Tag Archives: Catholic

A fight for Virtue: A Review of ‘Extreme Blindside’

“Virtue demands courage, constant effort, and above all, help from on high.”–Saint John Marie Vianney

Review and Comments

Leslea Wahl has once again written a novel that will carry her readers on an exciting adventure as her two main characters, Sophie and Jake, try to solve a new mystery.  Wahl’s novels have never failed to entertain their audiences with danger, intrigue, and budding romances, but this novel presents new challenges.  Unlike her other novels, this book doesn’t have two people getting to know one another, it has a couple who has to work against odds to stay together.

Jake and Sophie are both at the winter games as Jake prepares to compete.  Sophie has been given an opportunity as an apprentice journalist and her task is to write about Jake.  As the story progresses, however, more and more competitors are getting hurt.  Through some investigative work, the two figure out that there must be someone out to get the different competitors; to either hurt them or disqualify them from competition.  While it’s fun for the two to be together on this adventure together, relationship issues ensue.

In this modern, throw-away culture we live in, it’s easy for people to quit relationships when they get difficult.  Sophie really struggles with Jake’s fame and the constant flow of girls who surround him, and Jake struggles with trying to make her comfortable.

The relationship issues in this book are tough, but what makes it so important for young people to read is that they really strive for that Christian/Catholic ideal.  They know that they don’t want to compromise morals.  They say short little prayers for each other.  They hold each other accountable for their decisions.  I’m not saying that they have a perfect relationship because jealousy, anger, poor communication, and frustration definitely seems to be breaking them apart, but when things get tough, they find each other again in front of a crucifix.  Sophie knows where to find Jake and when she sees him, there he is staring at Jesus’s body on the cross, uniting his own suffering with Our Lord’s.  Sophie stays with him as he prays and together, their relationship grows.

This scene in the book is one of the most beautiful portrayals of relationship in Leslea Wahl’s novels so far.  I think it’s so critical that these types of scenarios play out in more teen books.  Instead of loose morals or betrayal or revenge or the feeling of helplessness, they find safety and security in the cross, in Jesus himself.  And you know what?  This isn’t too far out of reach for teens today.  Most people just don’t expect this of them.  So thank you, Leslea Wahl, for giving us characters of esteem and faith for our young people to follow.  Thank you for not making prayer seem weird or out of place.  Thank you for your entertaining books and intriguing mysteries.  Each book you write is a wonderful witness for young people.

General Teaching Resources

Catholic Resources

Read our review of The Perfect Blindside here.

Read our review of An Unexpected Role here.

Read our review of Where You Lead here.

 

 

 

 

Evangelizing to Others within the walls of our homes: A Review of ‘Theology of Home:Finding the Eternal in the Everyday’

Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do…but how much love we put into that action.  –Saint Mother Teresa


Review and Comments

Well, here we are.  However many weeks of being at home.  However many weeks of trying to figure out this slightly new way of living.  This year started out a little crazy with life and has gotten progressively more crazy, which hopefully excuses me from my lack of book reviews.  But I am back and trying to make a valiant effort in forging ahead.

Theology of the Home was a Christmas gift and I devoured it right away, but it was not quite what I expected.  Upon first glance, the book seems to be a type of home design book, but it is so much more than that.  While it is full of absolutely gorgeous photographs of even incredibly impressive homes, it breaks apart the home and discusses at length the importance of each individual part.  

Interspersed with personal stories, the book discusses our Catholic faith and how it can be present in each spot and with each task that must be accomplished within our homes.  All of the aspects of where we live come back to that feeling of “home” and how it implants in us the desire to spread the love of God with the rest of the world.  

I love the book for what it is.  For those of us caught up in the cyclical day to day, it is a wonderful reminder that what we do behind the walls of our homes, the things that no one sees, will eventually reach the rest of the world.

I love that it begs us to invite others, despite the condition of our homes, to serve, nourish, and comfort.  These feelings that begin with our families spill out into the world.

It provides a hope beyond household design, a hope beyond accomplishment, and a place to rest and love.  

Perhaps, while we are in our homes this long period in our lives, we can begin to look at it a little differently with the help of this book.  By applying the beauty of our faith to the everyday beauty of our homes, we can hope to reach the multitudes.

