"Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay."
Sharing the Easter Story with Children
As Christians, it is one our great privileges and joys to pass on the story of Jesus' passion and resurrection. Sharing the Easter story with children – whether at home or in church – is often easier with good books to guide us. Of course, there is no substitute for worship and the Bible, but the following books serve as wonderful complements. (And we have included a few children's Bibles.)
These titles were assembled by Matthew Kozlowski and Dorothy Linthicum. We did not do an exhaustive search – rather, these are books are what we have in our collection. If you have other recommendations, please share!
9 Easter Books (& Bibles) For Children
The Easter Story
Patricia Pingry, Mary Ann Utt (Ideals Publications, 2002)
Matthew has read this book to children's groups in Sunday school and at the CMT, as well as with his own children. The book tells the entire story of Jesus' ministry, arrest, death, and resurrection - all in about 200 words! The text also explains what Easter means for us today. The lovely color illustrations are accessible but not babyish. Many pictures have images of children. In the passion scene, Jesus is shown carrying the cross but not on the cross itself. We suggest about ages 2-6.
*Note, this book is different (shorter and better) than The Story of Easter, also by Pingry.
Jesus is Risen
Rolf Krenzer, Constanza Droop (Liturgical Press, 2001)
This book is longer, with a fair amount of text on each page. We love the pictures, which are cartoon-style, but warm and detailed. Older children might enjoy exploring these pictures on their own, examining each scene in full. The passion scene does not show Jesus on the cross, but we see his wounded body before and after. The resurrection scene – inside the tomb – is wonderfully dramatic. This book would take 10 minutes to read, and our suggestion is about ages 7-10. Out of print but widely available used.
Easter Love Letters From God
Glenys Nellist, Sophie Allsopp (Zonderkidz 2018)
The illustrations in this book are some of the best we have seen. Warm, culturally appropriate, and inviting images will draw in both children and adults. The story moves through the events of Holy Week in Jerusalem, as well as the empty tomb. The text is quite complete, though the author adds some embellishment to make the stories come alive. Lift-the-flap love letters from God offer additional encouragement and Biblical connections. Ages 4-8.
Peter's First Easter
Walter Wangerin Jr., Timothy Ladwig (Zonderkids, 2000)
Divided into short chapters, this book is a first person narrative by the disciple Peter. The illustrations are vivid, realistic, and culturally reflective of Holy Land. Wangerin imagines the story through Peter's eyes, but stays close to the scriptural narrative. The text and images are too advanced for young children. It would take about 20 minutes to read out load. Jesus dying on the cross is shown quite realistically. The resurrection pictures are bursting with joy. We suggest about ages 9-12. Out of print but available used.
Jesus is Risen: An Easter Pop-Up Book
Agostino Traini (Sparkhouse 2018)
A Brilliant book. Accessible to young children, but not at all babyish. The pop-out pages create a detailed three dimensional scene on each page. That said, the pages are never over-stimulating. The text is succinct and well-done summaries of each story: the empty tomb, Jesus' appearances, and even Pentecost. Note that this book does not contain the passion and cross. You will need to teach that beforehand. Ages 2-6.
Shine On: A Story Bible (MennoMedia 2014)
A newer children's Bible, and one of our favorites. Each page is well laid out, with the Bible story, large picture, and "connect/explore" boxes above. The text is a faithfully paraphrased version of the scripture stories. One of the most interesting aspects of this Bible is the various style of illustrations – done by multiple artists – some cartoon, some more realistic, some quite creative. The passion story shows silhouetted crosses on the hill. One of the most wonderful images is of Jesus appearing to Mary Magdalene. We suggest about ages 5-10.
Spark Story Bible (Augsburg Fortress, 2009)
One of our most commonly recommend children's Bibles, the Spark Story Bible retells 150 stories in ways that are fun and engaging for children. Cartoon-style illustrations draw young children in, and the figures are lively and emotive. In the passion story, we see Jesus carrying the cross, followed by silhouetted crosses, rather than Jesus on the cross itself. The resurrection sparkles with surprise and joy. Our suggestion is for about ages 3-7.
The Lion Bible for Children
Murray Watts, Helen Cann (Lion Hudson, 2002, 2008)
A very complete children's Bible with paraphrased versions of Bible stories for young readers. The writing is engaging and imaginative, yet faithful to the arc of each narrative. Gorgeous pen and ink (color) illustrations are richly detailed and not at all childish. The passion and resurrection stories are well told, with plenty of emotion in the pictures. Jesus is shown on the cross in a somewhat realistic fashion. Not for our youngest children; our suggestion is about ages 8-11.
Tomie dePaola’s Book of Bible Stories
Tomie dePaola (GP Putnam's/Zondervan, 1990)
This is one of the most beautiful books in our library. With dePaola's illustrations leap off the page, while the text – taken directly from the New International Version (NIV) – tells the selected Bible stories word for word. The passion and resurrection scenes are rendered lovingly but seriously, including a stunning scene of Mary holding the body of Jesus beneath the cross. With some thought, this book could be for all ages.
Matthew Kozlowski manages, edits, and writes for Building Faith. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia with his wife Danielle and two young daughters. Throughout his career he has been a teacher, camp counselor, school chaplain, camp chaplain, Sunday school teacher, parish priest, and Alpha course coordinator.