Thursday, June 29, 2017

Katie Reads {7}

Time to chat about what I've been reading!  I've got a stack of various genres for you today, with books for both kids and adults.  

(FYI- the links for the books are Amazon Affiliate links.  That means that if you click through and purchase something, I will receive a small commission at no cost to you.  I will gratefully use it, probably to stock up on more books! :) )

Since I would rather be reading than writing long book reviews, I'll give you a grade and a quick run down- totally just my opinion based on what I enjoy.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on these books or suggestions of what I should read next in the comments! 

Praying the Angelus, Jared Dees, {A}
Ave Maria Press provided me with a copy of Praying the Angelus in exchange for an honest review.
  • The Angelus prayer is an integral part of my classroom routine.  I use this printable mini book (and matching booklet about the Regina Coeli) to help my students not only memorize the prayer, but also to understand its vocabulary, Scriptural base, and historical significance.
  • Jared Dees, best known in my circles as the The Religion Teacher, also has created the site The Angelus Prayer which features resources about praying the Angelus.  He contacted me for a feature called Why I Pray the Angelus and also sent me a copy of his new book for review.  I think that this new book is a great read for both those that are well practiced in praying the Angelus as well as those that might be new to the prayer.
  • Broken into two main sections, this book chronicles the history and origin of the beautiful Angelus prayer woven in with Jared Dees' personal connections.  The second half of the book provides line-by-line meditations for both the Angelus and the Regina Coeli.  Each 1-2 page reflection focuses on just a few words from each prayer and also gives a matching meditation for you to take into personal prayer or would work for group discussion.
  • This is a book I plan to keep near my prayer table at home as well as take in to my classroom use for quiet reflection time with my students. 

Anointed, Gifts of the Holy Spirit, Pope Francis, compiled by Jaymie Stuart Wolfe, {A}
Pauline Books & Media provided me with a copy of Anointed, Gifts of the Holy Spirit in exchange for an honest review.

  • This beautiful, new, hardbound book form Pauline Books & Media is going to become my go-to Confirmation gift.  Filled with beautiful minimalist graphics representing the Gifts of the Holy Spirit as well as interesting typography and photographs, this little book packs in a lot visually.
  • It is also filled with snippets of wisdom related to each of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit pulled from Pope Francis' teachings.  The short pieces from Pope Francis lend themselves perfectly to discussion or individual reflection.  
  • The book also includes prayers, Scripture verses, and more.  I plan to use this in my classroom prayer space when we are studying the Sacrament of Confirmation, but could see it being used for prayer or reflection in a Confirmation class or in the home of a student preparing for Confirmation.
  • Because of the modern design, there are some blank spaces on the pages introducing each new Gift of the Holy Spirit.  I can't help but think that Anointed would also make a great gift book for a Confirmand.  I would have parents, sponsors, catechists, pastor, etc. write a special message to the Confirmand throughout the book.  It also could be set out at a Confirmation celebration for guests to write in, making it not only a keepsake but also a tool for future prayer.  Its eye catching cover would help entice those students to return to Pope Francis' wisdom time and time again. 

Into the Sea, Out of the Tomb: Jonah and Jesus, Maura Roan McKeegan, {A+}

  • This book and its companion, The End of the Fiery Sword by the same author, have been my favorite new (to me) picture books this year.  I L-O-V-E Old Testament typology; digging into how the past events of the Bible pointed to Christ and the Church is fascinating and makes studying Scripture a bit like a rewarding detective hunt.
  • McKeegan has taken a couple of the biggest typology themes and turned them into accessible, reverent, and beautiful children's books. The End of the Fiery Sword compares Adam and Eve to Jesus and Mary.  This book, Into the Sea, Out of the Tomb, compares Jonah and Jesus.  Both books use vivid, lovely illustrations and lyrical language to draw connections between the Old and New Testament on side by side pages.  These books would make a wonderful addition to libraries in Catholic homes and Classrooms.
  • As St. Augustine said, "The New Testament lies hidden in the Old, and the Old is unveiled in the New."  What better way to unfold these truths with children- I hope that the author continues to add to the series!

Trials of the Earth, The True Story of a Pioneer Woman, Mary Mann Hamilton, {A}

  • Pioneer Lit has long been a favorite of mine (I've reviewed A Lantern in Her Hand and Giants in the Earth this year).  Trials of the Earth is a bit different because it is actually an autobiography even though it reads much like a novel.  Mary Mann Hamilton was one of the first pioneers to settle in the Mississippi Delta and wrote down the events of her life after decades of surviving hardship and adversity.  Her memoirs remained unpublished until the 1990s, but are now collected into this powerful book.  (Which probably has my favorite cover art of anything I've read this year!)
  • I thoroughly enjoyed reading the chronicle of her life.  The incredible struggles and circumstances she faced would break most modern Americans, but even though she was fairly ordinary, Mary was tough.  The "pioneer spirit" that can be romanticized in some novels manifests itself in her more as a gritty perseverance.  I was inspired to feel even more respect for the settlers of our country, as well as those around the world today in difficult refugee circumstances.  I think that anyone with a penchant for American history, Pioneer Lit, or interesting autobiographies would enjoy this book. 

