It’s my great pleasure to introduce you to Emily Koczela’s Very Young Catholic series, if you haven’t already discovered it.
I first heard about Emily’s work at her granddaughter’s First Communion as we discussed our shared love of writing over pulled pork sandwiches. As I devoured a sandwich made from pork that her son had painstakingly smoked for twelve hours the previous day, Emily ran into my friends’ lovely home and returned with the first book in a series that will eventually take her around the globe: Very Young Catholics In The United States of America.
I flipped through the gorgeous pictures of U.S. Catholic kid life as Emily told me more about her project. She explained how she’s embarked on an epic adventure to document the lives of young Catholics in every time zone in the world. She’s carefully chosen twenty-four Catholic communities, each in a different country, to write about. To document the lives of ordinary Catholic children in each locale, she travels with a photographer who helps her capture the topography, customs, and everyday moments in the lives of the families she interviews. Back at home, she creates a narrative about a fictional family based on the information she’s gathered in order to present a true-to-life look at our young friends in the faith.
The first in her twenty-four book series, Very Young Catholics In The United States of America, presents a charming, familiar take on the ordinary lives of U.S. Catholic children. Beautifully photographed and warmly written, Emily both engages and teaches the young reader about our faith customs as well as the natural world.
Flipping through the book, my grade-school-aged children and I smiled as we saw lives similar to our own captured so beautifully, from baseball practice to serving at the altar on Sunday. We looked at the vibrant photographs and thought, “Hey, that’s us!” The family in the story celebrates summer with a cookout with the parish priest and a walk on the beach. Later in the year they have a Halloween party with jack-o-lanterns, popcorn, and apple cider. The back of the book contains additional information about the United States, including a map and an explanation of meridian lines, typical U.S. food, a sample of folk music, common insects and birds, and concludes with St. Francis’s Prayer of Praise to God through the natural world.
It was easy to imagine children from other countries poring over the pages to learn about their American peers, separated by geography, weather, and customs but united in the Mass and our faith. Indeed, Emily mentioned that while in Togo — the setting for next book in the series — her motorcycle driver and other adults in her company crowded around this book to see what life in the U.S. looked like. My eleven-year-old shared their enthusiasm as she expressed her excitement to read the next one, based in Togo.
Very Young Catholics In the United States is the perfect place to start a globe-trotting adventure with your child to discover the beauty of our Universal Church and its children.
To learn more about Emily and her books, visit VeryYoungCatholic.com.
“You never cease to gather a people to yourself, so that from the rising of the sun to its setting a pure sacrifice may be offered to your name.”
Visit our Book Notes archive.
Copyright 2019 Meg Matenaer
About the author: Meg Matenaer is the wife of a canon lawyer, mom of six, and scrambling to finish her debut novel which she plans to publish in the fall. You can find her at her author website, MegMatenaer.wordpress.com.