Suggested Reading Lists

//Suggested Reading Lists
Suggested Reading Lists 2017-01-30T12:16:32+00:00

The following items are not available through the Resource Centre but may be ordered through your local book seller or an online book store such as Amazon or Indigo.


Resources Used in Confirmation Programs

In the fall of 2015 Canadian Ministries conducted a survey about confirmation and profession of faith programs. Leaders and assistant leaders identified resources they had been using. These are listed below beginning with resources of The Presbyterian Church in Canada. Otherwise there is no particular order to the list, but the “Top Ten” most frequently mentioned resources are marked with a check √. The point-form annotations have been added by Anne Miller and Anne Saunders.

From The Presbyterian Church in Canada

A Catechism for Today, 2004
Available at

  • Intended for use by youth and adult study groups, new membership classes and by individuals wishing to have a “question and answer” introduction to the main beliefs of the Christian faith.
  • Focuses on the Apostles’ Creed, the Ten Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer

Foundations of Christians Living
By David Sherbino, 1996. Available from Tyndale University College & Seminary Bookstore or 416- 226.6620 Ext. 2188.
While not published by the PCC, the author is a minister at Cornerstone Community Presbyterian Church in Kleinburg, Ontario.

  • Designed to help Christians explore and understand some of the basic tenets of the faith
  • 10 chapters covering topics such as understanding the nature of God, the Bible, the church, living the Christian life, what it means to be Presbyterian
  • Includes a useful outline of topics to be covered in a new members class
  • Probably leaders would want to supplement it with other resources

Gifts of God: The Sacraments (Booklet)
By Rev. Heather Vais, Presbyterian Reformed Educational Partners, 2010. Available for download at

  • About baptism and communion, to be used with DVD
  • Includes brief introduction and a session to accompany each DVD segment with introductory notes, gathering activities, use of Living Faith, DVD viewing and questions for discussion, as well as other optional activities and a bibliography
  • Includes different meanings and understandings of both sacraments as well as giving participants opportunity to discuss their own experiences

Gifts of God: The Sacraments (DVD)
Available for viewing at

  • DVD has two segments: baptism – 7 min. 34 sec.; communion – 5 min. 32 sec.
  • DVD produced by the PCC, Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Moravian Church in America, PCUSA and Reformed Church in America

Glorifying and Enjoying God: The People, Practice and Promise of the PCC
By Dorothy Henderson with content by Gordon Timbers and Karen Horst, 2011 Third Edition

  • Includes brief chapters on Presbyterian history, the role of the Bible in our denomination’s faith, the PCC’s form of church government, baptism and communion, worship and serving others, stewardship and ecumenical and global partnerships
  • Each chapter includes beliefs and practices of the PCC, a story about this information, and suggestions for using the chapter with a group
  • Includes a list of additional resources about the PCC

Living Faith Study Guide: An Interactive Study Guide to Living Faith
By Carolyn Boyer, 2004; available along with Living Faith: A statement of Christian Belief at

  • Includes a preface and introduction outlining the theories influencing the content of the book – specifically Gardner’s multiple intelligence/learning style theory as well as a survey for participants/leaders identifying which is their favourite style
  • Each learning style is described and assigned a symbol throughout the resource
  • Supplies needed for the ten sessions are listed at the beginning of each chapter
  • Whole group activities as well as follow up activities touching on different learning styles are included for each of the ten chapters which coincide with the chapters of Living Faith: God, Creator and Ruler; God in Christ; God the Holy Spirit; The Bible; Faith; God’s Church; Our Life in Christ; The Church Reaches Out; Our Hope in God

Opening Doors to Discipleship
Sponsored by a partnership of the PCC and four reformed denominations in the U.S. This is a free online Christian education program available at

  • Four courses: A – Teaching skills B – Bible background C – Reformed faith D – Discipleship (Courses A and D are now in English, Spanish and Korean)
  • Each course has 12 sessions packed with engaging life stories, solid biblical material, and opportunities for group and individual reflection
  • More suitable for older youth; also could be used to equip elders, mentors, youth leaders and parents offering leadership in confirmation programs

This Presbyterian Church of Ours
By John Congram, 1995 (Wood Lake Books).
This was not published by the PCC but is sold by the Resource Centre, The author is a retired minister and former moderator of the PCC

  • Chapters cover such subjects as PCC’s history, beliefs, government, its view of other denominations, the Bible, worship, the sacraments and social action
  • Includes a study guide written by Jim Taylor with suggestions for group leaders
  • Some humorous parts

The following two PCC resources are no longer available but those who have a copy still use them! Look for them in a minister’s office, a church library or collection of Christian education resources.

A Step Along The Way
by Karen Timbers, Gordon Timbers, & Jean Cassidy, 2004

  • Planner’s guide plus seven units with session outlines and resource sheets

Stained Glass: Windows of Faith (VHS)
1995, segmented video, 22 minutes

  • Answers these questions: What is important to Presbyterians? What are the hallmarks oCf their faith? How do they live them out?
  • Covers Jesus Christ, Caring People, Baptism, Holy Communion, Church Order, Bible, Prayer, Service

From the Anglican Church

The Great Adventure: Exploring Christian faith with young people
By Patricia Bays, Anglican Book Centre, Augsburg, 1997

  • Five theme resource that can be spread over 10 sessions on these topics – belonging, God, Jesus, the church, the Christian life
  • Generous introduction to how this can work, with a planning guide, worksheets and considerations for leaders
  • Each theme includes use of at least two children’s picture books or novels relating to the theme as a springboard for discussion, along with a wide variety of follow up activities covering many learning styles – leaders are to choose what fits their group best

From the United Church of Canada

Get real, get a life… get God?: Exploration of faith/confirmation resource for youth
From the Steps in a Journey series, 1996

  • Introduction with how people learn, what God is like, what young people are like
  • Program also includes a Participant Journal and encourages use/possibility of mentors, a weekly or other format, and guests at the sessions
  • Nine sessions: what’s all this about, what we believe about: Jesus Christ/God/the Bible, how we act out what we believe: discipleship and justice/celebrating the sacraments/ prayer, what we can do together, to celebrate
  • Each session has background leader info, its purpose, preparation, check in idea, introductory activity, exploration, integration, journaling, discussion, an assignment and a closing
  • Appendices include an article on mentoring, one church’s confirmation journey, a meditation on Mark 2:13-17, sanctuary in God’s house and five other stories of United Churches responding to situations of injustice – United Church emphasis

Jesus 24/7 Youth: A short course on faith for the questing youth
By David Bruce, 2007

  • Curriculum arising from a confirmation class
  • Witty, accessible and adaptable guide exploring the Christian faith
  • There are other Jesus 24/7 curricula but not specifically for youth

Jesus 24/7 (Adult): A short course on faith for the questing Christian
By David Bruce

  • Suitable for older youth as well as adults; encourages people to ask their questions
  • 12 study sessions and 12 take-home exercises are packaged in a workbook format for both group and individual use.

Leap in Faith: A confirmation resource
By Leslee Alfano, Noelle Bowles, Rick Garland, 2004

  • Book for youth leaders beginning with an introduction considering the realities and challenges of confirmation as well as defining terms and meanings, i.e. differentiating between faith exploration, church membership and renewing/reaffirming baptismal faith
  • Chapter 1 includes quotes from youth who have done confirmation as well as the challenge to create a “chat room” with bowls of snacks and sheets of paper (some blank, some with various quotes from the chapter) to get conversation started
  • Chapter 2 outlines principles for: developing a faith exploration program for your context including – beginning with the participants, learning from each other, getting involved in congregational life, taking part in mission, making connections with life and keeping open to change; exploring faith through stories (and the Bible); exploring faith through worship, prayer and sacraments; exploring faith in daily life
  • Chapter 3 shares the models developed by three different congregations in designing their confirmation program
  • Chapter 4 includes “Ask Andrea”: advice for leaders from staff at Five Oaks retreat centre
  • Chapter 5 includes tools and ideas for creating your own program such as radical Christian lifestyles, early Christian worship, distance learning suggestions, etc.
  • There is a separate list at the back of print, video and other resources

From Alpha Canada

Alpha Youth Film Series DVD with Discussion Guide
By Ben Woodman & Jason Ballard

  • Twelve 21 minute episodes, designed to engage high school students, filmed in Vancouver, London, Paris, and Jerusalem,
  • Explores timeless questions about faith, life and God
  • Each episode includes three breaks for discussion: a question, interview with people on the street (from all over the world), and then the question again for group discussion
  • Discussion guide can be purchased separately

From the Mennonite Church Canada

Reaching Up to God Our Creator
By church leaders with Ojibway (Anishinabe), Métis, Cree, and European roots, 2008

  • For ages 9-14
  • Highlights the common ground of Aboriginal Sacred Teachings and the Bible, in the hope of fostering respect and understanding among Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities
  • Six sessions designed to supplement the ongoing ministry of elders in Aboriginal communities
  • Sets forth a vision for reaching out to God together as Aboriginal and non- Aboriginal Christians

From the Christian Reform Church of North America

I Believe: Getting Ready to Profess My Faith Study Guide (and separate Mentor Guide)
By Jessie Schut, Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2004

  • Book for youth that begins with “Stuff You Really Need to Know” which explains how this “course” will happen, what is expected of participants, that everyone will have a mentor, what happens at the end, answers “can I fail this?”, and lists dos and don’ts
  • A core expectation is that over the 8 sessions each youth will develop a personal statement of belief based on the Apostles’ Creed
  • The first session – Beginnings – includes meeting mentors, a personal timeline and a covenant as well as a quick personality survey and other get-to-know-you questions
  • Other sessions include: I believe…in God; in Jesus; in the Holy Spirit; God gives me a new life to live; the Church will help me grow; Holy habits will keep me growing; I want to belong to the body of Christ (8 sessions total)
  • Each session lists goals and includes book activities that challenge youth to think about their faith in creative ways, and Holy habits – Bible readings for the week and prayer suggestions
  • There is a page at the back entitled “Profession of faith: how does it happen?” which answers nuts and bolts questions about the process of joining
  • This is written from a Christian Reformed perspective and assumes willingness and ability to find and read scriptures each day of the week and to pray daily

Reformed: What it means, why it matters
By Robert De Moor, Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2001

  • Chapter titles: Back to the beginning; God’s in charge; God claims it all; Reforming day by day. With factoid and fast forward sidebars and points to ponder/questions at the end
  • Appendices: our church neighbourhood, creeds/confessions/doctrinal standards, and 16 key words (Christian Reformed base)
  • Likely more useful for adults, but could be a good reference for leaders

Heidelberg Catechism, 450th Anniversary Edition
Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2013

  • Summarizes the major teachings of scripture in 129 questions and answers.

From Logos

Making Disciples: Coordinator’s Guide (and separate Confirmand’s Journal)
By William H. Willimon, Logos Productions Inc., 1997

  • Suggests a 3 month schedule for confirmation and assumes use of mentors
  • Eight sections include – one church’s story using this model, defining confirmation, introducing the mentor support video, learning activities for the 13 sessions, mentor support and training, organizational meeting info with sample letters and declaration of commitment, sample 3 month schedule and suggestions for the confirmation service
  • The 13 sessions are written for the mentor’s role and require preparatory activities as well as outlining what to do with their confirmand – a variety of activity options are listed – separate mentor guides available
  • Session topics: getting acquainted, God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, worship, the Bible, Saints and gifts, ministry, baptism, spiritual life, death and resurrection, life in the church, the faith journey continues
  • Some of the sessions may happen as a large group, others are just mentor and student
  • The coordinator organizes training/orientation, answers questions throughout the process and ensures that needed supplies and information are available
  • Highly recommends an intro meeting for mentors, confirmands and families
  • The journal mirrors content in Coordinator’s Guide with activities/questions as well as a journal for the book of Luke and a back page with room to record confirmation memories

From the Presbyterian Church USA

We Believe – Professing Our Faith: A Confirmation Curriculum
By Meg Rift & Eunice McGarrahan, 2005

  • Two options for using resource: a single eight lesson stand alone confirmation program OR a full length 35 lesson program focusing on the Apostles’ Creed, 10 Commandments and Lord’s Prayer
  • A leader’s pack, teacher’s book and student notebook for each of the two options are available for sale through the PCUSA website at the link above
  • The student notebook contains “did you know?”, journaling prompts and “Q44U” which includes activities to go along with the content for each lesson
  • The teacher book includes introductory notes, lesson plans and “food for thought”
  • Clever chapter book dealing with many issues relating to the distinctiveness of being Presbyterian vs. more conservative Christian denominations, definite US context

Belonging to God: A first catechism
Approved in 1998; free download from

  • Similar to the PCC’s A Catechism for Today but with far more brief answers, simpler language and only 60 questions about faith; suitable for children and youth

From Sparkhouse/Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

re:form Foundations (2010)

  • General theology and discussion on where our faith has come from and how mainline churches approach faith questions

re:form Traditions (2011)

  • Denomination-specific with history and theology

re:form Ancestors (2012)

  • Bible study for youth on people in the Bible
  • With all the above re:form resources, there is an “anti-workbook” for each youth
  • Also a DVD for each teacher book/program with hilarious and thought-provoking questions about faith and a good framework for suggesting answers
  • Good stuff, but workbooks range in price depending on the resource and each youth needs one

From Christianity Explored Ministries

CY – Christianity Explored Youth Edition
By Nate Morgan Locke, The Good Book Company

Seven-week course takes young people through the Gospel of Mark

  • Leaders Guide, youth handbooks and DVD Soul: Introducing Jesus to a new generation
  • Bible studies, activities discussion questions, optional retreat or day away

From the Christian History Institute (CHI)

Apostles’ Creed: A look at its origin and its relevance to our lives today (DVD, Abridged Version, 120 minutes)
Directed by filmmaker T.N. Mohan, Vision Video, 2007

  • A very good resource for different age level groups particularly older youth through adult.
  • Lends itself to being viewed in six 20 minute segments
  • A downloadable four session companion guide for the abridged version “Experiencing the Apostles’ Creed” was prepared by CHI with Pastor Langdon Palmer. Available free at

From Zondervan

Sticky Faith: Teen Curriculum with DVD
By Dr. Kara E. Powell & Brad M. Griffin, 2011

  • 10 sessions including reproducible handouts and prep notes for leaders as well as a DVD with fairly brief clips for most of the sessions
  • Definite focus is how to bridge your faith as you leave for “college” (US context) and the challenges they will encounter including how to handle drugs, partying, sex, finding a church, etc. with lots of discussion, scripture and plan creating to handle these situations
  • Assumes an owned faith that can be lost and is narrow in terms of only preparing for college as opposed to other routes our youth take or consider – i.e. traveling for a year, do I do a “victory lap”, apprenticeships, going directly into the work force
  • Not a confirmation resource but could be drawn from to help prepare students going on to post-secondary education and some of the pitfalls they will encounter, safe place to share fears and address practical life skills they will need
Below is a list of books on the subject of evangelism, listed in order of the author’s last name. They are available through retail booksellers and sometimes the public library.
The summaries given are based on book seller or publisher information, unless otherwise indicated. They do not represent the views of The Presbyterian Church in Canada.
This list will be updated as new books come to our attention. Please send recommendations and summaries to canadianministries [at] presbyterian [dot] ca. If you wish to write a full book review for public posting, please send it and we will link it to the book listing.

Title: Outrageous and Courageous
Author: Fred Barnhard and Jeremy Ashworth
Year/format/pages: 2014/Paperback, Kindle/170
Publisher: Westbow Press, A Division of Thomas Nelson & Zondervan
Summary: This is a book about making friends and sharing faith. It’s also about sock balls, bloodsuckers, an epidemic of loneliness, and the RSVP Bible. It’s about not grabbing people by the head, not lying to ourselves as we tell the truth, not being a coward, and not letting the bad stories carry the day. It’s about crucifying our excuses. It’s about showing hospitality, paying attention, and embracing risk. It’s about building real relationships and loving people and sharing Jesus. And it’s a little bit about a homeless man named Mona Lisa. Authors Jeremy Ashworth and Fred Bernhard are pastors. Both are nice; neither is famous. If you want to know the story behind the photos on the front and back covers of this book, visit
See also Jeremy Ashworth’s book review at Evangelism Connections

Title: Evangelism for “Normal People”: Good News for Those Looking for a Fresh Approach
Author: John Bowen
Year/format/pages: 2002/Paperback, Kindle/224
Summary: This book serves as a primer in evangelism for Christians who think that evangelism is done only by weird people, not by ‘normal’ people like them. The book is in two halves. The first half traces the author’s journey of discovery through the Bible, showing how evangelism originates in the heart of God and is a scarlet thread running through the whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. There is an emphasis on evangelism as the work of God, who invites us into relationship. Such evangelism is normally a slow process, often taking many years. The role of the evangelist is to co-operate with God by playing his or her role, however small or insignificant it may seem.
The second half looks at difficult questions that arise in any discussion of evangelism: What exactly is our message? How do we translate our message into contemporary culture, which does not understand Christian language? Should we evangelize people of other religions? Do we have to believe in hell? And what difference does evangelism make in the life of a local church?
Study questions at the back make this an ideal book for a small group or a Lenten study series.

Title: Journey to the Common Good
Author: Walter Brueggemann
Year/Format/Pages: 2010/Paperback, Kindle/120
Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press
Summary: Respected author and theologian Walter Brueggemann turns his discerning eye to the most critical yet basic needs of a world adapting to a new era, an era defined in large part by America’s efforts to rebuild from an age of terror even as it navigates its way through an economic collapse. Yet in spite of these great challenges, Brueggemann calls us to journey together to the common good through neighborliness, covenanting, and reconstruction. Such a concept may seem overwhelming, but writing with his usual theological acumen and social awareness Brueggemann distills this challenge to its most basic issues: where is the church going? What is its role in contemporary society? What lessons does it have to offer a world enmeshed in such turbulent times? The answer is the same answer God gave to the Israelites thousands of years ago: love your neighbor and work for the common good. Brueggemann considers biblical texts as examples of the journey now required of the faithful if they wish to move from isolation and distrust to a practice of neighborliness, as an invitation to a radical choice for life or for death, and as a reliable script for overcoming contemporary problems of loss and restoration in a failed urban economy.

Unbinding the Gospel Series
Author: Reese, Martha Grace
Year/Format/Pages: 2008/Paperback
Publisher: Chalice Press
Summary: The Unbinding the Gospel Series presents an effective way to help people in mainline congregations want to pray together, to grow in personal and congregational understanding, and to invite others into the life of the congregation.
After quickly becoming one of the top-selling congregational transformation books in the U.S., Unbinding the Gospel expanded into the creation of three more books—Unbinding Your Heart, Unbinding Your Church, and Unbinding Your Soul. Together, these books give churches an intensive, ongoing faith and faith-sharing experience. To learn more about the Unbinding the Gospel Series, visit
If your congregation is interested in receiving one copy of this set to work its way through the series, go to

Title: Got Style? Personality-based Evangelism
Author: Jeffrey A. Johnson
Year/format/pages: 2009/Paperback, Kindle/144
Publisher: Judson Press
Summary: Intimidated by the Great Commission? Cringe at the idea of evangelism on the street corner or going door-to-door? Pastor Jeff Johnson will transform your commitment to sharing the good news of Jesus as individuals and as a congregation. Identify the evangelism style that suits your personality, learn from biblical and contemporary role models who employ the same strengths, and discover the joy in introducing family, friends, or strangers to the life of faith.
See also the book review by Bruce Laverman at Evangelism Connections .

Title: Transforming Evangelism: The Wesleyan Way of Sharing Faith
Author: Henry H. Knight III and F. Douglas Powe, Jr.
Year/Format/Pages: 2006/Paperback, Kindle/128
Publisher: Discipleship Resources
Summary: Because of the more aggressive and confrontational tactics we hear about, evangelism has developed a bad connotation. Doors are shut hurriedly, phone calls end abruptly and emails left unanswered. After all, isn’t this a task better handled by the pastor? Perhaps it’s time to re-examine John Wesley’s model of evangelism as a full, natural circle – where it’s a communal beginning point rather than a solitary end. The central motive of authentic evangelism is this: Having received a message that’s made all the difference in our lives, we desire to share that message with others in the hope it will transform their lives as well.
Wesley models an evangelism that reaches out and welcomes, invites and nurtures, and speaks to both head and heart. “Evangelism is about relationship,” the authors write. “How we are in relationship to God, who is able to transform us into new beings. How we are in relationship to our neighbor, whom we must love like ourselves.” As one reviewer says, “Knight and Powe have given us a relational book. They describe the deep connection between John Wesley’s thoughts, Charles Wesley’s hymns, scholarly thinking about evangelism and biblical understandings of the gospel – all in relation to the needs, concerns and hopes of everyday people.”
Learn on your own or in a congregational group from this practical study on living an evangelistic life that demonstrates the transforming power of loving God and neighbor.

Title: Becoming a Blessed Church
Author: N. Graham Standish
Year/format/pages: 2004/Paperback, Kindle/242
Publisher: Alban Institute, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Summary: Pastor and author N. Graham Standish describes how a church that is open to God’s purpose, presence, and power can claim God’s blessing. Standish shares the story of Calvin Presbyterian Church in Zelienople, Pennsylvania, and its journey to become a spiritually deep congregation, one that is inwardly and outwardly healthy: spiritually, psychologically, physically, and relationally. Becoming a “Blessed Church” will help you discern God’s purpose and the path God is calling your congregation to walk. This book will help you find Christ in your midst and become aware of the many ways the blessings of God’s Spirit flow through your congregation.
See also the book review by Bruce Laverman at Evangelism Connections

Title: Evangelism after Christendom: The theology and practice of Christian witness
Author: Bryan Stone
Year/format/pages: 2009/Paperback, Kindle/336
Publisher: Baker Publishing Group
Summary: Most people think of evangelism as something an individual does – one person talking to one or more other people about the gospel. Bryan Stone, however, argues that evangelism is the duty and call of the entire church as a body of witness. Evangelism after Christendom explores what it means to understand and put to work evangelism as a rich practice of the church, grounding evangelism in the stories of Israel, Jesus and the Apostles. This thorough treatment is marked by an astute sensitivity to the ways in which Christian evangelism has in the past been practiced violently, intentionally or unintentionally. Pointing to exemplars both Protestant and Catholic, Stone shows pastors, professors and students how evangelism can work nonviolently.
Rev. Tim Archibald, New Minas Presbyterian Church, Kings, Nova Scotia says, “I really think that Stone has something important to say to us – evangelism emerges naturally out of a fully formed and engaged Christian faith. The glory of God just can’t help but shine and attract people. Here’s where evangelism begins – in deeper spiritual formation. Stone also sees evangelism and social justice as related and intertwined, not separate.”

