Review of “Catholic Children’s Treasure Box” Series

 The Treasure Box books are a sweetly illustrated, old-timey series reprinted by Tan Books. Dating back to the 1950s, the Treasure Box series was published as a Catholic children’s magazine. Written and edited by the Maryknoll Sisters, this series is a throwback to a more innocent time in primarily good but occasionally troublesome ways.

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The Positives

Following in the steps of the Good Shepherd, Treasure Box uses original parables to teach Catholic doctrine and virtues in a way a 3-6 year old can readily understand. For example, one story is about a rich, selfish man who dreams he goes to heaven and finds his clothing there tattered and holey because of his selfish behavior on earth. Other stories have messages about lying, rumors, hard work, honoring the elderly, and stewardship.

Each Treasure Box has an installment in at least one or two serial-style stories, which kids love to follow from volume to volume. My kids’ favorite serial describes the efforts of a charming guardian angel to care for his young African charge and bring missionaries to his remote village. This serial has some great themes about spiritual warfare, supporting missionaries, and devotion to your guardian angel. Other serials follow St. Therese of Lisieux, the story of Creation, and the story of the Holy Family.

Each Treasure Box contains a fun nostalgic section of toy-free play activities, games, and crafts with everyday items. There are also a short poetry selection, fun rhymes, and prayers. Each volume is full of beautiful illustrations and vintage charm.

The Negatives

Overall, we love the Treasure Box books, but there are a few areas where the old-school flavor isn’t an unmitigated positive. There are a few places I either skip a story or provide careful commentary.

For example, Volume 3 has an installment in the St. Therese story where little Therese’s father asks her for a kiss, and she says “No!” Then her father goes inside sadly and her sisters tell her how naughty she was to say no. You see where I’m going with this. I’m sure that back in 1950, this was an entirely innocent story that was supposed to be about listening to your parents or being polite or something. However, in our modern world with our greater awareness of the prevalence of sexual abuse, we definitely don’t want our kids to get the idea it’s wrong to say “No” when someone in authority asks for a kiss, or more! So this part of Volume 3 I either skip or explain carefully that her sisters meant Therese said “No” in a sassy way and she should have said “No, thank you!” And we talk about how it’s always okay to say no to someone touching you, bodily autonomy, and so on.

Another place that 1950’s norms don’t exactly match with modern sensibilities is when it come to corporal punishment. There are a few occasions over the 20 volumes of Treasure Box where someone gets a spanking or is threatened with a spanking. A lot of families nowadays are anti-corporal punishment so this is another place where a simple omission or commentary might be needed.

There’s also the rare intense story with a little violence that might disturb sensitive children. Notably in Volume 17, there’s a German folk tale about Shepherd Honest, who is coerced by a scheming courtier to kill the king’s favorite white lamb and deliver the heart to be eaten. My sensitive daughter was quite upset about the fact that the lamb was killed and it’s heart eaten. No illustration of this scene thankfully, but even hearing about this upsets some children!

All things considered

Overall, I do recommend the Treasure Box books. Their sweet vintage illustrations, virtue-building stories, and fun activities make them great for bedtime read-alouds or as a bi-weekly “magazine” to surprise your little ones with. The 2 serial stories per volume make using these as a “magazine” particularly enjoyable. It’s fun waiting to hear what happens to Therese or Wupsy next! With just the few issues I mentioned above which are sections easily omitted, these volumes are very enjoyable for little Catholic children. I think the ideal age to read these aloud is 3-6, though slightly older siblings often enjoy listening in too!

50 Beautiful Picture Books You Will Want to Own

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.

We love Josephine Nobisso’s wonderful Catholic stories which are beautifully complemented by Katlin Szegedi’s luminous illustrations. Check out both their collaborations: The Weight of a Mass: A Tale of Faith and Take It to the Queen: A Tale of Hope.

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Elsa Beskow’s attention to detail and soft watercolors are so enchanting! Peter’s Old House is a heart-warming story of a community coming together to rebuild a kind but poor neighbor’s house.

Many of Elsa Beskow’s stories, like Peter in Blueberry Land, have a fairy tale quality that works perfectly with her delicate, lovely illustrations.

