St. Nicholas Catholic Book Stack

by | Dec 14, 2020 | Advent, Blog, Christmas, December, Liturgical Living, Movie and Book Reviews, Parenting | 20 comments

Hey, you ever announce you’re going to start blogging again and then behind the scenes stuff goes sideways and then your dad has a stroke and you spend the beginning of Advent dealing with hospitals for the second year in a row, but this time it’s 2020 so you can’t even be there or talk to the doctors? Yeah, me too. 😆 Anyway, blog drama seems to have subsided, and my dad is out of the hospital and his recovery is going really well.

All that to say, I meant to post this in November, but it’s not too late to order some truly wonderful Catholic books in time for Christmas or Epiphany!

Here’s a selection of my favorite FAVORITE new Catholic books of the year. Most of them were given to me by the authors or publishers over the past few months, and then by St. Nicholas to my kids on December 6. I’ve tried to break them down by age, so head down if you’re looking for suggestions for older kids or adults. The lists don’t match up correctly with the photos, because I changed my mind about how to organize this post between taking the pictures and writing it. 😆 Just keep scrolling up and down through the photos if you’d like to see the cover that goes with the title. You’ll find it. 😃

P.S. I get the opportunity to review a LOT of books. I always let authors/publishers send books along, but I don’t make any promises as to when or if I’ll review them. I never ask for compensation for review posts, since I don’t want to feel pressure to share things I’m not crazy about. These are the select few out of the bunch that I chose to pass along to my own kids, or keep in my own collection, and that I think you might enjoy in your home.

Picture Books for All Ages

Stories of the Saints: Bold and Inspiring Tales of Adventure, Grace, and Courage If you only get one book off of this list, I’d say make it this one. Richly stunning illustrations and fun biographies that combine history and traditional legend. It’s a big favorite with our middle graders and as a read aloud for all ages. Recommended for ages 10 and up.

A Child’s Christmas ABC Book: Angels in the Air Arrayed is my second favorite of the whole bunch. Come for the gorgeous art nouveau-style illustrations, stay for the delightfully concise, beautifully rhymed and metered text. Recommended for ages 2-8.

The other two in the photo below are close runners-up. And, unfortunately, they’re both so fun that they’re out of stock, but they’ll be back soon! Sleepytime Saints A to Z features an alphabet of swoon-worthy handmade saint dolls by Marcy Kelleher. The paperback version is available now for preorder.

You Were Born to Be a Saint has a great message and lovely illustrations by Kortnee Senn of Studio Senn, one of my favorite Catholic artists. Sign up for her email list to get notified when new copies are in.

Audacious Ignatius is a fun introduction to the saint and Ignatian spirituality, as well as some great new vocabulary. An Examen worksheet–and vocab practice to go with it–are available for free on the author’s website. Recommended for ages 5 and up.

This is the Church would make a great gift for godchildren. Simple text and captivating stained glass and church architecture illustrations share the story of salvation with kids. Recommended for ages 3-6.

The Grumpy Old Ox is the second new addition to our Christmas book basket this year, and it’s a big hit around here. I have a high standard for kids’ books, and a LOT of new Christmas books don’t make the cut for me. This one has fun illustrations, a beautiful and authentically Catholic message, and quirky charm that my kids love. Recommended for ages 8-12, but it’s my three year old’s new favorite.

God bless my friends at Ignatius Press who have resurrected four beautiful Christian-themed books by beloved Catholic children’s author Tomie de Paola that had languished out of print. We’ve really been enjoying Noah and the Ark, Queen Esther; Brother Francis of Assisi, and Mary, the Mother of Jesus in these newly-designed hardcover books. Recommended for ages 5-7.

A is for Angel: The Alphabet in Sacred Art introduces kids to catechism basics AND fine art. What’s not to love? I’m a big fan of this book! And my kids just love the beautiful masterpiece artwork.

Board Books

Jesus, I Love You: My First Words to Pray to God has sweet illustrations and gentle text about learning to pray.

