Catholic Churches Big and Small by Stefan Salinas

catholic churches big and smallSummary

A young girl, her brother, and her father tour the Archdiocese of San Franciso. Their tour guide, Sister Barbara, teaches them about Catholic churches while they all sketch out the details.



Catholic Churches Big and Small is a fantastic book. Fantastic! The author, Stefan Salinas, toured the Archdiocese of San Fransisco as a part of his conversion to Catholicism.  It is this intimacy that really shines through in every one of his drawings. Take, for example, this image from the author’s book blog, of St. Dominic Catholic Church in San Francisco.

St. Dominic

A simple storyline only adds to the stunning imagery. Simple words that roll off the tongue – perfect for a read aloud to curious toddlers and preschoolers – walk the reader through Catholicism in all its beauty.  There are sketches of multiple Catholic churches, close ups of common Catholic symbolism, reproductions of statues of saints and angels, and also items found inside our churches.  Toddlers will be mesmerized. Preschoolers will be fascinated. And young children will be genuinely interested.  I think that even the older elementary child would enjoy this book as a sort of dictionary of Catholic terms (homeschoolers I’m looking at you, here!) and, as Salinas suggests on his website “an introduction to the art and architecture of the Catholic Church.” In fact, my own seven year old boy has big plans to trace the church sketches onto Shrinky Dink plastic so that he can “make a collection.”

I’ll leave you with this, another from the author’s book blog.

catholic churches big and small stained glass windows

Note: I received a complimentary copy of the book for review purposes. But my opinions are my own.


  • Author: Stefan Salinas
  • Publisher: Camelopardalis
  • Hardback, 50 pages
  • Reading Age:

What You Need to Know

  • Role Models/Authority Figures – A nun takes children on a city-wide church viewing field trip
  • Violence -None
  • Sexual ContentNone
  • ConsumerismNone.
  • Drinking/Smoking/DrugsNone
  • ReligionFaithful representation of Catholic churches; Editing quibble: Eucharist isn’t capitalized nor is First Communion.
  • Other
  • Awards

The Gift of the Christmas Cookie


In the “The Gift of the Christmas Cookie,” we see the sweet story of a small family loving and sharing Christ’s love during the holiday. Jack’s father isn’t home this Christmas, he’s “out West”, having boarded a train in search of work.  His mother has been putting every spare penny into the jar in the kitchen, but even the jar is sparse.  Jack is surprised, then, to find his mother baking cookies when he comes from school. Alas, the cookies aren’t for him – they are for the needy at their church.  Still, Jack isn’t convinced the needy are in need of such elaborate and fanciful cookies.  So his mother tells him the story of the how Christmas cookies began, and how they speak of the true message of Christmas. Not too long afterwards, Jack is able to set aside his own needs to put in practice what he has learned.

the gift of the christmas cookie sharing the true meaning of jesus birth


I’m not sure whyI picked this book up from the library. Was it on a reading list somewhere? Someone’s blog? I dunno.  I love the illustrations, but then I’m a sucker for pictures of people that actually look like people. The story is good enough.  It’s a sweet tale, both in content and prose. And sentimental. Overly sentimental, morally preachy, and a little irksome.  Or should I say tiresome?  Because that’s how I feel when I read books like this. Tired.  The truth is that it is fairly unlikely some poor German soul decided to carve a springerle mold and then stand in the village square with a tin of cookies, preaching the gospel.  True, early Western springerle molds are often depicted with religious scenes (a fact the author indicates in a small paragraph on the last page of the book).  Indeed, it seems the oldest springerle mold from Switzerland was of the Easter Lamb and found in St. Katharine’s monastery. But religious molds do not equal village square evangelizing and I’m not sure why we need to make up “legends” when we have so many good ones already in existence. St. Nicholas and St. Lucia come to mind, for example.  And hey! You can even make a St. Nicholas Springerle. Yes! The boy learns a lesson and gives his own cookie to a needy man, and then shares the Gospel with said man.  Beautiful what this boy, Jack, does. I’m not trying to diss the message.  I love the message. Just, I’m not a fan of its presentation in this book.


