Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Katie Reads {23} And announcing the title of my book!

So I've gotten a l.i.t.t.l.e bit behind on book reviews...scroll on for a long list of books I've added to my classroom library and read myself over the past few months. Included are some great picture books, a few stellar middle school suggestions, books for prayer, as well as a handful of fiction titles I've enjoyed recently. But first up...I finally have the title of my own book to share with you! Thank you for all of your support when I announced the book I have coming out very soon from Emmaus Road Publishing. Through the Year with Jesus: Gospel Readings and Reflections for Children will offer weekly Bible readings about the life of Jesus to match up with the Liturgical Year, sacred art, discussion questions, prayer prompts, and more. I just can't wait to see it being used in your homes and classrooms! While we await the release date, I want to start to share some resources with you, starting with this cute coloring page featuring Jesus & the little children. Click on the image to open as a pdf:

I'll keep you in the loop with more details about my book, like when it is ready for preorder! I'd be so grateful for your prayers as the project progresses!

OK, on to more new books!

 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.

Many of these books were sent to me for review, but I only recommend things I use and love and want to share with you. All opinions are my own. :) Review books are marked below:

***Pauline Books & Media provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
+++Emmaus Road Publishing 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.
===Our Sunday Visitor  provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
}}}Sophia Institute Press provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
~~~Ave Maria Press 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.

Katie Warner continues to be one of the best Catholic picture book authors out there, and this new book from her and illustrator Meg Whalen is definitely my favorite. Gorgeously and creatively illustrated, it tells the story of Salvation History for little Catholics in a cohesive and super age appropriate way! Little bite sized pieces, but still the fullness of the truth, and hopefully will leave them curious for more. I completely love the message that the Church is OUR home and the visual storytelling shared through a mix of black and white backgrounds and vibrant stained glass windows. This picture book does a wonderful job of communicating that each child has a role in the Church and that every story leads to Jesus.

This brilliant book is just the right combo of babybook, school photo keeper, and Sacrament scrapbook- I've never seen anything like it! With very little fuss or work, a parent could catalogue the most important milestones of a Catholic kiddo's life all in one place. With fun bright colors, several choices in cover design, and sturdy lamination with a spiral binding, this book really is a one of kind keepsake. The creator graciously offered the discount code KATIE10 for 10% off your order good until 10/27/20!

I can't get over how gorgeous this book is in both word and illustration! The scope and variety of topics and images really share how universal our connection with our Mother Mary is. And I love the included conversation starters and info for parents, making it easy and accessible for adults to use with their kids. If Marian consecration is a part of your life, I think the book is the perfect tool to bring a deeper relationship with Mary into your home or classroom. If Marian consecration seems intimidating or is something you are unsure about, I think this book could help answer your questions and lead you to understanding. The incredible collection of breathtaking illustrations are filled with intentional details which are teaching tools all on their own. Whether a child is flipping through and enjoying the illustrations or you are reading this daily as a family, there is much to be learned about the role of Mary and how she always leads us to her Son.

How often do you see a children's book (or any book for that matter!) focusing on just God the Father? This unique and well done book teaches about Our Father, Salvation History, the unity of the Trinity, and how the joy of the Resurrection impacts every aspect of our faith. It has such child-friendly creative illustrations and storytelling that bring the Kerygma to the littlest learners. It's rare to find a book that really focuses in on the love of God the Father, and I love all of the symbolism embedded on each page that points to the hope of Heaven!

Bringing together beautiful sacred art and important nomenclature of our faith, this Catholic ABCs book shares short rhyming phrases for each letter of the alphabet. It presents a great way to teach the faith using both truth and beauty. I love that each page includes the title and artist of the image so you can look it up if a kiddo wants to take a closer view! Even beyond the "normal" age for ABC books, I think there is potential for application with older kids too- artist study, vocab practice, visio divina with the images, etc.

Can you believe that it is almost time to start pulling out Advent and Christmas books? This sweet new ABC organized picture book would be a perfect addition to your book basket. I love the oversized format (12" tall- great for read alouds!), the soft color palette, art deco inspired illustrations, and the symbol-filled page borders.