My First Catholic Words will help toddlers (and their parents!) identify all the things they see around a Catholic church.

Middle Grade

We’ve got two fun new Catholic novels for middle-grade readers: The Phantom of the Colosseum, Volume 1 (In the Shadows of Rome) is an adventure about Christians in ancient Rome. Recommended for ages 10-13.

Brave Leader, Big Heart : St. John Henry Newman’s Adventures, a simple read about a profound saint. John Henry Newman is an inspiring new saint, and the book makes a great addition to a family or school library. It was written by my dear friend and former spiritual advisor, Fr. Juan Velez. Ten years ago, I complained to him in spiritual direction that I couldn’t find a book I liked for kids on the sacrament of confession. He told me that *I* should write one. So I did. (A Little Book About Confession for Children) And then I started a blog, and wrote other books, and started a shop, and a YouTube video series and it ALL came from that advice from Fr. Juan. 😊 Recommended for ages 8-12.

The Big Book of Christians around the World introduces kids to the practice of Christianity in other countries. I learned a lot flipping through this book, including some fun liturgical living traditions I wasn’t familiar with! The publisher recommends it for ages 5-7, but *I* don’t prefer reading aloud fun-fact-type books so my personal recommendation is for more like 7-12 year old kids who enjoy nonfiction and can read it to themselves.

The Interior Castle: A Boy’s Journey into the Riches of Prayer is illustrated with beautifully soothing watercolors, and gives kids a glimpse into a life of prayer inspired by the spirituality of St. Teresa of Avila. Recommended for ages 7 and up.

There was GREAT rejoicing in my house when we discovered that there’s a new Loupio book out. The Adventures of Loupio: Volume 5, The Cave continues the graphic novel-style story of Loupio, friend of St. Francis, and his pet wolf. I highly recommend the whole set! Recommended by the publisher for ages 9-12.

Divine Mercy for Children: A Guided Tour of the Museum of Mercy is really well-done. It’s an adaptation for kids by Vinny Flynn of his best-selling 7 Secrets of Divine Mercy. Recommended for ages 8-14.

A Storybook of Saints highlights a particular event in the life of each of the fifty saints covered. It is illustrated with pencil drawings. Recommended for ages 8-12.

The Story of the Church: From Pentecost to Modern Times is the latest work of Catholic history by Philip Campbell for TAN Books. I’m a BIG fan of his Story of the Bible and Story of Civilization series, and this is another great resource. Here’s hoping it becomes available as an audiobook, because we really like listening to the other two in the car! Oh wait, it IS! Recommended for ages 10-14, but as a read-aloud (or an in-the-car-listen) it could definitely be enjoyed by the whole family.

I love the story behind this book by a husband and wife team of writer and illustrator. Brilliant: 25 Catholic Scientists, Mathematicians, and Supersmart People exists because one of the artist’s students made a flippant comment about not wanting to look at religious art because HE believes in science. But of course, so have brilliant Catholic minds throughout history. This book is a fascinating read and it’s beautifully illustrated, but, maybe more importantly, it shares the critical message that faith and reason are NOT incompatible! Let’s shout that from the rooftops. Recommended for ages 7-11.

The Four Gospels For Young Catholics is my new favorite Bible for kids. Really! It’s the NRSV CE translation of the four gospels, with sophisticated, non-cartoonish illustrations, and helpful notes on every page. The notes aren’t down at the bottom in tiny print, they’re presented as questions, just as kids would think of them while reading, and answered alongside the text. Recommended for ages 9-11.

Teens and Adults

For teens and young adults check out The Woman in the Trees: A novel about America’s first approved Marian apparition, a work of historical fiction featuring Catholic immigrant pioneers set in the Civil War-era Midwest. Recommended for ages 13-18.

Grownups looking for a smart and insightful conversion story set in the wilds of circa-2000s Ivy League higher education will enjoy Minor Indignities. (Recommended for adults. No graphic content, just mature themes.) See a great review here at Dappled Things.