Healing and Reconciliation Reading List

Clearing the Plains by James Daschuk (University of Regina Press/2013)
The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King (Doubleday Canada/2012)
The Orenda by Joseph Boyden (Hamish Hamilton CA/2013)
Indian School Road
, Chris Bergman (Nimbus Publishing Ltd./2014)
The Back Of The Turtle, Thomas King (Harper Collins Publishers Ltd./ 2014)
Up Ghost River, Edwin Metatawabin (Alfred A Knopf Canada/2014)
The Comeback, John Ralston Saul (Penguin Group/2014)
Prison of Grass, Howard Adams (Fifth House Publishers/1989)
Breaking the Silence, AFN (Assembly of First Nations/1994)
Reconstructing Native Womanhood, Kirk Anderson (Second Story Press/2000)
…And the Last Shall Be First, Murray Angus (NC Press/1991)
Native Poetry in Canada: A Contemporary Anthology, Armstrong and Grauer (Broadview Press/2001)
Whispering in Shadows, Jeanette Armstrong (Theytus Books/2000)
Out of Muskoka, James K. Bartlemann (Penumbra Press/2002)
First Nations Education in Canada, Battiste & Barman (UBC Press/1995)
Nation to Nation, Bird, Land, MacAdam (Irwin Publishing/2001)
Healing Spiritual Abuse, Ken Blue (Inter Varsity Press/1993)
Three Day Road, Joseph Boyden (Penguin Canada/2005)
Through Black Spruce, Joseph Boyden (Penguin Canada/2008)
Louis Riel & Gabriel Dumont, Joseph Boyden (Penguin Canada/2010)
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Dee Brown (Holt, Rinehart and Winston/1970)
Indian Legends of Vancouver Island, Alfred Carmichael (The Musson Book Company/1922)
The Circle Game, Chrisjohn and Young (Theytus Books/1995)
Stolen From Our Embrace, Crey & Fournier (Douglas and McIntyre/1998)
Clearing The Plains, James Daschuk (University of Regina Press/2013)
Waterlily, Ella Cara Deloria (Bison Books/1990)
God is Red, Vince Deloria (Fulcrum Publishing/1994)
Canada’s First Nations, O.P. Dickason (Oxford University Press/1997)
Collection of Life Stories of the survivors of the Quebec Residential School System, Marie-Therese Dumont (First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Health and Social Services)
Nation to Nation, Bird Engelstad (Anansi/1992)
We Are All Treaty People, Roger Epp (University of Alberta Press/2008)
Broken Circle: The Dark Legacy of Indian Residential Schools, Theodore Fontaine (Heritage House Publishing/2010)
Aboriginal Spirituality & Biblical Theology, John W. Friesen (Detseling Enterprises/2000)
Circleworks: Transforming Eurocentric Consciousness, Fyre Jean Graveline (Fernwood Publishing/1998)
Finding My Talk, Agnes Grant (Fifth House Books/2004)
Resistance and Renewal, Celia Haig-Brown (Arsenal Press/1998)
Native Peoples of the Northwest, Halliday and Chehak (Sasquatch Books/1996)
Motorcycles and Sweetgrass, Drew Hayden-Taylor (Knopf Canada/2010)
The Night Wanderer, Drew Hayden-Taylor (Annick Pulp Press/ 2007)
Buffalo Shout, Salmon Cry: Conversations on Creation, Land Justice and Life Together, Steve (ed) Heinrichs (Herald Press/ 2013)
The No-Nonsense Guide to Indigenous People, Lotte Hughes (New Internationalist Publications/2003)
Voices from the Sound, Margaret Horsfield (Salal Books/ 2009)
Dream Catchers, Philip Jenkins (Oxford/ 2004)
Flint and Feather, E. Pauline Johnson (Hayes.Barton/1912)
The Moccasin Maker, E. Pauline Johnson (Kessinger Publishing/2010 Reprint)
Indian School Days, Basil H. Johnston (University of Oklahoma Press/1989)
A Stranger at Home, Christy Jordan-Fenton (Annick Press/2011)
Fatty Legs, Christy Jordan-Fenton (Annick Press/2010)
In Peace and Friendship, KAIROS (KAIROS/Second Edition)
Colonizing Bodies, Mary-Ellen Kelm (UBC Press/1999)
A Native American THEOLOGY, Clara Sue Kidwell; Homer Noley and Tinker “Tink” (Orbis Books/2001)
The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in N.A., Thomas King (Doubleday Canada 2012)
The truth about stories: a native narrative, Thomas King (Dead Dog Café Productions/2003)
Truth and Bright Water, Thomas King (Grove Press/2001)
The Red Indians, Peter Kulchyski (Arbeiter Ring Publishing/2007)
Last Standing Woman, Winona LaDuke (Voyageur Press/1997)
When the Other is Me: Native Resistance Discourse 1850-1990, Emma LaRocque (University of Manitoba Press/2010)
Tecumseh and Brock: The War of 1812, James Laxer (House of Anansi Press Inc./2012)
Goodbye Buffalo Bay, Larry Loyie (Theytus Books/2012)
Mamny Moons Ago, Fred McCue (iUniverse /2008)
Hanaway, Fred Metatawabin (Trafford Publishing/2004)
First Peoples in Canada, McMillan and Yellowhorn (Douglas & McIntyre Publishers/1988)
Citizens Plus, J.R. Miller (University of Toronto Press/2009)
Compact, Contract, Covenant, J.R. Miller (University of Toronto Press/2003)
A History of Native Residential Schools, J.R. Miller (University of Toronto Press/1996)
A National Crime, J.S. Milloy (University of Manitoba Press/1999)
Saik’uz Woman (Stoney Creek Woman), Bridget Moran (Arsenal Pulp Press/1998)
The Treaties of Canada with the Indians, Alexander Morris (Bedfords,Clarke & Company/1880)
Come Walk With Me: A Memoir, Beatrice Mosionier (High Water Press/2009)
In Search of April Raintree, Beatrice Mosionier (Portage and Main Press/1999)
The First Nations of British Columbia, Robert Muckle (UBC Press/2007)
Christ is a Native American, Achiel Peelman (Orbis Books/1995)
An Illustrated History of Canada’s Native People, Arthur J. Ray (McGill-Queen’s University Press)
Aboriginal People in Canada, Kevin (ed) Reed (Pearson/2011)
Unsettling The Settler Within, Paulette Regan (UBC Press /2010)
Speaking My Truth: Reflections on Reconciliation and Residential Schools, Shelagh Rogers et al (Aboriginal Healing Foundation/2012)
From the Iron House: Imprisonment in First Nations Writing, Deena Rymhs (Wilfrid Laurier University Press/2008)
Feasting with Mine Enemy, Rosman and Rubel (Waveland Printing/1986)
Return To The Teachings, Rupert Ross (Penguin/2006)
A Fair Country, John Ralston Saul (Penguin Canada/2009)
A Geography of Blood: Unearthing Memory From a Prairie Landscape, Candace Savage (Greystone Books/2012)
The Legacy of School For Aboriginal People, Schissel & Wotherspoon (Oxford University Press/2003)
Dancing On Our Turtle’s Back, Leanne Simpson (Arbeiter Ring Publishing)
Manitowapow, Sinclair & Cariou (Highwater Press/2011)
Sacred Feathers, Donald Smith (University of Toronto Press/1995 (reprint))
Anishnaabe World, Roger Spielman (Your Scrivener Press/ 2009)
Full Circle: Canada’s First Nations, Steckley and Cummins (Prentice Hall/2001)
Potlatch People: Indian Lives and Legends of British Columbia, Mildred Valley Thornton (Hancock House Publishers/2000)
They Came for the Children, TRC (The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada)
One Church, Many Tribes, Richard Twiss (Regal Books/2000)
Indian Horse, Richard Wagamese (Douglas and McIntyre/2012)
Keeper’n Me, Richard Wagamese (Anchor Canada/2006)
One Native Life, Richard Wagamese (Douglas and McIntyre/2008)
The Next Sure Thing, Richard Wagamese (Raven Books/2011)
Native American Religious Identity, Jace Weaver (Orbis Books/1998)
Wawahte, Robert B. Wells (Trafford Publishing /2012)
Big Bear (Extraordinary Canadians), Rudy Wiebe (Penguin Canada/2008)
Stolen Continents: The “New World” Through Indian Eyes, Ronald Wright (Houghton Mifflin/1992)
Disrobing the Aboriginal Industry, Widdison & Howard (McGill/Queens University Press /2008)
The Gift is in the Making: Anishinaabeg Stories, Leanne Simpson (Highwater Press/2013)

Resources on Indian Residential Schools and Truth and Reconciliation:

Videos and Documentaries:

  • Gently Whispering the Circle Back. The story of the emergence of Blue Quill College in St. Paul as a place of healing and reconciliation. Contact Beth Wishart MacKenzie (producer) to arrange a screening or obtain a copy.
  • A 17-minute video by the Mennonite Church as to the importance of attending a TRC hearing
  • Watch a five-minute video by the Mennonite Church as to what are the key elements at a TRC hearing:


  • Project of Heart website full of resources for all ages to learn about residential school history using a variety of materials and strategies.
  • United Church of Canada website is full of information and resources to use within congregations.
  • The Children Remembered is a website that has all the photos and history summaries of United Church operated residential schools.
  • The Aboriginal Healing Foundation website is where you can order the book, Speaking My Truth, for free.
  • The website of KAIROS Canada has resources and workshop support for indigenous rights. Coordinating of and information sharing on events across Canada.
Recommendations by the Rev. Dr. Peter Coutts, General Presbyter, Presbytery of Calgary-Macleod

Consider adding the following resources to your library or the topic/theme of effective leadership.

Leadership Without Easy Answers
by Ronald Heifetz Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1998

Heifetz teaches leadership at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. This book has excellent application to congregational life and how to assist groups of people wrestle with “adaptive change” (i.e., changes that require a change in a group’s attitudes, beliefs, values, priorities and organizational culture). If you can only read one book off this list, this is the book.

God’s Potters: Pastoral Leadership and the Shaping of Congregations
by Jackson Carroll Eerdmans, 2006

Carroll is a retired sociologist of religion and one of the founders of the field of congregational studies. This is an excellent, evidence-based study of leadership in churches, rooted in what was, at the time, the single-largest study ever of congregational life, leadership styles and the perceptions of congregants, and demonstrates the most effective and appreciated styles of leadership.

Stewardship: Choosing Service over Self-Interest
by Peter Block Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 1993

There is a small but growing voice in the field of leadership that views leadership as a practice of stewardship. This book is perhaps the most comprehensive approach for this idea.

Full Range Leadership Development, 2nd Edition
by Bruce Avolio Sage, 2011

Avolio is an organizational psychologist who is determined to influence the field of leadership studies by pushing it to become more evidence-based (i.e., that what is recommended is in fact rooted in substantial scientific findings and not just the personal musings of a great leader). He is the third generation leading proponent of transformational leadership—people will not likely respond to transformational leaders until their transactional and relational needs are met. The implications in congregational life are significant.

Leading Quietly: An Unorthodox Guide to Doing the Right Thing
by Joseph Badaracco Harvard Business Press, 2002

Badaracco writes in the intro, “I have observed that the most effective leaders are rarely public heroes. These men and women aren’t high-profile champions of causes, and don’t want to be. They don’t spearhead ethical crusades. They move patiently, carefully and incrementally. They do what is right—for their organizations, for the people around them, and for themselves—inconspicuously and without casualties.” A very honest and practical look at cautious leadership.

Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice and Leadership
by Lee Bolman and Terrence Deal Jossey-Bass, 2008

Now in its 4th edition, this book is a standard text on understanding organizations. The authors present four different “frames” for looking at your organization: structural frame, human resource frame, political frame and the symbolic frame. These frames provide different platforms to analyze and appreciate your congregation from four invaluable points of view.

Organizational Culture and Leadership 4th Edition
by Edgar Schein Jossey-Bass, 2010

This book is about exactly what the title suggests. Ed Schein is the originator of the concept “organizational culture.” However, if you don’t want to digest 464 pages, try Schein’s executive summary book The Corporate Culture Survival Guide 2nd Edition (Jossey-Bass 2009).

Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change 3rd Edition
by William Bridges De Capo Press, 2009

Bridges’ book is now a standard in the corpus of change management and ideal for congregations. It is an easy reading introduction to the idea that people experience change as loss and “transition,” and the experience of loss helps people adopt the new things.

Choosing Change: How to Motivate Churches to Face the Future
by Peter Coutts Alban Institute, 2013

While it might be self-serving of the author to list this text, Alban Institute believes this is the first major book that applies motivation psychology to congregational change. In our culture of choice, leadership must be about motivation and helping the diverse collection of individuals, who make up every congregation, personally choose to adopt a new common corporate direction for their congregation. This evidence-based book introduces leaders to the concepts of motivation psychology and then provides a five-stage approach for motivating change that helps you put the best of current theory into practice.

Below is a list of books on the subject of New Church Development and recommended by Martin Spoelstra, the lead pastor and church planter of Discovery Church in Bowmanville, Ontario.

These books are not for sale in the PCC Resource Centre but are available from retail booksellers. They are listed in order of the year of publication. The summaries given are based on bookseller or publisher information. They do not represent the views of The Presbyterian Church in Canada.

Please send recommendations and summaries to canadianministries [at] presbyterian [dot] ca. If you wish to write a full book review for public posting, please send it to us.

Title: Building A Discipling Culture: How to release a missional movement by discipling people the way Jesus did
Author: Mike Breen
Year/format/pages: 2014 (2nd edition)/Paperback/Kindle/236
Summary: We often wonder what Jesus will ask us when we meet him face to face. We believe that some of his first questions will be about discipleship. How have we followed his Great Commission to make disciples? How many disciples did we raise up to do greater things than we ourselves achieved? Who “imitates our lives as we imitate Christ”? Jesus did not command us to build the church; he called us to make disciples. Effective discipleship creates the church, not the other way around. This resource will give you practical and biblical insights on building a culture of discipleship in your community.

Title: Launch: Starting a new church from scratch
Author: Nelson Searcy & Kerrick Thomas
Year/format/pages: 2014/Paperback, Kindle/224
Summary: Starting a church from scratch? Start here! This is no typical church planting or church growth book. The authors, both pastors at The Journey Church of the City in Manhattan, offer specific strategies for beginning a church from scratch, based on their own experiences in launching a church with no members, no money and no staff and watched membership skyrocket to more than a thousand people in three years! They offer practical strategies for quickly raising funds, creating a team, planning services, effective evangelism and rapidly developing a growing membership. Specific advice is included for reaching that often difficult to target demographic, the 20 to 40 year old. You will also get an insider look at “The Journey Church of the City” as a model for church planting. The helpful strategies here will help you remove many of the barriers, questions and doubts encountered in starting a church from scratch.

Title: Coaching Manual: Big Picture Coaching – The coaching wheel
Author: New Church Coaching Network, PC(USA)
Year/format/pages: 2013, 53 pages
(Note: The 1001 New Worshiping Communities is a movement happening in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and offers a range of resources.)

Title: The Permanent Revolution: Apostolic imagination and practice for the 21st century church
Author: Alan Hirsch & Tim Catchim
Year/format/pages: 2012/Hardcover, Kindle/368
Summary: The Permanent Revolution is a work of theological re-imagination and re-construction that draws from biblical studies, theology, organizational theory, leadership studies, and key social sciences. The book elaborates on the apostolic role rooted in the five-fold ministry from Ephesians 4 (apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers), and its significance for the missional movement. It explores how the apostolic ministry facilitates ongoing renewal in the life of the church and focuses on leadership in relation to missional innovation and entrepreneurship. The authors examine the nature of organization as reframed through the lens of apostolic ministry.

Title: Center Church: Doing Balanced Gospel-Centered Ministry In Your City
Author: Timothy Keller
Year/format/pages: 2012/Hardcover, Kindle/352
Summary: Today many pastors are struggling to adapt to a post-Christian culture without abandoning orthodox theology. How do we communicate the concepts of grace and substitutionary atonement in our globalized culture and context? In Center Church, Timothy Keller offers challenging insights and provocative questions based on over twenty years of ministry in New York City. This book outlines a theological vision for ministry – applying classic doctrines to our time and place – organized around three core commitments: Gospel-centered: The gospel of grace in Jesus Christ changes everything, from our hearts to our community to the world. It completely reshapes the content, tone and strategy of all that we do. City-centered: With a positive approach toward our culture, we learn to affirm that cities are wonderful, strategic and underserved places for gospel ministry. Movement-centered: Instead of building our own tribe, we seek the prosperity and peace of our community as we are led by the Holy Spirit.

Title: Better Together: Making church merges work
Author: Jim Tomberlin & Warren Bird
Year/format/pages: 2012/Hardcover, Kindle/272
Summary: Church merger consultant Jim Tomberlin, with co-writer Warren Bird, makes the case that mergers today work best not with two struggling churches but with a vital, momentum-filled lead church partnering with a joining church. In this new book, they provide a complete, practical, hands-on guide for church leaders of both struggling and vibrant churches so that they can understand the issues, develop strategies, and execute a variety of forms of merger for church expansion and renewal to reinvigorate declining churches and give them a “second life.”

Title: Starting New Worshiping Communities
Author: Brian Clark, Jan Edmiston, Shannon Kiser, Philip Lotspeich, Lisa Mears, Vera White and Craig Williams.
Year/format/pages: 2014/Paperback/88
SummaryStarting New Worshiping Communities provides a series of tasks that include assignments and steps that can take you from zero to a new worshiping community. Each of the tasks suggests a Bible study and an extended time of prayer. Unfortunately, starting a new worshiping community is not linear; it is organic, contextual, and based on relationships between God and people. You are encouraged to engage this process

Title: Missional Communities: The rise of post-congregational church
Author: Reggie McNeal
Year/format/pages: 2011/Hardcover, Kindle/192
Summary: This is the third book in the series that helps to define and illuminate the popular missional movement. It examines a natural outgrowth of the move toward a missional orientation: the deconstruction of congregations into very small Christian communities. For all those thousands of churches and leaders who have followed Reggie McNeal’s bold lead, this book details the rise of a new life form in churches. It discusses how to move a church from an internal to an external ministry focus and outlines an alternative to the program church model that is focused on the projects and passions of the congregants. This book draws on McNeal’s twenty years of leadership roles in local congregations and his work over the last decade with thousands of clergy and church leaders.

Title: Launching Missional Communities: A field guide
Author: Mike Breen & Alex Absalom
Year/format/pages: 2010/Paperback/184
Summary: What is a Missional Community? Where did Missional Communities come from? How did they develop? How can your community begin launching and multiplying Missional Communities? This a practical, insiders look, giving you the tools to make MCs come alive in your church.

Title: Planting Growing Churches for the 21st Century: A Comprehensive Guide for New Churches and Those Desiring Renewal
Author: Aubrey Malphurs
Year/format/pages: 2010 (3rd edition)/Paperback, Kindle/432
Summary: If the church is to thrive in the twenty-first century, it will have to take on a new form as it ministers to the 120 million unchurched people in the United States. In this third edition, readers will find material on the importance of healthy, biblical change in our churches, updated appendixes, insight on our postmodern ministry context, and strategies for reaching new population demographics such as Generations X and Y. Pastors, ministry leaders, and church planters will find the information and advice found in this book invaluable as they carry out their ministries.

Title: Missional Renaissance: Changing the scorecard for the church
Author: Reggie McNeal
Year/format/pages: 2009/Hardcover, Kindle/224
Summary: Reggie McNeal’s bestseller The Present Future he asked the tough questions that churches needed to entertain to begin to think about who they are and what they are doing. In Missional Renaissance, he shows churches the three significant shifts in their thinking and behavior that they need to make that will allow leaders to chart a course toward being missional: (1) from an internal to an external focus, ending the church as exclusive social club model; (2) from running programs and ministries to developing people as its core activity; and (3) from professional leadership to leadership that is shared by everyone in the community. With in-depth discussions of the “what” and the “how” of transitioning to being a missional church, readers will be equipped to move into what McNeal sees as the most viable future for Christianity. For all those thousands of churches who are asking about what to do next after reading The Present Future, Missional Renaissance will provide the answer.

Title: The Multiplying Church: The new math for starting new churches
Author: Bob Roberts Jr.
Year/format/pages: 2008/Hardcover, Kindle, Audible/192
Summary: The Multiplying Church is a primer for pastors and lay leaders involved in, or wanting to learn about, the church multiplication groundswell in North America. It shows how multiplying churches should be a natural, regular function of every church to reach the 70 percent of Americans who have no meaningful church relationship. Detailing the stories and guiding principles of this dramatic growth, this guide offers insight on:
• Why churches are multiplying in the East but not in the West
• Keys to church multiplication
• The missing link—pregnant mother churches
• Antioch vs. Jerusalem: Which got it right?
• What kind of churches should we start?
• What is the end game of church planting?
• How big does a church have to be to start multiplying churches?
• Church planting movements or Jesus movements?
Bob Roberts helps us return to an early-church model of multiplication where a single church sent laypeople out to plant other communities of believers.

Title: Planting Missional Churches: Planting a church that’s biblically sound and reaching people in culture
Author: Ed Stetzer
Year/format/pages: 2006/Hardcover, Paperback/384
Summary: Planting Missional Churches is an instruction book for planting biblically faithful and culturally relevant churches. It addresses the “how-to” and “why” issues of church planting by providing practical guidance through all the phases of a church plant while taking a missional look at existing and emerging cultures.

Title: The Multi-Site Church Revolution: Being one church in many locations
Author: Geoff Surratt, Greg Ligon & Warren Bird
Year/format/pages: 2006/Paperback, Kindle/224
Summary: Churches are growing beyond the limitations of a single service in one building. Expanding the traditional model, they are embracing the concept of one church with more than one site: multiple congregations sharing a common vision, budget, leadership, and board. Drawing from the examples of churches nationwide, The Multi-Site Church Revolution shows what healthy multi-site churches look like and what motivates congregations to make the change. This book offers guidance, insights, and specific action steps as well as appendixes with practical leadership resources and self-diagnostic tools.

Campbell, Charles L. The Word Before the Powers: An Ethic of Preaching. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002.

Campbell observes that dehumanizing powers work as concrete and structural realities in human lives and society. Preaching ministry involves the responsibility to resist the powers, with the words and actions that welcome and pursue, here and now, God’s ultimate renewal of all creation.

Carroll, John T. and James R. Carroll. Preaching the Hard Sayings of Jesus. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1996.

The authors understand that the words of Jesus that may sound nonsensical or scandalous are based upon the gospel’s uncompromising eschatological demands. These demands ask us to live in God’s new realties. Grace can be offensive. Carroll and Carroll show their own examples on how to preach with the texts that reveal the hard sayings of Jesus.

Hilkert, Mary Catherine. Naming Grace: Preaching and the Sacramental Imagination. New York, NY: Continuum Publishing, 1997.

Hilkert points to the mystery that God’s new ultimate realities have already permeated our present lives and the world. She encourages preachers to observe, name and elucidate, through their preaching ministry, God’s grace that is encountered in individual lives and society until God’s new creation is completed and covers the whole of creation.

Jacobsen, David Schnasa. Preaching in the New Creation: The Promise of New Testament Apocalyptic Texts. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1999.

Preaching with apocalyptic texts may be daunting to preachers. However, Jacobsen explains that it is important to preach these texts, and offers practical guidance about how to tackle the challenging task.

Jacobsen, David Schnasa and Robert Allen Kelly. Kairos Preaching: Speaking Gospel to Situation. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2009.

Jacobsen and Kelly remind us that in congregational ministry there are occasions that require preachers’ prompt but thoughtful response. The writers provide preachers with theological and practical guidance on issues such as public crises, problems caused by injustice, funerals and weddings.

Long, Thomas G. What Shall We Say: Evil, Suffering and the Crisis of Faith. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2011.

In facing the classic but still thorny question of suffering and evil, Long leads preachers to encounter again the God who reveals Godself as a warrior waging love and hope in the midst of seemingly bottomless suffering and brokenness.

Resner, André, Jr. Preacher and the Cross: Person and Message in Theology and Rhetoric. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999.

Resner explains how the eschatological message of the cross orients and reorients the goal and methods of preaching ministry so that preachers may learn to be freed from the desire to acquire their own security supported by power, wealth or fame.

Saunders, Stanley P. and Charles L. Campbell. The Word on the Street: Performing the Scriptures in the Urban Context. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2000.

Saunders and Campbell served with Open Door Community, a ministry established for the homeless in Atlanta. The writers indicate that the gospel of the cross and resurrection moves preachers into solidarity with the marginalized in our society—an indispensable step for renewing preaching ministry.

Seters, Arthur Van, ed. Preaching As a Social Act: Theology and Practice. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1988.

Van Seters, the editor of this book, remarks that society is not simply “a backdrop to God’s personal encounter with individuals.” Preaching is a social act that is not only influenced by, but also influences, social realities.

Tisdale, Leonora Tubbs. Preaching as Local Theology and Folk Art. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1997.

Tisdale shows why it is important for preachers to exegete not only the biblical texts but also their congregation. She suggests how to carry out the task—essential to those who preach with the anticipation that the Word, which is deeply rooted in the context, may be heard in the lives of their faith communities.

The books listed below on the subject of youth ministry are available from retail booksellers and sometimes the public library. They are listed in order of the year of publication. The summaries given are based on bookseller or publisher information, unless otherwise indicated. They do not represent the views of The Presbyterian Church in Canada.

This list will be updated as new books come to our attention. Please send recommendations and summaries to canadianministries [at] presbyterian [dot] ca. If you wish to write a full book review for public posting, please send it and we will link it to the book listing.

Title: Unpacking Scripture in Youth Ministry
Author: Andrew Root
Year/format/pages: 2013/Hardcover, Kindle/128

Summary: Unpacking Scripture in Youth Ministry focuses on how to teach and present the Bible in the lives of teenagers. The author argues that teens are constant interpreters—always asking the questions, “Who am I?” What do others think of me?” And so youth ministers must teach them to interpret the actions of God as revealed in the Bible. This view is different than teaching biblical knowledge—memory verses and Bible facts—and it’s different than teaching them to interpret the Bible themselves. Rather, they are to view the Bible as a tool for interpreting God’s actions and then respond with their own actions.

Title: Unlocking Mission and Eschatology in Youth Ministry
Author: Andrew Root
Year/format/pages: 2013/Hardcover, Kindle/128

Summary: In Unlocking Mission and Eschatology in Youth Ministry, the author argues that youth ministers should teach teens to recognize that as Jesus’ disciples they are participating in the very action of God to bring forth the future of God. He argues that our service to God on this earth (mission) is a sign of the new reality that Jesus will bring when he returns (eschatology).

Title: Taking Theology to Youth Ministry
Author: Andrew Root
Year/format/pages: 2012/Hardcover, Kindle/112

Summary: Even if you know you’re called to youth ministry and are passionate about the students in your group, you’ve probably had a few of those moments when you’ve wondered why you’re doing certain things in your ministry, or wondered why you’re even doing youth ministry in the first place. In Taking Theology to Youth Ministry, you are invited along on a journey with Nadia—a fictional youth worker who is trying to understand the “why” behind her ministry. Her narrative, along with the author’s insights, helps you uncover the action of God as it pertains to your own youth ministry, and encourages you to discover how you can participate in that action. As you join this theological journey, you’ll find yourself exploring how theology can and should influence the way you do youth ministry.

Title: Dreaming of More for the Next Generation: Lifetime Faith Ignited by Family Ministry
Author: Michelle Anthony
Year/format/pages: 2012/Paperback, Kindle/192

Summary: With a fresh approach to spiritual formation, this book inspires children’s and family pastors along with their volunteers to take a new look at what is most important in the lives of those they shepherd. Family Ministry is not program driven. It encourages the leader to be Spirit-driven. Children’s and family ministry veteran Michelle Anthony comes alongside readers to help them investigate the “why” behind their ministry paradigm and to focus on the generational outcomes.

