Kiddie Cat” by Katie Warner, illustrated by Meg Whalen. Tan Books (Charlotte, North Carolina, 2019). 22 pp., $9.95.
“Kiddie Cat” summarizes the main ideas of the catechism in board book form for the youngest of Catholics. A great introduction to the faith, it should be the standard go-to gift for baptisms and in every “just-in-case-of-meltdowns” Mass bag. Ages 0-4.
“Gifts: Visible and Invisible” edited by Cynthia T. Toney. CatholicTeenBooks (Hummelstown, Pennsylvania, 2019) 227 pp., $13.99.
Not many books available for Catholic teens have quite the right mix of good writing, solid storytelling, relatability and strong Christian morality. But yet again, CatholicTeenBooks has provided an anthology of wonderful Christmas stories by various authors for this unique lot of Catholic readers. Eight in all, the stories range from historical fiction to dystopian to ensure all interests are included. Ages 12 and up.
“For Eden’s Sake” by T.M. Gaouette. independently published (Francestown, New Hampshire, 2019). 180 pp., $14.99.
What happens when a small-town farm boy moves to the big city, has too much to drink, and finishes off the night with a hazy one-night stand? A massive hangover, a lot of guilt and regret, and … a baby. Parents and teens, here is another book to add to the recently growing list of decent pro-life fiction for Catholic teens. In a desperate attempt to save the life of his unborn child, the young man bravely faces many obstacles, including the baby’s mother’s selfish personality and questionable morality. She too is young, and eager to get her former life back by terminating the life of her child. Will life prevail? Can a new father keep up the strength to continue the legal and moral battle? Read to find out. Ages 15 and up.
“YouCat for Kids: A Catholic Catechism for Children and Parents” translated by Beata Vale. Ignatius Press (San Francisco, 2019). 240 pp., $17.95.
“YouCat for Kids” is a lively, engaging and readable alternative or companion to the standard stock-photo-filled religion education texts. It should be welcomed into the shelves of Catholic families as a guide in their efforts to raise faithful Catholics. “YouCat” breaks down the catechism in question-and-answer form with language directed toward curious children. Each point is explained with thorough background information for parents. Written with a foreword by Pope Francis, the book was tried and tested before it was published. Give it a go, and see how it changes your family catechism lessons. Ages 8-12.
“Where is Jesus: My First Words in Search of God” by Augustine Gadient and Hengjing Zang. Magnificat (New York, 2019). 19 pp., $12.99.
“Where is Jesus” is a sweet and sturdy board book for toddlers. Made with flaps for explorative reading and to keep attention, the book explains to young readers that Jesus is within our hearts, in heaven, at Mass and in all the people around us. A great introduction into the faith, this book and its companion “Thank You, Lord: My First Words in Praise of God,” are great gifts for little children on Christmas morning. Ages 0-5.
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 currently teaches and is a court-appointed advocate for children in foster care.