What is Catholic fiction? That question can begin quite a conversation! When it comes to our children, we, as Catholic moms, want to surround them with family, friends, toys, and ideas that reinforce our Catholic values. Teaching the faith isn’t just about teaching the catechism; it’s about teaching an entire worldview. We strive to be Catholic not just on Sundays and Holy Days, but from dawn to dusk.
So, when my oldest daughter was beginning to read on her own six years ago, I struggled to be able to surround her with good books that reinforce our family’s Catholic identity. Please don’t misunderstand – I know of lots of great children’s books. But I know of very few that involve explicitly Catholic families. And I know of even fewer that portray explicitly Catholic children growing up in the modern world that today’s children experience. I wanted a Junie B. Jones who was corrected by her parents when she talked back. I was hoping to find a Ramona Quimby whose family went to Mass together or talked about saints at the dinner table. But I couldn’t find those books for my daughter.
So, I began to write. I now have three books available that present young readers with a relatable, modern day protagonist experiencing believable struggles like those of a child growing up in a Catholic family. I’ll admit, as a mom of seven kids ages 2 through 12, I draw heavily on experience. The fictional West family in the books prays together, sends their kids to Catholic school, and attends Mass. The children quibble with each other and sometimes fight. The parents correct troublesome behavior, talk about the liturgical year during dinner, and love all their children deeply. Children love to read stories about kids like them. My books give kids like ours – kids with Catholic moms! – stories about kids like them.
In my newest book, Victor and the Fix-it Challenge, readers meet Victor, a fourth grader at St. Cletus Academy. He is not excited about Lent. To make things worse, using his tools continually lands him in trouble. Even when he’s trying to be helpful! With some help and understanding from Mom and Dad as well as his teacher, Victor takes on a Lenten challenge. He’ll put his tools away and get them out only to help other people.
I’ve received a great response, not just from my own children, but from lots of kids I don’t know. I’ve hear comments including, “Wow! A kid just like me!” (Sadie, age 9) and, “What will I read until there’s another book in this series?” (Elizabeth, age 8). I’m so edified by comments like these! I hope that I’m hitting my goal of writing great stories to help kids become great readers and great adults. I’ll continue to write Catholic fiction for Catholic kids. If there are Catholic kids (ages 6-10) in your life, I hope you’ll help them check out my books.
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Copyright 2016 Emily Ortega
About the author: Emily Ortega earned a Bachelor of Science in chemistry from Case Western Reserve University. After working for two years as a campus missionary with FOCUS, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, Emily earned her Master’s degree in Humanities from Stanford University. She currently resides with her husband and their seven children in Sedona, Arizona. She’s excited to bring a fictional Catholic family to life and offer young Catholic readers the possibility that their lives in a big, Catholic family aren’t really that odd. Visit her website at BernadetteBooks.com.