I am as picky about children’s books and movies as my children are about food. The junk in modern novels and movies dislodges their innocence and vomits the Catholic values we try to instill in them. Providentially, I came across a new Catholic movie and novel series that fit my idea of substantial literary and spiritual nourishment for Catholic families.
The “Dear God” novels by Patti Patti Maguire-Armstrong is a series that features a couple of Catholic brothers who struggle with relatable experiences. In “Dear God, I don’t Get It,” 12-year old Aaron Ajax believes God doesn’t answer prayers until his faith and courage are tested by a dilemma involving a neighbor and persecution in school. In the second book, “Dear God, You Can’t Be Serious,” 9-year old Luke Ajax distresses over life-changing news that he’s going to be homeschooled. How the brothers resolve the choices they face is influenced largely by the virtues extolled in their Catholic faith.
My avid reader and nine-year-old daughter devoured the novels in one afternoon. After reading them, she wanted to know if there was more to the series and was eager to write a book review for school. What she enjoyed most was the portrayal of the relationship between the siblings (“He fights with his brother and another time, he’s best friends with him.”) She also wrote that she could relate to their character and conflict (“[Aaron] gets into trouble like I do!”). As for my seven year old, when the books arrived in the mail, she dipped into the first chapter and couldn’t be disturbed from her reading spot even when the neighbors came over to play. It’s a sign how much she enjoys a novel when she excitedly reads passages out loud to me and she chuckles as she’s reading it. I even chuckled.
The “Dear God” novels are what I’ve been hoping would grace the Catholic publisher’s scene for Catholic children since Nancy Carabio Belanger’s “Olivia” series. We need more novels like these with likeable yet flawed Catholic characters who remain faithful to the Church as they find themselves in delicate and real life conflicts. Please Mrs. Armstrong, write more, and Catholic publishers, publish more of the same genre!
Meanwhile, in preparation for my daughter’s First Communion, we were gifted with “The greatest Miracle,” a computer animated DVD drama that is well-crafted as it is insightful. The story opens with a widow who has problems with her teenage son. Her life briefly and rudely intersects a bus driver, whose son is comatose. They both end up assisting Mass, where they physically see spiritual realities that are normally hidden from human eyes and they learn the truths that human hearts were made for. The movie is an emotional drama (the good kind), supported by a gorgeous musical score to produce an inspiring spiritual eye-opener to the invisible miracles all around us. Our family has watched it over and over, each time absorbing more understanding about the truth of the Catholic faith, and appreciating the depth of the Eucharist. As a homeschooler, it provides a stunning visual aid to our Catechism instruction. Not only that, the movie is a springboard for discussing spiritual warfare, Confession, Eucharist, purgatory, sainthood, death and prayers around the dinner table.
I highly, highly recommend the movie “The Greatest Miracle” and the “Dear God” books for every Catholic library.
If you have a First Communicant child or know one and are in search of the perfect present, this is your answered prayer. Of course, the Eucharist is the ultimate gift to any first communicant; the privilege of being able to receive the body of Christ doesn’t need any embellishment or supplication. But good wholesome family entertainment is a rare treat that you want to snatch up and support.
I am hosting a giveaway of the books at my blog. Please visit here for details for a link to youtube on the movie.