Demi’s masterful and original artwork complement several beautiful books about the saints, including: Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Bernadette, and Hildegard of Bingen.

Demi’s masterful and original artwork complement several beautiful books about the saints, including: Saint Francis of Assisi, Joan of Arc, and Saint Bernadette and the Miracles of Lourdes.

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.

We also enjoy Sanderson’s versions of unique fairy tales from around the world such as The Golden Mare, the Firebird, and the Magic Ring and The Enchanted Wood.

Ruth Sanderson also has illustrated some lovely religious books, like The Nativity and Saints: Lives & Illuminations.

The Complete Brambly Hedge is chock-full of lovely, detailed nature illustrations and perfectly whiskered mice. We love these peaceful stories, perfect for a summer day.

British author and illustrator Jane Hissey draws the most charming pictures of huggable stuffed animals. We love The Old Bear Collection and all its sequels.

Miss Rumphius wants to make the world a more beautiful place. So, apparently, does author and illustrator Barbara Cooney, whose delicate depictions of coastal New England make me want to visit.

Jan Brett has perfected picture books for children. Simple but entertaining stories, often based on fairy tales, and the most detailed artwork you’ll ever see. Children spend hours pouring over her books. Some of our favorites include: Mossy, Annie and the Wild Animals, The Hat, Town Mouse, Country Mouse, and Cinders.

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.

We also enjoy the Trina Schart Hyman illustrions in Margaret Hodges’ retellings of The Kitchen Knight: A Tale of King Arthur and Saint George and the Dragon

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.

In Jerry Pinkney’s wordless version of The Lion & the Mouse, the pictures themselves tell the classic fable. Other beautifully executed Pinkney books include The Three Billy Goats Gruff and The Tortoise & the Hare.

Out and About is a perfect introduction to poetry, complemented by lovely drawings of the changing seasons and family life.

Another beautiful Shirley Hughes book is Lucy and Tom at the Seaside. Hughes’ style lends itself well to the detailed beach scenes depicting a family’s day at the seaside.

The Sleep Ponies is a whimsical dream story with appropriately dreamy, luminous watercolors throughout.

Paul Zelinsky’s gorgeous retelling of Rapunzel is rich and compelling.

I love the old English folk song Over in the Meadow, and have two favorite versions. I appreciate the colorful slavic style in Feodor Rojankovsky’s illustrations.

But I also love the incredibly realistic illustrations in Feirabend’s version of Over in the Meadow. These animals could leap right off the page!

This book is beautiful, every margin is full of delicate drawings of seeds and plants, and it helps kids appreciate the gorgeous bounty of a garden. We love How Groundhog’s Garden Grew!

Days on the Farm: This lovely storybook collection has six stories of farm life with delicate, detailed illustrations inspired by life on a sheep farm.

Our Lady's Wardrobe

The amazing illustrations in Our Lady’s Wardrobe fit perfectly with the heavenly theme! Check out my full review here!

Penny Dale’s sweet pictures of children mesh well with Martin Waddell’s insightful stories about the dynamics of dealing with a new sibling in Rosie’s Babie and When the Teddy Bears Came.

Little Donkey Close Your Eyes is a classic Margaret Wise Brown story paired with gorgeous bright illustrations in sunset shades.

Home Sweet Home: This beautiful poem blessing creation is paired with Ashley Wolff’s detailed illustrations.

Unique illustrations and perspectives capture these adorable Owl Babies to a feather.

David Wiesner’s realistic illustrations capture the motion and force of the Hurricane.

Graeme Base’s Animalia is a new height in alphabet books. Abundant alliteration, vibrant illustrations, and a unique meshing of fantasy and reality make this book memorable.

Box Turtle at Long Pond depicts a day in the life of a turtle with vibrant, realistic pictures.

GreatRedwallFeast.jpg

In The Great Redwall Feast, Brian Jacques describes a merry feast in the Abbey, rife with cheerful animals.

Jim Arnosky’s love for plants and animals can be seen in his carefully executed drawings. We enjoy his children’s picture books such Rabbits and Raindrops and Every Autumn Comes the Bear.

