More Than Just Kid’s Stuff
By |   May 12, 2011 |   in Books |   3 Comments

Can I confess that some of the most spiritually impactful books I’ve read have been children’s literature?  I’m not sure if it’s the content or the limitless possibility of the imagination they tend to evoke.  Maybe I’m just drawn to stories that capture unadulterated goodness.  Most likely, it’s because this is the most consistent reading I’ve gotten to do in the last four years.  Reading time with my 10-year-old daughter is something sacred that is only missed on the rarest of occasion.  Sharing a story with her is no longer a parental duty, but one of my greatest joys.  I see God in the wonder unlocked in her eyes and the accompanying drawings she doodles to capture the story.  Whatever the reason, I love juvenile fiction, and Autumn and I have torn through a number of books.  I’ll highlight a couple of our favorites.

As cliché and mainstream the movies have made it, Lewis’ Narnia series remains one of my favorites.  The movements and words of Aslan not only display profound theological truths, but have brought me to tears on many occasions.  I enjoy these books much more as an adult that I did as a kid.  The books bring a sort of Eden goodness and skillfully crafted pictures of friendship, joy, community, justice, suffering, transformation, forgiveness and grace.  Theses books have it all.


Kate DiCamillo’s, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane was stunning. Any book that starts with Stanley Kunitz’s quote “The heart breaks and breaks and lives by breaking.  It is necessary to go through dark and deeper dark and not to turn” has to be good.  Kate’s way with words always leaves me awestruck.  But, in this simple book about a porcelain rabbit, she wonderfully illustrates the paradox of the suffering we experience when we open our hearts to love and the horrifying existence we face when we choose not to love.

In Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic novel The Secret Garden, I learned about getting unstuck in life, about how relationships, creation, attitude and hope orchestrate God’s healing power.

I’ve been so moved by these books and many more that I’ve made my daughter promise that one day, when I’m an old man, she must return the favor.  Sitting by my bed I picture her reading these same books, reliving the precious memories of these days.

Join the Conversation

How about you? What are your favorite children’s books, and what have you learned from them?

What might you want read to you when you are old and bed-ridden?


Nathan Foster:
Nathan Foster is assistant professor of social work at Spring Arbor University (Spring Arbor, Michigan). He has been a counselor and founded/directed Door of Hope Counseling (Arvada, Colorado). He is married and has two children. He is an avid cyclist and still dreams of mountain adventures. His most recent book is Wisdom Chaser: Finding My Father at 14,000 Feet.
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    • These titles are great. Kate DiCamillo captured me with the first book of hers that I ever read, Because of Winn-Dixie. A recent favorite is the latest Newbery Award winner, Clare Vanderpool’s Moon Over Manifest. Certainly my favorite author of books for young people is Katherine Paterson. I especially like her Jacob Have I Loved; Jip, His Story; and The Great Gilly Hopkins.
      Thanks for sharing your favorites.

    • Mark Licitra

      My kids are a little younger so one of my favorites is “the Runaway Bunny” which reminds me of God’s relentless pursuit of us even while we are “prone to wander”

    • Marjorie

      My husband and I decided to raise our four children by exposing them to the best minds we could find. As John Ruskin says in Sesame and Lilies, the finest expressions of the finest minds were waiting for us on our bookshelves. Our purpose was to allow imagination free reign, get out of the way, and see what would happen. There are many things I could say about this project. It absorbed the lives of the six of us. We read aloud four to six hours every day minimum for fifteen years. From Runaway Bunny, onward. Farther up, further in.
      What I wanted to say here is that something happened that I didn’t anticipate. We loved watching movies together, but we tried not to watch anything based on a great book until we had read the book first. So when we learned that Lord of the Rings was going to come out, we started reading. We read a lot of books, different types of literature, concurrently, so it took months to read through Frodo’s adventure. And during those months, I watched my eldest daughter, who was about thirteen at the time, become a different person. What happened is that she fell in love. She was already entranced with poetry, and she has the gift of recall for what she has heard, so Tolkien captured her heart with high adventure and deep thought and mysterious poems. But that was just the vehicle for Sam to pierce her heart. I have been part of friends’ lives while in the white heat of the conversion process. It is such an awesome event. What I witnessed in my daughter was no less than a conversion to God through literature. Sam’s good nature, humility, loyalty, his testing and his place in the salvation of Middle Earth were revelatory to my daughter. Tolkien’s teaching in his tale defined her longings and then satisfied them. I had known that this was possible by reading scripture. I had not known that any literature could work such power in a human personality.
      Any thoughts about this?