All posts by Colleen Mitchell

Virtuous Actions of Mercy: A Review of ‘Boxes for Katje’

“Love has hands to help others.  It has feet to hasten to the poor and needy.  It has eyes to see misery and want. It has ears to hear the sights and sorrows of men. This is what love looks like.”  – St. Augustine

Reading Level

Pre K – K, 1-2      [Scholastic – reflects the grade level at which a student reading on grade could read the book independently]

Grade 3.5            [AR]

Interest Level

Ages 4-8

Review and Comments

Boxes for Katje is a wonderful story and an outstanding example of actually living Jesus’ commandment, “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” (John 13:34)

This true story begins after WWII when the people of Europe are suffering deprivations of all kinds, and charities in America are working together to relieve those affected. Katje’s tale is intertwined beautifully with the seasons, the growing needs of the citizens of Holland, the expanding generosity of the citizens of the United States, and the engaging letters of two little girls. Continue reading Virtuous Actions of Mercy: A Review of ‘Boxes for Katje’

Dream it. Do it.: A Review of ‘Duck on a Bike’

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” – Walt Disney

Reading Level

PreK-2, 3-5          [Scholastic – reflects the grade level at which a student reading on grade could read the book independently]

Grader K-1           [common core]

2.0                        [AR]

Review and Comments

If you are looking for an engaging and entertaining book, Duck on a Bike is a good choice.  The story is about an eager duck who decides to try his skill at riding a bike.  At first he struggles a bit, but it doesn’t take long before he is able to ride the bike all around the farm.  He passes ten farm friends along the way and greets each one with a very friendly hello.  The animals reply and then express personal observations about seeing Duck on a bike.  These remarks range from Duck being a silly duck, to a concern for his safety, and then even a bit of jealousy. Then, a surprising opportunity presents itself when the animals see eight bikes parked beside a house.  They seize the moment and ride the bikes. (Mouse has to hitch a ride with another animal of course, and the pigs happily ride a tandem bike.)  They finally understand the joy Duck experienced on his earlier ride. Continue reading Dream it. Do it.: A Review of ‘Duck on a Bike’

Revisiting Childhood Memories: A Review of ‘No, David!’

“It’s not enough to love children, it is necessary that they are aware they are loved.”–  St. John Bosco

Reading Level

K-1                        [common core]

Pre-K – Grade 3 [David Shannon website]

Pre-K – 1              [Scholastic]

Review and Comments

David Shannon’s book, No, David!, is modeled after a book he wrote and illustrated as a child.  The pictures are colorful, and the vocabulary is limited because at the time he only knew how to spell no and David.  His story allows a small glimpse into the animated life of a very active, little boy named…… David.

This version highlights familiar childhood situations like sneaking cookies and jumping on the bed during imaginative play.  While David is enthusiastically charging through his day, his mother is trying to teach him important lessons: taking care of toys, respecting the property of others, and listening to and obeying his mother. David ultimately faces consequences after his serious infraction of breaking his mother’s vase.  The main lesson he does learn is that his mother’s love is unconditional. She assures him on the last page that she still loves him even after all the challenges of the day. Continue reading Revisiting Childhood Memories: A Review of ‘No, David!’

Run and Find Out!: A Review of “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi”

“To have courage for whatever comes in life – everything lies in that.” – St. Teresa of Avila

Reading Level

Grades 3-5    [according to Scholastic which reflects the grade level at which a student reading on grade could read the book independently.]

5.0    [AR]

Review and Comments

Rikki-tikki-tavi is a young mongoose who is welcomed into an English family after being separated from his own family during a terrible storm.  The father seems to know a lot about mongooses, and he assures his wife and son that it is a good thing to have a mongoose close by because they kill snakes.  This proves true when Rikki-tikki saves the young son from a deadly snake soon after he arrives.  The danger for the family is not over however. Rikki-tikki e and his adopted family soon experience life-threatening encounters with a pair of deadly adversaries. Continue reading Run and Find Out!: A Review of “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi”

Another Door Opens: A Review of ‘Bud, Not Buddy!’

“The most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved.”–  Mother Teresa

Reading Level

Grades 4-5          [common core]

Grades 3-5, 6-8 [according to Scholastic which reflects the grade level at which a student reading on grade could read the book independently]

Grade 5                 [AR]

Interest Level

Grades 4-8          [AR]

Review and Comments

Bud, Not Buddy is a story about a ten year boy who is virtually alone in the very harsh world of the Great Depression.  Bud is living somewhere between the memories of his deceased mother and a yearning for the father he never knew.  During his search for his father, the reader is exposed to lessons about this period in history through the people Bud meets and his deepest thoughts and feelings as only a ten year old can express them. Continue reading Another Door Opens: A Review of ‘Bud, Not Buddy!’

