Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Katie Reads 16 {Kids' Books for Summer}

Summer is rapidly approaching, and what better way to set your kids up for a season of rest and relaxation than to get some great new books in their hands, especially ones that will help them grow in their faith. Here are the latest additions to my classroom library, starting with books best suited to young readers and working up to selections for older kids.

This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. That means that if you click through and purchase something, I will receive a small commission at no cost to you.
***Pauline Books & Media provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
###Tan Books provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
^^^Author provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I only recommend things I use and love and want to share with you. All opinions are my own. :)

Father Ben Gets Ready for Mass, by Katie Warner, illustrated by Meg Whalen ###
This books is the sweetest interactive picture book about the Mass for perschoolers and toddlers.  Each page invites the little readers to participate in helping Fr. Ben get ready for Mass- from "dipping" their hands into the Holy Water to make the Sign of the Cross, to "lighting" the candles for the procession.  Skills like sequencing and color are taught naturally through the text alongside the structure of the Mass and names of Liturgical vessels.  Creative illustrations show a great variety of perspectives that will keep both kids and the adults reading to them engaged.  After receiving my review copy, I loved it so much I promptly ordered another copy for my nephew, and I know this will be a great book to use for Baptism gifts in the future!

The Fruit Tree, by Mark Restaino, illustrated by JP Alcomendas ^^^
Growth, fruit, seeds, vines, farmers, and trees are frequent subject matter for parables and poems in the Bible.  This original story draws from John 15:5 and uses rich allegory in its words and layered symbolism in its illustrations to help the reader draw closer to the plan the God the Creator has for each of us.  Through the guidance of the gardener and the sacrifice of a generous fruit tree, the other trees grow from being competitive and cruel into a virtuous and beautiful orchard.  The story connects back to so many themes and stories in the Bible, which are conveniently listed in the back of the book for further reading in your home or classroom.  The vibrant illustrations also contain a story all their own full of Biblical symbols that help deepen the message.  A key of the symbols is also included in the back of the book to help continue that conversation after you read.  The Fruit Tree is a well crafted story that can be understood by young readers while also probing and bringing out depth with older kids.

Roses in the Snow; A Tale of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, by Dessi Jackson, illustrated by Lydia Grace Kadar-Kallen
This lovely book has been on my to-get list for a while.  The fictionalized story of a young girl listening to her grandmother tell the story of her namesake, Elizabeth of Hungary, is a warm and memorable tale of the Saint's life.  The beautiful watercolor illustrations pair perfectly with the story.  The book is supplemented with a map of Europe around the time of St. Elizabeth and a brief biography fleshing out some details of her life.  It would make a perfect cozy bedtime read, especially for a grandmother and granddaughter!

Sitting Like a Saint, by Dr. Gregory & Barbara Bottaro, illustrated by Michael Corsini
I first read this brand new book when my sister ordered it for my nephew, and was super impressed with the content and illustrations.  Each two page spread features a Saint (or Biblical figure) and includes a bright and original illustration of their life, feast day, patronage, quote or Bible verse, and brief biography.  Then, the author connects a strength or virtue of the Saint with a struggle the reader might be facing- distraction, fear, anger, or sorrow.  Using the Saint as a guide, we are led through a brief prayerful meditation, including movements and deep breaths.  When reading about Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, the child "climbs" a mountain while they pray about letting go of distractions.  The Prophet Elijah helps them practice really listening to sounds, helping them remember to listen for God's still small voice. The child is invited to lay prostrate on the floor, focusing on God's presence, much like St. John Paul II would pray in adoration.  We are indeed both body and soul, and these meditations seek to help the littlest of children see the union of the two. I think that this book would be a strong resource in homes and classrooms, both to teach techniques to name and control emotions, as well as to give tools and strategies when those emotions are most difficult to control, all through the guidance of Scripture and Saints.  Gregory has a doctorate in clinical psychology and he and Barbara are parents of four young children. In the introduction for parents, they explain the theory of the book, which is desiring to introduce children to the Saints as well as to help them grow in the peace that surpasses all understanding by using their God-given bodies to help name and control their emotions. You can read the whole intro at the Amazon link above.