Family ministry includes practical examples of how to create an environment that allows the Holy Spirit to work and allows readers to dream about how to empower parents to partner with the church in faith formation. Most importantly, it reminds readers that each person’s life is part of a unique story that God tells through generations. With this truth in mind, readers will know that the difference they make in families’ lives will be eternal.

Title: Taking the Cross to Youth Ministry
Author: Andrew Root
Year/format/pages: 2012/Hardcover, Kindle/128

Summary: Think about sin and the cross—the way that salvation changes who we are and how God sees us. It’s a central part of our faith, and yet it’s one of the most confusing and difficult things to teach—especially to a room full of teenagers.

In Taking the Cross to Youth Ministry, the author invites you along on a journey with Nadia—a fictional youth worker who is wrestling with how to present the cross to her own students in a meaningful way. Using Nadia’s narrative, along with his own insights, the author helps you re-imagine how the cross, sin, and salvation can be taught to students in a way that leads them to embrace a lifestyle that chases after Jesus, rather than creating teenagers who just try to “be good.”

Title: A Theology for Family Ministry
Author: Michael Anthony and Michelle Anthony
Year/format/pages: 2011/Hardcover, Kindle/306

Summary: What was once simply referred to as a nuclear family in North America has morphed into labels such as non-traditional families, fragmented families, single-parent families, gay-partner families, blended families, and beyond. “It may not always be pretty, but it is reality, and that’s the intersection between biblical ideal and ministry practice,” writes the author.

With thoroughly researched input from a broad team of family experts, the book advises church and ministry leaders on how to make biblically and philosophically informed choices when reaching out to adults and children within these shifting paradigms. Emphasis is placed on what the Scriptures teach about the composition of the home, followed by discerning and hope-filled strategies for helping all families live out their God-given mandates. “While the family may continue to change into models that bring discomfort and angst to some of us, we rest in the assurance that God has a plan for those who live in any of these new configurations of what we now call family,” explains Anthony.

Other contributors include Ken Canfield, Michelle D. Anthony, Karen E. Jones, Freddy Cardoza, Michael S. Lawson, Richard Melick Jr., Curt Hamner, Leon Blanchette, Gordon R. Coulter, James W. Thompson, Timothy Paul Jones, Randy Stinson, Kit Rae, and David Keehn.

Title: Father Fiction: Chapters for a Fatherless Generation
Author: Donald Miller
Format: 2011/Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle, Audio/224

Summary: With honest humor and raw self-revelation, bestselling author Donald Miller tells the story of growing up without a father and openly talks about the issues that befall the fatherless generation. Raw and candid, Miller moves from self-pity and brokenness to hope and strength, highlighting a path for millions who are floundering in an age without positive male role models.

Speaking to both men and women who grew up without a father – whether that father was physically absent or just emotionally aloof – this story of longing and ultimate hope will be a source of strength. Single moms and those whose spouses grew up in fatherless homes will find new understanding of those they love as they travel along this literary journey. This is a story of hope and promise. And if you let it, Donald Miller’s journey will be an informal guide to pulling the rotted beams out from our foundations and replacing them with something upon which we can build our lives.

Title: The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry
Author: Andrew Root and Kenda Creasy Dean
Year/format/pages: 2011/Paperback, Kindle/352

Summary: So often we avoid talking about doubts and fears because we feel inadequately equipped to address them in any meaningful way. The crisis of existence can’t be answered with past Sunday school formulas or a few Bible verses, let alone another relay race. The questions our youth have are often the same ones that perplexed the great theologians, driving them to search for God in the places God didn’t appear to be—places of brokenness, suffering and confusion. What if we let these questions drive our search for God too? The authors invite you to envision youth ministries full of practical theologians, addressing the deep questions of life with a wonderfully adolescent mix of idealism, cynicism and prophetic intolerance for hypocrisy. Follow them into reflection on your own practice of theology, and learn how to share that theology through rich, compassionate conversation and purposeful experience.

Title: Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church
Author: Kenda Creasy Dean
Year/format/pages: 2010/Hardcover, Kindle/208

Summary: Based on the National Study of Youth and Religion, Almost Christian investigates why American teenagers are at once so positive about Christianity and at the same time so apathetic about genuine religious practice. Dean places the blame on the churches themselves. Instead of proclaiming a God who calls believers to lives of love, service and sacrifice, churches offer a bargain religion, easy to use, easy to forget, offering little and demanding less. But what is to be done? In order to produce ardent young Christians, the author argues, churches must rediscover their sense of mission and model an understanding of being Christian as not something you do for yourself, but something that calls you to share God’s love, in word and deed, with others. Dean found that the most committed young Christians shared four important traits: they could tell a personal and powerful story about God; they belonged to a significant faith community; they exhibited a sense of vocation; and they possessed a profound sense of hope. Based on these findings, Dean proposes an approach to Christian education that places the idea of mission at its core and offers a wealth of concrete suggestions for inspiring teens to live more authentically engaged Christian lives. It is persuasively and accessibly written.

Title: Growing up Christian
Author: John Bowen
Year/format/pages: 2010/Paperback/216

Summary: Young people who grow up in church seem to offer great potential for the future of Christianity. Yet often that potential goes unfulfilled. Some give up on Christian faith altogether. Many more give up on church. Others persevere with both faith and church. And yet others return after a time away. So what makes the difference? John Bowen suggests some of the answers to such questions. He has surveyed several hundred young people who “grew up Christian”, and retells their stories about how growing up and leaving home affected their faith-stories that are often poignant, sometimes hilarious, and always insightful.

This book offers helpful lessons for pastors, youth workers and parents who want to know how to help their young people to stay in church and in faith. What kind of church—and what kind of Christianity—do young people want and need? And can the existing church provide it?

Title: OMG: A Youth Ministry Handbook
Author: Kenda Creasy Dean
Year/format/pages: 2010/Paperback, Kindle/186

Summary: “Most contemporary young people operate far enough from Moses’ moral compass that it never occurs to them that “OMG” (“oh my God,” in teen-speak) has anything to do with the Ten Commandments, much less that it breaks one of them. After all, the phrase is a nearly ubiquitous adolescent throw-away line. Yet Christians should hear the phrase “oh my God” differently. Youth ministers, parents, teachers—anyone who has ever loved an adolescent—know that “OMG” can be a prayer, a plea, a petition, a note of praise, or an unbidden entreaty that escapes our lips as we seek Christ for the young people we love.”

Using six lens, the authors detail current practices and tease out underlying questions as youth ministry becomes more self-consciously aligned with practical theology. Contributors include: Kenda Creasy Dean, Mike Carotta, Roland Martinson, Rodger Nishioka, Don Richter, Dayle Gillespie Rounds, and Amy Scott Vaughn.

Title: Think Orange
Author: Reggie Joiner
Year/Format/Pages: 2009/Hardcover/272

Summary: Families and churches are each working hard to build faith in kids, but imagine the potential results when the two environments synchronize, maximizing their individual efforts. What can the church do to empower the family? How can the family emphasize the work of the church? They can Think Orange. Former family ministry director Reggie Joiner looks at what would happen if churches and families decided they could no longer do business as usual, but instead combined their efforts and began to work off the same page for the sake of the kids. Think Orange shows church leaders how to make radical changes so they can:

  • Engage parents in an integrated strategy.
  • Synchronize the home and church around a clear message.
  • Provoke parents and kids to fight for their relationships with each other.
  • Recruit mentors to become partners with the family.
  • Mobilize the next generation to be the church.

With a transparent, authentic approach that gives every family and church hope for being more effective in their common mission, Think Orange rethinks the approach to children’s, youth, and family ministry.

Title: Sustainable Youth Ministry: Why Most Youth Ministry Doesn’t Last and What Your Church Can Do about It
Author: Mark DeVries
Year/format/pages: 2008/Paperback, Kindle/232

Summary: Youth ministry expert Mark DeVries helps build sustainable youth ministries through his coaching service called Youth Ministry Architects. Based on his own experience and on his many conversations and interviews with churches in crisis, DeVries pinpoints problems that cause division and burnout and dispels strongly held myths. He then provides the practical tools and structures pastors and church leaders need to lay a strong foundation for your ministry so that it isn’t built on a person or the latest, greatest student ministry trend.

Building a sustainable youth ministry is not easy, and it’s not quick. But with commitment to the process, hard work and DeVries’s guidance, you can put together a healthy youth ministry—one that fits your church and lasts for the long haul.

Title: Youth Ministry in the 21st Century, the Encyclopedia of Practical Ideas
Author: Rick Lawrence (Ed.)
Year/format/pages: 2005/Paperback/224

Summary: This book includes groundbreaking insights and fresh tools for youth ministry, and over 100 practical ideas! You’ll gain powerful insights and tons of practical ideas to immediately use in your ministry. Includes worship ideas, discussion starters, object lessons, ideas for family activities, outreach, and much more. This volume focuses on findings from the National Study of Youth and Religion.

Title: Contemplative Youth Ministry: Practicing the Presence of Jesus
Author: Mark Yaconelli
Year/format/pages: 2006/Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle/256

Summary: The author is co-director of the Youth Ministry and Spirituality Project, which over the last eight years has gathered together churches and youth ministers from across North America to explore contemplative prayer, discernment, spiritual direction, covenant community, spiritual practice and Sabbath-living as a way of resourcing ministries with youth. This book offers some of the experience, teaching, praying and thinking behind the project.

Title: The Godbearing Life: The Art of Soul Tending for Youth Ministry
Author: Kenda Creasy Dean and Ron Foster
Year/format/pages: 2005/Paperback/220

Summary: In The Godbearing Life, the authors offer a lively spiritual primer and practical guide for those who pastor young people. The authors re-chart a course for youth ministry through the classical spiritual disciplines of the church. The book identifies families, congregations, and mentor relationships as the “holy ground” where young people are most likely to say “Yes!” to God.

Title: Single Digit Youth Groups: Working with Fewer Than 10 Teens
Author: Marcey Balcomb
Year/format/pages: 2004/Paperback/128

Summary: Even if your church has fewer than 10 teens, your numbers are never too small to offer a relevant youth ministry that powerfully impacts their lives. In fact, smaller numbers allow you to devote more time and concentrate greater attention on your precious few. You can actually give more to less. Single Digit Youth Groups points out many additional benefits that can only be found in a compact group, equipping you with up-to-date actionable plans for:

  • starting a small youth ministry.
  • establishing meaningful rituals.
  • recruiting adult assistance.
  • creative youth activities for less than 10 teens.
  • committing to a group covenant.

This resource is designed to engage every teen in the room, at every level of maturity, without alienating all the rest. Even in a small church, you can retain and develop the full potential of your special few. Small churches and churches with small numbers of youth will be delighted that someone has finally written just for them! The author helps them discover the joys and power of a single-digit youth group and provides the practical help they need. Fully half the book is filled with awesome activities for small youth groups (41 great activities, to be exact). In addition, the book gives information about essential and helpful forms for use in this youth ministry. These make short work of administration so leaders can spend more time in ministry.

Title: Family-Based Youth Ministry
Author: Mark DeVries
Year/format/pages: 2004/Paperback, Kindle/256

Summary: Family-based youth ministry is about adults relating to teens about discipleship one-on-one and in groups. It is about involving not just the nuclear family but the whole church family—from singles to older adults. More important, it’s about incorporating youth into the life of your church.

So stop worrying about the size of your youth group or your budget. Mark DeVries’s refreshing approach to youth ministry will show you how your church can reach today’s teens and how you can keep them involved in the life of the church. Whether you are a parent, a youth pastor or a church member who cares about teens, you will find in this book an entirely different approach to youth ministry that will build mature Christian believers.

Title: Worship Feast, 100 Awesome Ideas for Postmodern Youth
Author: Daniel S. White, Jonathon Norman, Jenny Piper
Year/format/pages: 2003

Summary: Serve a multi-sensory worship experience to your youth, mixing a cornucopia of ancient contemplative rituals with modern audio-visuals. Engage them with a mix of group participation, silent meditation, and sacred symbolism. Move them with a recipe of ancient chants blended with contemporary Christian rock.

Worship Feast was especially designed for youth workers and pastors who want to reach young people in their worship services by taking the sacred traditions of the worshiping church and blending them with current experiences. This book includes ideas for creating meaningful custom-made services…incorporating multisensory experiential worship elements into existing services (maybe even on Sunday mornings!)

Title: Youth Spirit 2: More Program Ideas for Youth Groups
Author: Cheryl Perry
Year/format/pages: 2002/Paperback/128

Summary: Need a few bright ideas for your next youth group meeting? Youth Spirit 2 is filled with great suggestions you can use to create meaningful programs and build community. Just like the first volume Youth Spirit, this book was created with you in mind. Start with the themes you’ll find here, then tailor-make your program to suit your group. New leaders will find helpful information to get started; experienced leaders will find the flexible program ideas inspiring. Youth Spirit 2 will quickly become an indispensable part of your youth ministry resource library.

Title: Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry
Author: Doug Fields
Year/format/pages: 2002/Paperback, Kindle/304

Summary: This book is hands-down the most comprehensive companion to not only surviving, but also thriving, during the most crucial phase of youth ministry. Employing his renowned wisdom and humor, the author disarmingly relates stories and principles from his own successes and failures over 20-plus years in youth ministry. Hee offers treasure troves of practical advice, all in the hope that new youth workers can travel a smoother path and achieve real longevity in a church culture that all too often chews them and spits them out. He covers all-important issues such as:

  • dealing with discouragement
  • establishing a solid spiritual foundation
  • building effective relationships with students
  • resolving conflict
  • ministering to parents and families
  • trailblazing change
  • working with volunteers
  • defining a realistic job description.

In addition, a chorus of insightful sidebar voices joins your conversation with Doug, among them ministry veterans Jim Burns, Steve Gerali, Mike Yaconelli, Helen Musick, Chap Clark, Marv Penner, Rick Warren, Jana L. Sundene, Bo Boshers, Duffy Robbins, Tony Campolo, and Richard Ross, all who’ve composed extensive, topical essays for each of the dozen chapters.

Title: Daughters Arise! A Christian Retreat Resource for Girls Approaching Womanhood
Author: Donna Humphreys, Gloria Koll, and Sally Windecker
Year/format/pages: 2002/Paperback/240

Summary: Daughters Arise is a guidebook for creating uplifting retreats for girls of all cultures entering womanhood and their mothers or mentors. It uses drama, music, art, movement, ceremony, and story to nourish each participant’s spirit. The retreat activities celebrate what it means to be a girl or woman in contemporary culture and what it means to be a daughter of God. We knew we needed to re-introduce our daughters and ourselves to the authentic gospel of Jesus’ accepting love. “Could our work welcome and support our daughters’ journeys and also reach the women who long to remain in the church or return to it?” write the authors. The guidebook is divided into two parts: Practical information on establishing and planning a four-day retreat; and program resources to enhance a retreat.

Title: More Building Assets Together, 130 Group Activities for Helping Youth Succeed
Author: Rebecca Grothe
Year/format/pages: 2002/Paperback/140

Summary: This book features 130 activities that will not only help you teach the power of developmental assets to young people, but build their assets as well! This is a practical resource that offers creative, easy-to-use activities – designed specifically for groups and classrooms—that encourage reflection and interaction between youth and adults. This resource is based on groundbreaking Search Institute research on factors that are vital for the healthy development of all kids.

Title: Soul Tending, Life-Forming Practices for Older Youth and Young Adults
Author: Beverly Burton, Drew Dyson, and Kenda Creasy Dean
Year/format/pages: 2002/Paperback/192

Summary: Soul Tending expands on the ideas Kenda Creasy Dean and Ron Foster put forth in The Godbearing Life: The Art of Soul Tending for Youth Ministry and offers a practical way for senior high youth and young adults to study spiritual disciplines while strengthening relationships among participants. The study includes lessons on inward, outward, and corporate disciplines. The goal is that Christ would be formed in each participant. Youth and adults co-journey together as they examine classical and contemporary disciplines, supporting one another, and intentionally seeking encounters with God. Key features include:

  • easy-to-use format allows group members to chart their own course through the book.
  • 43 sessions give participants plenty of material to choose from for a spiritual life retreat, an occasional session, a seasonal study for Lent or Advent, a short-term option, or a weekly covenant group.
  • the role of the leader/facilitator can change each time the group meets.
  • a teaching component that can be used as a large group session, or as the basis for discussion in the small group or spiritual life retreat.

Title: Starting Right: Thinking Theologically about Youth Ministry
Author: Kenda Creasy Dean, Chap Clark, David Rahn
Year/format/pages: 2001/Hardcover, paperback, Kindle/400

Summary: This book on youth ministry blends solid research with real-life experience. It is an excellent resource for undergraduate or graduate courses in youth ministry or for youth workers who want to ground their ministry in solid theology. It introduces youth ministry students (whether undergraduate or graduate level) to a marriage of solid research, real life, and accessible design. Whereas most college-level texts may reflect a thorough (though impenetrable) mastery of the field, they tend to expect readers to plow through unnecessarily thick prose and bland design because “it’s good for them.” Not in this book. Here college and seminary students are introduced to real-life research, real-life youth ministry dilemmas, and real-life solutions.

Contributing writers represent a spectrum of Christian education thought and practice, as well as widespread recognition in their field; transdenominational, yet the perfect background to ministry in any denomination or ministry organization. This text includes thorough indexes, design, and graphics; organization that permits use of any part of the text, in any order. It gives students a rich, academic, and readable (though not “popular”) grasp of every aspect of youth ministry.

Title: So What Am I Gonna Do with My Life? Leaders Guide: Finding and Following God’s Calling in Your Vocation
Author: Diane Lindsey Reeves
Year/format/pages: 2001/Paperback/80 (Leaders Guide), 64 (Student Workbook)

Summary: What do I want to do when I graduate? What do I want to do with my life? What kind of job am I cut out for? Does God even care about what I do for a living? Life is just plain uncertain for high school-aged youth, especially when it comes to The Great Beyond—beyond graduation, that is. Along with senioritis comes much worry about the future—or much waiting for a lightning bolt to strike them, which they just know will make everything clear. Help your students wake up and smell the hope! The four complete teaching sessions in So What Am I Gonna Do with My Life? Leader’s Guide will help your kids find and follow God’s calling in their vocations. The sessions include attention-grabbers and role models from Scripture, small and large group activities, discussion starters and tools for practical application, after hours events that give students a chance to explore a range of options, especially with the help of adults in the church.

Title: Four Views of Youth Ministry and the Church
Author: Mark H. Senter III, Wesley Black, Chap Clark, and Malan Nel
Year/format/pages: 2001/Paperback/192

Summary: Join the conversation as experts propose, defend, and explore Four Views of Youth Ministry and the Church. In a dialog that often gets downright feisty, four youth ministry academicians (i.e., the authors) delineate their distinct philosophical and ecclesiological views regarding how youth ministry relates to the church at large—and leave a taste of what’s profound and what’s not.

In Four View of Your Ministry and the Church, solid academic writing and an inviting tone and design create a compelling text for both in-the-field, practicing youth workers and undergraduates and graduate students.

Title: Making Disciples Mentor’s Guide
Author: William H. Willimon
Year/format/pages: 1990Paperback/70

Summary: Making Disciples pairs youth with adult mentors and guides them through a variety of learning experiences that will strengthen the student’s understanding of the faith while connecting him or her with the community of believers in a personal way. Topics covered include: God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, Worship, The Bible, Saints and Gifts, Ministry, Baptism, Spiritual Life, Death and Resurrection, Life in the Church, and The Faith Journey Continues.

Title: Teamwork and Teamplay
Author: Jim Cain and Barry Joliff
Year/format/pages: 1998/Paperback/417

Summary: This book is a guide to cooperative, challenge and adventure activities that build confidence, cooperation, teamwork, creativity, trust, decision making, conflict resolution, resource management, communication, effective feedback and problem solving skills.

Title: Cowstails and Cobras 2: A Guide to Games, Initiatives, Ropes Courses & Adventure
Author: Karl Rohnke
Year/format/pages: 1980/Paperback/220

Summary: This book provides teachers and recreation professionals with a guide to activities and curriculum. The learning goals are: (1) increasing the participant’s personal confidence; (2) increasing mutual support within a group; (3) improving agility and physical coordination; (4) increasing joy in one’s physical self and in being with others; and (5) developing familiarity and identification with the natural world. Section 1 examines leadership issues in adventure programming (group formation, selecting appropriate activities, group dynamics, and debriefing the group); discusses warming up and learning to fall; and provides complete directions for numerous games, initiative problems (group problem-solving activities), and ropes course elements. Section Two describes how specific institutions came to develop their exemplary adventure programs and presents their curriculum outlines. See

Children’s Books

Are you gathering books for your church or home library?
Have you been searching for good books for your church’s children’s ministries?
Do you want recommendations for books that might be suitable gifts for young people in your life?

The books listed below about Human Trafficking and Modern-Day Slavery have been collected and reviewed by Jeanette Romkema, HIV/AIDS Education and Animation coordinator with The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) of the Anglican Church of Canada. These summaries do not represent the views of The Presbyterian Church in Canada.

These books are available from retail booksellers and sometimes the public library. The books are listed in alphabetical order by author’s last name.

This list will be updated as new books come to our attention. Please send recommendations and summaries to canadianministries [at] presbyterian [dot] ca. If you wish to write a full book review for public posting, please send it and we will link it to the book listing.

Title: Kids on Strike!
Author: Susan Campbell
Publisher/Year/Pages: Houghten Mifflin Company; 1999; 208pp.
Age suitability: Grade 6 and up
Type of book: Historical chapter book
Summary: In Kids on Strike! Bartoletti works to highlight the role children played in the American labour strikes during the 19th and early 20th centuries. With a wealth of revealing photographs, posters, maps, newspaper clippings and personal interviews, Bartoletti gives readers a fascinating glimpse into the lives of children fighting for their right to go to school. Follow the personal narratives of 11-year-old Harriet Hanson who joins the striking workers, 16-year-old Pauline Newman, leader of the 1907 New York City rent protest, and many other child activists.

Title: : Iqbal
Author: Francesco D’Adamo
Publisher/Year/Pages: Aladdin Paperbacks; 2005; 120 pp.
Age suitability: Grades 4-8
Type of book: Historical fiction novel
Summary: This book is based on the life of Pakistani Iqbal Masih, the thirteen-year-old boy murdered for sharing the story of his six years as a bonded child in Lahore carpet factories. Author D’Adamo retells Iqbal’s life of courage, determination and triumph through the eyes of the fictional co-worker Fatima. It is Iqbal who explains to the other children slaves that their master is actually lying about freeing them one day. It is also Iqbal who inspires them to envision a different future for themselves and make it a reality.

Title: : I am a Taxi
Author: Deborah Ellis
Publisher/Year/Pages: Groundwood Books; 2006; 205 pp.
Age suitability: Grades 4-8
Type of book: Contemporary realistic fiction novel
Summary: After being wrongly incarcerated for cocaine trafficking, Deigo’s parents are sent to prison to serve a seventeen-year sentence. With nowhere else to live, Deigo spends nights with his mother in her cell, while earning money being “a human taxi” during the day. Lured by “a better life and fast money”, one day Diego finds himself the slave of a cocaine manufacturer and barely makes it out alive. This is the moving story of the power of the human spirit.

Title: Sold
Author: Patricia McCormick
Publisher/Year/Pages: Hyperion; 2006; 263 pp.
Age suitability: Grade 6 and up
Type of book: Contemporary realistic fiction novel
Summary: Lakshmi is a thirteen-year-old Nepalese girl sold into prostitution by her alcoholic father. Although she is told she can work off her family’s debt by cooperating with “the customers”, she soon realizes this is a hopeless dream. It is only when an American visits the brothel that she is rescued from this physical and emotional slavery. Brutally descriptive, Sold is written in the first person using free verse in the form of vignettes: “In between, men come./They crush my bones with their weight./They split me open./Then they disappear. I hurt./I am torn and bleeding where the men have been.”

Title: : The Carpet Boy’s Gift
Author: Pegi Deitz Shear & Leane Morin
Publisher/Year/Pages: Tilbury House; 2003; 40 pp.
Age suitability: Grades 1-4
Type of book: Historical fiction picture book
Summary: Nadeem and fellow workers are bonded labourers who work day and night in a carpet factory to pay off loans their families have. In reality, these children are slaves and will never be free; that is until one day they hear young Iqbal Masih marching in the streets handing out “Freedom Letters.” It is when Iqbal approaches Nadeem saying, “There is a law here now against child slavery—the law is called the Bonded Labor Abolition Act” that he knows something has changed. It is on this day that a new chapter started for victims of child labourers in Lahore, Pakistan.

The books listed below include prayers and/or are about praying. These books are available from retail booksellers and sometimes the public library. They are not for sale in The Presbyterian Church in Canada’s Resource Centre. The books are listed in alphabetical order by author’s last name. The list was prepared with suggestions from Gwyneth J. Whilsmith, author and freelance journalist who has worked for the Presbyterian Record, and Laura Alary (author and CE coordinator at Guildwood Presbyterian Church). The list does not represent the views of The Presbyterian Church in Canada.

This list will be updated as new books come to our attention. Please send recommendations and summaries to canadianministries [at] presbyterian [dot] ca. If you wish to write a full book review for public posting, please send it and we will link it to the book listing.
Note: For children’s books with prayers and ideas about praying with gratitude and thankfulness, please see also the Suggested Reading List of Children’s Picture Books about Gratitude, Giving and Receiving.

