Evangelizing to Others within the walls of our homes: A Review of ‘Theology of Home:Finding the Eternal in the Everyday’

Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do…but how much love we put into that action.  –Saint Mother Teresa


Review and Comments

Well, here we are.  However many weeks of being at home.  However many weeks of trying to figure out this slightly new way of living.  This year started out a little crazy with life and has gotten progressively more crazy, which hopefully excuses me from my lack of book reviews.  But I am back and trying to make a valiant effort in forging ahead.

Theology of the Home was a Christmas gift and I devoured it right away, but it was not quite what I expected.  Upon first glance, the book seems to be a type of home design book, but it is so much more than that.  While it is full of absolutely gorgeous photographs of even incredibly impressive homes, it breaks apart the home and discusses at length the importance of each individual part.  

Interspersed with personal stories, the book discusses our Catholic faith and how it can be present in each spot and with each task that must be accomplished within our homes.  All of the aspects of where we live come back to that feeling of “home” and how it implants in us the desire to spread the love of God with the rest of the world.  

I love the book for what it is.  For those of us caught up in the cyclical day to day, it is a wonderful reminder that what we do behind the walls of our homes, the things that no one sees, will eventually reach the rest of the world.

I love that it begs us to invite others, despite the condition of our homes, to serve, nourish, and comfort.  These feelings that begin with our families spill out into the world.

It provides a hope beyond household design, a hope beyond accomplishment, and a place to rest and love.  

Perhaps, while we are in our homes this long period in our lives, we can begin to look at it a little differently with the help of this book.  By applying the beauty of our faith to the everyday beauty of our homes, we can hope to reach the multitudes.

Additional Reading/Information

  • Watch a preview of the book

 

Venturing Home: A Review of ‘Stickman’

“There are two ways of getting home; and one of them is to stay there. The other is to walk round the whole world until we come back to the same place. ” – G. K. Chesterton

Reading Level

Pre-K – Grade 5 [Scholastic]

AR 2.8 [0.5 points]                

Review and Comments

Poor Stick Man is just trying to get home to his family after a morning jog but one difficult situation after another block any progress. He is mistakenly used as a stick in a game of fetch, material for a swan’s nest, a flag pole on a sand castle, a sword, a hook, a pen, a bat, a boomerang, and an arm for a snowman! Each time he is used for a different purpose, he announces:

“I’m not a stick! Why can’t you see,

I’m Stick Man, I’m Stick Man,

I’M STICK MAN, that’s me,

And I want to go home to the family tree!”

 His family patiently watches for his return, but after some time they are discouraged and wonder if he will ever come home.

The final problem for Stick Man is the most serious. He is added to a pile of kindling for an inevitable Christmas fire.  Just when the situation seems dire, he is discovered by Santa. Well, actually Stick Man rescues Santa who is stuck in the chimney.  He not only rescues Santa, he helps Santa deliver Christmas presents.  His good deeds are rewarded when Santa brings him home after his busiest night, and Stick Man is finally reunited with his family.

Continue reading Venturing Home: A Review of ‘Stickman’

25 of Our Favorite Christmas picture Books

I know it’s early, but I just wanted to make sure we shared with you some of our favorites!  We have classic books, new books, secular, and Catholic books all wrapped into one amazing list. You can read one each night in the month of December ending on Christmas Day!  Click on the pictures below for our affiliate link.  Happy Advent and Merry Christmas!

The classic poem republished with beautiful new illustrations. The kids will love it.
Tomie dePaola never fails to tell a captivating story that reminds us of the true meaning of Christmas. (Warning/Spoiler: Old Befana dies so it may be sad for more sensitive kids.
Though this book may be hard to find, it’s worth it. The illustrations show the nativity, but the words are a love song from mother to child that could apply to any mother awaiting the birth of her child.
Another wonderful tale by Tomie dePaola that shares the tradition of Las Posadas and finishes with the his gift of faith. This is one of my kids’ favorite books.
A Christmas classic that both adults and kids will love. It demonstrates how kindness can create miracles.
The nativity story told from the perspective of Saint Joseph is a viewpoint we rarely see. It is so well told in this book.
This is one of my absolute favorite stories. I love the way Tomie dePaola includes the miraculous in so many of his stories, but this is always one of my favorites.
There are few storytellers as wonderful as Kate DiCamillo. This one is perfect for Christmas.
Such a perfect story of family and Christmas miracles. This lyrical story is perfect for younger kids who will love the repetition. (Our review will be out soon)
Continue reading 25 of Our Favorite Christmas picture Books

Hope for the Future: A Review of ‘For Eden’s Sake’

“It is a poverty that a “child must die”, so that you may live as you wish.”–Mother Teresa

Reading Level

Grades 9+

Review and Comments

One of this year’s newest Catholic YA novels is difficult to describe.  I want to make this a simple review, but there’s too much to think about.  It’s beautiful, it’s sad, it’s hopeful, it’s true.

