Our home bulges with literally thousands of books, many of which have been gifted from my homeschooling mother’s collection and many from local book sales in which children’s books are free! We are extremely blessed to own many treasures but the one genre we’ve had to consciously seek out and purchase books for is, Catholic Fiction. Whilst we’ve plenty of saints and spiritual books, novels written by Catholic authors in which our Catholic Faith is seamlessly interwoven are few. Filling this gap has been a challenge as the prices are high and finding Catholic authors is difficult. Over several years we have slowly built our collection, gifting our children with Catholic novels for the Feast of St Nicholas, purchasing books from Abe books and Book Depository and using resources such as Catholic Writers Guild and Shower of Roses’ booklists.
I’m confident I’m not the only one agonising over finding gifts for my loved ones at this time of the year. To assist you in your search for Catholic fiction I’ve compiled several lists, gathering books into age appeal categories. Kicking off our series with the 7-12 year olds, enjoy perusing and be sure to check back for further lists.
Lost in Peter’s Tomb – Dianne Ahern
Riley and Delaney are to stay with their aunt, Sister Philomena in her convent near Rome for the summer and expect it to be boring living with a bunch of nuns praying all the time. Upon arrival they discover Sister Philomena is the pope’s special agent and private investigator and there is a mystery to solve. Whilst Sister Philomena searches for an intruder in the Vatican the children explore the Vatican Gardens, the Tomb of St Peter, St. Peter’s Basilica and the Pope’s apartment. They chase the Pope’s cat, are befriended by the Swiss Guard, eat pizza with the Pope, are frightened by the intruder and help solve the mystery of the disappearance of the relics of St. Peter.
The first in a series of four, our children absolutely love these books, they are fun, light, a quick read and impart the faith in a natural way. Lost in Peter’s Tomb is the most unbelievable book in the series, as an adult reading I have to suspend my logic, however I was delighted to find a Catholic fiction novel for this age group, the first I found.
Break-In at the Basilica – Dianne Ahern
The Pope sends Sister Philomena to Assisi to investigate a break-in at the Basilica of Saint Francis, Delaney and Riley her niece and nephew accompany her. Eager to assist in finding clues the children explore the basilica, study its frescoes, sneak into the tomb of Saint Francis, wander through the hill town of Assisi, and end up in the little church of San Damiano. The Abbess of the Sisters of Saint Clare of Assisi enters the investigation and helps catch the thief and determines his unusual punishment. The stories of Saint Francis and Saint Clare and the sights and sounds of Assisi are woven into this adventure.
The second in this series, the children were completely hooked and I felt this book was more believable and enjoyed it too.
Curse of the Coins – Dianne Ahern
The 30 pieces of silver that Judas was paid for betraying Jesus are found in Israel. The Franciscan monks of Jerusalem send the coins to the Vatican Museums for authentication and safekeeping – but then they disappear! The Holy Father calls upon his special agent, Sister Philomena, to find them. The search for the coins leads Sister Philomena, Riley, and Delaney on a harrowing ride through Rome with crazy Sister Lisa Renee at the wheel. In the hunt for the coins we learn about the Sistine Chapel, the great basilicas of Rome, the Passion of Christ, the lifestyle of Romans, Italian words and phrases, and famous works of art and architecture in the Vatican and Rome.
Such a fun way to learn about our Faith when interwoven with mystery and adventure. We are all riveted by now and our 12 year old has re-read the books several times.
Secrets of Siena – Dianne Ahern
After all the investigations Sister Philomena’s conducted this summer she needs a holiday. Sister Philomena, Delaney and Riley are invited to Siena, Italy for the famous Palio horse race and festival. Their holiday plans abruptly change when they stumble upon mysterious documents whilst visiting the childhood home of St. Catherine of Siena. It’s possible they have found a centuries-old letter written by Saint Catherine along with a ransom note addressed to the Pope. Of course, they must investigate! Their search for answers takes them on a fast trip across Europe to Avignon, France, and the famous Palace of the Popes. In the course of their investigation, the children learn about Saint Catherine and the history of the Church in the 1300s when the papacy was forced to flee from Rome to Avignon for safety.
The last in these series of adventure and mystery in which we learn about the Church, saints, holy places, sacred art and our Faith. Sadly we don’t yet have a copy of Secrets of Siena as it’s rather expensive but hopefully one day.
Sisters of the Last Straw – The Case of the Missing Novice: Karen Kelly Boyce
A new puppy and a nasty neighbor make trouble for the Sisters of the Last Straw and then their new sister-in-training Kathy, vanishes. The Sisters of the Last Straw, a misfit band of nuns struggle hard to overcome their bad habits. Sister Krumbles forgets everything, Mother Mercy has a terrible temper and Sister Shiny can’t stop polishing and cleaning everything and looking at her reflection – “If God didn’t want me to look at myself so often he wouldn’t have made me so beautiful”. Whilst we found the characters unbelievable, nothing like the nuns we know, the corniness in parts were rather amusing and we find ourselves quoting sentences verbatim. Aimed at the lower end of this age bracket. There are also two others in this series, The Case of the Haunted Chapel and The Case of the Stolen Rosaries.
The Secret of the Shamrock – Lisa M Hendey
Patrick has to work on his church’s cleaning team on a Saturday, he thinks his weekend fun is ruined. But when the old church bells start chiming, Patrick and his pet frog, Francis, are suddenly taken back through time to ancient Ireland. Will the strange shepherd he meets be able to help him get home, or will Patrick be stuck taking care of sheep in the rain and mud forever? Well written and engaging, with our faith naturally interwoven. Spiritually challenging to the target age.
The Sign of the Carved Cross – Lisa M Hendey
Katie joins her friends in being mean to the new girl, Lily. But suddenly, Katie becomes the new girl—in 1675! She has no idea how she traveled in time to a Native American village, but she’s hoping the young woman she meets will be nicer to her than Katie was to Lily. Tekakwitha is a quiet girl with scars on her face from a terrible disease. Tekakwitha’s family doesn’t accept her because of her faith, and soon she and Katie have to run away in the middle of the night. Will Katie ever find her way back home? As with The Secret of the Shamrock well written and engaging, with our faith naturally interwoven. Spiritually challenging to the target age.
Further books in the Travel in Chime series: The Whisper in the Ruins, The Mystery at Midnight and The Strangers at the Manger