Easter, a time of celebration and renewal, is one of the most difficult holidays to explain to children with concepts many adults find hard to explain, such as death, an empty tomb and Jesus rising from the dead. Yet that is what the Easter story represents, Christ's death on the cross, the doorway to forgiveness and salvation.
This book review roundup for children ages 4-8 features books that both entertain and teach youngsters the spiritual meaning of Easter with images and words they are familiar with such as bunnies and eggs.
I've also included a recipe for resurrection rolls with marshmallow centers. While rolls bake, the oven represents Christ's tomb. When the rolls finish cooking, are removed from the "tomb" and broken in half, melted marshmallow centers leave a cavity that portrays Christ's empty tomb Easter morning.
In addition to a free devotional guide for the Holy week of Easter offered by Billy Graham's Evangelistic Association.
***Continue to the bottom of the review for additional book covers and information***
"The Sparkle Egg," by Jill Hardie & Christine Kornacki, Ideals Children's Books, 2014, 32 Pages, Hardcover, Ages 4-8, 978-0824956646, $16.99
This lavishly illustrated picture book features a young boy whose excitement about coloring Easter eggs is surpassed by worry, shame and guilt because he lied to his parents about a school assignment. His mom helps him decorate a plastic egg with a cross and sparkles and tells him to draw a picture to put inside the egg of "anything you're ashamed of." The following page is a picture of the family gathered in prayer.
Easter morning when the boy finds the egg empty his parents explain, "Your egg is empty because the things you've done wrong are forgiven and gone just like Christ's tomb was empty that first Easter Day."
I especially like Jill's illustration of "forgiveness using a popular holiday symbol" that takes the focus off coloring eggs and the Easter bunny. Instead the words and pictures portray the rich, spiritual meaning behind Christ's death on the cross.
"Here Comes Peter Cottontail," Musical Board Book" by Steve Nelson & Jack Rollins, Illustrator Pamela Levy, Candy Cane Press-Ideals—2014, Ages 2-5, 16 Pages, 978-0824919276, $12.99
"Here comes Peter Cottontail," a musical board book, plays a familiar tune youngsters can sing along with the rhyming story. "Here comes Peter Cottontail, hoppin down the bunny trail, hippity-hoppin, Easter is on its way."
Pictures of children, chipmunks, rabbits and mice filling Easter baskets with candy and treats portray a familiar Christmas theme with the words, "You'll wake up Easter morning and know that he was there, when you find those chocolate bunnies that he's hiding everywhere."
The book is perfect for chubby fingered toddlers through pre-school age. Youngsters will delight in pushing the big blue button on the cover activating the sing along melody. I'm equally sure siblings, parents or grandparents will be asked many times over for the story to be read "just one more time."
This simple story of gifts and giving celebrates Easter with familiar words, pictures and song young children understand.
"The Legend of the Easter Egg," by Lori Walburg, Illustrated by Richard Cowdrey, Zonderkidz, 2014, 32 Pages, Ages 4-8, Hardcover, 978-0310735458, $15.99
In this story set in the late 1800's, Thomas and his sister Lucy learn the meaning behind Easter eggs, the empty tomb and the miracle of Easter when Thomas must stay with friends because his sister has Scarlett fever.
Thomas stays with friends who own the local candy store and attends church with them. There he learns "just as a chick breaks out of an egg, so has Jesus broken free of the tomb of death."
The story portrays the real meaning behind Easter eggs, the empty tomb and the hope found in Jesus.
Colorful illustrations of farm animals, children and fanciful animals add to and enhance the story that ends with an explanation of the "traditions and symbols of Lent and Easter," from Maundy Thursday to Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
Midwest Book Reviews: April 2014
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