Title: How Do I Pray for Grandpa?
Author: Laura Alary
Illustrator: William Kimber
Publisher/Year/Pages: Wood Lake Publishing/2014/32 pp.
Age suitability: 5-12 years
Summary: When Miriam’s grandpa gets ill she learns that there are many ways to see and speak to God, and that prayer may not be answered in the way we would like. This book is a gentle exploration of how children might pray, and how adults can help them understand some of the mystery of prayer.

Title: The Breath of the Soul: Reflections on prayers
Author: Joan Chittister
Publisher/Year/Pages: Twenty-Third Publications/2009/136 pp.
Age suitability: Older youth and up
Summary: This book is written in short chapters on different subjects. It is a small but meaningful book that reminds the reader of the discipline of prayer, and of having “an open” heart when we bring ourselves to God. This is a good book to keep close by.

Title: Writing to God: Kids’ Edition
Author: Rachel Hackenberg
Publisher/Year/Pages: 2008/Paperback, Kindle/75 pp.
Age suitability: 5-12 years
Summary: This book offers guidance to kids that parents can also appreciate. It invites them to speak to God creatively through their pens (or pencils, or crayons) – to pray to God using their senses, reflecting on their feelings, in light of Bible verses, looking at nature, to understand the ordinary events of life, to use new words and pictures for God, and as a way to say “thank you.”

Title: Good Morning God
Author/Illustrator: Marylou Healy
Publisher/Year/Pages: Healy Press/2015/10 pp.
Age suitability: 4 through 19 years
Summary: This is an illustrated prayer book for children of all ages, teaching them to thank God for all that surrounds them. This book is a reminder for all to thank God for the gifts of nature, with fun illustrations.

Title: Journey to the Heart: Centering Prayer for Children
Author: Frank X. Jelenek
Illustrator: Ann Boyajian
Publisher/Year/Pages: Paraclete/2007/32 pp.
Age suitability: 3-10 years
Summary: Centering prayer is a way of opening our whole being to God, beyond thoughts, words and emotions. Frank Jelenek shows young children just how to do that. This resource will help parents and teachers to introduce children to the joys of communicating with God in this special, intimate way.

Title: The Lord’s Prayer
Author:/Illustrator: Tim Ladwig
Publisher/Year/Pages: Eerdmans Young Readers/2000/32 pp.
Age suitability: 5 years and up
Summary: The beloved words of The Lord’s Prayer serve as the text for a picture book that shows a young girl and her father spending a day together and helping an elderly neighbor. The book is brilliantly illustrated, with the paintings interpreting each phrase of the prayer.

Title: Peace on Earth: A Book of Prayers from Around the World
Author/Illustrator: Bijou LeTord
Publisher/Year/Pages: Doubleday/1992/32 pp.
Age suitability: 5 years and up
Summary: Simplicity and dignity characterize this perceptively edited anthology of prayers. Gathering hymns and songs of praise from the Inuit, the Baha’i, Breton fishermen, Pakistani children and diverse other groups, Le Tord gracefully suggests the universality of religious experience without drawing attention to particular denominations or creeds. Prayers are arranged according to natural phenomena with holiday offerings grouped together under “Songs and Celebrations.”

Title: Praying in Colour with Children
Author: Sybil MacBeth
Publisher/Year/Pages: Paraclete Press/2009/38 pp.
Age suitability: 8-12 years
Summary: This is a practical book that allows a child to discover creative ways of talking to God – using color and imagination.

Title: Creative Praying in Groups
Author: Sybil MacBeth
Publisher/Year/Pages: Paraclete Press/2009/38 pp.
Age suitability: 8-12 years
Summary: This is a practical book that allows a child to discover creative ways of talking to God – using color and imagination.

Title: Creative Praying in Groups
Author: Julia McGuinness
Publisher/Year/Pages: SPCK Publishing/2005/128 pp.
Age suitability: youth and up
Summary: This book offers ideas for prayers in groups and meetings, whether a Bible study group, a confirmation or adult education group or a class assembly at school. The ideas include visual aids, music and sound effects, dramatic activities and little liturgies, imagination, craftwork, walks and meditation.

Title: Prayers for a Fragile World
Author: Carol Watson
Illustrator: Rhian Nest James
Publisher/Year/Pages: Lion Publishing/1991/96 pp.
Age suitability: 4 years and up
Summary: This is a collection of 150 prayers, both traditional and contemporary designed to help children voice their worries and concerns in an ever-changing world. The themes running through the book include: praise/thanks for creation; the Creator; confession for what people have done to spoil the world; prayers about caring for the world/other people and seeking God’s help; and prayers of hope. Individual prayers cover issues, such as friends, families, feelings, attitudes, war, peace, and all aspects of nature and the environment.

Title: Blessings: A Little Book of Graces
Author: Gwyneth J. Whilsmith
Publisher/Year/Pages: Life’s A Twitch! Publishing/2015/Kindle
Age suitability: All ages
Summary: This book includes a prayer for every day of the year, plus some for special occasions. It’s a great book to help a family get in the habit of saying grace before meals.

Title: Prayers for Children
Author: Rebecca Winter
Illustrator: Helen McCann
Publisher/Year/Pages: Good Books/2005/160 pp.
Age suitability: 7-12 years
Summary: Prayers for Children includes more than 200 prayers arranged into five main sections. Author Rebecca Winter and illustrator Helen Cann pair traditional and newly written reflections with detailed illustrations that invite a moment’s worship through all of life. Altogether, the volume is designed to encourage older children to explore their own ways of praying. The prayers are fully indexed by subject and first line, making the book a useful resource for home, church, and school use.

Title: Jesus Calling: 365 devotions for kids
Author: Sarah Young
Publisher/Year/Pages: Thomas Nelson/2010/392 pp.
Age suitability: 8-12 years
Summary: Sarah Young has already published a book with daily readings for adults called Jesus Calling. This book is just for kids, using the same format: the words sound as if they are spoken by Jesus. Hence, this book is more suitable for children who already know who Jesus is, rather than children just being introduced to him.

Children’s Picture Books

Are you gathering books for your church or home library?
Have you been searching for good books for your church’s children’s ministries?
Do you want recommendations for books that might be suitable gifts for young people in your life?

The books listed below for Lent and Easter have been compiled by Laura Alary, children’s book writer, storyteller and Christian Education Coordinator at Guildwood Presbyterian Church in Toronto. The summaries given are written by Laura unless they are asterisked **, in which case they are based on bookseller or publisher information. These summaries do not represent the views of The Presbyterian Church in Canada.

These books are available from retail booksellers and sometimes the public library. The books are listed in alphabetical order by author’s last name.

This list will be updated as new books come to our attention. Please send recommendations and summaries to canadianministries [at] presbyterian [dot] ca. If you wish to write a full book review for public posting, please send it and we will link it to the book listing.

Title: Make Room: A Child’s Guide to Lent and Easter
Author: Laura Alary
Illustrator: Ann Boyajian
Publisher/Year/Pages: Paraclete/2016/32 pp.
Age Suitability: 6 and up
Themes: Lent, life of Jesus, faithful choices and actions
Summary: Lent can be a difficult season for children. Unlike Advent, which is filled with delightful anticipation and growing light, Lent is a journey through dark and frightening places, heavy with themes of self-denial and death. How can children enter into this season in a way that is meaningful—and not frightening—to them? Make Room: A Child’s Guide to Lent and Easter presents Lent as a special time for creating a welcoming space for God. Episodes from the life of Jesus are woven together with a child’s wondering and reflections on how these stories might shape our own choices and actions throughout this season. Simple and practical activities like cleaning a room, making bread and soup, turning off the television, clearing clutter, or inviting a neighbor for supper become acts of justice and kindness, part of a life of following and imitating Christ, and a way to make room for God in our lives and in the world around us.**

Title: Simon and the Easter Miracle: A Traditional Tale for Easter
Author: Mary Joslin
Illustrator: Anna Luraschi
Publisher/Year/Pages: Lion Hudson; 2012; 32pp.
Age Suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: Holy Week, Easter, peace, new life, Easter symbols
Summary: Based on a traditional European folk-tale, this is the story of Simon of Cyrene, mentioned briefly in the gospels as “a man from the country” plucked from the crowd and forced to carry Jesus’ cross. Who was Simon? Over the centuries, many people have wondered about his identity and created stories about him. In this tale from Poland, Simon is a farmer who brings his goods to market in Jerusalem, little imagining how he will be drawn into larger events taking place in the city. In the end, not only Simon himself, but even his produce—bread, eggs, wine—become woven into the story of the passion and resurrection of Jesus.

Title: Easter in the Garden
Author: Pamela Kennedy
Illustrator: David Wenzel
Publisher/Year/Pages: Ideals Children’s Books; 2008; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 years and up
Themes: Holy Week, Easter, new life, growth, resurrection
Summary: When he grows up, Micah wants to be a gardener like his father. He loves to work with green and growing things. He also loves to curl up in his favourite place—an ancient olive tree in the garden near his home. One morning he finds a surprise in the tree: a nest with three eggs in it. Day after day, Micah waits for the eggs to hatch. When nothing happens, Micah begins to worry that something is wrong with the eggs. But his worry is overshadowed by a greater sadness: his friend Jesus has been arrested and killed. After spending a very sad Sabbath with his family, Micah wakes up early on Sunday morning and goes to the garden to check on the eggs. There in the garden he is overjoyed to discover that Jesus is alive and the whole world—even the birds—are waking up to a brand new day.

Title: The Light of the World: The Life of Jesus for Children
Author: Katherine Paterson
Illustrator: Francois Roca
Publisher/Year/Pages: Arthur A. Levine Books; 2008; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: life and ministry of Jesus, light, love of God
Summary: Newberry Award-winning author Katherine Paterson begins her story of the life of Jesus at the very beginning—the first chapter of the book of Genesis where God declares, “Let there be light.” “This is the story,” she explains, “of light coming into the world.” In simple and elegant words she tells the story of the life and ministry of Jesus, drawing out the theme of light. What makes this book stand out—in addition to the warm and rich illustrations by Francois Roca—is that it holds together the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus as a whole. It is through his words of wisdom and deeds of compassion, as well as his death and resurrection, that Jesus illumines the world with the light of God.

Title: The Three Trees: A Traditional Folktale
Author: Elena Pasquali
Illustrator: Sophie Windham
Publisher/Year/Pages: Lion Hudson; 2011; 32pp.
Age Suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: life and ministry of Jesus, Holy Week, Easter, fulfillment of hopes
Summary: Three forest trees dream of what they will one day become. One dreams of becoming a royal throne; one of being a ship that can withstand any storm; and one longs to stay in the forest and grow as tall as tall can be. When they are felled, it seems their dreams are over. But as each tree is crafted into a new item—a manger, a fishing boat, and a rugged cross—it becomes clear that through the role they play in one important life their hopes are more than fulfilled. This traditional folktale is accompanied by stylish artwork from a highly sought after children’s book illustrator, and will help set the Christmas and Easter stories into the overall context of the Christian faith. **

Title: The First Easter
Author: Lois Rock
Illustrator: Sophie Allsopp
Publisher/Year/Pages: Lion Children’s Books; 2008; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 2 to 5 years
Themes: Holy Week, Easter
Summary: British writer Lois Rock is a master at capturing the essence of a story in language simple enough for very young readers. This version of the story of Holy Week and Easter and Pentecost is told with simplicity and sincerity. It does not over-emphasize graphic or frightening elements of the story, but focuses on the love of God which Jesus made known in his words and actions, and which still gives us the strength and courage we need to spread the good news.

Title: The Easter Story
Author: Brian Wildsmith
Illustrator: Brian Wildsmith
Publisher/Year/Pages: Oxford University Press, rev. ed. 2008; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: Holy Week, Easter
Summary: Told from the point of view of the donkey who carried Jesus into Jerusalem, The Easter Story offers a slightly unusual perspective on the events of Holy Week while still retaining all the main elements of the biblical narrative. The illustrations are spectacular: skies ranging from inky blue to gold; blood-red suns; bevies of colourful angels wheeling and soaring through the air; and always the little donkey, quietly present in every scene.

Title: Making the World
Author: Douglas Wood
Illustrator: Yoshi and Hibiki Miyazaki
Year/Format/Pages: Simon and Schuster; 2008; 44 pp.
Age suitability: 5 to 8 years
Themes: creation, new creation, interconnectedness, inter-being
Summary: Douglas Wood begins his story with these words. “There is a secret that almost nobody knows. I will tell it to you, if you promise to tell someone else: The world isn’t finished yet, it isn’t quite complete. It’s still being made.” This lovely book by the author of Old Turtle invites readers of all ages to see how all aspects of creation are intertwined, and to recognize that they are part of the new creation that is coming into being.

Are you gathering books for your church or home library?
Have you been searching for good books for your church’s children’s ministries?
Do you want recommendations for books that might be suitable gifts for young people in your life?

The books listed below about Aboriginal people, their culture and experiences and are available from retail booksellers and sometimes the public library. They are not for sale in the PCC Resource Centre. The books are listed in alphabetical order by author’s last name.

These books have been compiled by Laura Alary, children’s book writer, storyteller and Christian Education Coordinator at Guildwood Presbyterian Church in Toronto. The summaries given are written by Laura unless they are asterisked **, in which case they are based on bookseller or publisher information. These summaries do not represent the views of The Presbyterian Church in Canada.

This list will be updated as new books come to our attention. Please send recommendations and summaries to canadianministries [at] Presbyterian [dot] ca. If you wish to write a full book review for public posting, please send it to us.

Title: Rainbow Crow/Nagweyaabi-Aandeg
Author: David Bouchard
Illustrator: David Hean
Publisher/Year/Pages: Red Deer Press; 2012; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 8 to 12 years
Themes: native legends, self-giving, sacrifice
Summary: Métis storyteller and author David Bouchard retells this traditional Lenape story about a time before “two-leggeds” walked on Mother Earth. When terrible cold wrapped the earth and threatened all life, the animals held a council to discuss the problem. They decided to choose a representative to approach the Creator and ask for help. Rainbow Crow was selected and flew to heaven, successfully attaining the gift of fire to warm the earth. But on the way home the fire began to burn her feathers black. Only with great perseverance and endurance—and at great personal cost—did Rainbow Crow manage to deliver the fire to her friends. The story is illustrated by Canadian artist, David Jean, and is printed in both English and Ojibwe. The book comes with an audio CD so children can listen to the tale narrated in both languages.

Title: Shi-Shi-Etko
Author: Nicola Campbell
Illustrator: Kim LaFave
Publisher/Year/Pages: Groundwood Books; 2005; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 to 7 years
Themes: First Nations experience in Canada; residential schools; family; awareness of beauty
Summary: Shi-shi-etko just has four days until she will have to leave her family and everything she knows to attend residential school. She spends her last precious days at home treasuring and appreciating the beauty of her worl—the dancing sunlight, the tall grass, each shiny rock, the tadpoles in the creek, her grandfather’s paddle song. Her mother, father, and grandmother, each in turn, share valuable teachings that they want her to remember. Shi-shi-etko carefully gathers her memories for safekeeping. LaFave’s richly hued illustrations complement Campbell’s gently moving and poetic account of a child who finds solace around her, even though she is on the verge of great loss—a loss that native people have endured for generations because of Canada’s residential schools system.**

Title: Shin-Chi’s Canoe
Author: Nicola Campbell
Illustrator: Kim LaFave
Publisher/Year/Pages: Groundwood Books; 2008; 40 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 to 7 years
Themes: First Nations experience in Canada; residential schools; injustice
Summary: When they arrive at school, Shi-shi-etko reminds Shinchi, her six-year-old brother, that they can only use their English names and that they can’t speak to each other. For Shinchi, life becomes an endless cycle of church mass, school, and work, punctuated by skimpy meals. He finds solace at the river, clutching a tiny cedar canoe, a gift from his father, and dreaming of the day when the salmon return to the river — a sign that it’s almost time to return home. This poignant story about a devastating chapter in First Nations history is told at a child’s level of understanding.**

Title: Owls See Clearly At Night (Lil Yiiboo Nayaapiwak lii Swer: A Michif Alphabet (L’alphabet di Michif)
Author: Julie Flett
Illustrator: Julie Flett
Publisher/Year/Pages: Simple Read Books; 2010; 56 pp.
Age Suitability: 5 and up
Themes: Metis language and traditions
Summary: This picture book is a small glimpse, from A to Z, of some of the sights and sounds of the Michif language and its speakers. The language of the Métis, Michif, is a combination of French and Cree with a trace of other regional languages. Once spoken by thousands of people across the prairies of Canada and the northern United States, Michif is now so little spoken that it might disappear within a generation. This alphabet book is part of a resurgence to celebrate and preserve the traditions of the Métis people. Here Michif and English words combine with images from Métis culture to introduce all generations to the unique Michif language. The book even includes a brief introduction to the language’s history, a pronunciation guide, and a list of references for those interested in learning more about Michif. Note: Vancouver resident Julie Flett an award-winning author and illustrator is Cree-Métis.

Title: Wild Berries/Pakwa che Menisu
Author: Julie Flett
Illustrator: Julie Flett
Publisher/Year/Pages: Simple Read Books; 2013; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: Cree language and traditions
Summary: A young boy spends a summer day picking wild blueberries with his grandmother in this beautiful picture book by award-winning illustrator Julie Flett. Exploring the important tradition of berry-picking, the story is written completely in the Cree language. This book is set in n-dialect, also known as Swampy Cree from the Cross Lake, Norway House area. A syllabics pronunciation guide is available at the end of this book. Simply Read Books publishes an edition of Wild Berries written in both English and n-dialect Cree from the Cumberland House area.

Title: A Walk on the Tundra
Author: Rebecca Hainnu and Anna Ziegler
Illustrator: Qin Leng
Publisher/Year/Pages: Inhabit Media; 2011; 40 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: Arctic wildlife and plants, intergenerational bonds, human relationship to nature
Summary: During the short Arctic summers, the tundra, covered most of the year under snow and ice, becomes filled with colourful flowers, mosses, shrubs, and lichens. These hardy little plants transform the northern landscape, as they take advantage of the warmer weather and long hours of sunlight. Caribou, lemmings, snow buntings, and many other wildlife species depend on tundra plants for food and nutrition, but they are not the only ones…
A Walk on the Tundra follows Inuujaq, a little girl who travels with her grandmother onto the tundra. There, Inuujaq learns that the tough little plants she sees are much more important to Inuit than she originally believed. In addition to an informative storyline that teaches the importance of Arctic plants, this book includes a field guide with photographs and scientific information about a wide array of plants found throughout the Arctic.**

Title: Caribou Song/Atihko Nikamon
Author: Tomson Highway
Illustrator: John Rombough
Publisher/Year/Pages: Fifth House (bilingual); 2013; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 7 years and up
Themes: family, First Nations, wonders of nature
Summary: Joe and Cody are young Cree brothers who follow the caribou all year long, tucked into their dog sled with Mama and Papa. To entice the wandering caribou, Joe plays his accordion and Cody dances. They are so involved with their dancing and music that they don’t hear the roaring of the approaching herd of caribou. Bursting upon the boys, ten thousand animals fill the meadow. Joe is surrounded and can barely see Cody a short distance away. And neither of the boys can see their parents. And yet what should be a moment of terror turns into something mystical and magical, as the boys open their arms and their hearts to embrace the caribou spirit.

Title: The Legend of Lightning and Thunder
Author: Paula Rumbolt Ikuutak
Illustrator: Jo Rioux
Publisher/Year/Pages: Inhabit Media; 2013; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: Inuit legends, science, weather, thunderstorms, justice, treatment of outsiders
Summary: The Legend of Lightning and Thunder is a traditional story from the Inuit about the origin of thunder and lightning. When hunger drives two orphaned Inuit siblings to steal from their fellow villagers, they unintentionally introduce thunder and lightning into the world. Told in the form of a cautionary tale, this story addresses not only Inuit beliefs about the natural elements, but also about the treatment of outsiders.

Title: When I Was Eight
Author: Christie Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton
Illustrator: Gabrielle Grimard
Publisher/Year/Pages: Annick Press; 2013; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: Inuit culture and identity, residential schools, literacy, courage
Summary: Olemaun is eight and knows a lot of things. But she does not know how to read. She must travel to the outsiders’ school to learn, ignoring her father’s warning of what will happen there. The nuns at the school take her Inuit name and call her Margaret. They cut off her long hair and force her to do chores. She has only one thing left—a book about a girl named Alice, who falls down a rabbit hole. Margaret’s tenacious character draws the attention of a black-cloaked nun who tries to break her spirit at every turn. But she is more determined than ever to read. By the end, Margaret knows that, like Alice, she has traveled to a faraway land and stood against a tyrant, proving herself to be brave and clever. Based on the true story of Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, and complemented by stunning illustrations, When I Was Eight makes the bestselling Fatty Legs accessible to young children. Now they, too, can meet this remarkable girl who reminds us what power we hold when we can read. **

Title: Not My Girl
Author: Christie Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton
Illustrator: Gabrielle Grimard
Publisher/Year/Pages: Annick Press; 2013; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 6 to 9 years
Themes: Inuit culture and identity, family, acceptance
Summary: Margaret can’t wait to see her family, but her homecoming is not what she expected. Two years ago, Margaret left her Arctic home for the outsiders’ school. Now she has returned and can barely contain her excitement as she rushes towards her waiting family—but her mother stands still as a stone. This strange, skinny child, with her hair cropped short, can’t be her daughter. “Not my girl!” she says angrily. Margaret’s years at school have changed her. Now ten years old, she has forgotten her language and the skills to hunt and fish. She can’t even stomach her mother’s food. Her only comfort is in the books she learned to read at school. Gradually, Margaret relearns the words and ways of her people. With time, she earns her father’s trust enough to be given a dogsled of her own. As her family watches with pride, Margaret knows she has found her place once more. This award-winning book is based on the true story of Margaret Pokiak-Fenton.**

Title: Little Chief and Mighty Gopher: The Pemmican Frenzy
Author: Victor Lethbridge
Illustrator: Ben Crane
Publisher/Year/Pages: Tatanka Productions; 2010; 32 pp.
Age Suitablity: 6 to 9 years
Themes: bullying, friendship, hope
Summary: Written by native author and storyteller Victor Lethbridge, Little Chief and Mighty Gopher: The Pemmican Frenzy tells the story a young boy who finds friends and acceptance in unexpected places. This humourous tale of hope, determination and empowerment is intended for young students dealing with bullying and rejection. The comic-styled colour drawings by Ben Crane add to the story’s humour. A second book in the series, Little Chief and the Gift of Morning Star, was published in 2012.

