From reading all different sorts of stories that were set all over the world, I have learnt that all people experience both hardships and joys in life. For example, in the story An Adventure in Venice, I have learned that life is not always fair, not even on a vacation; Zoe, a little girl, loses her dog Mickey while in Italy. In A Faraway Island and A Night Divided, I have observed that when life is tough, people have to be brave; in the first novel, two Jewish sisters are sent from Austria to Sweden because of World War 2 and in the second novel, Gerta’s family gets divided overnight by the Berlin Wall in Germany. In Little Red Riding Hood, I noticed that sometimes not following directions can get a person into danger; Little Red Riding Hood on the way to visit her sick grandmother does not obey her mother and is endangered by a wolf. In Desmond and the Very Mean Word, I saw that hurting someone’s feelings is very unkind; some boys shout a very mean word at Desmond which turns his happiness and joy into sadness and anger. In Good Morning China, I discovered that almost everyone has some kind of special activity that makes them happy; in China, some children play basketball in the morning and other children water the plants. Overall, I have learnt a lot of amazing things about life! – Avneet in grade 6
From stories, I have learned a lot about life. I learned about racism in The Last Pass: two basketball teammates were friends but one always blamed himself for not helping his friend who was an African-American in a city with a bad history regarding race; I realized that people should always help their friends. I also learned about racism in Back of the Bus: in 1955 in Alabama, Rosa Parks was arrested for not giving her seat to a white person on the Montgomery bus; I realized that it is important to do what is right even when it feels dangerous, especially when laws are unjust. I also learned about unfairness in The Breadwinner: Afghan women have to stay inside their homes unless they wear burqas because men and women are not treated equally; I realized that I am fortunate to live in a country where both men and women are treated with respect. Unfairness was also shown in Breaking Stalin’s Nose: in the 1940s in the capital of Russia – Moscow – a boy named Sasha aspires to be a Soviet Pioneer until he witnesses his father taken away by the secret police because of a false report; I realized once again that I am fortunate to live in a country that is not communist. I learned that sometimes people have to find their own ways to survive difficulties in Silent Music: Ali, who loves soccer and loud music, lives in Baghdad, a dangerous place undergoing difficult times where he has to stay quietly indoors all day, so he spends his time practicing calligraphy; I learned that I am fortunate to live in a safe country where I can go outside whenever it is safe. But now when there is Covid-19 spreading all over the world and people are told to stay indoors, I am inspired to be creative and to always have hope and to learn at home. From picture books and novels, I have learned how to live with courage when there are dangerous times. – Mehtej in grade six
Ellis, Deborah. The Breadwinner. Toronto: Douglas & McIntyre, 2000.
Pomerantz, Gary M. The Last Pass. New York: Penguin Press, 2018.
Reynolds, Aaron. Back of the Bus. New York: Philomel Books, 2010.
Rumsford, James. Silent Music. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2008.
Yelchin, Eugene. Breaking Stalin’s Nose. New York: Henry Holt, 2011.
Morpurgo, Michael. The Day the World Stopped Turning. New York: Feiwel and Friends, 2019.
A teenager, tired of his studies in England, travels to France where he discovers a story from the second world war: An autistic boy and a Roma girl had met in a village and become friends. But when German soldiers had invaded, their lives were in danger. All Morpurgo’s novels are competently written, but most are for younger readers. In contrast, this sophisticated coming-of-age novel is highly recommended for thoughtful readers 12 years old and up.
P.S. Any novel by Feiwel and Friends is worth picking up. The topic might not interest you, but the writing will be wonderful.
Flett, Julie. Birdsong. Vancouver, BC: Greystone Kids/Greystone Books, 2019.
A young Cree girl moves to the countryside where she makes a new friend, an elderly woman who shares her love of art. Passing through the seasons of the year, this wistful picture book is filled with quiet love. It can take its place along with Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney as a story for readers who appreciate the power of creativity.
“Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.” – Leonardo da Vinci
“One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
“It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.” – Vincent Van Gogh
Noyes Deborah. Red Butterfly: How a Princess Smuggled the Secret of Silk Out of China. Cambridge, Mass.: Candlewick Press, 2007.
