Today I’m interviewing the author of the Sister Aloysius books, Linda Etchison.
What inspired you to write the Sr. Aloysius series?
After my father passed away, the idea came to me to create a character in a children’s book and name her Sister Aloysius in honor of my dad, Aloysius John Winka. I cannot remember anything other than the idea popped into my head, and I knew my dad would like it. I guess I just let the idea rest in the back of my mind, pondering it for a few years as other ideas began to come along.
What do you love most about writing these stories for children?
As I write them, I like thinking of parents reading them to and with their children. I like to think that the stories will help people love Jesus, his Blessed Mother, and the wonderful Church that he has left us. As I write, in a small way I am able to share my own faith through the character of Sister Aloysius.
Where do you get your inspiration for the Sr. Aloysius stories?
I have to say that my inspiration must come from the Holy Spirit. I look back on the stories and reread them and think to myself, how did I think of that?? I have to give God the credit. Most ideas pop into my head when my mind during adoration. Many of the little things in the stories come from my own life. I attended a Catholic school in my early grade school years before it closed. It was staffed with sisters from the Adorers of the Blood of Christ. My first-grade teacher was a wonderful woman named Sister Benedict who remained a family friend until she died. She loved everyone and was full of joy and cheer. Later, I was also a teacher in the public schools for 18 years, so I have my own teaching experience to use. My dad was a wonderful inspiration as well. He never missed an opportunity to talk about his faith and the Catholic Church to anyone in the coffee shop or on the job. He loved it and spent many evenings sitting on the couch, studying and reading, trying to learn all that he could about the Church. He had many stories of faith to share with us. He prayed as he worked.
Have you always loved stories and reading?
From the time I could ride my bike, I would ride to the public library and check out books to read. I didn’t always enjoy reading things that were assigned in school though until I was older. My first job was actually working in the public library. I loved working there. I started working part time after my sophomore year in high school and worked there until I finished junior college. My love of books carried through to my studies. I chose junior high education with fields of English and library science as my major. After college I taught junior high and high school English coupled with being a school librarian. After 18 years working in public schools, I became a homeschooling mother. Reading was a big part of the Seton Home Study Program that we used. Using the Seton program gave me an opportunity to read many wonderful books that I hadn’t had the chance to read before. I have to admit that through the years I have collected many books, though, that I haven’t yet found the time to read.
What message do you hope the children and parents who read your books will bring away after reading these books?
Sister Aloysius wants everyone to love Jesus as a best friend. I think that my hope is that everyone will come to know Jesus and realize that he is the very best friend anyone could have. For many years as a PSR catechist, I have watched children pass through class seeming engaged and learning the material only to have them leave the Church once they were confirmed. It breaks my heart. My hope with these books is that children and parents will all come to know Jesus as their very best friend and come to love the wonderful Church that he left to help us get to heaven.
How can families explore the themes in the Sr. Aloysius books?
Included on the parent pages in the books are references to the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The stories are a great way to launch into Bible study. Other bits of information are also included that can be used to help parents jump-start a discussion. My hope is to have stories that parents enjoy reading along with their children, stories that help parents share their own faith, and stories that parents and children can possibly learn from together.
Who are some of your favorite children’s authors and books?
Narrowing down to favorites is nearly impossible. I could go on and on. There are so many great books that I’ve enjoyed. There were books that I read as a child, though, which I definitely made of point of having so that I could read them to my children. They were fun stories to read aloud. Some of them are The Digging-est Dog by Al Perkins, A Fish Out of Water by Helen Palmer, Dr. Seuss books, and the Berenstain Bears books by Stan and Jan Berenstain. Also, favorites that I used with my own children were the St. Joseph Picture Books by Rev. Lawrence G. Lovasik. My children and I both loved reading the Magic Tree House chapter books by Mary Pope Osborne. Two favorite sets of books from Neumann Press I discovered while homeschooling were Catholic Stories for Boys and Girls: Stories written and compiled in days long past by Catholic nuns in America and dedicated to Mary the Mother of God our dear lady of the Miraculous Medal (Volumes I-IV), and Angel Food for Boys and Girls: Little Talks to Young Folks (Volumes I-IV) by Father Gerald T. Brennan. I guess my all-time favorite book as a child would have to be Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. I say that because it was the only book I read and reread multiple times.
Which is your favorite Sr. Aloysius book and why?
That is a hard question to answer, but when I read the question, the second book, Sister Aloysius Arrives at Our Lady of Sorrows, flashed into my mind. I think it’s a very important book because I think that the world desperately needs Mary now. I don’t think that she is loved and appreciated as much as Our Lord wants her to be. She is the Queen of Heaven and our Mother as well. She cares so much for all of us and has willingly suffered for us along with her Son. She is the dispenser of graces. She has appeared over and over again throughout time to warn us and try to draw us to her son. It’s her Immaculate Heart to which we need to turn in order to save the world and the many lost souls in it.
Purchase links for the Sister Aloysius books: they’re available in hardcover or paperback:
Sister Aloysius Comes to Mercyville
Sister Aloysius Arrives at Our Lady of Sorrows