Maurice Pledger draws intricate, colorful books for little ones. His touch and feel books like Nature Trails are perfect for nurturing an appreciation for nature and wildlife.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of beautiful picture books! Feel free to comment with books you would like to see added to this list!

Review of “The Restless Caterpillar”

The Restless Caterpillar: Heavenly Allegories For Children by [Kristina Schoettle, Christopher Schoettle, Elizabeth Welch]

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.

For more of my favorite Catholic picture books for Catholic children, check out my list of Good Catholic Books for Catholic Preschoolers and Kindergartners.

The Restless Caterpillar: Heavenly Allegories For Children by [Kristina Schoettle, Christopher Schoettle, Elizabeth Welch]

Gardening Books for Kids

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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gardening book

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 by [Gaines, Joanna]

We Are the Gardeners is a sweet story from Joanna Gaines and family of Fixer Upper fame. 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 (Nature Books) by [Aston, Dianna Hutts]

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.

Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt: (Nature Book for Kids, Gardening and Vegetable Planting, Outdoor Nature Book) by [Messner, Kate]

Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt is a lyrical, creative book that bounces back and forth to show what’s going on below the soil and above it at the same time.

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.

From Seed to Plant by [Gibbons, Gail]

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!

Review of “Our Lady’s Wardrobe”

Cover "Our Lady's Wardrobe" Sophia Press

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.

Amazing Illustrations

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.

“Our Lady leads us to the Lord, that’s what she’s always done.

She gave us Jesus Christ the King, God’s one and only Son.”

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!

For more great books for Catholic kids, check out my book lists!

Disclaimer: I received a copy of Our Lady’s Wardrobe from Sophia Institute Press in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

Review of “The First Christmas”

Advent is almost here, and I’m preparing by getting our 2019 Christmas books wrapped and organized for our book-a-day Christmas countdown! This year, one of the new books we’ll be unwrapping is Thomas William’s recently published book The First Christmas. Williams’ charming poem is accompanied by vibrant, unique illustrations by Frank Fraser. Together, poem and illustrations make this a perfect addition to any Catholic family’s Christmas collection!

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Illustrations that tell a story

My children were captivated by the illustrator’s fascinating juxtaposition of different styles to emphasize the story. On the one hand, there are the exaggerated, almost cartoonlike, depictions of the bored townsfolk and wealthy men who don’t notice, or don’t care, that the Messiah is born. On the other, there are the serenely beautiful and luminous pictures of the Holy Family, angels, shepherds, kings, and little children who recognize their Savior. This contrast in artistic style really forces the reader to reflect on Jesus being born into a world which largely didn’t recognize Him.

Biblical References

The Theology major in me loved the Biblical references interwoven into the poem. Williams explains how the coming of the Messiah is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies in Isaiah and Hosea. There are also New Testament quotes and paraphrasing from Luke.

Little Children Leading the Way

Throughout the book, if you look closely you’ll notice that it is the children who recognize and welcome Jesus most readily. Young readers will love imagining themselves as the girl who cheerfully waved to Mary as she traveled to Bethlehem, or the shepherd boy who smiles at the angel as the older shepherds stare in fear and awe. The First Christmas really does a stellar job trying to draw young readers into the story of Jesus’ coming.

A Wonderful Explanation of the True Meaning of Christmas

Overall, this is a beautiful book that does a noteworthy job of explaining the true meaning of Christmas. With its lyrical verses, this poem is a great alternative Christmas poem to replace or complement the secular poem ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. With its focus on the true Christmas story, this picture book is really a great gift or addition to any Christmas collection.

Want to get a glimpse inside the book? Check out this great preview of The First Christmas from the publisher, Sophia Institute Press!

Looking for more picture books about Advent and Christmas? Check out my Christmas book list!

I received a copy of “The First Christmas” from Sophia Institute Press in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

Review of “When You Were Baptized”

As Catholic parents, we make sure our children are well-prepared for their First Holy Communion, Penance, and Confirmation. We discuss vocations and catechize about Holy Orders and Matrimony. But since Baptism is usually received at such a young age, it can be easy to overlook explaining the its importance to young children. If you’re looking for a beautiful, informative picture book to help your young children understand more about the symbolism, character, and rite of Baptism, check out When You Were Baptized, a new book from Liturgy Training Publications.

