Child readingAre 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.

For other suggested reading lists, visit the Resource Centre web page.

Title: The Story of Easter
Author: Aileen Fischer
Illustrator: Stefano Vitale
Publisher/Year/Pages: HarperCollins, 1998 (reprint edition); 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 6 to 10 years
Themes: Passover, Easter, spring festivals and traditions

Summary: The Story of Easter begins with a brief account of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, then moves on to explain the origins of other springtime rituals and their connection to the biblical tradition. Aileen Fisher briefly describes the significance Passover, Easter, the Easter bunny, Easter eggs and other symbols which find a place in both religious and secular celebrations. Throughout the book, Fischer emphasizes the theme of new life and new hope, which connects the explicitly Christian celebration of Easter and other springtime festivals. As Fisher says, “Not all Christian churches celebrate the Easter season in the same way. But the message of Easter is always the same. It is the joy and celebration of the belief that God’s love is stronger than death.” This beautifully illustrated book also contains instructions for decorating Easter eggs and making hot-cross buns.

Title: Easter
Author: Fiona French
Illustrator: Fiona French
Publisher/Year/Pages: Francis Lincoln; 2002; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: Holy Week, Easter

Summary: With text taken directly from the Revised Standard Version of the New Testament, Easter recounts the final days of Jesus from his entry into Jerusalem until his ascension. What sets this book apart is its illustrations: 12 tableaux depict the dramatic events of Holy Week in stained glass. Inspired by the English cathedral windows of Ely, Lincoln, York and Canterbury, these images are filled with light and colour and fine details that draw readers more deeply into the story.

Title: At Jerusalem’s Gate: Poems of Easter
Author: Nikki Grimes
Illustrator: David Frampton
Publisher/Year/Format/Pages: Eerdmans Young Readers; 2005; 48 pp.
Age Suitability: 8 years and up
Themes: Holy Week, Easter

Summary: A man in the crowd at Jerusalem vies to see Jesus; a disciple recounts details of the Last Supper; Pilate’s wife fears her husband’s decision. Beginning with Christ’s triumphant arrival in Jerusalem, Nikki Grimes explores the first Easter through the voices of those who witnessed it. The author’s introductions provide a thoughtful framework, and David Frampton’s beautifully intricate and expressive woodcuts illuminate each poem. At Jerusalem’s Gate offers readers of all ages insight into the most important moments in Christian history. **

Title: The Parable of the Lily
Author: Liz Curtis Higgins
Illustrator: Nancy Munger
Publisher/Year/Pages: Thomas Nelson; 10th edition 2007; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 5 to 7 years
Themes: grace, mystery, forgiveness, new life

Summary: Maggie, the farmer’s youngest daughter, loves getting gifts, especially mysterious ones. One wintry day, she receives a package in the mail. She excitedly opens the package to find a bulb buried in a crate of dirt. This was not what Maggie expected. She had hoped for a doll or a game, not a bulb that would one day become a plant. When spring comes, she finds the bulb in the cellar and tosses the lifeless thing into the garden, never to think of it again… Until she walks outside on Easter morning and finds the most beautiful lily she has ever seen. Through the unique gift of a bulb, Maggie discovers the power of grace and forgiveness and the true meaning of Easter. **

Title: Petook: An Easter Story
Author: Caryl Houselander
Illustrator: Tomie Di Paola
Publisher/Year/Pages: Holiday House; reprinted 2004; 30 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 and up
Themes: Easter, new life, new creation

Summary: In this most unusual Easter book, the events of Holy Week and Easter are visually depicted in the background of the main story, which is about a rooster called Petook and his growing family of chicks. One day when the chicks are still very young, Petook is afraid when he sees a boy’s footprints near the chicken run. When he catches up to the intruder, Petook realizes that need not have worried: the boy is exceptionally gentle and watches in fascination as Martha, the mother hen, gathers them under her wings. Many years later Petook encounters the boy again, though he does not recognize him as the man lifted up on the cross. As Petook waits and listens for a new chick to tap its way out of the egg into light and life, he can feel somehow that the whole world waiting and listening for life to emerge—even from the darkness of a tomb. The words of Caryl Houselander, an English writer and mystic, combined with sensitive illustrations by Tomie Di Paola, create a children’s book of unusual depth and power. (Note: This book is now out of print. Second hand editions are sometimes available on line, or check your local library. It is worth the search.)

