Back-to-School Books for the Kids (plus one for Mom and Dad)

Summer vacation may have come to an end, but that doesn’t have to mean the end of reading for pleasure. Encourage your children to keep reading by offering fun and faith-filled books for them to enjoy. Check out these newly-published books; you’re sure to find one geared toward the age of each of your children. And don’t miss the one I’ve recommended for you!

nullPicture Books

The Book That Changed Everything by Allison Regina Gliot, FSP; illustrated by Santiago María López Piuma (Pauline Kids)

This captivating picture book is the sweet story of Sofia, an eager reader who reads and learns about everything and everyone—but who always feels alone. When she discovers a Bible in a “grand old library” she feels like it’s “a friend calling out to her.” The words seem to come alive, and in a dream, she meets Jesus, who tells her that He speaks to her through that book, and that when she reads it, she’s never alone.

This book is perfect for reading aloud to children up to age 8, and young independent readers will enjoy it as well. It would also be an excellent gift for a child preparing for First Reconciliation, due to its emphasis on Jesus’ love for us and our call to follow Him.


nullIndependent Readers

Saint Joseph: The Juggling Saint by Maria Riley (independently published)

Catholic Mom contributor Maria Riley’s pairing of Saint John Bosco, who looked out for children in crisis in his native Italy, with the story of a child nervous about his upcoming first day in a new school makes this book relatable to any child who fears the unknown of a new experience. Children reading this book will discover a new saintly friend.

Appropriate as an independent read for second grade and up, and as a read-aloud for first grade and up. This would be a wonderful book for parents and children to enjoy together and can spark conversation about how to handle new situations. A recommended back-to-school read!


nullMiddle Grade

Detective Thomas and the Biggest Question by Caitlin E. Bootsma, illustrated by Evie Schwartzbauer (OSV Kids)

This chapter book for readers in third grade and up would appeal to kids who enjoy science and who are full of questions (their parents might want to skip straight to the book I’m recommending for parents in this article). Thomas is a middle-school student who likes to solve mysteries, and who is challenged by one of his peers to explain why he believes in God.

A mysterious box appears in his room one morning, and Thomas finds a note encouraging him to ask questions, observe and explore, and try to make sense of the answers he finds. I think of this book as “Encyclopedia Brown with a Catholic twist” and was impressed by the way the author weaves the work of Saint Thomas Aquinas into the story. The illustrations are fun and age-appropriate, as well. A bonus: as Thomas seeks to solve the trail of mysteries the box places in front of him, readers are asked to work through these ideas in features called “Reality Detective Lab” where they’re invited to write about their own observations.

(Releases September 18; preorder this as a fun surprise for your middle-grade reader!)


nullTeen Readers

Charting the Course by Leslea Wahl (Vinspire Publishing)

Catholic Mom contributor Leslea Wahl’s characters are fun-loving and real, and Liz, the main character in this novel, is no exception. She’s missing Christmas week with her friends back home while on a Caribbean cruise with her dad, and she’s not happy about it at all. But the combination of a cute guy her own age, some mysterious notes that appear to be a scavenger hunt, and a karaoke contest make the trip better than she’d planned—and even an opportunity to grow in faith.

Liz is not Catholic, but her friend Josie is, and Liz has attended Mass with Josie and is definitely curious about the faith. This type of character is one we don’t see often in Catholic fiction, and I think we need to see characters like this more: people who haven’t been raised in any faith, but who want to know more. By reading this book, teens can be inspired to be more open about sharing their faith with friends who don’t have Catholic backgrounds.

(This novel is a standalone, but if you haven’t read Into the Spotlight first, I recommend that you do—because you’ll want to get to know Josie and Ryan, who star in that book.)


For Mom and Dad

The Catholic Parents’ Survival Guide: Straight Answers to Your Kids’ Toughest Questions by Julianne Stanz (Loyola Press)

This new book is described by the publisher as “a practical manual for talking with children about the things that really matter.” Our kids have so many questions—it feels like they are asking questions all the time. And we want to satisfy their curiosity in an age-appropriate way, while making sure we give them the right information. This book encourages parents as they strive to meet that challenge. Right off the bat, Julianne (a mom of three) reminds parents that it’s OK if they admit they don’t know an answer, but that they should do their best to get that answer and share it with their child as soon as they can. The introduction and first chapter (“Parents as Arch-Influencers”) discuss how we connect with our children and the ways we witness to our faith by what we teach them and through our example.

The remaining chapters in the book deal with topics such as God, Mary, the saints, going to Mass, prayer, Heaven, morality, sin, and science. Each chapter contains frequently-asked questions from children; these questions are labeled with the age of the child asking, and answers are geared toward that child’s age. You’ll even find some questions asked by parents! And don’t skip the bonus content at the end of the book (this content alone is worth the purchase price of this book): information on celebrating the angels, Mary, and the saints, as well as the major seasons of the liturgical year, with your family.


Ask for these selections at your local Catholic bookseller, or order online from or the publishers (both linked above).





Copyright 2023 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Images: Canva

Links to books in this post are Amazon affiliate links. Your purchases made through these links support Thank you!
With the exception of Charting the Course, which I purchased, I received copies of these books for my honest review, with no other compensation.

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