Advent Books Christmas Ink Slingers Kerri Liturgical Year Reviews

Ishmael: Your Next Family Christmas Book

Ishmael-Ig PressToday I’m excited to share with you a new children’s book: Ishmael: The Shepherd Boy of Bethlehem. As a mom of toddlers I am always interested in good children’s books. And as someone who enjoys giving books as gifts, I’m always on the lookout for entertaining stories with exceptional illustrations that would make great gifts. When I received Ishmael I couldn’t wait to peruse it and share it with my boys.

Described as “a beautiful Christmas story of peace and reconciliation,” Ishmael was originally written in French by Etienne Lelièvre and translated in this new edition by Janet Chevrier. It is a fictional account of the birth of Christ from the perspective of Ishmael, a young shepherd who has traveled to Bethlehem with his family for the census. Ishmael is not a Jew and doesn’t know that he is coming to the City of David, where the Messiah is prophesied to come from. As the story progresses, Ishmael learns more about the teachings of the Jews and the author weaves these lessons into the story seamlessly, including various characters quoting passages from the Old Testament.

Although it is fiction, there are details in the story that are obviously well researched. I especially liked that many of the families that had traveled to Bethlehem, including Joseph and Mary, found shelter in the grottos, or caves, on the outskirts of the village. Joseph and Mary are often depicted as being in a barn of sorts, when in reality these little grottos on the hillsides were more realistic for this time period. I appreciated this attention to historical accuracy.

At first I was worried that the book might be too long for my boys. The text appeared lengthy compared to most books my boys and I read together. However, they surprised me and really enjoyed listening to the story and studying the accompanying illustrations. The story is well told and has several layers so that older children will also enjoy the story and the illustrations. I would consider it a great read-aloud book for families no matter the ages of your children.

Initially, the beautiful illustrations were what captured my attention, leading my 3 year old twins and I to sit down with the book just to flip the pages and take in the art work. The colors are bright and there are plenty of little details for curious young eyes. Every page is adorned with a gorgeous illustration along with intricate gold leaf detailing around the edges of most text pages and even the front and back covers. I loved how even the inside of the covers was used for illustrations and additional material.

If you are looking for a good book to add to your Christmas book collection, I highly recommend this one for both the story and the illustrations. I already have it in mind as a gift for several families I know. Ishmael is published by Magnificat and Ignatius Press and retails for $14.99, although there is a web sale price at this time for $12.74. You can purchase this gorgeous children’s book from Ignatius Press.

Disclaimer: I received this book from Ignatius Press in exchange for an honest review.


7 Quick Takes Books Christi Getting to Know the Ink Slingers Homeschool Ink Slingers

Seven Quick Takes Favorite Authors and Titles

For this weeks Quick Take 7, I polled a variety of our Catholic Sistas to come up with a quick choice of seven new authors/books you might want to take a peek at – given that the new school year is breathing down our necks just around the corner.

Quick Take One is The Hundred Dresses and I can’t describe it better than Misty did when she suggested this lovely book that I recall from my first years of parenting and I think I might even have vague memories of reading it myself as a child.

In Misty’s own words The Hundred Dresses is “a beautiful story about a poor girl who claims to have “a hundred dresses” at home, despite wearing one bedraggled dress to school each day. She’s teased and finally leaves the school, but wins the school drawing contest in which she submits “100 dresses,” all expertly drawn. The book is about bullying and remorse for not standing up to protect others from it. Ages–8-12.”


Quick Take Two is another contribution from Misty and she describes this book just as beautifully as she did the first. “The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein is about a tree who loved a boy, and who gave everything to him for his happiness at various stages of life until she was nothing but a stump.” According to Misty this book “explores both generosity and selfishness, and can prime children for a deeper understanding of self-giving and protecting their own dignity from selfish exploitation. Ages 3-7.”


For Quick Take Three (and a slightly older reading crowd than quick take one represented) we have another contribution by Misty and this time its for the 10 – 14 yr old readers in our family. Quick take three is titled Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus.  Misty shared that this book is about “a teenage Japanese fisherman who is rescued in the mid-1800s by a passing American whaling ship. Japan’s borders were then closed to all Western nations, so the crew takes him to America, where he learns English and is adopted by the whaling captain who takes him to his farm in New England. He eventually goes back to Japan, only to be imprisoned as an outsider, but his experience soon helps the shogun open the borders to the country when Admiral Matthew Perry shows up asking for port. Explores issues of racism (from both Japanese and Westerners), family ties, and good stewardship for the environment, all within a greater adventure story of Manjiro’s travels. Ages 10-14.”


Quick Take Four is a suggestion from Kerri and is an author as opposed to a specific book title. She and her little ones have shared many a giggle over the books by Sandra Boynton. One of the delightful things about writing this post has been googling some of these authors and realizing some of their suggestions have actually been cheerfully grasped by many chubby, sticky fingers in this household and have even found residence in our basket of favorite books. Boynton’s Blue Hat Green Hat is a perfect example.


