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The most delightful Catholic family ever to be in print

Cover of the book The Mitchells Five for Victory pictured on sand.

John Touhey | Aleteia

Theresa Civantos Barber - published on 08/06/23

The good-hearted kids and loving parents are the most charming Catholic family in any book and are drawn from real life!

When I was a child, one of my very favorite books was Friendly Gables, the story of a Catholic family with eight children. 

The book is full of high-spirited good fun as well as thoughtful life lessons. One of the most moving scenes is when the newborn twins in the family are baptized: The author captures perfectly the joy of welcoming a new baby as well as the immense love among the parents and older siblings. 

Imagine my delight when I recently discovered that Friendly Gables is actually the third in a trilogy of books about the utterly charming Mitchell clan! The good-hearted children and loving parents in this book series are surely the most delightful Catholic family ever to be in print.

The first book in the series, The Mitchells: Five for Victory, is a natural fit for our summer reading list this year. But really, the whole series is well worth reading and buying for your home library.

Drawn from real life

The true genius of the series comes in the spot-on descriptions of family life with young children. I’m reading aloud the series to my kids this summer, and they roar with laughter at the antics of the youngest Mitchell children, who behave just as ridiculously as the toddlers and babies in our own family.

It turns out there’s a reason the author, Hilda van Stockum, captures family life so well. She herself was the mother of six children, and she based the merry young Mitchells on her own children. (In fact, the character “Joan” is really Olga Marlin, who became an author and world-changer as founder of the first multi-racial girls’ school in East Africa. I can only imagine how proud her mother must have been.)

Five for Victory and the other books in the Mitchells series depict family life with evocative detail and wry humor. In this first book, dad goes off to fight in World War II and the Mitchell kids make their own small sacrifices to aid the war effort and their mom – but mostly they make up fun adventures, the way all kids did before the invention of electronics. You don’t want to miss this absolute gem of a series.

Discussion questions

  • Which of the Mitchell children is your favorite? Why?
  • The Mitchells have a whole bunch of pets by the end of the book! Which of their pets would you pick if you could have one of your own?
  • Why do the children start their V for Victory Club? What are some ways you can put in extra effort to help your parents like they did?
  • The children encounter a mean bully in their neighborhood in this book. How would you handle it if you had to deal with someone like that?
  • Why do you think the Mitchells’ friend Una (a refugee from World War II Europe) doesn’t like to talk about the things she saw and experienced before she came to America? Why is it good to welcome “new” kids who come from someplace else?
  • When Joan has to apologize to Mrs. Trotter, she feels very upset and dreads doing it, but then she feels very lighthearted and happy afterward. Have you ever had to apologize for playing a trick or lying to someone? How does it make a person feel when they tell the truth?
  • Why does Daddy change his mind about getting a dog? 

If you like The Mitchells: Five for Victory, you may also like …

I hope you love this book as much as my kids and I do. Happy reading!

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