Catholic Fiction For Kids: So Few Choices!



Yesterday we received a package in our mailbox. A very yummy package! The outside of it was labeled “perishable.” I wracked my brains: I hadn’t ordered anything perishable lately.

When we opened it up we were pleasantly surprised to see that it was an early Christmas present from my husband’s colleague to our family: a box of assorted chocolates.


I grinned. It is the type of thing you never buy for yourself, on your own. Why this is, I don’t really know. To receive a box of assorted chocolates is always a special treat.

Of course, I dove right in.  But so many choices! How to choose? 

Luckily, the box has a handy map printed on the inside cover. Because they all look so similar and you never know what’s inside each chocolate, it’s quite helpful to have a very specific map to what delightful treats are inside.

It actually makes me smile to see an actual map there. I studied all of the types of chocolates on the map: almond cluster, caramel, chocolate butter cream, strawberry cream, peanut butter crunch (those are all gone, by the way). Oh yes, and maple cream. Gone, too.  I love anything maple…must be my close proximity to Canada.

It’s so great to have an array of lovely things, isn’t it? So great to pick and choose from the map of chocolates. So wonderful to be able have choices.

Excuse me while a I pop a cashew cluster in my mouth before continuing on to tell you what really bothers me about being Catholic, and a Catholic mom and writer especially. See, in the children’s book world, our children don’t have many choices. In fact, there are hardly any Catholic fiction books at all from which to choose.

Go ahead and try it: Go to any Catholic bookstore (or any secular bookstore, for that matter!) and see what you find on the shelves for anyone over the age of seven. That’s Catholic. Oh, and make sure it’s fiction.

I’ll chew on a coconut cream while you do this.

Find anything? Not much there, is there?

But you’re moms and dads. You know this already. You’ve tried in vain to find suitable books for your children, books that are not only wholesome (because those aren’t THAT hard to find, especially if you go back a few decades), but are Catholic. And not only Catholic, but passionately Catholic. Not watered-down Catholic, but really and truly Catholic. And written for modern children.

The Protestant publishers know what they are doing, fellow parents. Walk into any of the Christian bookstores you see at the mall and you’ll find large sections, with many genres on the shelves for youths, all with Christian themes. Entire series of books! Modern books for modern readers with modern Christian stories.

What do we have on our Catholic shelves? A board book for toddlers to take to Mass. A coloring book about saints. Some teen apologetics books with Q-and-As. Teen Bibles. Nonfiction stories about saints’ lives.

Don’t get me wrong; these are all GREAT kinds of books.  We NEED these types of books. We should all have these books for our kids! My husband and I have bought many of them for our kids.

But there’s a whole gap in there from about age seven through age thirteen where there is pathetically little. And fiction? Forget it. Pre-teens have, sadly, little to read in terms of Catholic books.

Why have we forgotten them? Why have we abandoned them? In the meantime, our Protestant brothers and sisters have so many books from which to choose for their children.

Why are there 737 middle-school-aged titles (it’s true, I checked) on a leading Christian bookstore website? Mysteries, thrillers, novels, all sorts of great stories for this age group. I was simply astounded to see the variety and the vast number of books for them. So many choices. How do these parents choose? It’s no wonder our children and their parents are buying books from these stores.

And yes, I do applaud reading Christian books, but think of what our Catholic children are missing out on! The Communion of Saints, the Sacraments, the Eucharist, the Blessed Mother. And so much more.

Think of the richness truly Catholic Christian books could bring to our children. Not to mention that the books found elsewhere that aren’t Catholic—as interesting and funny and riveting and Christ-centered as they may be— may have some elements that are not consistent with the tenets of our Faith. This could be very dangerous, in fact, if the young reader is not completely knowledgeable about what we as Catholics believe, and what we don’t. A Protestant children’s magazine a Catholic child I know receives mentioned God’s merciful forgiveness for us when we sin, but of course no mention was made of the beautiful sacrament of Confession. And why would it? It’s not a Catholic publication.

I’m frustrated. Perhaps, as parents, you are also frustrated. As a writer for this age group, I’m frustrated. So many parents who write to me or meet me at book signings are frustrated. They all say the same thing: “We need more Catholic books for this age group!”

In a world where 38 percent of former Catholics left the Faith before they turned 18 (Georgetown University study), we should all be concerned. Because in that huge gap of years, our children are simply not being fed. This is an alarming statistic. Call it a lack of catechesis, call it hormones, call it what you like, but the bottom line is that seeds grow strongly if the roots are deep. We need to sow those seeds with good reading. We cannot love what we do not know.

Catholic publishers need to take heed. Sometimes I feel like I’m talking to a brick wall getting some Catholics to agree with me, but I persist. The Holy Spirit gives me inspiration and courage to write modern Catholic novels for this age group, who have so little from which to choose. Catholic publishers like Bezalel Books are also going against the grain in an effort to provide truly Catholic books for this forgotten age group.

Having choices, having options is good. I sure wish children’s Catholic literature was as wide and as varied as my box of chocolates: so much to choose from, so many different types of candy. I pray that children’s Catholic literature can hit the ground running, so that one day we parents will be able to say: “So many choices! How to choose?”

Be sure to check out our Book Notes archive.

Copyright 2013 Nancy Carabio Belanger


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  1. The Daughters of St Paul have made pre-teen fiction something of a priority, as evidenced by recent titles like “The Locker’s Secret”, “AKA Genius” (sequel coming) and the soon-to-be released “Martyr.” Please encourage your Catholic school and religious Ed programs to Jose a J-Club Catholic book fair to make titles like these available.

