Laura is back this week with another review of a book for young readers.
Olivia and the Little Way by Nancy Carabio Belanger is a book that not only introduces the “Little Way” of St. Therese, but also shows young readers how they can put it into action. Children will draw inspiration from fifth-grader Olivia who is just beginning to use the little way. Olivia provides a wonderful example for young souls helping them apply the little way in their own life.
Olivia’s spiritual journey with St. Therese takes off when she finds herself in a troubling situation at her new school at St. Michael’s. When she is befriended by two girls who find it entertaining and cool to pick on the other kids, Olivia begins to struggle between her desire to fit in and her longing to speak out against them. Wanting to be accepted by these new friends, Olivia quickly finds that she is joining in on the “fun.” However, she soon discovers she does not feel comfortable going along with them and is quick to apologize for her actions the next day. Determined to do better, she begins applying the little way of St. Therese she has learned from her grandmother. Olivia finds herself secretly doing things for others and praying to St. Therese for help throughout her day. St. Therese becomes her best friend, though she never ceases trying to persuade her new friends to be more Christ-like. Instead of giving up on them, she continues to be their friend determined to help them change and see the errors of their ways.
As a mother reading this book, I had given up on Olivia’s friends, particularly when they were trying to talk Olivia into doing something she knew her parents would not approve of. However, this proves to be a wonderful lesson for the young reader in free will. Olivia freely made a wrong decision and she willingly paid the consequences. In addition, Olivia continued to see the good in her friends just like St. Therese did with a disgruntled nun she encountered who everyone disliked. Olivia used St. Therese’s example of remaining cheerful and patient with the nun and applied it to her own situation. Just like St. Therese, Olivia keeps trying. Olivia follows St. Therese’s way and in the end set a wonderful model for other children to follow. Olivia certainly has her faults in this book, especially her struggles with peer pressure; but what shines through are her yearnings to become better, her yearnings to lead her friends closer to God, and her yearnings to do what is right.
Young Catholic children can relate to this book in so many ways. The story takes place at a Catholic school with problems many young children face every day. Children learn a different approach in learning to face these challenges – the approach of the “Little Way.” This way, as Olivia finds out, is not always easy, but is a continuous work in action as the middle-school reader will discover through the pages of this book. Children will be inspired to make secret sacrifices throughout the day just like St. Therese and by doing so grow closer to God by offering up the little things in their daily lives. Whether the reader is just learning about the little way for the first time or is just brushing up on this spiritual exercise, all will gain insight from this award winning book.
Olivia and the Little Way is a 2009 Catholic Press Association book award winner, children’s books. It is also a 2010 recipient of the Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval.
We received a copy of the book for this review from the publisher, Harvey House Publishing.