Title: As Long as the Rivers Flow
Author: Larry Loyie with Constance Brissenden
Illustrator: Heather D. Holmlund
Publisher/Year/Pages: Groundwood Books; 2005; 48 pp.
Age Suitability: 8 years and up
Themes: residential schools, first nations history and culture
Summary: In the 1800s, the education of First Nations children was taken on by various churches, in government-sponsored residential schools. Children were forcibly taken from their families in order to erase their traditional languages and cultures. As Long as the Rivers Flow is the story of Larry Loyie’s last summer before entering residential school. It is a time of learning and adventure. He cares for an abandoned baby owl and watches his grandmother make winter moccasins. He helps the family prepare for a hunting and gathering trip. Loyie’s memoir won the Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction.**

Title: Grandmother’s Dreamcatcher
Author: Becky Ray McCain
Illustrator: Stacey Schuett
Publisher/Year/Pages: Albert Whitman and Co.; reprinted 1998; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 5 to 8 years
Themes: separation, bond between grandmother and granddaughter, contemporary first nations (Chippewa) traditions and experience
Summary: Kimmy is happy to be staying with her Grandmother for a week, but it’s hard to see her parents drive away. And their leaving reminds her of the bad dreams she’s been having. Grandmother shows Kimmy a dreamcatcher, and with a bent twig, feather, beads, and leather, they begin to make one for Kimmy. As they work, Grandmother tells Kimmy the legend of the dreamcatcher and the power it holds.**

Title: The Sharing Circle: Stories about First Nations Culture
Author: Theresa Meuse
Illustrator: Arthur Stevens
Publisher/Year/Pages: Nimbus Publishing; 2003; 52 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 to 8 years, but can be interesting for older children
Themes: Aboriginal cultural traditions, joy of sharing with friends
Summary: Matthew loves to play games with his friends and share his toys with them. But most of all he loves to share the special treasures that remind him of his First Nations culture. Perhaps his favourite treasure is the medicine pouch that his grandfather made especially for him. This is where he keeps many of his other treasures, including the sacred herbs his mother gave him. Matthew uses the herbs to remind him to be grateful for everything that nature gives us. Another special gift is the eagle feather from his father. Matthew knows that the eagle is a symbol of the spiritual strength of his culture. But there is one other gift that has a special place in Matthew’s heart. It is the dream catcher that Matthew gave to his friend Dustin to help him not have bad dreams. The Sharing Circle is a collection of seven stories about First Nations culture and spiritual practices: The Eagle Feather, The Dream Catcher, The Sacred Herbs, The Talking Circle, The Medicine Wheel, The Drum, and The Medicine Pouch. Researched and written by Mi’kmaw children’s author Theresa Meuse, and beautifully illustrated by Mi’kmaw illustrator Arthur Stevens, this book will engage and inform children of all ages.**

Title: Secret of the Dance
Author: Andrea Spalding and Alfred Scow
Illustrator: Darlene Galt
Publisher/Year/Pages: Orca Books; 2009; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 8 years and up
Themes: First Nations history and culture, government policies of banning native ritual
Summary: In 1935, a nine-year-old boy’s family held a forbidden Potlatch in faraway Kingcome Inlet. Watl’kina slipped from his bed to bear witness. In the Big House masked figures danced by firelight to the beat of the drum. And there, he saw a figure he knew. Aboriginal elder Alfred Scow and award-winning author Andrea Spalding collaborate to tell the story, to tell the secret of the dance.**

Title: Jingle Dancer
Author: Cynthia Leitich Smith
Illustrator: Ying-Hwa Hu and Cornelius Van Wright
Publisher/Year/Pages: Harper Collins; 6th ed. 2000; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: First Nations, intergenerational family bonds, community
Summary: Tink, tink, tink, tink, sang cone-shaped jingles sewn to Grandma Wolfe’s dress. Jenna’s heart beats to the brum, brum, brum, brum of the powwow drum as she daydreams about the clinking song of her grandma’s jingle dancing. Jenna loves the tradition of jingle dancing that has been shared by generations of women in her family, and she hopes to dance at the next powwow. But she has a problem—how will her dress sing if it has no jingles? The warm, evocative watercolors of Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu complement the author’s lyrical text as she tells the affirming story of how a contemporary Native American girl turns to her family and community to help her dance find a voice.**

Title: Sky Sisters
Author: Jan Bourdeau Waboose
Illustrator: Brian Deines
Publisher/Year/Pages: KidsCan Press; reprinted 2002; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 5 to 8 years
Themes: family, First Nations spirituality
Summary: Two Ojibway sisters set off across the frozen north country to see the Sky Spirits’ midnight dance. It isn’t easy for the younger sister to be silent, but gradually she begins to treasure the stillness and the wonderful experiences it brings. After an exhilarating walk and patient waiting, the girls are rewarded by the arrival of the Sky Spirits—the northern lights—dancing and shimmering in the night sky. This powerful story, with its stunning illustrations, captures the chill of a northern night, the warmth of the family circle and the radiance of a child’s wonder.**

Title: Morning on the Lake
Author: Jan Bourdeau Waboose
Illustrator: Karen Reczuch
Publisher/Year/Pages: Kids Can Press; reprinted 1997; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 5 to 9 years [Note: text is quite long] Themes: intergenerational bonds, human relationship with natural world, ecology
Summary: In the first of three linked stories, a young boy and his grandfather set out in a birch bark canoe early one spring morning. Together, they discover the peaceful beauty of the lake. In the second story, the sun rises high in the summer sky as they climb a rocky cliff for a bird’s-eye view of the land. And, finally, as an autumn night descends, they venture into the woods. Under the patient and gentle guidance of his grandfather, the boy gradually comes to respect the ways of nature and to understand his own place in the world.**

Are you gathering books for your church or home library?
Have you been searching for good books for your church’s children’s ministries?
Do you want recommendations for books that might be suitable gifts
for young people in your life?

The books listed below about bullying are available from retail booksellers and sometimes the public library. However, they are not for sale in the PCC Resource Centre. The books are listed in alphabetical order by Author’s last name.

This list has been compiled by Laura Alary, children’s book writer, storyteller and Christian Education Coordinator at Guildwood Presbyterian Church in Toronto. The summaries given are written by Laura unless they are asterisked **, in which case they are based on bookseller or publisher information. These summaries do not represent the views of The Presbyterian Church in Canada.

This list will be updated as new books come to our attention. Please send recommendations and summaries to canadianministries [at] presbyterian [dot] ca. If you wish to write a full book review for public posting, please send it to us.

Title: Victor’s Pink Pyjamas
Author: Laura Alary
Illustrator: William Kimber
Publisher/Year/Pages: CopperHouse; 2014; 32 pp.
Age suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: making choices different from social norms, self-confidence
Summary: Victor loves his pink (accident-in-the-washing machine) pyjamas. But not everyone does. His father and sister think pink is just for girls. But Victor knows that lots of wonderful things are pink like strawberry ice cream, bubble gum, and walruses basking in the sun and they’re not just for girls. What will happen when Victor outgrows his pink pyjamas and needs a new pair? This engaging and humorous book explores what it is like to make choices that are different from the cultural norm. In gentle ways, the story examines how people within Victor’s family and outside of it react to something “different” (some are supportive, some are not), and how Victor remains undaunted and empowered in the face of the various responses. The full-colour illustrations capture the playful yet respectful tone of the book beautifully. **

Title: Oliver Button is a Sissy
Author: Tomie dePaola
Illustrator: Tomie dePaola
Publisher/Year/Pages: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; reprinted 2001; 48 pp.
Age suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: bullying, being different, gender stereotypes, self-confidence
Summary: Oliver Button is picked on at school because the things he likes to do—tap-dancing, jumping rope, painting, making paper dolls—are different from what other boys enjoy. Oliver, however, does not worry too much about what other people think of him. When his school holds a talent show he is there with his tap shoes on. Although he does not win the contest, he proves to everyone that his distinctive talents are something to be proud of. While some readers may find the happy ending unrealistic, the book has potential to generate some interesting conversation about gender roles.

Title: Weird! A Story about Dealing with Bullying in Schools
Author: Erin Frankel
Illustrator: Paula Heaphy
Publisher/Year/Pages: Free Spirit Publishing; 2013; 48 pp.
Age suitability: 5 – 9 years
Themes: bullying
Summary: Luisa is repeatedly teased and called “weird” by her classmate Sam, even though she is simply being herself—laughing with her friends, answering questions in class, greeting her father in Spanish, and wearing her favorite polka-dot boots. Luisa initially reacts to the bullying by withdrawing and hiding her colorful nature. But with the support of her teachers, parents, classmates, and one special friend named Jayla, she is able to reclaim her color and resist Sam’s put-downs. **

Title: Bully 101
Author: Doretta Groenendyk
Illustrator: Doretta Groenendyk
Publisher/Year/Pages: Acorn Press; 2013; 24 pp.
Age suitability: 5 years and up
Themes: bullying, kindness
Summary: Bully 101 is an irreverent look at a familiar and ongoing issue. It explores both the temptations of bullying and the remarkable possibility of kindness. It is an excellent conversation starter for both parents and teachers, and for anyone who hopes for peace. The illustrations are funky. The text rhymes and twists. Geared toward readers from primary to grade seven, Bully 101 identifies ways in which bullying occurs (cyber, playground, bus), the feelings that result (for both bully and victim) and the simple notion that anyone can choose kindness instead. The book does not answer all the questions surrounding bullying, nor does it preach. Rather, it aims to begin conversations on why we bully or watch it happen, and presents the idea that we can all choose not to participate in bullying. **

Title: Bad Apple: A Tale of Friendship
Author: Edward Hemingway
Illustrator: Edward Hemingway
Publisher/Year/Pages: G.P. Putnam’s Sons; 2012; 32 pp.
Age suitability: 3 to 5 years
Themes: being bullied for your choice of friends, friendship, courage
Summary: It takes a firm apple to stand up to bullies. When Mac, an apple, meets Will, a worm, they become fast friends, teaching each other games and even finishing each other’s sentences. But apples aren’t supposed to like worms, and Mac gets called “rotten” and “bad apple.” At first, Mac doesn’t know what to do—it’s never easy standing up to bullies—but after a lonely day without Will, Mac decides he’d rather be a bad apple with Will than a sad apple without. **

Title: Chrysanthemum
Author: Kevin Henkes
Illustrator: Kevin Henkes
Publisher/Year/Pages: Greenwillow; 1996; 32 pp.
Age suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: teasing, being different
Summary: Chrysanthemum loves her name—that is, until she goes to school for the first time. Everyone else in her class has a short name, but hers is too long to fit on the nametag. The other kids in her class pick up on this difference immediately and tease Chrysanthemum until she has nightmares, does not want to go to school, and declares she hates her name. This book is witty and charming and its ending (realistic or not) is satisfying and reassuring for young children who want to see Chrysanthemum reclaim her pride in her name!

Title: Never Say a Mean Word Again: A Tale from Medieval Spain
Author: Jacqueline Jules
Illustrator: Durga Yael Bernhard
Publisher/Year/Pages: Wisdom Tales; 2014; 32 pp.
Age suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: bullying, conflict, revenge, conflict resolution, reconciliation, acceptance, friendship
Summary: Inspired by a powerful legend of conflict resolution in Muslim Spain, Never Say a Mean Word Again is the story of a boy who, when given permission to punish an enemy, finds an unexpected but very effective alternative! When Samuel is being bullied, his father (the grand vizier and the most important advisor in the royal count) orders him, “Make sure Hamza never says a mean word to you again!” Samuel is not sure how to prevent this: train a monkey to hold Hamza’s lips closed, or give him lemon juice to make his mouth pucker? In the end, every time he approaches Hamza, the other boy misunderstands his gestures as kindness and they end up having fun together. In the end, kindness turns out to be the best way of resolving conflict and the sworn enemies become friends.

Title: Thomas the Toadilly Terrible Bully
Author: Janice Levy
Illustrator: Bill Slavin and Esperanca Melo
Publisher/Year/Pages: Eerdmans Young Readers; 2014; 34 pp.
Age suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: bullying, teamwork, friendship
Summary: Thomas hates being ignored. But when his attempts to impress everyone don’t make him any friends, he decides to be a bully instead. There’s just one problem: he makes a terrible bully. A toadilly terrible one, in fact. It turns out, though, that there’s an even bigger bully around, and Thomas discovers what it feels like to be the one bullied. But a bit of teamwork helps him outwit the bully and make a new friend. And being a friend, Thomas finds, is far more fun than being a bully. **

Title: Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon
Author: Molly Lovell
Illustrator: David Catrow
Publisher/Year/Pages: G.P. Putnam’s Sons; 2001; 32 pp.
Age suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: bullying, self-confidence, self-acceptance, determination
Summary: Molly Lou Melon may be tiny, clumsy, buck-toothed, and with a voice “like a bullfrog being squeezed by a boa constrictor,” but she doesn’t mind. Her grandmother has utmost confidence in her, and tells her at every turn to believe in herself. “Sing out clear and strong and the world will cry tears of joy,” Grandma says. But Molly Lou’s self-assurance is put to the test when she moves to a new town, away from her friends and beloved grandmother. During her first week of school, Ronald Durkin taunts Molly Lou Melon in the dull-witted but sharp-edged manner of career bullies, calling her “shrimpo” and “bucky-toothed beaver.” Our heroine barely flinches as she systematically sets out to prove herself, and Ronald Durkin ends up feeling pretty foolish. **

Title: My Secret Bully
Author: Trace Ludwig
Illustrator: Abigail Marble
Publisher/Year/Pages: Dragonfly Books; 2015; 32 pp.
Age suitability: 6 to 9 years
Themes: bullying
Summary: Here is the all-too-familiar story of Monica. She and Katie have been friends since kindergarten. Monica loves being around her when she’s nice. But there are times when Katie can be just plain mean. And Monica doesn’t understand why. Monica is a target of relational aggression, emotional bullying among friends who will use name-calling and manipulation to humiliate and exclude. But with a little help from a supportive adult—her mother—Monica learns to cope and thrive by facing her fears and reclaiming power from her bully. **

Title: Just Kidding
Author: Tracy Ludwig
Illustrator: Adam Gustavson
Publisher/Year/Pages: Tricycle Press; 2006; 32 pp.
Age suitability: 6 to 9 years
Themes: bullying among boys
Summary: A rare look at emotional bullying among boys from the best-selling Author of My Secret Bully. D.J.’s friend Vince has a habit of teasing D.J. and then saying, “Just kidding!” as if it will make everything okay. It doesn’t, but D.J. is afraid that if he protests, his friends will think he can’t take a joke. With the help of his father, brother, and an understanding teacher, D.J. progresses from feeling helpless to taking positive action, undermining the power of two seemingly harmless words. Trudy Ludwig takes another look at relational aggression, the use of relationships to manipulate and hurt others, this time from the boy’s point of view. **

Title: The Invisible Boy
Author: Tracy Ludwig
Illustrator: Patrice Barton
Publisher/Year/Pages: Knopf Books for Young Readers; 2013; 40pp.
Age suitability: 6 to 9
Themes: introversion, shyness, co-operation, kindness
Summary: Meet Brian, the invisible boy. Nobody ever seems to notice him or think to include him in their group, game, or birthday party . . . until, that is, a new kid comes to class.

When Justin, the new boy, arrives, Brian is the first to make him feel welcome. And when Brian and Justin team up to work on a class project together, Brian finds a way to shine.

From esteemed Author and speaker Trudy Ludwig and acclaimed Illustrator Patrice Barton, this gentle story shows how small acts of kindness can help children feel included and allow them to flourish. Any parent, teacher, or counselor looking for material that sensitively addresses the needs of quieter children will find The Invisible Boy a valuable and important resource. **

Title: Trouble Talk
Author: Tracy Ludwig
Illustrator: Mikela Prevost
Publisher/Year/Pages: Tricylcle Press; 2008; 32 pp.
Age suitability: 6 to 9 years
Themes: gossip, bullying
Summary: Maya’s friend Bailey loves to talk about everything and everyone. At first, Maya thinks Bailey is funny. But when Bailey’s talk leads to harmful rumors and hurt feelings, Maya begins to think twice about their friendship. In her fourth book for children, relational aggression expert Trudy Ludwig acquaints readers with the damaging consequences of “trouble talk”-talking to others about someone else’s troubles in order to establish connection and gain attention. This book includes additional resources for kids, parents, and teachers, as well as advice from Trudy about how to combat trouble talk. **

Title: Say Something
Author: Peggy Moss
Illustrator: Lea Lyon
Publisher/Year/Pages: Tilbury House; 2004; 32 pp.
Age suitability: 4 to 9 years
Themes: bullying, bystanders, speaking out
Summary: At this school, there are some children who push and tease and bully. Sometimes they hurt other kids by just ignoring them. The girl in this story sees it happening, but she would never do these mean things herself. Then one day something happens that shows her that being a silent bystander isn’t enough. Will she take some steps on her own to help another kid? Bright, fluid, realistic watercolors illustrate the story, set in a school with lots of diversity. Resources at the end of the book will help parents and children talk about teasing and bullying and find ways to stop it at school. One child at a time can help change a school. **

Title: Enemy Pie
Author: Derek Munson
Illustrator: Tara Calahan King
Publisher/Year/Pages: Chronicle Books; 2000; 40 pp.
Age suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: bullying, friendship, reconciliation, forgiveness
Summary: It was the perfect summer. That is, until Jeremy Ross moved into the house down the street and became neighborhood enemy number one. Luckily Dad had a surefire way to get rid of enemies: Enemy Pie. But part of the secret recipe is spending an entire day playing with the enemy! In this funny yet endearing story, one little boy learns an effective recipe for turning your best enemy into your best friend. Accompanied by charming illustrations, Enemy Pie serves up a sweet lesson in the difficulties and ultimate rewards of making new friends. **

Title: The Juice Box Bully
Author: Bob Sornson and Maria Dismondy
Illustrator: Kim ShawPreview Changes
Publisher/Year/Pages: Ferne Press; 2010; 32 pp.
Age suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: bullying, bystanders, speaking out
Summary: Have you ever seen a bully in action and done nothing about it? The kids at Pete’s new school get involved, instead of being bystanders. When Pete begins to behave badly, his classmates teach him about “The Promise.” Will Pete decide to shed his bullying habits and make “The Promise”? The Juice Box Bully teaches children that there is strength in numbers, and that the best solution to bullying is to work together to build the sort of community that is good for everyone.

Title: Desmond and the Very Mean Word
Author: Desmond Tutu and Douglas Carlton Abrams
Illustrator: A.G. Ford
Publisher/Year/Pages: Candlewick Press; 2012; 32 pp.
Age suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: conflict, forgiveness, reconciliation, empathy
Summary: When Desmond takes his new bicycle out for a ride through his neighborhood, his pride and joy turn to hurt and anger when a group of boys shout a very mean word at him. He first responds by shouting an insult, but soon discovers that fighting back with mean words doesn’t make him feel any better. With the help of kindly Father Trevor, Desmond comes to understand his conflicted feelings and see that all people deserve compassion, whether or not they say they are sorry. Based on a true story from Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s childhood in South Africa, Desmond and the Very Mean Word is a powerful story of forgiveness and letting go of anger.

Are you gathering books for your church or home library?
Have you been searching for good books for your church’s children’s ministries?
Do you want recommendations for books that might be suitable gifts
for young people in your life?

The books listed below about non-traditional families are available from retail booksellers and sometimes the public library. They are not for sale in the PCC Resource Centre. The books are listed in alphabetical order by author’s last name. This list has been compiled by Laura Alary, children’s book writer, storyteller and Christian Education Coordinator at Guildwood Presbyterian Church in Toronto.

The summaries given are written by Laura unless they are asterisked **, in which case they are based on bookseller or publisher information. These summaries do not represent the views of The Presbyterian Church in Canada.

This list will be updated as new books come to our attention. Please send recommendations and summaries to canadianministries [at] presbyterian [dot] ca. If you wish to write a full book review for public posting, please send it to us.

Title: All The World
Author: Liz Garton Scanlon
Illustrator: Marla Frazee
Publisher/Year/Pages: Beach Lane Books; 2009; 40 pp.
Age suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: exploration, belonging, interconnectedness, family and community, multi-racial families
Summary: “Everything you hear, smell, see; all the world is everything. Everything is you and me. Hope and peace and love and trust; all the world is all of us.”  With simple, lyrical verse, All the World takes children from an exploration of nature (the beach, the garden, the market, a tree) to the world of human relationships (parks, ponds, restaurants), ending at home among a loving extended family. The illustrations in this lovely book are exceptionally good, especially the depictions of the multi-racial (and very musical) extended family. The story is simple and gentle and sends its message subtly.

Title: A Mother for Choco
Author: Keiko Kasza
Illustrator: Keiko Kasza
Publisher/Year/Pages: Puffin Books; reprinted 1996; 32 pp.
Age suitability: 3 to 6 years
Themes: adoption, multicultural families
Summary: Choco needs a mother but is not sure where to look for one. She tries many different animals, searching for a mother who looks like her. She is pleasantly surprised when Mrs. Bear reaches out and welcomes her into her own unique family (which includes a baby alligator, hippopotamus and pig) where, even though no one else looks like her, she finds a place to belong.

Title: Over the Moon: An Adoption Tale
Author: Karen Katz
Illustrator: Karen Katz
Publisher/Year/Pages: Square Fish; 2001; 32 pp.
Age suitability: 3 to 6 years
Themes: international adoptions
Summary: This is a simple and reassuring story about international adoption, based on the author’s own experience with her daughter. Its simple text and picture are appropriate for very young children. Please not that the book is no longer in print, but used copies are available through online booksellers.

Title: Little Miss Spider
Author: David Kirk
Illustrator: David Kirk
Publisher/Year/Pages: Scholastic; 1999; 32 pp.
Age suitability: 3 to 5 years
Themes: mother as the one who loves you best, adoption
Summary: When Miss Spider pops out of her egg, surrounded by brothers and sisters scurrying about, her mother is nowhere to be found. Fortunately, kind Betty the Beetle is there to fill the role. After a long search, Miss Spider learns an important lesson: “For finding your mother, there’s one certain test; you must look for the creature who loves you the best.” This is a simple and reassuring book for preschoolers and young readers. **

Title: The Red Thread: An Adoption Fairytale
Author: Grace Lin
Illustrator: Grace Lin
Publisher/Year/Pages: Albert Whitman; reprinted 2007; 32 pp.
Age suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: adoption, cross-cultural adoption
Summary: “There is an ancient Chinese belief that an invisible, unbreakable red thread connects all those who are destined to be together.” A king and queen rule a beautiful and peaceful land. They should be full of joy and contentment, but they both feel a strange pain that worsens every day. Then a peddler’s magic spectacles reveal a red thread pulling at each of their hearts. The king and queen know they must follow the thread—wherever it may lead. Grace Lin’s lovely adoption fairy tale is for all children—and the parents who would search the world to find them. **

Title: Mooshka: A Quilt Story
Author: Julie Paschkis
Illustrator: Julie Paschkis
Publisher/Year/Pages: Peachtree Publishers; 2012; 32 pp.
Age suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: sibling rivalry, family history, intergenerational storytelling
Summary: A delightful, intergenerational bedtime story featuring a remarkable quilt and a reluctant new big sister. Karla loves her special quilt, Mooshka. But Mooshka is more than just a quilt—it speaks, comforting Karla at bedtime with whispered stories. Karla’s grandmother lovingly pieced Mooshka together using scraps of fabric from members of Karla’s family. Each square, or “schnitz,” shares a special memory of Karla’s ancestors and their lives. When new baby sister Hannah arrives, Karla’s routine is upset and Mooshka falls silent. Only when Karla shares Mooshka with her sister does the quilt begin to speak again and tell Hannah the treasured stories of her family. **

Title: In Our Mothers’ House
Author: Patricia Polacco
Illustrator: Patricia Polacco
Publisher/Year/Pages: Philomel; 2009; 48 pp.
Age suitability: 5 years and up
Themes: same-sex parents, diversity, multi-racial families, love, acceptance
Summary: Marmee, Meema, and the kids are just like any other family on the block. In their beautiful house, they cook dinner together, they laugh together, and they dance together. But some of the other families don’t accept them. They say they are different. How can a family have two moms and no dad? But Marmee and Meema’s house is full of love. And they teach their children that different doesn’t mean wrong. And no matter how many moms or dads they have, they are everything a family is meant to be. Here is a true Polacco story of a family, living by their own rules, and the strength they gain by the love they feel. **

Title: And Tango Makes Three
Author: Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
Illustrator: Henry Cole
Publisher/Year/Pages: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers; 2005; 32 pp.
Age suitability: 4 to 8
Themes: same-sex parents
Summary: And Tango Makes Three is the bestselling, heartwarming true story of two penguins who create a nontraditional family. At the penguin house at the Central Park Zoo, two penguins named Roy and Silo were a little bit different from the others. But their desire for a family was the same. And with the help of a kindly zookeeper, Roy and Silo get the chance to welcome a baby penguin of their very own. Selected as an ALA Notable Children’s Book Nominee and a Lambda Literary Award Finalist, “this joyful story about the meaning of family is a must for any library.” (School Library Journal, starred review).

Title: I Wished For You: An Adoption Story
Author: Marianne Richmond
Illustrator: Marianne Richmond
Publisher/Year/Pages: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky; 2008; 40 pp.
Age suitability: 3 to 6 years
Themes: adoption
Summary: “Mama,” said Barley, “Tell me again how I’m your wish come true.” Thus begins this beautiful story for adoptive families. I Wished for You: An Adoption Story follows a conversation between a little bear named Barley and his Mama as they curl up in their favorite cuddle spot and talk about how they became a family. Barley asks Mama the kinds of questions many adopted children have, and Mama lovingly answers them all. With endearing prose and charming watercolor illustrations, I Wished for You is a cozy read that affirms how love is what truly makes a family. **

Title: The Little Green Goose
Author: Adele Sansone
Illustrator: Anke Faust
Publisher/Year/Pages: North/South; 2010; 32 pp.
Age suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: single parent families, single fathers, adoption, parental love
Summary: Mr. Goose dearly wants a baby, but he cannot have one of his own. He pleads with the barnyard hens to give him an egg he can hatch. They refuse, but when Daisy the Dog digs up a huge egg, Mr. Goose eagerly adopts it, builds a nest for it, and hatches a scaly, spiky green “goose” who follows him around and calls him “Mama.” Mr. Goose is a loving and attentive parent, but when the other chicks notice the difference between him and his little “green goose” they taunt the baby about the difference, saying, “Mr. Goose can’t be your real mother.” Feeling lost and confused, little green goose goes in search of a mother who looks like him, but soon figures out where he really belongs. This is a delightful story about the unconditional love that truly defines families.

Are you gathering books for your church or home library?
Have you been searching for good books for your church’s children’s ministries?
Do you want recommendations for books that might be suitable gifts
for young people in your life?

The books listed below about non-traditional families are available from retail booksellers and sometimes the public library. They are not for sale in the PCC Resource Centre. The books are listed in alphabetical order by author’s last name.

This list has been compiled by Laura Alary, children’s book writer, storyteller and Christian Education Coordinator at Guildwood Presbyterian Church in Toronto. The summaries given are written by Laura unless they are asterisked **, in which case they are based on bookseller or publisher information. These summaries do not represent the views of The Presbyterian Church in Canada.

This list will be updated as new books come to our attention. Please send recommendations and summaries to canadianministries [at] presbyterian [dot] ca. If you wish to write a full book review for public posting, please send it to us.

Death of a Parent or Grandparent

Title: Is Daddy Coming Back in a Minute? Explaining Sudden Death to Pre-School Children in Words They Can Understand
Author: Elke and Alex Barber
Illustrator: Anna Jarvis
Publisher/Year/Pages: Elke Barber; 2012
Age suitability: 3 and up
Themes: sudden death, death of a parent
Summary: When her husband had a heart attack and died suddenly while on a camping trip with their three-year old son, Elke Barber was left with the agonizing task of explaining to her young children that, no, Daddy would not be coming back in a minute. This book is the culmination of her attempts to answer her children’s questions about death honestly and in simple language.

