Over the past seven years I have been slowly but surely adding to our family’s collection of Orthodox children’s books. We’re a family that loves to read, so it is only natural to include books about our faith in with the other books in our library.
As I have built this library, I have realized that not all Orthodox children’s books are created equal. Some are incredibly well-written with beautiful illustrations that captivate my children. Others, quite frankly, are not so good.
So I decided to make this Ultimate Guide to Orthodox Children’s Books to help other Orthodox families. In the guide you will find tons of quality books that your family will enjoy for years! Enjoy!
The Ultimate Guide to Orthodox Children’s Books
Board Books for Toddlers
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.
Josiah and Julia Go to Church by Kelly Ramke Lardin
Josiah and Julia Go to Church is a charming book that helps teach young children the behaviors expected in Church. Children learn how to venerate icons properly, stand quietly in line for the Eucharist, and more. The illustrations are lovely.
The Birth of Christ in Icons by Marina Paliaki
This board book uses icons to tell the story of Christ’s birth from The Annunciation to The Presentation at the Temple. My children especially enjoyed this book when they were younger. I believe that babies and young children are drawn to icons and the spiritual truths contained in them. Mine certainly loved kissing the Theotokos in The Birth of Christ in Icons!
What Do You See At Liturgy? by Kristina Kallas-Tartara
Children will learn about the Divine Liturgy through photographs and a predictable, rhyming text. My children really enjoyed bringing this book along with us to Liturgy on Sunday. They had fun looking for the different items or events depicted in the pictures.
The Life of Christ in Icons by Marina Paliaki
Another fantastic board book that uses icons to tell of the life of our Savior. Children will enjoy finding the various icons in their own parishes after they see them in the book.
Books for Young Children
H is for Holy by Nika Boyd
My absolute new favorite Orthodox children’s book this year. 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.
My First Book of Orthodox Words by Orthodox Lighthouse Publishing
A great way for young children to learn the vocabulary of the church. The pictures show each item or term, helping the child make the connection between the word and the object. This would be a wonderful book to bring to Liturgy with you so that the children can point to the items in real life.
Books for Elementary Aged Children
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.
The Hidden Garden: A Story of the Heart by Jane G. Meyer
This beautiful story helps children realize that their heart is a garden that needs Christ’s care to become a thing of beauty. It would make an excellent introduction into the reason behind the disciplines of prayer and fasting.
Let There Be Light! by Alisa Rakich Brooks
Let There Be Light! tells the story of a curious young girl named Mila and her mother as they explore the concept of light. One night as they were reading the book of Genesis, Mila asked her mother, “What is light?” This leads them to a scientific experiment with prisms to discover the nature of light. All that they learn leads them to a greater appreciation for the creation and a deeper worship of the Creator.
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.
The Praises by Nico Chocheli
The Praises takes the text of Psalm 148 and illustrates it in an incredibly beautiful call for all creation to praise the Lord. Children will be fascinated by the pictures. This book also provides a great starting point for a discussion on creation, the role of creation in praise, and our role as caretakers or creation.
Books for Middle Grades/Teens
The Insight: First Book of Athira by Owen Gabriel Danielson
I love the fantasy genre, so when I heard that Owen Gabriel Danielson had written a fantasy with Orthodox themes, I was really excited! If you have any fantasy lovers, do them a favor and give them The Insight. You can read my full review here.
Queen Abigail the Wise by Grace Books
Queen Abigail the Wise tells the story of ten-year-old Abigail and a group of girls who are thrown together at church for no other reason than that they are all the same age. Soon the group decides to help others, and they begin by helping each other solve their own problems. The results are often hilarious, generally touching, and always interesting. The entire book is set during Lent and Holy Week, and those themes pervade the story without seeming moralistic. A very fun and engaging book for both boys and girls!
Hear Me: An Orthodox Prayer Book for Teens by Annalisa Boyd
A prayer book specifically for teens and the unique challenges and joys they face. Compiled by a mother of teens. This book is best for high schoolers.
