Since Easter is the queen of the feasts, we do a little Easter gift-giving in our house, usually a religious book. Aubri and I thought we'd review the books we will either be reading during Holy Week or gifting on Easter. It's much harder to find Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter books for children than Christmas books, so we would love your own reviews, too! What do you give your children on Easter?
Aubri: Here are the books I've read to my kiddos during Holy Week and Easter.
Since none of my children are reading yet I'm a bit more forgiving with the text. Unless something is just in bell ringing error, I'm ok with skipping some words. I'm also big on adding to the text more explanation than what is given in most childrens' books.
For the most part these books simply spell out the story of the Resurrection and the events that led up to it. You won't find an application of Christ's Resurrection in most of these.
Now, a GREAT kids book would probably go into some of this, but I have yet to find one of those childrens' books and I'm ok with that. Explaining this is one of my jobs as the reader and the parent."And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. We have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins." From I Corinthians 15
The Very First Easter Board Book by Paul Maier
This is a board book, so it's a condensed version of Maier's book The Very First Easter. This one is on the level of a very young child. Straight foward historically accurate events; miracles, Palm Sunday, Last Supper, and ends with the disciples touching the risen Christ. Wonderful, realistic illustrations.
Easter Surprise Lift the Flap Board Book by Vickie Howie
My kids really like flap books, I don't. I'm endlessly tapping the little flaps back into the book, but that never stops me from letting them have some. What I liked about this telling of the story; Last Supper scene Jesus tells them the bread and wine are His body and blood, given for the forgiveness of sins and we see Judas sneaking off to betray. Cons on this one; Mary on her way to put spices on Christ's body is surprised by a butterfly coming out of it's cocoon. I think I understand why it's in there, I could have done without it.
What Is Easter? Board Book by Michelle Medlock Adams
The first half of this book is leading the reader to ask themselves "what Easter means". Is it about the fluffy stuff that Easter brings, candy, eggs, new cloths, toys? Then answers with a No, then briefly tells the Easter story. It is sprinkled with a bit of Calvinist theology, today Jesus sits right next to God in Heaven and wants to live inside you too. This is an example of where I would substitute my own text in a book. Thankfully on this page Jesus holds a little lamb, great for talking about our Good Shepherd. Also, included is an "Easter Bunny" reference. We don't do the Easter Bunny at our house but I'm not going to through a fit over that one. I still like this book because in our home, we do enjoy the candy, the gifts, the new cloths. I want my children to know that those are fine and fun but as the book does make pretty clear, "It's all about God's Son."
The Story of Easter Board Book by Patricia A. Pingry
I have several of Pingry's books. They are very simple and have cute illustrations. Nice for my toddler and my preschoolers like them, but there are some things to watch for in these. As for this book, it's very weak on it's theology so a lot of editing is involved when I read it. On the crucifixion she writes; "But some men didn't like Jesus. They put Him on a cross to die." No mention of sin and unfortunately the picture painted here is that everyone "loved" Jesus except for a few men. Not good. This book ends with the line "He gave His life for us so that we can live too." The illustration here is children playing by a pond. My husband really doesn't like that, "Living doesn't mean playing at the lake".
The Easter Victory Arch Book by Erik Rottman
This is probably the best one on my list. I'm usually pretty impressed by the Arch books I've read. This one is not written at the level my kiddos are currently at but we still read through it. It's better for ages 5-10. This book largely focuses on Jesus' work and what it gives us. It isn't light on His suffering. It mentions the disciples abandoning Jesus, Jesus having being tied up, kicked, hit, spat on and dragged down the street! And ends with "Because of Jesus' death and life you have God's Word of peace. Through every Sunday morning's Word through water, wine and bread God's people are assured that they shall rise up from the dead." I like that.
The Time of Easter by Suzzanne Richterkessing
This book is one in a series on the Church year. Two young mice are led through lessons on the church year by an older church mouse. This one begins with an explanation of Lent, explains what sin is, then it moves on to Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter and Ascension.
I was very pleased that this book does touch on what Christ's Resurrection gives us, "Now Gods' people know they will have eternal life." "It means God's people will live in heaven with Him forever."
It's cute and educational. I'm sure children won't be the only ones to learn something in these books.
Katy: My choices are less Easter-orientated but no less relevant to Easter! I checked out some of these books from our church library, and was surprised how much my kids liked them, so we had to get them for our own library.
