Books for girls offer Catholic guidance to build bonds, navigate life

"The Thoughtful Girl's Guide to Fashion, Communication and Friendship" by Mary Sheehan Warren. Tan Books (Charlotte, North Carolina, 2018). 200 pp., $24.95.

"Side by Side: A Catholic Mother-Daughter Journal" by Lori and Ava Ubowski. Ave Maria Press (Notre Dame, Indiana, 2018). 192 pp., $15.95.

Two new books for female readers offer Catholic perspective and guidance for building relationships and navigating through life.

One is "The Thoughtful Girl's Guide to Fashion, Communication and Friendship" by Mary Sheehan Warren. It's an all-encompassing manual loaded with practical Christian advice intended for older girls and young women.

The other is titled "Side by Side: A Catholic Mother-Daughter Journal," written by mother-daughter duo Lori and Ava Ubowski is an interactive tool that uses Scripture and reflection to strengthen the bonds between older girls and their mothers.

Both books focus on the importance of authentic relationships, feminine spirituality and human dignity within the context of the real world.

Warren, an entrepreneur and lecturer on consumer behavior and fashion marketing at The Catholic University of America, filled "The Thoughtful Girl's Guide" with relevant and readable material. She must know well her easily distracted and impatient audience, stereotypically tagged to be eager for an eye-roll or contradictory assertion. She leaves coddled nudges and gentle suggestions for other authors, instead writing with air-tight confidence. She dangerously treads into humorous side commentary, but she does so successfully.

Warren tells her readers that they are indeed God's gift to the world. And as his gift to others, all humans have dignity. She adds that women in particular have special and (yes, pointedly different) dignity than men.

Her author's note, though short, speaks volumes about the tone of her book. She writes, "Most of the material presented could have been relevant to men. But the core of the message is tailored so specifically to the feminine soul that in the end, none of its material is relevant to men." Clearly, gender fluidity is not a subject covered in this book.

Funny at times but consistently frank, Warren includes useful sidebars, photographs, illustrations, graphs, multiple-choice tests (a la teen magazine genre) and real-life scenarios. She highlights fashion icons and role models such as Harriet Beecher Stowe, Irena Sendler, Caroline Herrera, Immaculee Ilibagiza and Ingrid Bergman.

The topics she covers are broad but specific in their guidance, explicitly giving examples of how to appropriately communicate with intention and authenticity. She includes illustrations to show young women how to dress in a way that attracts appropriate attention to appropriate places of the female body.

Need a little makeup application help? That's covered. Not sure what style of fashion you are? Covered. What colors work best on you? Got that, too. But not to worry, womanly advice is not relegated to appearances. She offers guidance on how to correctly give a good handshake, go on a job interview, follow routine rules for etiquette, and how to avoid fake news.

"The Thoughtful Girl's Guide" would make for a practical gift to a graduate or for someone receiving the sacrament of confirmation, but for females only, please.

"Side by Side" is another gift idea for a slightly younger audience. Born from personal experience, "Side by Side" is inspired by co-author Lori Ubowski's connection with her daughter Ava through joint journaling. They found the pen-and-paper approach to communicating easy and successful. And so the authors wrote the book to help facilitate such connection within a Catholic perspective. The idea of this mother-daughter project is to keep things light, allowing the time and space of journaling to alleviate embarrassment and heightened emotions while building trust.

Each chapter opens with a short reflection written by Lori for mothers and Ava for daughters. The authors then encourage short responses for reflection, recording memories, or spaces to doodle or draw. The interactions will eventually be shared with each other, opening opportunities to get to know each other better and to build a stronger bond.

The book includes sidebars highlighting biblical role models, saints, short prayers and Scripture reflections. It is illustrated with splashes of watercolor, cartoons and even emojis (the book is intended for preteens and teens, after all).

The authors provide such a unique and useful way to connect with each other using the Catholic faith as a guide that even the thorniest mother-daughter relationship could soften.

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Lordan has master's degrees in education and political science and is a former assistant international editor of Catholic News Service.