By Carrie Gress
Books always make great gifts. Long after the latest flashy fad toy’s batteries have died, treasured books take on an enduring life of their own within a family, even as they tumble off of beds or get piled precariously high among other toys.
Catholic children’s books continue to improve in quality and content. 2018 was a great year for them. Here are some of my favorites to consider for the little people in your life.
My First Prayers for the Whole Year, by Maite Roche (Magnificat/Ignatius)
This is a sweet compilation of prayers — both the familiar, like the Our Father and Hail Mary, but also new ones to help tiny souls learn the virtues such as gratitude, asking forgiveness, and inviting Jesus and Mary to come live among us.
Cloud of Witnesses: A Child’s First Book of Saints, by Katie Warner, Illustrated by Meg Whalen (TAN Books)
This little hard board book is a charming primer to the the saints. From St. Augustine to St. Josemaria Escriva, a wonderful collection of saints are pictured along with one of their quotes. Perfect to tuck in a purse for a little one to look through at Mass.
I Went to Mass: What Did I See, by Katie Warner, Illustrated by Meg Whalen (TAN Books)
This book came in the mail and shortly after the first read through, it disappeared. Vanished. I couldn’t find it anywhere. I finally asked my 4-year-old where it was. He had put it away in the place where I keep the special books, he explained. Since it was such a special book, he wanted it to be there, too. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that the cookbooks weren’t that special. Short and to the point, this one is a winner for preschoolers — especially boys.
Vincent, by Frank Fraser (Sophia Institute Press)
This just-released book is incredibly sweet. Vincent is a lovable pig who discovers the hidden joy in sharing.
Without a word in it beyond the title, “Vincent” is great for pre-readers because once they figure out the story, they can “read” it themselves. It was a delight to first go through it with my 4-year-old, only to have him tell me the story himself the next day.
Before I Was Me, by Frank Frazer (Sophia Institute Press)
I adore this book, and gushed over it at the National Catholic Register earlier this year. It is the delightful story of a tiny soul talking to God the Father just before he is put into the world, wondering what he might do.
“Before I Was Me” immediately became a family favorite and for as many times as I have now read it, I still haven’t tired from the story and illustrations (which every mother knows is a feat).
George Washington: His Legacy of Faith, Character, and Courage, by Demi (Ignatius Press)
We have a soft spot for George Washington since we live in his hometown, but this is a wonderful way to get to know him better. Beautifully illustrated, the book paints an image of Washington’s faith and character into the stories, leaving a strong impression that his success was because of, not in spite of, his deep faith in God.
Gus Finds God, by Michael P. Foley, Illustrated by Andrea Dahm (Emmaus Road Publishing)
I’ve been scratching my head wondering if I have ever seen a book like this before. I can’t recall anything like it and I’m wondering why not. It is a great idea! Based upon St. Augustine’s own struggle in The Confessions — even using actual text from the famous book—this children’s version helps kids wrap their minds around how to find God in the world and our everyday lives. It is one of those books that I hope we will read over and over again so that when my kids are older and doubting their faith, the well-worn argument will still be tucked in their memories.
On a Mission to Love, by Debbie Staresinic (Ruah Woods Press)
This is a lovely rosary guide, although I certainly wouldn’t say it is just for children. Who among us can’t use a better way to help focus our thoughts when praying it?
Beautifully illustrated, this book offers a short mediation to consider for each bead of the rosary.
Marian Consecration for Children, by Carrie Gress (TAN Books)
Forgive the shameless self promotion, but this little book continues to surprise me. I initially thought of it simply to find a suitable way for my own children to consecrate themselves to Our Lady. Now a best-seller, I’ve been told that it is touching hearts of the young and the old. One woman told me she did it with her teenagers and wasn’t sure who got more out of it. We did this consecration as a family and it was a delight to share the journey with my children as they went deeper into knowing how much Our Lady loves them and wants to be their spiritual Mother
Let’s Look at a Masterpiece: Classic Art to Cherish with a Child, Madeleine Stebbins (Emmaus Road Publishing)
This is hot off the press, but I’m such a fan of Madeleine Stebbins that I wanted to make sure it was included. Stebbins wrote Looking at a Masterpiece for adults, which is a retreat-like walk through symbolism in art. In keeping with the adult version, this children’s book is lavishly illustrated. Like the adult book, there are still stirring reflections, just simplified to meet a child at his level. She offers profound insights about art, God, Christ’s life on earth, and how God’s love is reflected on earth through art and culture. Great for homeschoolers or those looking for an accessible way to enter into beautiful art (read: not just for children).