Summer Reading for Young People and Growing Imaginations

The Fire of Eden Word Search - game to accompany the Harwood Mysteries

Summer is a wonderful time for young people to get plenty of outdoor exercise as they grow physically. It’s important to remember that they are growing mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as well. With that in mind, summer is a great time to help young people exercise their imaginations!

One of the most effective ways of exercising one’s imagination is through reading good literature. This is especially important in our times, when it can be tempting for young people to spend inordinate amounts of time on social media and in front of computer screens—activities that tend to turn their attention inward. Reading a good book, on the other hand, is a way to transcend and to soar beyond themselves and into a world of imagination and possibilities.

When considering reading possibilities for young people, be sure to include the Harwood Mysteries by Antony Barone Kolenc, which invite young readers to travel to medieval England. The main character, an orphan named Xan, and his friends encounter mysteries in and around a Benedictine abbey while learning wisdom and values from the monks. Start reading these books of the Harwood Mysteries:

  • Shadow in the Dark: An attack by bandits in the middle of the night leaves a young boy with no memory of who he is or where he is from. Nursed back to health by the devoted monks in a Benedictine abbey, he takes the name Alexander, or Xan for short. Aided by the kindly Brother Andrew, Xan commits himself to finding out who he really is. Does he have a family? Are they still alive? And who—or what—is the shadowy figure creeping around the abbey in the dead of night?
  • The Haunted Cathedral: An ill-fated journey, a long-lost uncle, and a mysterious cathedral mark the next chapter in the life of Xan. For a year, he has lived in the care of Benedictine monks at Harwood Abbey. Now he learns that he has an uncle, said to live in the far-off city of Lincoln. Will Xan survive the trip alongside the prisoner Carlo and his cruel guards? Will he find Uncle William? And why is Xan drawn to the spirit that haunts Lincoln Cathedral?
  • The Fire of Eden (Now available!): In his latest adventure, Xan joins forces with a most unlikely ally to uncover the mystery of the loss of a priceless ruby coveted by many. Who took the ruby—a dishonest monk, a traitorous member of Her Lady’s guard, or the frightening magician who dwells in the woods?

Be sure to take advantage of the free curriculum companions and free online games for the books of the Harwood Mysteries.

Speaking of games, for those rainy days of summer, engage children with quality screen time by inviting them to play Wanderlight, an immersive digital game to learn and deepen the practice of our Catholic faith.

About Joe Paprocki 2751 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at

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