Book reviews - religion

These books are a selection of new books reviewed on religion. They reflect the range of books sent to us by publishers.

Walking on Water by Mary Hoffman

Some of Jesus' best-known miracles are retold with the help of wonderfully atmospheric illustrations by Jackie Morris. They are Water into Wine; A Netful of Fish; Weathermaster; Through the Roof; The Biggest Picnic in the World; Is it a Ghost?; Remote Control; Saying Thank You and Back from the Dead - some will be obvious from the titles and others will leave you guessing. Each miracle shows us how Jesus worked, when he overturned the laws of nature, life and death to show God's great love for humanity. The superb illustrations clearly convey the emotions of the people and the muted palette of colours is perfect for the theme of the book. Short introductions to each miracle help to set the scene is this excellent book which is perfect for assemblies and reading aloud.

Lost and Found by Mary Hoffman

The well-known parables in this book include A Tale of Two Houses; Neighbours; Lost and Found; Fair Pay; The Jealous Brother; Sowing and Growing; Come to the Party and Forgiveness. Jesus used storytelling to explain God's idea of truth, fairness and love and it was a way of reaching the hearts of his listeners who responded well to the stories of things familiar to them. Children will find these retellings easy to understand, and the . beautiful, soft-coloured illustrations by Jackie Morris complement the parables to perfection.

The Boy and the Owl by Aisha Changezi

The subtitle explains more about the purpose of this book - A Story About the Attributes of God Based on the Poem the Creed of Salvation (Ghazali Children). This colourful picture book with its delicately detailed illustrations helps children to gain a better understanding of the Islamic belief of the attributes of God. A wise owl explains some of the deeper aspects of the Islamic belief. The story focuses on part of a poem that deals with how we can know anything about God. It describes 13 essential attributes, in a way a child can understand: "God has speech, power, hearing, sight, will, and knowledge and is attributed with life." It's an excellent way to help children's understanding of the beliefs of others and will be a good support for RE lessons.

Painting Heaven: Polishing the Mirror of the Heart (Ghazali Children) by Al-Gahazli

This illustrated tale introduces children to the teachings of the Muslim theologian and mystic al-Ghazali (1058-1111 CE). This enchanting tale illustrates how that the human heart is like a rusty mirror which, when polished through beautiful doings, is able to reflect the real essence of all things. In addition to this story is a poem by the renowned poet, Coleman Barks. Both draw on the same account found in Ghazali's "The Marvels of the Heart," Book XXI, of his magnum opus, "The Revival of Religious Sciences." A good way to encourage children to learn about and to understand the beliefs of others and ideal for use in school to further understanding. It's a beautifully produced book with wonderfully delicate and detailed illustrations.

All About Religion (Big Questions) from DK

It could seem a tall order, to write 'all about religion' in a single book but this book succeeds admirably at giving an overview of the big questions, including why we are here, what happens after we die and why bad things happen to good people. There are four main sections - In the Beginning; The Big Ideas; Why Do You... and The Search for Answers. The book looks at the history of religion and the main beliefs, giving informative and easily understood answers that will increase children's knowledge and understanding. Various ways of presenting information are used and the layout is clear and easy to follow; the comprehensive index will help those searching for specific topics. The book helps us to understand the motivation behind beliefs and why some people do or don't have faith; it will provide an excellent starting point for debate.

My First Bible Stories by Anna Jones

This chunky board book with a padded cover and rounded edges is the ideal way to introduce young children to the Bible. The beautifully illustrated stories come from both the New and Old Testaments. Stories include Adam and Eve, Noah's Ark, David and Goliath and the Resurrection of Jesus. With simple engaging text and sturdy pages, this first collection is perfect for starting young children on reading the Bible. It's ideal to share and there's plenty of opportunity to use the pictures to timulate discussion.

Mabrook! A World of Muslim Weddings by Na'ima B. Robert

Mabrook means congratulations - the perfect title for a book about weddings. This book takes a world-wide view of Muslim wedding ceremonies, including Pakistan, Morocco, Somalia and UK. This colourful and exotic picture book shows the different ways Muslims in different countries celebrate the sacred ceremony, while also describing the vows and promises common to all Muslim marriages. The illustrations are beautiful and really convey the differences as well as the similarities in Muslim weddings. A lovely look at how people celebrate.