Unity of Scripture: A Review of ‘The End of the Fiery Sword, Adam & Eve and Jesus & Mary

“Death by Eve, life by Mary” — Saint Jerome (Epistle 22)

Interest Level:  Ages 3+

Review and Comments:

Maura McKeegan illustrates how events of the Old Testament foreshadow the New Testament in this straightforward story of Adam and Eve and Jesus and Mary.  She begins in Genesis with Eve’s disobedience and explains how the Blessed Mother is the new Eve with her obedience and “yes” to God.  Then, the story continues with Adam’s temptation and betrayal prefiguring Jesus’ temptation and fulfillment of His Father’s will. The angel’s fiery sword guarding the tree of life foretells the angel sent to comfort Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Where Adam and Eve’s sin closed the gates of Heaven, Jesus opened the gates and fulfilled God’s plan of redemption. Continue reading Unity of Scripture: A Review of ‘The End of the Fiery Sword, Adam & Eve and Jesus & Mary

Knock. Knock. Who’s There?: A Review of ‘Lon Po Po: A Red Riding Hood Story from China’

“Never trust a stranger-friend; no one knows how it will end.  As you’re pretty, so be wise; wolves may lurk in every guise.” – Charles Perrault, Little Red Riding Hood

Reading Level:  

2.6         [according to Scholastic – reflects the grade level at which a student reading on grade could read the book independently]

K – 1      [according to common core]

3.5         [AR]

Interest Level:    K-2         [Ages  6-8]

A little house…. a basket…. a grandmother….. and a wolf.   These are all familiar elements in the fairy tale Lon Po Po: A Red Riding Hood Story from China. The reader will be intrigued with this version of the story while mentally checking off differences and similarities to the more familiar traditional tale.

The story begins with the customary visit to Grandmother, but this time it is the mother who visits Grandmother while her three children stay home.  As any concerned mother, she warns them to keep the door locked because she will be gone overnight.  This of course is a clue to the discerning reader that they may not follow her instructions and that disobedience will put them in great danger. Continue reading Knock. Knock. Who’s There?: A Review of ‘Lon Po Po: A Red Riding Hood Story from China’

Sacred Touchstones: A Review of ‘Will Rider, The Relic of Perilous Falls’

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. – Ephesians 6:13

Reading Level: 3.7; grade 7 [There are two very different suggestions for the reading level.]
Interest Level: Ages 8-12; Ages 10+

Review and Comments:
The Relic of Perilous Falls is a powerful story of good and evil, truth and deceit, belief and skepticism. The confrontation between these forces centers on the relic of St. Thomas the Apostle. The more recent history of the relic begins during WWII when a brave young man named Jacob Wilder undertakes a daring mission to rescue the bones of St. Thomas. He is not the only one who desires the relic however. It is evident from the very beginning of the story that evil has manifested itself and will do anything to possess the precious bones. Jacob takes intricate measures to protect the relic and its power. He builds Peniel as a sanctuary to safeguard relics in the town of Perilous Falls, “the last stronghold against the dark madness of the world.” Continue reading Sacred Touchstones: A Review of ‘Will Rider, The Relic of Perilous Falls’

Bearing the Burden of Another: A Review of ‘Number the Stars’

“We must stand up for the rights of our neighbor who is suffering from injustice; we must defend them all the more vigorously because we see Jesus present in them. Surely this is our duty because of our love for others for his sake. We have no right to be ‘sleeping watchmen’ or dumb watch-dogs. Whenever we see evil we must sound the alarm.” — Blessed Charles de Foucauld

Reading Level:   5.2 [according to Scholastic which reflects the grade level at which a student reading on grade could read the book independently]

4.5 [AR level]

Interest Level:  Grades 3 – 6

Review and Comments:

Number the Stars is a historical fiction that takes place during WWII in Denmark.  The danger and turmoil in Copenhagen at the time are seen through the eyes of a ten year old girl named Annemarie. She witnesses cruelty and personally experiences fear amidst the bravery and heroic sacrifices of many who “honor the humanity of others.” Continue reading Bearing the Burden of Another: A Review of ‘Number the Stars’

God With Us: A Review of ‘God Gave Us Christmas’

“The Word who found a dwelling in Mary’s womb comes to knock on the heart of every person with singular intensity this Christmas.” – St. John Paul II

Reading Level: 2.7 [according to Scholastic – reflects the grade level at which a student reading on grade could read the book independently]

Interest Level: PreK – 2

Review and Comments:

“Where does Christmas come from?” Little Cub asks her mother.  Mama Bear could answer her question easily, but Mama wants her child to understand deep in her heart exactly what Christmas really means.  She wants to transport Little Cub to the first Christmas so she explains the scene in Bethlehem and the true meaning of the gift of Jesus.  Then Mama takes her out into the world to find God in the most unusual places.  Little Cub learns that God is the Light of the World. He is powerful and mighty.  And God is so generous He gave Jesus to all of us – “the best present of all.”  Little Cub thanks her Mama for “showing her God” and prepares for Christmas with a spirit filled with joy. Continue reading God With Us: A Review of ‘God Gave Us Christmas’