An Open Book – June #openbook

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I’m joining with Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom for An Open Book.  Here’s what I’ve been reading these past four weeks:

 

Susan Tassone Book

 

Jesus Speaks to Faustina and You by Susan Tassone

Amazon Synopsis:  In her celebrated 700-page spiritual Diary, St. Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938) tells of her many visions of Jesus and her conversations with Him. For years now, best-selling and award-winning author Susan Tassone has lived in the thrall of that spiritual classic, recently drawing forth from its rich mystical depths 365 meditations.

Each meditation features Jesus’ words to Faustina, to which Tassone has added a short original reflection and a prayer to help you hear and live by Jesus’ words as if they had been spoken directly to you. From these pages, you’ll discover the mercy, love, and compassion of the Lord that’s available for you – day by day, each day of the year.

My review: Another beautiful book by Susan Tassone that is ideal for someone who likes daily reflections.  Highly recommend!

 

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Remembering Mom 

My new book!

Amazon Synopsis: In Remembering Mom, author Ellen Gable shares memories of her beloved mother, an unconventional woman who was often thrust into situations by necessity. She endured having to watch her first husband spiral into psychosis and schizophrenia, then have him be committed to a psychiatric hospital on the same day she was in labor with their fourth child. She worked from home typing back in the day when women didn’t have jobs other than homemaking. Her humor was quirky, and she had some strange sayings. She could swear like a sailor, but loved her Catholic faith. She wasn’t a perfect Catholic, nor was she a perfect mother, but she was devoted to her five children. After the death of her first husband, she remained strong for her young adult children, then eventually found love again and another opportunity for motherhood.

Thunderstruck

Thunderstruck by Erik Larson

Amazon Synopsis: In Thunderstruck, Erik Larson tells the interwoven stories of two men—Hawley Crippen, a very unlikely murderer, and Guglielmo Marconi, the obsessive creator of a seemingly supernatural means of communication—whose lives intersect during one of the greatest criminal chases of all time.

Set in Edwardian London and on the stormy coasts of Cornwall, Cape Cod, and Nova Scotia, Thunderstruck evokes the dynamism of those years when great shipping companies competed to build the biggest, fastest ocean liners; scientific advances dazzled the public with visions of a world transformed; and the rich outdid one another with ostentatious displays of wealth. Against this background, Marconi races against incredible odds and relentless skepticism to perfect his invention: the wireless, a prime catalyst for the emergence of the world we know today. Meanwhile, Crippen, “the kindest of men,” nearly commits the perfect murder.

With his unparalleled narrative skills, Erik Larson guides us through a relentlessly suspenseful chase over the waters of the North Atlantic. Along the way, he tells of a sad and tragic love affair that was described on the front pages of newspapers around the world, a chief inspector who found himself strangely sympathetic to the killer and his lover, and a driven and compelling inventor who transformed the way we communicate.

My review: The two true stories here are compelling enough (Marconi’s development of the wireless and Dr. Hawley Crippen’s life leading up to him being accused, found guilty and hung for murder.)  I enjoyed how both stories converged at the end. However, the Marconi sections were quite technical and hard to follow so I scanned those.  Still a compelling story, but so far, my least favorite of Larson’s books.  Three stars out of five.

 

Violet

Violet (I Am Girl #2) by Renee Lichtenhan

Amazon Synopsis: Thirteen-year-old Violet Windsor is obsessed with the rush and thrill of skateboarding through a dangerous, gang-ridden part of New York City. Certain that her high-society parents wouldn’t approve of the rough-and-tumble sport or the sketchy neighborhood, she and her best friend, Sloane, hide her secret adventures in a thick veil of lies.

When Violet’s neurodiverse brother, Oliver, begins drawing pictures that reveal a mysterious knowledge of her secrets, Violet is rattled to the core. Intrigued by clues in Oliver’s drawings, she follows them down a reckless path toward redemption and truth.

