Looking for that quintessential bedtime story that your little one will listen to every single night before going to bed? These books have gentle, rhythmic text, sweet illustrations, and timeless themes about bedtime and sleep.
Sylvia Long’s lovely new version of the classic lullaby Hush Little Baby has an amazing nature theme. A mother rabbit soothes her little one to bed by pointing out the natural beauty around them. A great improvement on the mercenary motif in the traditional version of this popular bedtime song!
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Each beautiful page of Time for Bed shows a mother baby and her animal preparing for bed. We love the gorgeous illustrations in this soothing book.
In Baby’s Boat, an adorable little boy sails across a sleepy sea in his moonboat, fishing with star bait. A sure recipe for sweet dreams.
In Little Donkey Close Your Eyes, animal mothers urge their babies to close their eyes in this simple, calming poem by beloved author Margaret Wise Brown.
A soothing poem about falling asleep by Eric Metaxas is complemented by Nancy Tillman’s gorgeous illustrations in It’s Time to Sleep, My Love. Animals around the world prepare for bed and coax their babies to sleep.
In The Sleep Ponies, a grandmother teaches her rosy-cheeked grandchild to calm her body and mind by picturing a herd of adorable ponies carrying her off to sweet dreams.
The function of all art lies in fact in breaking through the narrow and tortuous enclosure of the finite, in which man is immersed while living here below, and in providing a window to the infinite for his hungry soul.
“The Function of Art” ~ Pope Pius XII
In our family, one way we find that glimpse into the infinite is through beautiful picture books. The artists and illustrators of the books listed here have used their talents to provide children with truly beautiful pictures which fill their hearts with a love for beauty. As they grow older, that foundation will prepare them to contemplate the beauty and majesty of their Creator.
Ruth Sanderson’s Cinderella retelling has the most gorgeous fairy tale illustrations with lots of silvers and magical glows. She also hsa other incredibly beautiful versions of classic fairy tales like Rose Red and Snow White.
The talented Trina Hyman’s retelling of Little Red Riding Hood features a sweet, very young Red Riding Hood and rich woodland scenes. Warning for littler readers: this retelling includes the wolf swallowing both Red and Grandma, and then the Woodsman cutting up the wolf to rescue them.
The oil paintings in Heckedy Peg provide a richness and depth seldom found in picture books. In this fairy tale, a mother must rescue her 7 children from an evil witch.
Rechenka’s Eggs is the story of a miracle for a lonely old woman. Patricia Polacco captures the Russian flavor of this story with intricate, colorful illustrations.
The artwork in Claire Nivola’s childhood memoir, Orani, glows with a warm Mediterranean vibe. A simple description of an American girl’s impressions of the vibrant everyday life in a traditional Italian village.
The Restless Caterpillar is a cute picture book in the allegorical style. In this thought-provoking little story, a caterpillar notices other animals flying by and wishes that he too could soar through the sky. At first, children wonder if the caterpillar is ungrateful or envious, but as the story unfolds they realize that his desire to soar points to his true end as a butterfly.
This sweet little allegory will resonate particularly with small children who possess a melancholic temperament. One of my children, like many melancholics, already talks about how sad he feels in this world and how much he wants the eternal happiness of heaven. This story helped him understand his restless heart is really a God-given desire for the reality of heaven.
This is a very short, simple story perfect for 2-4 year olds. I appreciated the gentle rhyming text and simple pictures. I also loved the prefacing St. Augstine quote and concluding Bible verse which illustrate the themes of the story. Personally, computer graphic pictures aren’t my favorite. My only critique is that I would prefer more classical artwork. Otherwise, this is a wonderful little parable for the littlest Catholic children!
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The Restless Caterpillar was created by husband and wife team Kristina and Christopher Schoettle. You can support the Schoettles in their mission to provide parables for little Catholic children by purchasing The Restless Caterpillar on Amazon.
I received a copy of “The Restless Caterpillar” from Kristina Schoettle in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.
I love, love, love gardening! I think the process of planting and watching seeds grow is renewing and nourishing for our souls. Of course I want my kids to love gardening too, so we found some lovely picture books to get them excited for planting our spring garden! Check out these beautiful picture books and get motivated to start gardening!
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How Groundhog’s Garden Grew is my top pick for children’s gardening books! Gorgeous illustrations combine with great themes about hard work and sharing to make this a winner!
Miss Rumphius wants to make the world more beautiful, so she plants lupine wherever she goes. A beautifully illustrated book that encourages you to start planting wherever you are!
