Christmas with Bernadette

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Category: Self-published
Genre: ,
Date Published: September 5, 2014
Number of Pages: 106
Print Price: $7.20
eBook Price: $3.50

Christmas with Bernadette is Emily Grace Ortega’s charming sequel to I’m Bernadette! Seven year old Bernadette is vivacious, thoughtful, and honest as she navigates the very real struggles of a young girl.

Christmas and the birth of her new sibling are right around the corner, and Bernadette tries to find her place in the preparations. She wants to give presents to everyone in her family, plus make a donation to a charity that helps children with cleft palates. She also hopes to be ready for her new baby sister or brother. In the meantime, she’s asked to bring a contribution to her class party. As her piggy bank empties, little brothers wreak havoc with her craft projects, and the excitement of the season causes her to forget her ingredient for her class party, Bernadette fears that she might ruin Christmas for everyone. However, she learns that even if her mom is pregnant and tired and her brothers are destructive, her family can pull together, help her solve her problems, and celebrate the true meaning of Christmas in a memorable way.

Like her first chapter book, Ortega includes a meaningful catechesis hidden within the entertaining anecdotes. Readers are introduced to various Advent preparations, the beauty of Latin hymns, and the best ways to build expectation for Christ during a busy time of year. An emphasis on moral instruction sets this book apart from many in its genre as well. Main characters do not just do whatever they please and get away with it. Bernadette has a kind heart, and I love to see her apologize and correct her behavior when she is tempted to get frustrated and lash out. Forming virtuous habits is the drama and task of a young person’s life, and Ortega comforts and encourages her blossoming readers through Bernadette’s relatability and sincere effort to be good.

Another element of this novel that struck me was the positive portrayal of Bernadette’s father. Especially now that her mother is fatigued and approaching the end of her pregnancy, Bernadette turns to her dad for emotional support and assistance. Every time he comes into the scene the situation is infused with creativity, humor, and empathetic leadership.

Readers leave the book wishing that more fathers had that sort of uplifting presence in their homes.

I would gladly recommend this book for elementary age students who are reading early chapter books and up. Tasteful illustrations and lively descriptions make Christmas with Bernadette a diverting read, especially in preparation for the holidays.

ISBN-13: 978-1500966966
Original Language: English
Book Dimensions:

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Catherine Mendenhall-Baugh (Cathy) was born and raised in Omaha Nebraska.  Growing up in the 1950’s brought with it certain innocence.  Cathy had eight brothers and sisters all of them attending St. Pius X Grade School followed by later having to work at the age of 14 to afford tuition at the local Catholic High Schools.  Cathy and her siblings were all heavily influenced by their mother, Dorothy.  She was a tough woman who had a strong love of her Catholic faith and her family.  She prayed the rosary daily.  She gathered almost every day at her kitchen table with her children to laugh, tease, cry, argue, pray, and discuss the world they all lived in.   Dorothy was a writer and was thrilled to see Cathy go that direction.  “Say that word three times in a sentence and you will own it.” 

Cathy moved to Oregon to further her education and while there met her husband Jack.  Marrying Jack gave her an instant family, a daughter Christina and a son Jack.  Shortly after they were married her husband developed a heart condition followed by many surgeries.  In 1981 she added to her family when she had a daughter Laura Anne.  Three years later Jack was injured at work.  His injuries required numerous surgeries followed by a massive stroke while recovering from one of his surgeries ultimately leaving him disabled.

At the time Cathy was beginning a career in Underwriting Insurance.  The need to keep the family going required her to further her career in insurance.  They succeeded in raising all three children to adulthood with marriages and families.  Five ½ years ago Cathy was laid off from insurance and one week later was diagnosed with cancer.  She and her husband sold their house and moved in with her sister while she recovered from cancer.  She found a job six months later and settled back into a full time job with plans to retire at 66. Writing a book entitled “Hail Mary, Pray for us Sinners, Pleeeease!” was the beginning of Cathy’s writing career.  It sparked an interest to continue writing.   Finding Tuscany Press set the writing bug off and running.  Eight articles and one short story later, Cathy has found her voice in writing with Catholic Fiction.  “I hope to retire soon and devote all my time to writing.  My mother always dreamed of being published.  I’m hoping to fulfill that dream for her.”

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