Quick Take Five is a series of books called the Happy Holister books and there are thirty three titles in this series.  Apparently the author Jerry West is a pseudonym for Andrew E. Svenson who was a member of  the Stratemeyer Syndicate; a book packager of well-known children’s series such as Tom Swift, The Bobbsey Twins, The Hardy Boys, and Nancy Drew. It looks like a fun series of books to explore and I’m hoping to land a few on my shelves in the coming school months. Until then I can’t really tell you what age range the books are aimed at but I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that we are looking at ages similar to those who would enjoy the other series by the Stratemeyer Syndicate. Thank you to Catholic Sistas’s friend Lisa S for this suggestion.


Quick Take Six already?! I’m getting a tad stressed now because I have more books than I have quick takes so I think I’m going to cheat and group a few together here. You see, I have an awesome secret I’m going to unveil  in quick take seven – something that I believe is a little known secret.

So the group of books I’m going to share here from a variety of Catholic Sistas suggestions are the Red Wall Series, (An awesome series that my now 19 year old devoured during his very early adolescence.) the Children’s Illustrated Classics (This being our third decade of parenting our shelves are sporting second runs of some of these titles because, yes, we wore out the first ones.) Then there is our beloved author Robert Munsch.  He wrote the beautiful & very moving story “Love You Forever” which you absolutely need to hear him narrate. Way back when (I’m not saying when either!) I heard him being interviewed by Peter Gzowski on Morningside (Canadian National Radio show) about this particular book. Apparently the writing of Love you Forever was part of his healing process following the loss of his unborn child. (Tipping my hat to Michelle for this reminder of a great author.)

I’m going to finish quick take 6 with  The Adventures of Harold and the Purple Crayon which was just one of the great titles suggested by Ann Marie O. I found this book myself this year while preparing to teach art to preschoolers. They.Loved.It. Need I say more?


Drum rrrroll please – we have reached Quick Take Seven! And… the unveiling of Anne of Green Gables. Wait, you exclaim! What big secret is that!? I’ve seen the tv series on PBS, I read the book as a child… my kids have read it countless times?

Wait, wait… Anne of Green Gables is actually only one of EIGHT books in the Chronicles of Anne! I bet you didn’t know that! Or that Montgomery has three other heroines she wrote about who are Emily of New Moon, Story Girl (The character upon which Sarah Polly of Road to Avonlea is based.) and Pat of Silver Bush?

With this incredible list of books suggested for our reading leisure by our Ink Slayers: Misty, Kerri, Anne Marie O, Alison S, Michelle, and myself, along with our good friend Lisa S, I think I have left you with some happy hunting ahead of you and, hopefully, not too large a shopping tab as you realize many, if not all, of these books are musts for your personal library shelves.

See you next month! Until then, be sure to check out more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary.


Faith Formation Ink Slingers Michelle Reviews

Will You Forgive Me?

 We have many books at our house that my kids love to read.  One book that we recently acquired and that is rapidly becoming a  favorite of my children is called, “Will You Forgive Me?” by Sally Grindley and Penny Dann.    The book deals with a little fox who has made a mistake by playing with her friend’s tickling stick and ends up losing it.  When her friend begins to look for it and can’t find it he tells Figgy he’s going to be angry if it doesn’t turn up.  Figgy wants to tell JB what happened (as she was being naughty when it disappeared) but she’s scared to.  Instead she sets out to find the tickling stick herself so that maybe, just maybe, she won’t have to confess what she did.  The story shows Figgy ultimately finding the stick and bringing it back to JB.    She confesses to JB what she did, telling all that she did to lose it and then find it again, and asks for forgiveness.  JB, while upset, gladly gives her forgiveness.

As parents we try to introduce to our children our morals and values.  One way we can do this is through reading to them.  There are so many books out there, both religious and non-religious that can help us introduce our beliefs, our morals, and our values to our children.  This particular book, while not religious, is a perfect starting spot to introduce to our children the Sacrament of Reconciliation and God’s beautiful gift of forgiveness.  It not only shows how we may feel after committing a sin (as Figgy felt… panicked that JB would find out, guilty that she did it, upset with herself that she would do something to upset her friend, scared to tell the truth) but it also shows how by telling the truth and asking for forgiveness we heal the hurts that may be between us and God.  It shows how we will feel when we confess our sins and receive the gift of forgiveness.

Sometimes it’s hard to find new and interesting ways to teach our kids.  Finding books that connect our children to their faith, even when they are not specifically religious, is such a great way to do this.  They give us a starting point at which to begin a conversation with our kids that should last a lifetime.  The best time to start these talks are when they are little and eager to learn, to hear, to live what we teaching them.  When we begin while they are tiny we stand a better chance of helping them live a life set in those morals and values that we hope to instill.   Reading these types of books also reinforces our own faith.  As with this book we get a gentle reminder to attend the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Many of the books we read our children can have just as important affect on us as they do our children.

We have heard it said that reading to our children is one of the greatest gifts we can give them.  I challenge that by saying reading to our children books that impart our Catholic beliefs and values is one of the greatest gifts we can give our children.  It takes such little time to do but the lasting effects are great.

What books have you found that help impart our Catholic faith to your children?  What are their favorites?