All posts by Beth Ruggiero

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’

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’

Not the Only One: A Review of ‘Raymie Nightingale’

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another:
‘What? You, too? I thought I was the only one.'”–CS Lewis

Reading Level

Grades 4-8

Review and Comments

Raymie Clarke’s father has left her family for a dental hygienist, but she has a plan to bring him home. She will win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, he will see her picture in the paper, and he will come home. All she has to do is learn how to twirl a baton.

It is in her incredibly awkward baton twirling class that Raymie meets her two greatest friends, Louisiana Elefante and Beverly Tapinski. Though each girl has different motives for wanting to learn to twirl a baton and join the contest, they realize that they all care about each other very much, and their very different personalities don’t stop them from having a few adventures together.

Continue reading Not the Only One: A Review of ‘Raymie Nightingale’

What is Love?: A Review of ‘Believe in Love: Inspiring Words from Pope Francis’

“God is love. And we move toward the light to find the love of God. But is God’s love within us, even in the dark moments? Is the love of God there, hidden away? Yes, always! The love of God never leaves us. It is always with us. Do we trust in this love?”–Pope Francis, Address to Children 2014

Review and Thoughts

All of us need a little inspiration or daily reminders about the wonderful love of God. It’s easy to put Him on the back burner with the daily comings and goings of our lives, but Pope Francis encourages us to keep Him at the forefront in this lovely compilation of quotes.

The book is divided into six “chapters” with each being focused on a different aspect of love. Some of the titles include “I believe in love, and I want to love a lot” and “I believe in God’s patience, as good and welcoming as a summer’s night.” Each chapter then gives us many beautiful quotes by Pope Francis. The individual quotes are given their own pages with the date and time of the quote listed underneath.

I love quote books and this book is perfect for meditation at the beginning or end of each day. It serves as a wonderful daily reminder for each of us Catholics striving for sainthood. I personally think it would serve as a wonderful gift for anyone who loves to ponder and ruminate on the teachings of the pope and the love of God.

Continue reading What is Love?: A Review of ‘Believe in Love: Inspiring Words from Pope Francis’

Following His Holy Will: A Review of ‘Where You Lead’

“There are times when He Himself allows terrible sufferings, and then again there are times when He does not let me suffer and removes everything that might afflict my soul. These are His ways, unfathomable and incomprehensible to us. It is for us to submit ourselves completely to His holy will. There are mysteries that the human mind will never fathom here on earth; eternity will reveal them. (1656)” – Saint Faustina

Reading Level

7-12+

Review and Contents

Three cheers for Leslea Wahl! Her young adult stories for the Catholic audience are fun, adventurous, and pure entertainment so I was so happy when she asked me to review her third book. Where You Lead is probably my favorite of her novels so far.

The story begins with Eve having visions of a boy named Nick. She can clearly see his face and she sees that they are friends, but she has never met this boy before. She realizes that her visions are more than a dream and she begins to pray asking God what it could all mean. Slowly God’s plan begins to unfold for her and her family moves across the country to Washington DC.

Continue reading Following His Holy Will: A Review of ‘Where You Lead’

THe Strength of Young People: A Review of ‘Secrets: Visible and Invisible’

” We need saints to live in the world, to sanctify the world and to not be afraid of living in the world by their presence in it. We need saints that drink Coca-Cola, that eat hot dogs, that surf the internet and that listen to their iPods. We need saints that love the Eucharist, that are not afraid or embarrassed to eat a pizza or drink a beer with their friends. We need saints who love the movies, dance, sports, theater. We need saints that are open sociable normal happy companions. we need saints who are in this world and who know how to enjoy the best in this world without being callous or mundane. We need saints.” –Saint Pope John Paul II

Reading Level

Grades 7-12+

Review and Contents

I was so excited when this book first came out. First of all, I am a HUGE fan of the short story genre. It was my favorite thing to read in school and my favorite to teach to my freshmen in high school. Truly great writers can tell such a good story with only a few pages.