Cute, cute, cute new lift the flap books with short and sweet stories that invite interaction. Perfect for your favorite toddlers, I really like how this one tells the Christmas story all the way from the Annunciation to Epiphany. I do think that the flaps could be a little sturdier, but other than that really liked this title!

This creative picture book tells the story of Ella exploring busy New York City looking for adventure. A charming book to read together, the pictures combine cute illustrations layered with real photographs of NYC. Ella's exploration leads her into a church where she finds Someone waiting for her- and presents a beautiful, childlike explanation of Eucharistic Adoration. 

Ok, here's another favorite Katie Warner book! Lily is just the cutest, spunkiest little girl, and she wants to be just like the Saints she reads about in books. The charming, bright illustrations from Amy Rodriguez show Lily modeling the lives of the Saints in her words and actions, but after an encounter with her family and her priest, she realizes that she isn't just supposed to be like the Saints, she is called to BE a saint! Too often this is a message missed in children's books, and I just love how the author and illustrator worked together to highlight the stellar holy men and women who have gone before us, but also make it very clear to each child who reads this that they are called to a life of holiness. The book also shares advice to Lily (and the reader) about practical ways a kid can grow in virtue and prayer as a future Saint. This would be a great read during November as we celebrate All Saints Day and the universal call to holiness!

Finding catechetical lessons wrapped up in a narrative story is a treasure for a teacher. The Sister Aloysius books share the story of a religious sister and her first teaching job, the town and parish she moves to, and the students she meets. Woven into each short book are the conversations Sister Aloysius has with her students, naturally sharing truths of our faith about prayer, patron Saints, Divine Mercy, the Seven Sorrows, and more. Each book closes with a guide for parents and teachers with thorough information on the concepts included in the book, including readings from the Bible and CCC for deeper understanding, as well as the text of prayers that can be used together. The author also offers companion worksheets on her website, with activities, vocab, coloring pages and more to continue the instruction began in the books.

A friend compared this to "On the Night You Were Born" and I'd have to agree. A sweet book to read aloud to babies & littles or gift at a baby shower, the message of love is complimented by simple silhouette illustrations. 

These ten amazing short stories detailing miraculous events in Catholic tradition are perfect for a high interest read aloud for older elementary or middle school kids. I really liked how it included a simple illustration for each story and an afterward with the facts and details behind each story.

This book was flat out awesome. Hum-drum CCD class? Bored students? Eccentric catechist? Mysterious book? Timetravel? Robber/Murderer turned Monk/Saint? It has it all!
An adventurous encounter between modern kids and a Saint from centuries past, this is not your typical Saint story book. I'm seriously hoping there will be more additions to the "Mr. Baker's Book" collection! Also, adults- don't miss the extra chapter at the end where you get to listen in to the religious education meeting! ;)

Incorporating quotes from letters as well as historical context within the narrative, this warm biography truly invites young readers into an encounter with St. John Henry Newman where 'heart speaks to heart." Good for upper elementary and middle schoolers, this book covers the entire life and ministry of St. John Henry Newman in a warm and approachable way. Sweet illustrations start each chapter and I really appreciate that a selection of JHN's own writings (prayers & poems) are included in the final chapter.

This chapter book is a great resource for kiddos ready for more than a picture book explanation of Divine Mercy but not ready for books intended for an adult audience. Creatively told, the author leads the reader on a tour of a "museum" dedicated to Divine Mercy, where each room is filled with an important aspect of this devotion. The descriptions made me wish that the museum was real- I loved all of the symbolism and memorable representations of St. Faustina and Divine Mercy. The tour structure made the information interesting and understandable, and the depth of material was accessible for an older elementary/middle grade reader, but not watered down. If you want to share the beautiful message of Divine Mercy in a deeper way with an older child, I think this would be a great book for them to read, but it also could make a really cool whole family read aloud!

Christians courageous contains fourteen page-turning stories of heroic, bold, brave Christians spanning the 2000 year history of the Church. A reprinted title brought back into publication, the language in this book is gorgeous- articulate, descriptive, and tells the stories of these Saints in an intriguing and original style. This is a great title for older kids looking for a bit more than the standard Saint bio collections but still looking for something in a short story format.