My review: New teen Violet Windsor secretly visits a dangerous part of New York City to pursue her passion for skateboarding. Her wealthy parents wouldn’t approve so she and her best friend, Sloane, keep her skateboarding adventures secret. Meanwhile, Violet’s autistic brother, Oliver, shows her drawings that indicate not only that he knows her secrets but that he has been gifted with artistic ability that might be supernatural in origin.

I thoroughly enjoyed this middle-grade novel that includes all kinds of relevant, present-day issues. The writing quality is excellent. The characters are well-developed and believable, and the setting made me feel I was in the midst of New York City. Highly recommend for anyone who enjoys a great story and characters!

Clint Hill

Mrs. Kennedy and Me by Clint Hill

Amazon Synopsis: The #1 New York Times bestselling memoir by Clint Hill that Kirkus Reviews called “clear and honest prose free from salaciousness and gossip,” Jackie Kennedy’s personal Secret Service agent details his very close relationship with the First Lady during the four years leading up to and following President John F. Kennedy’s tragic assassination.

In those four years, Hill was by Mrs. Kennedy’s side for some of the happiest moments as well as the darkest. He was there for the birth of John, Jr. on November 25, 1960, as well as for the birth and sudden death of Patrick Bouvier Kennedy on August 8, 1963. Three and a half months later, the unthinkable happened.

Forty-seven years after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the one vivid image that never leaves Clint Hill’s mind is that of President Kennedy’s head lying on Mrs. Kennedy’s lap in the back seat of the limousine, his eyes fixed, blood splattered all over the back of the car, Mrs. Kennedy, and Hill as well. Sprawled on the trunk of the car as it sped away from Dealey Plaza, Hill clung to the sides of the car, his feet wedged in so his body was as high as possible.

Clint Hill jumped on the car too late to save the president, but all he knew after that first shot was that if more shots were coming, the bullets had to hit him instead of the First Lady.

Mrs. Kennedy’s strength, class, and dignity over those tragic four days in November 1963 held the country together.

My review: I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  It really laid a firm foundation for what happened on November 22, 1963.  It showed me a side of Jackie Kennedy that I had never seen before.  I learned that Patrick Kennedy (the baby she lost while in the White House and just a few months before the assassination) was born at the same gestation (five weeks early) that I had been born and weighed the same as me (four pounds 11 ounces).  It’s hard to understand why I survived and he didn’t.  Recommend.

Remembering Mom: A Life of Endurance

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Mom and Me, May 22, 1982 Photo by Sassano Photographers copyright 1982

“Nothing great is ever achieved without enduring much.” St. Catherine of Siena

If the struggles my mother endured are any indication of her achievements in life, then what she achieved here on earth can be considered great, indeed.

My mother (Betti) was born in 1934 and died in 2007, but her influence in my life and in the lives of my children, nieces, nephews, and siblings has continued.

On the one hand, she was generous to a fault, often going into debt when we were young so that my siblings and I could have plentiful presents under the Christmas tree. She loved coming up to Canada and especially enjoyed surprising my boys with unexpected trips (and she never missed a Baptism or a First Communion or musical performance until she became terminally ill).  She had a unique, wry sense of humor and was laugh-out-loud funny sometimes.  Even today, she still makes me laugh when I think of one of her funny sayings.

On the other hand, she chain-smoked most of her life (she quit when she was 61), could swear like a sailor, and wasn’t always faithful with church attendance.

But as a young mother with three small children and nine months pregnant with another, my mother watched her husband (my father) spiral into a full-blown psychotic breakdown and watch as he was committed to a psychiatric hospital. That same day, she went into labor with my youngest brother. With the help of extended family, she endured, and Dad finally came home.

Mom survived a critical illness when she was 33 years old and was not expected to live. I was only seven at the time, but I remember how thin she was. She weighed eighty pounds and at five feet, six inches tall, she was a walking skeleton.  She beat the odds, though, and lived a fairly healthy life until her sixties when chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) caught up with her.

She became a widow at age 44 when my father died suddenly.

