Reading About the Faith: Back-to-School Books

7 children’s picks to add to your list.

It’s time to head back to school and hit the books. Here are some great picks to nurture kids’ hearts and spirits, as well as minds.


Paul Writes (a Letter)

Written and illustrated by Chris Raschka

Eerdmans, 2018

40 pages, $17

Paul was many things: a convert, a missionary, a martyr and, eventually, a saint. Caldecott-winning illustrator Chris Raschka brings Paul’s writings to life in this bite-size introduction to the man and his message. Each turn of the page highlights a different epistle, or letter, mingling key scriptural lessons and more personal commentary from the great saint. The vibrant illustrations and straightforward language will capture the attention of readers, both young and old. This text is a great invitation to consider spiritual truths, while seeing the world through the eyes of St. Paul. Ages 6 and up.


Little Prayers for Little Ones

Written by Patricia Edward Jablonski, FSP

Illustrated by Becky Fawson

Pauline, 2018

24 pages, $12.95

Just right for little hands, this sturdy board book offers a solid and engaging introduction to prayer. A lyrical text emphasizes that it’s natural to talk with God, since we enjoy such a special relationship with him (“... God made me! I am special and loved!/ I am a child of my Father above!/ My Father listens to all that I say./ I talk to God. I can pray every day!”). Simple words and joyful images introduce the youngest readers to concepts of praise, thanksgiving, contrition and petition. Ages 1-4.


Loyola Kids Book of Catholic Signs and Symbols: An Illustrated Guide to Their History and Meaning

Written by Amy Welborn

Illustrated by Marina Seoane

Loyola Press, 2018

192 pages, $19.95

A rose is a rose is a rose — and so much more. In this sourcebook, readers learn that a rose represents Mary: if red, her sorrows; white, her purity; gold, her glory in heaven. This is one example of the many images that help children to experience their faith through paintings, sculptures, objects, gestures and the rhythm of the liturgical year. For each image, the left-hand page presents an illustration and simple description; the right-hand page offers more detail for older readers. Ages 6-12.


Stories of the Blessed Sacrament

Written by Francine Bay

Illustrated by Hengjing Zang

Ignatius, 2019

96 pages, $16.99

Twelve stories of bravery, devotion and, above all, love fill the pages of this beautifully written and illustrated book about the Blessed Sacrament. It will transport young readers back in time Jesus broke and blessed bread for a hungry crowd, to the First Eucharist, and with the disciples on the road to Emmaus. The lives of Eucharistic saints — Tarcisius, Anthony, Thomas Aquinas, Margaret Mary and Pius X — come to life. And lesser-known stories, including a secret Mass during the French Revolution and an ordination at Dachau, will inspire young hearts. Ages 7 and older.


Maybe God Is Like That Too

Written by Jennifer Grant

Illustrated by Benjamin Schipper

Sparkhouse Family, 2017

32 pages, $16.99

Surrounded by busy city streets, a young boy wonders about God. Is he here? How can we find God if we can’t see him? His grandmother assures him that God is indeed very near and that we find him whenever we see his Spirit at work. As the boy goes about his day, he recognizes love, joy, peace and all the other fruits of the Spirit in the most ordinary, yet powerful, interactions. Each time, he thinks, “Maybe God is like that.” This gentle book probes important questions and will inspire readers to identify and value the fruit of the Spirit in others’ lives, as well as in their own. Ages 4-8.


Saint José:  Boy Cristero Martyr

Written by Kevin McKenzie, L.C.

Illustrated by John Herreid

Ignatius, 2019

181 pages, $11.95

St. José Sanchez del Rio, one of the newest and youngest saints, was only 14 years old when he died in 1928 for his Catholic faith. When the Cristero War broke out in his hometown of Sahuayo, Mexico, José joined the fight to worship God freely. Government forces later captured, tortured and forced the young boy to march to his own grave. “Viva Cristo Rey y Santa Maria de Guadalupe!” (“Long live Christ the King and Holy Mary of Guadalupe!”), he cried out before the bullet sounded that ended his short, brave life. Ages 10 and older.


Kiddie Cat: A Child’s First Catechism Lesson

Written by Katie Warner

Illustrated by Meg Whalen

TAN, 2019

24 pages, $9.95

Read aloud to your youngest disciples the story of God’s love inspired by the pillars of the Catechism. Beautifully designed, illustrated and presented, a series of simple statements (e.g., “God made you and He rejoices being with you.”) will build a foundation of truth that will grow in meaning as your child grows. This pint-sized board book is right-sized for little hands and visits to church. Ages 2-5.

The Crawford sisters write from Pittsburgh.