Looking for a story about spirituality?
(* = My favourites)
Addasi, Maha. Time to Pray. Boyds Mills Press, 2010.
Yasmin visits her grandmother in the Middle East, hears the muezzin calling people to prayer and learns the spiritual customs of her Muslim faith before returning home with her own prayer clock to help her remember to pray five times a day. This picture book illustrated by Ned Gannon includes an Arabic translation by Nuha Albitar.
Bryan, Ashley. All Things Bright and Beautiful. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2010. Brightly coloured full-page illustrations accompany the words of the classic hymn by Cecil F. Alexander.
* Byars, Betsy. The Glory Girl. Penguin, 1983.
Anna Glory is the only member of her musical family who can’t sing. She feels like she doesn’t belong until an accident changes everything. (Family life; Singers; Self-perception)
* Carlstrom, Nancy White. Glory. Eerdman’s Books for Young Readers, 2001.
Carlstrom has written many picture books but this time, she has written an exuberant poem in praise of all the amazing animals in this world. Following the pattern of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem, Glory Be To God for Dappled Things, the poem is full of five senses details and vivid adjectives. It would be a wonderful book to read to five-year-olds but would be even more useful in writing classes with eight-grade students. It is dazzlingly illustrated by Debra Reid Jenkins, who also created the pictures for My Freedom Trip by Frances and Ginger Park.
* Codell, Esme Raji. Seed by Seed: the Legend and Legacy of Johnny ‘Appleseed’. New York: Greenwillow Books, 2012.
In the early 1800s, an American travelled through Ohio and Indiana planting apple trees. John Chapman planted hundreds and hundreds of trees, so many that he became known as Johnny Appleseed. What most people do not know is that he said that spirits and angels had told him to be a messenger of peace. This inspiring picture book is highly recommended for readers of all ages who believe that how one lives is as important as what one believes.
Codell, Esme Raji. Vive la Paris. Hyperion Books for Children, 2006.
Paris learns about the Holocaust from her piano teacher and learns how to deal with bullies at school in this companion novel to Sahara Special. (AR 5.0; brothers and sisters; African-Americans; Chicago; Bullying; Humorous stories; Schools)
* Cooper, Ilene. The Golden Rule.
In this lovely picture book, a grandfather explains the Golden Rule as it described in Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and the Shawnee Native American tradition. (AR 2.7)
Craven, Margaret. I Heard the Owl Call My Name. Laurel, 1980, c1973.
Mark, a young Anglican priest who is dying, learns about life when he moves to a First Nations village in a remote part of British Columbia. Recommended only for mature readers who can understand racism within a historical context. (Death; First Nations; British Columbia; Young adult)
* Crowley, Suzanne. The Very Ordered Existence of Merilee Marvelous. Greenwillow Books, 2007.
Thirteen-year-old Merilee, with Asperger’s Syndrome, finds her orderly life changing when a new boy arrives in town and makes himself a part of her family. (Texas, Family life, Schools; Autism; Friendship)
DePaola, Tomie. The Parables of Jesus.Holiday House, 1987.
Accompanying the parables are lively illustrations in the style of mid-eleventh century European art.
DePaola, Tomie. Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland. Holiday House, 1992.
A lyrical biography, accompanied by the author’s inimitable illustrations, of the famous saint of Ireland.
* DiCamillo, Kate. Because of Winn-Dixie. Candlewick Press, 2000.
Ten-year-old Opal and her dog adjust to life in a new town in Florida. (Summer; Moving, Household; Newbery Medal)
*Dutton, Sandra. Mary Mae and the Gospel Truth. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2010.
“Ten-year-old Mary Mae, living with her parents in fossil-rich southern Ohio, tries to reconcile, despite her mother’s strong disapproval, her family’s Creationist beliefs with the prehistoric fossils she studies in school.” – CIP. Highly recommended for readers 7-years-old and up. [Christian life; Creationism; Faith; Family life; Mothers and daughters; Ohio; Schools]
Foggo, Cheryl. One Thing That’s True. Kids Can Press, 1997.