It's hard to find good content on the early Church, so I was super excited about this title- and as I started reading I was struck by the "voice" of the author, but then realized this was actually a republished book from 1939 complete with a fresh cover and new illustrations. I'm so glad it was made accessible to a new generation so that more kids can benefit from the warm storytelling and inviting narrative that carries the events of Acts of the Apostles from beginning to end.

It can be really challenging to find good, interesting, engaging, and informative Saint books for middle grade readers. Picture books and super short collections? Yes. Can they handle the reading level of a Saint book meant for an adult? Maybe. But a collection like this one is the perfect combo of high interest yet more complex and longer text for older kids. This book is definitely hagiography in style, but the heroic, good, virtuous adventure filled stories are both entertaining and inspiring. 

This book is packed with great advice and practical, faithful suggestions for young women living in our current culture. The author works through a series of topics relevant to older high school and college aged girls with warmth and charity. Its approach is gentle, and reminded me of conversations that would ideally be held between every young lady and her youth minister, Bible study leader, etc. But knowing that that opportunities might be rare, reading this book can give a girl perspective, answers, and a guide for pursuing God's will in her life. I also think that this book would work well for a young women's Bible Study or for a mom/daughter to read together.

This little devotional is going to be my go-to book to send to my youth group graduates when they head off to college. Chika takes autobiographical stories and uses them as perfect examples of ways to pray, followed by practical steps. Chapters include a personal experience, challenge questions, Scripture, prayer, and reflections. It's a tiny but mighty book!

Although written for adults, I think my middle schoolers are going to love this one. Who doesn't want to hear about the ways Saints struggled on their path to holiness? Instead of rose colored glasses, sometimes it's nice to relate to them and learn how to follow their growth in virtue. Christ loved them and made them whole, flaws and complaints and struggles included. The chapters of the book are super short and organized into sections about causes of complaining, complaining found in the stories of the Saints and the Bible, and how we can learn and grow towards charity and virtue instead.

Admittedly, I almost thought "nice book, not for me" when it first arrived. Fortunately, I looked a little closer and found a collection of readings and prayers for mealtime as a family, but really could be used in a variety of ways. The selection covers not only feast days and liturgical seasons, but also family milestones and celebrations, American holidays, and more. Perfect for building up a family culture of prayer rooted in the liturgical year, the readings are also completely adaptable to use in the classroom. I think this book would be a great gift to offer families as they enter a CCD program or RCIA candidate.

This compelling novel is based on the real events and people surrounding the only approved Marian Apparition in the US, Our Lady of Good Hope. I loved the complex characters and wide scope of time covered in the narrative. Set around the era of the Civil War, it includes details about American immigrants, pioneers, and the early work of catechists among the settlers. You can tell extensive research went into the composition of the story and info is included on what is known of the history of the apparition and the people the characters are based on. I really enjoyed it myself, but think it is accessible for my middle school readers too, especially those that enjoy reading about American pioneers or want to know more about Marian Apparitions.

Truly a valuable resource to help someone in any stage or vocation in life, Prompt Me to Pray is a wonderful tool to help guide us in "praying without ceasing." I'm so impressed by the wide variety and well thought out examples of looking for prompts to pray in literally any moment and circumstance of our days. The book contains just enough of the author's personal examples, as well as connections to the Saints and Scripture, and then provides specific prompts and lists to make your own personal plan. That guidance is laid out in a user friendly fashion so that a reader could add more and more prompts to pray at their own pace and depth of application. I also really loved some of the resources in the back, such as the Prayer Starters to specific Names of God and the pocket prayers. The reflections really made me think about the opportunities to pray that I might waste throughout the day and how I can take better advantage of the reminders in front of me. I think my favorite section was on surrender and love the idea of creating our own Litany of surrender, which could be a very powerful practice for all of us. The guidance and structure of the "journaling" parts of the book is really a unique contribution to Catholic prayer resources. 

I've shared several times here on the blog about my love for the Every Sacred Sunday Mass Journal, and nothing has changed about my fourth year using it. I backed ESS when they first launched on Kickstarter, and it has been a joy to see their ministry flourish and grow. This journal has been the single most consisted prayer tool I've ever used, and was a profound gift during 2020 with participation in the Mass so out of the ordinary. This book got me through many TV and parking lot Masses, and continues to be invaluable.

