All posts by Colleen Mitchell

Gentle Woman: A Review Of ‘Our Lady’s WardRobe’

“You are not alone, my child, and you must not be sad.  I will be with you always, and my Immaculate Heart will be your comfort and the way which will lead you to God.” – Our Lady of Fatima (1917)

Interest Level

Ages 3-8

Review and Comments

Our Lady’s Wardrobe by Anthony DeStefano is a significant story that introduces children to the Blessed Mother through her apparitions [Our Lady of Nazareth, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, Our Lady of Knock, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Fatima, and Our Lady of the Angels].  The artwork in this book is marvelous!  Each familiar picture of Mary is beautifully illustrated and elegantly displays her gentleness and love. I found the pictures of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal wonderfully expressive.  Following each illustration of Mary is a brief story about the apparition.  Some pages are also embellished with intricate borders that enhance each story through color and design.

The story of Mary concludes with a beautiful prayer asking for her intercession.  Then, readers will become familiar with three things they can do for Jesus and His mother.  This gives children the opportunity to learn how each devotion brings us closer to Jesus through his mother.  First and foremost, we are reminded that Mary’s mission is to lead us to her Son. “Mary, you are our Mother. Pray for us to your Son. Amen.”

Continue reading Gentle Woman: A Review Of ‘Our Lady’s WardRobe’

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’

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.”

 

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’

Learning to Be Generous: A Review of ‘If you Plant a Seed’

“For it is in giving that we receive.” – St. Francis of Assisi

“Acts of generosity are a source of blessing to the giver as well as the receiver.” – St. John Chrysostom

Reading level

Pre-K – Grade 2

Review and Comments

If You Plant a Seed is a wonderful book that will inspire young children. The story expresses how deliberate selfishness and then small acts of kindness can transform into either negative or positive events. The absolutely beautiful illustrations visually capture the imagination and perfectly enhance this story of few words.

It all begins when a rabbit and mouse plant a variety of vegetable seeds in a garden.  While they wait for the seeds to grow, the reader can inspect and enjoy the illustrations of time passing. Finally, the plants are perfectly delicious looking, and the pleasure of the two friends is obvious.  In the midst of the mouse and rabbit enjoying their garden meal, a few bird friends are watching…. hungrily staring actually. It is very obvious they want some of the garden bounty also. 

Continue reading Learning to Be Generous: A Review of ‘If you Plant a Seed’

Choices: A Review of ‘Perfect Gifts’ (from THe Adventures of Nick and Sam, Book 1)

“The cost of obedience is small compared with the cost of disobedience.” – Saint Augustine

Reading Level

Ages 5-8

Review and Comments

Perfect Gifts is an excellent story about the virtue of obedience and the promblematic consequences  of disobedience.  The story revolves around a devoted family that includes twins, Samantha and Nicholas.  Their eighth birthday approaches and as with all soon-to-be eight year olds, excitement is at a peak.  The children wonder if they will receive the gifts they long for, and Nick cannot wait to see what his parents bought him.  He and Samantha sneak a peek at their wrapped gifts, but nothing goes as planned.  There are regrets and consequences for their actions.  Nick just doesn’t understand why his parents are so upset or that their disobedience has created a broken trust.

A.A. Milne once wrote “Good judgment comes from experience, and experience – well, that comes from poor judgment.”   The twins certainly rack up a lot of experience in this story!  While at a public pool, Samantha’s father actually has to save her life because of her disobedience.  On the twins’ actual birthday, the family plans a special family hike.  Before they begin, both Samantha and Nicholas ignore their parents’ advice to be better prepared and suffer the consequences.  Then, impatient Nicholas ignores his dad and goes to an abandoned barn. Let’s just say a run in with a family of skunks is a very powerful lesson! Yet even after suffering all those very tough consequences, Nick chooses to ignore his parents one last time. He secretly takes all the money from his bank and buys some so called amazing items from an older nieghborhood boy.  On the way home he falls and all his items break.  He is alone with the damage of his disobedience once again.  This time he fully examines his actions over the last few days and it’s not a proud moment for him.  Then who should come looking for him but his father! Nick asks for forgiveness and understands that he is able to start over because of the love and forgiveness he receives.

Continue reading Choices: A Review of ‘Perfect Gifts’ (from THe Adventures of Nick and Sam, Book 1)

Fun at the Beach: A Review of ‘Henry and Mudge and the Forever Sea’

“Come to the beach, where the sea is blue, and little white waves come running at you. A wave comes splashing, over your toes. You just stand still, and away it goes. We’ll build a castle down by the sea, and look for shells if you’ll come with me.”  – Anonymous

Reading Level

Grades 2-3

AR 2.5 (0.5 points)

Interest Level

Pre-K-2

Possible Concerns

There are no concerns with this book.

Review and Comments

Henry and Mudge and the Forever Sea is the sixth book in a series of twenty-eight beginning chapter books for emerging readers.   In this particular episode, Henry, his dad, and his pet dog, Mudge, spend a fun filled day the beach. 

“The ocean was waiting.  It was blue and white and forever.”

When they finally arrive they immediately run for the water.  Henry and Dad are very brave playing in the big waves, but Mudge isn’t quite so sure about the surf.  He prefers the beach and a nice snooze in the sand.   Besides the water fun, Dad and Henry build a sand castle and eat hot dogs and snow cones. There is a bit of excitement when a large, unexpected wave covers the castle and loyal Mudge bravely rescues Dad’s favorite red lobster. Their day ends with a pleasant walk on the beach.  It is definitely a father-son-dog day to remember.

Continue reading Fun at the Beach: A Review of ‘Henry and Mudge and the Forever Sea’