SPIRITUAL BOOK LIST FOR KIDS

By Therese Borchard

School's out--and your child's finished the new Harry Potter? Not to worry. We've assembled a selection of books for kids of all ages that are both fun to read and convey strong spiritual values. And check out the activity or discussion question following each book description.

Baby to Preschool
Ages 5 to 8
Ages 9 to 12
Teens

BABY TO PRESCHOOL
Board Books

Just In Case You Ever Wonder
By Max Lucado, illustrated by Toni Goffe
Thomas Nelson; January 2000; 16 pages

A wonderful bedtime story to instill in your child just how much he or she is loved not only by you, but also by God. Best-selling author Max Lucado shares his warm blessing of love and tenderness in this board edition of a favorite family story. He writes, "As you grow and change, some things will stay the same. I'll always love you. I'll always hug you. I'll always be on your side. And I want you to know that . . . just in case you ever wonder."

Activity: Read this book at bedtime and tell your child five reasons why you love him or her and five reasons why he or she is special to you and to God.

  • What Is God's Name?
    By Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, illustrated by Phoebe Stone
    Skylight Paths Pub; September 1999; 24 pages

    Rabbi, Beliefnet columnist, and best-selling children's author Sandy Sasso describes the origins of God's name in this board edition of the award-winning picture book In God's Name. You and your child will explore different images of God for the first time as you read aloud the many titles of God. Bright and colorful illustrations complement the simple yet profound text.

    Activity: Think of three of your own names for God. Choose which one in the story you like the best.

  • The Carrot Seed
    By Ruth Krauss, illustrated by Crockett Johnson
    Harperfestival; May 1993

    "It won't come up," everyone warns the young boy in this story, who has great expectations for a carrot seed that he plants and tends carefully. The boy's conviction remains strong in the face of strong doubt and opposition. And to everyone's surprise except his, the carrot he eventually harvests grows as large as his faith, earning him first prize at the state fair. Young readers will learn the values of conviction and faith in this warm children's tale.

    Activity: Together plant a carrot (or another type of vegetable) seed, tend it, and watch it grow.

  • God Made Animals
    Zondervan Publishing House; August 1999; 12 pages

    Children ages four and under will enjoy this very simple book, part of the "And God Made..." series, which introduces them to basic names for things while delivering the clear message that God made everything. Each book focuses on a category of God's creation that babies through preschoolers find of special interest: Animals, Food, My Body, My World. The rainbow-colored and -shaped handle makes the book easy to carry and to open.

    Activity: Have your toddler point to things in the park or at the beach that God made.

  • Designed by God So I Must Be Special
    By Bonnie Sosé, illustrated by Bonnie Sosé and Holly Sosé
    Character Builders; June 1991; 17 pages

    This cheerful and colorful picture book is designed to stimulate the imagination and enhance the self-esteem of young children. The rhyming text and happy illustrations will attract and keep their attention as well as convey a sense of specialness and self-worth.

    Activity: Point to one unique or special feature on your body-such as a birthmark or a dimple-that reminds you that you are designed and loved by God.

    AGES 5 TO 8
    Picture Books

  • The Circle of Days
    By Reeve Lindbergh, illustrated by Cathie Felstead
    Candlewick Press; 1998; 32 pages

    This breathtaking picture book simplifies St. Francis of Assisi's "The Canticle of the Sun" without losing the beauty of its poetry. Like the canticle, it celebrates in word and picture the holiness of nature and reminds us of its wonder. The illustrator uses watercolor, gouache, and collage to enhance the melodic text with bright and colorful images, which will be sure to capture and hold the attention of young readers.

    Activity: Go on a walk and name all of the things in nature for which you are grateful.

  • The Clown of God
    By Tomie dePaola
    Harcourt Brace; January 1986; 48 pages

    Like so many of Tomie dePaola's award-winning picture books, this masterful work captures the spirit of an ancient tale-the French legend of the little juggler who offers the Christ Child the gift of his talent and the miracle that occurs because of his sacrifice. The tale, accentuated by beautiful illustrations, conveys the message that the greatest gifts come not from abundant wealth, but from the most humble and sincere places of our hearts.

    Discussion questions: What is my special gift or talent? How can I use it for the good of the world?

  • Can You Find Jesus?
    By Philip D. Gallery, illustrated by Janet L. Harlow
    St. Anthony Messenger Press; August 1996; 41 pages

    Imitating the successful format of "Where's Waldo?" this fun picture/activity book engages young readers in the magic of the Gospel as they search for their favorite biblical figures and other items hidden within the colorful images. The unique book is packaged with a parent's guide complete with activities that you and your youngster can do together. A great conversation starter of topics of faith, Can You Find Jesus also offers discussion questions and a glossary of terms.

    Activity: Follow the activities outlined in part two of the book.

  • Taste and See the Goodness of the Lord
    By Therese Johnson Borchard, illustrated by Phyllis V. Saroff
    Paulist Press; May 2000; 32 pages

    How does a young child first experience the goodness of God? Is it when he tastes the sweetness of his favorite flavor of ice cream? Or when she sees her first sunset over the ocean? Is it in humming the melody of a popular tune? Or in smelling Grandma's pie baking in the oven? All children first encounter God through their five senses. This book guides both child and adult through these first encounters by connecting God's loving presence with the goodness that surrounds us.

    Activity: Sing the lyrics to "A Few of My Favorite Things" (from the "Sound of Music" soundtrack). Make a list of your favorite things, especially those having to do with summer.

  • To Everything There Is a Season
    By Leo and Diane Dillon
    Blue Sky Press; 1998; 42 pages

    This beautiful book is based on the classic passage from the Book of Ecclesiastes. Now the unitive value of the passage is brought fully alive in the illustrations of internationally acclaimed artists Leo and Diane Dillon, who present the diversity, yet commonality, of our world's cultures, including art styles from Ireland, Egypt, Japan, Mexico, Greece, India, Europe, and the Middle East, among others.