Wonder, R.J. Palacio, {A+}

  • This is the "IT" book in middle school classrooms right now, and for good reason.  With the movie being released this fall, I wanted this at the top of my summer reading list and I was not disappointed.  Wonder tells the heartwarming story of Auggie, a 10 year old boy with facial abnormalities who is going to attend school for the first time.  Switching from Auggie's perspective to other characters like his new classmates and his older sister, the reader has a unique view of events in the book and the unfolding of the change Auggie brings to those around him.
  • As an educator who works with 10 and 11 year olds each day, this book really made me think about the lives led by my students and the depth of who they each are as a person.  Auggie's story and struggles were supposedly apparent, but who he was and what he had to offer the world ran much deeper than anything related to his appearance.  The same is true of my students- the talents, hurts, histories, and potential found in each of them lies well under the surface.  Just like Auggie, they deserve to be known and loved for who they are.
  • I'm hoping that I'll be able to get my hands on some affordable copies of this so that I can use it with my students this fall as a book study or read aloud.  I can't wait to hear what they think about it! 
  • (Note- there are a couple of references that I don't think are appropriate for my students- discussing girls being "flat" or not, for example.  I haven't decided yet if I will just skip those short sections as a read aloud or how I will handle it, but overall the content and theme of the book outweighs the small points that are a little too old for my students.  Parents and teachers, I would recommend you pre-read before sharing with students 12 and under.)

The Zookeeper's Wife, Diane Acherman, {A-}

  • Speaking of books and movies, a few friends and I "accidentally" saw the Zookeeper's Wife in theaters a couple months ago after missing the movie we came to see.  I didn't know anything about it, and in this case I'm actually glad I didn't read the book first.
  • The Zookeeper's Wife is the true story of Jan and Antonina Zabinski who owned the Warsaw Zoo before and after the invasion of Poland during WWII.  The family worked with the Polish resistance movement and also helped to hide and house Polish Jews and resistance workers in the almost empty zoo. They ended up helping save at least 300 Jews from a city where few survived.  
  • While the movie is a clean, two hour narrative summary of all of the events of the war with a clear beginning, middle, and end, the book isn't as linear.  It does include biographical information about the Zabinskis, but it weaves in stories of some of the Jews they helped, the resistance workers they worked alongside (Irena Sendler and Janusz Korczak, for example), and Nazi idealogies.  While all of us know that the Nazis wanted to create a pure race of humans, the book outlines their plans to create pure races of animals and plants as well.  
  • If you've seen the movie first, don't expect the book to be the same.  It isn't quite a page turner.  I struggled a bit with the structure and lack of a clear narrative thread, but it is more realistic that way and I did learn a lot of new information about a subject frequently in my reading topics.  (Other Holocaust/WWII books I've reviewed include The Nightingale, Night, For Such a Time, and All the Light We Cannot See.)

Traces of Guilt, Dee Henderson, {A}

  • Dee Henderson has long been a favorite author of mine when I am looking for a page turning, suspenseful novel with intriguing characters and subtle Christian values.  The O'Malley series and Uncommon Heros series are among my favorite books.  I started to read them in early college and have reread them many times over the years.  
  • Henderson is now writing stand alone novels that continue to tie characters together like Unspoken and Full Disclosure.  These books showcase her talent for writing a complexly woven story that you often can't see the ending of until reaching the last page.  There are ties between her books most evident for someone who has been a long time reader, but they don't hinder a new reader from picking up a single book and being immersed in the story.
  • This new series about character Evie Blackwell centers around a cold case task force.  Her writing is intriguing and character driven.  I love that Dee Henderson can write crime fiction without being raunchy or gory like so many other novels in the genre.  
  • I won't tell you much else about this book so that I don't give away any spoilers, but I will say that I already have the second Evie Blackwell book Threads of Suspicion and am loving this new series as a perfect summer read.  I would recommend anything that she has written! 

Which of these books would you most like to read?  What is on your To-Be-Read Stack?

You might like these other Katie Reads posts:
Katie Reads {1} 
Katie Reads {2}  
Katie Reads {3} 
Katie Reads {4}
Katie Reads {5}
Katie Reads {6}


  1. I have also recently purchased the books The End of the Fiery Sword and Into the Sea, Out of the Tomb: Jonah and Jesus. I love the way the author uses typology to show the connections the stories reference on the level that anyone can understand . . . even adults. They are wonderful! I hope that the author will write more books using this method. So many people will definitely benefit from them. - Laura G.

    1. So glad you liked it too, Laura! I really hope the author keeps writing this series- so many great applications for all ages!