This week’s post is by Haley Scharf. She and her husband, Roger, live in St. Paul with their three young children. Haley blogs about theological books for children, and we asked her to share some of her favorite books and story Bibles, along with a list of titles specific to Advent. Enjoy!
One of my favorite things about being a parent is sharing great books with my children. Literature opens the world to us in magnificent ways, and I love the thrill of finding just the right book to connect with the small people in my life. The icing on the cake is when I find a truly wonderful theological book for children. Such books are not always easy to find, but if you’re willing to do some hunting, there are some treasures waiting to be discovered!
More than four years ago, as part of my hunt for the best theological children’s literature, I started a blog with a friend who then attended Church of the Cross but now lives in California. We aren’t literary experts, and we don’t expect every book we review to resonate with every reader. Our hope, though, is that Aslan’s Library would be a good starting point for those who are also interested in discovering excellent theological kidlit.
My basic criteria for evaluating a theological children’s book are twofold: truth and beauty. A book can be masterfully written and illustrated but contradict Scripture. Or, a book can technically communicate biblical truth yet do so in a way that’s impoverished, severely lacking in storytelling or artistic presentation. Neither of those scenarios appeals to me. God must be accurately reflected in books about him, especially those written for children, and that means that both truth and beauty matter.
To clarify, what I mean by beauty is not the same thing as pretty and certainly different from shallow sentimentality. Rather, real beauty is something that attracts us, confronts us with goodness, and helps us see and respond to glory. It holds us captive and compels us toward truth (and so, you see, beauty and truth are actually inseparable). When I remind myself to think of beauty in those terms as I assess literature, I select books that more closely reflect the reality of our glorious triune God.
With that in mind, here’s a sampling of my favorite books for entering into the beautiful and true story of Christianity with children. (Most, but not all, are currently in print.) I’ve linked to my reviews for each title, and you can find even more recommendations here. I’m always looking for more great books, so if you have favorites, I’d love to hear about them!
Books of Bible Stories
The Big Picture Story Bible – If you don’t already know this book, start here!
Stories Jesus Told – parables expertly told for preschoolers
Jesus Storybook Bible – the story of Jesus woven into all of Scripture
All About Jesus – illustrated selections from the NLT Bible translation
Psalms for Young Children – perfect intro to the Psalms for preschoolers
Books that Tell the Story of the Christian Life
He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands – stunning artwork plus familiar song lyrics
Smack Dab in the Middle of God’s Love – a reminder of the depths of God’s love
Love Is… – beautiful artwork illustrating 1 Corinthians 13
Sidney and Norman – a tale of how knowing God transforms us
Shoebox Sam – a story of how vocation and mission can collide
Wise Words – proverbs in short-story format
The Story of Ruby Bridges – biography of a remarkable little girl
I Heard Good News Today – short stories about missionaries
Come Worship With Me – introduction to the church calendar
What Is the Church? – ecclesiology 101 for children
Books for Parents
Let Us Keep the Feast – the perfect guide to celebrating the church year at home
The Bible Story Handbook – fantastic resource for teaching Scripture to kids
Books for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany
Who Is Coming to Our House? – a great board book
One Night in Bethlehem – board book that helps kids enter into the nativity story
The Little Drummer Boy – an illustrated classic carol
Christmas Is Here – beautiful, straightforward retelling of Luke 2
The Nativity – another artful retelling of Luke 2
The Christmas Troll – fantastic tale about surprises and Christmas gifts
Song of the Stars – sets the nativity story in context of Jesus’ whole life
Saint Nicholas – introduction to the historic man
Voices of Christmas – Christmas from the perspective of biblical characters
Christmas Eve – DIY lessons and carols service (helpful if you’re traveling for Christmas)
We Three Kings – save this one for Epiphany