    • Sister Anne,

      As president of Bezalel Books, I tried many times to join forces with what you are doing at Daughters of St. Paul; unfortunately it has been to no avail.

      I believe it is important and necessary for all of us to look at ways to help one another in this important–increasilingly so–mission of getting great books into the hands of our Catholic kids.

      • Cheryl, you are 100% correct; it IS important for we publishers, big AND small, to work together. After all, if our ultimate goal is to truly provide solidly Catholic fiction for the young members of the Church, then this should be a priority. Let’s pray that the Holy Spirit will guide all Catholic publishers and writers to see this, and to look outside the box. Together, we are stronger and can offer so much more for pre-teen readers! And that’s really what it’s all about!

  2. Well said, Nancy. Thanks for making me more aware of this need. Thanks for all you do to fill that gap and to encourage other writers. May the Spirit inspire more good Catholic writers to write for our children and may God continue to bless those who do.

  3. My husband and I found the same problem for our son. He was given the Percy Jackson series for his birthday from a friend, but after reading some warnings from Catholic bloggers, we are staying away from that. We bought The Chronicles of Narnia in hopes that would fill the void . My father knew this is an issue in the Catholic world. He began to write his bedtime stories into fiction novels. He been pitching his work to a variety of literary agents but many don’t pick him up because I guess they aren’t scary vampire occult works. He is a history major, and uses many of the fabled Greek Mythology stories but with a Catholic twist. The adventurers in the story are all his grandkids’ names. In one of his stories, all the main characters seek and find buried treasure (with many adventures along the way), and they end up keeping only what they need for the next adventure and donate the rest to charity. His books are fun fiction with a Catholic twist. Are there any Catholic literary agents any of you know of that he can send his works to?

  4. What about Anne Pellowski’s ‘First Farm in the Valley’. I’ve heard this is the Catholic version of the Little House on the Prairie books. There is a series of I don’t know how many.
    I read the first two Little House books with my 6 yr old son as they are of course considered classics, but I was surprised about some of the content. It didn’t go a miss because we talked a lot and my son himself could see many ‘holes’ in certain situations without me having to prompt him. The books are very Protestant in feel, to a true catholic at least, although they are admittedly homely and sweet in places, but I was not impressed by some of the choices the parents made in regards to raising their children. For example the children seemed to be raised to ‘fear a beating’ rather than to avoid doing wrong because of their understanding of what wrong is. Although the children seem to have a loathing for Sundays which they have to ‘keep’ but have no idea why. Anyway, I started looking harder for an alternative after that.

    I was recommended ‘The School at the Chalet’ by Elenor M. Brent-Dyer who I know has written over 50, (yes fifty!) books in this series for children, of what age I am not sure, but I have heard they are solid and moral, written from a Catholic perspective.

    George Macdonald’s ‘The Princess and Curdie’ and ‘The Princess and the Goblin’ are good moral stories, though he was not Catholic, they do not have anything anti catholic in them and my children were very excited by this, almost as much as they were by Narnia.

    ‘Toby Alone’ by Timothee de Fombelle is a good book for parents to read to children age 7+ I’d say, or for slightly older children to read to themselves in order to ge the most out if it. A gripping adventure story with many a moral dilemma, it has a sequel ‘Toby and the Secret of the Tree’ which wraps everything up so perfectly that you couldn’t really ask for a more satisfying ending. There are a few topics that promote healthy discussion but none that are inappropriate or too adult and awkward. Reviews and cheap copies can be obtained online.

    ‘The Voyage of the Pax’ An allegory, is published by St Augustine Academy Press, and is just the mini adventure for boys, although girls will love it too. Through and through Catholic here, a little gem.

    I don’t know if I’m adding to this thread a little too late -it has been a while since anyone posted on here from what I can detect!- but if this helps even one other Catholic parent in search of a decent, healthy book to read to their young family, then my contribution is worthwhile.

    • Thank you Mrs. O! Good notes, I’ll be checking them out. I agree completely about the Little House on the Prairie. We’ve been listening to the first 3 books and have come away with some good conversations like, “It’s kind of silly how they can’t smile on Sundays! We believe that Sunday is a very joyful day and should be filled with celebration because the Resurrection happened on that day” and things like that.

  5. Tammy Fernando on

    Hi everyone,
    I wondered if you would like to know of a Facebook page dedicated to Catholic children’s literature? The Facebook page is called ‘Catholic Children’s Books’. It seems to contain quite a lot of fictional recommendations. However, there doesn’t seem to be much ‘out there’ for the very young. I have written 6 short fictional stories for the 3-6 age group and am looking for a publisher….so few to choose from! I have my own Facebook page called ‘Tammy Fernando Christian Children’s Stories’. If you like you can check out my videos of me reading excerpts from my first story?
    Anyway, I hope that this is a help.

  6. My name is Susan Joy Bellavance and I have two children’s books published by Marian Press: “Will You Come to Mass?” and “King of the Shattered Glass”. The first is for the 3-5 year range, wonderfully illustrated about the invitation to come to mass that so many refuse. The monkeys have a game to play, the robin has company that day, the geese travel on weekends. The little lamb hears the angel call and follows to the church? Can you open the doors and find the little lamb? He is in the arms of Jesus!

    “King of the Shattered Glass” is a medieval tale of glass blowers and the kitchen scullery maid who breaks the king’s precious glass. She has the courage to bring the pieces to him while everyone else buries theirs. The king’s mercy and love adopts the child in the end in a surprising way. Beautifully illustrated allegory on the sacrament of confession. Visit my facebook page King of the Shattered Glass. On Amazon and Marian. Enjoy! SJB

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