One of the most delightful ways to observe Lent with children is to share stories about the life of Jesus including his death and resurrection, and Easter traditions. Here are a few of my family’s favorite books for these two seasons. Most years we add one or two books to our collection and we all look forward to reading these beloved books through the seasons of Lent and Easter.
The Life of Jesus
Lent is an opportune time to read about the whole of Jesus’ life and ministry. The following books are good options for the whole family, and additionally with older children you can read through an entire gospel.
All About Jesus: The Life and Teachings of Jesus in the Bible’s Own Words Illustrated by Martine Blanc-Rerat
This book is comprised of selections from all four gospels put in order to take the reader from the beginning of Christ’s life to the Ascension. Unlike many ‘life of Christ’ books, this one includes parables and teachings of Jesus. The stories are straight from the bible and are in manageable chunks to read with even the smallest children. Additionally, the illustrations are beautiful. This books is a delightful way to share stories at dinner or bedtime reading.
Note: There is also a section at the beginning with a handful of key Old Testament stories to help give context to the life of Christ. The last small section describes how Jesus is always with us and includes Pentecost, some saints and liturgical practices. These are written from a Roman Catholic perspective. Our family generally does not read these sections during lent.
The Life of Jesus in Masterpieces of Art by Mary Pope Osborne
Written by the author of the Magic Treehouse series, this out of print book is worth finding for the art alone. Osborne tells the story of Jesus’ life from birth to ascension in 42 pages. You could read a couple pages a night through Lent or read it in a few longer sittings. This is probably best suited for children in mid to late elementary school.
The Glorious Impossible by Madeleine L’Engle, illustrations by Giotto
This delectable book features frescoes painted by Giotto in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, Italy around 1304. There are 25 reflections with paintings that can be read one per day through Lent. Yes, there are 40 days in Lent, but as a family, 25 is actually a lovely amount as you can add in other books on extra days, or accept the fact that reading together 25 out of 40 days is perhaps a realistic goal at certain stages in family life!. L’Engle’s writing is wonderful and this is a book that will be especially enjoyed by adults and older children.
The Easter Story
The following are picture books that focus on the events of Holy Week. You have plenty of time to request them at your local library or shop for them in a store.
The Easter Story by Brian Wildsmith
This is the first book I recommend purchasing. It tells the story of Holy Week from the donkey’s perspective. He carries Jesus into Jerusalem and watches as Jesus teaches, is on trial, crucified, buried and resurrected. Wildsmith‘s illustrations are enchanting and leave lots of room for discussion of the cultural context.
Easter: A Selection of Verses from the King James Bible, illustrated by Jan Pienkowski
I love Pienkowski’s papercut artwork. This book begins with the journey to Jerusalem and ends with the great commision.
Peter’s First Easter written by Walter Wangerin Jr, illustrated by Timothy Ladwig
Divided into ten chapters, this picture book is a wonderful read aloud. It is told from Peter’s perspective and invites the reader to understand the emotions of Holy Week.
Tales and Traditions
The Story of Easter by Aileen Fisher
About half the book tells and illustrates the biblical Easter narrative while the remaining parts cover the history of Easter and traditions surrounding the holiday. I am particularly fond of the illustrations in this book.
The Tale of Three Trees retold by Angela Elwell Hunt, illustrated by Tim Jonke
This traditional folk tale tells the story of three trees who make wishes. Each tree ends up getting his wish in a surprising way as they each play a different role in Jesus’ life.
Make Room: A Child’s Guide to Lent and Easter written by Laura Alary, illustrations by Ann Boyajian
This wonderful book describes the traditions of Lent in the church. It tells the story of Easter, but also talks about practices of the church during this season. This is a wonderful resource for families in liturgical traditions.
As you build a collection of books to bring out during Lent and Easter it is fun to mix in some delightful stories of bunnies, eggs and spring as well. The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes by DuBose Heyward, The Easter Egg by Jan Brett, Rechenka’s Eggs by Patricia Polacco, and The Golden Egg book by Margaret Wise Brown are some favorites in our home.
What are your favorite children’s books to read during Lent?