Okay, so it’s another reference to the quirky movie Hudsucker Proxy. I can’t help it. The quotation in the title says so much. First of all, I think all–okay, almost all picture books tend to be spiritual in nature. If a person identifies with a Christian worldview, any book can be compared to that belief system; that book can contribute or take away from a personal viewpoint. I tend to be seen as a liberal, and though I tend to be selective about my titles, I attempt to be open-minded to all.
That being said…When I was growing up on the East Coast, you were either Catholic or Jewish. A few of us fell into the area’s smaller religious categories, like maybe Methodist. When I was in seventh grade, a Catholic upperclassman ran up to me and exclaimed, “Did you know your dad is a priest?” “Oh no,” I said sarcastically, “I better go and break the news to my mom.” (I didn’t know, at the time, about married priests of the Episcopal tradition. My dad, however, was a Lutheran pastor, and quite married to my mother then and now.)
In general , where I grew up was an environment of religious celebration, and I feel it was often filled with respect for the different person next to me. Even in public school. Amy Z.’s mom came to first grade and made us potato latkes and taught us how to play dreidel for Hannukah. We sang songs too! (Listening to my daughter’s Raffi music the other day reminded me of this.)
Now I live in North Dakota, where you are either Lutheran or Not. Nevertheless, religion and Spirituality are favorite topics of mine, though I don’t often think of them alongside my treasured picture books. Sometimes, however, my mind wanders…
The other day, I walked past a dozen or so of M’s sweet Baby Bibles. I also passed our personal collection of titles aimed at teaching lessons. Then, I found a few titles that I simply enjoyed, and they also just happen to have a spiritual or religious bent to them.
Growing up in the Judeo-Christian traditions, I know that this is certainly not an exhaustive list of the wonderful books that are out there. So, feel free to leave the titles in the comments of your own favorite spiritual books for kids raised from a Christian perspective.
- On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman. Oh my, how many times did I read this before the good kind of goose flesh stayed away completely? I can still read it and get a tear in my eye. We have a friend who reads it each year on his son’s birthday—What a great way to celebrate! We are special, and as the Judeo-Christian tradition teaches, celebrated even more than the birds and animals around us. Yet, except for a quick reference to a Psalm in the dedication area of the book, religion is never even mentioned. It’s just a really good read with a theme that I believe and attempt to live.
- You are Special by Max Lucado. This book opened my eyes to the entire idea of spiritual books for children. It reminds me of that wonderful and challenging quotation from St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words”—an ultimate definition of spirituality, right? The storyline: When Punchinello is at risk of being overwhelmed with bad marks, he meets Lucia who models a cleaner way. She introduces Punchinello to the woodcarver, who allows Punchinello to experience another way of living.
- My Little Book About God by Jane Werner Watson. This classic Little Golden Book can now be found as a sturdy board book. Perhaps some would consider it more religious than spiritual, but the words suggest more: “For God is love…God is the love of our mother’s kiss…the warm strong hug of our daddy’s arms…” Illustrated vibrantly and in a detailed way by Eloise Wilkin, I read this and just feel good, readily wanting to share it with children. The words and pictures also depict the cosmos, a wonderful nod to science and spirituality.
- A World of Faith by Peggy Fletcher Stack. There was a time that I only imagined that a book like this existed. Then, one day, thanks to my constant roving for affordable picture books, THIS book seemed to just appear in my hands. It’s an illustrated book for older kids, maybe third grade or older, depending upon their interest in the subject. “This book introduces the remarkable and diverse world of religion to a new generation. It is meant to be a glimpse, a taste, an awakening,” so states the preface to this book that gives background on a long list of religions: Amish, Baha’is, Baptists, Buddhists, Catholics, Christian Scientists, Confucianism, Eastern Orthodox, Episcopalians, Hindus, Hopis, Jews, Lutherans, Methodists, Mormons, Muslims, Pentecostals, Presbyterians, Quakers, Salvation Army, Sikhs, Unitarians, and others. I mean, how much more religious can a book be? Then, why have I included it in a short list of spiritual books for Christian kids? Well, I have included it because it has such an overwhelming spirit of respect to it. The book even includes religions I haven’t even heard of previously, or even ones I wouldn’t have thought to include. It is somewhat simple and straightforward, but it challenges me. It is not didactic; it doesn’t hit me over the head with its intentions.
Okay, I really wanna hear about your favorites out there. I won’t judge or criticize; I just want to hear and enjoy them too whether they fit this personal definition of spirituality or not.