New novel offers spiritual nourishment to children, adults

MOUNTAIN HOME — For Clare, a witty, intelligent 11-year-old, the struggle to walk the narrow way of love in Christ is real. When a priest attends her parish to lead a mission on the rosary, she feels called to explore the mysteries deeper all while trying to let go of her own selfishness, looking to Mary as the example.

“Spending time thinking and praying about your holy life has made you a part of me in a way I never imagined could be possible. It’s like Mary’s memories of you have become my own, in my heart, and I feel so close to you,” Clare prays to Jesus.

Clare, a fictional character in the recently published book “The Costly Cookie Chronicles: A Young Heart Discovers the Face of Christ,” written by cradle Catholic Julie Kelly, helps young people understand their journey of faith better.

“The special something in this second book is Mary and the transforming power of the rosary,” said Kelly, 50, who has received emails from families who are reading the book aloud, discussing it and praying the rosary together. “That to me is special. At this point, that’s why these books are here. I pray every day for the families that read these books.”

Kelly and her husband have been parishioners at St. Peter the Fisherman Church in Mountain Home for 18 years. She has homeschooled their six children, ranging in age now from 4 to 20. Family life is centered on the faith, attending daily Mass and praying in perpetual adoration. About seven years ago, the couple’s then 9-year-old daughter Maria, like many children her age, had a “pretty strong will” and to inspire more listening, Kelly would tell the story of a little girl in a similar scenario and the choices she would make.

“It always had a happy ending to where her heart was happy — a disobedient heart was not a happy heart,” she said.

Kelly said she realized after Maria asked her to write the stories down, that “maybe there are other young hearts trying to find their way to holiness in the context of family life.”

“Clare’s Costly Cookie: A Young Heart Discovers the Way of Love,” in which Clare learns selflessness after her love for cookies always makes her desire for the biggest one, was self-published in 2013 and has been sold by Catholic curriculum providers, including Seton Home Study School and Catholic Heritage Curricula.

While meditating on St. John Paul II’s apostolic letter on the rosary, “Rosarium Virginis Mariae,” Kelly felt a strong call to write another book.

“For a lot of people the rosary can be boring. I wanted to explore the idea of why from the perspective of a child,” Kelly said. “If we enter deeply into the why behind the rosary, the why behind every prayer, the absolute joy of meditating on the life of Christ at Mary’s side … it gives us a deeper openness with Mary our mother.”

Most of the 191-page book centers on the mysteries of the rosary, attaching each with a struggle or emotion, like obedience, that Clare is going through in her family. 

The book is appropriate for 7 to about 14-year-olds, but adults can also receive spiritual fruits from it, Kelly said.

Kelly, who started The Children’s Rosary chapter in Mountain Home in August as part of a larger international movement to pray the rosary, said she has no aspirations to be a writer.

“Every word of the books has been written in prayer,” she said, praying for the intercession of Mary, the Holy Spirit and St. John Paul II before sitting down to write. “I really didn’t want it to be my work … This is to draw hearts to Jesus through Mary.”

The books can be purchased for $11.95 online, including on her publishing website,, or by calling the St. Peter church office.

Aprille Hanson Spivey

Aprille Hanson Spivey has contributed to Arkansas Catholic as a freelancer and associate editor since 2010. She leads the Beacon of Hope grief ministry at St. Joseph Church in Conway.

Latest from News