Secrets Visible & Invisible

Authors: Corinna Turner,  Cynthia T. Toney,  Theresa Linden,   Susan Peek,  T.M.Gaouette,  Carolyn Astfalk,  Leslea Wahl.

Publisher: Catholic Teen Books.

Age Range:  11+

I recall from my teaching days that finding short stories for teens was always a problem – there never seemed to be enough collections of short stories available that were good examples of the genre.

Well now we have here a great selection of short stories from Catholic Teen Books.  This group of Catholic authors have collaborated to promote Catholic teen books.  Their Facebook page is HERE.  Each author is published in her own right, but they have joined together in this collection for the purposes of providing a neat little anthology of short stories and for showcasing their work.  Luckily for us they now have three compilation books.  Today I’m reviewing Secrets: Visible and Invisible, which is their first compilation book, published in 2018.

This is a fabulous idea.  Each author offers a short story that showcases her work.  The characters and settings in the short stories sometimes come from the author’s published works – so you get to ‘taste test’ their writing and stories.  This volume brings together a range of teen characters in a range of settings – each story explores different themes such as making choices, consequences, courage under fire, friendship, family and loyalty and more. We move variously from a dystopian present/future to 16th Century Italy and back again to a kid’s vacation camp in the mountains.

Each of these stories is Catholic in its own way.  Corinna Turner’s story which opens the book portrays a world where Mass is said in secret and the Government controls people with guns and suspicion.  In the second story, Recreation, Cynthia T. Toney writes of a young man who is intrigued by an isolated, elderly neighbour. He begins to help her out around the house, and she encourages him to say the rosary with her. His growing friendship with this elderly women has surprising consequences.  Theresa Linden’s story of a Catholic teen group is an interesting exploration of our attitudes towards people with disability, while Susan Peek’s chapter is a confronting story of a young soldier’s final hours as he prepares to meet God. Sister Francesca by T.M. Gaouette is a sweetly sad love story about following your calling into a religious vocation, and Behind the Wheel by Carolyn Astfalk is a story teens will love and relate to that explores the difference between truth and lies, right and wrong. Finally, Leslea Wahl explores the inherent value in each individual, even those who are mean and objectionable, as her characters try to solve an old mystery.

The stories are all high quality and varied enough to keep teens interested and reading.  The theme of ‘secrets’ can be found in each story.  I think that would be a great springboard for teachers or homeschool parents to begin from: ask young readers to find the ‘secret’ in the story. Having such a diverse range of stories will also be helpful for teachers of a diverse classroom of students who each has different preferences and abilities. I really would recommend this volume of short Catholic stories for your children or your classroom.

Watch these seven fabulous, hard working, Holy Spirit inspired authors speak about Secrets Visible and Invisible HERE

Secrets Visible and Invisible has the Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval.  You can purchase Secrets Visible and Invisible HERE

Teacher and Homeschool Ideas.

As I mentioned in the Review: I would start by asking young people to identify the secret or secrets in each story – sometimes there’s more than one!

Ask students to choose their favourite story:

  • More capable students/teens to write an alternative ending. Ask them to explain why they have chosen that ending.
  • Ask teens to explain why they like this story in particular. You might give them elements to explore – the characters, the story line, the ending, the excitement/tension/feelings the story evokes.

Here is a good summary of the 5 elements of short stories:

https://users.aber.ac.uk/jpm/ellsa/ellsa_elements.html

  • Using each of these elements in turn you could ask student to critique their favourite short story.
  • Ask students to write a blog review using these five elements for structure.

Finally, have students/teens write their own Catholic teen short story.  I would probably help them with an initial brainstorming session, helping put the elements together – many teens will love talking about their characters and storyline.  You might make up a worksheet that helps to order their thoughts eg:

  • Character – what is his/her name, what do they look like, dress like, what are their favourite activities, pastimes, what do they hate?
  • Setting – what time era, whereabouts, city or country, describe the town/place they live, what is their house/dwelling like?
  • Conflict – what will the conflict or problem be? What are the stakes – what happens if they lose or the problem becomes worse?
  • Resolution – How does the resolution happen? Who is responsible? What does the main character do/think/feel?  What about the other characters; what happens to them?
  • Theme/Lesson – what lessons have been learnt and by whom?
  • What makes this story Catholic?

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