Gift-Worthy Books for Kids: Stocking-stuffers that teach children about God's love and justice

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Editor's note: These products have been tested and approved by my very own expert panel of three Christmas elves, aged 3 to 11. Enjoy!

– Kristyn Komarnicki

Christmas-themed books:

ONLY A STAR (Eerdmans) by Margery Facklam asks, "What were the trimmings that first Christmas morning? What brightened the stable to welcome the Child?" Dragonflies, spiders, scarab beetles, doves, donkeys, jerboas, snails, nightingales – all of these creatures lived in the Holy Land when Jesus was born and helped brighten the stable that first Christmas morning.Lyrical and beautifully illustrated with dramatic paintings, ONLY A STAR describes how the smallest creatures and the most ordinary objects were transformed by the Christmas star into glorious decorations to welcome the Christ Child.

BRIGID'S CLOAK (Eerdmans) by Bryce Milligan retells an

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ancient tale about one of Ireland's most beloved saints. On the day she is born Brigid receives a brilliant blue cloak from a mysterious Druid. Years later, the young girl still wears the now tattered but beloved cloak while she tends her sheep. Is it her imagination that suddenly takes her to an unfamiliar land? Or is it something far greater that leads Brigid to a crowded inn in a town called Bethlehem? Bryce Milligan's eloquently told story about Brigid is a moving tale of compassion and wonder. Beautifully illustrated by Helen Cann, this book sparkles with the timelessness of legend and the transcending power of faith.

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HURON CAROL (Eerdmans) by Frances Tyrrell features the lyrics of Canada's most beautiful Christmas carol. Its writer, Father Jean de Brébeuf (1593–1649), was a Jesuit missionary who lived and worked among the Huron Indians for 22 years. Although Father de Brébeuf was killed during an Iroquois raid, the carol was kept alive in the Huron language for over 100 years before being translated into French, then finally into English in 1926. Frances Tyrrell's glorious illustrations combine the details of daily Huron life with the wonder of the Christmas story to create a book to treasure.

 

ONE NIGHT IN A STABLE (Eerdmans) by Guido Visconti

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tells of an old ox who, awaiting his master's return in a storm, welcomes many animals into his stable. But when a donkey carrying weary travelers seeks shelter, the ox must find a way to make room for them. Guido Visconti's gentle tale of hospitality and friendship, paired with soft and colorful illustrations from Alessandra Cimatoribus, reminds readers that selflessness is the true message of Christmas.

I WONDER AS I WANDER (Eerdmans) by Gwenyth Swain

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tells the tale of a young girl who wonders about a lot of things, like why her mother had to die or how she and her wandering preacher father will pay for gas and food when they're just as poor as everybody else. Finally she finds a way to express all her wonderings in a haunting song sung to a small crowd on the courthouse steps.This charming story, beautifully illustrated by Ronald Himler, tells how the beloved Appalachian Christmas carol "I Wonder As I Wander" may have come to be written.

 

Books with a justice theme:

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MISSISSIPPI MORNING (Eerdmans) by Ruth Vander Zee tells of a young boy whose comfortable life begins to unravel. First, he learns that the burning of a black man's house was not accidental. Then his fishing buddy tells him about the hanging tree and the Klan. Though he accepts that blacks and whites can?t eat at the same tables or drink from the same fountains because "that's the way it is," he can't believe that racial hatred exists in his own community until he comes face to face with a Klan member. A thought-provoking story of one boy's loss of naïveté in the face of harsh historical realities, MISSISSIPPI MORNING will challenge young readers to question their own assumptions and confront personal decisions.

ESPECIALLY HEROES (Eerdmans) by Virginia Kroll is the author's depiction of a series of real incidents

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that had an enormous impact on her when she was a child. In the story, a young girl learns firsthand from her parents and neighbors that ideals must be lived out, not just talked about, and that living out ideals sometimes involves facing danger.

Set in the early 1960s, ESPECIALLY HEROES gives an authentic glimpse of some of the challenges of race relations during that era of the civil rights movement in the United States. Kroll and illustrator Tim Ladwig give a unique perspective on an ordinary neighborhood of that time and the heroism of everyday people who responded with courage and caring when confronted with acts of hatred.

CLARE AND FRANCIS (Eerdmans) by Guido Visconti starts

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around the year 1200 in Assisi, Italy, when Francis and Clare were born into wealthy families but ended up choosing lives of poverty instead. Francis preached to both people and animals throughout the towns, while Clare cared for the sick in the convent of San Damiano. Both gave a joyful face to the spirituality of the Middle Ages and set examples that live on even today.

