This series surveys some of the best picture books for children, Christian and non-Christian alike. We pray these roundups would offer opportunities for conversations with children, stir faith in Christ, and point to the things that are good, true, and beautiful.
Once upon a time, way back in June, my kids threw down their books and ran outside to finally—finally!—play with their friends. But now in the South, we’ve reached the dog days, when the heat is oppressive and endless, and the light at the end of the hazy tunnel is . . . school. Fortunately for us, while the kids were playing Frisbee and swimming and collecting mosquito bites and memories, beautiful books were still being made. Here’s a whole stack of brand-new picture books to enjoy in the air conditioning.
Some of these books are from Christian authors and publishers, and some aren’t. Some teach biblical truths, and some show practical wisdom. Some of them are stories with lessons, and some are more like lessons with stories. One is just funny. All of them have been published in the last several months, and all of them are both excellent and praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8).
It’s time to dust off our library cards and see what’s new.
Any Time, Any Place, Any Prayer: A True Story of How You Can Talk With God
When children have something on their minds, they tend to run to their parents and caregivers. Wouldn’t it be great if they also learned that they can talk to God about anything and everything because Jesus has made that possible?
This beautifully illustrated Bible storybook, by Risen Motherhood cofounder Laura Wifler, takes children on a journey from the start of the Bible story to the end. From Eden and God’s presence, through the fall, redemption, and the Spirit’s presence with us now, to our presence with God in the future, God has always made a way for his people to talk with him. Children will learn a biblical understanding of prayer, why it’s amazing, and that they can enjoy talking with God about anything, anytime, anywhere.
1. Any Time, Any Place, Any Prayer by Laura Wifler, illustrated by Catalina Echeverri (The Good Book Co.)
Starting in Genesis, running quickly through sin and Christ’s time on earth, and finishing in Revelation, this is the story of how prayer fits into God’s big plan and purpose for the world. It includes the full text of the Lord’s Prayer and has lots of examples of how, why, when, and where kids can pray now. There’s a particularly wonderful illustration of real Christians praying throughout history that had me Googling for more information on their lives.
2. The Midnight Fair by Gideon Sterer, illustrated by Mariachiara Di Giorgio (Candlewick)
This lighthearted wordless picture book takes us along with woodland animals for a night at the fair after all the people leave. There’s a hedgehog with candies stuck on every spine, a baby deer riding a merry-go-round, and a bear that almost loses its giant stuffed teddy on the pirate ship ride. There’s a scary moment when the animals sneak past a ride called “Dante’s Inferno” with a monster over the entrance and a skeleton inside. And a young fox wins a goldfish as a prize and then generously releases it into the wild (a generosity parents might need to remind their young readers not to mimic). Silly throughout, it also manages to be incredibly creative and funny, and sometimes even beautiful.
3. Near by Sally Lloyd-Jones and Jago (Zonderkidz)
The illustrations are bright and joyful, and the words are simple and lyrical. The New York Times bestselling team that created The Jesus Storybook Bible uses Psalm 139 as inspiration to say that God will be with you anywhere you could possibly go: in space, under the sea, in a desert, in the North Pole, or in your room. There are race cars, rockets, polar bears, and a dog in scuba gear. Written in a similar format to Found and Loved, the other books in this series by Lloyd-Jones and Jago, Near is a board book with a bright cover and sturdy pages designed with even the smallest listeners in mind.
4. The Promise by Jason Helopoulos, illustrated by Rommel Ruiz (Crossway)
Subtitled “The Amazing Story of Our Long-Awaited Savior,” The Promise carries us through the Old Testament to vividly show why no one but Jesus could save us. Starting with the creation of the world and the sin of Adam and Eve, we’re asked what type of person could truly defeat sin. A really good man like Noah? A great conqueror like Joshua? A man after God’s own heart like David? The book shows how each of these men (and more) fell short, but how Jesus, God with us, combined all their virtues into one uniquely great Savior. The pictures are dramatic, highly stylized, and high-contrast, with fascinating play between light and dark.
5. A Small Kindness by Stacy McAnulty, illustrated by Wendy Leach (Running Press)
“It was like a game of tag.” This book tells a simple story of people spreading small kindnesses to each other, like holding a door open or making someone laugh. What makes it magical is that the pictures begin in black and white, and as each character shows kindness to another, colors spread through the illustrations. After we finished reading, my kids spent a long time looking back through the pictures and tracking how the kindness connected each illustration to the next.
6. What Do I Do with Worry? by Dr. Josh Straub and Christi Straub, illustrated by Jane Butler (B&H Kids)
Willow has just moved into a new house. While most of the kids around her are thinking about swimming or ice cream, Willow is worried. She keeps thinking, What if? I confess I was initially a little skeptical of this book, but my 6 year old loved it. I think the relatable worries and the very practical methods for dealing with them spoke to where she was. The past year and a half has included unexpected changes and challenges for many kids, and this short book has some doable suggestions for ways kids (and adults) can practice giving their worries to God.
7. When I Hold You by Ashley Huffstutler, illustrated by Airin O’Callaghan (B&H Kids)
Each page of this board book features a short rhyme connecting an aspect of motherhood with an aspect of God’s care for us. For example, “When your sweet cries reach my ears, I picture God catching our tears.” The illustrations are lush and lovely, and each one shows a mother and baby and includes a Bible verse. The illustration for the crying page shows a mother kissing her baby’s tears away and has the words of Psalm 56:8 written out in the corner. The book is particularly moving because the author has two young children and is undergoing treatment for brain cancer, which lends poignancy and urgency to the beautiful verses in the book.