Book Review: St Patrick’s Summer: An Adventure Catechism

Book Review: St Patrick’s Summer: An Adventure Catechism

St. Patrick’s Summer: A Children’s Adventure Catechism by Marigold Hunt.

I cannot sing the praises of this book highly enough. It is a hundred times better than any dry catechism I have tried to use. I suppose there might be a few things it doesn’t cover (though if there are, I can’t think what they are off the top of my head, I’d have to look and see) and I suppose there are questions and answers one should still memorize, but they just don’t capture the imagination like this “adventure catechism” does.

I’d been seeing recommendations for years on various Catholic homeshooling forums. And we really enjoyed Marigold Hunt’s A Life of Our Lord for Children and also her The First Christians: The Acts of the Apostles for Children. Both were excellent books. And despite my fears about the cutesy premise, this proved to be even better. I wish I had a dozen more by her that were just as good.

Set in 1950s England, the story follows Michael and Cecilia, two children who haven’t made their first communion, despite being older than the average first communicants. The problem is they aren’t properly catechized and their teacher is in despair because they ask too many questions she can’t answer. So she asks St Patrick for his help. And he answers her prayers by taking over the catechesis himself with help from Eve, Abraham, St Cecilia, St Michael, and a local priest who was martyred during the Elizabethan period.

They learn about the trinity, heaven and hell, sacrifice and prayer, the Mass, persecutions in the Church, and much more.

The one part of the book that doesn’t really hold up is the chapter about the Mass, which of course describes the old Latin Mass. But even there it wasn’t hard to pause and talk about the changes in the Mass, which was also a helpful conversation. I would love to find a book that talks about the current ordinary form Mass in the same helpful way that this book does.

St Patrick’s Summer has been a favorite read for Bella and Sophie, Ben, and even Anthony have all sat in on a chapter here and there as well. And I’ve enjoyed reading it aloud as well. The prose is fluid and graceful and I never feel I’m stumbling. The story is engaging and the catechism lessons are so very well done, an integral part of the story, never boring, always relevant. And the children are excellent stand-ins, asking questions, forgetting the answers, needing to be quizzed and reminded.

My own family has had many delightful conversations inspired by our reading, really digging in. I definitely foresee reading this one again and again. It will hold up well.

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    • Jennifer, I think they probably would, though of course there are no guarantees. On FB commenter on a local homeschooling group I’m in sort of dismissed it as “for younger kids”, but that might have just been her perception. I assume it’s aimed at first communicant age, but the story isn’t babyish and the time travel gimmick really isn’t cheesy and the catechesis is solid, the sort of stuff you can dig into more and more with older kids and in fact you could use it to jump over to the Catechism or the You Cat to go deeper with a 14 year old. I liked it because the format really opens the door to conversations which can delve deeper.

    • If you are looking for a good book about the Church for older children, I would recommend “Sun Slower, Sun Faster” by Meriol Trevor. It’s not a catechism, it’s a novel – but it does carry the reader backward and cover quite a lot of English Church history. The premise is time travel with a mystery in the present, and a child who knows nothing about Catholicism learns about his family’s Church. I loved it as a child without understanding that I was reading about the Catholic Church (now I love it because it is about the Catholic Church).

      • Karin, You’re the second person to recommend Sun Slower, Sun Faster. And since the other was Jennifer Miller, that’s two people whose judgment on books I trust implicitly. I guess I need to add it to my list.

  • We enjoyed St Patrick’s Summer! Loved it! It is a creative way to capture children and reexplain catechesis in a manner that I may not have. It has helped me to be quicker in my explanations as well, so my understanding is deeper. Understanding the value of the Latin Mass was helpful because we have history to it. Many times we still see Latin. It is a good tie in from the past to our present world.

    We read it as a family and my children would run into the room asking for it. It also motivated my 9-year old to read more into the YouCat. We haven’t had a chance yet to catch up as to what she was researching but it was from the book.

    I think the ages are good for any child who can sit through a novel. The chapters can be read independent of each other if necessary which is helpful for those nights when one child has late practice or something else. There is also review of catechesis taught in previous chapters, which I liked as well.

    Excellent book.

  • I found this one just terrific, too. We’ve been doing a pretty fluffy video-based First Reconciliation and First Communion prep required by our church, and while he and his little sisters love the cartoon gerbil (!!), I’m grateful to have S.t Patrick’s Summer to do the heavy theological lifting.