Mom later married remarried, got pregnant at the age of 47 and was thrilled. When her doctor suggested she have an abortion (because it was too risky and the baby might be deformed), she refused. When he demanded she have an abortion, Mom swore at him. Then he then told her to find another doctor because he wouldn’t be delivering the baby. I’m thankful that she and my stepfather were open to life. Again, Mom beat the odds, had an uneventful pregnancy, and gave birth to a beautiful baby girl (my youngest sister, now 38).

A lifetime of smoking caught up with her in early 2004, when she contracted a particular virulent strain of pneumonia, was on a ventilator and in a coma (and supposedly “brain dead.”)  Once more, she beat the odds and eventually woke up and endured eight months in rehab and lived an additional three years (which she never took for granted).

I had never known Mom to be anything but determined and tenacious. And she always tried to find the humor in everything. Just before she died, she called me up to tell me that she had just watched a TV program on the Little People of America. “Did you know you could join them, if you wanted?”

“Um, okay.”

“Yes, the maximum height is four feet, ten inches.  You’re four-nine.”

“Why would I want to join them?”

“So you could go to conventions and feel like the tallest person in the room!” Then she burst out laughing.

People were always surprised when they met Mom because she was tall (five feet, six inches) and I’m so short (four feet, nine inches).  If we were doing dishes together, she would look down at me and say, “El, are you standing in a hole?”

In the months before she died, we had many wonderful conversations.  We talked about her life, her memories, her faith.  We talked about Jesus and heaven and how exciting it would be to meet Jesus.

When she was within hours of death, my youngest sister called me, and I made the trip to New Jersey from Canada.  After a two-hour wait at the border, we arrived in Cortland, New York, so I called to let her know I was halfway there.  My sister answered the phone and told Mom that I was in Cortland. I could hear her say, “She’s only in Cortland?  Tell her I love her and to be careful.”

Shortly after that, she went into a coma. I arrived that evening. She was still alive but unconscious.  She had asked my sister and I to recite the Litany of the Saints and the Divine Mercy Chaplet when her time was close, so we did that and then I went to bed. The next morning when I checked on her, her breathing had slowed and she was cool, but she still had a weak pulse.  I whispered in her ear, “It’s okay if you need to go, Mom.  We’ll be all right.  I love you.”

An hour or so later, my other siblings had assembled around her bedside.  I was sitting next to my brother and all of a sudden, I felt as if Mom were on the ceiling looking down at us.  I was about to nudge my brother on the shoulder and tell him when he said, “Hey, El, I feel like Mom is on the ceiling looking down at us.”

Mom entered into eternal life on the Feast of St. Dominic, August 8, 2007 and was buried on the Feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe, August 14th.   It’s been thirteen years since she died, and her influence and humor is still being felt by our family.  If Mom’s endurance and tenacity are any indication, great things were definitely achieved with her life.

I just finished writing a book about Mom, entitled, Remembering Mom. It’s available on Kindle and in print.

Copyright 2020 Ellen Gable Hrkach

New Book: Remembering Mom

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It’s taken me thirteen years and a pandemic to write, but this book about my mother is finally available!

Synopsis: In Remembering Mom, author Ellen Gable shares memories of her beloved mother, an unconventional woman who was often thrust into situations by necessity. She endured having to watch her first husband spiral into psychosis and schizophrenia, then have him be committed to a psychiatric hospital on the same day she was in labor with their fourth child. She worked from home typing back in the day when women didn’t have jobs other than homemaking. Her humor was quirky, and she had some strange sayings. She could swear like a sailor, but loved her Catholic faith. She wasn’t a perfect Catholic, nor was she a perfect mother, but she was devoted to her five children. After the death of her first husband, she remained strong for her young adult children, then eventually found love again and another opportunity for motherhood.

                  Kindle edition is available for pre-order and will be published on May 22, 2020.                       Print edition is available now!

