It’s summertime – and that means children are home from school and, too often, cries of “I'm bored!” can be heard around the house. It was the same when my children were small, and I’d try to take their need seriously. Sometimes we'd take a walk in the woods or play lawn darts in the backyard; sometimes we'd bake cookies or learn to dust the shelves; and sometimes (the best of times, I'll admit) we'd read a book.

Ignatius Press has recently released several children’s books that help youth of all ages to better understand God and His Church. Moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas and babysitters will all appreciate the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone: entertaining earnest young readers, while giving them a solid foundation in the Catholic faith.

Jesus Invites Me to Mass by Sabine du Mesnil (Illustrations by Gemma Román). Read this small book with its sturdy pages and bright illustrations to your toddler. Then, when you go to Mass, she will recognize the actions of the priest and the parishioners. He'll learn to make the Sign of the Cross, and how to approach the priest during Communion with his hands crossed on his chest. Jesus Invites Me to Mass is an endearing way to introduce children to the Mass.

Stories of the Blessed Sacrament by Francine Bay. Intended for children a little older, Stories of the Blessed Sacrament brings together twelve stories that help children to appreciate the Eucharist. There are illustrated stories from the Scriptures, like “The Multiplication of the Loaves” and “The Last Supper.” Other stories describe little-known events throughout Church history, such as the Eucharistic miracle of Faverney, France, and the secret ordination of Karl Leisner, a young German deacon, to the priesthood while he was imprisoned in the concentration camp at Dachau. Stories of the Blessed Sacrament teaches young readers how the Real Presence of Jesus has led countless believers to lives of devotion, compassion, and bravery.

The Life of Jesus According to Saint Luke by Sophie de Mullenheim and Christophe Raimbault. Moving along, this book is great for children ages 7 and up. It’s 95 pages – longer than the others I've mentioned – and tells the stories found in the Gospel of Luke. More than that, colorful sidebar notes explain the Word of God for wannabe Scripture scholars, and provide fascinating background about the times in which Jesus lived among us: How is the Bible organized? What did the Jewish “temple service” look like? Why do we take up a collection? What’s it like to travel in Palestine? Add its colorful illustrations, and The Life of Jesus According to Saint Luke is sure to be a bedtime favorite!

Mozart: Gift of God by Demi. Well really, how often does a biography of a great musical talent focus on his spirituality, and not just on his music or his popularity? Just a few things I learned from reading the book:

  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s middle name, “Amadeus” or “Amadeo,” is the Italian form of “Theophilus” (God-lover).
  • Mozart worked for a time in Paris but quarreled often with his employer, the prince-archbishop of Salzburg. He was finally fired, and his employer dismissed him with a kick in the pants.
  • Mozart’s last and unfinished work was a requiem, a funeral Mass. By that time weakened and bedridden, and without knowing the identity of the generous sponsor who had commissioned the work, Wolfgang came to believe he was writing the requiem for himself.

Throughout his life, Mozart exhibited a spirit of joyful praise. His story will be an inspiration to others.

Saint José: Boy Cristero Martyr by Kevin McKenzie. When 12-year-old Mauricio Kuri won acclaim for his role in the Hollywood film For Greater Glory in 2012, the story of the teen martyr José Sánchez del Rio touched hearts beyond his hometown of Sahuayo, Mexico. Young José lived in the 1920s, during the time that the Mexican government attempted to crush the Catholic faith; and while still a young teen, he joined the Cristeros to fight for freedom of religion. Captured by government forces, he refused to deny his faith in exchange for his freedom. Tortured and forced to march to his grave, he cried out, “Viva Cristo Rey!” (“Long live Christ the King!”) Now officially canonized, Saint José is a powerful role model for young people today. Saint José: Boy Cristero Martyr is intended for youth 9-15 years old.


Older Titles (But Still Recommended)

If these titles aren’t already on your child’s bookshelf, you may want to check them out!

Who Is Jesus?: His Life, His Land, His Time by Gaelle Tertrais and Adeline Avril. Who were Jesus' grandparents? What did his house look like? What did people eat back then? This book answers these and other questions.

The Whisper in the Ruins (Chime Travelers) by Lisa Hendey. Gosh, if your children haven't fallen in love with the Chime Travelers series by now, you should definitely check them out! The Chime Travelers series of books features fun-filled, time-travel adventures with a Catholic message that takes kids to long-ago times and faraway lands. Each book features prayers and a short bio to introduce children to a major saint’s life and legend. There are discussion questions about saints, sacraments, and Catholic life help children understand what they’ve learned through the stories.

Lost in Peter’s Tomb by Dianne Ahern. This is the first book in a series of mystery adventures designed to present the stories of the saints in an intriguing and educational manner. Set in modern Italy, the stories follow a brother and sister in their adventures with their aunt, who is a special agent for the pope. In this first adventure, Sister Philomena and the children track an intruder in St. Peter’s Basilica and help recover the missing relics of St. Peter, all the while learning about St. Peter’s life. Children will be introduced to Italian words and phrases, learn about the Vatican and Italian lifestyles, as well as famous places and works of art in Italy.

Olivia’s Gift by Nancy Carabio Bellanger (illustrated by Sandra Casali LewAllen). School is out for the year and it’s time for a fun beach adventure! However, Olivia discovers that sometimes it can be difficult to be a good Catholic when you’re in middle school and discovers that she needs God and St. Thérèse more than ever. In this novel that celebrates modesty and the precious gift of life, Olivia learns that it takes blind faith every day and that God is never far away — even on vacation!

Today I Made My First Communion by Dianne Ahern (illustrated by Bill Shurtliff). There’s another in this series, about first Confession. Both are excellent!

St. Patrick’s Summer: A Children’s Adventure Catechism by Marigold Hunt (illustrated by Theodore Schluenderfritz). There are many exciting lessons in this surprising adventure catechism lessons taught by Abraham, St. Patrick, St. Cecilia, and, of course, Eve, the mother of all mankind.

John Mary Vianney: The Holy Curé of Ars by Sophie de Mullenheim. In this tenderly and colorfully illustrated story, children will learn how John Vianney heard his calling to the priesthood when as a young boy during the French Revolution he attended underground Masses with his devout family. They will also learn how he struggled in school, yet persevered in his studies until his dream to be a priest was realized.

Once Upon a Time Saints by Ethel Pochocki. These stories, the author explains, are meant to show human and lovable people whose mysterious passion for God led them into preposterous escapades.

The Princess and the Three Knights by Karen Kingsbury. The search is on! The king determines to find a young man worthy of the hand of the princess. The knights of the kingdom endure tests and challenges to show their courage and strength. But those qualities alone will not win the king’s approval or the princess’s heart – the right knight must prove his kindness and character ... and the real meaning of true love.