My kids are fairly discerning readers, considering that they think Sonic the Hedgehog should be in the running for the Great American Novel.
They read hundreds of books per year (I have 73 picture books checked out from the library at the moment) and have absolutely no patience for boring books.
I respect their judgment on kids’ books, so when a new book arrived in the mail last month, I was curious to see what they thought of it.
If you haven’t heard of Detective Thomas and the Biggest Question, let me introduce you to this brilliant children’s book, a new classic that should be in every Catholic home and school library.
My nine-year-old’s review? “It’s not an A+, Mom, it’s an A+++!”
Aquinas meets middle-grade mystery
Kids love mystery stories, so combining St. Thomas Aquinas’ famous proofs for the existence of God with a kids’ mystery story is downright inspired. Throw some baseball in there, and it’s a kid’s dream read.
My nine-year-old couldn’t put it down from the moment he started reading it, saying Detective Thomas was “really fun” and “taught me a lot of stuff.”
Detective Thomas author Caitlin Bootsma was inspired to write it by her own young son’s questions about God. She recalled in an interview with Aleteia:
When my oldest son was only about 7, he provocatively asked us at the dinner table, “What happens if I don’t think God exists?” While I felt slightly panicky that maybe my little son was losing his faith (he wasn’t, he was just curious), I thought for a minute and realized there were real answers to his question.
Right then and there, my husband and I walked him through Aquinas’s 5 Proofs for God’s Existence. With some help, he actually understood! I realized that answering big questions like these were really important, even (or especially) for young audiences.
The mystery format invites young readers to slowly uncover the proofs for God’s existence in a way that feels fresh and thrilling. “Detective stories are so much fun. I love how they invite the reader to solve the mystery with the protagonist,” Bootsma said.
A springboard for conversation
Bootsma hopes Detective Thomas opens the door for parents and kids to have important conversations about God and faith. “My hope is that it isn’t just a fun reading experience, but a springboard to delving deeper into the mysteries of our faith,” she said.
Kids have big questions about God, everything from “Why does God let us suffer?” to “Why do we need a Savior?” to “Why do people do bad things?” It’s so important that their questions aren’t shushed away but answered honestly and thoughtfully.
“I’d encourage kids to ask all the questions and not be afraid to think big things through,” Bootsma said. “These are all questions that our faith has answers to. As parents, we’re not always going to know the answers right away, but this can be a chance to find them together.”
Most of all, Detective Thomas is a powerful witness that faith and reason go hand in hand.
Our faith is not opposed to reason. In fact, it’s not even in a different category from reason. God created Reason and our faith is extremely reasonable — and that’s something that kids can understand with the right tools.
Tools like Detective Thomas — and, yes, that’s even better than Sonic the Hedgehog. Check it out, and I hope you and your kids love it as much as mine do.