Title: Missing Mommy: A Book about Bereavement
Author: Rebecca Cobb
Illustrator: Rebecca Cobb
Publisher/Year/Pages: Henry Holt Books; 2013; 32 pp.
Age suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: death of a parent, grieving
Summary: “Some time ago, we said good-bye to Mommy. I am not sure where she has gone.” Honest and straightforward, this touching story explores the many emotions a bereaved child may experience, from anger and guilt to sadness and bewilderment. Ultimately, Missing Mommy focuses on the positive—the recognition that the child is not alone but still part of a family that loves and supports him. **

Title: Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs
Author: Tomie de Paola
Illustrator: Tomie de Paola
Publisher/Year/Pages: Puffin Books; reissued 2000; 32 pps.
Age suitability: 3 to 7 years
Themes: family, ageing, death
Summary: Tommy is four years old, and he loves visiting the home of his grandmother, Nana Downstairs, and his great-grandmother, Nana Upstairs. But one day Tommy’s mother tells him Nana Upstairs won’t be there anymore, and Tommy must struggle with saying good-bye to someone he loves. Updated with new, full-color illustrations, this classic story will continue to win the hearts of readers of all ages. **

Title: Anna’s Heaven
Author: Stian Hole
Illustrator: Stian Hole
Publisher/Year/Pages: Eerdman’s Young Readers; 2014; 42 pp.
Age suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: death of a parent, life after death
Summary: It is a day when everything aches and nails are raining from the sky. Anna’s mother has died. Anna and her father are making their way to the funeral. But along the way they talk — capturing memories, asking hard questions, picturing what heaven might be like. Anna’s imagination leads both of them on a journey that, by the end, might just offer a certain sort of peace. With captivating artwork and text that is at times whimsical, at times haunting, this profound book will make a perfect companion for readers who are wrestling with their own questions about life’s mysteries. **

Title: My Father’s Arms Are a Boat
Author: Stein Erik Lunde
Illustrator: Oyvind Torseter
Age suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: death of a parent, cycle of life
Summary: It’s quieter than it’s ever been. Unable to sleep, a young boy climbs into his father’s arms. Feeling the warmth and closeness of his father, he begins to ask questions about the birds, the foxes, and whether his mom will ever wake up. They go outside under the starry sky. Loss and love are as present as the white spruces, while the father’s clear answers and assurances calm his worried son. Here we feel the cycles of life and life’s continuity, even in the face of absence and loss, so strongly and clearly that we know at the end that everything will, somehow, be all right. **

Title: Grandpa Loved
Author: Josephine Nobisso
Illustrator: Maureen Hyde
Publisher/Year/Pages: Gingerbread House; rev. ed. 2000; 32 pp.
Age suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: death of a grandparent
Summary: This is a recollection of the special times a young boy spent with his grandfather in the city, in the forest with the animals, at the beach, and with his family. Although the boy misses his beloved grandpa’s presence he feels assured that his passing has brought him to a better place and he knows that his grandpa’s love will always be with him. **

Title: When Your Grandparent Dies: A Child’s Guide to Good Grief
Author: Victoria Ryan
Illustrator: R.W. Alley
Publisher/Year/Pages: Abbey Press; 2002; 32 pp.
Age suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: grieving, death of a grandparent
Summary: Losing a grandparent is often a child’s first experience with grief. The ordeal can be as bewildering as it is painful. Explaining what happens from a child’s-eye view, the little elves in this book depict the difficult days before, after, and beyond a grandparent’s death. They explore the meaning of death and heaven, as well as how to stay close in spirit with a grandparent who has died. With ideas for action and questions for discussion, this creative guide will help you help your grieving child to create comforting memories and find closure. **

Title: I Miss You: A First Look at Death
Author: Pat Thomas
Illustrator: Leslie Harker
Publisher/Year/Pages: Barron’s Educational Series; 2001; 32 pp.
Age suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: death, grief
Summary: When a close friend or family member dies, it can be difficult for children to express their feelings. This book helps boys and girls understand that death is a natural complement to life, and that grief and a sense of loss are normal feelings for them to have following a loved one’s death. Written by psychotherapist and counselor Pat Thomas, this book is simple and direct and easy accessible to younger children. **

Death as Part of the Cycle of Life

Title: The Fall of Freddie the Leaf: A Story of Life for All Ages
Author: Leo Buscaglia
Illustrator: photographs by the author
Publisher/Year/Pages: Henry Holt; 2002 (reprint); 30 pp.
Age suitability: all ages
Themes: death, cycle of life
Summary: Originally published in the fall of 1982, the wonderfully wise and strikingly simple story of a leaf named Freddie has become one of the most popular books of our times. How Freddie and his companion leaves change with the passing seasons, finally falling to the ground with a winter’s snow, is an inspiring allegory illustrating the delicate balance between life and death. **

Title: Beyond the Ridge
Author: Paul Goble
Illustrator: Paul Goble
Publisher/Year/Pages: Aladdin Books (reprint); 1993; 32 pp.
Age suitability: all ages
Themes: death as natural process; life after death; Native American spirituality
Summary: An exquisite blending of folklore, full-color artwork, and the prayers and traditions of the Plains Indians, Beyond the Ridge chronicles the spiritual journey of an old woman from death to a reunion with friends and loved ones who have died before. **

Title: Lifetimes: The Beautiful Way of Explaining Death to Children
Author: Bryan Mellonie
Illustrator: Robert Ingpen
Publisher/Year/Pages: Bantam; 1983; 40 pp.
Age suitability: 4-8 years (or older)
Themes: death as natural process
Summary: Lifetimes is not a book about emotions or the experience of grieving. Neither is it a story about a particular kind of loss. Rather, it paints a broad picture of birth and death as natural processes, and living as the “in between” portion enjoyed by organism as diverse as plants, animals, and people. Scientific rather than faith-based, Lifetimes does not address questions of life after death. However, it is an excellent book to read to children who are not in the midst of grief, simply to introduce the idea that every living thing has its own lifetime.

Title: Waterbugs and Dragonflies: Explaining Death to Young Children
Author: Doris Stickney
Illustrator: Gloria Ortiz Hernandez
Publisher/Year/Pages: Pilgrim Press; rev. ed. 2004; 16 pp.
Age suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: death and rebirth, transformation
Summary: Waterbugs and Dragonflies is a graceful fable written by Doris Stickney who sought a meaningful way to explain to neighborhood children the death of a five-year-old friend. **

Title: When the Wind Stops
Author: Charlotte Zolotow
Illustrator: Stefano Vitale
Publisher/Year/Pages: Picture Books; 1997; 32 pp.
Age suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: change, loss, cycle of life
Summary: “Where does the wind go when it stops?” When a little boy asks this question at the end of a happy day, his mother explains that the wind does not stop—it blows away to make the trees dance somewhere else. Reassuringly, she tells him that nothing ever ends, it simply begins in another place or in another way. Rain goes back into the clouds to create new storms, waves fold back upon the sea to become new waves, and the day moves on to make way for the night, bringing the darkness and stars for the little boy to dream in. Charlotte Zolotow’s lyrical prose and Stefano Vitale’s rich illustrations make this a beautiful celebration of the cycle of life. **

Death of a Pet

Title: The Tenth Good Thing about Barney
Author: Judith Viorst
Illustrator: Erik Blegvad
Pulisher/Year/Pages: Atheneum Books for Young Readers; 1987; 32 pp.
Age suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: death of a pet
Summary: “My cat Barney died this Friday. I was very sad. My mother said we could have a funeral for him, and I should think of ten good things about Barney so I could tell them…” But the small boy who loved Barney can only think of nine. Later, while talking with his father, he discovers the tenth–and begins to understand. [Review from] Many reviewers comment on how this book can act as a useful springboard for families of all faith traditions to talk about their beliefs concerning what happens after death.

Title: I’ll Always Love You
Author: Hans Wilhelm
Illustrator: Hans Wilhelm
Publisher/Year/Pages: Dragonfly Books; 1988; 32 pp.
Age suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: death of a pet
Summary: In this gentle, moving story, Elfie, a dachshund, and her special boy progress happily through life together. One morning Elfie does not wake up. The family grieves and buries her. The watercolor illustrations, tender and warm in color and mood, suit the simple text perfectly. [Review from School Library Journal]

Loss, Separation and Saying Goodbye

Title: The Heart and the Bottle
Author: Oliver Jeffers
Illustrator: Oliver Jeffers
Publisher/Year/Pages: HarperCollins; 2011; 32 pp.
Age suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: grief, coping with loss, hope
Summary: Once there was a girl whose life was filled with wonder at the world around her…Then one day something happened that made the girl take her heart and put it in a safe place. However, after that it seemed that the world was emptier than before. But would she know how to get her heart back? In this deeply moving story, Oliver Jeffers deals with the weighty themes of love and loss with an extraordinary lightness of touch and shows us, ultimately, that there is always hope. **

Title: The Invisible String
Author: Patricia Karst
Illustrator: Geoff Stevenson
Publisher/Year/ Pages: Devorss & Company; 2000; 40 pp.
Age suitability: 4-8 years
Themes: loss, separation, interconnectedness, love
Summary: “People who love each other are always connected by a very special String, made of love. Even though you can’t see it with your eyes, you can feel it deep in your heart, and know that you are always connected to the ones you love.” Thus begins this heart-warming and reassuring story that addresses the issue of “separation anxiety” (otherwise known as the sense of existential ‘aloneness’) to children of all ages. Specifically written to address children’s fear of being apart from the ones they love, The Invisible String delivers a particularly compelling message in today’s uncertain times that though we may be separated from the ones we care for, whether through anger, or distance or even death, love is the unending connection that binds us all, and, by extension, ultimately binds every person on the planet to everyone else.

Title: Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing After Loss
Author: Pat Schwiebert, Chuck DeKlyen
Illustrator: Taylor Bills
Publisher/Year/Pages: Grief Watch; 3rd rev. ed. 2005; 56 pp.
Age suitability: all ages
Themes: death, grief, loss
Summary: Grandy and her husband Pops have suffered a loss. While their grief is something they share, each deals with it differently. Making soup becomes a metaphor for the different ways every person moves through grief, drawing on “ingredients” that are as personal as our thoughts, feelings and memories. Written as a simple story, Tear Soup also includes strategies for coping with various kinds of loss. This book was the winner of the 2001 Theologos Book Award, presented by the Association of Theological Booksellers.

Title: Still My Grandma
Author: Veronique Van den Abeele
Illustrator: Claude K. Dubois
Publisher/Year/Pages: Eerdmans Young Readers; 2007; 28 pp.
Age suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: loss, Alzheimer’s disease, love
Summary: Camille and her grandma have a special friendship. They have sleepovers, bake chocolate cupcakes together, go out shopping, and giggle at old photographs. But one day Grandma forgets Camille’s name. Then she can’t remember where to put her shoes. Camille learns that her grandma is sick, but not the kind where you cough and blow your nose. Grandma has Alzheimer’s disease, which is what makes her do strange things. And even though Grandma has to move out of her house and rely on nurses to care for her, Camille finds a way to continue their special traditions. With charming, sensitive illustrations, this story gently introduces young readers to the realities of Alzheimer’s disease, and reminds them that love is more powerful than any illness can be. **

Title: Badger’s Parting Gifts
Author: Susan Varley
Illustrator: Susan Varley
Publisher/Year/Pages: Picture Books (reprint); 1992; 32 pp.
Age suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: death, friendship
Summary: Badger’s friends are sad when he dies, but they treasure the memories he has left them. By sharing these memories with one another they find hope and strength to live through their grief.

Children Who Are Dying

Title: Rudi’s Pond
Author: Eve Bunting
Illustrator: Ronald Himler
Publisher/Year/Pages: Clarion Books; reprinted 2004; 32 pp.
Age suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: death of a friend
Summary: The young narrator’s best friend, Rudi, is very sick, and it’s hard for her to understand. When Rudi dies, the narrator and the other children in school help to build a pond by the big knobby oak in memory of him. A hummingbird feeder that Rudi made hangs by the pond, and one day a special hummingbird comes to visit. . . . Based on a true story, Rudi’s Pond is an insightful book that will help young readers to deal with loss. Once again author Eve Bunting and illustrator Ronald Himler have combined their talents to create a memorable picture book. **

Title: Gentle Willow: A Story for Children about Dying
Author: Joyce C. Mills
Illustrator: Cary Pillo
Publisher/Year/Pages: Magination Press; 2nd ed. 2003; 32 pp.
Age suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: grief, dying, death as transformation
Summary: Written for children who may not survive their illness or for the children who know them, this tender and touching tale helps address feelings of disbelief, anger, and sadness, along with love and compassion. Amanda and Little Tree discover that their friend Gentle Willow isn’t feeling well. Amanda summons the Tree Wizards, who visit Gentle Willow and determine that they can’t fix her. Amanda is angry at first, but eventually she listens to the Tree Wizards as they explain that death is a transformation and journey into the unknown. They also counsel Amanda that the medicine she can give Gentle Willow is love. In a final act of love, Amanda comforts Gentle Willow, who is afraid, with a story about the caterpillar who transforms into a butterfly. A new “Note to Parents” addresses how to cope with death and dying. **

Other Books about Death and Dying

Title: What is Death?
Author: Etan Boritzer
Illustrator: Nancy Forrest
Publisher/Year/Pages: Veronica Lane Books; 2013; 40 pp.
Age suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: death in different religious and cultural traditions
Summary: What is Death? addresses children’s natural curiosity about this difficult subject. Introducing the concept of death with examples of customs and beliefs from different religions and cultures, the book also allows the reader to reflect on themes of tolerance, identity and generosity. Reality-based and using a gentle and comforting tone, What Is Death? takes an honest approach and encourages children to embrace the positive in life. This book has become a standard part of many grief and loss therapists’ professional resources. ** Please note that this book looks at attitudes and beliefs about death in many cultures and religious traditions. It does not offer definitive answers, but explores many questions in a child-like way.

Title: The Paper Dolls
Author: Julia Donaldson
Illustrator: Rebecca Cobb
Publisher/Year/Pages: MacMillan Children’s Books; 2012; 32 pp.
Age suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: separation, loss, transformation, memory
Summary: This is a lovely story about a little girl who makes five paper dolls and goes on many imaginative adventures with them. They are always holding hands and declaring they will not let go of one another. But one day a little boy comes with a very real pair of scissors and cuts the dolls into confetti. As sad as she is to say goodbye to her dolls, the little girl discovers that they are not completely gone; they have flown to a place inside her where other precious things live—her grandma and some of her favourite toys. Even when the little girl grows up and makes paper dolls with her own daughter, her dolls are still holding hands and not letting go, alive and beloved in her memory. This very simple rhyming book touches on a lot of big ideas about loss and memory.

Title: For Heaven’s Sake
Author: Sandy Eisenberg Sasso
Illustrator: Kathryn Kunz Finney
Publisher/Year/Pages: Jewish Lights Publishing; 2013; 32 pp.
Age suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: death, heaven, afterlife, presence of God within us
Summary: After his grandfather died Isaiah was told that Grandpa had gone to heaven. Isaiah wondered exactly where and what heaven was. He became determined to find out, and sought answers from many different people. In this charming story, award-winning author Sandy Eisenberg Sasso teaches that heaven is often found in the places where you least expect it. **

Title: Duck, Death and the Tulip
Author: Wolf Erlbruch, trans. Catherine Chidgey
Illustrator: Wolf Erlbruch
Publisher/Year/Pages: Lerner Publishing Group; 2011; 36 pp.
Age suitability: all ages, depending on temperament and sensitivity of the child
Themes: acceptance of death
Summary: One day duck has a strange feeling. She realized that Death—wearing a fashionable plaid coat—has come to be with her. She is scared stiff at first, but slowly becomes accustomed to the presence of Death. They chum around together, Duck wonders about dying, and Death listens to her sympathetically. Then one winter night Duck lies down and does not get up again. Death gently places a tulip on her chest and puts her body in the river. Some readers might find this book strange or disturbing, but others will be deeply moved by the elegantly simple text and illustrations, and by the sheer audacity of the author in embracing a topic that most of us try to avoid—the persistent presence of death in our lives. While Duck, Death and the Tulip says nothing about life after death, its courageous and peaceful acceptance of death offers its own form of consolation. This is an extraordinary book, though perhaps not for all children.

Title: Everything That Shines
Author: David Weale
Illustrator: Dale McNevin
Publisher/Year/Pages: The Acorn Press; 2001; 26 pp.
Age suitability: 5 and up
Themes: death, transformation, memory
Summary: Everything that Shines is the story of a special bond between a horse, named Shekinah, and a little girl named Maddie, who live on a farm on Prince Edward Island. There is a mysterious bond of love and friendship between the two. When Shekinah dies, Maddie is heart-broken and asks her grandfather if she will ever see Shekinah again. “Oh yes,” replies Grampa, “but not in the same way. Now you have to see her in a different way.” Remembering the shine in Shekina’s eyes, Maddie begins to discover that in everything that shines, she can see her beloved Shekinah.

Are you gathering books for your church or home library?
Have you been searching for good books for your church’s children’s ministries?
Do you want recommendations for books that might be suitable gifts
for young people in your life?

The books listed below about non-traditional families are available from retail booksellers and sometimes the public library. They are not for sale in the PCC Resource Centre. The books are listed in alphabetical order by author’s last name.

This list has been compiled by Laura Alary, children’s book writer, storyteller and Christian Education Coordinator at Guildwood Presbyterian Church in Toronto. The summaries given are written by Laura unless they are asterisked **, in which case they are based on bookseller or publisher information. These summaries do not represent the views of The Presbyterian Church in Canada.

This list will be updated as new books come to our attention. Please send recommendations and summaries to canadianministries [at] presbyterian [dot] ca. If you wish to write a full book review for public posting, please send it to us.

Title: Dinosaurs Divorce
Author: Marc Brown and Laurene Krasny Brown
Illustrator: Laurene Krasny Brown and Marc Brown
Publisher/Year/Pages: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; 1988; 32 pp.
Age suitability: 4 to 8 years (though some reviewers recommend 6 and up)
Themes: a variety of topics related to divorce
Summary: Dinosaurs Divorce is meant to guide children through some of the questions they may have in response to divorce. It covers some of the following topics: divorce words and what they mean; why parents divorce; what happens after the divorce; living with one parent; visiting your parent; having two homes; celebrating holidays and special occasions; telling your friends; meeting your parents’ new friends; living with step-parents; having stepsisters and stepbrothers.

Title: It’s Not Your Fault, Koko Bear
Author: Vicki Lansky
Illustrator: Vicky Lansky
Publisher/Year/Pages: Book Peddlers; 2010; 32 pp.
Age suitability: 3 to 7 years (and parents)
Themes: divorce, effect on children
Summary: How do you talk to your children about your divorce? How can you best handle their responses? Here’s a children’s book and parenting tool rolled into one. It’s Not Your Fault, Koko Bear is a picture book designed to be read by parents to their children. Koko Bear’s parents are getting a divorce, and Koko, a preschool-aged unisex bear, isn’t happy about it. “I don’t like this divorce. I don’t want two homes,” Koko says. Koko Bear’s story doesn’t minimize kids’ pain, but it doesn’t wallow in it either. The message is positive: children are reassured that their feelings are natural, that their parents still love and will care for them, and that the divorce is not their fault. At the bottom of each page, there are bullet points for parents that give information and advice about what the kids are going through, and the best way to handle each issue as it arises. **

Title: Was it the Chocolate Pudding? A Story for Little Kids about Divorce
Author: Sandra Levins
Illustrator: Bryan Langdo
Publisher/Year/Pages: Magination Press; 2005; 40 pp.
Age suitability: 2 to 6 years
Themes: divorce, questions children may ask
Summary: With childlike innocence and humour, a young narrator living with his single father and brother explains divorce and it’s grown-up words—like “New Arrangement,” “Ideal Situation,” and “Differences”—from a kid’s point-of-view. Special emphasis is placed on the fact that divorce is not the child’s fault, that it is a grown-up problem. This book deals with practical day-to-day matters such as single-family homes, joint custody, child-care issues, and misunderstandings. It includes a Note to Parents. There are full-colour illustrations through-out. **

Title: Two Homes
Author: Claire Masurel
Illustrator: Katy McDonald Denton
Publisher/Year/Pages: Candlewick; Reprinted 2003; 40 pp.
Age suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: divorce
Summary: At Mommy’s house, Alex has a soft chair. At Daddy’s house, Alex has a rocking chair. In each home, Alex also has a special bedroom and lots of friends to play with. But whether Alex is with Mommy or with Daddy, one thing always stays the same—Alex is loved. The gently reassuring text focuses on what is gained rather than what is lost when parents divorce, while the sensitive illustrations, depicting two unique homes in all their small details, firmly establish Alex’s place in both of them. Two Homes will help children—and parents—embrace even the most difficult of changes with an open and optimistic heart. **

Title: Mom and Dad Don’t Live Together Anymore
Author: Kathy Stinson
Illustrator: Vian Oelofsen
Publisher/Year/Pages: Annick Press; Revised ed. 2007; 24 pp.
Age suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: divorce
Summary: Divorce is never easy, not for parents and especially not for children. More than 20 years ago, celebrated author Kathy Stinson wrote in a positive way about the confusion, insecurity and sorrow experienced by young children whose parents have separated. Since then, Mom and Dad Don’t Live Together Anymore has brought comfort to countless families dealing with this difficult issue. This critically acclaimed bestseller, reprinted 15 times, now returns with fresh new illustrations and updated text. For the young girl of the story, splitting time between parents has its ups and downs. She likes the elevators and garbage chutes of mom’s city apartment, but the horses near dad’s country home are great, too. Not knowing where she’ll be for holidays is hard. Even so, she is comforted knowing that each parent still provides the same love and caring—just not together anymore. Sensitively told and featuring reassuring illustrations, Mom and Dad Don’t Live Together Anymore offers children a gentle entry into an upsetting subject. **

Are you gathering books for your church or home library?
Have you been searching for good books for your church’s children’s ministries?
Do you want recommendations for books that might be suitable gifts
for young people in your life?

The books listed below on the theme “Welcoming the Stranger” relate to the experiences of refugees, immigrants and displaced people. The list has been compiled by Laura Alary, children’s book writer, storyteller and Christian Education Coordinator at Guildwood Presbyterian Church in Toronto. The summaries given are written by Laura unless they are asterisked **, in which case they are based on bookseller or publisher information. These summaries do not represent the views of The Presbyterian Church in Canada.

These books are available from retail booksellers and sometimes the public library. The books are listed in alphabetical order by author’s last name.

This list will be updated as new books come to our attention. Please send recommendations and summaries to canadianministries [at] presbyterian [dot] ca. If you wish to write a full book review for public posting, please send it and we will link it to the book listing.

Title: One Green Apple
Author: Eve Bunting
Illustrator: Ted Lewin
Publisher/Year/Pages: Clarion Books; 2006; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: immigrant experience, prejudice, empathy, welcoming strangers, belonging
Summary: Farah feels alone, even when surrounded by her classmates. She listens and nods but doesn’t speak. It’s hard being the new kid in school, especially when you’re from another country and don’t know the language. Then, on a field trip to an apple orchard, Farah discovers there are lots of things that sound the same as they did at home, from dogs crunching their food, to the ripple of friendly laughter. As she helps the class make apple cider, Farah connects with the other students and begins to feel that she belongs. Ted Lewin’s gorgeous sun-drenched paintings and Eve Bunting’s sensitive text immediately put the reader into another child’s shoes in this timely story of a young Muslim immigrant. **

Title: Molly’s Pilgrim
Author: Barbara Cohen
Illustrator: Daniel Mark Duffy
Publisher/Year/Pages: Middle Grade; revised ed. 1998; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 6 years and up
Themes: immigrant and refugee experience, gratitude, Thanksgiving
Summary: Molly—a Russian Jewish immigrant to a small town in the United States—struggles to fit in with her third grade class. The other girls ridicule her accent, her clothes, and her ignorance of American customs. When her teacher gives the class a special assignment for Thanksgiving, Molly asks her mother to help her make a pilgrim doll. Her mother does not understand what a pilgrim is, so Molly shares the explanation her teacher has given: a pilgrim is someone who leaves home and moves to a new place seeking religious freedom and escape from persecution. This is an experience Molly’s mother understands all too well, so she sews for Molly a beautiful doll that looks like a Russian immigrant. At school, the children make fun of the doll because it does not look like their idea of a pilgrim. Finally, the teacher points out that Molly’s doll is the most appropriate of all, because she represents not merely a historical event, but the ongoing experience of many people around the world seeking a safe and peaceful place to live. This powerful story is just as relevant in Canada as in the United States, and is a great place to begin conversations about empathy and welcoming strangers.

Title: The Roses in My Carpets
Author: Rukhsana Khan
Illustrator: Ronald Himler
Publisher/Year/Pages: Fitzhenry & Whiteside; 2004; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: publisher says ages 5 to 8 years, but more suitable for 8 and above
Themes: war, refugees, violence, resilience, freedom, independence, safety
Summary: The Roses in My Carpets is narrated by a young Afghan refugee who weaves carpets for a living, and also as a way of creating a world of colour and beauty in the midst of his bleak existence in a refugee camp. This glimpse into the life of one refugee family is grim, and may be upsetting for younger children. However, it has the potential to help children build empathy and understanding for the plight of the many displaced people in the world.