It’s also no secret that I’m a fan of Catholic fiction for young readers. Most YA literature is full of vices of the modern world. Sex, drugs, violence….the list goes on and on. It feels so safe to have Catholic writers compile good stories for teens to read.

Continue reading THe Strength of Young People: A Review of ‘Secrets: Visible and Invisible’

40 Books for the Forty Days of Lent

Lent is not my favorite season. There. I said it out loud. It’s a rough one for me, but I’m making a serious effort NOT to pass my ‘bad attitude’ towards this holy time down to my children.

I’ve looked for ways to teach my young kids about their relationship with God and helping others and making sacrifices during the Lenten season. Each year I work to try new things and see what works and what doesn’t. (Let’s be real, there’s been a lot that hasn’t worked!) Last year we did the Jesus Tree from Nancy over at Catholic Sprouts. My kids LOVED it! (You can buy it here.) So we are planning to do it again this year. And I have a few new ideas up my sleeve. (Backyard stations of the cross? We shall see!)

But as you all know, I love books. There’s no better way to teach kids than by curling up with them to read a book. Most holidays and seasons are FULL of book lists, but Lent is one that doesn’t have quite so many options.

This is why I’ve put this list together! Consider it my Lenten offering to you. I’ve tried to give as many options as possible. One for each day of Lent if necessary! This list is full of prayer books, reflection books, beautiful picture books, religious stories retold, Catholic fiction stories, stories of sacrifice, and stories of giving to others.

So, this Lent, find some books that might work for you and your family and have blessed, beautiful, and holy Lent!

Click on the picture for the affiliate link.

Books of Prayer/Reflection for Children

Continue reading 40 Books for the Forty Days of Lent

A Review of ‘Prayer Everywhere: The Spiritual Life Made Simple

“The Lord cannot be at work in me if I am only allowing him the time I spend doing pious or prayerful things.  I must open the whole of my life to Christ and intentionally make him a vital part of everything I do.”–Father Gary Caster

Reading Level

Grades 11+

Review and Comments

I’ll be honest, after having kids I have found prayer difficult.  I find little time to myself and am constantly interrupted.  I even have trouble making it through a rosary without falling asleep!  Then, as an attempt to make up for my distraction/frustration/exhaustion, I try to find a new devotion/method/motivation to kick myself back in gear.  Slowly I see myself becoming a Martha and less of a Mary and the downward spiral continues.

Enter Father Gary Caster’s book, Prayer Everywhere (which was obviously sent to me by the Holy Spirit).  Through his simple suggestions and wonderfully entertaining anecdotes, I was reminded about the simplicity of prayer which I’d forgotten.  Devotions aside, prayer is ultimately about our relationship with Jesus and it need not be complicated. Continue reading A Review of ‘Prayer Everywhere: The Spiritual Life Made Simple

A Complicated War: A Review of ‘A Long Walk to Water’

“I didn’t understand this complicated war, how it mortally devoured the land and left it so full of skeletons.”– Benson Deng, They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky 

Reading Levels

Interest Level: 6-9

Reading Level: 3-8

Review and Comments

When I was teaching high school, I taught the book They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky.  This was my first real introduction to the Lost Boys and the war in Sudan.  I’d heard mention of it on the news and in conversation, but had no real personal connection.  You see, I live half-way around the world, and at the time it had  no real significance to my day-to-day life.  But this is the beauty of what books can do.  When I read They Poured Fire… I was given a personal, first-hand account of the absolute horrors of the war that occurred and the devastation of the people (mostly young boys) who were left behind.  The book gave me insight, connection, and a desire to help, to know more, and to be more aware…more prayerful…for the people suffering every day in other parts of the world.  Books can make that happen, they connect history and news to our hearts and help us see the pain and suffering of others. Continue reading A Complicated War: A Review of ‘A Long Walk to Water’