Anna Goes to a Party...and Learns About the Mass, by Gabriele Kramer Kost, illustrated by Tanja Husmann ***
This cute little chapter book is a perfect gift for a girl getting ready for her First Communion. Character Anna is doing just that, and learns more and more about Jesus in the Eucharist while celebrating her Grandpa's birthday and spending some special time with her Godmother.  Those Parallels between Mass and her life as well as stories from the Bible help her understand just how special the gift of her First Communion is.  Each chapter contains a few full color illustrations in the same sweet style you see on the cover. The book has seven chapters over about 50 pages and then contains a 25 page guide to the Mass, including responses, motions, and brief explanations.  It would make a great family read-a-loud during the time of preparation for a First Communion, and a then good resource for following along and talking about the Mass.

Stories of the Blessed Sacrament, by Francine Bay, illustrated by Hengjing Zang
This beautifully illustrated and published book contains twelve stories of the Eucharist, emphasizing the True Presence and the centrality of this Sacrament to our faith.  Each chapter is told in narrative format and reads like an independent picture book of its own, making this a perfect book to use as a read-a-loud many, many times over.  I absolutely love the style, color, and expression of the illustrations and think they really add a lot of depth and character to the stories.  The first five chapters are Biblical stories of the Eucharist, including one from the Old Testament and four from the New.  The other seven stories tell of Eucharistic events that stretch from the early Church until World War II.  The are certainly friendly enough to read with second graders preparing for First Communion (this would make a lovely gift book) but also would be inspiring for older kids to read and then maybe do further research into each event.  It is an inspirational keepsake that I think has a place on a bookshelf in any Catholic home or classroom.  

Heavenly Hosts; Eucharistic Miracles for Kids, by Kathryn Swegart OFS, illustrated by John Folley and Hannah West-Ireland
The True Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist has been documented by the Church in countless Eucharistic Miracles.  The author has chosen ten of those events and retold them as stories suitable for elementary students.  The miracles range in era from the 200s to 1994 and occurred all throughout the world.  Each chapter is only a few pages long and features a black and white illustration.  This book would also make a great read-a-loud as all of the chapters are independent from one another, and also would make for the basis of an awesome research project for older students, helping them know, understand, and believe in both the power and gift of the Blessed Sacrament.

The Mass Explained for Kids (Second Edition), commentary by Maria Grace Dateno FSP and Jaymie Stuart Wolfe ***
There are many children's Mass guides out there, but I really like this new one from Pauline Kids.  Affordably priced, it is still printed in full color on nice glossy paper and would be a great family resource or could be used in a class set for a school or religious education program.  One of the main reasons that I like it is that the commentary and definitions are not interspersed among the text of the Mass or in footnotes of the pages, which can be really hard for young readers to follow.  Instead, the left page contains the words and actions of the Order of the Mass, and then color coded notes correspond on the facing right page.  The child can follow along with the Mass without interruption, but can trace the dotted line to the info box to read more or have a word defined.  The layout is a smart move to make this a very usable Children's Mass guide.

These actually aren't a book, but have been a favorite new resource in my classroom.  A set of 100 large Saint cards comes in a sturdy box with a sliding drawer, and have attractive consistent illustrations (meaning the whole set matches- it's not a mishmash of various artwork and artists comprising the images of the Saints). On the back, each card contains three fast facts, feast day, patronage, and a brief biography.  These cards have worked well in my classroom for quick games, ten minute filler activities, icebreakers, etc. all while learning about the Saints. 

Catholic Funny Fill-Ins, by Karen and Tommy Tighe, illustrated by Jason Bach ***
My generation grew up doing mad-libs all the time- on the bus, while waiting after sports events, at slumber parties... and when we ran out, we made our own.  Karen and Tommy Tigue (The Catholic Hipster) have done just that but with fun with Catholic topics.  Fill in  a list of random adjectives, verbs, and names, and you suddenly have a hilarious story about what to give up for Lent or the struggle to get ready for Mass or how to elect a new Pope.  This book would be absolutely perfect for a family road trip, and I've been using it for earlier finishers this spring in my classroom.  I'm grateful that Pauline Kids allows in the copyright for pages to be reproduced for educators, because my students are certainly getting some good use out of it!

The Saints Chronicles from Sophia Institute Press (multiple authors and illustrators)
Graphic novels deserve a post of their own here on my blog, as I feel that they are an incredibly relevant way to share the faith, especially with reluctant readers or kids that are predominantly visual learners.  Well written and illustrated graphic novels can convey just as much (if not more) information as a chapter book, and often do by developing and challenging reading skills like sequencing, making inferences, and understanding dialogue and perspective. The Saints Chronicles collection has a mature look for middle school or older readers and features five Saints in each book.  Well known Saints like Anthony, Patrick and Nicolas are mixed in with lesser known Henry Morse, Charles Lwanga, and Pachomus.  Creatively told by many different authors and illustrators, there is something new to learn each time the novels are read and reread.  They'd make the perfect gift to inspire virtue in any preteen or teen.