A Chinese princess secretly takes along silkworm cocoons and mulberry seeds when she is sent to marry the king of Khotan. This exquisite picture book – illustrated by Sophie Blackall – includes a two-page explanation of the legends surrounding the history of silk-making. Highly recommended for readers 7 years old and up.
The poetic description of everything the princess will miss when she has to leave her home is reminiscent of Shi-shi-etko by Nicola Campbell (Groundwood, 2005). Readers – and teachers – might like to compare the five senses details in the two stories.
Then, try writing your own descriptive sentences. Find techniques and examples HERE.
If you want to try writing a descriptive paragraph, see the writing at the end of a student’s literary analysis of The Colours of British Columbia by David Bouchard (Raincoast Books, 1994) HERE.
Wenzel, Brendan. A Stone Sat Still. San Francisco, California : Chronicle Books LLC, 2019.
A stone is a pebble to a moose and mountain to a snail. A wild place to some but a home for others. A dark rock in the night until the moonlight shines upon it. In this beautiful picture book, a stone is depicted from many different perspectives while all the while remaining steadily the same. A lovely book – in rhyming verse – to share with preschoolers, it is perhaps even more valuable as a way to start a conversation about life. Most highly recommended for all ages.
“Not enough people in this world, I think, carry a cosmic perspective with them. It could be life-changing.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson
“I believe everyone should have a broad picture of how the universe operates and our place in it. It is a basic human desire. And it also puts our worries in perspective.” – Stephen Hawking
“It’s useful to go out of this world and see it from the perspective of another one.” – Terry Pratchett
“To the world you may be one person; but to one person you may be the world.” – Dr. Seuss
“What are some Christian stories?”
There are many outstanding picture book versions of Bible stories. Gerald McDermot and Cynthia Rylant each have their own version of the biblical story of creation. Tomie de Paolo and Brian Wildsmith have both written and illustrated several Biblical stories, as well as biographies of Christian saints.
Then there are all the beautiful picture books of spiritual songs and poems. Ashley Bryan’s All Things Bright and Beautiful and Let it Shine. Nancy White Carlstrom’s Glory.
But do people of the Christian faith cease to be Christians on the days when they do not openly speak about their religion? Of course not.
Is speaking about one’s faith the essential characteristic of Christianity? No. The signs of mature faith are clearly listed in Galatians 5.22: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. A believer’s actual devotion will be shown by the presence of these qualities. Therefore, any stories that depict the “fruit of the Spirit” can be viewed as depicting “Christian” character.
Of course, they can also be viewed as depicting the values of many religions since those “fruit” are what are often called universal values. Nevertheless, stories that do not openly proclaim allegiance to Jesus Christ are not – as a result – inferior to instructive narratives of Christian faith.
Actually, many writers of children’s books are quietly Christian. Katherine Paterson, winner of the Newbery Award, says that “What you are will shape your book whether you want it to or not. I am Christian, so that conviction will pervade the book even when I make no conscious effort to teach or preach. Grace and hope will inform everything I write.”1
Brian Wildsmith, the award-winning British illustrator who died in 2016, said, “When I look at the most recent so-called religious books for children, I am appalled.”2 I agree. Many books put out by Christian publishing houses are not well-written. The emphasis on encouraging readers to become Christians seems to be more important than the quality of the writing.
Therefore, if you are looking for well-written Christian stories, look for books that are literary masterpieces. Look for stories that depict real people dealing with complicated life situations. Look for fantasy novels that show characters facing moral issues with resolve and integrity. Look for beautiful picture books that provide comfort and reassurance in a world that is too often full of uncertainty. Look for stories that portray hope and courage and goodness.
- “FAQ.” Welcome to the World of Katherine Paterson, www.katherinepaterson.com/faq. Accessed 1 Mar. 2020.
- Wildsmith, Brian. “Open Their Eyes to Beauty.” Questia, www.questia.com/magazine/1G1-72503291/open-their-eyes-to-beauty. Accessed 1 Mar. 2020.