Here are a few more details: These incredibly high quality, beautiful, well planned journals have changed the way I attend Sunday Mass. With the full text of the Mass readings and room to journal and pray each Sunday and at the beginning of Liturgical Seasons, the makers of these journals desire to create a Catholic culture that revolves around Sundays. With lovely original art and prayers printed on the inside covers, both the beautiful and practical are considered. This is my fourth journal, and I can tell you that the first few, despite being carried all around for a year, are in nearly perfect condition! These journals are worth every penny.

Jesus: The Way, The Truth, and The Life

My parish is offering this Bible Study from Ascension Press this fall, and so far I am learning a lot! The video sessions are complimented with a workbook full of info as well as this book by Marcellino D’Ambrosio. The study shares the background info on the culture, places, and language that layer meaning behind the stories of the life of Christ. Also, the videos are filmed on location in the Holy Land, giving you a unique view of these sights today and the dialogue between Dr. D’Ambrosio and Jeff Cavins is interesting and informative.

Ok, I'll be honest, I'm just starting this one, but I've been wanting to learn more about Bl. Charles so I was super excited about this new release. Together with his wife, Servant of God Zita, he ruled as an emperor and king uniquely with holiness and virtue. He led his family and his country while first serving God. This book looks to be thoroughly researched and I look forward to diving in. (And today, their wedding anniversary, his his feast day!)

The lovely second edition of Theology of Home is a beautiful compliment to the first book. This new release focuses on a deeper dive into homemaking and the connections to maternity (both physical and spiritual). The quality of presentation in these books, from the photography to the binding and endpapers, inspire you to keep it out on your coffee table. The wisdom and spiritual insights, both universal and personal, make them something you want to dwell with, read again, and discuss with the women in your life.

And they just released a companion planner! The cover is gorgeous and the interior design is refreshingly simple. Lay flat rings, lots of open space, and both monthly and weekly layouts make this a super adaptable planner for lots of lifestyles.

Agriculture teaches a unique perspective on the value of sacrifice, seasons of change, and the importance of community. In 2015 farmer Carl Bates of Galva, IL was told that he only had months to live. With countless other concerns to focus on during their remaining time together, one major problem for the family was solved in an unforgettable way. As Fall neared, grain farmer Carl wasn’t well enough to harvest his crops. In a powerful show of support for one of their own, over forty local farmers harvested all of Carl’s crops in just one day. Ten combines, twelve grain carts, sixteen semis, and a grain elevator that designated it “Carl Bate’s Day,” collected their 450 acres of crops and took them to market, but more importantly showed the Bates family that they were not alone. 
I really was moved by Carl's story and the way his wife and sister-in-law shared it. You can read the rest of my full review at The Catholic Post here.

This summer I pursued reading more books by and about the holy men and women of American, and Servant of God Thea Bowman has proven to be a rockstar! Have you wanted her speech to the USCCB near the end of her life? There are shorter clips, but you can see the whole thing here. This book contains short quotes organized by topic from Sr. Thea's writings and speeches. It's been a great way to hear her "voice" and learn more about her.

Servant of God Mother Mary Lange lived an incredible life. This short book seems to just scratch the surface on the things I'd like to know about her, but I really appreciated that it was written by a fellow religious sister from her own community. The records that remain from her life are relatively simple, but between the lines you can see that this woman had a deep abiding trust in Jesus and greatly desired to bring others to Him. This book also contains the original poetry of the author inspired by the life of Mother Mary Lange.

It's been a while since I've shared the fiction books I've been reading and I've gotten a few requests for recommendations- so here are a handful of fiction titles I read this summer and really enjoyed. With the world so heavy, it was nice to get lost in a book that was relatively "light" and easy to read. While my nonfiction titles vary in depth and topic, I will admit that I like my fiction to have happy endings. :)

The Secrets of Paper and Ink popped up in someone else's recommendation, and was an enjoyable read. While I think it probably would still fall into the category of Christian fiction, it didn't read like a lot of books in that genre- however it is always nice to find a fiction title that doesn't suddenly turn rated R in chapter 2, you know? Intertwining characters from the past and the present "meet" in an English bookshop, where second chances, unlikely friendships, and good books are shared. I love novels that are "literary" themed (like Dear Mr. Knightley, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and The Book Thief) so this was a nice addition!