While this is not a new book, as I was organizing this set of book reviews, I wanted something with a little more substance for a middle or high schooler, but also with summer in mind.  This collection of 52 reflections straight from the words of St. John Paul II would make a great companion for any teen.  Each page has a Bible verse, a quote from JP2 (as well as the source of document or address if they want to read more), a guided reflection, an action point, and a prayer.  Each page also has a little "Did you know?" trivia helping the reader get to know this beloved Saint.  I think this little book would make a great graduation gift to promote reflection and growth during such formative years.

While there are many adult coloring books on the market, and even tons of faith centered ones, I really like this new collection of Saint coloring pages and think older kids would really enjoy the detailed designs and intricate patterns.  Each two page spread features a Saint, depicting images of them, symbols, and quotes, often in a stained glass window kind of style.  The opposite page contains a biography of the Saint as well as a prayer or quote to supplement and help make the time spent coloring and fruitful opportunity for prayer.

And why not dive into summer with a giveaway!  One winner will receive:
-Inspiration from the Saints Coloring Book
-The Fruit Tree
-Father Ben Gets Ready for Mass
-Anna Goes to a Party
-And a set of beautiful vinyl stickers from Catholic Paper Goods

This giveaway will be hosted over on my Instagram Friday 5/31- Sunday 6/2, but I know some of my readers don't have an account there,  so to enter here, just leave a comment on this post with one book that you hope to read over your summer (or get your kids to read!). If you are on Instagram, feel free to enter in both places!  Happy reading!

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Little Saints for Little (or Big!) Learners

Incorporating inspiration from the Saints into daily life is an important goal for all Catholic classrooms and homes.  Holy cards, artwork, statues, and books are a great way to keep the Saints present, but it is also nice to have things that are designed with kids in mind.  Little Drops of Water is a family company that started with a dream of their daughter Anna to learn and share the stories of the Saints with other kids.  Today the company offers a line of Catholic figurines and keychains with sweet, child friendly style.  Little Drops of Water sent me some of their figurines to try in my classroom, and I'm happy to share this great resource with you as well!

***Little Drops of Water, Pauline Books & Media, and TAN Books provided me with free items in exchange for an honest review. I only recommend things I use and love and want to share with you. All opinions are my own. :)
This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. That means that if you click through and purchase something, I will receive a small commission at no cost to you.

And as you browse, make sure you check out the promos and sales available on their website here!

Each statue comes packaged in a giftable box which includes a great description of the statue, whether symbols on the image or a bio of the Saint or the history of an image.  That info is a great tool to add in that important catechetical piece along with each figurine.  They average about 3-3.5" in height and are made of a heavy resin material, painted with bright eye catching colors.

Let me show you some of the adorable statues offered by Little Drops of Water.  First up, figures of Jesus, including the Sacred Heart, the Holy Family, and Divine Mercy.  I love how the figures are such a friendly image for kids- they are perfect to hold and pray with, fitting just right in little hands.

These modern Saints are one of my very favorite thing they carry- here you can see Mother Teresa, John Bosco, Padre Pio, and Josephine Bakhita.  One of the best advantages of having figures like this around your home and classroom are that you are increasing the children's recognition of Jesus, Mary, and the Saints.  By helping them see the common symbols, color, and style of simple depictions like these, they are better able to recognize them in other Catholic art.

I love the variety of Marian titles and apparitions they've created, which also have companion Saints- there's a Juan Diego to go with Our Lady of Guadalupe, Bernadette for Lourdes, etc.

They also carry collections that are for special occasions like births, Baptisms, and First Communions.  And make sure you check out their Nativities and Last Supper set which are so adorable and would make such special gifts.

The statues have passed required safety testing, and while not completely UNbreakable, are appropriate for gentle play in my opinion. I shared some of these with my three and four year old nephews and niece and they are holding up pretty well.  I will be honest and tell you that we have broken one hand from the St. Nicolas figurine from a drop, but the rest look great.  They are intended for display as opposed to active play, so you'd have to decide based on your kids how to best use them.  The material is not as study as plastic, but certainly stronger than glass or ceramic.

