Love of reading, God and puppies leads to ‘pawsome’ achievement

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Bella Velasquez’s love of her Catholic faith, animals and reading blossomed into a series of books for young readers that melds the adventures of three furry friends and eternal truths that inspire. A trip to the library was the catalyst for the series. (Joyce Coronel/CATHOLIC SUN)
‘Catholic Puppies:
Lucy’s Big Adventure’

Author: Bella Velasquez
Publisher: Lulu
Length: 82 pages
Release Date: Jan. 16, 2018

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Bella Velasquez had devoured every last book she could find about animal adventures. Her love of reading and man’s best friend runs so deep that it earned her the Ravenous Reader award at school back in second grade, but it was a trip to the library last summer that led to the 12-year-old’s latest achievement: She’s author of a new series of books.

“We were at the library and went up and down the rows,” said Bella’s mother, Mandy. “She’d read every animal series there was.”

“But I couldn’t find Catholic-related chapter books with animals or puppies mixed into it,” said Bella.

That’s when Mandy issued a challenge: “Write your own book,” she told her daughter.

Bella took her mom’s words to heart and spent much of the summer writing and illustrating a children’s book she dubbed “Catholic Puppies: Lucy’s Big Adventure.” Several weeks later, Bella announced that she’d finished the project. “I said, ‘Oh my goodness!’ Sure enough, she’d written a book,” Mandy told The Catholic Sun.

“I really love reading and I like making up stories people want to read — stories with my Catholic faith and love of puppies tied into it.” But would the new book be dog-eared by others?

Bella’s parents were sure the answer was yes. After they read “Catholic Puppies,” they realized their daughter had created something other children might enjoy reading. They had the book professionally edited and then published through Lulu.com. Marco, Bella’s father, built catholicpuppies.com, a website that promotes the book.

The 81-page story traces the adventures of Lucy, Bernadette and Therese, three furry friends who have a faith-filled journey in which they meet new friends, receive the sacrament of Reconciliation and learn to trust God.

Bella’s first book proved so popular among friends, family and those who learned of the intrepid young author that she dove right into penning a full series. All the books meld Catholic faith with the adventures of puppies, each one bearing a saint’s name. “Therese and the Golden Bible” came to life over Christmas vacation and is now in the editing process.

A third book, “Bernadette in the Holy Land,” is in the works and delves into the three puppies preparing for and receiving the sacraments of Confirmation and Communion. Book number four is already outlined and casts the trio of the four-legged friends helping Mary and Joseph arrive safely in Bethlehem.

With her first series of books taking shape at age 11, it’s no surprise that the sixth-grader aspires to a future that includes further writing. At a Catholic women’s conference recently, Bella signed copies of her book for young fans, including a young girl who learned about “Catholic Puppies” from Facebook.

Julie Sikora, Bella’s teacher at St. Timothy Catholic School, said her student is an “exceptional writer” blessed with creativity. “To take on a project of this magnitude at her age is nothing short of inspirational,” Sikora said of Bella. “She combined her strong faith in God, genuine personality and her incredible knack for writing into a wonderful book for children to understand the sacrament of Reconciliation.”

Marco said he’s proud of Bella but he also gave credit to Mandy. “It has everything to do with how my wife inspires creativity in our children in ways that glorify God and the Church.”

“The one thing she keeps telling her readers is, ‘Dream big. God is cheering you on!’ It’s also how she signs all of her books,” Mandy said. “We want to support Bella because we really feel she has a gift in creating magical, adventurous, faith-filled books that are still true to our Catholic roots.”

(from page 6 of “The Southern Cross,” San Diego, March 2018)

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