For the teen or adult who has everything, may I recommend a death-themed prayer book? 💀 😃 Memento Mori: Prayers on the Last Things will surely make a splash at any gift-giving occasion, with its silver-edged pages and faux leather cover stamped with a skull. But it will also help the recipient remember that someday he will die, and should live life accordingly.

Resources for the Family

Bishop Barron’s new The Word on Fire Bible (Volume 1): The Gospels is GORGEOUS and user-friendly. Like The Four Gospels for Young Catholics above, it uses the NRSVCE translation and has helpful notes, context, and explanation on every page. It includes beautiful illustrations, essays from great saints and theologians, and truly extraordinary design and workmanship. It’s a book that deserves a place of honor in any home and would make a perfect gift for confirmandi, graduates, newlyweds, or anyone you love.

Speaking of design and workmanship, In Caelo et in Terra: 365 Days with the Saints by the Daughters of St. Paul is also a standout in this regard. This book of short saint biographies, one for each day of the year, is the result of ten years of work by thirty sisters, and it shows. It’s useful and interesting and beautiful and would be an amazing resource for any home or classroom.

Christmas Around the Fire: Stories, Essays, & Poems for the Season of Christ’s Birth might be just the inspiration your family needs to shut off screens and spend some time reading aloud! It’s a collection of stories, poems, and essays by great Catholic author, saints, and popes, sure to make your Christmas bright.

And last but not least: The Vatican Christmas Cookbook! This is a sequel to the Vatican Swiss Guard chef’s first book, The Vatican Cookbook, which is really excellent also. I love this one so much, I keep it displayed in my kitchen all season long. It would be equally at home on a coffee table, where you can enjoy the beautiful photography and fun stories of saints, popes, and Catholic traditions. But you’re also going to want to cook with it! Makes a great gift.

Also available: my books!

The Catholic All Year Compendium: Liturgical Living for Real Life

O Come Emmanuel: Advent Reflections on the Jesse Tree for Families

My Superhero Prayer Book: Traditional Catholic Prayers for Awesome Catholic Kids Also available in Fairy-tale and Woodland versions.

Catholic All December: Traditional Catholic prayers, Bible passages, songs, and devotions for the month of the Immaculate Conception Includes the Christmas Novena, and an At Home Nativity Play Script. Booklets are also available for the other 11 months!

And for preorder, The Catholic All Year Prayer Companion: The Liturgical Year in Practice

Happy browsing and enjoy the rest of your Advent!

Other posts you might enjoy:

The Ultimate Liturgical Library Post: Saint Books for All Year Long

Our Favorite Christmas Picture Books

All the Book Review Posts


  1. Rich

    There is only one good way to get back at your neighbor… and that is to pray for her and offer Mass intentions.

    • Rich

      PS. My wife and children made Lucy buns today thanks to your book (I bought it for her a few months ago) as well as made their first ever ginger bread house a little over a week ago. All the while learning about the saints.

      Hopefully this offers a little bit of motivation to get through what are difficult times.

    • Kendra

      Yes, that’s the best anyone can do!

      I’m so glad your family is enjoying the Compendium. 🙂

    • Skye

      Rich, yes! And I will do the same! Love it.

  2. Rachel

    Thank you for posting this! I started reading your book in 2018 when i had my daughter and continue to reference it (and will for years to come) when i feel like i have time to work in one of your awesome ideas! We welcomed our son Augustine this year and I look forward to keeping this list on hand for both kids! I’m also big into books and not into malicious neighbors. I’ll pray for that individual and for you, your dad, and beautiful family. Have a warm and joyful Christmas!

  3. Stacy

    We have love O, Come Emmanuel! It’s been a crazy Advent for our family because my husband had to leave for a last minute deployment, so we haven’t read it every day. I’ve given myself grace, though and we just pick up with the next day. The length is perfect for my kids ‘s ages 3-10). It has been a great encouragement during a trying season and we look forward to reading it!