OMG!: How Children See God by Monica Parker

Parents know that children ask amazing and often difficult questions about God, faith, heaven, and that other place; sometimes their thoughts are warm and sweet but other times they can be razor sharp and invective. The outrageous and engaging concepts shared in OMG! are more than a way to deal humorously with children when they express their particular unorthodox views, they can open a difficult dialogue for families about the fanciful thoughts and misconceptions that kids have about God and his or her meaning in our lives. OMG! showcases the differences and yet the similarities that kids of every economic, cultural and religious background share. Funny, poignant and galvanizing with deeply rooted sentiments that will never go out of fashion.

Buddhist Stories (Storyteller) by Anita Ganeri

Eight well narrated stories supported by fact boxes about the people, places, objects and events make upm this book. The background material is really useful in gaining a full understanding of the beliefs of Buddhism and how they relate to these stories. The illustrations are atmospheric and eye-catching and set the stories off well. This title and the one below are from Tulip Books who specialise in non-fiction children’s books offering children a window onto the world. They are passionate about children gaining knowledge by presenting high-interest information with a fun narrative and all their titles are designed to improve reading skills. I am very impressed with what I have seen!

Islam in Turkey (Families & Their Faiths) by Bruce Campbell

 Many of our children will find themselves at school wih children from different faiths and it's important that they understand those faiths. This is one in a series which covers the six main world faiths. In this book, we meet Fatma who lives in Turkey with her grandchildren. The book follows them as they prepare for Ramadan. There are notes for parents and teachers relating to each page, making this a valuable teaching aid. The excellent colour photos of the family, where they live and their daily lives give an excellent insight in to their world. A really good way to introduce children to the Islamic faith.

ABCs for Little Yogis: Bhakti Yoga Flash Cards by Lila Nonino

These stunningly illustrated cards depict the most important Hindu gods, goddesses, and traditions, helping children learn important Bhakti Yoga wisdom and their ABCs. This helps a deeper knowledge and understanding, whatever the child's faith and background. The good quality laminated cards are durable enough to offer plenty of play value and the accompanying booklet is full of suggested games that will help bring Bhakti Yoga tradition to life - this is a really useful addition. The superb quality of the illustrations also means they are an excellent resource for display.

Is Nothing Something?: Kids' Questions and Zen Answers about Life, Death, Family, Friendship, and Everything In-Between by Thich Nhat Hanh

Packed with thought-provoking questions worded in a way that makes them totally child-friendly and appropriate, Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh answers a multitude of questions in a practical way that will get to children's hearts. The full-colour artwork by Jessica McClure is clear and lively. Starting with basic questions such as 'Why is my brother mean to me?' it progresses to more complex issues with short answers appropriate for beginning readers to look at on their own. The back of the book has examples adults can use with their children to go deeper into the answers, encouraging further discussion, plus the first complete children s biography of Thich Nhat Hanh.

My Little Prayer Cards by Karen Williamson

A colourful collection of 40 cards, each with a prayer and illustration, is aimed at helping children and families focus their prayers. The cards cover a wide variety of topics relevant to children so building a strong foundation for regular family prayer times. The illustrations are just right for children, with bright friendly pictures of children showing that prayer can be part of any activity. Comes packaged in a gift box complete with magnetic fastening, making this an ideal gift for all occasions.
 

My Little Bible Memory Game by Karen Williamson

Playing games is a lovely activity which brings families closer together, so this set of 40 cards based on the Bible will be very popular with families. This matching pairs game is based on familiar Bible stories, each depicted with a colourful picture and brief text. It helps develop early learning skills and is suitable for 2 to 6 players. I think an imaginative family will be able to come up with other games too; the cards would also make an attractive display at home or in the classroom - the game would also be good for classroom use. The cards can also be used to stimulate discussion on the stories.