Catholic Baptism Baby Child
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Written directly to Catholic Children

My little children were immediately captivated by this beautifully illustrated picture book which speaks directly to the child. Written in the second person, When You Were Baptized methodically moves through the rite of Baptism, highlighting each symbol and action. Children learn what each oil symbolizes, why the priest blesses the holy water, what the white garment signifies, and more.

Simple Explanations for the Littlest Listeners

Note that this picture book does not event attempt to touch on the depths of symbolism behind each part of a Baptism. In a message for parents at the conclusion of the book, the author explains that very young children (under age 6) are not yet old enough for moral considerations. Therefore, this book is focused on the more natural symbolism involved in Baptism versus the moral and Biblical implications.

It’s apparent that the author’s Catechesis of the Good Shepherd background influenced the scope of this book. In the Catechesis, the first years are focused on cultivating wonder and love for God. This book with its simple explanations and overarching tone of welcoming the child into God’s family is true to the Catechesis vision.

A Great Baptismal Gift

This lovely picture book would be a wonderful gift for a godparent to give at a Baptism, or even to commemorate the Baptismal day of an older child. It also makes a wonderful addition to any Catholic family’s picture book library. See further information here on the Publisher’s website.

For more great books about Catholicism, the saints, sacraments, and more, check out this book list!

I received a copy of When You Were Baptized from Liturgy Training Publications in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

Review of “The Seed Who Was Afraid to be Planted”

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Have your kids asked you to explain suffering?

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.

The Seed Who Was Afraid to Be Planted released from Sophia Institute Press on October 7 and is available to order now!

Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored by Sophia Press. I received an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

Review of “Girl Saints for Little Ones”

If you are looking for a simple, beautiful introduction to popular female saints, check out Kimberly Fries’ Girl Saints for Little Ones and Girl Saints for Little Ones Volume 2!

Each volume features a dozen saints, mostly well-known heroines of our faith like Saint Rose of Lima, Saint Kateri, Saint Agnes, and Saint Gianna. These books do not include dates or feast days, instead focusing on details about the saints’ lives that little ones are more likely to grasp and retain, such as family relationships, feeding the poor, and miracles. This makes these books great for a cursory introduction, but if you are looking for more in-depth information about the saints, consider the Life of a Saint series from Ignatius,or other saint biographies featured inMy Book Lists.

Each saint page concludes with an inspiring quote from each saint about following Jesus and living a strongly Christian life. For example, the quote from St. Claire of Assisi is: “Totally love Him, who gave Himself totally for your love.”

What makes these books shine are the beautiful original paintings for each saint which will capture the attention of young children. Each painting contains a special symbol the child can associate with the saint. Some symbols are the traditional ones, such as the lamb of Saint Agnes. Others are original, such as green seeds to show the seeds of faith Saint Kateri sowed in the New World.

There is also a brother book, Boy Saints for Little Ones. This book features a dozen inspiring male saints such as Saint Augustine, Saint Maximilian Kolbe, and Saint Patrick.

Overall, these books make a worthwhile addition to any Catholic family’s library. For more great Catholic books about the saints, the Blessed Mother, and more, check out my list Good Catholic Books for Catholic Preschoolers and Kindergartners !

Good Fairy Tales, Fables, and Tall Tales for Catholic Kids

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From ancient times onward, parents and grandparents have passed on their wisdom to the next generations through fairy tales, tall tales, fables, and cautionary tales. Each culture has its own special stories, such as the American tall tales, while other stories such as Cinderella are told by many cultures with their own variations. Here are some of my favorite picture book versions of fairy tales, fables, and tall tales both  old and new, renowned and little known, from around the world.


I love the gorgeous illustrations and Medieval manuscript letters in this beautiful version of Sleeping Beauty!


In this version of The Princess and the Pea, the queen and king get a slightly larger role than usual. The side banter between the queen and her son is amusing, and the illustrations take pride of place.


This beautiful version of Rapunzel is so vividly illustrated the witch may scare you! I think it uniquely captures the mixed love and hate the witch has for Rapunzel.


