Children’s books for summer showcase tales of saintly heroes, adventure
The following books are suitable for summer reading:
“Maria von Trapp and Her Musical Family” by Cheri Blomquist. Ignatius Press (San Francisco, 2021). 285 pp., $12.95.
Many know of and have a fond appreciation for the story of the von Trapp family and their beloved teacher-turned-stepmother, Maria. Made famous by “The Sound of Music,” Maria uniquely has her own story before, during and after her reluctant marriage to the widowed Austrian father of her beloved charges. Beyond her pivotal vocational choice, Maria faced many other challenges, but always trusted God to lead her way.
This engaging chapter book, based on memoirs and autobiographies, will allow readers to escape in yet another facet of the tale of the legendary von Trapp family. A true adventure story rooted in faith, it’s a refreshing break from many books geared toward the preteen and teenage readers. Ages 11 and up.
“Carlo Acutis: God’s Computer Genius” by Ellen Labrecque, illustrated by Dan Wegendt. Pauline Books and Media (Boston, 2021). 63 pp., $21.95.
Carlo Acutis is one of the only teenagers on the path to sainthood. Born in 1991, Acutis lived his short life focusing his interests and talents toward doing God’s work. A discretely holy young man, he didn’t brag about his faith and service to the poor of his home city in Milan, Italy. Instead he was a humble evangelizer through his example of being a joyfully regular student who played soccer and the saxophone.
He also enjoyed video games and was interested in Steve Jobs and computers. When he became ill with leukemia, he was on the journey toward becoming a priest, or computer scientist, or more than likely a computer-programming priest. This book is written not just as a biography of Acutis, but also as a guide to readers about living a normal life focused on Jesus.
Laden with sidebars about geography and the sacraments, “Carlo Acutis: God’s Computer Genius” also includes graphics, photographs and illustrations. Acutis is a great role model for Catholic youth. As his mother said, “Carlo was the light answer to the dark side of the web.” Ages 9-13.
“God’s Superheroes: Amazing Catholic Women” by Mary Bajda, illustrated by Melinda Steffen. Our Sunday Visitor (Huntington, Indiana, 2022). 168 pp., $16.95.
“God’s Superheroes” shares the stories of 36 women who turned their normal lives into amazing examples of service, faith and love for Jesus. Included are brightly colored illustrations and engaging descriptions covering a broad range of remarkable women, from St. Kateri Tekakwitha to Guadalupe Ortiz de Landazuri, who is on the road to sainthood.
Also by author Mary Bajda and illustrator Melinda Steffen, “God’s Superheroes: Amazing Catholic Men” includes the incredible stories of 36 men who made the normal incredible with their devotion to God. Ages 9-13.
“What Angels See” by Matthew Kilmurry, illustrated by Tammie Lyon. Pauline Books and Media (Boston, 2021). 31 pp., $14.95.
Young Sara Quinn has a fascination with her guardian angel. As she prepares for her first holy Communion, she discovers God has given her a unique gift: She cannot only see her guardian angel, she can also see what her angel sees as well.
All around her are her classmates’ guardian angels watching over her friends. Her church glows with a welcoming light, and the Eucharist is dazzling with the true presence of Jesus. “What Angels See” is a sweet book for children who love their guardian angels and especially for those preparing for their first Communion. Ages 7-10.
“Light of the Saints” by Cory Heimann, illustrated by Tricia Dugat. Likable Art (Fort Wayne, Indiana, 2021). 54 pp., $18.99.
Grab a flashlight and get ready to read one of the most unique collections of saint books out there. Written with simple text and illustrated with intention, “Light of the Saints” will capture the attention and delight young readers with a shadowy surprise.
A perfect summer read for campfires and summer nights, the book includes short rhyming descriptions of lesser-known saints, such as St. Anna Wang from China, as well as famous favorites like St. Gianna Molla. Ages 5 and up.
“10 Hidden Heroes” by Mark K. Shriver, illustrated by Laura Watson. Loyola Press (Chicago, 2021). 23 pp., $14.99.
Counting books are great tools for teaching math and literacy. Seek-and-find books enhance early academic skills, focus and fine motor skills. In “10 Hidden Heroes,” readers are charged with seeking, finding, counting and identifying everyday heroes and helpers hidden in glossy and colorful full-page illustrations.
Written by Mark Shriver, a New York Times bestselling author and chief strategy officer at Save the Children, this book comes to life with its brightly animated images by Laura Watson. “10 Hidden Heroes” was honored with a Christopher Award for 2022, awarded to media that represent “the highest values of the human spirit.” Ages 3-10.
“Champion of the Poor: Father Joe Walijewski” by Philip Kosloski, illustrated by Michael LaVoy. Voyage Comics. (Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, 2021). 30 pp., $6.99.
This is the story, told in vibrant, glossy comic images, of Father Joe Walijewski, a priest of the Diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin. Perhaps not widely known to many, his story is worth being told and shared with young readers. Once rejected from the priesthood due to poor grades, he eventually became an adventurous missionary and the beloved founder of Casa Hogar Orphanage in Peru.
Thankfully, whether this short comic proves to be a hit or misses the mark, Voyage Comics offers many more comic-book tales, covering whimsical stories of a crime-fighting hero to the brave adventures of St. Joan of Arc. Ages 8-15.
— Regina Lordan, a mother to three 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.