  • Author: Dandi Daley Mackall
  • Publisher: Zonderkidz (August 5, 2008)
  • Hardcover 32 pages
  • Reading Age: 4-7 years

What You Need to Know

  • Role Models/Authority Figures – Mother and father of the family are married. Father has left “west” to find a job and sends his money home to support his family.
  • Violence – None
  • Sexual Content – None
  • Consumerism – None.
  • Drinking/Smoking/Drugs – None
  • Religion – Promotes the true Christmas story.
  • Other
  • Awards


ABCs of Baseball

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An illustrated dictionary of baseball for all ages.

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I was, initially, disappointed that this book was not an “ABC” book, but rather a dictionary of baseball terms. But then I decided I liked the idea.  After all, I really don’t need another ABC book in my own home (not that I need any more books in my home). So yeah, I think, a nifty little book to have around the house. Maybe put it right next to the radio so The Middle Boy can pick it up while listening to Tom Hamilton belt out the game (Yes. We’re Indians fans here).

The book is great. Really. Simple definitions for the common terms in baseball.  For example: “Mound: The raised circle in the middle of the field where the pitcher stands.” I noticed that under “J” there was the definition of “Joy: What you feel watching the game.” But I didn’t see under “T”, “Trepidation: An emotion experienced by most Indians fans any time the team is ahead in the game.” Other than that, most of the useful terms in baseball are covered.

After those have been learned, the reader can turn to the back and peruse the fun facts. Part of the love of baseball, after all, is the trivia behind it. There are all sorts of facts back there, too. Facts about baseballs, pitch grips, baseball bats, the sport itself, teams, players, awards, and statistics (through 2010). Fun stuff in the back of the book!

My final point is one of contention, as the author of this book is (apparently) a well-known sportswriter. I am convinced now that there is a shortage of editors. I know, you thought it was my typo in the title in title of this post. But it’s not. Even the spell check in WordPress knows that “ABCs” should be “ABC’s.” Also, some of the definitions are in need of a little simple grammar.

Still, in baseball terms, this book is a triple.

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  • Author: Peter Golenbock
  • Publisher: Dial (February 2, 2012)
  • Hardcover 48 pages
  • Reading Age: Ages 6+

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What You Need to Know

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  • Role Models/Authority Figures – Babe Ruth is mentioned within the definition, and other players are mentioned in the “Fun Facts” portion of the book.
  • Violence – None.
  • Sexual Content – None.
  • Language – None.
  • Consumerism – Cracker Jack are mentioned. “Hot Dog” is defined as “what baseball fans love to eat.” I’m not saying this isn’t true and that it necessarily bothers me, I’m just saying that some would say it encourages one to consume hot dogs at the ball game. Peanuts, too. Of course,  MLB is inherent in all of this. The teams are listed in the back of the book, broken down by League and Division. Baseball cards.
  • Drinking/Smoking/Drugs – None. No mention of the steroid scandal.
  • Religion – None.
  • Other –
  • Awards


Brothers at Bat


During the summers spanning the 1920’s and 1930’s, baseball was big. The Acerra family was big. The 12 brothers formed a baseball team and played longer together than any of the other 29 all-brother baseball teams. This book is their story.


Twelve brothers play baseball together – as a team – for over 30 years. I’m partial to feel-good stories about families. My children are too. My children are also partial to stories about baseball. That said, there really isn’t a way to kill a story faster than bad writing. Are my standards too high? Is it too much to ask for a good story and good writing? I’m beginning to think so. Reading aloud became a chore as I stumbled over the odd use of direct quotations, inconsistent use of names (there are 12 boys! let’s make it easy to remember who’s who, no?), and the weird punctuation. Where was the editor?  The best writing takes place on the final page of the book where Ms. Vernick provides her “Author’s Note.” I’m not sure why she didn’t write the entire book that well?

I love the illustrations (done by Steven Salerno). The drawings remind me of an updated Lois Lenski and really cemented the historical feel of the book.


  • Author: Audrey Vernick
  • Publisher: Clarion Books (April 3, 2012)
  • Hardcover 40 pages
  • Reading Age: Ages 4 +

What You Need to Know

  • Role Models/Authority Figures – The Acerra family! Twelve boys and four girls remain close throughout their lives.
  • Violence – Some boys go off to fight World War II ( we don’t see them, they just go off and fight)
  • Sexual Content – One son comes home from the war and “was so excited that he went up to women he didn’t even know and kissed them!” (28)
  • Language – None
  • Consumerism – None.
  • Drinking/Smoking/Drugs – None
  • Religion – None.
  • Other – This is a true story.
  • Awards