Going to Mecca by Na'ima B. Robert

Join the pilgrims on the journey of a lifetime to the city of Mecca - the pilgrimage known to Muslims as the Hajj. The pilgrims walk with heads bare and feet in sandals; they call to Allah; they kiss or point to the Black Stone, as the Prophet did. Arriving at Mecca, they surge round the Ka'aba, shave their heads and travel to Mount Arafat. Finally, though their bodies are tired and aching, their spirits are uplifted, knowing that with thousands of others they have performed the sacred pilgrimage.This is an excellent way for young children to understand the significance of this pilgrimage for Muslims, well explained in simple language which still expresses the deep significance of the Hajj.

The Life of Jesus by Sophie Piper

My first thought on seeing this book was that it makes a perfect gift - perhaps from a godparent at a christening or as the godchild gets a little older (I think 5+). Key episodes from Jesus' life on earth are retold in a simple and respectful way which manages to interweave them into a compelling narrative. It is a faithful retelling and the Bible verses are given so the Biblical account can be read. It is beautifully produced with a clear plastic jacket, shiny paper and outstanding illustrations which capture the significance of Jesus' life as well as the atmosphere of the first century.

Women of the Bible by Margaret Mcallister

Women played a vital role in the Bible, and this book brings 10 to the forefront. We can enjoy the stories from the viewpoint of Mother Noah, Rachel, Miriam, Ruth, Mary of Nazareth, Martha and Mary, the Canaanite Woman, Lady Procula, the wife of Pilate, Mary of Magdala and Lydia. Some of these names may be unfamiliar and that is the lovely thing about this book - the different perspective we gain on the familiar events. The stories are sensitive and well told (many in the first person which adds to the impact) and beautifuly complemented by Alida Massari's delicate and detailed illustrations.

The Enduring Ark by Joydeb Chitraker and Gita Wolf

Here is the story of Noah and his wife (there is no mention of his children!) the the ark they built to survive the Flood.and the pairs of animals they rescued from the great, destructive flood. The book is an Indian version of the Biblical tale - Indian in the vivid illustrations and the naming of Noah's wife as Na'mah. The story leads the reader from a deluge of water to a rainbow of hope - a key message. A book that can be leafed through in the traditional way, or unfolded out as an accordion. An unusual retelling, suitable for children ages six and up. I think the eye-catching format means that it would make a super backdrop to a display on the Ark and it will stimulate discussion.
 
 

Hinduism: Babu's Story (This Is My Faith) by Holly Wallace

This series from Wise Walrus is an excellent way for children to get a real understanding about how other children feel about their faith and culture. It will thus help and promote understanding of those who hold other beliefs. In this book, young Hindu girl Babu talks about her beliefs, family life and the customs and celebrations which form part of her faith. Illustrated throughout with photos showing Babu going about her everyday life, the book is attractively laid out, with excellent use of colour to mark out different sections. I was amazed by the amount of information imparted by this slim book!

Daniel and the Lions (My First Bible Stories) by Katherine Sully

Daniel disobeyed the king and was put into the lions' den and secured by a rock overhead - but his God kept him safe. The story is simply told but retains a strong impact - and the lions are delightfully pictured. This series of strikingly illustrated editions of favourite Old Testament stories are perfect to introduce young children to these well-known stories. The easy-to-read language is perfectly geared to young ones and the books in the series are ideal both to enjoy at home and to use in the classroom, for school assemblies or at Sunday School.

Moses in the Bulrushes (My First Bible Stories) by Katherine Sully

The bright pictures which show Moses being hidden in the bulrushes, rescued by the King's daughter and given back to his mother to care for him are a wonderful way of retelling the story in a memorable way. Each book in the series has an eye-catching cover, embossed and with glittery embellishments and this will mean children are immediately drawn to them. The picture book format will be instantly familiar to children, who will quickly add these books to their treasured collection of favourite books.
 