Title: If Jesus Came to My House
Author: Joan G. Thomas
Illustrator: Lori McElrath-Eslick
Publisher/Year/Pages: HarperCollins; (first published in 1951) reissued 2008; 40 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: hospitality, compassion, seeing Christ in others,
Summary: In this rhyming story, a young boy wonders what would happen if Jesus came to his house. The narrator imagines greeting Jesus, making him feel welcome, sharing toys with him, and giving him a snack. While he knows that Jesus will never actually come to visit him, the boy realizes that he can do for others everything he would like to be able to do for Jesus. This classic book is a lovely expression of the biblical teaching that whatever kindness we do for the least person, we do for Jesus. What better expression of thanks to God?

Title: My Name is Sangoel
Author: Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed
Illustrator: Catherine Stock
Publisher/Year/Pages: Eerdmans Young Readers; 2009; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: refugees, immigration, belonging, identity, empathy
Summary: When Sangoel flees his home in Sudan and becomes a refugee, the most precious thing he carries with him is his name—a gift from his father and grandfather. Newly arrived in the United States, though, he finds that most people cannot pronounce his name properly. Sangoel does not know what to do. Should he change his name so he can fit into his new homeland? Or is there a way he can hold onto this part of his identity? In the end, Sangoel comes up with a clever method for teaching the other children in his class how to say his name, and for learning how to say theirs!

Are you gathering books for your church or home library?
Have you been searching for good books for your church’s children’s ministries?
Do you want recommendations for books that might be suitable gifts
for young people in your life?

The books listed below on the theme “Welcoming the Stranger” relate to the experiences of refugees, immigrants and displaced people. The list has been compiled by Laura Alary, children’s book writer, storyteller and Christian Education Coordinator at Guildwood Presbyterian Church in Toronto. The summaries given are written by Laura unless they are asterisked **, in which case they are based on bookseller or publisher information. These summaries do not represent the views of The Presbyterian Church in Canada.

These books are available from retail booksellers and sometimes the public library. The books are listed in alphabetical order by author’s last name.

This list will be updated as new books come to our attention. Please send recommendations and summaries to canadianministries [at] presbyterian [dot] ca. If you wish to write a full book review for public posting, please send it and we will link it to the book listing.

Title: Mira and the Big Story
Author: Laura Alary
Illustrator: Sue Todd
Publisher/Year/Pages: Skinner House Books; 2013; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 8 years and up
Themes: peace and conflict, interconnectedness, cosmology, ecology, science
Summary: Mira knows one story about how her people came to live in their village in the valley. Across the river, a different story is told. Mira has been taught that the other story is wrong, and that the others have no place in the valley. But Mira is a curious little girl, and one day she sneaks across the river and meets a child from the other village. To her surprise, this encounter causes her to question everything she has been taught about the others. With some help from a wise elder, Mira discovers a story big enough to include everyone.

Title: A Child’s Garden: A Story of Hope
Author: Michael Foreman
Illustrator: Michael Foreman
Publisher/Year/Pages: Candlewick; 2009; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: war, peace, growth, restoration, hope
Summary: For a boy in a war-ravaged world, nurturing a fragile vine has far reaching effects in this simple, universal fable of hope and connection. A little boy’s home has been reduced to ruin and rubble, and now a wire fence and soldiers separate him from the streams and hills he once visited with his father. But the boy sees a tiny speck of green peeping up toward the sunlight, and he quietly begins to coax it with water and care. What sort of promise can a vine’s spreading tendrils bring to a bleak landscape? A beautifully illustrated tale of healing and renewal from a world-acclaimed children’s book creator, A Child’s Garden pays gentle tribute to the human spirit. **

Title: Whoever You Are
Author: Mem Fox
Illustrator: Leslie Staub
Publisher/Year/Pages: Harcourt Children’s Books; 2006; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: interconnectedness, multiculturalism, peace, unity
Summary: Every day, all over the world, children are laughing and crying, playing and learning, eating and sleeping. They may not look the same. They may not speak the same language. Their lives may be quite different. But inside, they are all alike. A lovely and simple celebration of human connection. **

Title: Peace One Day: The Making of World Peace Day
Author: Jeremy Gilley
Illustrator: Karen Blessen
Publisher/Year/Pages: G.P. Putnam’s Sons; 2005; 48 pp.
Age Suitability: 8 years and up
Themes: war, conflict, non-violence, peace
Summary: One day, a light-bulb went off in Jeremy Gilley’s head: there should be one day each year when the world stops fighting and celebrates peace. And he did much more than just think about it. He traveled the globe, meeting with leaders such as Kofi Annan, Amre Moussa, Shimon Peres, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Jeremy’s enthusiasm and tireless efforts convinced the governments of the world to change the UN International Day of Peace from a day that moved each year and didn’t actually require anyone to stop fighting, into a cease-fire day of nonviolence that would fall on September 21 every year. This amazing story touches on the causes of war, what would happen on a cease-fire day, ways to promote peace on September 21, and most important, how a single person can make a difference in the world. **

Title: Shh! We Have a Plan
Author: Chris Houghton
Illustrator: Chris Houghton
Publisher/Year/Pages: Candlewick; 2014; 40 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: peace, gentleness, resisting force
Summary: Four friends creep through the woods, and what do they spot? An exquisite bird high in a tree! “Hello birdie,” waves one. “Shh! We have a plan,” hush the others. They stealthily make their advance, nets in the air. Ready one, ready two, ready three, and go! But as one comically foiled plan follows another, it soon becomes clear that their quiet, observant companion, hand outstretched, has a far better idea. This book by award-winning author-illustrator, Chris Haughton, has a simple, satisfying story with visual humor played out in boldly graphic, vibrantly colorful illustrations. **

Title: Can You Say Peace?
Author: Karen Katz
Illustrator: Karen Katz
Publisher/Year/Pages: Henry Holt & Company; 2006; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 3 to 5 years
Themes: peace, different languages
Summary: International Peace Day is September 21. On this day and every day throughout the year, children all over the world wish for peace. Karen Katz takes readers on a bright and colorful journey around the globe to meet some of these children and learn about the many ways to say peace! Karen Katz’s bright and childlike illustrations are the perfect way to introduce the very young to the concept of peace and teach them how to say the word in twenty-two different languages. **

Title: You Are Stardust
Author: Elin Kelsey
Illustrator: Soyeon Kim
Publisher/Year/Pages: Owlkids; 2012; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: interconnectedness, natural cycles, ecology
Summary: Although this is a book about science, it has much wider implications. Through simple text and intriguing, multi-dimensional, paper-cut illustrations, the book shows children some of the many ways they are connected to the natural world, and to each other. In fact, every atom in their bodies came from stars that exploded long before they were born. This would be a good book to read in connection with Mira and the Big Story, where the ethical implications of the science are fleshed out.

Title: The Big Red Lollipop
Author: Rukhsana Khan
Illustrator: Sophie Blackall
Publisher/Year/Pages: Viking Books for Young Readers; 2010; 40 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: forgiveness, reconciliation, revenge and retaliation
Summary: Rubina has been invited to a birthday party and her mother, Ami, insists that she bring along her younger sister, Sana. Rubina is mortified—all the more so when Sana disrupts the party and cries unless she wins every game. To add insult to injury, after gobbling up all the treats in her own loot bag, Sana eats the big red lollipop Rubina has saved for later. Matters get worse when all the girls in Rubina’s class stop inviting her to their parties for fear she will bring her little sister again. Time passes and Sana receives her first invitation to a birthday party. When Ami insists that she bring along her baby sister, Maryam, Sana is horrified and tearfully begs to be allowed to go alone. Rubina has a choice to make: will she sit back and bask in the satisfaction of watching Sana go through the same humiliation she endured? Or will she intervene and try to help Ami understand? The Big Red Lollipop, by Canadian writer and storyteller Rukhsana Kahn, has won many awards for its realistic portrayal of the experience of immigrants, but it is also a funny and thought-provoking story about revenge and reconciliation

Title: Immi’s Gift
Author: Karin Littlewood
Illustrator: Karin Littlewood
Publisher/Year/Pages: Peachtree Publishers; 2010; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: passing on kindness, interconnectedness
Summary: Way, way up north in a snow-covered frozen world, a young girl breaks a hole in the ice and fishes for her supper. But instead of a fish, at the end of the line is a small, brightly painted wooden bird. She ties it onto her necklace, next to a small wooden bear.
Day after day her fishing pole brings up more colorful surprises from the swirling sea under the frozen ice. She decorates her igloo with the beautiful treasures, and animals come from far and wide to visit with her and share stories of faraway lands. When it is time to move on, she visits the fishing hole one more time and drops the little bear from her necklace into the water.
Faraway, a young boy walks along a beach in the hot, hot sun. He throws a colorful object into the water. Then something catches his eye. There washed up on the beach is a small wooden bear…
Karin Littlewood has crafted a simple, affecting story of how individuals around the world connect and even enrich each other’s lives. Her beautiful full-spread watercolor illustrations vibrantly depict the story’s shifting locations-from the frozen Arctic to the tropical shoreline, linked together by the vast and diverse world that exists below the sea. **

Title: You Are Special
Author: Max Lucado
Publisher/Year/Pages: 2000/Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle, Board book/22
Age Suitability:
Themes: differences, healing, self-esteem
Summary: Wemmicks are little wooden people who have developed the habit of sticking gold stars or grey dots on one another. The pretty and talented ones get stars, while those who have chipped paint or who can do little, get ugly dots. Punchinello is covered with dots. One day, though, he meets a Wemmick called Lucia who has neither stars nor dots. Lucia explains that even though the other Wemmicks try to give her stars and dots, nothing sticks to her, because she has learned a powerful secret: the stars and dots only stick if you let them. Every day Lucia goes to visit her maker, Eli the Woodcarver, and lets him remind her that she is precious just as she is. Filled with hope, Punchinello goes to see Eli and receives the same message: he is special and precious, just as he is. As Punchinello lets these words soak in, a dot falls off. Adults and children alike need to hear this same message: in a word where we are constantly judged by others and ourselves, healing and restoration comes through spending time with our maker and remembering that we are precious, just as we are.

Title: Mama Miti
Author: Donna Jo Napoli
Illustrator: Kadir Nelson
Publisher/Year/Pages: Simon & Shuster; 2010; 40 pp.
Age Suitability: 8 years and up
Themes: ecology, peace, courage, social action
Summary: Through artful prose and beautiful illustrations, Donna Jo Napoli and Kadir Nelson tell the true story of Wangari Muta Maathai, known as “Mama Miti,” who in 1977 founded the Green Belt Movement, an African grassroots organization that has empowered many people to mobilize and combat deforestation, soil erosion, and environmental degradation. Today more than 30 million trees have been planted throughout Mama Miti’s native Kenya, and in 2004 she became the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Wangari Muta Maathai has changed Kenya tree by tree—and with each page turned, children will realize their own ability to positively impact the future. **

Title: Why?
Author: Nikolai Popov
Illustrator: Nikolai Popov
Publisher/Year/Pages: North South Books; 1998; 48 pp.
Age Suitability: 8 years and up
Themes: war, violence, conflict, peace
Summary: A frog sits peacefully on a rock in a meadow. Suddenly, and for no apparent reason, he is attacked by an umbrella-wielding mouse. The frog gets the worst of the fight, but he has large friends, and they come to his aid. Soon, allies of the mouse arrive and a full-scale battle breaks out. In the end, the frog and mouse are alone, sad and puzzled, in the midst of the wreckage of what was once a place of beauty and quiet. This wordless book is intended to provoke wondering and discussion among older elementary children, many of whom have experienced or witnessed what can happen when conflicts between two people are not resolved, but draw in others.

Title: What Does Peace Feel Like?
Author: Vlademir Redunsky
Illustrator: Vlademir Redunsky
Publisher/Year/Pages: Atheneum Books for Young Readers; 2004; 24 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: peace, senses, observation
Summary: What does Peace look like? “Like something beautiful that goes away but will come back,” says the text, accompanied by a painting of a cat and a dog curled up together in a big basket. Peace sounds like “raindrops falling . . . like voices singing.” Peace tastes like ice cream, in many flavors. And what does Peace smell like? “Like a bouquet of flowers in a happy family’s living room…like fresh and new furniture…like pizza with onions and sausage.…” Redunsky’s collection of metaphors and similes for peace is based on the words of children from an international school in Rome. The book is a good discussion starter and an inspiration to children to use and celebrate their own senses.

Title: In God’s Name
Author: Sandy Eisenberg Sasso
Illustrator: Phoebe Stone
Publisher/Year/Pages: Jewish Lights; 1994; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: names and images for God, diversity, oneness, healing, peace
Summary: Everyone and everything in the world has a name. But what is God’s name? In poetic text and vibrant illustrations, this modern fable celebrates the diversity and, at the same time, the unity of all people. “God must have a single name this greater and more powerful than all other names.” All the people of the world set out to find God’s name … and each of the many seekers is sure that he or she alone has found the right name, the only name, for God. Finally, they come together—and at last learn what God’s name really is. In God’s Name is a spiritual celebration of all people of the world and their belief in one God. **

Title: Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story
Author: Jeanette Winter
Illustrator: Jeanette Winter
Publisher/Year/Pages: Harcourt Children’s Books; 2008; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: ecology, justice, courage, determination, environment
Summary: As a young girl growing up in Kenya, Wangari was surrounded by trees. But years later when she returns home, she is shocked to see whole forests being cut down, and she knows that soon all the trees will be destroyed. So Wangari decides to do something—and starts by planting nine seedlings in her own backyard. And as they grow, so do her plans. . . This true story of Wangari Maathai, environmentalist and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, is a shining example of how one woman’s passion, vision, and determination inspired great change. **

Title: Aunt Mary’s Roses
Author: Douglas Wood
Illustrator: LeUyen Pham
Publisher/Year/Pages: Candlewick; 2010; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: family, intergenerational bonds, interconnectedness, earth, environment, ecology
Summary: Aunt Mary has a very special rosebush in her garden. She says a little bit of Douglas can be found inside it. And she tells him how the rosebush has a little bit of Douglas’s daddy in it as well. And a little bit of his daddy’s daddy. And, of course, a little bit of Aunt Mary. Douglas Wood’s tender memoir is complemented by LeUyen Pham’s charming and engaging illustrations. Together they show how caring for a treasured rosebush provides a connection between generations, and an enduring expression of attentiveness and familial love. **

Title: The Other Side
Author: Jacqueline Woodson
Illustrator: L.B. Lewis
Publisher/Year/Pages: G.P. Putnam’s Sons; 10th anniversary ed. 2001; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 5 to 8 years
Themes: racial prejudice, friendship, reconciliation, peace-making, hope, justice
Summary: Clover and Anna are two young girls, one African-American, one white, growing up in the American south in the 1950’s. Both have been warned by their mothers not to go near, let alone cross over, the fence that divides their properties. But as the long summer wears on, the girls are gradually drawn to one another. Free-spirited Anna climbs the fence, insisting that, “a fence like this was made for sitting on.” Clover’s friends are dubious about including Anna in their games, but by the end of the summer, they too have been won over, and the divisive fence has become a place where all the girls perch together. “Someday,” remarks Annie, finishing the metaphor on a hopeful note, “somebody’s gonna come along and knock this old fence down.” Text and illustrations work together to make this an outstanding book about friendship that crosses boundaries.

Title: Paths to Peace: People Who Changed the World
Author: Jane Breskin Zalben
Illustrator: Jane Breskin Zalben
Publisher/Year/Pages: Dutton Books for Young Readers; 2006; 48 pp.
Age Suitability: 8 years and up
Themes: peace-making, ecology, social justice,
Summary: With a stirring quote set within a stunning and incisive collage, Zalben sets the tone for each of the sixteen peacemakers she profiles in this book. Mahatma Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt, Cesar Chavez,Aung San Suu Kyi, and the most recent Nobel Prize winner, Dr.Wangari Maathai, are some of the people she chose to represent different eras and parts of the globe. Many of the people started down their path to peace during childhood, and all challenge us to think about improving the lives of others. Also included in this beautiful volume are art notes, a glossary, a bibliography, further reading, and an index, making it an excellent resource for teachers and students. **

Are you gathering books for your church or home library?
Have you been searching for good books for your church’s children’s ministries?
Do you want recommendations for books that might be suitable gifts for young people in your life?

The books listed below about Gratitude, Giving and Receiving have been compiled by Laura Alary, children’s book writer, storyteller and Christian Education Coordinator at Guildwood Presbyterian Church in Toronto.

The summaries given are written by Laura unless they are asterisked **, in which case they are based on bookseller or publisher information. These summaries do not represent the views of The Presbyterian Church in Canada.

These books are available from retail booksellers and sometimes the public library. The books are listed in alphabetical order by author’s last name.

This list will be updated as new books come to our attention. Please send recommendations and summaries to canadianministries [at] presbyterian [dot] ca. If you wish to write a full book review for public posting, please send it and we will link it to the book listing.

Title: Jesse’s Surprise Gift
Author: Laura Alary
Illustrator: Ariane Elsammak
Publisher/Year/Pages: CopperHouse; 2012; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: giving and receiving, needs versus wants
Summary: More than anything in the world Jesse wants a guitar. But his mother cannot afford to buy him one. Instead, she gives him an ocarina. Disappointed, but not wanting to hurt his mother’s feelings, Jesse goes for a walk and happens to meet a young busker who has just lost his harmonica. This encounter forces Jesse to choose between holding on to what he has, or passing it on to someone who needs it more. This story is about giving and receiving; it is also about not holding on to things too tightly, and the surprises that can happen when we dare to let go.

Title: Anna Hibiscus’ Song
Author: Atinuke
Illustrator: Lauren Tobia
Publisher/Year/Pages: Kane Miller; 2011; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: expressing gratitude, joy and happiness
Summary: Anna Hibiscus has many reasons to be happy. She lives in a beautiful and fascinating place (a bustling city somewhere in West Africa); she is surrounded by a diverse extended family, including many cousins; she is dearly loved by her parents and siblings. In fact, Anna is so happy she doesn’t know how to express it. She goes from one family member to another, asking what they do when they are happy. But simply being around people she loves makes her joy grow until she thinks she is going to burst! Finally, her mom suggests that Anna try singing and this turns out to be the perfect way for Anna to give voice to her own happiness. Like the short chapter books featuring Anna Hibiscus, this picture book is cheerful, thoughtful and optimistic, and provides some welcome balance to the portrayal of the African continent solely as a place of suffering and need.

Title: All of Me: A Book of Thanks
Author: Molly Bang
Illustrator: Molly Bang
Publisher/Year/Pages: Blue Sky Press; 2009; 40 pp.
Age Suitability: 3 to 6 years
Themes: creativity, anatomy, gratitude
Summary: This book presents a young child’s delight in her whole world. In pictures as bright as sunshine, the author-illustrator speaks directly to young children in this bold, colourful book of “thanks” that will fascinate and engage young readers and their parents. “Look at my fine feet! Thank you, feet, for holding me up when I stand, and when I walk, and when I jump!” Children share the simple wonders of their feet, hands, arms, eyes, noses, mouths, and the fun things their bodies do. Using paintings that photographically include some real art tools—such as crayons, felt, and paintbrushes—that Bang used to illustrate the book, All of Me! seamlessly combines thanks, young anatomy, and a simple lesson about making art. **

Title: Those Shoes
Author: Mary Beth Boeltz
Illustrator: Noah Z. Jones
Publisher/Year/Pages: Candlewick; reprinted 2009; 40 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: needs versus wants, gratitude, generosity
Summary: All Jeremy wants is a pair of those shoes, the ones everyone at school seems to be wearing. Though Jeremy’s grandma says they don’t have room for “want,” just “need,” when his old shoes fall apart at school, he is more determined than ever to have those shoes, even a thrift-shop pair that are much too small. But sore feet aren’t much fun, and Jeremy soon sees that the things he has—warm boots, a loving grandma, and the chance to help a friend—are worth more than the things he wants. **

Title: Grateful: A Song of Giving Thanks
Author: John Bucchino
Illustrator: Anna-Liisa Hakkarainen
Publisher/Year/Pages: Katherine Tegen; 2003; 40 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 years and up
Themes: nature, faith, gratitude
Summary: The lyrics to this song by John Bucchino (sung by Art Garfunkle on the accompanying CD) celebrate the beauty of nature, the changing seasons, and the meaning of faith. Unlike some picture books for young children, this one acknowledges the reality of pain and suffering, and the fact that gratitude is a choice and a practice, not something that always wells up in us of its own accord. Some of the phrases are a bit abstract for young children, but the spirit of the song is simple, easy to grasp, and can be sung joyfully by open-hearted people of any age.

Title: The Mitten Tree
Author: Candice Christiansen
Illustrator: Elaine Greenstein
Year/Format/Pages: Fulcrum; 2009; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: generosity, kindness, compassion
Summary: Sarah is an elderly woman who lives alone and takes pleasure in watching the local children play outside her house. One winter day she notices a little boy waiting at the bus stop without mittens. She knits him a pair and leaves them hanging on a branch where he will be sure to find them. The children begin to watch for new mittens, and Sarah continues to knit them. One morning she covers an entire tree with colourful mittens as gifts for the children. Although this uses up all her wool, Sarah does it with a glad heart, and her generosity is met with generosity in return when she finds a surprise basket waiting on her front porch. This simple story of kindness and generosity is warm without being too sweet, and would be especially good if accompanied by a knitting lesson!

Title: Full, Full of Love
Author: Trish Cooke
Illustrator: Paul Howard
Publisher/Year/Pages: Candlewick; 2008; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 2 to 5 years
Themes: family, abundance, love, being thankful
Summary: Jay Jay’s mom drops him off at Grannie’s house while she goes to pick up his father. Grannie is preparing for Sunday dinner, but she is not too busy to give Jay Jay plenty of loving attention. Jay Jay helps Grannie set the table, feeds her fish, and enjoys all the wonderful sights and smells of her kitchen. This simple book, especially appropriate for very young children, celebrates the warmth and exuberance of a particular African American extended family, but also helps children look for what they love about their own families.

Title: Bagels from Benny
Author: Aubrey Davies
Illustrator: Dušan Petričić
Publisher/Year/Pages: KidsCan Press; 2005; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: generosity, gratitude, faith
Summary: Benny loves to help Grandpa in his bakery. Grandpa makes the best bagels in town, but he will not take credit for them. When Benny asks him why, Grandpa explains that bagels are made from flour, flour comes from wheat, wheat grows from the earth, and God made the earth—so thank God for the bagels! Uncertain how best to do this, Benny starts taking big bags of bagels to the synagogue and hiding them in the place he believes God will find them—in the holy ark where the Torah is kept. When the bagels keep disappearing, Benny is convinced God is eating them. When he discovers that the bagels are actually being consumed by a poor man who believes God is providing them like manna from heaven, Benny is bitterly disappointed. Grandpa, however, is awestruck by this ordinary miracle, and reassures Benny that he has done what he set out to do. After all, says Grandpa, Benny made the world a little better, and what better thanks could God have?

Title: Let the Whole Earth Sing Praise
Author: Tomie dePaola
Illustrator: Tomie dePaola
Publisher/Year/Pages: G.P. Putnam’s Songs; 2011; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: creation, gratitude, psalms
Summary: This joyous book sings thanks and praise for everything in land, sea, and sky—from the sun and moon to plants and animals to all people, young and old. Author-illustrator Tomie dePaola captures the beauty of God’s creation in his folk art-style illustrations. With text inspired by Old Testament Scripture and artwork fashioned after the beautiful embroideries and designs of the Otomi people from the mountain villages around San Pablito, in Puebla, Mexico, this is a wonderful celebration for all to share. **

Title: Cranberry Thanksgiving
Author: Wende Devlin
Illustrator: Harry Devlin
Publisher/Year/Pages: Purple House Press; reprinted 2012; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: hospitality, being non-judgmental, Thanksgiving
Summary: Grandma and Maggie live in New England, at the edge of a cranberry bog. Every Thanksgiving, Grandma makes her famous cranberry bread—along with a host of other wonderful dishes—and tells Maggie to invite someone poor or lonely to dinner. When Maggie invites the rather eccentric Mr. Whiskers, Grandma is not too pleased. Not only is he odd, he smells like seaweed. But in the end it is Mr. Whiskers who saves the day, proving that appearances really are deceiving! This reprinted edition of a much-loved story still contains the recipe for Grandma’s cranberry bread.

Title: A Pioneer Thanksgiving: A Story of Harvest Celebrations in 1841
Author: Barbara Greenwood
Illustrator: Heather Collins
Publisher/Year/Pages: Kids Can Press; 1999; 48 pp.
Age Suitability: 8 years and up
Themes: Thanksgiving celebrations in Canada, pioneer life, First Nations traditions
Summary: Part of a series of books about pioneer life in Canada, this book combines fiction and non-fiction, telling the story of the Robertson family as they prepare for the harvest and their thanksgiving celebrations. Interwoven with the main narrative are short descriptions of aspects of pioneer life (e.g. wild harvest, harvest superstitions, how First Nations people celebrated) and hands-on activities (e.g. making corn husk dolls and playing conkers).