Like Aubri, I fill in and explain where the books lack or are not clear about Christ's victory over sin, death, and the devil, and how his death and resurrection is for you.
Easter ABCs by Isabel Anders
A simple book all of my kids (ages 1-5) will enjoy. It has the letters of the alphabet and it rhymes--what else do you need for very small children? The poem is mediocre (containing clunkers like "he was gone, all right!" and "EXcited is the way we feel.") The two lines I have theological qualms with is "Searching for Him will not do--For Jesus lives in me and you," and another line that seems to channel the infamous hymn "I Come to the Garden Alone." As Aubri mentioned above, children's books on the Easter story usually are just narrative. I'm happy to say Easter ABCs also has theologically winning lines such as "Joy is now our happiest thought--For our salvation He has bought" and "No one can deny that we from the fear of death are free!" Unfortunately, the binding doesn't seem too strong, so it may only last one Easter in our house.
Little Folded Hands
This is one of the books I stumbled across in our church library, and the kids love it. My oldest read all the prayers all the way through to her brothers. Many are sing-songy rhyming poems, sometimes bordering on moralism without mentioning Christ, however there are beautiful little poems like this
The morning bright
With rosy light
Has waked me from my sleep;
Dear God, Thy own
Great love alone
Thy little one doth keep.
All through the day,
I humbly pray,
Be Thou my Guard and Guide
My sins forgive,
And let me live,
Blest Jesus, near Thy side. Amen.
The evening prayers refreshingly speak of death and dying and going to heaven, often seeking forgiveness for sins of that day. I find this unusual for a children's book of prayers. If your kids have Luther's Morning and Evening Prayer down pat, this is good place to start expanding their "prayer treasury"--memorized prayers they can turn to when in need.
My Very First Holy Bible
We are starting a tradition this year to buy a Bible for our children on Easter the year they learn to read chapter books on their own. Our 5-year-old is rather precocious, and I thought a real Bible would challenge her. I used to be against categorizing Bibles and hymnals (see the next review), but this Bible has three things I like 1) it has respectful, realistic illustrations 2) the pages are thicker, so tearing is less likely 3) the print is slightly larger for new readers. I remember the first Bible my parents gave me (I still have it) and I treasured it for years. The best gift a parent can give their child is the Word of God.
My Very First Hymnal
I remember when Issues, Etc., had this as book of the month, and I thought, "What? My kids will grow up with the real hymnal, the family hymnal that everyone uses. We don't need simplified songs!" This is yet another book I checked out of our church library and the kids loved it. My daughter (and beginning pianist) could read the simple music notes, and she likes to carry it around to just read the hymns. Even though we have most of the evening and morning prayer liturgies memorized, Claire also likes to find where we are and read the text for us.
It helps me choose what easier hymns to sing for each season in the church year. I am tone-dead (and tune-dead), so the simpler the better when teaching my kids songs. It has a short list of Psalms I intend the kids to memorize. It introduces a simple liturgy of Confession and Absolution, encouraging family members to confess sins to one another. The artwork is bold and colorful. The only problem I have with it is leaving out verses from hymns. But I have a problem with LSB doing that, too.
No need for this to replace family worship with the "real" hymnal, but it's a wonderful supplement.
My First Catechism
This book has Luther's Small Catechism along with Bible stories to further explain "what does this mean?" For example, for commandment 1, you shall have no other gods, they give the story of the three young men who refused to bow to an idol and were thrown in the furnace. Under the explanation ("We should fear, love, and trust God above all things") they tell the story of Abraham trusting God and preparing Isaac as a sacrifice. I intend to use this book for school devotions during the Easter season. The book includes the Table of Duties, a short explanation of our creeds and confessions, and a list of the feasts and festivals of the Church Year. At the very back are three hymns: "I Am Jesus' Little Lamb", "God's Own Child I Gladly Say It," and "Lord, Help Us Ever to Retain."
Things I See at Easter by Julie Steigemeyer
We love this series of books and this year I bought Things I Hear at Church and Things I See at Baptism for my 19-month-old. Things I See at Easter is on sale for $2.50 at CPH! They are boardbooks that very, very simply explain to the very small child what is happening at church. The only complaint I have is, if you buy the whole series, you start to notice recycled artwork.
Please browse Concordia Publishing House's Easter book sale for more ideas!