Kindle Edition

Print Edition

An Open Book – May #openbook #socialdistancing

 

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I’m joining with Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom for An Open Book.  Here’s what I’ve been reading these past four weeks:

Larson

The Splendid and the Vile

by Erik Larson

Amazon Synopsis:  Published February 25, 2020. In The Splendid and the Vile, Erik Larson shows, in cinematic detail, how Churchill taught the British people “the art of being fearless.” It is a story of political brinkmanship, but it’s also an intimate domestic drama, set against the backdrop of Churchill’s prime-ministerial country home, Chequers; his wartime retreat, Ditchley, where he and his entourage go when the moon is brightest and the bombing threat is highest; and of course 10 Downing Street in London. Drawing on diaries, original archival documents, and once-secret intelligence reports—some released only recently—Larson provides a new lens on London’s darkest year through the day-to-day experience of Churchill and his family: his wife, Clementine; their youngest daughter, Mary, who chafes against her parents’ wartime protectiveness; their son, Randolph, and his beautiful, unhappy wife, Pamela; Pamela’s illicit lover, a dashing American emissary; and the advisers in Churchill’s “Secret Circle,” to whom he turns in the hardest moments.

My review: Outstanding book. As usual with Larson’s books, I not only learned a great deal of the story behind the scenes of that historic first year Churchill was Prime Minister, I also enjoyed a compelling piece of history.  It makes me grateful to Churchill for not giving in to Hitler’s demands for “peace.”  It might’ve been a different world if not for the tenacity of Churchill and the British people. Highly recommend.

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Moonchild Rising: (Shadows of the Sun #1) by Mina Ambrose

New from Full Quiver Publishing!

Synopsis:  Mara the Huntress resides in the sunny little town of Archangel, California, the location of the Gate of the Underworld—a fact unknown to the general populace. Most people don’t even know that vampires exist. As Huntress, Mara does know, and it is her job to kill those that dare venture forth to the Upperworld to prey on the humans living there. She is well-suited to this purpose, gifted with skills and talents far surpassing those of ordinary mortals. Though some vampires manage to evade her, she has so far managed to prevent the unleashing of a full-scale infestation. She has been at this job for a good portion of her not-quite twenty years, and it seems she has everything in hand. Then one day she gets a chill of foreboding, a feeling that things are about to change…

For she stands in the way of the master vampire’s plan for world domination, and, he fears, may be a key player in the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy foretelling his destruction. One dark night he sends the mighty Prince (his second in command) to put an end to this Huntress, this bane of vampires, once and for all. Mara confidently goes out to face him, but finds she has met her match at last. Just as all hope seems lost, this powerful vampire turns from the “dark side” to become Mara’s ally in the battle against his own kind.

Catholic and Funda

Catholicism And Fundamentalismby Karl Keating

Amazon Synopsis: Karl Keating defends Catholicism from fundamentalist attacks and explains why fundamentalism has been so successful in converting “Romanists”. After showing the origins of fundamentalism, he examines representative anti-Catholic groups and presents their arguments in their own words. His rebuttals are clear, detailed, and charitable. Special emphasis is given to the scriptural basis for Catholic doctrines and beliefs.

My review: This is about my tenth time reading this book and it’s as good as it was the first time. If you have relatives who have fallen away from the fullness of the Catholic faith, this is a great book to help you “defend” the fullness of the Catholic faith. Topics include: Marian Beliefs, The Eucharist, Confession, Purgatory etc.  Highly recommend.

Book 1 Sister A

Sister Aloysius Comes to Mercyville

by Linda Etchison

and Denise Plumlee-Tadlock, illustrator

Amazon Synopsis: Join Sister Aloysius, an energetic, joyful young sister, as she steps off the bus and begins her walk to Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Mercyville on a hot July afternoon. In Sister Aloysius Comes to Mercyvillelearn how Sister Aloysius happily makes use of her suffering in the heat of the summer day by uniting her discomfort to the agony of Christ on the cross. Along the way she meets a young boy Pio who will be in her second-grade class. Pio helps her with her bag and the two have a very interesting talk about St. Aloysius and patron saints as well as about St. Peter, the first pope. Sister Aloysius Comes to Mercyville is the first of the Sister Aloysius booksThis series offers a large child-friendly 8.5 x 11 format and is illustrated in full color to capture the interest of young readers and pre-readers.