We enjoy this Spanish American version of the classic Cinderella story. Little Gold Star brings a Catholic flavor to this familiar favorite with Marian intercession taking the place of the fairy godmother.


My other favorite retelling of the Cinderella story is Jan Brett’s imaginative chicken-themed version: Cinders. The accurate depictions of a brood of bantam hens are amazingly detailed and gorgeous.


But, if you want the classic, simple Cinderella story, Marcia Brown’s Cinderella is what you’re looking for!


The charming illustrations in this edition of Little Red Riding Hood contrast with this rather dark cautionary tale. True to the original Grimm fairy tale, the wolf eats Red Riding Hood and her Grandma. But in the end, the woodsman cuts them out and saves the day!


E. Nesbit’s fanciful chapter books are favorites of mine, so I am happy to include her retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk on this list. She omits some of the more grisly details of the original tale, but adds in her unique touch with explanations of details such as why Jack’s shutters don’t work.


The Adventures of Brer Rabbit and Friends is a clever retelling of the Joel Chandler Harris Uncle Remus tales. My children love this collection of ten of Harris’ funniest tales, complete with plenty of onomatopoeia and wonderful illustrations on every page.


With The Firebird, you have at once a fairy tale and a ballet (by Igor Stravinsky). This version of the fairy tale contains both a depiction of the ballet and a gorgeous fanciful illustration on each page. Caveat that the evil wizard villain in the story is quite disturbing looking and might terrify very young children.


Another Russian fairy tale of the quest genre, the The Golden Mare, the Firebird, and the Magic Ring has some of the most magnificently done illustrations. This tale is about an exciting quest and the winning of a princess, yet also raises questions about listening to your conscience versus blind obedience.


A third Russian folk tale we enjoy is The Magic Nesting Doll. On her deathbed, Katya’s grandma bequeaths her a magic nesting doll which contains animals that will help her break the spell which binds her kingdom in a dark, icy winter. This story has a touch of Narnia and a touch of Sleeping Beauty.


Arthur Ransome’s retelling of The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship: A Russian Tale deserves a place in any library. My children find this tale about how God watches out for simple folk both funny and inspiring.


The Legend of the Bluebonnet is a sad but beautiful story of self-sacrifice. A little Indian girl gives up her one cherished toy to save her people from famine.


The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush is an old folk tale about finding and pursuing your own particular calling. A young Indian boy feels more drawn to painting the scenes around him then joining in usual hunting activities of his friends.


We love our American Tall Tales, especially Steven Kellog’s fun editions of Paul Bunyan, Mike Fink, and Johnny Appleseed. His detail-rich illustration style brings a wealth of amusing tidbits to these already entertaining tales.


Stone Soup is an old French folk tale about some smart soldiers who outwit a village of selfish people. A lesson in sharing.


Tikki Tikki Tembo has a fun rhythmic cadence that children love. An old Chinese folk tale, it cautions against giving children very, very, very long names.


The Mitten by Jan Brett is a retelling of a Ukranian folk tale, complete with wonderfully realistic illustrations.


The Ugly Duckling is a favorite fairy tale from Hans Christian Anderson. The theme of not judging someone by their outward appearance has a timeless appeal, and Jerry Pinkney’s gorgeous illustrations bring this story to life in a powerful way.


The Pancake Boy is a fun Norwegian version of the tale Americans recognize more readily as “The Gingerbread Man.” In the Norwegian version, a pig devours the gullible Pancake Boy in the end!


Speaking of Gingerbread Baby, we love Jan Brett’s version of this favorite folk tale.


Honey… Honey… Lion! has all of Jan Brett’s trademark attention to detail and beautiful illustrations. In this African tale, Honey Badger learns the hard way not to be selfish and hog all the honey!


The 3 Little Dassies  is an African-themed version of the classic Three Little Pigs tale. Jan Brett uses vivid colors and a variety of desert creatures to bring this story to life in a new way.


Speaking of old tales, The Classic Treasury of Aesop’s Fables is a beautiful version of the traditional fables from the ancient world. Each fable has a wonderful painting to accompany it which captures children’s eyes while a parents reads the fable.


Though a pricey investment, My Book House contains an amazing array of folk tales, fairy tales, and legends from around the world.