Here the story of Clare and Francis is told in simple words and illustrated through striking images adorned with gold. Opening with a short chronological biography accompanied by miniatures and closing with Francis's "Canticle of Brother Sun," this inspiring book will bring the tale of Assisi's two great saints to life for readers everywhere.

DOROTHY DAY: FRIEND TO THE FORGOTTEN (Eerdmans) by

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Deborah Kent (for kids 10 and up). This fascinating biography chronicles the life of Dorothy Day, known the world over as the leader of the Catholic Worker Movement. Guided by a strong commitment to social justice and by deep religious ideals, Dorothy Day dedicated her life to the service of others. Deborah Kent here recounts the trials and triumphs of Dorothy Day's life, detailing her role as the founder of The Catholic Worker newspaper, as the founder of numerous "houses of hospitality" that provided food and shelter to the destitute, and as the champion of causes that helped those in need.

Bible Truths:

In JUBILEE (Eerdmans), author Ellen Yeomans shares her vision of heaven

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as a joyful picnic and reunion where family and friends all gather to celebrate. Brilliantly illustrated by Tim Ladwig, JUBILEE shows the sights, sounds, and tastes of that celebration so vividly that young readers are sure to find themselves eager to be part of that Jubilee where "all joy is to be."

THE LORD'S PRAYER, PSALM 23, and

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WHEN DADDY PRAYS (Eerdmans), all illustrated by Tim Ladwig, depict beautifully rendered African-American families going through their daily lives wrapped in the truths of Scripture – delightful and moving editions for any library.

MADE FOR A PURPOSE (Zondervan) by Dandi Daley Mackall is an engaging picture book inspired by Rick Warren's bestselling book, THE PURPOSE-DRIVEN LIFE. C.J. doesn't do friends, and she doesn't smile. She learned one thing when her mother walked out on Dad

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and her: trust yourself and nobody else. C.J. has a secret hangout on a deserted end of the beach where she goes to dream about becoming a famous architect. One day, from her abandoned lifeguard stand, she overhears some kids from her neighborhood having a meeting on her beach. They disrupt her world with their talk about God and his purpose for their lives. Gradually some of the things the kids say start to make sense to her. When they ask her to do things with them, she accepts. In the end she learns that God is the ultimate architect and has a design and plan for her life. Includes a foreword and discussion questions by Rick Warren.

WHO IS MY NEIGHBOR (International Bible Society)
It's never too early to fill little hands and hearts with the great stories of the faith. Beautiful full-color illustrations combine with the easy-to-read NIrV text to introduce the timeless story of the Good Samaritan to young children. (Go to www.ibs.org to order.)

WHO AM I? A BACKWARDS BIBLE ALPHABET (International Bible Society) by G. Robert Paauw offers an engaging way to learn about Jesus and the alphabet at the same time! This beautiful hardcover children's book presents the alphabet in reverse order with bright, sophisticated artwork children will love. Using NIrV Scriptures, this book invites children to guess the One who is talked about throughout the Bible. (Go to www.ibs.org to order.)

Other media:

THE MEMORY BIBLE (Integrity Media)
Kids will love learning Bible stories and memorizing scripture with the help of The Memory Bible. Memorization is made fun and easy as kids can learn 52 key Bible verses through repetition of auditory and visual cues. The Bible storybook also includes a CD of sing-along music that is a great way to plant scripture in children's hearts.

LENNY & SID VIDEOS (Toonacious Family Entertainment)
Feature two unlikely friends: Lenny, a smart but self-conscious rabbit whose dull life is jazzed up by his imagination; and Sid, a no-nonsense mouse with a huge dose of self-confidence that can only be matched by his desire to "love and be loved." Kids will find much to identify with as Lenny & Sid face challenges and watch their relationship with God and each other grow.

Two LENNY & SID titles are available:
In "Tis the Reason," Lenny won't be at peace until he nabs the perfect part next to Jenny in the church Christmas play; meanwhile, Sid's hope is that a brand-new racing bike will make him the coolest kid in the neighborhood. Discover how the search for a missing cat helps Lenny & Sid find the real reason for the season. Watch the desire for material things wither away as Lenny & Sid are reminded of the true message of Christmas.

"Love thy Neighbor" is the story of how two totally different personalities find true friendship because of their differences and in spite of driving each other nuts!

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