My review: This is the first in a wonderful children’s book series that introduces an enthusiastic religious sister, Sister Aloysius, who moves to a new town, ready to begin teaching. In this story, we are also introduced to little Pio, one of the students at the local school. We learn about St. Aloysius Gonzaga, St. Peter, our first pope — who denied Jesus three times and was crucified upside down — and St. Paul. The story is engaging for both parents and children and offers teachings about the Catholic faith within the story. Highly recommend!

Book 2 Sister A

Sister Aloysius Arrives at Our Lady of Sorrows

by Linda Etchison and Denise Plumlee-Tadlock, illustrator

Amazon Synopsis: Sister Aloysius Arrives at Our Lady of Sorrows is the second book in the new Catholic children’s Sister Aloysius series about a joyful, young sister who is beginning her first teaching assignment. This second book in the series focuses on a discussion about the Seven Sorrows of Mary between Sister Aloysius and Pio, a young boy who will be in sister’s second grade class. Sister and Pio discuss how sorrowful Mary must have been as she shared the sufferings of Jesus throughout his life. This book is a great choice for parents and educators who want to instill in their children and students a love for and closeness to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The 8.5 x 11 inch format is perfect for engaging pre-school and primary grade children. T

My review: In the second book of this series, Sister Aloysius and her new little friend, Pio, arrive at Our Lady of Sorrows Church. Readers learn about the Seven Sorrows of Mary and how to pray this special devotion. Beautifully illustrated. Highly recommend.

Book 3 Sister A

Sister Aloysius Gets Ready for the First Day of School

by Linda Etchison and Denise Plumlee-Tadlock

Amazon Synopsis: Sister Aloysius Gets Ready for the First Day of School follows the continuing story of Sister Aloysius as she prepares for her first teaching assignment. This book, the third in the Sister Aloysius series, has Sister Aloysius making an early morning visit to the Blessed Sacrament before preparing her classroom for the beginning of school. Sister Aloysius has help from Pio, a second-grade student whom Sister Aloysius met upon arriving in Mercyville, and his sister Catherine. Sister, Pio, and Catherine discuss the 3:00 Hour of Mercy and the importance of appealing to Our Lord’s mercy during this time. Also, in this series, the reader will see Sister Aloysius pay a visit to the Blessed Sacrament in the quiet of the church and use Holy Water to bless herself as she leaves.

My review: This book continues the story of Sister Aloysius. In this book, we are introduced to Pio’s sister, Catherine, who help Sister prepare her classroom for the start of the new school year.  Readers also learn about the Hour of Mercy (3:00) and Saint Faustina. Jesus appeared to Saint Faustina and talked to her about His Divine Mercy and the “Hour of Mercy.”  Highly recommend.

 

Natalie Wood

Natalie Wood: A Life by Gavin Lambert

Amazon Synopsis: She spent her life in the movies. Her childhood is still there to see in Miracle on 34th Street. Her adolescence in Rebel Without a Cause. Her coming of age? Still playing in Splendor in the Grass and West Side Story and countless other hit movies. From the moment Natalie Wood made her debut in 1946, playing Claudette Colbert and Orson Welles’s ward in Tomorrow Is Forever at the age of seven, to her shocking, untimely death in 1981, the decades of her life are marked by movies that–for their moments–summed up America’s dreams.