Land of Silence- Tessa Afshar

So, I used to have very strong opinions about Biblical fiction. Well, I guess I still have opinions, but they've changed a bit. Until I read Tessa Afshar, every book I tried in the Biblical fiction genre was way too much of a reach for me- I didn't like them and actually thought they only presented opportunities for false information. Right away I would disagree with the theology behind the plot, or didn't find the actions and conversations of a character believable- and if the book directly characterized especially Christ, but also sometimes Mary and the early Saints, I almost always found it implausible or wrong. 

Eventually I read Afshar's In the Field of Grace and found that it was possible to read entertaining, uplifting, and non-sketchy Biblical fiction! This author tends to write about women from the Old Testament or women from the New Testament that minimal details are known about. Her approach is rooted in Scripture and does a good job of making you want to read the entire story straight from the source rather than distract from it. I also am ok with an author taking creative license with a person mentioned in the Bible that we might only have a few lines about and weaving a potential story that overall points to truth and remains united to the message of the Gospel. Land of Silence is a good example of that- this book tells a story based on the Woman with the Hemorrhage whose healing is told in the Gospels. Afshar weaves a detail-rich story about who she might have been and what led to her seeking out Christ in such a dramatic way. I actually listened to the audio book again recently, and was left wanting to have a heart for pursuing Christ like Elianna, the main character. If you read Christian fiction but haven't liked the Biblical fiction you've read in the past, I'd give Tessa Afshar a try!

Francine Rivers is another iconic author in the Christian fiction genre. I really like some of her books, and dislike others, but her new book The Masterpiece was a hit for me. Filled with broken characters who are not even looking for redemption, choices and secrets and past lives layer together, but instead of a jumbled mess they each discover the masterpiece that God is able to make of them. I will say that in this book the conversions and "perfect" endings might be a little too perfect, but I already admitted that I have been looking for light, clean fiction that ties up the ending in a happy little bow, so this one fit the bill. It definitely was a page turner, and at 500 pages was still over too soon for me.


My TBR pile includes the books above about Bl. Charles and Jesus: The Way, The Truth, and The Life, as well as St. John Paul II's The Jeweler's Shop (I've never read it!) and Back to Virtue by Peter Kreeft. What are you hoping to read next?


  1. Oh my gosh. I literally want Thank you, thank you!!!

  2. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!! I love books. I can't wait for yours to come out. I look forward to checking out several of these titles. I am currently listening to Super and Halos by Maria Morera Johnson. Great read for females of all ages. Also, Agnes' Gift: A heartwarming story about the power of the Rosary by Kristelle Angelli. It is great for helping children really enter into each of the mysteries and encounter Jesus in them. The Fisherman's Tomb by John O'Neill is like Indiana Jones in real life in finding the tomb of St. Peter. Fascinating. Happy reading.

  3. Christian/Catholic things I recently read:
    Dust on my Toes - Maria Del Rey
    The Hiding Place - Cornelia Boom
    Ven. Hardon on Catholic homeschooling reflecting on whether it's still applicable or even more relevant today
    So Many Ways to Be Holy - Soley (my daughters love it)
    I'm in the middle of reading Safari by Jet(Sr. Maria del Rey).
    Really appreciate your reviews!! Placed several on my tbr list. : )Also, yay for your book!

  4. I am so glad you're such an avid reader! I am always wary of Christian fiction. I remember reading the Mark of the Lion series and saying to myself.... OH for the love they're quoting Scripture that isn't even written yet! BUT.... I kept at it and ended up really encouraged by Hadassah's faith. Redeeming Love will forever be one of my favorite books. I liked the Masterpiece, well enough but agree with what you said about it being too perfect. That said, I'm really intrigued by Afshar's books. I will definitely look into them. I just received my Theology of Home II book and the planner and bought "This is the Church" for a birthday gift for a little girl, too. Keep reading and recommending Katherine!