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!


  1. The Brave Learner is on my reading list for myself. Thanks for the recommendations! It's always fun to hear about new (or just new-to-me) Catholic books!

  2. My path to heaven...planning to do with my 10 year old.

  3. Actually, there are a few books that I'm contemplating at the moment and haven't yet decided upon one. I am currently reading Blessed are the Bored in Spirit with my sons and daughter. - Laura G.

  4. Katie's Reads is always one of my favorite posts! I love seeing what is new and exciting with a first hand recommendation! THANK YOU!

  5. Thank you for the suggestions! I'm going to have my daughter read Anna Goes To A Party. What a sweet book for preparing for First Holy Communion!

  6. I want a bunch of these for so many reasons! Roses in the Snow sounds like it would be beautiful just to look at. Anna Goes to a Party would be put away for my niece's communion next spring. All of the different saint books would be put to use planning for next year's religion classes as I like to introduce my fifth graders to as many saints as possible since we study the sacraments and we really dive into confirmation since they really don't know much about it and they are quickly approaching it. And that mad libs style book!!!! That was music to my English teacher ears!!!!
    I am going to be broke.

  7. Thank you for this list Katie. I would love the to read Father Ben gets ready for Mass with my toddler and preschooler. And Anna goes to a party would be great for the daughter of a family friend who will receive her First Holy Communion this year.

  8. These all look great and my son and I are already planning on reading Sitting like a Saint, this summer!

  9. I've been eyeing up Sitting Like a Saint for awhile now. Thank you for doing this!

  10. A beautiful list. A summer read for me is The Five Love Languages (of teenagers).

  11. What a great list! If I had unlimited funds, I would love to get them all.
    This summer, I have a couple of books by Hans Urs von Balthasar ("Does Jesus know us? Do we know Jesus?") on my list for myself, and for the kids (10 & 6), I would like to help them start prayer journaling, so I will be looking for something that would support that effort. The resources on your blog are amazing for that, by the way! Otherwise, they are usually voracious readers, so I work with whatever we can find at the library.

  12. I bought Sitting Like A Saint for a friend’s son who just made his First Communion this month. The illustrations in it are beautiful & a meditation all on their own apart from the words in each story. It’s definitely a new favorite book. Another book I highly recommend for older readers (4th grade & up) is a YA novel, The Winged Watchman, by Hilda Van Stockum. Set in the Netherlands during WWII, it’s the story of a Catholic family and the courageous way they strive to keep life around them going on normally during a time of growing uncertainty as the possibility of war creeps ever closer, threatening all that they hold dear. It’s a great classroom read to make that era of history come alive through believable, sympathetic characters who must wrestle with making wise decisions & it’s an exciting chapter book for independent readers seeking an imaginative yet true-to-life adventure over the summer.

  13. The Tale of Desperaux by Kate DiCamillo is going to be our first summer family read aloud.

  14. Thanks for another Katie Reads post...I always look forward to them! I'm hoping to get my son to read Henry Dee this summer. He read the first two, and got the third for Easter, but hasn't cracked led it open yet.

  15. Thanks for again sharing some great books! I would love to "Sitting Like a Saint" and "Heavenly Hosts" for our household to read this summer!

  16. They all sound so great - but I think I'm going to get "Heavenly Hosts" and "Catholic Fill Ins"

  17. I really enjoy these posts- I always get so many great titles to add to our To Read list. Thank you! My boys are I are hoping to read St. Patrick's Summer.

  18. I really enjoy these posts- I always get so many great titles to add to our To Read list. Thank you! My boys are I are hoping to read St. Patrick's Summer.

  19. Excited about these books... thanks for sharing! :)

  20. I want to read Anna Goes to a Party... It sounds great and so helpful for my 2nd graders who will be preparing for their 1st Communion.

  21. I will be reading the Devout Life and my children the Summer Saints book. Thanks Katie for a great giveaway and for all your wonderful posts. God bless:)

  22. Thank you for the great suggestions. I have a second grader who I think would enjoy Anna Goes to a Party.

  23. Hi Katie,
    I would like to be entered in the drawing please.
    We recently received Sitting with the Saints and it is such an effective and thoughtful little book. I use it at bedtime with my kids and occasionally with morning prayer.
    I just asked Grandma for the Saint Chronicals and the Catholic Funny Fill-Ins for an upcoming birthday.
    Lastly, regarding Inspiration from the Saints; A Coloring Book for Prayer and Meditation, by Cindi Duft. Cindi lives her in Boise and has done INCREDIBLE religious art in our parishes. So powerful! She is amazing and inspiring.

    Ta ta for now! H

  24. Thanks for all of your entries and ideas! The winner was chosen and contacted :)