All Saints’ Day, Nov. 1, is a perfect time to remind children of their friends in heaven: the saints.

“Each one,” Pope Benedict told the faithful, “should have a saint that is familiar to him, to whom he feels close with prayer and intercession, but also to imitate him or her. Hence, I would like to invite you to know the saints better.” 

Books provide a wonderful starting point for young readers to become acquainted with these faithful friends and to develop a devotion to particular patron saints.

The Children’s Book of Saints
Written by Louis M. Savary
Illustrated by Sheilah Beckett
Regina Press, 2009
112 pages, $11.95

This beginner’s reference introduces 52 great saints, making it an excellent pick for a weekly devotional.  The life of each saint is presented in a two-page spread and includes a biographical sketch, an inviting picture and a short prayer.  The book concludes with an overview of All Saints’ Day and an invitation to readers to live a saintly, holy life — right here, right now. Ages 6-12.

Saintly Tales and Legends
Written by Lois Rock
Illustrated by Christina Balit
Pauline, 2004
96 pages, $16.95

Fact and fiction make good companions in these saintly stories passed from one generation to another.  Where the line is drawn is less important than the lesson imparted.  St. Germaine, “The Cinderella Saint,” perseveres cheerfully in spite of her demanding, mean-spirited stepmother.  “The Giant by the River” struggles to carry a small child across the stream only to learn later that he — Christopher — has helped the Christ Child. “The Secret Giftbringer” is none other than the beloved Nicholas, who generously and secretly assists three poor sisters.  More than a dozen other stories, including “The Fourth Wise Man,” round out this collection.  Ages 9-12.

Saint Bernadette: The Miracle of Lourdes
Written by Dominique Bar
Illustrated by Brunor
Pauline, 2010
48 pages, $8.95

Fourteen years old, uneducated and from the wrong side of the tracks, she was easy to dismiss. French authorities and villagers ridiculed Bernadette Soubirous for claiming to have seen a young woman surrounded by light in a cave. At the woman’s direction, Bernadette does penance and uncovers a spring. The Lady tells Bernadette, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” More than 150 years later, the spring — a source of physical and spiritual healing through Mary’s intercession — still flows. This text-rich graphic novel brings fresh eyes to the exciting story of Bernadette and Our Lady of Lourdes. Ages 9-12.

Saint John Neumann: “Do Whatever He Tells You”
Written and illustrated by Brenda and George Nippert
Joseph’s Heartprint, 2009
32 pages, $8

At his first Mass celebrated in New York City, the young Bohemian missionary prayed, “Dearest God, give me holiness.” God answered the prayer of John Nepomucene Neumann, who became the first American male and bishop to be canonized. He is especially remembered for the promotion of the 40 Hours devotion. With its solid narrative story, vibrant illustrations and a flip-book component, this is a gem. Ages 9-12.

Spotlight on Saints!: A Year of Funny Readers Theater for Today’s Catholic Kids
Written by Diana R. Jenkins
Illustrated by Virginia Helen Richards, FSP
Pauline, 2009
184 pages, $14.95

Contemporary kids deal with real-life problems in this collection of 12 highly entertaining, never preachy skits. Grace abounds as they recognize in a particular saint the qualities needed to overcome adversity and sin. Learning leadership with St. John Bosco, setting priorities with St. Gianna Molla, respecting language with St. Bernardine of Sienna , and staying humble with St. Juan Diego are just a sampling of the life lessons in store for performers and audiences alike.  Great reproducible scripts. Ages 10-14.

57 Stories of Saints
Written by Anne Eileen Heffernan, FSP
Illustrated by Jerry Rizzo
Pauline, 2006
531 pages, $16.95

The great saints of the Church come alive in this collection of saintly tales. Arranged chronologically, the text presents the lives of 57 saints — from the archangels to Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, with lots of stops in between. Each chapter includes the story of a particular saint’s life.  Full of action and dialogue, these tales are just right for intermediate readers. A short reflection that invites readers to think about developing their own spiritual lives is included at the end of each chapter. This book could serve as a great go-to guide for individual readers, families and classroom teachers. Ages 8-12.

Loyola Kids’ Book of Heroes
Written by Amy Welborn
Illustrated by Vitali Konstantinov
Loyola, 2003
196 pages, $15.95

We need heroes, the author says, who are close friends with God. The 36 holy men and women profiled here are just that: Heroic virtue defines them. For example, young readers encounter the faith, hope and charity embraced by Sts. John the Baptist, Faustina Kowalska and Rose Hawthorne Lathrop, respectively. Exemplifying the cardinal virtues well lived are Venerable Matt Talbot (temperance), Venerable Solanus Casey (prudence), Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan (fortitude) and Dorothy Day (justice). These stories are inspiring for adults as well. Ages 9-12.

The Crawford sisters write from Pittsburgh.

Editor’s note:
Another good kids’ book about Blessed John Paul II is:
Lolek: The Boy Who Became Pope John Paul II
Charming illustrations highlight the important parts of John Paul’s childhood. Ages 8 and up.
Written and illustrated by Mark Hoffman and Mary Hramiec Hoffman
Hramiec Hoffman Publishing, 2008
56 pages, $18.95