Thirteen-year-old Roxanne’s life becomes frustrating when her parents start arguing, her brother is angry with everyone and she starts spending far too much time thinking about a boy named Michael. (African-Canadians; Racism; Alberta; Runaways; Brothers and sisters; Secrets; Dating; Family life; Summer)
Galante, Cecilia. The Patron Saint of Butterflies. New York: Bloomsbury Pub., 2008.
“When her grandmother takes fourteen-year-old Agnes, her younger brother, and best friend Honey and escapes Mount Blessing, a Connecticut religious commune, Agnes clings to the faith she loves while Honey looks toward a future free of control, cruelty, and preferential treatment.” – FVRL. [Christian life; Communal life; Connecticut; Cults]
* Gidwitz, Adam. The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog. New York: Dutton Children’s Books, 2016.
Do miracles happen? Can hearts change? Will goodness prevail? Three travellers – a peasant girl with a mysterious greyhound, a Jewish refugee, and a boy raised in a monastery – flee persecution in 13th century France. Illustrated in medieval style by Hatem Aly and followed by a long author’s note and an annotated bibliography, this 337-page Newbery Medal winning novel will be avidly devoured by competent readers 11 years old and up. [Adventure stories, Faith; France; Medieval life; Quests; Persecution]
* Gilani-Williams, Fawzia. Nabeel’s New Pants: An Eid Tale. Marshall Cavendish Children, 2007.
A shoemaker goes shopping for gifts for his mother, his wife and his daughter to wear to the mosque on Eid. He finally buys a new pair of pants for himself but no one has time to shorten them, so he does it himself only to be surprised when he discovers everyone else has also secretly shortened them. (Turkey; Muslims; Family life; Secrets; Humorous stories)
Golio, Gary. Spirit Seeker: John Coltrane’s Musical Journey. Boston: Clarion Books, 2012.
Jazz musican John Coltrane grew up in a home filled with music and filled with faith in God. Both influenced his entire life: he learned to play the saxophone and after a difficult time during young adulthood when he was addicted to drugs and alcohol, he returned to the faith of his childhood. Powerfully illustrated with acrylic paintings and mixed media pictures, this outstanding picture book is highly recommended for music lovers 10 years old and up. [African Americans; Faith; Jazz — Biography; Music — History; Musicans]
Greene, Rhonda Gowler. The Beautiful World that God Made. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2002.
“A retelling of the Creation story, in which various features of the Earth and its inhabitants are praised for their beauty, splendor, and role in the beginning of the world.” – CIP. A variation on the children’s song ‘This is the House that Jack Built.’
Haddix, Margaret Peterson. Double Identity. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2005.
Thirteen-year-old Bethany discovers frightening secrets about her own past after her parents leave her with an aunt and disappear. (Secrets; Grief; Family life; Cloning)
Hautman, Pete. Godless. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2004.
Sixteen-year-old Jason, restless and rebellious, rejects his Catholic faith and creates a new religion with a new god: the local water tower. Friends follow along as he embarks on all sorts of pranks, but the fun starts to disappear when the new faith starts to take on a life of its own. A National Book Award winner, this young adult novel will be appreciated by readers who are able to read between the lines and ones who enjoyed The Bromeliad series by Terry Pratchett. (Religion; Summer; Teenagers; Peer pressure; Parent and teenager; Friendship; Courage)
Heneghan, James. Bank Job. Orca Book Publishers, 2009.
Thirteen-year-old Nell and her friends rob banks to help their foster parents keep them. (Humorous stories; Vancouver; Juvenile delinquents)
* Hilmo, Tess. With A Name Like Love. Margaret Ferguson Books/Farrar Straus Giroux, 2011.
Thirteen-year-old Olivene Love gets tangled up in a murder mystery when her itinerant preaching family arrives in the small town of Binder, Arkansas in 1957. – CIP (Arkansas; Mystery and detective stories; Faith; Country life; Family life; Historical fiction)
Hodges, Margaret. Moses. Harcourt, 2007.
