My children’s choir’s two favorite words every year? “Christmas concert.”

Though we practiced every week in preparation for one Sunday Mass a month, working on Christmas songs for the concert was what fueled their participation during the slowly darkening evenings of late fall.

The children’s repertoire could be divided into three sections: a children’s part in the adult selections, traditional Christmas carols, and holiday songs sung by the children only. The adult selections incorporated the children’s voices in various ways—some overlaid as a second melody of a Christmas carol, while others gave them their own verses. At dress rehearsals, the coming together of the choirs often brought a hither-to-unseen spark of excitement to their faces and a lift of joy to their voices.

I confess to being a traditional Christmas carol nerd who knows the words to every verse of many carols, so I often did a double-take when the children knew those familiar melodies, but only the first line of the lyrics. It was a revelation to them that there were more verses! Because I printed song lyrics on poster boards so they didn’t have to look down to read and sing, their eyes would get very focused and their attention very intense as they read the words.

The children’s-only songs ranged from secular holiday songs like Crabs for Christmas (a regional favorite) and You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch to other seasonal hymns and carols. The fun familiar songs elicited their share of giggles during rehearsals and performance, while other songs like a more contemporary arrangement of Creator of the Stars of Night challenged them musically. During the concert, there was often a “wow” moment of silence before the applause that drove home how much the children’s music had touched people.

This week’s collection of children and family books from CatholicsRead is all about engaging in the story of someone and finding the big or small “wow” moment, especially during these Advent and Christmas seasons.

There is no better way to start than with GIA Publications’s The Christmas Solo: A Children’s Musical. This charming children’s musical, designed for a children’s singing group of any size, tells the story of a children’s choir preparing for its annual Christmas concert. The coveted “solo” assigned to the choir’s newest member helps all the children to realize the true meaning and message of Christmas.

Advent and Christmas are the holy days par excellence for engaging children and families in the treasury of the liturgical year. Catholic Corner Vol. 4; Holidays and Holy Days, also from GIA Publications, is filled with shared activities, puzzles, stories, and prayer opportunities that invite children (ages 5-10) and adults into the richness of the times and seasons of Catholic life.

Any parent or adult who has cared for young children knows the power of a mystery. The hunt to solve the Seven Clues from Loyola Press by authors Scott Hahn and Maura Roan McKeegan is an engaging story of siblings Peter and Julia, who along with older brother James, embark on a treasure hunt that leads them into a deeper understanding of their Catholic faith. Along the way, the answer to each clue reveals another secret about the greatest gift God has ever given the world—so very appropriate for the season!

If you have or know older children or young people, CatholicsRead has two titles to bring them into the Catholic faith story.

First, we have the St. Joseph New Catholic Bible for Youth from Catholic Book Publishing. This new youth Bible is for young people who are looking for answers and guidance in the face of many difficulties that they and their peers face every day, including self-esteem, addiction, social media, dating, depression, discrimination, and forgiveness.

The second book is a Catholic fiction title from Loyola Press. The Merchant’s Curse, by Antony Barone Kolenc, is Book Four of the Harwood Mysteries series. In this thrilling installment of the award-winning series, Xan is living in Lincoln as a merchant’s apprentice to his uncle, but all is not well, and Xan has to help find answers to the problems besetting his new-found family.

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Therese Brown is the Executive Director of the Association of Catholic Publishers. She holds a master of arts degree in youth and liturgy from Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. She previously served as senior marketing specialist at United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Publishing Office. She is the author of Graced Moments: Prayer Services for the Lives of Teens (World Library Publications). She resides in the Baltimore area.

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