“Who do you say that I am?”
Jesus asked that of Peter just before explaining to the apostles that he, Jesus, was about to suffer and die in order to take away the sins of the world.
Our Lord's question has been reverberating through history ever since.
Of course, St. Peter had the right answer: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Soon after, Jesus gave him a new name and made him leader of the Church.
One day, each of our children will be asked to seriously consider the same question. Will they be prepared to give the right answer — and live by it?
Their chances will improve if we pray for them and prepare them for that time, starting from when they are very young.
In these selections, younger children are introduced to Jesus’ life and love while older kids are invited to dig deeper. All will be encouraged and challenged to consider what it means to say you believe in Jesus — and to live like you really mean it.
THE STORY OF JESUS
written by Patricia A. Pingry
illustrated by Rebecca Thornburgh
Candy Cane Press, 2001
24 pages, $6.95
Available in bookstores
Little kids will need to buckle their seatbelts because this board book covers a lot of ground in just over 160 words. Starting with familiar images, the author explains whom we celebrate at Christmas and Easter, and then drops in on special times in the life of Jesus. Young readers will especially like those stories in which they see small folk like themselves. Jesus invites the children to come to him. He feeds thousands after a boy offers his lunch of bread and fish. He cures a sick child. Sturdy pages and colorful pictures add to the appeal of this starter Gospel. Ages 2 to 4.
JESUS IS MY FRIEND!
written by Josep Codina
illustrated by Roser Rius
20 pages, $5.95
To order: (800) 836-9723
The life of Jesus is presented from a child's perspective in this book: “Jesus, you were once little like me. You also enjoyed playing with your friends. … I want to be your friend!” Part prayer and part story, this picture book provides a look at the loving acts of kindness that characterized Jesus’ life and interactions with others. Originally published in Spain, it features watercolor illustrations that have a European flavor; they would serve as a great springboard for chatting with preschoolers about the life of Jesus and the love he offers each of us. Ages 3 to 6.
written by Mary Hoffman
illustrated by Jackie Morris
Phyllis Fogelman Books, 2001
28 pages, $16.99
Available in bookstores
Clever titles and introductions set the stage for a re-telling of each of nine favorite miracle stories. In “Remote Control,” for example, children are reminded how difficult it was in the days in which Jesus lived to connect “long-distance.” No e-mailing. No phoning. No nothing! In spite of this, Jesus reaches out over the miles to cure someone he had never met, the servant of the centurion who believed. “What struck people,” the author writes, “was not the healing of an illness, but the fact that Jesus wasn't even there when it happened.” Large watercolor illustrations. Ages 6 to 12.
written and illustrated
by Brian Wildsmith
32 pages, $20
To order: (800) 253-7521
Jesus’ story unfolds scene by scene in this beautifully presented picture book. Each page focuses on a different event in Jesus’ life, beginning with the Annunciation and concluding with the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Detailed illustrations are set in gilded frames, reminiscent of stained-glass windows. The direct, well-chosen text supports the powerful visual stories conveyed through the artwork. Ages 6 to 12.
JESUS GROWS UP
Written and illustrated
by Pilar Paris,
Josep M. Lozana and Maria Ruis
St. Anthony Messenger
64 pages, $15.95
To order: (800) 488-0488 or catalog.americancatholic.org
Originally published in Spanish, translated into French, and later adapted for English, this picture book has found a home around the world. The story begins with the Annunciation and ends with Jesus returning home to Nazareth after being found in the Temple. The authors tell the story in words that communicate the heart of the message but never overwhelm young children. “The Holy Spirit will take care of everything,” the Angel Gabriel explains to Mary, “for the child will come from God … he will be called the Son of God.” Thoughtful illustrations. Children will enjoy seeing Jesus spending time with his family, playing with the village children and growing “in strength and wisdom before God and those who knew him.” Ages 4 to 8.
JESUS: A STORY OF LOVE
written by Claire Dumont and Suzanne Lacoursière illustrated by Caroline Merola Pauline, 2003
32 pages, $5.95
To order: (800) 836-9723 or pauline.org/store
The title says it all. This simple biography of Jesus is the story of love — the love of God the Father who sends the Son to earth, the love shared within the Holy Family, the love that Jesus shows in helping, curing and being with others. Love is the reason Jesus shares himself at the “special supper” and dies on the cross. “When we love and are kind,” young readers learn, “we are like Jesus!” Ages 4 to 8.
PROVE IT! JESUS
by Amy Welborn
Our Sunday Visitor, 2002
128 pages, $6.95
To order: (800) 348-2440
Not a biography, Prove It! Jesus, delves into apologetics and addresses a bevy of challenging questions: Who is Jesus? What does it mean to have a relationship with him? Why do people have different takes on Christianity? What's the Catholic perspective on all this? The information is presented in anything but a stuffy textbook format. Rather, the author assumes her readers are smart, capable learners who are able to wrestle with tough theological issues and who above all else want to know the real truth about the real Jesus. Sprinkled with Scripture and an array of cool quotes, this book would be an excellent resource for youth groups and religious education programs, as well as for independent reading. Ages 12 and up.
Trish A. Crawford writes from Winter Park, Florida.
Kerry A. Crawford writes from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.