Jonah and the Big Fish (My First Bible Stories) by Katherine Sully

Jonah was a good man, but he was fearful when God told him to go to Ninevah and disobeyed - but his disobedience had dramatic consequences. Once again, the superb illustrations tell the story with the aid of the text. Each book ends with a useful page called 'Next Steps' which is full of stimulating ideas to get the most from the story - these are perfect for use in teaching and give adults a basis to generate their own activities. For example, they have ideas of things to spot in the pictures . David and Goliath (My First Bible Stories), Noah's Ark (My First Bible Stories) and Joseph's Colourful Coat (My First Bible Stories)

Bible Detective: A Puzzle Search Book by Peter Martin

I love this type of book! Children are really encouraged to look closely and gain the maximum benefit from the pictures, and their observational skills are greatly enhanced. 17 lively two-page spreads depict a variety of Bible scenes, starting with Noah collecting together the animals and finishing at the busy port of Caesarea. Each has a seriesw of small pictures around the edge, to spot in the main picture - and you'll be glad to know that there are picture keys to all the answers! The busy informative pictures give opportunity for lots of discussion and the scenes help to bring the Bible alive and give excellent impressions of the periods covered.

New Testament Tales - The Unauthorised Version by Bob Hartman

Bob Hartman brings his zany narrative style to bear on the stories of Jesus. Nine well-known accounts are given a fresh and humorous approach and a new narrative which still manages to convey a deep respect for the original meaning. The book would make a great classroom resource, to interest and enthuse children prior to studying the Bible accounts.  The stories are fast-moving and told from the perspective of a range of characters. The illustrations complemet the story telling excellently and add to the appeal - readers of 7-9 will enjoy these.

 Going to Mecca by Na'ima B Robert

Share with Muslims as they embark on their most sacred journey - their journey of a lifetime, the pilgrimage known to Muslims as the Hajj. Each stage of the journey is depicted, from setting off to the celebration of arriving home. The style of the delightful illustrations by Valentina Cavallini is perfect for the book and they really depict the atmosphere of this sacred journey. An excellent way to encourage young children to understand the importance of going to Mecca, and to gain an insight into another faith.

 Bible Stories from Priddy Books

This book retells seven favourite Bible stories - Creation, Noah's Ark, David and Goliath, Moses, Christmas, the feeding of the 5000 and Easter. The illustrations are outstanding, with their simplicity and tactile raised shapes. The stories are retold in a simple style, perfect for reading aloud at home, in class or assembly or at Sunday School. There is a CD accompanying the book which complements the stories with the use of enchanting sounds - a good way to keep interest levels high. A well-produced book with flexible board pages - perfect for 3+.

My Look and Point Bible by Christina Goodings

This is a clever way to get children involved in the stories as they are shared. Lots of words are given along with the pictures, so children can learn to read them using the clues of the pictures - children will love to share in telling the story as they recognise the words. The stories are clearly and simply retold and this is a perfect one-to-one sharing book. The pictures are clear and simple and in a style which will appeal to children - the facial expressions convey plenty of emotion. There's lots of fun here too - see the lions snoring and the men running in the story of Daniel in the Lion's Den. A lovely introduction to bible stories.

 

The Life of Jesus - Look Inside the Bible by Tim Dowley

This book is a lovely way to bring to life the scenes from the Bible and Jesus' story. It starts with Bethlehem and Nazareth, and the reader is drawn into scenes of life in the town on a four page spread. Cutaway pictures show us the inside of houses, packed full of day-to-day activity - but look closer, and you will see scenes from the Bible depicted and the reader is told what to look out for. Capernaum, the Sea of Galilee and Jerusalem are all treated similarly. There is lots to look out for and searching out the events depicted will fix them in children's minds - Bible verses are quoted to support all the events. It also shows how people lived in Bible times, making them more real to us. The sturdy card pages make this a great resource for school, Sunday School as well as home use.

 

Food and Faith by Susan Reuben and Sophie Pelham

This colourful book covers the six religions generally taught in schools - Christianity, Judaism, Muslim, Buddhism, Hindu and Sikh. I like the way that the food  and special occasions for each are described by children (and written in the first person) as this makes it easy for other children to relate to. We are introduced to each child at the start, then each describes some of the special food associated with their religion and the associated festivals. You get to know about the children and their families and this the understanding of people of different faiths is enhanced. Some recipes are included and there is a useful glossary. An excellent book for home and school use.

 

 

 

 

The most recent reviews are at the top of the page, so these are generally the most recently published books.

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