Great Books to Give Kids
A crop of new children's books teaches religious. spiritual, and moral lessons to kids of all ages.
BY: Sherry Huang
While your child is in the middle of history textbooks, math workbooks, and study aids for mandatory state tests, remind him or her that reading can be fun, and even a spiritual experience. From a yoga book chock-full of illustrated poses to a Hasidic tale about gossip to a true story about a college student's homelessness, here is a kaleidoscope of spiritual books for kids of all ages that will serve as a visual feast and also will challenge and ignite the imagination.
| Zen Shorts
By Jon J. Muth
Meet Stillwater, a giant panda who speaks with a "slight panda accent." Through Stillwater, three siblings named Addy, Michael, and Karl are each taught a lesson of Eastern philosophy-being content with one's possessions, the inconsistency of luck, and letting go of anger. Muth's dreamy, gorgeous watercolors exude the calmness of Zen philosophy while his monochromatic "Zen shorts" (short stories) with illustrations in black ink will help kids understand the basic foundations of Buddhist teachings.
| ROAR!: A Christian Family Guide to the Chronicles of Narnia
By Heather Kopp with David Kopp; Illus. Martin French
Bursting with quizzes, fast facts, quotes, detailed plot summaries, word asides ("Malapert" means "disrespectful") a well-researched glossary, and "grown-up thoughts" about each section of the series, this amazingly comprehensive book is a great way for parents and children to enjoy Narnia together from a Christian perspective. French's bright, bold illustrations also roar through the pages, giving more pizzazz to an already impressive book. Plus, the "Let's Talk About It" questions that pepper the volume are sure to start conversations and draw out insights from readers young and old. Definitely an awe-inspiring must-have for Narnia fans.
| A Gift of Gracias
By Julia Alvarez; Illus. Beatriz Vidal
Knopf Books for Young Readers
Alvarez, author of the popular adult novel "How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents," sets this inspiring religious and cultural tale in the Dominican Republic. The first time María bites into an orange, the taste of "a sweet sunrise" brings magic to her life, and that night, a beautiful lady visits her in a dream. Dressed in a deep blue robe dotted with stars, Our Lady of Altagracia (the Virgin Mary) instills hope and faith in Maria and offers her a solution to help save her father's farm. Vidal's vibrant illustrations explode with color and perfectly accompany this moving tale that is sure to teach children to believe in the unexpected.
| The Way Home: A Princess Story
By Max Lucado; Illus. Tristan Elwell
Bestselling author Lucado takes the familiar fairy tale genre and combines it with a Christian allegory. When Princess Anne is lured away from her castle life and becomes trapped by Olbaid, the dark lord of the forest, the king must sacrifice himself in order to save his daughter. Lucado's story is rife with lessons about obedience, making choices, learning to sacrifice, letting go of past mistakes, and starting a new life, all rooted in the lessons taught by Jesus Christ. Readers will enjoy Elwell's realistic, medieval drawings that accompany Lucado's text.
| The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs
By Betty G. Birney; Illust. Matt Phelan
When 11-year-old Eben McAllister reads about the Seven Wonders of the World, he yearns to see the world outside of his hometown of Sassafras Springs. His father challenges him to find seven wonders in their own country town, in exchange for a train ticket to Colorado, and Eben skeptically begins his search. Birney spins a gentle and amusing story, complemented by Phelan's delicate sketches. Readers will follow Eben on a spiritual journey of quiet faith as he struggles to find the extraordinary in the ordinary.
| Under the Persimmon Tree
By Suzanne Fisher Staples
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
In this fictional story, Najmah, a young Muslim girl living in Afghanistan, is separated from her family by Taliban cruelty and death. At the same time, Nusrat, an American Muslim convert, is teaching displaced children in Pakistan and waiting for news of her missing husband. As Najmah journeys to Pakistan to find remaining family, both lives intersect as each survives on faith in the Qur'an and their own connections with the stars and spiritual forces that guide them. Deftly interlacing Najah's and Nusrat's stories, Staples delves into tough topics like grief and loss, cultural displacement, and survival.
Retold by Heather Forest; Illus. Marcia Cutchin
"Words, like feathers fly in the wind...," goes the old saying. In "Feathers," a European Jewish folk tale takes on new life with Forest's engaging narrative poem and Cutchin's detailed, colorful illustrations of old-world Europe. When the town gossip is accused of ruining a fellow villager's reputation, the rabbi issues a remedy: cut a pillow open and recollect each feather released by the wind. A wonderful book that will teach kids an important lesson--that words hurt and once said, can never be taken back.