Now the acclaimed novelist, biographer, critic and screenwriter Gavin Lambert, whose twenty-year friendship with Natalie Wood began when she wanted to star in the movie adaptation of his novel Inside Daisy Clover, tells her extraordinary story. He writes about her parents, uncovering secrets that Natalie either didn’t know or kept hidden from those closest to her. Here is the young Natalie, from her years as a child actress at the mercy of a driven, controlling stage mother (“Make Mr. Pichel love you,” she whispered to the five-year-old Natalie before depositing her unexpectedly on the director’s lap), to her awkward adolescence when, suddenly too old for kiddie roles, she was shunted aside, just another freshman at Van Nuys High. Lambert shows us the glamorous movie star in her twenties—All the Fine Young Cannibals, Gypsy and Love with the Proper Stranger. He writes about her marriages, her divorces, her love affairs, her suicide attempt at twenty-six, the birth of her children, her friendships, her struggles as an actress and her tragic death by drowning (she was always terrified of water) at forty-three.

Review: I enjoyed this book very much, although enjoy might be the wrong word.  Natalie Wood was an incredibly beautiful actress who died far too soon.  Reading about her life behind the scenes was moving and sad and disturbing at times. Her mother was the epitome of a stage mother and could be quite cruel.  Recommend.

Belroy

To Be or Not To Be: Murdered by Basia Kent Belroy

Amazon Synopsis: WHY IS FULTON HIGH SCHOOL HAVING A RASH OF COPYCAT SUICIDES?
While covering the stories for her school paper, 17-year-old Peyton Simons begins to doubt they are suicides. Along with crushing on Justin, her Hamlet co-star in the school play, and trying to break up with her current boyfriend, Tyler, Peyton is intent on figuring out the mystery with the help of her great aunt’s new boyfriend, a retired detective. She’s awfully close to the truth! Will she survive the answer?

My review: Fun, young adult mystery told from the point of view of a teenage girl, Peyton. There are a rash of suicides at Fulton High School.  Peyton, however, doesn’t believe the most recent death was, in fact, a suicide.  Her investigation turns up information about a similar suicide that took place at Fulton twenty years previous. When she gets too close to the truth, she finds herself in danger. Fun, clean read with well-developed characters. Recommend for young teens and up.

Moonchild Rising: Shadows of the Sun #1 by Mina Ambrose

FQP’s new book, Moonchild Rising: Shadows of the Sun #1 by Mina Ambrose, is now available on Kindle.  Print edition will come later this month.

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Synopsis: Mara the Huntress resides in the sunny little town of Archangel, California, the location of the Gate of the Underworld—a fact unknown to the general populace. Most people don’t even know that vampires exist. As Huntress, Mara does know, and it is her job to kill those that dare venture forth to the Upperworld to prey on the humans living there. She is well-suited to this purpose, gifted with skills and talents far surpassing those of ordinary mortals. Though some vampires manage to evade her, she has so far managed to prevent the unleashing of a full-scale infestation. She has been at this job for a good portion of her not-quite twenty years, and it seems she has everything in hand. Then one day she gets a chill of foreboding, a feeling that things are about to change…

For she stands in the way of the master vampire’s plan for world domination, and, he fears, may be a key player in the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy foretelling his destruction. One dark night he sends the mighty Prince (his second in command) to put an end to this Huntress, this bane of vampires, once and for all. Mara confidently goes out to face him, but finds she has met her match at last. Just as all hope seems lost, this powerful vampire turns from the “dark side” to become Mara’s ally in the battle against his own kind.

Reviews:

“A fast-paced, engaging book that draws clear lines between Good and Evil, leading the reader on a great adventure through the darkness we cannot see. I loved the story—and I’m not even a fan of vampires!”  Michelle Buckman, award-winning author, Rachel’s Contrition and Turning in Circles

“Can a vampire’s soul be saved? With beautiful imagery, Moonchild Rising pairs a redeemed vampire and a skilled huntress battling both the undead and the desires of their hearts.” Carolyn Astfalk, author, Come Back to Me and All in Good Time

Interview with Linda Etchison, author of Sister Aloysius books

Today I’m interviewing the author of the Sister Aloysius books, Linda Etchison.

Linda's Photo

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

Sister Aloysius Gets Ready for School