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I used to teach elementary school, and as such had a large picture book library. Most of those books have been passed on to other teachers, but I kept some favorites for myself and my grandchildren. I always had plenty of books in the category of Christmas. Christmas books are available by the boatload, and most of them – even the ones that don’t talk about Jesus – have a positive, uplifting, and encouraging message. Easter books are not so easy to come by. In fact, I didn’t even have a category for Easter books; instead, I had a category for spring books.
Easter books with a great message are hard to find. When I started researching for this post, I thought I’d just go to the library, hit a few bookstores, including a Christian bookstore, check out their stock, and that would be it – I’d have more material than I could use. Not so. Instead, I found myself with plenty of books with silly stories about bunnies and eggs and chicks, but very little that was really good. Lots of series books, like Little Critter, Biscuit, and Clifford, but those don’t quite hit the high mark in literature.
Instead, I wanted to find some books that spoke to the spirit and soul, bringing that same uplifting, encouraging message that Christmas books do. And of course, I wanted books about Jesus’ death and resurrection on my list. Given my criteria, I rejected a lot of books, but have come up with a few I recommend.
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Although this is an old book, it is a great story. The story is told from the point of view of Caleb, a boy about 12 years old, who must tend to a donkey’s colt. The colt is the same one that Jesus chooses to ride into Jerusalem. The author skillfully weaves into the story the major events of Easter week: the entry into Jerusalem, the arrest of Jesus and his crucifixion, the resurrection, and the meeting of the men on the road to Emmaus. Caleb and his cousin Daniel are central figures through whose eyes we see the Easter story told fresh.
Beautiful illustrations accompany a sweet story of a young boy in pioneer days who learns the story of Jesus’ resurrection. The text is short and appropriate for young children. Older children might not like it as much. The story of Jesus death is only briefly mentioned, His payment for sin not mentioned at all.
The Easter Donkey, by Isabelle Holland. Illustrated by Judith Cheng. © 1989
A moving story of a young lame orphan, Seth, and his lame donkey, Barak. They constantly struggled to find enough work to be able to eat daily, due to Seth’s lameness. Their quest for work brings them across the path of a young girl on Palm Sunday, who explains to them who Jesus is. The remainder of the story weaves the tale of Seth and Barak into the events of Jesus’ arrest, crucifixion, and resurrection. My only complaint with the book is that the two children both have fair skin and light brown hair – unlike a typical Israelite child would have. But the story is wonderful. Although it’s an old book, it would be worth finding it in a library and reading it.
The Donkey That No One Could Ride, by Anthony DeStefano. Illustrated by Richard Cowdrey. ©2014
A charming story about the donkey that Jesus rode on Palm Sunday. The donkey believes that he is worthless because no-one can ride him. But then he meets Jesus, and like all who let Him, Jesus changes everything.
A simple retelling of the story of Easter, from the Last Supper through the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. The beautiful illustrations add to the story. I like that it includes the ascension and coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, which most Easter stories don’t.
An easy to understand book for toddlers and preschoolers, this book introduces the true meaning of Easter to the youngest of children. The illustrations are bright and eye-catching, and the text is short and simple. The text covers Palm Sunday through the Resurrection and connects to modern elements of celebration.
Arch books – a variety of titles
Arch books are an imprint of Concordia Publishing and cover every aspect of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. Easter is not left out, and there are many Arch books titles that cover the events of Jesus’ last days, death, and resurrection. I used Arch books with my children when they were elementary ages, and I enjoyed them as much as they did. The text is always in rhyme, and the illustrations add to the story. I highly recommend them! Start with The Week That Led to Easter, The Centurion at the Cross, The Day Jesus Died, or He’s Risen! He’s Alive! for your Easter celebrations.
I’ll be honest here and say I haven’t read this book. However, my family and I used the first book in this series, Jotham’s Journey, when our children were young. While Jotham’s Journey is a story of Christmas, Amon’s Adventure takes us through Easter week. Amon is the son of Jotham, who was a witness to the first Christmas. When Jotham is accused of a crime, Amon must find a way to save his life. Along the way, Amon witnesses the events in Jesus’ life that lead to the cross and resurrection. If Jotham’s Journey is any indication, Amon’s Adventure is well worth reading!
I hope you can find one or two of these great books to read this year at Easter. If you know of any books I should add to my list, be sure to comment or shoot me an email. I’d love your input!