Saint Stories, Prayer Books, and Fun

Are your kids doing more reading during this time of quarantine? As a mom, a former teacher, and an avid reader, I sure hope so! While libraries are closed, you can get your hands on books in other ways: online bookstores including PaulineStore.com and the new indie online bookseller, BookShop.org, direct from the publisher, and even as free downloads on Formed.org, if you or your parish have a subscription. Keep your kids reading, praying, and having fun with these nine selections.

Saint Stories

Tomie de Paola was one of my favorite author/illustrators. His books aren’t for the youngest reader, but they’re wonderful read-alouds complemented by beautiful watercolor artwork. Tomie de Paola’s strength was in telling the stories of ordinary days, and in Brother Francis of Assisi, de Paola shines in depicting the everyday holiness of the extraordinary saint of Assisi. The book, newly re-released by Magnificat/Ignatius, offers vignettes about the life of St. Francis and his companions, with text on one page and the story on the other — the full episode on a single two-page spread. The story emphasizes simplicity, devotion, and reverence, and does not portray St. Francis as a political figure or activist. The book concludes with “The Song to the Sun,” which is popularly known as the “Canticle of the Creatures.”

Legend of the First Valentine

Who was St. Valentine? The Legend of the First Valentine: A Story of God’s Love by Cornelia Mary Bilinsky (Pauline Kids) brings this martyr’s story to life. Young readers will learn of St. Valentine’s heroic journey to martyrdom in this story that emphasizes faith, love, and the importance of marriage.

A Prayer and a Pickaxe

St. Clement of Rome’s story is told by Pamela Love in the picture book A Prayer and a Pickaxe. One of the first popes in a time when Christians were regularly martyred, Clement shows courage by making sure all the faithful escaped when soldiers appeared to arrest him for practicing a forbidden religion. While imprisoned, his faith led to a miraculous discovery of water deep in the desert. The book, from Pauline Kids, concludes with a two-page biography of the saint and a short prayer.

John the Baptist

Saint John the Baptist: A Voice Crying Out in the Desert by Ezekiel Saucedo is compelling reading for older readers who enjoy graphic novels. This action-packed, colorful 118-page book from by Pauline Kids begins with a recap of the dramatic story of Elijah’s prophecies, followed by the Archangel Gabriel’s announcement to the elderly Zechariah that he and his wife Elizabeth would soon have a son. The book ends with Jesus’ followers realizing the He is the one John had told them about: the fulfillment of the prophecies.

Prayer Books

Let Us Pray

Teach your little ones the prayers of the Church with Let Us Pray: A Child’s First Book of Prayers, a sturdy board book by Katie Warner and illustrator Meg Whalen. This book would be a great help for children who struggle to learn the Apostles Creed for the family Rosary — nearly half the book contains prayers used during the Rosary. Other prayer include grace before meals, the Memorare, the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, and prayer for the dead. Each prayer is complete on one page, with an illustration on the facing page. Published by TANBooks.

Kid's Book of Prayers

Introduce children to the idea of praying on their own with Elizabeth and David Heller’s new book, The Kid’s Book of Prayers about All Sorts of Things. A combination journal/prayer book for children ages 7 and up, this book helps children learn that they can pray at any time and about anything, and that they can even pray in their own words. There’s plenty of space for readers to record their own prayers, as well. This book, from Pauline Kids, would make a wonderful First Communion gift!

Faith-filled Fun

Brother Lorenzo's Pretzels

Inspiration for young bakers can be found in Brother Lorenzo’s Pretzels: Prayer and the Holy Trinity by Cornelia Mary Bilinsky. Charmingly illustrated in vintage style by John Joseph, this picture book for children ages 4 through 7 introduces the story of the origin of a favorite snack. Brother Lorenzo, who enjoyed baking bread, wondered how to teach young children about the Holy Trinity — and found the answer in a delicious treat. Simple directions for baking your own pretzels are included at the end of the book, new from Pauline Kids.

Catholic Funny Fill-Ins

“Mad Libs” games aren’t just for road trips! They’re great stay-inside fun, and Tommy and Karen Tighe have just introduced Catholic Funny Fill-Ins: Saints Spectacular! From fill-ins based on saint stories to musings on helping others when we grow up to hilarious misadventures at a May Crowning, these stories will be heavy on the giggles but always include interesting information about the saints, the faith, and Catholic customs. Published by Pauline Kids.

For children who enjoy art as much as (or more than) the story, Karen Kiefer’s picture book Drawing God is just right. Kathy De Wit illustrated this book about a child who wants to draw something “beyond spectacular” and decides to draw pictures of God. Break out the art supplies and let your children’s imaginations take over as you encourage them to draw God after reading this story together. At the end of the book, the author offers five ways to bring the lessons in this story to life in your home, classroom, and heart. Published by Paraclete Press.

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Author: Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS

Barb Szyszkiewicz is a wife, mom, Secular Franciscan, and editor at CatholicMom.com. Her three children range in age from high school to young adult, and she enjoys writing, cooking, and reading. Barb is a music minister at her parish and an avid Notre Dame football and basketball fan. Find her blog at FranciscanMom and her family’s favorite recipes with nutrition information for diabetics at Cook and Count.