A blog where families who love and live the Catholic Faith can share, encourage and support each other.

Monday, October 10, 2011


By Sue Elvis

I often wish there was a Catholic children’s fiction section in our local bookshop. I’d love to be able to browse the shelves when I went into town and come home with something worth reading to our children. Obviously, the mainstream publishers don’t think there is a big enough market for Catholic fiction. They are not interested in this type of book. But there are good Catholic books being published. And there must be lots of families like ours who want to read them. We just have to do a bit more work to discover them.

Some months ago I heard that Fr John O’Neill had written another book for children, Benjamin. We’d read a couple of his previous books and enjoyed them immensely so we couldn’t wait to find out what his new book would be like. We all waited impatiently for Benjamin to be published and when we saw the book for sale at a recent homeschool camp, we didn’t hesitate. We knew we had to have a copy.

I have just read Benjamin aloud to my girls aged 6, 9 and 13. We read a chapter or two a day until we finished the book last Friday.

On the back of the book it says:

As a young Jewish boy, working on the family farm in Galilee, Benjamin wants to experience so much more of life. After a bitter argument with his older brother Reuben, Benjamin leaves home, his flute in hand, searching for adventure.

Benjamin’s journey takes him to Rome, where he makes both friends and enemies and learns just how difficult life can be, before returning home to Galilee.

In Galilee, Benjamin again crosses paths with his childhood friend, Youshua. Their encounters will have a deep and lasting impact on Benjamin’s life, as the story reaches its dramatic conclusion.

This blurb accurately describes the story but leaves so much out.

Fr O’Neill is such a clever writer. As we were reading the book, we met so many of the familiar stories of the New Testament but they were presented from a different angle, one which really engaged our imaginations, got us emotionally involved and gave us much to think about.

I think we all guessed how the book was going to end but I don’t think we were quite prepared for how that ending was going to affect us. I began to wonder if I’d be able to finish reading the final page. My voice started to shake but I did make it right to the last word. Then I looked up. Charlotte had streams of tears running down her face. Sophie was about to sob. That was it. I burst into tears myself. Gemma-Rose grabbed the tissue box and handed it around.

“That was a really good book, wasn’t it?” I managed to ask. All the girls nodded their heads vigorously. I think we will remember this story for a long time. I hope that the truths that Benjamin finally learnt will also ‘have a deep and lasting impact’ on my own children.

Cardinal Newman Faith Resources is stocking Benjamin. They might also have copies of Fr O’Neill’s previous children’s books Cappy and Nor Life, Nor Death, both of which we enjoyed immensely. But be warned: Nor Life, Nor Death, like Benjamin, might reduce you to tears. We sobbed our way through the final chapter.

I’d love to hear about any good Catholic children’s books you have read. We are always on the lookout for new treasures.

Please share more of my posts on my blogs Sue Elvis Writes, Stories of an Unschooling Family and Stories of Grief, Love and Hope


  1. Sounds like a great book Sue. We are looking for a new read aloud book. xx

  2. Leanne, it's a wonderful book. Fr O'Neill is a very talented and clever writer. The Cardinal Newman Faith Resources advertised "Benjamin" at a special price not so long ago. I'm sure you'd enjoy this book as a read aloud.