Sunday, May 29, 2011

Catholic Summer Reading For Kids

I'm delighted to find out that more and more parents, teachers, principals, and book clubs are choosing Olivia and the Little Way and its sequel, Olivia's Gift, for their summer reading choices for both boys and girls. Catholic pre-teens and teens will be enjoying fun, wholesome, faith-filled reading over the summer break with these books. The events in Olivia's Gift even take place over summer vacation, while Olivia, Hayley, and the Thomas family take a trip to the Atlantic Ocean. While at the beach, Olivia and Hayley meet new friends and new challenges. Grandma Rosemary is back, even fiestier than ever, with a brand-new recipe that is sure to be a crowd-pleaser at your family's next barbecue or potluck! Hint: It goes great with grilled chicken!

There is also no time like the present to introduce the pro-life theme to kids. It is woven throughout Olivia's Gift in a gentle and nonthreatening way for boys and girls of all ages to understand. It is also a wonderful time to encourage Catholic kids to celebrate the holy sacraments of our church, especially Reconciliation, as illustrated when Olivia receives the sacrament while on vacation. She also goes to Eucharistic Adoration, and receives many special graces because of it.

So find a shady spot under a tree, or grab a beach bag and a towel, and enjoy Olivia's adventures as she discovers that God is never far away—even on vacation!

Both books can be autographed by author Nancy Carabio Belanger to your children if ordered at the Harvey House Publishing website:

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

For Librarians and Educators: BookExpo America

Olivia's Gift is on display all week at BookExpo America in New York City! BookExpo America (BEA) welcomes librarians and educators to this year's event. Here are just some of the things you will enjoy and benefit from this year at BEA:

  • The largest show floor in North America with 1,300+ exhibitors displaying their upcoming titles—in all formats and every genre, from across the country and around the world. Be sure to stop by theseLibrarian Friendly Exhibitors and Educator Friendly Exhibitors.
  • Discovering the latest books, advanced read copies and galleys that will be buzzing for the summer and fall seasons.
  • Meeting, listening to, and getting autographs from 500+ authors. There's no better place to find the next big author.
  • Learning at dedicated librarian sessions during the Big Ideas at BEA Conference.
  • Association of American Publishers Association of American Publishers events especially for librarians.

School librarians may also see Olivia's Gift displayed and distributed by Quality Books Inc. For more than four decades, Quality Books Inc. has been dedicated to being the premier supplier of small press titles and special interest non-print resources to the library community.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Catholic Fiction For Kids

I love writing Catholic fiction for kids. They're underfed, as far as I am concerned, in the Catholic book world. Last weekend I was honored to have been invited as a guest speaker for the American Heritage Girls group out of St. Anastasia Catholic Church in Troy, MI. They were hosting a mother-daughter tea and it was just lovely. Red rose petals were strewn about the tables. As I approached the pretty table, I had to smile. It was such a nice "hello" from The Little Flower to see those rose petals!

We started the afternoon by saying the Divine Mercy Chaplet. The young girls reverently prayed the chaplet with their mothers. I was impressed by how patient they were, considering the tables were full of yummy treats like cookies and brownies! Dressed in their Sunday best, the girls and their moms listened as afterward I spoke about St. Therese and her Little Way. My favorite part was answering their questions during Q and A time. I asked them a question of my own: Why do you think there is such a lack of Catholic fiction books for kids? No one knew the answer. I myself don't even know the answer, but I sure wish I did. We see plenty of offerings for Protestant children at Christian bookstores. In the Catholic Christian bookstores, the pickings are slim.

I was happy to talk to the girls' mothers as I signed books later that afternoon. "Thank you for doing this," they all said to me. "We need more Catholic books for our children."

A sweet little girl came up to me, holding one of the rose petals from her table. She had a big grin on her face.

"I made my First Communion today," she gushed. "And I'm taking this home and putting it on my dresser. So I can think of St. Therese."

She told me her name was Olivia.

I felt tears forming when she said that. Good thing I wear waterproof mascara for these events!

It is indescribable, the feeling I get when these girls come to me to tell me that ever since they read Olivia and the Little Way and/or Olivia's Gift, they have become fast friends with St. Therese. That was my prayer all along when I started writing Catholic fiction for kids.

"Will you write more?" the moms always ask me.

The Good Lord willing, that is my plan!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Father Don Calloway On True Heroes For Kids

"A lot of people think, Well, this has increased my child's desire to read. Better your child be illiterate than read garbage...and this is why the Catholic Church has such a treasure of the lives of the saints...that's what's going to make your children heroes in the spiritual life: saints."

—Father Donald Calloway MIC

Sunday, May 8, 2011

St. Therese's First Holy Communion

On this day in 1884, The Little Flower made her First Holy Communion. You can read a blog I wrote about it here. For those who are making their First Holy Communion this weekend, such as my goddaughter Anna, this is something special they can share with St. Therese!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Great Kids: A Young Reader Follows The Little Way

You all know that I have a series on this blog called Great Teens. Well, it is quite obvious to me that I have to start another series: Great Kids!

