15 Inspirational Children's Books

By Sherry Huang

As the winter season thaws into spring, it's time to lighten your child's spirit with 15 picture books that include encouraging and uplifting messages from well-known spiritual authors. The lessons tucked into these charmingly illustrated books range from appreciating what you have, to helping the environment in practical ways, to being tolerant and loving toward others.

Start reading our reviews of the best new children's books.

Sherry Huang is an associate editor of Beliefnet.

God's Dream

By Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Douglas Carlton Abrams
Illustrated by LeUyen Pham
Age: 5-8

The Nobel Peace Prize winner has written a gentle, lyrical book about what he believes is God’s greatest desire: that everyone of different races, nationalities, and faiths get along and show each other love. The book focuses on ways that "God dreams about people sharing…God dreams about people caring,” depicting young children in a rainbow of colors, shapes, and sizes playing and laughing together. Desmond Tutu's lesson is heartwarming, as are Pham’s richly colorful drawings of adorable children. A perfect book for teaching tolerance and equality.

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Grandmother, Have the Angels Come?

By Denise Vega
Illustrated by Erin Eitter Kono
Age: 5-8

This bright and beautiful book highlights the close relationship between a little girl and her grandmother. As the girl asks, "Grandmother, Grandmother, have the angels come and bent your fingers?” and other questions about growing old, her grandmother responds with positive, spiritual words that explain aging and strengthen the connection between them. ("Yes, my darling granddaughter. I will hold you when you fly and when you fall.") Vega’s story and poetic prose honor the process of growing old while Kono’s lovely illustrations lift the heart.

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Listen to the Wind

By Greg Mortenson and Susan L. Roth
Collages by Susan L. Roth
Age: 5-8

While climbing one of the highest mountains of Pakistan in 1993, Greg Mortenson lost his way and stumbled across the village of Korphe where he was helped and welcomed by the residents. Before leaving, he promised to "listen to the wind" and help the village build a school for the children. Mortenson details his experiences in the best-selling adult and YA versions of "Three Cups of Tea."  Here, he adapts the story for an even younger audience. The clever and detailed collages strengthen the text by revealing how Mortenson kept his promise by building a bridge and a school and helped the children of Korphe find their own voices. A brief scrapbook of Mortenson’s photos and a note by Roth on what inspired the collages give more depth and meaning to the story.

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It's Not What You've Got!

By Dr. Wayne W. Dyer with Kristina Tracy
Illustrated by Stacy Heller Budnick
Age: 5-8

How can parents show kids that money and gadgets don’t define who they are? Wayne Dyer offers 10 easy and practical lessons (e.g. "Live Within Your Means," "Abundance Means More Than Money”) that will teach children "a positive, spiritual approach to the meaning of money." Told in fun couplets and illustrated in bright colors, Dyer’s follow-up to “Incredible You!” and “Unstoppable Me!” is a perfect way to help explain to kids the importance of saving and spending in this recession. At the end of the book, there are also a series of questions and pledges to help children appreciate abundance in all its forms.

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Thank You, God!

Illustrated by Sophie Allsopp
Age: 5-8

Similar to “Dear God…Little Letter Prayers for Little People,” Allsopp has crafted another lovely book of brief poems, Bible verses, quotes, and more to guide children through the different seasons and holidays in a year. In addition to the gentle, pastel drawings filling the pages, Allsopp has also included envelopes containing simple prayer cards children can easily recite. The final page holds a large card for children to write their own prayer.

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Wabi Sabi

By Mark Reibstein
Illustratd by Ed Young
Age: 5-8

In Japan lives a cat named Wabi Sabi who goes on a journey to discover the meaning of her name. Only when she meets the wise monkey Kosho does she begin to "listen, watch, feel" that the truth of "wabi sabi" rests in finding beauty and harmony in simplicity. Reibstein’s clever and instructive book interweaves Wabi Sabi’s story with haikus and Young’s earth-colored collages. Not only does Reibstein’s prose explain the Zen concept of "wabi sabi" through a cat, his book is also a visual product of wabi sabi in its size, format, and colors. Explainers on wabi sabi and haikus help further children's understanding of a difficult concept.

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You Can Do It!

By Tony Dungy
Illustrated by Amy June Bates

Age: 5-8

Linden is having a bad day: he has a toothache--and he doesn’t know what he wants to be when he grows up. Does he want to be a football player like his older brother Tony? Or a doctor or a nurse like his older sisters, Sherri and Lauren? His faith-filled parents have always taught, "You can do it. Dream big," but Linden finds it difficult to dream big. With prayers and encouragement from his family, Linden goes to the dentist and finally discovers God's plan for him. Written by Tony Dungy, the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, the NFL Champions of 2006, "You Can Do It" tells an inspiring and loving personal story that will help children develop their special talents and have faith in big dreams.

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Thank You, Angels!