The story of the man who led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, accompanied by Barry Moser’s full-page watercolour illustrations, is told calmly yet lyrically and would be lovely shared as a read-aloud with children aged seven and up.
* Holmes, Kathryn. The Distance Between Lost and Found. New York: HarperTeen, 2015.
“Sophomore Hallie Calhoun, her former friend Jonah, and her new friend Rachel leave a church youth group hike in the Great Smoky Mountains and become lost for five days, struggling to survive as Hallie finally speaks about the incident that made her a social pariah and Jonah admits why it hurt him so much.” – CIP. Highly recommended for readers 12 years old and up. [Bullying; Camps; Conduct of life; Faith; Friendship; Teenagers; Wilderness Survival]
* Horvath, Polly. My One Hundred Adventures. Schwartz & Wade Books, 2008.
Twelve-year-old Jane, who lives at the beach in a run-down old house with her mother, two brothers, and sister, has an eventful summer accompanying her pastor on Bible deliveries, meeting former boyfriends of her mother’s, and being coerced into babysitting for a family of ill-mannered children, all the while learning valuable lessons about life. – CIP (Summer; Single-parent families; Self-reliance)
* Hrdlitschka, Shelley. Sister Wife. Orca Book Pub., 2008.
Three teenaged girls living in a polygamous cult have to decide what they believe and what they will do when they are expected to marry older men. (British Columbia; Marriage; Family life; Abuse; Courage; Young adult)
Innes, Shona. Life is Like the Wind. Hauppauge, NY: Barron’s, 2014.
A picture book that gently deals with grief and various beliefs about what happens when people die.
Little, Jean. Kate. Harper & Row, 1971.
Kate, the child of Jewish-Protestant parents, finds her religious confusion affecting her relationship with her best friend. (Friendship; Self-acceptance)
Lumbard, Alexis York. Everyone Prays: Celebrating Faith Around the World. Bloomington, Ind.: Wisdom Tales, 2014.
A very simple, very short, brightly illustrated picture book about the prayer customs of major world religions.
Mathieu, Jennifer. Devoted. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2015.
“Rachel Walker is devoted to God and her large family, but as her curiosity about the world her parents turned from grows and she finds that neither Calvary Christian Church nor her homeschool education has the answer she craves, she considers leaving her sheltered life, as an older sister did.” – CIP. The novel moves along at a quick enough pace that readers will want to keep going to find out what happens. But the characterization is rather flat and the writing not all that remarkable in its quality. Nevertheless, it is an easy and interesting read for mature readers 12 years old an up. [Brothers and sisters; Christian life; Family life; Home schooling; Runaways; Texas]
* McDermott, Gerald. Creation. Dutton Children’s Books, 2003.
A beautifully illustrated picture book creatively retelling the Biblical story from Genesis 1.1 to 2.3.
Mobin-Uddin, Asma. A Party in Ramadan. Boyds Mills, 2009.
In this picture book, Leena is excited about fasting during Ramadan until she receives an invitation to a classmate’s party. (Friendship; Culture conflict; Muslims)
Moses, Shelia P. The Baptism. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2007.
Twelve-year-old Leon worries about whether he wants to give up sinning so he can be baptized along with his twin brother. (African-Americans; North Carolina; Humorous stories)
* Moses, Shelia P. Sallie Gal and the Wall-a-kee Man. Scholastic Press, 2007.
Set in North Carolina, this easy-to-read novel describes that difficult time in life when you have to start earning money to get the things you want. Sallie Gal wants ribbons for her hair. But her mother cannot afford them. So Sallie Gal and her cousin decide to sell lemonade and earn enough money to buy their own ribbons from the travelling salesman who regularly stops by their house. Based on the author’s own African American childhood, this heartwarming story is suitable for children starting to read novels and adults who remember their own first lessons on the importance of honesty.
Muth, Jon J. Zen Shorts. New York: Scholastic Press, 2005.
Addy, Karl and Michael visit Stillwater, the giant panda, and listen to stories. They hear about Uncle Ry who gave a gift to a thief, and they hear about a monk who is angry about an ungrateful woman. Gracefully, quietly, this Caldecott Honor Book leaves readers of all ages with new perspectives to consider.
