We read a lot in our house. I mean a lot. We go to the library every Saturday and tote home bags and bags of books. My kiddos are on a first-name basis with the librarians!
We also have tons of books at home. As we are building our children’s library, I try to add classics, modern favorites, and books that will feed their souls. For the past couple of years, I have made a concerted effort to fill our shelves with more Orthodox children’s books. Some are very well-loved while others are generally passed over.
So, I thought I would make a Top 10 list of our favorite Orthodox children’s books. These are books that my own kids enjoy reading and will request at bedtime. I know that there are many other fantastic Orthodox books out there, but these are the ones that have passed the “kid test” at our house!
Our Family’s Top 10 Favorite Orthodox Children’s Books
In no particular order, here they are!
1. The Miracle of Saint Nicholas by Gloria Whelan, illustrated by Judith Brown
Set in Russia after the fall of Communism, The Miracle of Saint Nicholas tells the tale of young Alexi, a curious boy. He asks his babushka why their church is closed and won’t stop until it is open again for Nativity. Seeing Alexi’s perseverance, the townspeople join him, bringing their secret treasures. This touching book makes me choke up each time that I read it! My kids love the beautiful illustrations and following Alexi’s quest for a miracle.
2. Pictures of God: A Child’s Guide to Understanding Icons by John Kosmas Skinas
This is a fantastic introduction to icons–both their spiritual meaning and the stories behind several prominently displayed ones. Through Pictures of God, children learn about Christ the Pantocrator, The Nativity, The Annunciation, the Theotokos of Tenderness, and many other icons. My children enjoy finding the icons they have seen in the book in our church on Sundays.
3. Saint George & The Dragon by Jim Forest, illustrated by Vladislav Andrejev
The iconographic illustrations in this book are absolutely stunning. The story of St. George is already incredibly compelling for young children (and older readers as well!). So pair the story with the illustrations, and you have an instant favorite. Saint George & The Dragon also has a fantastic note at the end that discusses the apocryphal nature of much of the dragon story, what is known about St. George’s life and martyrdom, and the symbolism of various items in his icon.
4. The Story of Mary, the Mother of God by Dorrie Papademetriou
As a fairly recent convert, I did not grow up learning very much about the Theotokos. I knew even less about Sts. Joachim and Anna. This book helped me learn about Sts. Joachim and Anna and their struggle to conceive, the blessing of a child, and their decision to give Mary to God in the temple. Though it is written to appeal to children, The Story of Mary will edify adults as well!
5. Catherine’s Pascha by Charlotte Riggle
Catherine’s Pascha is a USA Best Books Award Finalist–an honor rarely bestowed upon an Orthodox book. This beautiful book walks a child through Pascha–from baking on Saturday to the beautiful service and breaking the fast with church family. This is one of my children’s all time favorite Orthodox books!
6. Goodnight Jesus by Angela Isaacs
Goodnight Jesus is a gentle rhyming book that helps children wind down as they say goodnight to and kiss the various people who are important to them. The child in the book kisses Jesus and the saints goodnight and then does the same to his family as he prepares for bed. The repetition and rhyme make for a lullaby-like bedtime story that will rock a child to sleep.
7. The Monk Who Grew Prayer by Claire Brandenburg
The Monk Who Grew Prayer introduces children to the idea of continual prayer. This gentle story revolves around a simple monk who goes through his daily activities, but all the while he is praying and growing in prayer.
8. H is for Holy by Nika Boyd
If you read a lot of alphabet books in your house (like we do!), you’ll want to add this beautiful Orthodox one to your shelves. I review it here.
9. The Woman and the Wheat by Jane G. Meyer
This is a poetic story that children can enjoy on several different levels. My two youngest children were enthralled by the physical processes involved in the planting, growing, and harvesting of wheat and the way in which it is made into bread. My oldest son understood and appreciated the way in which Meyer interweaves the Eucharist and prayer into the story.
10. Song of the Talanton by Claire Brandenburg
In addition to being a very poetic and rhythmic story of a pilgrim’s morning prayer at a monastery, Song of the Talanton is also a fantastic way to introduce young children to the idea of monastic life. My children especially love the CD that comes with the book and includes a recording of a talanton, a reading by the author, and several beautiful hymns.
If you are a recent convert (or even if you are not!), I strongly encourage you to add some Orthodox books to your children’s library. Place them within easy reach in the living room or bedrooms so that your children can read about the saints, about Christ, about the Church. Help them make connections between the home and Church by reading and discussing spiritual things in your daily life.
And maybe you’ll even learn something along the way.
What are your favorite Orthodox children’s books?
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