I think that Little Drops of Water Saints pair perfectly with these Catholic books for gifts or Feast Days.  (More these books in my next Katie Reads post!) so I thought I'd share some of my favorite combos!
Father Ben Gets Ready for Mass by Katie Warner and little St. John Bosco are a perfect reminder to pray for priests and the youth in their parishes:

The Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary statues (my personal favorite ;) ) look so nice on display with Fulton Sheen's Jesus Son of Mary:

Anna Goes to a Party and Learns About the Mass by Gabriele Kramer-Kost pairs perfectly with the Jesus and First Communicant statue for a special Sacramental gift:
I love featuring these modern Saints in my classroom alongside the sweet book Saintly Rhymes for Modern Times on top of my Saint book shelf:

Go check out their site and think about all the possibilities- birthdays, First Communions, teacher gifts, graduations... so many great ways to bring these Saints into the lives of all the little (and big!) people in your life. :)

And helping fulfill their mission to educate Catholic kids, Little Drops of Water also offers some great FREE resources including coloring pages, posters, and printable activity books! Check those out here.  The coloring book is full of awesome Marian apparition pages that would pair perfectly to make this activity a multi age unit!

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Marian Apparition Investigation

We've reached the end of the school year, and my students are well, a little restless, as I can imagine yours are too. :) With the time that we have left, I've decided to try some high interest Catholic topics to keep them learning and (hopefully) engaged during our last classes- things like Eucharistic Miracles, incorrupt Saints, the Stigmata, etc.)

One group is going to be studying Marian Apparitions, a perfect topic for this month of May.  My hope is to help develop Marian devotion and understanding of the guidance Mary still gives to the Church.  I also want the students to more readily recognize different Marian titles and devotions and their symbols.

I used these Marian prayer cards to intro the lesson and talk about titles of Mary we know, as well as the symbols, etc. in the images.  (These lovely cards are from Avery & Co on Etsy.)

On the back of this booklet, I provided a list of Marian titles (certainly not exhaustive, but a good place to start) and a list of (what I think are) Vatican approved apparitions.  I talked with the students about the purpose of Marian Apparitions, and how they can be approved for devotion but that we are not required to believe private revelation- it does not (and cannot) change the content of our faith. I tried to find a reliable source that lists all the Vatican approved Marian apparitions, but couldn't locate a single exhaustive source.  This list is the best I could find by cross referencing several places.  If you know of a good, reliable website to check, please let me know!

Once the students chose a Marian Apparition, we got started on research.  They looked for basic facts like where, when, and to whom the apparition occurred.  We used the internet (again- would love to have a specific reliable site to have them use!) and my collection of Marian books.  (You can see some of them in this post). The students also had to summarize the message or purpose of the apparition.  On the front, there is space to draw an image of the apparition or list the symbols described.

Then, to work in a little more content no matter the apparition chosen, I had them read a few paragraphs in the Catechism and summarize some Marian facts.  And finally to develop some higher level thinking, I asked them to consider what we can learn from this apparition and the message shared for the Church today.

Finally, the students will share a little mini report on the apparition they chose with their classmates, so we are all learning more about these Marian devotions.  So far it's working great and been a high interest way to use some of our last days this school year. 

I hope that it might be a good resource for you as well!  Feel free to add in the comments or send me an email if you have any great books or websites that you think would be helpful for this project- I'd love your input!

Click here to download your copy of the student guide:

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Lovely Lady {Ideas for Honoring Mary in May}

In honor of this month of Our Lady, I've collected a whole series of posts with tons of ideas for teaching kids about Mary- and through her, modeling Christian life, prayer, generosity, and virtue.

Click on any of the pictures below to take you to a post with more info, ideas, printables, and pictures.

Marian Music Playlist:

Favorite Books About Mary:

Hail Mary Sort Cards:

Angelus Mini Book:

Regina Coeli Mini Book:

Holy Family Hearts Coloring Page and Prayer Cards:

Immaculate Heart of Mary Coloring Pages and Prayer Cards:

Immaculate Heart of Mary and Seven Sorrows Coloring Page:

Mary as the Moon Coloring Page:

Lovely Lady Dressed in Blue Coloring Page:

Lovely Lady Dressed in Blue Retreat:

My Soul Magnifies the Lord Theme:

Marian Bulletin Board:

Mary, Mother of the Church Feast Day

Mary Garden Plant Labels:

Mini Mary Flipbooks:

Notebook Marian Shrine:

Marian Prayers Flipbook:

Marian Typology Info Cards:

Mary & Discipleship Youth Bible Study:

Family Marian Shrine:

World Mission Rosary:

Brown Scapular Resources:

You might also like these Marian Stamps in my Etsy Shop:

Lovely Lady, dressed in blue, teach me how to pray.
God was just your little boy, and you know the way.