The story begins with Isaac, a young man of faith and conviction, letting go of his inhibitions and drinking too much at a work event.  He makes some bad decisions and because of this ends up getting a girl he hardly knows pregnant.  This young woman, Rebecca, decides that she is not going to keep the baby and asks for money from Isaac for an abortion.  From here the emotions fly on both ends as they fight over the life of this unplanned child.  It’s a simple plot, but the emotions behind the actions and decisions of the characters is what really moves the readers.

What is Beautiful

I’m old enough now where I’m able to look at the parents of Isaac and feel their pain and disappointment in the actions of their son.  He has done something stupid.  He has sinned, and his sin has caused a difficult situation not only for him, but for a girl he hardly knows.  He is now connected to this girl whether he wants to be or not.

I felt the tension in the room as Isaac told his father what he had done and I felt for both of them, but the reaction of his father is one that I feel most parents SHOULD hope to have.  His mother the next morning is describes has having disappointment in her eyes despite the smile on her face as she makes breakfast for her son.  

The beauty here is that Isaac has wonderful parents, but also, this is how I would imagine God would respond to a confession of sin.  Disappointment, sadness, and yet love that permeates the frustration.  Isaac’s parents react in the image and likeness of God…and THAT is beautiful.

Continue reading Hope for the Future: A Review of ‘For Eden’s Sake’

Modern and Traditional: A Review of ‘Anna Hibiscus’

“Love, after all, can never be just an abstraction. By its very nature, it indicates something concrete: intentions, attitudes, and behaviors that are shown in daily living.” – Pope Francis

Reading Level

AR 4.1 (1.0 point)

Independent readers ages 9-12

Interest Level

K-4

Review and Comments

Anna Hibiscus is a delightful story about a little girl and her devoted family. Each chapter begins with the same words, “Anna lives in Africa with a very large extended family.”  Their bond is undeniably strong throughout the stories she relates to the reader. Her parents freely share their love with their children.  Her grandparents, the elders in the family, express their wisdom not only in oral lessons but in their exemplary daily living. Anna learns a very important lesson about charity with her grandparents’ guidance.  Their sacrifice is truly inspiring.  The support of the aunts, uncles, and cousins is also obvious and emphasizes their attitude that “It’s not good to be alone.  We have to help each other.”  The family believes in “proper African ways,” but they also embrace modern ways.  It is obvious that Anna is very happy to belong to this family where love and support are given every day.

There are many comparisons made throughout the stories that call attention to interesting differences yet none are labeled right or wrong. Anna gives a very good description of her home compound and the exciting city right outside her gate.  She loves them both.  Her mother grew up in a small family in Canada while her father grew up in Africa in this large family, and Anna finds the differences very interesting.  And when they travel in a boat for a family vacation, Anna notes details as they pass a large city and then a rainforest.  She sees beauty in it all.  While on vacation, her family enjoys their alone time away from the larger family group but by the end of the vacation everyone has joined them.  It is obvious the larger family unit has benefits for everyone.  Then, Anna meets an aunt who left home long ago and it is undoubtedly a very happy occasion for everyone.  The aunt shows the family that she still joyfully embraces family traditions and also exhibits a few adopted “modern” ways.

Continue reading Modern and Traditional: A Review of ‘Anna Hibiscus’

A Sleepover at Grandma’s: A Review of ‘The Napping House’

“A house needs a grandma in it.” – Louisa May Alcott

Reading Level

AR 2.8 (0.5 points)

Interest Level

K-3

Review and Comments

A sleepover at Grandma’s house is a very special occasion. The Napping House describes one of those memorable yet somewhat unusual nights with Grandma. 

Expressive, large illustrations show Grandma asleep in a very comfy bed. Soon everyone else in the house wants to join her.  First, a child snuggles up to Grandma. Then, a dog, a cat, a mouse, and finally a flea pile on top. Each page shows the characters in different sleeping positions and it seems that everyone is comfortable and having a restful night. That doesn’t last long, however, because the flea suddenly bites the mouse.  Each character in turn is disturbed until no one is napping, not even Grandma.  Even though there is considerable confusion, the boy and Grandma smile and seem to actually enjoy the whole experience. What a fun Grandma!

This story is a great read aloud book because of the repetition, similar to the style of The House that Jack Built.  Young readers will also have great success with the repeating phrases and enjoy the imaginative illustrations.

Possible Concerns

There are no concerns with this book.

Further Discussion

Art: Make stick puppet of:  Grandma, child, dog, cat, house, and flea.  Retell the story using the puppets or act out the story using the puppets as it is read aloud.

Questions:

Why do you think everyone wanted to sleep with Grandma?

Why did the flea bite the mouse?