    • Angela

      Blessing upon you. As a retired military spouse, I understand the strength it takes to stand those last minute deployments. Know that I hold you in my heart.

  4. Skye Angioletti

    Kendra, that’s such an attack! I’m so sorry especially with all the other stuff that was happening. 2020 has certainly been … perplexing. “Some years ask questions…” (ZNH). I feel I’ll understand more of God’s plan as we go forward into next year.

    One bright spot of 2020 has been your Jesse Tree and Book!!! Our son is a little young for it yet but I am loving it – so it totally works for adult meditation. And having the tree made by the Tierney Family?? Such grace. Also loving the colorful calendar update.

    Thanks to Rich’s comment above, I am reminded to pray for (and not stew about) your neighbor. When someone is unkind, I often throw a pity-party (for myself or for you), but the reminder to pray for this person IS THE ULTIMATE HEALING ACTION. For everyone involved! Thanks be to God.

    Thanks for being steadfast. I cannot tell you how much you help me.

    I’m so happy your Dad is better!!

    Happy Advent!


  5. Barbara Ostermann

    Thank you for this list! I’m so glad to see you back at blogging – it’s been a blessed Advent, here, more so because I’m off social media for the time – blogs are much less angsty. Blessings to your family. I’ll toss up a prayer for your neighbor – we have a tough neighbor situation, too. ❤️

  6. Michele

    I’m so sorry you have had to go through all of that! I’ll be praying for you and your family.
    I have noticed that there are not many resources for teens. We have had a really difficult time finding books that are solidly Catholic for our daughters, who do not want to read romance novels or poorly written books. I work in a library, so I feel like I ought to be able to find something, but there just don’t seem to be very many available.

    • Kendra

      Ignatius Press has a good selection of novels, including classics, historical fiction, saint stories, and mysteries, all of which are smart and free of graphic content. You can check them out here.

  7. Marion

    Kendra it is nice hearing from you once again. Thank You for this wonderful list. Wishing you and yours a MERRY CHRISTMAS and A HAPPY,HEALTHY 2021.

  8. Marilyn

    Thank You for the list of books. Wishing you and your beautiful family a Blessed and Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year.
    Marilyn and Joan

  9. Gabriela

    Hi Kendra! Thanks for the reviews!
    I just hope one day we can have your booklets and books in Spanish! We would like to share them with family and friends!

    • Kendra

      I’d love that, but it’s complicated! It’s not always a question of just translating, since many of the old prayers that I dug out of vintage prayer books would have had Spanish versions, but my Spanish isn’t good enough to do that kind of research. BUT at least there is one now! Bendición de la Casa de la Epifanía is available!

      • Gabriela

        I understand! Hopefully one day! I will check Bendición de la casa de la Epifania! Thanks!

  10. Sarah Wilson

    Oh my goodness Kendra! God is so good! My priest just asked us to send him book titles for a new children’s library he wants to start in our parish, and boom! You make this list. I’m so appreciative of your hard work and have passed this post on to him!!! Thank you!

  11. Cami

    Thanks for this. Can you recommend any devotionals for children? I have two boys ready for them, ages 8 and 9. My 9 year old is using Rise Up from Blessed is She. But he’s finished and started again, I want my 8 year old to begin something too that’s going to inspire him to grow in virtue.

    • Cami

      Also, my 9 year old had been given a Sunday missal that was lost at a church out of state. Any recommendations on a good replacement?

  12. Christine

    I’m SO sorry to hear about your dad. I’ve been praying for your family (especially your husband and George)…I will be praying for your dad (and you, too!). Thank you for the helpful blog posts…it means more than you know! God bless!

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Hi! I’m Kendra.

For twenty years now, I’ve been using food, prayer, and conversation based around the liturgical calendar to share the lives of the saints and the beautiful truths and traditions of our Catholic faith. My own ten children, our friends and neighbors, and people just like you have been on this journey with me.

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