In this year's message for Lent, Pope John Paul II urged Catholics to let this holy season be “a time of ever greater concern for the needs of children, in our own families and in society as a whole: for they are the future of humanity.”
Presenting Christ's words in Matthew 18:5 as this year's Lenten theme — “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me” — he added: “Jesus had a particular love for children because of their simplicity, their joy of life, their spontaneity and their faith filled with wonder. For this reason he wishes the community to open its arms and its heart to them, even as he did.”
There's no time like Palm Sunday to put this exhortation into long-range motion. So it is that, with this issue, we're introducing a new, regular Register feature dedicated to serving the needs of children by spotlighting new, worthwhile children's books.
By way of introduction, we are two sisters (birth, not religious) who work with children and the books they love. Over and over again we've seen literature offer a broad avenue into children's hearts and minds. From this open road, virtues can be imparted, lessons about life can be taught and faith can be fed.
Without further ado, let's roll the first installment of Children's Book Picks with recommended reading for Holy Week and Easter.
by Michael Laughlin
illustrated by Richard Stergulz
Thomas Nelson, 2000
32 pages, $12.99
To order: (800) 441-0511 or
In this poignant telling, the Easter story unfolds from the perspective of a little thornbush. Left to grow alone on the roadside, the lonely bush is convinced it is ugly, worthless and rejected. What need could anyone have for the thorns it bears? As the Easter drama unfolds, the bush catches Jesus’ loving eye before being plunged into shame as its thorns are used to bring pain to this great, kind man. Redemption is won when the bush finds faith, hope and love after the Resurrection — and rejoices in the knowledge that its thorns served as a crown for the King of Kings. Tender words, exquisite illustrations. Ages 4 to 10.
LOVE ONE ANOTHER: THE LAST DAYS OF JESUS
by Lauren Thompson
illustrated by Elizabeth Vyehara
32 pages, $15.95
To order: (800) 724-6527 or
Jesus urges his followers to “love your neighbor, both friend and enemy.” The cost of such love is revealed as the text traces the Lord's last meal with his apostles and his arrest, abandonment, trial and death. The empty tomb and the presence of the Risen Christ assure young readers that love is greater than both hate and death. Double-page oil-on-canvas illustrations — particularly of Jesus’ crucifixion and death — provide opportunities to reflect and pray. Ages 6 to 10.
PRAYING THE STATIONS
by Gwen Costello
illustrated by Holly B. Bewlay Twenty-Third Publications, 2002
32 pages, $1.95
To order: (800) 321-0411
or www.twentythirdpublications. com
Children will pray these stations with their body, mind and soul. After explaining each station, the author helps children express their desire to have helped Jesus on the sorrowful way. “We would have made sure you didn't fall,” children say in praying the third station. “We would have walked beside you and given you strong arms to lean on.” Children are challenged to consider what they do “here and now” to follow Jesus. Gentle gestures such as placing a hand over their heart accompany each station. Ages 9 to 12.
THE STORY OF THE CROSS:
THE STATIONS OF THE CROSS FOR CHILDREN
by Mary Joslin
illustrated by Gail Newey
Loyola Press, 2002
48 pages, $15.95
To order: (800) 621-1008
The 15 Stations of the Cross, including the Resurrection, are presented within the story of Jesus’ life, beginning with the Annunciation and ending with the Ascension. Each station's description is coupled with a short prayer. Vibrant paintings, sensitive to the young age of the readers, will engage both children and their parents. Ages 5 to 12.
CATHOLIC BABY'S FIRST EASTER
by Emily Tuttle
illustrated by Moira MacLean
Regina Press, 2001 8 pages, $8.99
To order: (800) 625-4263
The death and resurrection of Jesus are described with loving simplicity in this brightly illustrated board book for the very young. Baby-proof pages, rugged outer construction and a clever tote handle (and matching clasp) make for a fitting introduction to Easter for little eyes attracted to bright colors. Baby to age 3.
THE EASTER STORY
by Patricia A. Pingry illustrated by Mary Ann Utt CandyCane Press, 2002 24 pages, $6.95 To order: (800) 586-2572
This small board book is just the right size for toddlers’ hands and just the right length for their attention span — about 200 words. Explaining why we celebrate Easter, the simple text describes Jesus’ ministry, death and resurrection. Young readers will especially treasure the illustrations showing Jesus welcoming children like themselves. Ages 1 to 3.
by Isabel Anders
illustrated by Shelly Rasche
32 pages, $7.99
To order: (800) 325-3040
“Angels stood in robes so bright, by an empty tomb — in a dazzling light! Bells chime out on Easter Day. ‘He is risen!’ They seem to say.” So begins this joyful, poetic romp through an Easter alphabet. The creators of this charming picture book have translated the Gospel's Resurrection message into catchy rhymes sure to captivate young readers. Don't be surprised if the little ones ask to hear it again and again. Ages 2 to 6.
THE VERY FIRST EASTER
by M. Elizabeth Tebo, FSP
and Patricia E. Jablonski, FSP
illustrated by Anna Winek-Leliwa
Pauline, 2002 32 pages, $5.95
To order: (800) 836-9723 or www.pauline.org/store
Retelling the story of Jesus’ birth, death, resurrection and ascension, the Pauline sisters behind this book go beyond colorful storytelling. They gently introduce doctrine on the dual nature of Jesus (“Jesus is God because God is his Father. Jesus is human, too, because Mary is his mother.”); sin (“the wrong things we do”) and transubstantiation (“The bread and wine were now the Body and Blood of Jesus! But, they still looked the same.”). Bright illustrations sweeten the lessons. Ages 5 to 8.
illustrated by Fiona French
32 pages, $15.95
To order: (800) 651-1531
With words from Scripture, this attractive volume pairs Scripture with radiant illustrations, clearly inspired by stained-glass artworks. Yes it's intended for children, but readers of all ages will be moved and inspired by the beautiful images. Ages 8 to adult.
Patricia A. Crawford teaches children's literature at the University of Central Florida in Orlando.
Kerry Crawford, author of In this Time of Grace: Memories, Hopes and Dreams of the Benedictine Sisters of Pittsburgh, has worked extensively with children in both public and religious education programs.