Title: Giving Thanks
Author: Jonathan London
Illustrator: Gregory Manchess
Publisher/Year/Pages: Candlewick; reprinted 2011; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 3 to 7 years
Themes: gratitude, nature
Summary: As a young boy and his father take a walk through the woods on an autumn afternoon, the father begins to say thank you to the earth and sky, the crickets and frogs, hawks and deer, and the trees bending in the breeze. At first this feels strange and awkward to the young narrator. But the more he practices expressing thanks in this way, the more he sees everything around him as a gift. By the end of the day he is saying thank you to the stars. This beautiful prayer of thanks—addressed to creation itself but easily expanded to include the creator—fosters deep awareness of and respect for nature, an essential part of healthy spirituality.

Title: Thank You God
Author: J. Bradley Wigger
Illustrator: Jago
Year/Format/Pages: Eerdmans Young Readers; 2014; 26 pp.
Age Suitability: 3 years and up
Themes: gratitude, thanksgiving, prayer
Summary: Through simple words and vivid pictures, Thank You God helps young children reflect on and become aware of the goodness and beauty around them. From the first moments of the morning until the calm at the end of day, and everything in between, this lovely book is a celebration of the simple joys of being alive in a world full of wonders. It is an excellent guide to helping children develop the practice of gratitude and thanksgiving prayer.

Title: The Secret of Saying Thanks
Author: Douglas Wood
Illustrator: Greg Shed
Publisher/Year/Pages: Simon & Schuster; 2005; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: expressing thankfulness, nature, family
Summary: If you’ve not yet discovered the secret of saying thanks, it’s waiting for you. The secret can be found in the sunrise that offers promises full for the day ahead, or in the gentle shade of a tree sheltering you from the hot rays of the sun, or on the rock that offers rest from a long walk. In the inspirational text that made him a bestselling, internationally acclaimed author, Douglas Wood offers a spiritual homage to nature and the world. Greg Shed’s stunning portraits of the natural world tenderly portray all of the many ways in which we can say thanks for the wonders we sometimes take granted in life. **

Are you gathering books for your church or home library?
Have you been searching for good books for your church’s children’s ministries?
Do you want recommendations for books that might be suitable gifts
for young people in your life?

The books listed below on the theme “Welcoming the Stranger” relate to the experiences of refugees, immigrants and displaced people. The list has been compiled by Laura Alary, children’s book writer, storyteller and Christian Education Coordinator at Guildwood Presbyterian Church in Toronto. The summaries given are written by Laura unless they are asterisked **, in which case they are based on bookseller or publisher information. These summaries do not represent the views of The Presbyterian Church in Canada.

These books are available from retail booksellers and sometimes the public library. The books are listed in alphabetical order by author’s last name.

This list will be updated as new books come to our attention. Please send recommendations and summaries to canadianministries [at] presbyterian [dot] ca. If you wish to write a full book review for public posting, please send it and we will link it to the book listing.

Title: Beatrice’s Goat
Author: Page McBrier
Illustrator: Lori Lohstoeter
Publisher/Year/Pages: Aladdin; reprinted 2004; 40 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: poverty, community development, food security, global justice
Summary: More than anything, Beatrice longs to be a schoolgirl. But in her small African village, only children who can afford uniforms and books can go to school. Beatrice knows that with six children to care for, her family is much too poor. But then Beatrice receives a wonderful gift from some people far away—a goat! Fat and sleek as a ripe mango, Mugisa (which means “luck”) gives milk that Beatrice can sell. With Mugisa’s help, it looks as if Beatrice’s dream may come true after all. Page McBrier and Lori Lohstoeter beautifully recount this true story about how one child, given the right tools, is able to lift her family out of poverty. Thanks to Heifer Project International—a charitable organization that donates livestock to poor communities around the world—other families like Beatrice’s will also have a chance to change their lives. **

Title: The Good Garden: How One Family Went From Hunger to Having Enough
Author: Katie Smith Milway
Illustrator: Sylvie Daigneault
Publisher/Year/Pages: Kids Can Press; 2010; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 8 years and up
Themes: poverty, sustainable agriculture, food security, global justice
Summary: From the best-selling author of One Hen comes this inspiring story of one struggling farming family in Honduras and their journey to grow enough food to meet their needs. Based on the real story of farm transformation underway in Honduras and many other countries, this book offers children ways they can be part of the movement to grow “good gardens” and foster food security. Eleven-year-old Maria Luz and her family live on a small farm. This year their crop is poor, and they may not have enough to eat or to sell for other essentials such as health care, school uniforms and books. When Maria’s father must leave home to find work, she is left in charge of their garden. Then a new teacher comes to Maria’s school and introduces her to sustainable farming practices that yield good crops. As Maria begins to use the same methods at home, she too sees improvements, which allow her family to edge their way out of the grip of the greedy “coyotes”—the middlemen who make profits on the backs of poor farmers. Little by little, the farms—and the hopes—of Maria and her neighbors are transformed as good gardens begin to grow. **

Are you gathering books for your church or home library?
Have you been searching for good books for your church’s children’s ministries?
Do you want recommendations for books that might be suitable gifts
for young people in your life?

The books listed below on the theme “Welcoming the Stranger” relate to the experiences of refugees, immigrants and displaced people. The list has been compiled by Laura Alary, children’s book writer, storyteller and Christian Education Coordinator at Guildwood Presbyterian Church in Toronto. The summaries given are written by Laura unless they are asterisked **, in which case they are based on bookseller or publisher information. These summaries do not represent the views of The Presbyterian Church in Canada.

These books are available from retail booksellers and sometimes the public library. The books are listed in alphabetical order by author’s last name.

This list will be updated as new books come to our attention. Please send recommendations and summaries to canadianministries [at] presbyterian [dot] ca. If you wish to write a full book review for public posting, please send it and we will link it to the book listing.

Title: An Aboriginal Carol
Author: David Bouchard
Illustrator: Moses Beaver
Translation and Music: Susan Aglukark (CD included)
Publisher/Year/Pages: Red Deer Press; 2008; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 years and up
Themes: the nativity story, Aboriginal culture
Summary: Winner of the Canadian Children’s Book Center Our Choice Award in 2009, this version of the Huron Carol is a unique collaboration by three artists representing Aboriginal people in Canada. The book by Métis poet David Bouchard and First Nations illustrator Moses Beaver comes with a CD of the song sung by Inuit artist, Susan Aglukark. See

Title: Jesus, the Word
Author: Mark Francisco Bozzuti-Jones
Illustrator: Shelly Hehenburger
Publisher/Year/Pages: Augsburg; 2005; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 years and up
Themes: creation, Jesus as incarnate Word, baptism, Triune God, redemption
Summary: Based on the prologue of the Gospel of John, this elegant and beautifully illustrated book tells the story of Jesus as the incarnate Word of God, the one who lived, “in the beginning, before everything,” and who lives within us even now. In text that is simple enough for even very young children, yet deep enough to hold a great mystery, the book offers a profound and reassuring message: “The Word of God says: I will set you free. I won’t let you be anything but holy, good, and free.” Appropriate at any time of year, Jesus, the Word is a particularly good choice at Christmas as a complement to the many picture books based on the nativity stories from Matthew and Luke.

Title: How Many Miles to Bethlehem?
Author: Kevin Crossley-Holland
Illustrator: Peter Malone
Publisher/Year/Pages: Orion Children’s Books; 2004; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 5 to 8 years
Themes: Christmas, Epiphany, characters in the nativity stories
Summary: Author of many award-winning books for children, Kevin Crossley-Holland turns his poetic gifts to the story of the birth of Jesus. One by one, characters from the drama introduce themselves, speaking in the first person: “I am Mary. Tight as a drum. Round as the lady moon calling out to me. We’re so far from home, and my baby will be born tonight? Where can I lie down? Joseph has gone up to ask the innkeeper.” Then the innkeeper steps forward and introduces himself, paving the way for the next character and scene. Some of the symbolism in the book may be baffling to children (e.g. the illustration of Jesus as a child wearing a crown of thorns and a halo, accompanied by the words, “I am the child and king. Lord of locusts and wild honey, and the lemon groves. I am the Shepherd and the Lamb.”) However, there is a richness and mystery to both text and illustrations that leaves the reader with the sense of being in the presence of something beyond comprehension. An unusual book, but well worth reading.

Title: The Little Crooked Christmas Tree
Author: Michael Cutting
Illustrator: Ron Broda
Publisher/Year/Pages: Scholastic; 1990; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: Christmas, love, sacrifice, self-giving
Summary: Among all the trees on Brown’s Christmas Tree Farm, only one asks big questions about his identity and purpose. He knows he is supposed to grow straight and tall, but why? What is Christmas? And what is a Christmas tree? One night during a storm, a dove seeks shelter in the little tree. Too exhausted to fly any further, the dove begs the tree to provide a safe place for her to stay. For many months, the kindly and hospitable tree provides a home to the dove. Eventually, he bends himself out of shape to accommodate her nest and eggs. By the time the mother and baby doves are ready to move on, the tree has developed a crooked trunk and—in the eyes of the farmer—is no longer fit to be a Christmas tree. However, the dove does not forget the sacrifice made by the tree for her benefit. In the end, with the help of the dove, the crooked little tree finds a new home, and despite its lack of physical perfection, fulfills its purpose. This is a sweet and moving story, beautifully illustrated with paper sculptures.

Title: The Legend of the Poinsettia
Author: Tomie dePaola
Illustrator: Tomie dePaola
Publisher/Year/Pages: Puffin Books; reprinted 1997; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: Christmas, generosity, selflessness, gifts
Summary: In Mexico, the poinsettia is called flor de la Nochebuenao (flower of the Holy Night). At Christmastime, the flower blooms and flourishes, the exquisite red stars lighting up the countryside. This Mexican legend tells how the poinsettia came to be, through a little girl’s unselfish gift to the Christ Child. Newbery honor-winning author and Caldecott honor-winning illustrator Tomie dePaola has embraced the legend using his own special feeling for Christmas. His glorious paintings capture not only the brilliant colors of Mexico and its art, but also the excitement of the children preparing for Christmas and the hope of Lucida, who comes to see what makes a gift truly beautiful. **

Title: Voices of Christmas
Author: Nikki Grimes
Illustrator: Eric Velasquez
Publisher/Year/Pages: Zonderkidz; 2009; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 5 years and up
Themes: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany
Summary: Written as a series of monologues, these poems are imaginative glimpses into the thoughts and feelings of various characters in the Christmas story, including Mary, Gabriel, Joseph, Herod, Simeon and Anna. Thought-provoking in their own right, the poems are also an invitation to children to do their own wondering and imagining about biblical stories, particularly peripheral characters. The book includes a CD.

Title: The Legend of Saint Nicholas
Author: Anselm Grun
Illustrator: Giuliano Ferri
Publisher/Year/Pages: Eerdmans Young Readers; 2014; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: generosity and compassion, legends about Saint Nicholas, early Christianity
Summary: Have you ever wondered what to tell your children about Santa Claus? How about the truth? The tale of the jolly and rotund old man who comes down the chimney on Christmas Eve with his sack full of presents is rooted in a real person—Nicholas of Myra, a 3rd century Christian bishop in what is now Turkey. Nicholas was so renowned for his generosity and compassion that many legends grew up around him, including one in which he tosses gold coins down the chimney of a house to provide a dowry for three poverty-stricken young women. The coins landed in stockings which had been hung by the fire to dry! Anselm Grun has written a simple and accessible book about the life—and legends—of Saint Nicholas. What he does not provide is the story of how Saint Nicholas was transformed into the Santa Claus we know today. Adults and children wanting to know more can consult a website like that of the Saint Nicholas Center (

Title: Three Wise Women
Author: Mary Hoffman
Illustrator: Lynne Russell
Publisher/Year/Pages: Frances Lincoln
Age Suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: Epiphany, sharing and gift-giving, generosity
Summary: In this beautiful complement to the traditional story of the magi, three women are drawn from different parts of the world to offer their gifts to the Christ child. One brings bread to nourish the baby; the second brings stories to entertain and teach; the third brings her own beloved child, who gives the baby the gift of a hug. When Jesus grows up, he remembers the gifts of these wise women and incorporates them into his own work: sharing bread with the hungry and lonely; telling stories to encourage and teach; and opening his arms in love to all. Although out of print, this book—with its emphasis on the spiritual gifts of girls and women—is worth searching for in second-hand stores or at your local library.

Title: The Lion Classic Christmas Stories
Author: Mary Joslin
Illustrator: Jane Ray
Publisher/Year/Pages: Lion Hudson; 2014; 96 pp.
Age Suitability: 8 years and up
Themes: Christmas tales from around the world, folklore, biblical nativity stories
Summary: A classic presentation of traditional Christmas stories from around the world, mixing Christian and secular tales. The story of the first Christmas, when shepherds looked up from a dark hillside and saw heaven and all its angels, has inspired stories and legends through the ages. Readers of this collection will find themselves under the starry skies of Bethlehem, in the sparkling frosts of the Russian north, or caught up in the fantastical dream of the Nutcracker. These stories will bring joy and laughter year after year and remind you that Christmas is a time of heavenly blessings here on earth. These 12 glorious tales reflect the true spirit of the holiday, and are brought to life with wonderful gold-flecked illustrations—a gift to bring joy and to treasure. Included are Nativity stories from the Gospels of Luke and Matthew, the stories of Baboushka and Papa Panov, Fir Tree, and The Nutcracker. **

Title: Pippin the Christmas Pig
Author: Jean Little
Illustrator: Werner Zimmerman
Publisher/Year/Pages: Scholastic; 2003; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: justice and compassion, Christmas, welcoming the vulnerable
Summary: It is Christmas Eve and all the animals in the barn are boasting about the role their ancestors played in the first Christmas. But Pippin, the pig, is baffled by their talk. He does not know this story, and no one will explain it to him. When he asks what his ancestors did to help, he is told that the holy stable was no place for unclean pigs. Deeply hurt, Pippin goes out into a snowstorm, intending never to return to the barn. But when he meets a woman and child, desperately in need of shelter, he brings them to the only warm place he can think of. Ironically, the other animals do not want to make room for these visitors. Pippin then takes on the role of the prophet, challenging them to quit bragging about what their ancestors did, and actually do something themselves! Jean Little has taken apparently predictable elements of Christmas picture books (talking animals, the stable, a baby) and turned them into something quite surprising: an intelligent and challenging fable about justice and compassion.

Title: Jacob’s Gift
Author: Max Lucado
Illustrator: Robert Hunt
Publisher/Year/Pages: Thomas Nelson; 1998
Age Suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: Christmas, generosity, sharing of gifts, hospitality
Summary: Jacob is a young boy with a gift for carpentry. When his teacher, Rabbi Simeon, challenges his students to a contest, Jacob pours heart and soul into creating his most beautiful work. But the night before the items are to be judged, someone comes along who needs the manger he has so carefully crafted. Jacob has to decide whether or not to share his work. In the end, the choice he makes pleases his teacher, who acknowledges that to give a gift to one of God’s children, is to give a gift to God.

Title: The Jesse Tree
Author: Geraldine McCaughrean
Illustrator: Bee Willey
Publisher/Year/Pages: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers; reprinted 2011; 96 pp.
Age Suitability: 8 years and up
Themes: Advent, ancestors of Jesus, Old Testament, Jesse Tree
Summary: More than just a collection of biblical stories, The Jesse Tree weaves together familiar tales from the Old Testament (and a few from the New) with the story of a young boy who is curious about the handiwork of a grumpy old woodworker who is carving a Jesse Tree in his church. Every day, the boy drops by to see how the work is coming along, and pesters the old man to tell him the stories behind the symbols he is carving. As the crotchety carver grudgingly narrates the tale, he unknowingly becomes part of it, as his own conversations and interactions with the boy turn into a reflection of, and commentary on, the stories themselves. McCaughrean is a deft and creative story-teller. This is an excellent resource for Advent, especially when used in combination with a home-made Jesse Tree.

Title: Apple Tree Christmas
Author: Trinka Hakes Noble
Illustrator: Trinka Hakes Noble
Publisher/Year/Pages: Sleeping Bear Press; 2005; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: Christmas, adversity and disappointment, creativity, love
Summary: Katrina is a young girl living on farm in the American Midwest in the 1880’s. An aspiring artist, her favourite retreat is a branch in an old apple tree, where she curls up and draws for hours at a time. When an ice storm destroys the tree shortly before Christmas, Katrina is heart-broken. She cannot imagine how she will ever draw again. But thanks to her wise and understanding father, Christmas morning brings a life-giving surprise. Originally published more than twenty years ago and recently reissued, this is a beautiful story about the power of love and creativity, and learning to make the best of loss and disappointment.

Title: Kaspar’s Greatest Discovery
Author: Campbell Paget
Illustrator: Reg Cartright
Publisher/Year/Pages: Frances Lincoln; 1997; 25 pp.
Age Suitability:
Themes: God as creator, love of God, Christmas, seeking, Epiphany
Summary: Among all the wise men in the service of the sultan, Kaspar is the wisest. He knows about every imaginable subject. What he does not know, is why it all exists. Why is there such a complex and fascinating universe? In search of an answer, Kaspar joins three of his colleagues—who are both wise and surprisingly silly—in a search. What they discover at the end is a child, but more—an expression of deep love which Kaspar interprets as an answer to his question. This is an unusual story, both profound and funny, with a welcome emphasis on wondering and searching, and love that lies at the end of the quest.

Title: The Story of Christmas
Author: text from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke (KJV)
Illustrator: Jane Ray
Publisher/Year/Pages: Orchard Books; 1991; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: Christmas
Summary: The Story of Christmas combines the poetic rhythms of the King James Version of the Bible with glorious illustrations by British artist, Jane Ray. The pictures are vibrant and detailed and will enthrall both children and adults.

Title: The Greatest Gift: The Story of the Other Wise Man
Author: retold by Susan Summers based on the story by Henry Van Dyke
Illustrator: Jackie Morris
Publisher/Year/Pages: Barefoot Books; 2011; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 5 years and up
Themes: Epiphany, compassion, generosity, giving, sacrifice
Summary: A re-telling of the classic tale by Henry Van Dyke, The Greatest Gift tells the story of Artaban, the fourth wise man. Like his companions, Artaban sees a strange star and believes it will lead him to a great teacher and king. However, instead of following a straight path to Bethlehem, Artaban is continually drawn off course by people in need. One after another, the treasures intended as gifts for the king are given up for the benefit of others. By the time Artaban reaches his destination, he is an old man and has only one pearl left. When he learns that the one he has been seeking has been condemned to death, Artaban sets out to offer his last pearl to Pilate as ransom for Jesus. But on the way he meets a young girl in a desperate situation and sacrifices the pearl to save her. Although he fears he has failed in his quest, Artaban is reassured by a voice which tells him, “As often as you did these things to the least of my children, you did them for me.” In the end, his many acts of compassion were the greatest gift. Artaban—a Zoroastrian—clearly conforms to the pattern of Christ, who also gives himself for the benefit of others. This identification is a profound statement about the universality of a God whose compassion transcends differences of race or doctrine. This message is true to the theme of Epiphany—the manifestation of God throughout all the world, and the welcoming in of those once considered outsiders.

Title: The Huron Carol
Author: Frances Tyrrell
Illustrator: Frances Tyrrell
Publisher/Year/Pages: Key Porter Books; 2002; 26 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: First Nations culture, Christmas, incarnation
Summary: “Twas in the moon of wintertime when all the birds had fled…” So begins Canada’s most beautiful Christmas carol. Its writer, Father Jean de Brebeuf (1593-1649), was a Jesuit missionary who lived and worked among the Huron people for twenty-two years. Although Father de Brebeuf was killed during an Iroquois raid, the carol was kept alive in the Huron language for over one hundred years before it was translated into French, then finally into English in 1926. Frances Tyrell’s glorious illustrations combine the details of daily Huron life with the wonder of the Christmas story to create a book to treasure. **
Note: This book is no longer in print, but is available from local libraries. For another version of the same carol, see The Huron Carol by Ian Wallace described below.

Title: One Night in a Stable
Author: Guido Visconti
Illustrator: Alessandra Cimatoribus
Publisher/Year/Pages: Eerdmans Young Readers; 2004; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 to 8 years (wonderful for all ages)
Themes: Advent, hospitality, compassion, waiting for Christ
Summary: In a stable in Bethlehem, an ox lies contemplating his old age and loss of strength. He can no longer do the work he once did. Now he is confined to the barn, lonely, always waiting for his master to come to him. He asks a dove to fly out and see if she can see his master, but she can see only other small animals, vulnerable and in need of shelter. One by one, the old ox makes a place for them in his stable. Finally, the dove sees in the distance a man and a pregnant woman riding a donkey. But now there is no more room in the stable. As the ox laments not being able to offer hospitality to this family in need, the other animals help by making room. The old ox is able to contribute his strong breath to warm the newborn baby. When his master returns, he is deeply moved by the scene and rewards the kindly ox. By far the most affecting Advent book for children I have ever read, One Night in a Stable deftly combines the story of the nativity with the themes of hospitality and waiting that are such an important part of this season of the Christian year. The compassion the old ox shows to others while he is “waiting for his master to come” exemplifies Advent waiting.

Title: The Huron Carol
Author: Ian Wallace
Illustrator: Ian Wallace
Publisher/Year/Pages: Groundwood Books; 2006; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: First Nations, Christmas, incarnation
Summary: The Huron Carol is a beautiful and unusual Christmas song with a rich history. In the early 1600s, Father Jean de Brebeuf came to Canada from his native France as a Jesuit missionary. He settled among the Huron, or Ouendat, people near what is now Midland, Ontario. Despite his missionary zeal, Brebeuf was sensitive to the people with whom he lived. He learned their language and he wrote, in Huron, the original version of this famous Christmas carol. Brebeuf’s carol continued to be sung by successive generations of Hurons. Then in 1926, Toronto writer Jesse Edgar Middleton, inspired by Brebeuf, wrote his own version of the carol in English. His are the familiar words we sing today, describing the Huron landscape, flora and fauna in telling the Christmas story. **
Note: This book is out of print, but available in libraries. For another version of the carol, see The Huron Carol by Frances Tyrrell described above.

Title: The True Meaning of Crumbfest
Author: David Weale
Illustrator: Dale McNevin
Publisher/Year/Pages: Acorn Press; 1999; 28 pp.
Age Suitability: 5 years and up
Themes: Christmas, mystery, incarnation
Summary: Eckhart is a young mouse with an adventurous spirit and a lot of curiosity. He wants to know more about Crumbfest, a celebration of the bounteous crumbs that miraculously appear every December in the old PEI farmhouse where he lives. Against the advice of his grandfather, Eckhart searches for the deeper truth he is sure lies behind the festival. Sure enough, he discovers that when the “inside” and the “outside” come together, something extraordinary happens. Deceptively simple, this story is a profound parable which points to the mystery of Christmas—the mingling of worlds seen and unseen.

Title: A Christmas Story
Author: Brian Wildsmith
Illustrator: Brian Wildsmith
Publisher/Year/Pages: Oxford University Press; 3rd ed. 2007; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: the Christmas story and its characters
Summary: This version of the nativity story focuses on a little girl and a young donkey who set out together in search of Mary and Joseph, so they can reunite the little donkey with his mother (whom Mary is riding). In the background, all the familiar events of the nativity story unfold: the annunciation, the appearance of the angels to the shepherds, the birth of Jesus, the arrival of the magi and their clandestine flight from King Herod. As always, Brian Wildsmith’s illustrations are a sumptuous feast for the eyes.

Title: Mortimer’s Christmas Manger
Author: Karma Wilson
Illustrator: Jane Chapman
Publisher/Year/Pages: Margaret K. McElderry Books; 2007; 40 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: Christmas, home, welcome, hospitality, making room for Jesus
Summary: Mortimer is a little mouse who lives in a spidery hole in the wall. One day while he is exploring the world outside, he finds on a table in the living room a little house just the right size for him. It is already occupied, but when Mortimer looks more closely, he realizes the little people and animals are just statues (including a statue of a little baby in a manger). Night after night, Mortimer drags the statues out of the way so can sleeps in the little house, but every day someone puts all the statues back again. One evening, Mortimer hears the family of the house reading a story about baby Jesus and his family and how they had such a hard time finding a place to stay. Mortimer realizes that he too has unwittingly been forcing Jesus and his family out of their home, so he sets about restoring the figures. As he does so, he asks Jesus to find him a new place to live. The story ends with a sweet surprise.

Title: The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey
Author: Susan Wojciechowski
Illustrator: P.J. Lynch
Publisher/Year/Pages: Candlewick Press; 1995; 40 pp.
Age Suitability: 6 years and up
Themes: Advent, Christmas, love, healing, transformation
Summary: Jonathan Toomey has no interest in celebrating Christmas. A closed and reclusive man, he holds himself aloof from all his neighbours, except to provide service as a master woodcarver. When a widow and her young son come to town and commission him to carve pieces for a nativity scene, Jonathan reluctantly takes the job, and even more reluctantly allows the boy to sit and watch him carve. As the weeks pass, however, the power of the Christmas story, and the warmth and kindness of the young widow and her son, begin to awaken something dormant within the lonely woodcutter. As he finds the courage to face his own loss and grief, he also finds healing and joy he thought he had lost forever. This is a powerful story about transformation.