Editors’ picks: Saint books for kids–and their parents

Introduce your kids to the saints with these delightful books. Recommend your own favorites in the comments section below!

For kids

Once upon a Time Saints by Ethel Pochocki, illustrated by Tom Matt (Bethlehem Books).  Pochocki is one of my favorite writers for children on saints.  This book and the others in this series, More Once upon a Time Saints and Around the Year Once Upon a Time Saints offer a look at some more obscure saints. Pochocki takes her time with the stories and–hooray–has a sense of humor.

Loyola Kids Book of Saints  by Amy Welborn, illustrated by Ansgar Holmberg (Loyola). By the same author: Loyola Kids Book of Heroes: Stories of Catholic Heroes and Saints Throughout History (Loyola) Welborn’s books each cover a large number of saints and other holy folks, giving 3-4 pages to each (much better than the single-page skim-the-surface approach).  She tries to relate the events and themes of the saint’s life to the life of the young reader or listener. 

Saint Francis by Brian Wildsmith (Eerdmans) Wildsmith is one of the    finest artists in children’s books, and his words aren’t far behind.  See also his books Jesus and The Easter Story

Francis: The Poor Man of Assisi by Tomie dePaola (Holiday House) DePaola takes his time with the many stories of Francis’ life rather than skimming the surface.  A reliably excellent author/illustrator of books on saints, biblical stories, legends.

Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland by Tomie dePaola (Holiday House) Gives the details of Patrick’s real life along with some of the legends about him.  DePaola’s art is first rate.  Great for the under 10 set.

The Holy Twins: Benedict and Scholastica by Kathleen Norris, illustrated by Tomie dePaola, Illustrator (Putnam)  A wonderful, human story about the lives of these brother-sister twins.  Kathleen Norris is the author of spiritual classics such as The Cloister Walk and Amazing Grace (Riverhead).

The Song of Francis by Tomie dePaola (Putnam)  For a younger audience than dePaola’s Francis: The Poor Man of Assisi, this book bursts with the joy of Francis’ love for God.  He invites the birds to “come and bless the Lord, because the Lord loves you.”

Clare and Francis by Guido Visconti, illistrated by Bimba Landmann (Eerdmans).  St. Clare finally gets some notice in this wonderfully illustrated book for older children.

The Lady of Guadalupe by Tomie dePaola (Holiday House) DePaola’s terrific art adds to the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe’s appearance to St. Juan Diego of Mexico in 1531.

And one you’ll have to buy secondhand (easy to do online): Sister Wendy’s Book of Saints (Dorling Kindersley). I can’t think of an author who has more to say (in the fewest words) on spiritual topics than Sister Wendy Beckett.  Obviously a woman of deep spirituality and profound openness, she takes the reader through 40 paintings of saints found in illuminated manuscripts, with something worth hearing and pondering on every single page.  Appropriate for adults and children both (read with your younger kids).  If you like this book, get hold of Sister Wendy’s Story of Christmas, where she scrutinizes paintings of the Nativity through the eyes of faith. A gem.

For adults

All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time by Robert Ellsberg (Crossroad) A first-rate collection of saints and many others, including composers, literary figures, and crusaders for social justice, with a substantial, readable bio of each.  Ellsberg makes the humanity of his subjects shine through.

Blessed among all women: Women, saints, and prophetesses for our time by Robert Ellsberg (Crossroad).  Ellsberg groups these women by the beatitude that identifies them–a wonderful approach. The treatment of women in the section,  “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,” some of whom were harassed, locked up, and excommunicated by church authorities, is eye-opening. 

My Life with the Saints by James Martin, S.J. (Loyola) Martin’s engaging, popular book has sold thousands, with good reason.  Beginning with “the saint of the sock drawer” (St. Jude), Martin continues with a number of saints whose stories and examples have guided him at crucial points in his life.

Voices of the Saints: A 365-Day Journey with Our Spiritual Companions by Bert Ghezzi (Loyola)   Ghezzi’s book whenever possible offers, along with a short bio, some of the saint’s own writings or accounts about his or her life from the time.  Also he mentions many friendships between saints–a nice touch!

52 saints to pray with by Jean Marie Hiesberger (Paulist) Short but sweet, this book gives the highlights of each saint’s life followed by “His Life Speaks to Me” and “Following Her Example.” 

Becoming Who You Are: Insights on the true self from Thomas Merton and other saints by James Martin, S.J. (Paulist) A look at Merton and other holy examples through the lens of finding out who God wants you to be.

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