We Are the Gardeners is a sweet story from Joanna Gaines and family of Fixer Upperfame. The Gaines kids learn lessons about hard work, perseverance, and gardening.
In Whose Garden Is It? the gardener, animals, plants, insects, and weather all make a case for ownership of a beautiful garden. But Mrs. McGee ponders, whose garden is it really? I love that this book gets kids thinking about first causes! My 3 year old immediately said everyone was wrong and it was God’s garden really!
A Seed Is Sleepy is a simply lovely book all about seeds. From the mighty redwood to the sunflower to the mountain laurel, illustrator Sylvia Long makes each species come alive with her talented pen.
Bumpety Bump! is a very simply written picture book from Pat Hutchins. There are few words, perfect for the littlest readers. We love this story about a little boy, his grandpa, and a little red hen working in the garden.
Don’t have the space or ability to have an outdoor garden? Flower Garden is the perfect book for you! A sweet little girl helps her father buy the supplies and plant a window box worth of flowers to brighten their city apartment.
Sunflower House is a fun story about children who plant a circle of sunflower seeds to create their own living house! A great idea to try at home if you have the space!
Paddington Bear in the Garden is a cute story about everyone’s favorite affable bear, Paddington, and his attempts to build a garden in the Brown’s yard. With the help of some new friends, he builds a beautiful garden and wins a prize.
The Rose in My Garden starts with a single rose growing. In this cumulative story, a new flower is added to the garden on each page. Great to help children learn to identify flowers!
Each month in Lily’s Garden, Lily describes the work she does in her garden. Each page is decorated with useful information about how to actually garden. Great for slightly older kids who want to understand how to start seeds and plant.
For the factual-minded, Gail Gibbons clear illustrations and explanations are the perfect match. From Seed to Plant is a great introduction to seed and plant growth.
In The Tiny Seed, Eric Carle describes one tiny seed’s process of germination, growth, and flowering. Great for helping kids understand the cycle of seed growth and production.
Looking for more great books for Catholic kids? Check out my book lists!
Looking for a book for the Easter Basket? Anthony DeStefano’s newest book has just released from Sophia Institute Press and it’s simply gorgeous! This beautiful book provides a simple introduction to a variety of Marian apparitions in a novel way. Our Lady’s Wardrobe familiarizes young children with Marian apparitions by focusing on the many beautiful costumes Mary has worn when she appeared on earth.
Can I say again the illustrations in this book are wonderful? Juliana Kolesova’s light-filled style perfectly suits this book about the Queen of Heaven. Each page glows with an other-worldly luminescence that draws the reader upwards, like a Gothic church. My little girls can’t decide on which costume they like best: Fatima, Lourdes, Knock, or Guadalupe. Check out a full preview of Our Lady’s Wardrobe on Sophia Institute Press to see these beautiful images in full.
Simple Poetry for Retention
DeStefano uses rhyming verse to tell this story. The simple verse style reflects the atmosphere of simplicity and comfort in this story about how Mary loves and visits her children on earth. The rhyming verses also help children remember the various apparitions: Carmel, Knock, Guadalupe, Lourdes, Fatima, the Miraculous Medal, and more.
Mary Leads us to Jesus
DeStefano takes a thoughtful approach in this children’s introduction to Mary, being careful to begin with stating the Catholic position on Mary. He begins the book with explaining Mary’s importance in the context of God’s plan and role in leading us to Jesus.
DeStefano also wisely focuses on the Marian apparitions which have been judged “worthy of belief and public veneration” by the Holy See, the highest approval a Marian apparition can receive.
Contrasting Heaven and Earth
DeStefano usually weaves some intricate themes into his children’s books, and Our Lady’s Wardrobe is no exception. I loved the subtle contrasting he uses between heaven and earth. On earth, Mary had simple clothes and was poor. In heaven, she is queen with a gorgeous wardrobe. This contrast is a great reflection of Jesus’s teachings in the Beatitudes. Mary’s life on earth surely exemplifies the Beatitudes, and in heaven she receives the rewards promised.
A Great Marian Book for the Family Library
Catholic parents can feel confident that this lovely picture book provides an orthodox, yet uniquely memorable, introduction to Mary. It’s a perfect way to help little children build a personal connection and familiarity with our Mother in Heaven. I think two to seven year olds will most enjoy Our Lady’s Wardrobe. This book is so beautiful it also makes a great gift for a sacrament or birthday!
