Date Published: October 2, 2013
Number of Pages: 116
Print Price: $7.19
eBook Price: $
I'm Bernadette by Emily Grace Ortega is a delightful chapter book about a young girl who learns about her special talents and her patron saint as she struggles with day to day choices.
Bernadette is disappointed when she learns that her Catholic school is having an All Saints Day costume party instead of a Halloween Party. The other 1st graders seem to be excited about it, and they all jump at the chance to choose saints who represent something they enjoy or who share a certain talent with them.
But Bernadette doesn't know what makes her special or what saint appeals to her. To add to her frustration, her mischievous little brothers have a knack for destroying her attempts to work on her project. Bernadette learns that saints were once ordinary people like us, with daily struggles and annoyances, but they loved God and tried their hardest to be good for Him.
Her own patroness, Saint Bernadette, was one of these simple heroines. She wasn't known for being especially skilled, she was chosen by God because of her love. Bernadette eventually decides that maybe an All Saints Day party really is something worth celebrating!
Bernadette is truly a charming character. Lively and full of strong emotions and funny insights about her surroundings, she jumps off the pages to befriend young readers and to amuse older ones. Ortega does an excellent job showing the importance of daily virtue. Bernadette has to make an effort to practice self-control, patience, responsibility, listening, and empathy, especially with friends and siblings.
No young life is without its ups and downs, but Bernadette's parents lovingly guide her through her emotional outbursts and moments of confusion. For instance, when her baby brothers come into her room and start to chew on her dolls, Bernadette is frustrated that they are not punished harshly and are sent to play outside instead.
Her mother explains to her kindly, "Sometimes little boys don't really need a punishment. Sometimes they just need mud."
From the perspective of a Catholic parent, I love that Ortega presents a Catholic family who is living out the daily call to foster faith, hope, and love in their home. Explanations of saints and aspects of the faith are conveyed naturally and do not distract from the narrative flow. I think young readers will be surprised by the end of the book by how much they have learned about the faith just by enjoying the story.
As a literature teacher, I found the text to be appealing, informative, and well-written. Not only are good vocabulary words introduced smoothly, but the general writing style and sentence structuring are clear yet nicely composed. This is the sort of children's literature that will encourage students to write and speak well too.
In addition, the book stays focused on a united plot line, peppered with humorous anecdotes and memorable images. This teaches a young reader to engage a chapter book and set of characters fully, instead of expecting a new mini-story with every chapter. I would highly recommend this book for children who are ready for chapter books (perhaps around 2nd grade).
That being said, I also think younger children would find it an enjoyable read-aloud and older children (and adults) would appreciate it as well. Whimsical and expressive illustrations about once a chapter and an easy to read font and spacing also add to the appeal for young readers.
I had an opportunity to ask the author what her goals are as a Catholic, children's author. She responded, "My main goal is to offer Catholic kids fiction that parallels their own lives. We enjoy fiction about people like us. By offering kids a 'Catholic world' in a fiction book, it reinforces those 'Catholic' habits and circumstances that we, as parents, try to instill. It needs to be normal and fun for a family to pray together, have more than two kids, celebrate Catholic feast days, etc. I'm not aiming to catechize as much as to depict a wholesome world. However, I think the book offers quite a few openings for parents to begin teaching conversations with their kids."
I think Ortega accomplished these goals quite well in I'm Bernadette, and I sincerely hope she continues to write more entertaining stories like this one.
Original Language: English
Book Dimensions: 8 x 5 x 0.3 inches
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