Wee Read Wednesday: “Celebrate” Board Books by Heidi Bratton

Heidi Bratton’s “Celebrate” board books (Celebrate Family, Celebrate Me & You, Celebrate Feelings, and Celebrate Animals) are a delightful collection of Bratton’s original photographs that will get your toddler talking and giggling in no time!  Makes the perfect shower gift!

These books bring simple truths to life for the very young in this new series of 4 board books. The author of 11 children’s books, Heidi is also an author of Paulist Press. Her best-selling children’s series, Making Peace with Motherhood, has sold over 50,000 copies and is still in print. She is featured on Sacred Heart Radio and EWTN and is a frequent contributor to CatholicExchange.com.

You can purchase these books through the author’s website, or on Amazon.com.

Heidi Bratton kindly donated autographed copies of all four of her books for the South Arbor Spring Auction on February 27 … Thanks, Heidi!


An Unexpected Blessing

Today I was posting a review on GoodReads, and came across this lovely review of my book “Behold Your Mother” by Clare Duroc (I don’t believe I know Clare personally, which is what makes this review such an unexpected blessing.) If you are looking for a little encouragement in your call to motherhood, Clare offers it in this review! She writes:

This is a beautiful book I’ve been going through slowly. It’s a small book, and deals a very simple concept: motherhood.

But like most simple concepts, it is also a very deep one. The Blessed Virgin’s relationship to us is a very deep one. The relationship between a loving mother and child is one that is hard to describe in a purely technical sense. We understand it best when it is presented through an imagery of love. The simple paintings of an artist like Mary Cassatt, whose many portrayals of mothers and their children always touch something within us… the quiet little things mothers do for their children, like slipping into the room after they’ve gone to sleep to make sure they’re tucked in… and, like St. Gianna, sacrificing everything for them in the end.

The beauty of motherhood is not something that can be described easily. We need to see it, to feel it. And even deeper is the relationship of motherhood that the Blessed Virgin has to us. She is the Mother of all mankind.

Behold Your Mother presents us with very simple images of the Blessed Virgin in her role of a mother, but because of their very simplicity they resonant deeply. We see her as a true mother, gentle and quiet, loving and tender, and we understand how this love relates to us. To me, reading the book was liking gazing on one of those famous Mary Cassatt paintings: a portrait of the deep love of motherhood.

The book is split in a way that it could easily be used for a little private retreat, with some scripture, a prayer, and a portrait of our Blessed Mother presented each day. It would be ideal reading for this month dedicated to her.

Today @ CatholicExchange: The Faithful, Wounded Heart

Have you ever felt the sting of a wounded heart years after love’s counterfeit has passed from your life? Most of us — unless we married our first love, and early in life, can relate to this.

In her book The Night’s Dark Shade, Elena Maria Vidal explores this subject through an unexpected perspective: the Cathars of 13th century France. Check out my review of the book posted today at Catholic Exchange. Vidal, whose novels Madame Royale and Trianon have already gained her a loyal following, especially among Catholic history lovers, will appreciate this glimpse into another era of Church history that bears uncanny similarities to our own.

If you’d like to order the book, you may do so through Amazon.com or autographed copies through the author’s website.

“All Things Girl: Truth for Teens”: A Book Review

all things girlAll Things Girl: Truth for Teens (Bezalel Books) is a wonderful resource for girls on the cusp of womanhood, ready to navigate their way in the world. At this impressionable age, girls aren’t always open to guidance from their mothers. Leaving a book like this lying casually around the house — where your daughter might pick it up on her own — could be the next best thing!

This latest in the offering from the “All Things Girl” series by Teresa Tomeo, Molly Miller, Monica Cops, and Cheryl Dickow features both a manual and companion journal. For more information, go to Bezalel Books.

Topics range from relationships (including guys to watch out for) to beauty and dressing appropriately for your body type to financial responsibility. One of my favorite parts is a life-affirming poem by Blessed Mother Teresa:

People are often unreasonable, irrational and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.
Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.
Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today will often be forgotten.
Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.
Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.

Book Review: “God Found Us You” by Lisa Bergren and Laura Bryant

handlewithcareThis week I’ve been working on an article for Catholic Exchange called “The Language of Loss.” The idea came to me while I was reading Jodi Picoult’s latest book, Handle with Care, in which the Catholic mother of a six-year-old child with OI (brittle bone disease) sues her ob-gyn for “wrongful birth.”

In one memorable passage, Picoult refers to a “language of loss” that parents and children endure in the most intimate family relationships. Within adoptive families, these losses can be especially complex — if for no other reason, because of the number of people involved in the family bond.