If they haven’t yet, believe me, they will! Why does a loving God allow us to suffer? This is a question that has been repeated and pondered throughout the ages. In The Seed Who Was Afraid to be Planted Anthony DeStefano takes on the question of suffering with a simple story that even young children will be able to understand. DeStefano seamlessly weaves together several Bible verses into a parable about a fearful seed whom a wise gardener insists on planting. Planted in a dark hole, the terrified seed feels abandoned and alone. But then the tiny seed begins to grow into a magnificent tree which helps others and experiences a beauty and freedom it had never dreamed possible.
This book is so helpful in explaining suffering to children.
Like the seed, we feel forsaken and afraid when God allows us to experience suffering, death, loss, and pain. Like the seed, we don’t want to go down to that dark place and feel abandoned. In this parable of a tale, we are reminded that God only allows us to suffer to bring us to a more beautiful, wonderful place than we could imagine. Whether we see the fruit of walking through darkness in this life, or don’t know the why until heaven, this story reminds us we can trust that God has a perfect plan to bring us to true freedom and peace.
The Seed Who Was Afraid To Be Planted can also be helpful in explaining death.
This world is all we know, so leaving it can be a scary thought. Like the seed, we like our drawer, our little box of known experience. Like the seed, some kids find the idea of being buried a terrifying thought. This story helps ease those fears with the reminder that dying is just the beginning of a new, better life, beyond our wildest dreams of beauty and freedom.
What is freedom?
The seed tells the gardener not to plant him: “I’m scared to be planted, I want to be free.” For the seed, freedom is being allowed to do what he wants: stay in his drawer. But by the end of the book, the seed realizes true freedom is found by following God’s (the gardener’s) plan and allowing himself to die so he may live. In the end of the story, the seed, now a tree, has found peace, freedom, and a life without fear.
The whole family will enjoy The Seed Who Was Afraid To Be Planted.
Although this story is written for younger children, the high quality illustrations and timeless parable-like story will make it a favorite with all ages. Our entire family enjoyed this book with its reminder that God always has a perfect plan for us. Although many other great books on suffering have been written targeting adults, this simple story is perfect for explaining to children why God allows suffering.
A new baby on the way is an exciting time for a Catholic family, but sometimes the toddler or preschooler is a little less than enthusiastic. Or they may be excited, but still anxious. These books can help answer their questions, put a positive picture of big brother or sisterhood in their minds, and reassure them they are still special.
Regina Doman’s Angel in the Waters is a beautiful account of life in the womb and birth from the unborn baby’s perspective. Themes: guardian angels, unborn babies
When the Teddy Bears Came is a sweet story about a little boy helping his baby brother with all the teddy bears friends give the baby, then realizing the couch is getting too crowded for him. It ends with a special message that there is always still room on mom’s lap for the older sibling! Themes: helping, sharing, there’s enough love to go around
In Annie Rose Is My Little Sister, Alfie describes his little sister in a touching manner, matter of factly acknowledging her faults, but focusing on the fun of playing with her.
“And we’ll go on like this forever, even until we’re all grown up, because Annie Rose will always be my little sister.
Themes: little siblings are a gift, siblings will always be there
Big Brother, Little Brother is a celebration of the special bond between siblings. Big brother and little brother occasionally disagree, but overall take care of each other. Themes: empathy, taking care of babies, sharing, including little siblings
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At two to three years old, children have a longer attention span and a greater appreciation for detailed illustrations. There are so many wonderful books for this age!
