When I was a girl, the library bookmobile used to park about a block away from my house on Saturday mornings. I would walk over with an old stack of books, return them, and spend an hour or so combing through the stacks to find a new set of reading fun. I tried very hard to pick good books, with worthwhile content, but it was often very difficult. If I had found I’m Bernadette! by Emily Grace Ortega, I am sure that I would have brought it home and read it quickly. I was always interested in stories about girls my age, and Bernadette is about a girl in the first grade. She goes to a Catholic school, and has two younger brothers, a four year old and one year old. Her mom stays at home with the kids and her dad goes to work, and it is clear that her parents are raising their family to be devoutly Catholic.
I was really excited when Emily Grace Ortega contacted me to review her book, especially when she sent a letter along with the review copy explaining her view on children’s literature: “I think it’s important for kids to have positive thoughts, ideals, and characters introduced in their reading. The current push in education to have kids “read” without offering high quality, thoughtfully produced literature infuriates me.” While my eldest is almost five, and still learning to read, I have had a lot of difficulty finding even worthwhile picture books. There certainly are a lot of good books out there, but it takes a lot of effort to find them amidst a sea of not so good ones. I have spoken to other Catholic parents who struggle to find good books for their young readers. And if you are searching for a new chapter book series, this one is definitely a gem!
The premise of the first Bernadette story (there are more coming!) is the approaching celebration for All Saints Day. Bernadette has been thinking about her Halloween costume only to hear that her school will be having a Saint parade. She has to figure out which saint she wants to dress as, and let go of her disappointment of not celebrating Halloween.
My almost five year old and three year old daughters loved listening to the story. They remembered their own experience on All Saints Day dressing up like saints, and were very eager to hear about Bernadette. The story was written simply enough for them to follow, but also, I think in a way that a child could read on his or her own. Within the telling of the story, bigger words and concepts are explained through Bernadette’s narration, and we even learn a little bit of Church teaching: some angelology (they have no genders) and how boys and men may not cover their heads in church.
Besides the wholesome and Catholic content, I think that Ortega captured the different ages of childhood well, which makes a lot of sense since she has six children of her own. There were a few scenes from the book about the four year old brother that reminded my husband and I of our own four year old, and even helped us understand that maybe that is just what four year olds are like. For example, they seem to be very good at destroying things. The illustrations by Meg Ross Whalen are very sweet, but my particular favorite is the one of the family at dinner where the baby is throwing noodles on his sister, and the mom is clutching her glass of wine.
I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a sweet book about childhood in a realistic, loving Catholic family. I think that children who are home schooled or those who go to school could relate to Bernadette and her family. Ortega did a wonderful job creating a world from a first grade point of view, that any Catholic family would delight in knowing.
Finally, I am happy to announce my first giveaway on my blog. You can enter twice:
1. Leave a comment.
2. Like my blog on Facebook. If you are already a Facebook fan, then that counts!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Congratulations to Brandi M! I will be contacting you by email shortly. 🙂
P.S. If you did not win and would like to own a copy, you can order it on Amazon!