Our church celebrates Ash Wednesday with a simple liturgy read in a shadowy room. We light candles, draw the sanctuary’s chairs into a circle around our pastor, the table, and the ashes, and at the end of the service, file up to our pastor and wait for our turn with the ashes. As he draws a cross in black ash on each brow, the only sound is his voice saying, musically, “Dust you are, and to dust you shall return,” to each of us. Even the children—and a high percentage of our small church body is under the age of five—fall silent for this.
Ash Wednesday leads us into Lent gently but decisively, just as Lent leads us toward Easter with the patience of a farmer sowing seeds. I love Ash Wednesday, though it tends to sneak up on me each year, coming as it does almost on the heels of Christmas. But this year, I got the jump on it: while planning posts for this blog, I saw it on the calendar and thought, “A ha! Not this year, my friend!” This year, I was ready for it. I dug out the Easter books and photographed them for you; I considered Lent with prayer for an entire week before Ash Wednesday.
And I gave thought to how our family would celebrate, which led me to think about how you might like to celebrate with your family. I suspect that, for both of us, a good celebration begins with good books, and with that in mind, I compiled a short list of books for Lent that our family has loved from year to year.
Petook, by Caryll Houselander
Houselander tells the story of Easter through a parallel story of a rooster named Petook; Tomie dePaola weaves little details into the illustrations that will surprise you and your little readers. (Read the full review.)
Peter’s First Easter, by Walter Wangerin, Jr.
Through the chapters of this picture book, Wangerin puts the reader right in Peter’s shoes, describing his love for Jesus, and his grief as he walks through the events of Holy Week. (Read the full review.)
The Story of Easter, by Aileen Fisher
The Story of Easter goes beyond telling the story of Holy Week (though it does that, too) and explains a bit about the traditions and symbols linked to Easter. This is one of my favorites. (Read the full review.)
The Light of the World, by Katherine Paterson
Though not strictly an Easter book, I love Katherine Paterson’s telling of Jesus’ life and think it perfectly fitting for Lenten reading, as it places Holy Week in a larger context and reminds us of what Christ accomplished on the Cross. (Read the full review.)
The Donkey who Carried a King, by R. C. Sproul
R. C. Sproul nests the story of the crucifixion within the story of a donkey named Davey. That story is nested, in turn, within the story of a young boy who is picked last for the team. It sounds confusing, but Sproul executes the story-within-a-story trick beautifully. (Read the full review.)
These are my top five Easter favorites, but they are not the only Easter books featured on Little Book, Big Story. You can read the other reviews in the Easter section of the blog. I’ll share still more with you during the next few weeks, as a bookish way to observe Lent.
This post originally appeared on this blog in March of 2015.