God found us youAs parents, however, we must be willing to see – and help them articulate – the pain of our children as it surfaces. Sometimes the expressions of grief will surface at unexpected times. For example, the other day I was reading my children a book entitled God Found Us You, by Lisa Bergren and Laura Bryant (HarperCollins).

This happy, gentle story about a mother fox and her adopted baby fox, who asks her to tell him the story of how he came to be with her. The kind of books adoptive parents love, because it ties up the future in a lovely, reassuring bow. We read it to our children, hoping it will give them the feelings of love and security we so much want them to have.

So … imagine my disappointment when I finished the book, closed it, and turned to my kids and asked, “So – what did you think about the Baby Fox? How did he feel after Mama Fox told him the story?”

Christopher avoided my gaze, and traced three letters on his leg: “S-A-D.” Then he snuck a glance up at me, and asked me if I’d fill up his love banks. General tickling and head-rubbing ensued. Later that night, I asked him about it again. “Why was Baby Fox sad?”  “Because he missed his first mom. He wanted to see her, too.”

This was Christopher “language of loss.” He needed to process — in a way the little fox did not seem to — that by holding on to one mother, he could not entirely eliminate the longing for the other. And I’ve learned that this is actually a good and reassuring thing. The fact that his first mother continues to have a place in his heart indicates that he was securely bonded to her — just as he is firmly attached to me, and just as he will no doubt be able to bond with some lucky girl in the future.

“It is those who have been most deeply wounded by grief that have the greatest capacity for joy.” I can’t recall where I heard this bit of wisdom, but it seems to fit here. We cannot “fix” or wipe away the pain, cannot silence this language of loss. But if we are doing our job as parents, our children will find in us the compassion they need to make sense of their world.

Miracle Monday: “Ruby Holler” by Newbury Award Winner Sharon Creech

Ruby HollerWhen I picked up this book at the library the other day, it was in the “junior” section. I saw it was an adventure story about to kids who are adopted by an older couple, and who set out on an adventure — the girl canoeing with the old man, the boy hiking with the old woman. And since I’ve been looking for good books to help engage my nine-year-old with the wonders of reading, I picked it up.

“Ruby Holler is the beautiful, mysterious place …” And indeed the author, Newbery Medal winner Sharon Creech has painted an unforgettable portrait of two unloved children (“trouble twins” Dallas and Florida) who are given a chance for a real family. My twitchy nine-year-old sat still, with rapt attention, as the story unfolded.

As the past heartache and abuse that the two children had endured is described in painful (yet faithfully from a child’s POV) detail. But as I read, I was the one who was squirming … What would it do to my kids to hear about these children who, just like them and their siblings, had endured such a painful past?

I stopped reading. Christopher protested. “Keep going, Mom! I want to know what happens to those kids!”

It’s what every mom hopes for … to get her child engrossed in a story like this. But as every parent knows, the fact that a child wants to see, or hear, or experience something doesn’t mean he or she is old enough to handle it. And so I closed the book and suggested a game of Monopoly (Christopher’s favorite).

That night, I finished the book myself. And I wished I’d read it sooner — before we got our kids, for example. In this story, two veteran and elderly parents welcome two “trouble twins” from the local children’s home into their home, and give a fresh start. In these pages, I was reminded how a little kindness and understanding can form a lasting bond of love, and start the healing process for a child wounded by parents who were less than extraordinary.

Thanks, Mrs. Creech, for this timely reminder.

Miracle Monday: “My Sister Alicia May” Reviewed by Leticia Velasquez

sisteralicia_largeMy Sister Alicia May
Written by Nancy Tupper Ling
Illustrated by Shennen Bersani
Pleasant St. Press 2009

My friend Leticia sent me this review, which was published on “Catholic Media Review.” This children’s book is about the big sister of a Down syndrome child, Alicia May. It reads in part:

Sister relationships are complex and beautiful things. When one of the sisters has special needs, the relationship may seem one sided; often the focus is on the special sister, and this is a mixed blessing. The typical sister learns to give more of herself and put up with more than most sisters do, growing emotionally beyond her peers, yet there are days when she runs short of patience for her demanding sister. “My Sister Alicia May” describes this unique relationship with a unique blend of candor and tenderness.

Siblings of children with special needs so often have to cope with “big feelings” — and overwhelmed parents, intent on tending to the needs of their “special blessing,” don’t always think about how to address these feelings. This book is a good start to starting that dialogue!