I don’t know about you, but I almost always get my kids books for Christmas and birthdays. Plastic toys certainly have their place in my home (why does it seem like that place is always under the couch?!), but I never regret giving books!
Recently I read the newest book by Melinda Johnson, The Barn and the Book. What a sweet story! (I’m not going to lie, I teared up at one part…but you’ll have to read it yourself to find out why!) The book is a sequel to Shepherding Sam, and while they’re both chapter books, they’re meant for young readers (I think even 3-5 year olds would enjoy hearing them read aloud). The spaced out print and engaging story makes it feel like the book flies by— always encouraging for little ones who are just adventuring into the world of chapter books.
Shepherding Sam and The Barn and the Book both center on a group of children whose parents take them to visit a nearby monastery, particularly Sam, a boy who isn’t thrilled about these visits and doesn’t fit in well with the other children. He finds a buddy in Saucer, a relentlessly cheerful Corgi at the monastery who adopts Sam as his personal project. I particularly liked the relatable cast of characters— from the bossy girl who always knows what the Right Thing is, to the sweet and uncertain Sister Anna who has the (she thinks) unfortunate, and definitely challenging, task of corralling these children in Sunday School class.
I especially liked that while the setting is clearly Orthodox, the storyline itself feels like a story, not like a “lesson” that you’re supposed to be learning. I think that is so important for the children growing up Orthodox in America right now— to have resources around them showing the everyday lives of other Orthodox children, where Orthodoxy isn’t necessarily the main focus, just the background of the story, just like them! Often, being the only Orthodox kid in school or a friend group can make it feel like there just aren’t many other kids out there like you (or at least that was how I felt at a school where there was only 1 other Orthodox family). Reading about kids whose parents bring them to monasteries (like mine did) and celebrate the holidays differently than other churches (midnight services, anyone?) is refreshing and encouraging! Both of these books would be a sweet gift for Christmas or St. Nicholas day, and can be found here (just $20 for both of them!): https://store.ancientfaith.com/childrens-fiction
Some of our other favorites are these little books by Potamis Publishing: http://orthodoxchildrensbooks.com/eng/
The Story of You by the Orthodox Children’s Press (my little girl will ask me to read “the book about me!”) and right now there’s a free shipping promotion!: https://www.tocpstore.com/product/the-story-of-you
So many good board books for little ones (my daughter particularly likes “What Do You See At Liturgy”): https://store.ancientfaith.com/toddler-books/
We sure are blessed to have so many great resources for our kids these days!!