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)

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.

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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.

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Demonstrating Character: A Review of ‘Prince Martin Wins his Sword’

“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” – C. S. Lewis

Reading Level

Ages 6-9

Review and Comments

If you are looking for a book full of action, Prince Martin Wins His Sword by Brandon Hale is a good choice. It is a story of courage, friendship, and the strength and faithfulness of a father.   

Prince Martin lives in a castle surrounded by knights, their code of behavior, and their amazing weapons.  Martin aspires to have his very own sword one day.  He also has an undisclosed dream to own a faithful and brave dog, but the sword is his great desire.  His father, the King, wisely makes the judgment that Martin is much too young for a sword and that his staff and sling is enough for him at this point in his life. He explains that when Martin demonstrates that he is brave, loyal, and true, he will be deemed worthy to own a sword.  This is a goal Martin hopes to reach, but he has no idea how he will achieve those very lofty traits.

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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.

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

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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Literature reviews from the Catholic side