a list of…five books to consider for Easter celebrations

I’ve posted a few Easter titles in past years which you can locate at these links — both religious and egg-y titles.

I don’t find many Easter-themed books compelling, honestly, but I have gathered five more, ranging from religious  to whimsical, that stand out from the crowd. 

jesus by brian wildsmith cover imageJesus, written and illustrated by Brian Wildsmith
published in 2000 by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

Brian Wildsmith is a brilliant illustrator, whose kaleidoscopic color,  exuberant lines and spattering and detail,  have won him prestigious jesus illustration by brian wildsmithawards as well as the affection and admiration of so many of us. You should visit his website to see more of his titles to explore.

Here he traces the life of Jesus — his birth, his visit to Jerusalem at age 12, his baptism and temptation, a number of his miracles, the transfiguration, his triumphant entrance into Jerusalem, the Last Supper, his trial, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and Pentecost. 

Each of these is narrated quite briefly, and illustrated in those exquisite bursts of color Wildsmith is known for. He’s set each scene in a golden window frame, as though they are stained glass windows in a cathedral. Gorgeous work, with the story of Jesus’ life presented plainly, without commentary.

chicken sunday cover image polaccoChicken Sunday, written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco
published in 1992 by Philomel Books

Drawing on a childhood memory, master storyteller Patricia Polacco wrote this warm story, full of generosity, kindness, a love that chicken sunday illustration patricia polacco 001reaches across all kinds of divides… and fried chicken.

Miss Eula is neighbor and surrogate gramma to Patricia, and oh how Patricia loves her. Loves Miss Eula’s singing voice “like slow thunder and sweet rain” and loves her mouth-watering Sunday dinners — a banquet of fried chicken, greens, spoon bread and more.

Easter is coming, and Miss Eula has been powerfully admiring the beautiful hats in Mr. Kodinski’s shop. How can Patricia, Winston, and Stewart earn enough money to buy one for her? And how can they convince old Mr. Kodinski that they are not the mean kids who threw eggs at his door? 

Pysanky eggs and chutzpah — that’s the solution. And tenderness and understanding. All of it comes together just in time for Miss Eula’s Easter Sunday solo. This is a very sweet story. Polacco’s rich, human figures and faces add immensely to the beauty of it.

i wonder as i wander cover imageI Wonder as I Wander, by Gwenyth Swain, illustrated by Ronald Himler
published in 2003 by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

The Appalachian folk song, “I Wonder as I Wander” is sung as a Christmas carol, and that makes sense given that one of the verses is about Jesus’ birth.

The song begins and ends, though, with a wondering about how Jesus, the King, would come to die for “poor orn’ry people like you i wonder as i wander illustration ronald himler 001and like I” and that seems to me to be an invitation to make use of this in our Easter celebrations as well.

The song was brought to us through the work of John Jacob Niles who traveled Appalachia transcribing these traditional melodies. He heard it sung by a young girl named Annie Morgan.

This fictitious story pleasantly, poignantly imagines the origins of Annie’s song and her encounter with Mr. Niles. It’s a beautiful slice of Americana, and a dear story of a young girl, the daughter of an itinerant preacher, whose mother has recently died. Her questions and wonderings about God, death, grief, and poverty, and her father’s measured answers, find their way into this haunting song. 

I just came across this book, and I really like it. Himmler’s handsome, evocative watercolors are a perfect complement. Ages 5 and up.

peter's first easter cover imagePeter’s First Easter, by Walter Wangerin, Jr. illustrated by Timothy Ladwig
published in 2000 by Zondervan

Here’s a first: I’ve never put a book on Orange Marmalade that I’ve not read cover to cover. But I haven’t even seen this one!

It’s a title that my friend Haley highly recommends, though, and she’s blogged about it over at Aslan’s Library, where she covers “theological books for kids.” 

It’s the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection as told by his disciple Peter. The one who brashly said he would not turn his back on Jesus come what may, then flatly denied knowing him three times in one swift evening. Haley calls it “a book about the power of God’s forgiveness” and I’ll just link you to her review of it over at her blog.

easter parade cover image chalmersEaster Parade, written and illustrated by Mary Chalmers
published in 1988 by Harper & Row

Mary Chalmers is the illustrator of many charming little animal stories for preschoolers. 

This is a sweet little romp of a parade, with Easter Chickens coming over the mountains in a golden, sort of hot-air-balloon-carriage, and Easter Bunnies pouring from the easter parade illustration mary chalmers 001springtime woods, and Easter Ducks sailing across the lake in pastel boats, all convening at the Easter Farm where they load up the farm wagons with jolly, beribboned baskets of colored eggs and deliver them to happy bunnies and kittens and mice and skunks.

So darling! When they’re done, and every little cute child has a basket, they discover there’s one basket left over. Who did they miss? They will not rest until they find this person, no matter how tiny she may be! How nice.

Such a happy story, so full of springtime beauty and thoughtfulness and Easter celebration. 

Still to come this week, I’ve got some lamb-y stories and a couple of Passover titles to consider for your Holy Week collections.