Additional Reading/Information

  • Watch a preview of the book

 

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’

Love From One Generation to the Next: A Review of ‘Being a Grandparent, Just Like Being a Parent…Only Different’

“The crown of the aged is their children’s children….” – Proverbs 17:6

“Love multiplies.  It doesn’t divide.” – Dr. Ray Guarendi

Review and Comments:

Dr. Ray’s book, Being a Grandparent, is a wonderful resource for those who are seeking advice and direction while adapting to the role of being a grandparent. It’s also a good choice for anyone who just wants to see if they are “on the right track.”  Dr. Ray addresses many issues and recommends very practical solutions along with considerable wisdom and a good bit of humor.

I think most people will agree that being a grandparent is a huge blessing! That doesn’t mean the road is always smooth, however.  Problems arise, goals differ, and personalities and egos clash.  This book is organized into short chapters – each one addressing a concern from differing viewpoints. Dr. Ray then skillfully addresses each concern.  He poses thoughtful questions, makes astute statements, and sometimes gives examples from his own family. Continue reading Love From One Generation to the Next: A Review of ‘Being a Grandparent, Just Like Being a Parent…Only Different’

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

An Idea Put to the Test: A Review of ‘Frindle’

“I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word.” – Emily Dickinson

Reading Level

Grades 3-5, 6-8 [Scholastic]

AR 5.4 [2 points]

Interest Level

Grades 4-8

Review and Comments

This story is about Nicholas Allen’s successful campaign to use his newly invented word, frindle.

Nick has a reputation for having very creative, original ideas – ideas that often push the limits of his teachers’ patience.  Children, on the other hand, seem drawn to his plans.  One of his fool proof ideas is the “teacher-stopper.”  So, Nick tests his new fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Granger, with his tried and true routine of asking a question to take up class time. This plan never fails. He asks, “Why do words mean what they mean?”  She explains that “a word means something because he, Nick, says it does.”  Now that is food for thought.  So, when he finds a pen on the way home from school, he decides to call it a different name.  He calls it a frindle.  And that simple decision begins Nick’s greatest scheme.  He decides to call a pen a frindle while at home, at school, and he even asks his friends to join him. Continue reading An Idea Put to the Test: A Review of ‘Frindle’

Only the Truth: A Review of ‘The Empty Pot’

 “To be honest as this world goes is to be one man picked out of ten thousand.” —William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Reading Level

AR 3.8 [0.5 points]

3.0-3.9 ATOS Book Level [ATOS readability formula represents the difficulty of the text]

Interest Level

Pre-K – Grade 5

Review and Comments

The Empty Pot is an inspirational Chinese folk tale about honesty and honor, bravely demonstrated by a little boy named Ping.

The Emperor is getting older and realizes he must find someone to take his place – someone who will be an honorable leader.  Since he has no children, he looks to all the children in his kingdom to find that one exceptional child.  His plan will surely reveal someone who is worthy.  He invites all the children of his kingdom to his palace and gives each child flower seeds to plant and nurture for the next year.  Then, they are to return and present their best flowers to the Emperor, and he will make his decision. Continue reading Only the Truth: A Review of ‘The Empty Pot’

The Earth Provides: A Review of ‘How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World’

“God created the universe in such a manner that all in common might derive their food from it, and that the Earth should also be a property common to all.” – St. Ambrose

Reading Level

AR 3.1 [0.5 points]

Interest Level

Pre-K – Grade 2

Review and Comments

A plan to make an apple pie seems rather straightforward.   After all, it’s only a matter of following a few important steps beginning with a trip to the grocery store. If the store is closed, however, how does one get all the necessary ingredients?  Well, you just travel around the world and gather the best and freshest items on your list. And a bonus to the trip is the experience of traveling on different modes of transportation from a steamer to a parachute.  The shopping list takes the reader to Italy for semolina, France for the best possible eggs, Sri Lanka for the amazing spice of cinnamon, England for the freshest milk, Jamaica for sweet sugar cane, and crisp apples from Vermont. Continue reading The Earth Provides: A Review of ‘How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World’

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’

Two Inches of Determination: A Review of ‘Stuart Little’

“It is not the strength of the body that counts, but the strength of the spirit.”–J.R.R. Tolkein

 

Reading Level

AR 6.0 [3.0 points]

4.25 [Leveled Books Database]

Interest Level  

Grades 3-5 [Scholastic]

Review and Comment

E.B. White’s classic tale Stuart Little is about an extraordinary, diminutive mouse. Stuart has a tenacious spirit that emboldens him to confront all the challenges a two-inch mouse naturally faces and some very surprising adventures. Continue reading Two Inches of Determination: A Review of ‘Stuart Little’