Shepherding Sam by Melinda Johnson
The latest book from Ancient Faith Publishing, Shepherding Sam is the sweet story of a boy, a dog, and a monastery. Sam is a lonely boy who often gets into trouble. However, the nearby monastery has a dog that is trying to change that. A wonderful book for Orthodox children (both boys and girls) ages 8-11.
Books About Saints
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.
St. Nicholas and The Nine Gold Coins by Jim Forest
Another beautiful book by Jim Forest and illustrated by Vladislav Andrejev. Children will love hearing the story of Saint Nicholas while they look at the amazing iconographic illustrations. A must-have for your St. Nicholas Day celebration!
Lucia, Saint of Light by Katherine Bolger Hyde
A lovely retelling of the life of a popular saint. If your daughter is at all like mine, she will walk around dressed up like Saint Lucia for weeks after reading this book!
My Warrior Saints by Elge-Ekatarine Potamis
A collection of stories about the lives of various saints including: St. Constantine, St. George, St. Eustace, and St. Prokopios. If you have boys at home, this would be a great book for them!
Under the Grapevine: A Miracle of Saint Kendeas of Cyprus by Chrissi Hart
My children love reading the story of the modern day miracle. The book tells the story of the author’s grandmother, who was healed by a vision of Saint Kendeas when she was a young girl. The book is a great starting point for discussions on miracles and the role of saints.
Books for the Feasts
The Story of Mary, the Mother of God by Dorrie Papademetriou
As a 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! Perfect for the feasts of The Nativity of the Theotokos, The Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple, and The Annunciation.
Lent! Wonderful Lent! by Debra Sancer
Designed for children ages 5-10, this book helps children understand the meaning of Lent as a time for repentance and preparation. It also explains each of the Sundays during Great Lent.
Glorious Pascha by Debra Sancer
An excellent description of each day of Holy Week beginning with Palm Sunday. This book helps elementary aged children understand the significance of Holy Week in both the life of Christ and in the Church. A companion book to Lent! Wonderful Lent!
The Miracle of the Red Egg by Elizabeth Crispina Johnson
Have you ever wondered why Orthodox Christians dye Easter eggs red? This charming children’s book shares the story behind the tradition. Children (and adults!) learn about St. Mary Magdalene, a Roman emperor, and a miracle that shows the power of the resurrection.
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!
Heaven Meets Earth: Celebrating Pascha and the Twelve Feasts by John Kosmas Skinas
A beautiful book that explains each of the twelve great feasts of the Church–including Pascha. With icons, hymns, Scriptures, and quotes from the Fathers, and traditions explained, your family will use this resource for years to come.
The Feast of Pentecost by Mother Melania
The Feast of Pentecost is one of a larger series of books that invites children to enter into the 12 Feasts of the Church. The gentle verses and rhythm draw children into the life of Christ and his Mother. This series will not be reprinted, so if you would like to have a collection, act fast!
Books for the Life of the Church
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.
When My Baba Died by Marjorie Kunch
When My Baba Died walks a child through the entire process of a funeral–from learning of someone’s death to the visitation, from the church service to the burial. I actually have never attended an Orthodox funeral and learned a lot from this book. I didn’t know that a priest anoints the head of the departed with oil in remembrance of their baptism and chrismation. The book will help children prepare for all that they will see and experience in an Orthodox funeral.
My youngest son’s godfather gave him this Children’s Bible Reader for his Name Day, and I like that it is written and approved by the Orthodox Church with illustrations that look like icons. Many children’s Bibles that I have seen and even used with my children can have a slight Protestant bent in the retelling of the stories. Also, the Jesus shown in those illustrations generally looks nothing like the icons of Christ that children see at home and church, which can create a bit of a disconnect. We read one story from the Children’s Bible Reader each night after Evening Prayers, and it is one of the highlights of the day.
Children’s Liturgy Guide
There are several fantastic books for children that walk them through the Divine Liturgy. For younger children I recommend The Child’s Guide to Divine Liturgy from Ancient Faith Publishing. It has excellent illustrations that help kids follow along with and mark the key parts of the Divine Liturgy. By knowing what is coming up and what to look for, younger children can participate more fully. (Check out more tips for Engaging Children in Church.)
What are your favorite Orthodox children’s books?
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