I'd like to tell you about an 11-year-old girl named Grace. When her mother Jennifer wrote to me to tell me how much she and Grace have enjoyed Olivia and the Little Way and Olivia's Gift, I was impressed and touched by her story.

"I wanted to e-mail you to thank you for your books," her mother wrote, "but also to tell you what they have done in my child's heart. Grace made 116 spirit hair ribbons with the CYO colors on them to sell at Baseball/Softball Opening Day Ceremony, which was last Saturday. She worked many days after school and many nights to make these cute custom hair ribbons. She wanted to tithe 10% to give to the CYO ball program. The rest would be her hard-earned money to spend and save. Days before her sale she said that she had changed her mind, and that all profits would go to the three Sisters of the Incarnate Word at our school/parish."

At first, Grace's mom told her that it is okay to work hard and earn money, that she didn't have to give it all away. "But I sensed a conviction in her," she wrote, "so I said, 'Great, give it to the Sisters.' "

Grace's mom did not know where the idea had come from until she saw the letter that her daughter had written. Once she saw the $200 Grace had earned walking around ball fields all day long accompanied by the letter in an envelope, she was brought to tears at what her sweet, giving child had done. "The money could have bought her an Ipod, camera, etc. She just gave it away. You gave my daughter a saint to love and listen to and pray to. I am humbled and deeply grateful."

With Jennifer's permission, I have reprinted Grace's letter here, in hopes that it inspires others to give as Grace has done, by sacrificing and loving others, in the Little Way of St. Therese:

Dear Sr. Rosemary, Sr. Stephena, and Sr. Clementine,

First, I would like to thank you for all that you do for our parish. I am reading a book called Olivia's Gift. It is about a girl named Olivia who discovers her sister in heaven, St. Theresa of Lisieux. She tries to follow St. Theresa's Little Way. She is trying to do ordinary things with extra ordinary love. I am also trying to follow St. Theresa's Little Way. One of St. Theresa's famous quotes is to "give silently." This is what I would like to do for you. I know other organizations, such as Girl Scouts, give much more than me, but I would still like to give to you and your community a total of $200 (enclosed). I made CYO hair ribbons and sold them at Opening Day Ceremony, and this is how I obtained the money. At first, I was not sure what to do with the money—save it, spend it, etc. I prayed to St. Theresa, and it came to me that I should give it to you, the Sisters of the Incarnate Word.

I thank you again for your devotion and time that you give to this parish and school!

St. Theresa's friend

When I read this letter Grace's mom shared with me, I felt a lump in my throat. It was so beautiful. Don't you just love how she didn't even sign her name, so the Sisters wouldn't even know who she was? This is the true spirit of giving: Giving until it feels like a sacrifice, giving in secret so no one knows who you are so you can't take the credit. Notice how young Grace gave the glory to God, through St. Therese's intercession. This is a young girl who understands the message of the Little Way, the sacrifice of the gift, doing all you do because you love God so much, and He loves you so much.

Jennifer's e-mail continues, "My mother called me yesterday. She asked how a pink rose was placed on her pillow Sunday. I told her I don't exactly know. Of course, it was Grace. As I sat down to write this e-mail, I found a tissue paper rose with a piece of chocolate attached. The note reads, 'I love you and so does St. Theresa. Please accept this rose as a gift from her to me and me to you. I know you know who it is, but please don't thank me. I love you. Thank you for all you do.'

"As I reflect on the last couple of weeks," Jennifer concludes, "I am amazed at how many times she helped her six-year-old brother with his piano lesson. How many times she helped make dinner, brought the dirty clothes to the laundry room, checked her sister's homework, etc. Clearly the lives of the saints have great impact on us. You have given her St. Theresa. I am profoundly grateful...So now I am going to the middle school teachers and asking to make your books a part of the curriculum at our school."

I am so blown away by the maturity and love of this young reader of mine, and I am filled with such joy that, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, my little books would inspire this in her.

I know it may not seem like it, but there are Catholic, wholesome, inspirational books out there for our kids today, parents. We don't have to feed them what society dictates. Smaller, indie Catholic publishers like Harvey House Publishing, Joseph Karl Publishing, and Bezalel Books aim higher, because that's what God wants for our children: books that teach character, morals, and religious development. We publishers are all parents ourselves, so we understand what a challenge it can be to provide our children books of integrity and faith in a sea of darkness, sexualization of our youths, and the occult.. "I want her to have great books like yours," Jennifer wrote, "so she doesn't feel left out because I don't let her read the romance novels, vampire/zombie books, etc."

I share Grace's story not to give myself any pats on the back, but to illustrate what quality, morally healthy books can do for your children. Writes Jennifer, "If Grace's story inspires a parent to get your books, what a great testament to St. Therese and her missionaries on earth."

Like Jennifer has done, please encourage and support these kinds of publishers when you can. Are we small? Yes. But, as Joseph Karl Publishing's Michele Bondi Bottesi likes to say, "It's a war for eternal souls. But our Boss is the Creator of the universe!" Suggest these small publisher's books to teachers and educators you know, so that other children can benefit, not from darkness, but from the light of God.

And may God bless you always, little Grace. I know the Little Flower is smiling down on you.


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