If you only read one Easter picture book to your kids, please make it Petook: An Easter Story. Illustrated by beloved author/illustrator Tomie dePaola, the story of Petook was written by one of the greatest Catholic writers of the early twentieth century, British mystic Caryll Houselander.
Houselander writes stories of great beauty and simplicity showing the love of ordinary people as they travel toward the mystery of Christ in all their sinfulness. The rooster Petook possesses very human characteristics. In fact, he is as curious as any hen - or woman! Petook meets the boy Jesus as he visits the rooster's newly-hatched chicks in a mystically radiant moment. Years later, Petook witnesses the crucifixion while waiting for another nest of chicks to emerge from the darkness of the egg to the light of the Resurrection on Easter morning.
This is the rare kind of writing we would like to immerse our children in everyday. Petook has become a beloved part of our family Easter traditions.
The Jesus Garden: An Easter Legend by Antoinette Bosco, illustrated by Patricia R. Matozzi, is another picture book looking at the Passion and the Resurrection from the point of view of animals and plants. Legendary material is combined beautifully in a garden setting.
Ages six and up.
Like all of Brian Wildsmith's books, The Easter Story fascinates children (and me) with gorgeous crowd scenes. The author tells a beautiful faith-filled story witnessed by colorful throngs of humanity. Each individual of these multitudes is lovingly dressed with incredible detail. Wildsmith's loving portrayal of people reminds me of one of our Eastern Christian titles of Our Lord: Philanthropos, the Lover of Mankind.
Ages four and up.
Author/illustrator Patricia Polacco is of Russian/Ukrainian descent and practises the family tradition of creating pysanki, Ukrainian Easter eggs. Polacco is a great teller of stories inspired by her family heritage and her own life experiences. She draws beautiful people without a shred of sentimentality and with so much character that they verge on, but never cross, the threshold of caricature. Her gangly child heroes and wonderfully wrinkled old folks live among colorful patterns of folk fabrics, furniture - and pysanki.
Rechenka's Eggs tells the story of a master pysanki maker, Old Babushka, who lovingly nurses an injured goose, Rechenka, back to health. When Rechenka accidentally breaks all the eggs Babushka has prepared for Easter, the old woman is rewarded for her kindness by a miracle: Rechenka begins to lay pysanki eggs. Ages 4 and up.
Patricia Polacco wrote books about people from different cultures forming loving friendships before the word "diversity" became popular.
Chicken Sunday is a story from her own childhood. Having recently lost her beloved Russian Babushka, the protagonist is adopted into the family of her African American Baptist friends where she enjoys fried chicken Sunday dinners with hospitable and motherly Aunt Eulah Mae. Every time Aunt Eulah Mae passes Koslovsky's hat shop, she admires a gorgeous Easter hat in the window. The children decide to raise money for the hat by creating and selling pysanki eggs in Koslovsky's shop. In the process, they bring joy and friendship to the owner of the hat shop, old Mr. Koslovsky, a lonely Russian Jew who has survived a concentration camp. Ages 6 and up.
Here's an Easter book for teens. Easter Stories: Classic Tales For the Holy Season, contains great Easter stories from world literature. Authors include C.S. Lewis, Selma Lagerlöf, Anton Chekhov, Oscar Wilde and Leo Tolstoy. The stories are selected for their spiritual value and literary quality. Teens can read the book by themselves but the stories also make great read alouds for the whole family.
Saint Veronica's Kerchief is Swedish author Selma Lagerlöf's retelling of a story from Christian tradition. On Our Lord's way to the Cruxcifixion, Veronica wipes His face with her kerchief on which a miraculous image of His face appears. As an old woman, she brings the miraculous kerchief to a dying emperor.
Lagerlöf is one of our family's favorite authors. Her stories are almost achingly beautiful.
Ages 12 and up.
If you are poor this Easter, you can still enjoy a beautiful Lagerlöf story for free. Read Robin Readbreast on the blog "The Value of Sparrows".
We wish you a blessed Pascha, a Happy Easter!