Giving is a wonderful conversation piece about all the ways one can give, as described by a little girl and illustrated by the ever-charming Shirley Hughes. Themes: giving, thankfulness, sharing
Blueberries for Sal is possibly my favorite book for two year olds. Little Sal and little bear learn that they should stay close to their mommies, even if yummy berries are tempting! Themes: obedience, courage
Baby’s Boat is a luminous bedtime story we love describing a dream voyage on a moon-boat. Themes: bedtime, poetic language
Little Donkey Close Your Eyes is by the great Margaret Wise Brown. Animals around the world settle down for bed in their own ways as their mothers urge them to close their eyes. Themes: bedtime, animals, mothers
A Home in the Barn is another favorite by Margaret Wise Brown with lovely illustrations from Caldecott Medalist Jerry Pinkney. This book describes the coming of winter and how various farm animals prepare for the cold and wind. Themes: winter, opposites, onomatopoeia
Peter finds treasures on his walk, but has no pockets to put them in! Mommy saves the day by sewing new ones on in Peter’s Pockets Themes: sharing, creativity
Hush Little Baby is a nature-focused variation on the traditional rhyme, and is the version we sing in our house. Themes: mother love, enjoying nature
For the baby loving toddler, Everywhere Babies is sure to be a favorite with its descriptions of everything baby. Themes: loving babies
When the Rooster Crowed is a toddler favorite about the farm animals trying to wake up the sleepy farmer. Themes: persistence, sloth, patience
Shirley Hughes’ Alfie’s Feet is a simple but beloved story in which Alfie gets new boots and solves the mystery of why they feel funny. Themes: growing, calmly solving problems, enjoying the outdoors
Another popular Alfie story, Alfie Gets in First, is a cautionary tale warning children against locking doors. But don’t worry it has a happy ending! Themes: obedience, staying calm in an emergency
Little Lamb to the Rescue, one of the most beautiful picture books we own, is the story of a little lamb helping an even littler bird. Themes: helping, friendship
Little Baby Buttercup is a charming recounting by a loving mother of her day with her little girl. This sweet book is a must read to your little girl! Themes: a mother’s love for her child
Crocodaddy is one for the daddies and sons! A little boy and his father play at a pond, using their imaginations to make an enjoyable day even funner. Themes: using your imagination, daddy-son bonding
In Better Not Get Wet, Jesse Bear, Jesse Bear, a very active little bear, learns about all the times one shouldn’t get wet, and finally when one should! Themes: obedience, patience
Jan Brett’s illustrations in The Hat are, as always, worthy of lengthy study. In this story Hedgehog struggles to get untangled from a stocking, and Lisa tries to find her missing clothes. Themes: perseverance, being kind to others
Little Mommy is a good old story of a little girl caring for her dolls. It’s sure to delight any little mommy! Themes: motherliness
Another good old story, The curious little Kitten details the adventure of a very curious little kitten! It is a good cautionary tale to show the dangers of too much curiosity. Themes: curiosity, persistence
Once Upon a Cloud is a modern tale with illustrations to delight little princesses and a fanciful story of a little girl going on a magic carpet ride to find the perfect gift for her mother. Themes: giving
Little Mouse and the Big Cupcake is a delectable, gentle story about a little mouse trying to get a huge cupcake home, with some help from his hungry friends. Themes: sharing, generosity
Illustrated by the marvellous Hilda Van Stockum, Pamela Walks the Dog is a hilarious little book about Pamela’s lengthy preparations to take her non-existent dog for a walk.
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We start reading young around here! By the time our kids have their first birthday, they are usually happy listening to me read simple picture books. As always, my criteria include an inspiring theme, beautiful illustrations, and that my children approved. These books are great read alouds for a 1 to 2 year old, and preschoolers will also enjoy them.
What Did Baby Jesus Do? is a beautifully illustrated little board book talking about Jesus’ childhood. Themes: Jesus was God and man
Who is Coming to Our House? is a sweet board book which shows the barn animals preparing for baby Jesus’ arrival. Themes: Jesus coming, Christmas
The Word of the Lord and Cloud of Witnesses are part of a new series of board books from Katie Warner aimed at exposing the littlest Catholics to religious artwork and Catholic teaching! These are quality books that would make great gifts for a Baptism or baby shower. Themes: Bible, Jesus, Catholic Faith, Saints
Bear Wants More is a short rhyming board book about a very hungry bear. Themes: friendship, kindness
Baby Listens (Little Golden Book) helps teach little ones about their senses as baby experiences the sounds around him. Lots of onomatopoeic words keep the youngest readers engaged. Themes: attentiveness to the world around us
Going to Sleep on the Farm, with its beautiful illustrations of farm life, is a simple story of a father soothing his son to sleep. Themes: patience (for parents!)
Ask Mr. Bear is a story about a little boy searching for the perfect gift for his mother with some help from his animal friends. Themes: persistence, a giving spirit
Amy loves the wind and Amy loves the sun are sweet little old books about a toddler encountering the outdoors with her mother. Themes: enjoying nature
Biscuit Storybook Collection stories are somewhat repetitive but so loved by my children that I had to include them! Themes: friendship, gentleness to animals, forgiveness
Jamberry‘s gentle rhymes and clever illustrations make it another much loved and well worn toddler favorite around here. It is a rollicking little tale of a boy and bear searching for berries. Themes: enjoying nature, a cheerful attitude in adversity
Big Red Barn is a classic Margaret Wise Brown story, less well known than Goodnight Moon but equally enjoyable. Big Red Barn describes barnyard life, while Goodnight, Moon focuses on a room at bedtime. Themes: attention to the world around us, whether outdoors or just in our own room
Pat the Bunny (Touch and Feel Book) is a great early book because it provides sensory stimulation which can engage a reluctant listener. Siblings Paul and Judy explore their house along with your child. Themes: sibling love, attentiveness to sensory information