    Activity: Read aloud the entire passage from Ecclesiastes. List a time of planting, harvesting, weeping, laughing, mourning, dancing, speaking, and silence in your life.

    AGES 9 TO 12

    The Life of Our Lord
    By Charles Dickens
    Simon & Schuster; November 1999; 126 pages

    "My Dear Children, I am very anxious that you should know something about the History of Jesus Christ. For everybody ought to know about Him. No one ever lived who was so good, so kind, so gentle, and so sorry for all people who did wrong, or were in any way ill or miserable, as He was," Charles Dickens reverently writes in "The Life of Our Lord." In a heartfelt retelling of the New Testament, the famous author of David Copperfield teaches his children-and ours-about religion and faith.

    Activity: Together watch the film based on Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.

  • How Do You Spell God? Answers to the Big Questions from Around the World.
    By Marc Gellman and Thomas Hartman
    William Morrow & Company; April 1995; 206 pages

    How should we live? What happens to us after we die? Why does bad stuff happen to good folks? How can we talk to God? These are some of the questions posed in this creative presentation of the wisdom traditions for middle readers. Rabbi Marc Gellman and Monsignor Thomas Hartman brilliantly compile and articulate Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu (and other) answers to some universal questions.

    Discussion question: How do the different world religions answer the same questions?

  • The Golden Goose King: A Tale Told by the Buddha
    By Judith Ernst
    Parvardigar Press; August 1995

    A retelling of the classic story of how the Buddha achieved enlightenment, this lovely book introduces young people to Eastern traditions and stories while encouraging such values as loyalty, courage, and self-sacrifice. Author Judith Ernst is faithful to the tale's earliest version, preserving its essential Buddhist flavor.

    Activity: Go to the library and look up some of the other stories that are included in Jataka Tales, the 500 stories told by the Buddha himself.

  • The Broken Tusk: Stories of the Hindu God Ganesha
    By Uma Krishnaswami, illustrated by Maniam Selven
    Linnet Books; October 1996; 98 pages

    "This book started its life as an introduction to Hindu mythology for children," author Uma Krishaswami explains, "[but] it wasn't until I hit on the idea of using a central character to explain the mythology that the project began to move forward. Ganesha is the gatekeeper in the Hindu tradition, the beginning of all things, so who better to introduce and explain? . . . I'm always amazed at how instantly and naturally children respond to these stories."

    Activity: Choose one Hindu myth that you like the best. What did you learn from it?

  • In the Beginning: Creation Stories from Around the World
    By Virginia Hamilton
    Harcourt Brace; October 1998; 161 pages

    This illustrated collection of twenty-five myths from around the world offers different explanations for the creation of the world. It introduces readers to new religions and cultures as it explores the wonder and glory of the origins of the world and humankind.

    Activity: Write your own creation story. How do you think the world began?

    TEENS

    E-Mail from God for Teens
    By Claire and Curt Cloninger
    Honor Books; September 1999; 256 pages

    This devotional book for teens offers one-page per day e-mails from God that target the spiritual and life issues teenagers face. Formatted as an actual computer screen, the book's layout is perfect for teens on the run, and those lacking a long attention span. A short question and message a day conveys God's special love for them.

    Activity: Write an e-mail to God about a recent struggle or problem in your life. Then compose a response. What do you think God would say to you?

  • She Said Yes: The Unlikely Martyrdom of Cassie Bernall
    By Misty Bernall and Madeleine L'Engle
    Plough Publishing; September 1999; 140 pages

    Cassie Bernall, a young woman shot to death in the Columbine tragedy, allegedly professed her faith in God before she was shot. In this touching memoir, her mother, Misty Bernall, tells Cassie's story "in an effort to encourage parents and teenagers." Moreover, it is a story that is sure to impress a sense of hope and courage in the hearts of teens worldwide.

    Discussion question: Think of a time when your yes to faith brought on persecution from others.

  • Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul III
    By Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and Kimberly Kirberger
    Health Communications; April 2000; 369 pages

    This book is a wonderful collection of stories on all kinds of topics that pertain to teens-relationships, family, growing up, identity, betrayal, and more. Written by teens themselves, young people are sure to find support, encouragement and understanding within the book's pages.

    Activity: Write your own story to be included in the next edition of Chicken Soup of the Teenage Soul.

  • Stories for a Teen's Heart
    By Alice Gray
    Multnomah Publishers; October 1999; 340 pages

    A compilation of 110 inspirational stories that are sure to touch the hearts of teens. This balanced collection of humorous and warm tales will assure young people that they are not alone on the road to becoming adults.

    Activity: Choose your favorite story and pass it on to a friend.

  • A Young Muslim's Guide to the Modern World
    By Seyyed Hossein Nasr
    Library of Islom Ltd; January 1994; 270 pages

    Specifically written for young Muslims, this book encourages them to become familiar with their religion and to gain an understanding of the modern world from the Islamic point of view in order to respond positively to its challenges. Robert Siegel of National Public Radio's All Things Considered says, "This guide for the Muslim to the modern world, the first of its kind in any language, presents the eternal truths of Islam as well as Western religious and intellectual tradition as they confront each other in today's world."

    Discussion question: Think about a situation where you or a friend were forced to deal with stereotypes or conflicts that arose from real or perceived differences between your religion and Western culture. What would you do differently?

    More on Beliefnet:

  • The Gospel According to Harry Potter by Connie Neal
  • Richard Mouw on why he recommends the Potter books
  • Two books by African-American authors bring the Bible to life for children.

  • DiggDeliciousNewsvineRedditStumbleTechnoratiFacebook