Chocolate bunnies, marshmallow Peeps, and jelly beans are all great things to put into your child’s Easter basket. But you can fit a new picture book or two behind the candy—and it’s a treat your child will enjoy long after the sweets are gone.
We’ll look at them alphabetically by title, just to keep things fair and square. I certainly can’t choose a favorite!
Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server
Theresa Kiser’s storybook about an aspiring altar server who’s eager—but quite the klutz—is a sweet tale of perseverance and a little boy’s desire to do something for God. Mike Schwalm nailed it with the illustrations: my favorite one depicts Arthur sneezing incense into the face of another server. Arthur’s hard work and enthusiastic spirit are noticed by a kind priest who emphasizes what’s most important about being an altar server.
Bonus content at the end of the book shows the vestments worn by priests and altar servers. Available from Amazon or OSV Kids.
Faustina: A Saint’s Story for Children
There’s no better season than the Easter season to introduce children to the saint who brought the Divine Mercy devotion to the world. Kaitlyn C. Mason’s rhyming book about St. Faustina Kowalska tells the story of the little girl who grew up to be a saint. Braelyn Snow’s detailed illustrations complement every page.
After the story, you’ll find instructions on praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet as well as family discussion questions and a pledge to trust in God. This book is designed as a read-aloud for children in primary school; it’s probably too complex for preschoolers. Available from Amazon or TAN Books.
I Am Earth’s Keeper
Lisa Hendey’s first rhyming book opens with a small child’s early-morning kayak ride that leads him to marvel at the natural world around him and want to protect it. It’s inspired by St. Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of the Creatures, and the cadence of the story will draw readers (and listeners) young and old into the beautiful natural world where it takes place.
The tones and vibe of the illustrations by Guiliano Ferri remind me very much of a favorite picture book from my own childhood. Get a copy to enjoy with your favorite young readers, and teach them that we care for Creation because it was created by God! This book is appropriate for toddlers on up. Available from Amazon or Paraclete Press.
In This Catholic Church
This book by Maura Roan McKeegan reminded me of one of my favorite nursery rhymes, “This Is the House that Jack Built.” Each page builds upon the one before, as the reader is invited into the church and looks around at the people and objects inside. The story culminates as the congregation gathers and the priest offers Mass.
The simple, engaging illustrations by Ted Schluenderfritz shine light on each element in turn, until we see the whole church focused on the Mass being offered beneath the crucifix that hangs above the altar. Toddlers and preschoolers will love this picture book. Available from Amazon or OSV Kids.
Jesus and the Miracle of the Mass
Gracie Jagla’s rhyming book about the Mass emphasizes the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The story is narrated by Jesus, who wants the children at Mass to know that in the Eucharist, He truly comes to us, and invites the children to pray to Him just as they would talk with their best friend.
The story follows along through the different parts of Mass and reminds children that the whole Communion of Saints prays along with them at every Mass. The illustrations (paintings, really!) by Randy Friemel add to the story, with a modern style that’s energetic but not off-putting. An excellent book for children making their First Communion this spring. Available from Amazon or OSV Kids.
Jesus in Space: A True Story That’s Out of This World
Cecilia Cicone’s new picture book tells a story I never knew: some faith-filled astronauts carried the Eucharist along on a space-shuttle mission in 1994. The story centers on Dr. Tom Jones and all the preparation he went through in order to be ready to go into space. He spent two years getting ready for this mission, but always made sure to attend Mass with his family and to find time for Eucharistic Adoration.
The Endeavor crew carried a pyx containing the Eucharist into space with them, and spent time in prayer, thanking God for making the mission possible before receiving the Eucharist. The end of the book includes a note from astronaut Tom Jones, encouraging readers to keep Jesus with them wherever they go. In addition to Gabhor Utomo’s colorful illustrations, the book includes three full pages of photos of the astronauts and their mission. This book would be a perfect gift for a First Communicant. Available from Amazon or Pauline Books & Media.
The Women Doctors of the Church
More than a children’s biography of four fascinating women of the Church, this picture book by Colleen Pressprich is an encouragement. “God is not looking for saints who are exactly alike. He doesn’t need another Hildegarde, Catherine, Teresa, or Thérèse. He needs you.” Readers will learn what it means to be a Doctor of the Church, and how these four holy women each served God in her own special way.
The illustrations by Adalee Hude are beautiful and not childish; they are lavish in color and eye-catching. This book is for independent readers and makes a great read-aloud. Available from Amazon or OSV Kids.
Ask for these books at your local Catholic bookseller, or order online from Amazon.com or the publishers.
Copyright 2023 Barb Szyszkiewicz
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