Newton, Suzanne. I Will Call It Georgie’s Blues. New York,: Puffin Books, 1990.
Fifteen-year-old Neal hides his interest in jazz music because of his Baptist minister father’s strict expectations about his children’s behaviour. (North Carolina; Family life; Fathers and sons)
* Osborne, Mary Pope. The Life of Jesus in Masterpieces of Art. Viking, 1998.
The popular author of the Magic Tree House series retells the life of Jesus accompanied by great works of art from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. An illustrated appendix provides the title, date and artist for each painting including The Prodigal Son by Bosch and The Last Supper by Fra Angelico.
* Parry, Rosanne. Heart of a Shepherd. New York: Random House 2009.
Ignatius “Brother” Alderman, nearly twelve, promises to help his grandparents keep the family’s Oregon ranch the same while his brothers are away and his father is deployed to Iraq, but as he comes to accept the inevitability of change, he also sees the man he is meant to be. – CIP [Iraq War, 2003; Faith; Family life; Christian life; Oregon; Ranch life; Grandfathers; Responsibility]
Paterson, Katherine. Come Sing, Jimmy Jo. New York: Avon, 1985.
When Jimmy joins his family in the country music business, his mother and uncle start to resent him, friends treat him differently and a stranger shows up with secrets to reveal. (Fathers and sons; Grandparents; Musicians)
* Paterson, Katherine. The Day of the Pelican. New York: Clarion Books, 2009.
In 1998 when the Kosovo hostilities escalate, the life of thirteen-year-old Meli, an ethnic Albanian, changes forever after her brother escapes his Serbian captors and the entire family flees from one refugee camp to another until they are able to immigrate to America. – CIP (Historical; War; Refugees; Homelessness; Immigrants; Courage; Muslims)
* Paterson, Katherine. Jacob Have I Loved. New York: Harper Collins, 1980.
Caroline has always been the beautiful and talented twin but Sara Louise wishes that for once, she could be the special sister. (Islands; Twins; Young adult; Newbery Medal)
Paulsen, Gary. The Tent. Harcourt Brace, 1995.
Fourteen-year-old Steven is embarrassed when his father takes him along on his preaching trips until he discovers all the things he can buy with the money they receive from the people who trust them. (Fathers and sons; Greed; Honesty; Voyages and travels)
* Peck, Richard. A Season of Gifts. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2009.
Twelve-year-old Bob Barnhart and his family move to move to a small Illinois town in 1958 when Bob’s father becomes the minister of a derelict church. But his loneliness is eased and life becomes adventurous when he meets their new neighbor, Mrs. Dowdel. (Moving, Household; Historical fiction; Family life; Faith; Illinois; Humorous stories]
* Pfeffer, Susan Beth. The Dead and the Gone. Orlando, Fla.: Harcourt, 2008.
“After a meteor hits the moon and sets off a series of horrific climate changes, seventeen-year-old Alex Morales must take care of his sisters alone in the chaos of New York City.” – CIP. Part of an exciting trilogy for readers twelve years old and up. [Brothers and sisters; Natural Disasters; New York (City); Survival]
Reeve, Philip. A Web of Air. Scholastic Press, 2010.
In this sequel to Fever Crumb, the main character is now two years older and working as an electrical engineer for a group of travelling performers. In this futuristic world where people scoff at the old myths of people landing on the moon, she meets a young man secretly building a plane and fights against powerful people who use religion to keep people subservient. [England; Science fiction; Technology]
* Rumford, James. Nine Animals and the Well. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003.
The rhythm in this hilarious counting tale about nine travelling animals bearing gifts for the raja-king in India makes it a great read-aloud for kindergarten to fourth grade students. But the last page of the story could also be compared to the Biblical story of the prodigal son and could lead to a discussion about relationships full of joy and without pride.
Rylant, Cynthia. Bless Us All. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1998.
A collection of 12 short blessings, or poems, one for each month of the year.
