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.
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 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.