Not all spiritual books for kids are obviously so at first glance. Fiction may help children deal with spiritual questions even better when there is not direct spiritual content. A librarian friend offers three of her multicultural favorites for older kids. Crash, by Jerry Spinelli, documents the growing friendship between a Quaker boy and an agnostic jock. Samir and Yonatan by Daniella Carmi, is a Batchelder Award-winning memoir of a Palestinian childhood. In Iqbal, by Francesco D’Adamo, a fictionalized account of a Pakistani boy sold into slavery, children develop spirituality without any wholesome adult influence. (At PaperTigers, see a review of Susan Kuklin’s Iqbal Masih and the Crusaders Against Child Slavery, a non-fiction account of this tragic but inspiring story.)
Two recent Australian animal picture books are among the many endearing examples of spiritual books for young children. Breakfast with Buddha, by Vashti Farrer and Gaye Chapman, is a first-person account of an ego-filled cat’s encounter with Buddhist monks and his consequent lesson about humility. Samsara Dog, by Helen Manos, beautifully relates the story of a dog’s several lives as he develops the spiritual qualities that finally free him from the cycle of rebirth.
The deep themes of human life are everywhere, for eyes that see. Non-didactic fiction gives children a way to explore large spiritual questions without being “spoon-fed” opinions and views.