What did Grandma and the boy say when everything calmed down?

Do you think Grandma will let all the characters sleep with her again?

 Awards for this book: Golden Kite Award for Picture Book Text

Catholic Resources

  • Saint Anne is the patron saint of grandmothers.  Her feast day is July 26.
  • Check out the Catholic Grandparents Association whose main goal is “to help Grandparents pass on the faith and keep prayer in the heart of family life.”

 

A Return to Our Roots: A Review of ‘The Catholic All Year Compendium’

“Catholic parents must learn to form their family as a “domestic church,” a church in the home as it were, where God is honored, his law is respected, prayer is a normal event, virtue is transmit­ted by word and example, and everyone shares the hopes, the problems and sufferings of everyone else. All this is not to advocate a return to some outdated style of living: It is to return to the roots of human development and human happiness!”                   

– Pope John Paul II

Review and Thoughts

I am blessed to have a wonderful mother who through the course of my life has kept Christ the center of our lives and our family.  The rotating calendar of our church was reflected in our lives at home.  We were sure to celebrate Lent and Advent, we celebrated mass each Sunday and on Holy Days.  My parents both helped us grown in our personal relationships with Jesus by giving us opportunities to pray alone, with the family, and with them.  And most of all, my parents made huge sacrifices to make sure we attended Catholic schools where we learned our subjects through Catholic eyes.  I had a childhood blessed by God and I understand what a domestic church can look like.

Fast forward and  now I am a mother gifted the task of creating my own domestic church for my children.  The realization that God has given me four innocent souls to lead to heaven is not something to be taken lightly.  Continue reading A Return to Our Roots: A Review of ‘The Catholic All Year Compendium’

Augusta: A Review of ‘The Queen and the Cats: A Story of Saint Helen’

“What we can learn from Helena is something about the workings of God, that He wants a different thing from each of us, laborious or easy, conspicuous or quite private, but something which only we can do and for which we were each created.” – Evelyn Waugh

Reading/Interest Level

Ages 3-7

Grades P-K – 5

Review and Comments

Queen Helena arrives on the island of Cyprus, and everyone is excited to get a glimpse of “the queen, the royal empress of the whole world.”  A small, young girl is able to get very close to the Queen and the very first thing she witnesses is the Queen’s anger.  Helena exclaims that she is bringing precious relics to be displayed in the churches for the faithful, but now she finds out that the churches are unsafe for the people because of poisonous snakes!  This is not acceptable. 

Then, Helena reverently presents a small piece of the cross “where our Lord died and defeated death” for everyone to see and again inquires if there is even one church in all of Cyprus where the people can safely venerate the Lord’s cross.  Finally, a solution to the problem is accomplished for one special service.  The snakes are “held at bay by sticks dipped in oil and lit on fire.” The queen continues to agonize over the very serious snake crisis. Continue reading Augusta: A Review of ‘The Queen and the Cats: A Story of Saint Helen’

Unique Preferences: A Review of ‘Seven Silly Eaters’

“Cooking is like love.  It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.” – Julia Child

 “Your every act should be done with love.” – 1 Corinthians 16:14

Reading Level

Grades Pre-K–3

Possible Concerns

There are no concerns with this book.

Review and Comments

Mr. and Mrs. Peters are the proud parents of seven beautiful children who are perfect in every way except they are all extremely picky when it comes to what they will eat.  Each of the children eats only one particular, favorite food, and their mother happily accommodates their silly eating habits.  After all, she loves them for who they are – charming, never cross, and perfect.  She is also pleased they all have healthy appetites.  However, by the time the sixth and seventh children are born, she isn’t calling their menu demands “silly” anymore.  She identifies them as “persnickety.”  Mother works diligently to keep up with their ever increasing appetites.  She is tired! Continue reading Unique Preferences: A Review of ‘Seven Silly Eaters’

Just Suppose: A Review of ‘Is a Worry Worrying You’

“Do not fear: I am with you; do not be anxious: I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10

Reading/Interest Level

Picture book – Ages 4-7

Review and Comments

Sometimes a child’s small worry can quickly become an upsetting situation. This book addresses these concerns by defining exactly what a worry is and then continues to describe it in different ways as the story progresses – it’s real, it can cause sadness, it can be scary sometimes, and it can stay as long as you let it.

Examples of worrisome problems are illustrated with each fanciful image beginning with ”Suppose….”.  The event escalates from something silly like “Suppose, just suppose, one hundred elephants come to tea….” to a quick solution that is meant to acknowledge the worry and calm the situation.  These instructions will help a child realize that big worries can be handled with patience and practical ideas.  At the end of the book, helpful approaches are suggested so the worries don’t escalate into those 100 elephants coming for tea!

Continue reading Just Suppose: A Review of ‘Is a Worry Worrying You’

Literature reviews from the Catholic side