Rylant, Cynthia. Creation. New York: Beach Lane Books, 2016.
“In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.” And so starts this picture book adapted from the book of Genesis and illustrated in a simple style with acrylic paints. Highly recommended for all ages.
Rylant, Cynthia. Fine White Dust. Aladdin Paperbacks, 1986.
Thirteen-year-old Peter is excited when a travelling preacher comes to town, but he discovers that words and actions don’t always match when people say they believe in God. (North Carolina; Newbery Medal)
*Scanlon, Liz Garton. Great Good Summer. New York: Beach Lane Books, 2015.
“Loomer, Texas, twelve-year-old Ivy Green, whose mother may have run off with a charismatic preacher to Panhandle, Florida, and classmate Paul Dobbs, who wants to see a Space Shuttle before the program is scrapped, team up for a summer adventure that is full of surprises.” – CIP. A marvellous lyrical novel for readers in grades 5 to 8. [Christian life; Faith; Friendship; Mothers and daughters; Runaways]
Schlitz, Laura Amy. The Hired Girl. Somerville, Mass.: Candlewick Press, 2015.
“Fourteen-year-old Joan Skraggs, just like the heroines in her beloved novels, yearns for real life and true love. But what hope is there for adventure, beauty, or art on a hardscrabble farm in Pennsylvania where the work never ends? Over the summer of 1911, Joan pours her heart out into her diary as she seeks a new, better life for herself – because maybe, just maybe, a hired girl cleaning and cooking for six dollars a week can become what a farm girl could only dream of – a woman with a future.” – FVRL. A marvellous 387-page novel for romantic readers 12 years old and up. [Baltimore (Md.); Diaries; Historical fiction; Jewish families; Maryland; Runaways; Servants]
* Schmidt, Gary D. Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy. Clarion Books, 2004.
Turner is not pleased when his father moves the family to Phippsburg, Maine. He is even less pleased when his father, a church minister, expects him to always behave with dignity and diplomacy. But when he is also expected to go along with the growing racism that is forcing African Americans from their homes, he takes a stand which brings about surprising changes. Set in 1911, this novel for sixth to ninth graders is a Newbery Honor Book. (Maine; Newbery Medal; Faith; Moving, Household; Fathers and sons; African Americans; Racism; Historical fiction; Coming of age)
* Schmidt, Gary D. The Wednesday Wars. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2007.
Seventh-grader Holling, who has to stay in his classroom every Wednesday afternoon while his classmates attend Catechism or Hebrew school, learns more about life when his teacher makes him study the plays of William Shakespeare. (Fathers and sons; Baseball; Running; New York; Humorous stories; Dating; Coming of age; Vietnam conflict; Newbery Medal)
*Smith-Ready, Jeff. This Side of Salvation. New York: Simon Pulse, 2014.
“After his older brother is killed, David turns to anger and his parents to religion, but just as David’s life is beginning to make sense again his parents press him and his sister to join them in cutting worldly ties to prepare for the Rush, when the faithful will be whisked off to heaven.” – FVRL. This 368-page novel is highly recommended for competent readers 13-years-old and up. [Cults; Faith; Families; Grief; Pennsylvania; Schools]
* Speare, Elizabeth George. The Bronze Bow. Houghton Mifflin Co., 1989.
Daniel struggles a to find a way to drive out the Romans who killed his father but slowly discovers that love might be stronger than hate. (Historical fiction; Palestine; Rome; Newbery Medal)
* Spier, Peter. Noah’s Ark. Doubleday Book for Young Readers, 1977.
This renowned illustrator has created a lively, wordless Caldecott Medal story to accompany his own translation of the 17th-century Dutch poem, The Flood by Jacobus Revius.
*Stampler, Ann Redisch. The Wooden Sword: A Jewish Folktale from Afghanistan. Chicago: Albert Whitman & Company, 2012.
