Scott’s Column: Some Children’s Books
Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones
November 5 2018
In October Sebastian and I were driving along as I was listening to a podcast about Islamic science. The podcast mentioned the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when suddenly from the backseat Sebastian excitedly yelled out, “Ramadan! I have that book.”
Score a few parenting points—your kid likes and knows his books, your kid actually listening to the radio, your kid learning about interfaith and multicultural inclusion!
A couple of years ago I realized that we had many good books for Sebastian—some with good stories, some with great art, and ones that promoted our values, including a few books of other faiths. But we didn’t have many great Christian books. Here are a few I can now recommend.
When Sebastian has a favourite book, we will read it every day, sometimes for months. At one point Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Pena and Christian Robinson was one of those. This is the story of CJ and his Nana who, after church on Sundays, ride the bus across town to serve meals in a soup kitchen.
At the time we read this book every day, Sebastian was very into buses. The religious message in this story isn’t as explicit as in some books, which is one reason we probably enjoyed it so. The story is a beautiful expression of many of the values central to our faith.
The World Is Awake: A Celebration of Everyday Blessings by Lindsey Davis, Joseph Bottum, and Lucy Fleming engages with beautiful art. The main reason I got it was how it celebrates the day as made by God and full of blessings, all while the family in the story does the sorts of things our family might do on a weekend—enjoy nature, visit the zoo, shop at the farmer’s market, prepare a meal, and read stories. Reading the book Sebastian has been able to see the parallels with our life together.
The book’s only drawback is a lack of gender inclusive language for God, though I correct that while reading it.
Recently The Christian Century recommended a handful of children’s books, and I went to Urban Abbey to look at them. I brought two home. The first is The Marvelous Mustard Seed by Amy-Jill Levine, Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, and Margaux Meganck. Levine is a leading scholar of Jesus who happens to be Jewish. One of Levine’s specialties is interpreting the parables of Jesus as Jewish stories.
This is a contemporary retelling of the parable of the mustard seed which simply delights me with how it reveals in child-friendly fashion essential points about the kingdom of God that I usually see in scholarly commentaries. Now my child will grow up learning these lessons at the youngest age. One can only hope Levine will write more such children’s books!
Oh, and you can expect to hear this one read as a children’s sermon in church some Sunday.
Sebastian is still a little young for most Children’s Bibles. The Christian Century and my friends at Urban Abbey recommended Growing in God’s Love: A Story Bible edited by Elizabeth F. Caldwell and Carol A. Wehrheim. We’ve only read a little bit from this one so far. It’s still a little over Sebastian’s current understanding, but it seems to be a story Bible we’ll be able to use for years as he begins to learn more of the details of our tradition and even as he begins to have some questions.
As the holidays approach and you are considering gifts for the children you know, I hope you find these recommendations helpful.