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“Mouse nuns” solve mysteries and bring mercy

Strange Sound by the Sea book on beach

John Touhey | Aleteia

Theresa Civantos Barber - published on 08/17/23

Writer Haley Stewart speaks with Aleteia about her wonderful new Sister Seraphina Mysteries for children

Mystery stories make for irresistible reading. Who can forget the delight of following Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple, or the inimitable Father Brown through their maze of clues to a shocking resolution? Or for children, the Boxcar Children or Encyclopedia Brown?

It turns out G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown has inspired a new generation of charming mystery stories for children. 

These are the Sister Seraphina Mysteries, a new series of books for children about a tiny cloister of talking mice who live under Chesterton’s floorboards, run a school for mice children, and just happen to solve mysteries.

There are so many things to love about this series — the whodunnit plots, sweet illustrations, and gentle education in virtue — but perhaps my favorite is how the chapters are just the right length to be a perfect daily read-aloud with my children.

The latest book in the series, The Strange Sound by the Sea, is on our summer reading list for kids. This third installment of the Sister Seraphina Mysteries delivers touching lessons on the corporal works of mercy and the gift of imagination within a charming tale of adventure and friendship. 

Religious sister heroines, inspired by a dream

Catholic author and speaker Haley Stewart is the mastermind behind the Sister Seraphina series. I had the chance to catch up with her about what inspired her.

“The idea of mouse nuns who live underneath the floorboards of G.K. Chesterton’s house actually came to me in a dream,” she explained. You can read more about the moment of inspiration here.

 Having religious sisters as the central characters is an unusual but wonderful idea.  

“The more I thought about it, the more I liked the concept of a book for children with lots of religious sisters as characters so that young readers could get to know them and see that they are real people with different personalities, different gifts, different weaknesses,” she said. “I hope that by befriending the Sisters of Our Lady Star of the Sea, children can imagine what it might look like if they are called to religious life.”

Young readers love the series, and Stewart is enjoying seeing their reactions.

“One of the best things about writing books for children is that you get the most wonderful fan art from readers!” she said. “I’ve also had young readers form their own little book clubs to read the series with friends and have also gotten lots of suggestions for what mysteries the characters should solve in future books.”

My kids and I can’t wait to read future installments in the series.

Discussion questions

  • What was your favorite part of The Strange Sound by the Sea?
  • When did someone in this book show virtue?
  • What did you learn about honesty and integrity from this story?
  • What did this book show us about caring for elderly people and others who may need our help?
  • How did this book help you understand what it looks like to practice the works of mercy?

If you like The Strange Sound by the Sea, you may also like …

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