As summer wanes and school time begins, spiritual reading will allow children ample opportunities to develop the habits of mind and heart that are so crucial to their faith lives.

From the Bible and fiction to Mary and the saints, the books that follow invite readers to dive into reading that is one part educational and another part inspirational — all engaging and just right for these blessed late-summer days.


Pick a Saint, Any Saint!

Written and illustrated

by George and Brenda


Joseph’s Heartprint, 2013

64 pages, $15

You’d have to search far and wide to discover a more novel and inspiring introduction to favorite saints. Like a deck of cards, this anthology separates 52 saints into the categories of "Hearts" (mystics and visionaries whose hearts overflowed with God’s love), "Clubs" (founders or members of religious orders), "Diamonds" (apostles, early martyrs and others whose brilliance has shown throughout the years) and "Spades" (workers who labored to alleviate the suffering of the world). So, pick a saint — any saint — and discover how you, too, can grow in your love for God. Ages 8 and older.


Kateri Tekakwitha: Model of Bravery

Written by Barbara Yoffie

Illustrated by Katherine A.


Liguori, 2012

32 pages, $4.99

Kateri Tekakwitha, the first native North-American saint, was born to an Algonquin mother who loved Jesus and taught her to pray. These lessons stayed with the little girl for all her days, helping her to choose a life of faith under difficult circumstances. Part of the Saints and Me series, this brief text introduces kids to the life of St. Kateri, inviting them to consider the ways in which they can make brave, holy choices and live for God. Ages 4-8.


Clare’s Costly Cookie: A Young Heart Discovers the Way of Love

Written by Julie Kelly

Illustrated by Mary


Nativity Press, 2013

104 pages, $9.95

Nine-year-old Clare comes to the rescue in helping young readers to not only learn about Jesus, but to know him in a personal and prayerful way. Strong-willed Clare often finds herself in trouble: eating the warm chocolate chip cookie against Mom’s orders, snapping at her brothers and sister, struggling unsuccessfully to not squirm during Mass, etc.

Clare’s life unfolds as she talks to God about her ups and downs and quietly sits and listens to him. These heartfelt dialogues change Clare — and could change readers by encouraging them to talk often to God. Ages 8-12.


Saint Francis and Brother Duck

Written and illustrated by

Jay Stoeckl

Paraclete Press, 2013

140 pages, $15.99

The life and times of St. Francis of Assisi unfold in this engaging graphic novel. In concert with Francis’ love of animals, a friendly duck serves as narrator, leading readers through key events in the saint’s life. As the story opens, readers meet a young Francis, who is questioning life and wondering about his purpose in it. As he discovers his vocation, Francis vows to give his all — he renounces wealth, turns his heart to prayer and launches a new way of life for his band of believers. Packed with fascinating facts, spiritual snippets and life lessons, this clever book will capture the hearts, minds and imaginations of middle-level readers. Ages 9-14.


Dear God, I Don’t Get It

Written by Patti Maguire


Illustrated by Shannon


Liguori, 2013

112 pages, $7.98

Sixth-grader Aaron Ajax doesn’t understand why God isn’t listening to his prayers. His dad loses his job, forcing the family to move. On his first day at his new school, Aaron gets sent to the office and becomes the target of Josh, the class bully. Things go downhill from there! Just as he begins to make new friends, he risks their approval by reaching out to Josh. Many bumps along the way help Aaron to realize that "we may do the asking, but God does the directing." Ages 8-12.


The Three Roses: The Adventures of Jamie and Bella

Written by Father Olivier


Illustrated by Amandine


Magnificat-Ignatius, 2013

44 pages, $9.99

In this second story in The Adventures of Bella and Jamie series, 11-year-old Bella plays school with her younger sister. Declaring recess time, Bella brings the game to a halt. Bella, alone again, goes quietly to her special prayer corner. Bella speaks to Jesus as she would her friend. Each time her mind wanders, Bella turns her heart back to God. In a later dream, Jesus thanks Bella for the three roses that she gave him: one for each of the three times she ran back to him during prayer. Guide to praying included. Ages 7-11.


The Catholic Children’s Bible

Supplemental text written

by Sister Kathleen Glavich

and Brian Singer-Towns

Illustrated by Nathan Hale

St. Mary’s Press, 2013

2,000 pages, $27.95

(paperback) or $35.95


For the first time, children in second, third and fourth grades have a complete Catholic Bible to call their own. All 73 books of the Bible will inspire children to read the full word of God. Age-appropriate language, color-coded divisions, larger font size and 125 two-page illustrated story spreads of key passages make this a great choice for home and classroom. Good News Translation Catholic Edition. Paperback edition comes with a carry case. Ages 7 and older.


An Alphabet of Mary

Written and illustrated

by George and Brenda


Joseph’s Heartprint,


64 pages, $12.95

Learning their ABCs will be fun for young readers, especially since this alphabet honors Our Lady. From "A" (Angel’s Joy) to Z (Zion’s Daughter), the double-spread pages feature a title for Mary, an illustration, a rhymed verse and an explanation. The letter "H," for example, introduces a beloved title of Mary, "Help of Christians": "Mary helps us through our lives / whenever we call her name. / She brings our cares to Jesus / and wants us to do the same." Ages 5 and older.




The Crawford sisters

write from Pittsburgh.