By Doreen Virtue with Kristina Tracy
Illustrated by Patricia Keeler
Age: 5-8

Does your child need some extra help from heaven? Angel expert Doreen Virtue shows them how to reach out to guardian angels (heaven's equivalent of superheroes) by saying, "Angels…please help me" or writing a "Dear Angels" letter. Her book teaches children how to call on angels and how to notice when angels are trying get their attention through signs such as rainbows, clouds, or feathers.  Virtue gives young children confidence that they can call on angels to calm fears, give healing, and find lost objects.

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Unexpected Treasures

By Victoria Osteen
Illustrated by Diane Palmisciano
Age: 5-8

Ship ahoy! Captain Curly Beard and Pirate Fred find themselves shipwrecked and their treasure lost at the bottom of the sea. Captain Jon and First Mate Sue come to the rescue and teach Curly Beard and Fred lessons in generosity, respect, and forgiveness. By the time the lost treasure is found, the pirates have received greater treasures: hope, faith, and love. While the rhyming stanzas can be awkward, the Christian lessons are well-served by the sunny illustrations. Victoria Osteen, the wife of megachurch pastor Joel Osteen, also offers a treasure map and a Captain's Q&A at the end to help anchor children in a life of faith.

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Milton's Secret

By Eckhart Tolle and Robert S. Friedman
Illustrated by Frank Riccio
Age: 5-8

Eckhart Tolle, author of the best-selling Oprah's Book Club choice "A New Earth," brings us a story about Milton,  "a bright and cheerful boy  who loved life." When a bully picks on Milton, he suddenly becomes fearful and uncertain. His grandfather tells him to "live in the Now," but he doesn't understand what that means until he has an enlightening dream with a revealing secret. Tolle's book, distilled from his adult book "The Power of Now," offers good advice for kids with personal struggles, but the existential lesson may still be too difficult for young readers. Not all children may be able to deal with life’s problems and schoolyard bullies in one week, as Milton does, but it's certainly worth trying.

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10 Things I Can Do to Help My World

Written and Illustrated by Melanie Walsh
Age: 5-8

Teach kids how to be environmentally friendly with this book of “fun and easy eco-tips." Walsh's book is an example of eco-friendly creativity--it's made from recycled materials--with easy ideas such as turning off water and using both sides of a piece of paper. With each tip, Walsh offers a one-sentence explanation on how the tip will affect the environment. The pages are also filled with simple but visually compelling images, and shaped paper flaps allow young readers to fold back and reveal each tip. This big book offers practical advice that goes a long way toward solving big environmental problems.

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My Guardian Angel

By Ron Berry
Illustrated by Chris Sharp
Age: 3-5

Help your tots understand guardian angels and rely on them with the brief prayer in this sweet board book (“At times when life seems dreary / And shadowed by a storm, / You’re always there to comfort me, / To keep my safe and warm”). Gentle illustrations show children and angels of different nationalities. The center of the board book is also a shadowbox where your child’s picture can be inserted beneath the image of a watchful angel. A yellow button, when pressed, releases heavenly music.

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I Think, I Am!

By Louise L. Hay and Kristina Tracy
Illustrated by Manuela Schwarz
Age: 5-8

Help your children understand the power of positive thoughts with confident affirmations. Against the backdrop of a carnival, children are shown how to transform their negative thoughts into positive ones.  Positive thoughts allow them to approach situations wisely and to achieve the outcomes that they want. A little girl learns to love herself, a little boy learns to be grateful for what he has, and another child learns to move past his mistakes. Hay, the founder of Hay House Publishing and author of the classic "You Can Heal Your Thoughts,"  and her co-author also include seven tips on how to say affirmations so that children can find more insight and hope.

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The Littlest Angel

By Charles Tazewell
Illustrated by Paul Micich
Age: 5-8

A long time ago in heaven, the Littlest Angel was very unhappy and he missed his life on Earth. His mischief and his loud whistling disturbed the celestial peace in Heaven. With the Understanding Angel’s help, the Littlest Angel is finally able to discover peace and happiness—and offer a special gift to a special baby named Jesus on one memorable night. While the book's premise is promising, some difficult vocabulary and an uneven plot distract from the overall story. Still, there is an important lesson about sacrifice that is not to be missed.

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This Is What I Pray For

By Phyllis Tickle
Illustrated by Elsa Warnick
Age: 5-8

In this children’s version of Phyllis Tickle’s “The Divine Hours,” kids can start and end the day with fun and easy-to-recite prayers. For each day of the week, three prayers (“Waking Up,” “Resting,” and “Ending My Day”) are outlined to help children develop a spiritual focus. Using a variety of rhyming formats, these prayers show how to observe God’s creation in nature, how to show kindness, and how to thank God for simple blessings. Watercolor scenes in muted pastels carry children through the week in a way that is satisfying from start to finish.

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