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.

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The Power of Words: A Review of ‘Seeds and Trees’

The babble of some people is like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise is healing. – Proverbs 12:18

Reading/Interest Level

Grades 1-6 [Ages 6-12]

Review and Comments

Seeds of words spoken, some green and others black, are given to a young prince every day.  The green seeds are gentle while the black seeds contain only hostility and misery. The prince accepts both seeds and plants them all.  As the prince watches his trees grow he observes that all the trees are powerful but very different.  The green trees are life giving.  The black trees create such darkness that the green trees eventually suffer and become weakened right down to their roots.

The prince meets an extraordinary, sincere friend who only gives him green seeds.  She is wise and very brave in the face of the darkness of the forest.  The green trees seem to “come alive” when she is near, but the dark trees seem to amplify their negativity.  The prince’s new friend has a challenging solution for the tragedy of the weakening green trees.  He recognizes her insight and agrees to accept the challenge.  Using her old tools, she and the prince cut down one dark tree. Then, they carefully cut down more and more until not one dark tree or any fragment of a root is left.  Following his friend’s advice, the prince never plants dark seeds again.  He carefully watches over his grove of green trees and continues to plant the green seeds that produce “new life.”

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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.

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A Change of Focus: A Review of ‘Surviving the Applewhites’

“Embrace everyone and everything that helps you become a better version of yourself and you will live a life uncommon.” – Matthew Kelly [The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic]

Reading Level

AR 5.5 [7 points]

Grades 6-12 [Scholastic]

Review and Comments

The Applewhite family can be described as unique or extraordinary, but those words really don’t capture the nature of the family well enough.  Idiosyncratic is the word that expresses the dynamics of the Applewhites much better.  A few members can even be described as egocentric.  Each person in this extended family has such a distinctive personality that their individual stories are quite interesting.  Their creative passions seem to divide the family, but when a theatrical crisis occurs, the Applewhites have to pull together and eventually resolve those problems.

The reader is introduced to the family by twelve year old Edith Wharton, or E.D., as she prefers to be called. She describes her family as “a spontaneous group of people who love chaos and crave freedom.” Her family even decides that the children’s education should be different because after all they are not like other people.  Their motto is:  “Education is an adventurous quest for the meaning of life, involving an ability to think things through.” So, they start the Applewhite Creative Academy where “creativity and individuality are paramount,” and the children develop their own study programs to accommodate their personal interests. 

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A Reason For Everything: A review of ‘Danger! Tiger Crossing’ (#1 of the Fantastic Frame Series)

“The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.”  -Aristotle

Reading Level

Grades 2-4, (Ages 7-9) 3.8

Interest Level

Grades 1-5

[128 pages]

Review and Comments

Danger! Tiger Crossing is the first book in the Fantastic Frame series.  This exciting story is filled with mystery, interesting characters, and a bit of a Jumanji flavor that will surely attract the reader from the first chapter.

The main character, Tiger, is an interesting boy who thoughtfully observes his surroundings, analyzes clues, and then works to solve problems.  And the problems he faces in this adventure are extraordinary.   His story begins when his little sister reports that she has seen an orange pig in the backyard.  This statement is so unbelievable that Tiger resolves to prove the pig lives in his sister’s imagination.  While he is examining the scene, he actually sees the pig in his neighbor’s yard wearing a top hat and a bow tie.  He also meets Luna, a neighbor.  Tiger and Luna approach things from different angles, but these differences come in very handy as complications present themselves.

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Emptying Oneself: A Review of ‘The Legend of Bluebonnet’

“Let us remember that love lives through sacrifice and is nourished by giving.  Without sacrifice, there is no love.” – St. Maximilian Kolbe

Reading Level

AR4.2 [0.5 points]

Interest Level

Grades 1-3

Review and Comments

The Legend of the Bluebonnet is definitely my favorite Tomie dePaola book.  This beautiful story shows how the selfless giving of an ordinary, little Comanche girl accomplishes something quite extraordinary and saves her people.

The Comanche people, especially the young and old, are suffering greatly during what seems like an endless drought.  They pray to the Great Spirits and ask what they must do to end this devastating trial.  The shaman also prays to the Great Spirits, and when he returns from his private prayer time, he tells them the drought is a result of their selfishness. They must sacrifice their most valued possessions as an offering, and then spread the ashes to the points of the earth.  If they do this, the drought and famine will end.  The People are relieved they have an answer.  They acknowledge their most prized possessions and talk about why each article is special, but in the end each person decides that the Great Spirits surely isn’t asking forhis or her particular item.

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A Restless Imagination: A Review of ‘My Life in Pictures (Bea Garcia)’

“Artistic talent is a gift from God and whoever discovers it in himself has a certain obligation: to know that he cannot waste this talent, but must develop it.” – St. John Paul II

Reading Level

Grades 1-4, Ages 6-9

Review and Comments

Beatrice Holmes Garcia is a budding artist who illustrates her actual life experiences along with some very original daydreams.  Her drawings are not always restricted to her trusty journal however.  She has been known to draw on her little brother, the walls, and even the television.  Her family is usually very supportive of her enthusiasm unless her art extends beyond her notebook. 

It is obvious that Bea’s family and home are very important to her – the center of her world. That expands a bit when she happily meets her first best friend on her 5th birthday. The girls are kindred spirits from their first introduction.  They do everything together: draw, learn new things, and even share a magic tree in the backyard where their imaginations are truly free. 

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Enchanted Summer: A Review of ‘Half Magic’ (Tales of Magic, #1)

 “Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” – Roald Dahl

Reading Level

AR:  5.0 (0.5 points)

Grade 6-8 (According to Scholastic)

Interest Level

Grades 4-8

Review and Comments

Summers are always very special for Jane, Mark, Katharine, and Martha, but everything changes after their father dies. They attempt to fill their summer days by playing with one another and going to the library often, which is the high point of their week. Each child searches for books in different genres, but they all love to read stories that inspire creative discussions about magical events.  However, these exchanges tend to leave them yearning for something extraordinary in their own lives. Little do they know that their summer is about to transform into something quite enchanted when Jane finds a shiny coin stuck in the sidewalk.

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A TESTED FRIENDSHIP: A REVIEW OF ‘THE MINIATURE WORLD OF MARVIN AND JAMES’

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying good-bye so hard.” –  Winnie the Pooh [A. A. Milne]

Reading Level

Ages 8-10

Grade 2 [Scholastic]

AR 2.6

Review and Comments

 James Pompaday and Marvin are the best of friends even though James is a boy and Marvin is a beetle.  They truly enjoy each other’s company and devotedly support one another.  Their friendship is tested when James spends a week at a summer camp and Marvin has to stay home. Marvin is troubled and wonders if James will think about him while he’s gone or even find a new friend to replace him, which would be the worst outcome.

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A PROACTIVE PLAN: A REVIEW OF ‘GOOD PICTURES BAD PICTURES JR.’

“God desires from you the least degree of purity of conscience more than all the works you can perform.”
–St. John of the Cross

Interest Level

3-6 years

Review and Comments

Reviewing Good Pictures Bad Pictures was challenging because of the subject matter.  The message is meant to introduce children to a “safe and healthy media experience.”  I feel the book handles this very serious topic with simple honesty and an effective, valuable plan. We want our children to be safe especially in today’s world, but this grandma’s heart is ever so sad and troubled that very young children must be armed against such an evil reality.

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Literature reviews from the Catholic side