A wise Muslim shah in Kabul disguises himself in order to test a poor Jewish shoemaker’s faith in the goodness of God. Brightly illustrated by Carol Liddiment and recommended for ages 7 to 14. [Afghanistan; Faith; Folklore; Jews; Kings; Muslims]
Stiegemeyer, Julie. Under the Baobab Tree. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zonderkidz, 2012.
Moyo and his sister Japers hurry to the baobab tree in their African village, wondering whether they will find peddlers, conversation among the elders, storytellers, or perhaps something new. – CIP [Africa; Baobab; Brothers and sisters; Faith; Trees; Villages]
Todd, Pamela. The Blind Faith Hotel. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2008.
“When her parents separate and she and her siblings move with their mother from the northwest coast to a midwest prairie farmhouse, fourteen-year-old Zoe, miserably unhappy to be away from the ocean and her father, begins to develop a deep attachment to her new surroundings, when, after a shoplifting episode, she is assigned to work at a nature preserve.” – CIP Recommended for readers 12 to 15 years old.
* Turnbull, Ann. Forged in the Fire. Candlewick Press, 2007.
Eighteen-year-old Susanna hopes to be reunited with her fiancé after three years apart and much opposition from their parents who hold different religious beliefs, but the arrival of the plague brings new dangers. (Middle Ages; England; Young adult)
* Turnbull, Ann. No Shame, No Fear. Candlewick Press, 2003.
Fifteen-year-old Ann, the daughter of poor Quakers, falls in love with seventeen-year-old Will, the son of wealthy Anglicans. (Middle Ages; England; Young adult; Love)
* Visconti, Guido. Clare and Francis. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2004, c2003. (Biography; Middle Ages; Italy)
Voigt, Cynthia. Come a Stranger. Atheneum, 1986.
In this fifth story in the Tillerman cycle, Mina’s love for a minister changes both of their lives. (African-Americans; Self-perception)
* Walker, Rob D. Mama Says: a Book of Love for Mothers and Sons. The Blue Sky Press, 2009.
In this beautifully illustrated picture book, wisdom from twelve different cultures – Cherokee, Russian, Ethiopian, Japanese, Indian, Inuit, Israeli, English, Korean, Arabic, Quechua and Danish – is shared by mothers with their sons.
Walters, Eric. Black and White. Puffin Canada, 2009.
Thomas becomes friend with a girl on the high school basketball team and all seems fine until they start dating, the racist comments begin and their cultural differences become more visible. (African-Americans; Friendship; Dating)
* Weinheimer, Beckie. Converting Kate. New York: Viking Childrens Books, 2007.
“After moving from Arizona to Maine, sixteen-year-old Kate tries to recover from her father’s death as she resists her mother’s dogmatic religious beliefs and attempts to find a new direction to her life.” – FVRL. This novel, presenting various religious views, is recommended for readers in grades 8 to 12. [Faith; Family problems; Friendship; Gay teenagers; Grief; Moving, Household; Maine; Schools; Self-perception]
White, Ruth. A Month of Sundays. New York: Margaret Ferguson Books/Farrar Straus Giroux, 2011.
“In the summer of 1956 while her mother is in Florida searching for a job, fourteen-year-old April Garnet Rose, who has never met her father, stays with her terminally ill aunt in Virginia and accompanies her as she visits different churches, looking for God.” – CIP. A smoothly flowing story, far more engaging than most novels written in first-person present tense, recommended for readers 11 years old and up. Could be compared to the more humorous story, The Canning Season by Polly Horvath, also about a girl sent north from Florida to live with aunts. [Aunts; Christianity; Country life; Faith; Family problems; Fathers and daughters; Historical fiction; Virginia]
Wigger, J. Bradley. Thank You, God. Grand Haven, Michigan : Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2014.
The colours in the full-page pictures by Jago, an award-winning illustrator, create a picture book suitable all year round but especially for Canadian Thanksgiving. This story of faith can be appreciated by readers of all ages, not only Christians but any who believe in a God.
* Wildsmith, Brian. Exodus. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 1998.
The story of Moses and how he led the Israelites from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the land of Canaan is lyrically retold and wondrously illustrated by this well-known picture book artist.
Stories about forgiveness: HERE