December 2, 2013

The following books are suitable for Christmas giving:

Bambinelli Sunday: A Christmas Blessing by Amy Welborn, illustrated by Ann Kissane Engelhart. Franciscan Media (Cincinnati, 2013). 33 pp.

Bambinelli Sunday tells a Christmas tale of a lonely little boy who finds joy in his family and in sharing the baby Jesus with others. Beautifully illustrated scenes of water-coloured Italian streets will keep the attention of little readers, and the Christian lesson is appropriate for all ages. Ages 4-8.

A Girl Called Problem by Katie Quirk. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers (Grand Rapids, Mich., 2013). 256 pp.

When an entire village moves to a new community to help build a free Tanzania, conflict arises. But are the problems the result of evil curses from disgruntled ancestors or is something – or someone – else causing the disruption?

Set in mid-1960s Tanzania, A Girl Called Problem is a wonderful introduction to historical fiction that will teach young readers about the crossroads of tradition and modernization, culture and science.

Readers will fall in love with the main character, a spunky young girl who teaches her village that when girls are allowed to go to school, an entire community benefits. Ages 10-14.

Jorge from Argentina: The Story of Pope Francis for Children by Marlyn Monge, FSP, and Jaymie Stuart Wolfe, illustrated by Diana Kizlauskas. Pauline Books and Media (Boston, 2013). 58 pp.

We know by now that Pope Francis grew up in Argentina and studied chemistry before becoming a Jesuit. But did you know that as a student, the young Jorge Bergoglio liked playing basketball and worked at a sock factory cleaning floors and equipment?

Young readers of this illustrated biography will enjoy interesting facts about Pope Francis' life and discover that the pope was an energetic student, helpful son and an ordinary child of God called to do extraordinary things. Ages 8-11.

Dear God, I Don't Get It by Patti Maguire Armstrong, illustrated by Shannon Wirrenga. Liguori Publications (Liguori, Mo., 2013). 112 pp.

Sixth-grader Aaron Ajax is facing some real problems: His dad lost his job, and the family must move in the middle of a school year.

How could God do this to his family? They pray and go to church; shouldn't that guarantee Aaron from being the dreaded new kid in school?

Dear God, I Don't Get It is a well-written chapter book that will help readers trust in God and learn that God has a plan, even if it is not always immediately apparent. Although the predictable ending is perhaps tied up too tightly with a bow, that shouldn't discourage young readers wanting to read more books like this. Another book about the Ajax family is due out next year. Ages 8-12.

The Prayer of St. Francis illustrated by Giuliano Ferri. Paulist Press (Mahwah, N.J., 2013). 34 pp.

This children's picture book is the St. Francis' prayer depicted in soft illustrations of a fox treating his furry friends with kindness, forgiveness and love. Although the prayer actually was written long after the beloved saint died, this simple and beautiful prayer along with the book's pictures will help young children learn about St. Francis' mission and what they are called to do as children of God. Ages 3-5.

(Regina Lordan, who reads to her two young children, is former assistant international editor for Catholic News Service.)