Title: The Tale of the Three Trees
Author: Angela Elwell Hunt
Illustrator: Tim Jonke
Year/Format/Pages: Lion Children’s Books; reprinted 2001; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 5 and up
Themes: life of Jesus, self-giving, sacrifice, realizing hopes

Summary: Based on a traditional folk-tale, The Tale of the Three Trees tells the Easter story from an unusual point of view, that of three trees that long to grow up to do great things: hold treasure, carry kings, and point to God. The trees are bitterly disappointed when they are cut down and made into a feed box, a simple boat and a piece of lumber. Only gradually do they understand that what they have become—a manger, a fishing boat and a cross—is actually the fulfillment of their deepest hopes.

Title: Journey to the Heart: Centering Prayer for Children
Author: Frank X. Jelinek
Illustrator: Ann Boyajian
Publisher/Year/Pages: Paraclete Press; 2007; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 3 to 10 years
Themes: prayer, spirituality, quiet, contemplation

Summary: A beautiful way of observing Lent with children is to introduce them to different ways of praying. Journey to the Heart is a simple introduction to the ancient practice of centring prayer, or contemplative prayer—sitting quietly in the presence of God. This gentle book helps children realize that they carry inside themselves a place of stillness where they can go every day to rest in the love of God. Parents and caregivers who share this book with their children and practise together may find themselves transformed!

Title: On That Easter Morning
Author: Mary Joslin
Illustrator: Helen Cann
Publisher/Year/Pages: Good Books; 2006; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 5 and up
Themes: Easter, resurrection, new life

Summary: In simple yet evocative prose, Mary Joslin tells the story of Holy Week and Easter from the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, through the dark days of his trial and crucifixion, to his meeting with Mary in the garden on Easter morning. With beautiful and detailed illustrations by Helen McCann, this book highlights the love of God, the defeat of death, and the joy of new life we celebrate at Easter.

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: Chicken Sunday
Author: Patricia Polacco
Illustrator: Patricia Polacco
Year/Format/Pages: Philomel Books; 1992; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: forgiveness, reconciliation, love, generosity

Summary: More than anything, three young friends (Winston, Stewart and Patricia) want to buy their beloved Miss Eula the Easter bonnet in the window of Mr. Kodinski’s shop. But the hat is too expensive. One day when they are visiting the store, the children are mistakenly accused of throwing eggs at the shop window. In their quest to set things right, they find the perfect way to prove their innocence and earn the hat at the same time. This is a beautiful story of reconciliation, acceptance, self-giving and love that lasts beyond death.

Title: Ruchenka’s Eggs
Author: Patricia Polacco
Illustrator: Patricia Polacco
Publisher/Year/Pages: Philomel Books; 1988; 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: Easter, caring, kindness, perception, seeing the miraculous in the ordinary

Summary: Old Babushka, famed far and wide for her beautifully painted eggs, is getting ready for the Easter festival when she takes in an injured goose. She names the goose Rechenka, and they live together happily until one day when Rechenka accidentally overturns a basket, breaking all the eggs Babushka has lovingly prepared for the festival. Babushka is heart-broken, but the next morning there is a surprise waiting for her in her basket. She cries, “It’s a miracle!” Perhaps it is; but Babushka is particularly good at seeing miracles in the ordinary as well as the extraordinary. This is a lovely tale of friendship, generosity, perception and gratitude.

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: Sylvester and the Magic Pebble
Author: William Steig
Illustrator: William Steig
Publisher/Year/Pages: Aladdin; 1987 (reprint); 32 pp.
Age Suitability: 4 to 8 years
Themes: love, hope, new life, restoration

Summary: One day while he is out walking, Sylvester (a young donkey) finds a beautiful red pebble. To his amazement, it turns out to be a magic pebble which grants the wishes of the person holding it. At first, Sylvester enjoys his new-found power. But when he accidentally turns himself into a rock and is helpless to restore himself, both Sylvester and his parents—who have no idea where he is or what has happened to him—are plunged into a state of grief. While Sylvester and the Magic Pebble is not explicitly an Easter book, the joy that blossoms when Sylvester is at last restored to his family echoes the joy of the disciples when they meet once again the beloved friend they thought they had lost.

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.