Faith-filled books excellent for sharing with children around the Christmas tree
Reviewed by Katie Bogner
One of my favorite places to read this time of year is near the Christmas tree. The sparkling lights create a cozy and cheery atmosphere, perfect for enjoying a good book. This is especially true when reading together with your children, grandchildren, or godchildren.
As you gather around the Christmas tree this season, I encourage you to grab a warm blanket, some hot cocoa, and a few faith-filled books like these:
“The Mass and the Manger: My Interactive Christmas Story,” by Jennifer Sharpe from Ascension Kids. This sweet picture book has interactive pages that flip to tell two intertwined stories: one side of the page retells the narrative of the first Christmas, and when the page is flipped, the story is connected to events during the Mass. Both words and illustrations can help even young children understand the connection between Baby Jesus in Bethlehem and Jesus in the tabernacle at their parish church.
“The Jesse Tree for Families,” by Colleen Pressprich from Our Sunday Visitor. The Jesse Tree is a Scripture-centered Advent tradition that shares the stories of key figures in the Old Testament and how they pointed the way to the coming Messiah. This book has beautiful illustrations for each person, a child-friendly reflection, and additional info for parents. As a bonus, it also includes lovely ornaments that can be cut out of the book and used with each daily reflection. After working through a list of people for the first weeks of Advent, the final week is spent reflecting on the O Antiphons, which are seven titles of Jesus. The final reflection is on O Emmanuel, illustrated by the Eucharist, making a perfect reminder at the end of the Advent season that Jesus, whom we’ve been waiting for, is always with us!
“The Shepherd at the Crib and the Cross,” by Patrick O’Hearn from Emmaus Road Publishing. This Christmas picture book is told from the perspective of a young shepherd boy who witnessed the Nativity and carries his encounter with the Holy Family with him as he grows up. Years later, he also witnesses the Crucifixion. The illustrations use light and darkness artfully, especially meaningful during the Season of Advent. This book can help children understand that the miracle of Christmas doesn’t end with the birth of Jesus. Through the story of this fictional shepherd, we are reminded that Baby Jesus is the Messiah who came to redeem us through His life, death, and Resurrection.
“Faithful Friends: Favorite Stories of People in the Bible,” by Michael and Marcy Kelleher from Zonderkidz. Illustrated with photos of Marcy’s incredible handmade dolls, these stories of men and women from both the Old and New Testaments will make for a warm read-aloud as a family. There are so many details to look at in the clothing and backgrounds of each character, hinting at facts from their lives. It would be a perfect companion to the Jesse Tree during Advent, but I think will become a beloved classic to use all year long, telling how each of the 40 people fit into the story of salvation.
“Seek and You Will Find: Treasures of Our Faith,” by Kortnee Senn from studiosenn.com. With nostalgic “I Spy” vibes, this book is filled to the brim with intricate photos of Catholic art, toys, sacramentals, and more. The rhyming clues and extra details create a fun scavenger hunt that can be explored again and again. I’ve witnessed young people from preschool through teen enamored by the seek and find, making it the perfect book for the whole family to gather around and enjoy together.
KATIE BOGNER is junior high faith formation teacher at St. Philomena School in Peoria, director of religious education at Immaculate Conception Parish in Lacon, and a popular blogger at looktohimandberadiant.com. A member of The Catholic Post’s book review team, she was too humble to include in the above list her own just-released book, “All about Advent and Christmas: Sharing the Seasons of Hope and Wonder with Children,” published by Emmaus Road. We’ll fix that here.