Now more than ever, our children need positive role models. Fortunately, we need to look no further than the saints. Here are six biographies of the saints perfect for kids.
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Growing up, the only book about the saints I knew of was Butler’s. It’s a fantastic resource, but it’s more of an encyclopedia than an in-depth study. It wasn’t until our first IHM conference in 2014 that I discovered the wealth of literature on the saints geared toward children. There are so many well-written biographies of the saints for kids that it’s hard to pick out just a few!
My first pick is by Jason Everett – St. John Paul the Great: His Five Loves. Suitable for teens and above, this book is a collection of stories about JPTG from those who knew him well: fellow priests and bishops, former students, and members of the Swiss Guard. Did you know he was nearly murdered in the Philippines by one of bin Laden’s henchmen? Or that he was stabbed while saying mass at Fatima, but kept on going? Did you know that he had conversations with the Virgin Mary? An excellent read that sheds light on the life of JPTG and the five loves he held dear.
Another resource on the life of this great saint focuses on the childhood of Karol Wojtyla. Centered on the question “Who do you love most?”, The Story of Saint John Paul II: A Boy Who Became Pope reveals how his answer to this question shaped both his personal and spiritual lives, culminating in his canonization as one of the great saints of the Church. Author/illustrator Fabiola Garza is a character artist for Disney, so the illustrations in this book are a treasure on their own. This work is suitable for children ages six and up.
I love John Paul the Great because of his human-ness. But what we often forget is that all of the saints were human, each with his or her unique strengths and weaknesses. St. Teresa of Avila: God’s Troublemaker is a manga-style graphic novel by Song-I Yun. Song-I relates St. Teresa’s spirited, willful actions as a child in Spain, then later as the foundress of a reformed Carmelite order. But unlike a willful child whose actions serve her own desires, this future Doctor of the Church was a rebel for Christ and a role model for young Christian women everywhere. An engaging read for ages eight and up.
A second graphic novel tells the story of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, set to be canonized the first weekend in September. She is perhaps one of the most complex, enigmatic saints of the Church, experiencing long periods of darkness in which she felt as though God was truly absent from her life. But Didier Chardez’s Mother Teresa of Kolkata is as accessible as it is riveting, tracing this amazing woman’s undying devotion to Christ and the dignity of life. Suitable for ages eight and up.
Another impending occasion in the Church is the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima. Families who would like to learn about the children to whom Mary revealed herself should check out Blesseds Jacinta and Francisco Marto: Shepherds of Fatima by Anne Eileen Heffernan, FSP. Sweet illustrations and an accessible text make this picture book appropriate for ages six and up.
My final recommendation is a second book suitable for teens. Adolescents get a bad rap for poor decision-making skills. But as a former high school teacher, I believe that reputation is undeserved. I think Colleen Swaim would agree with me, given that she explores the lives of eight young people whose courage and piety set them down the path to sainthood. If your teen could use a little encouragement in this complicated world, check out Ablaze: Stories of Daring Teen Saints and Radiate: More Stories of Daring Teen Saints. You won’t regret it.
This titles I’ve suggested are only a few of the wonderful biographies of the saints for kids. They give a much brighter, more focused picture of these courageous men and women than good old Butler’s, making them the perfect complement to any family library.
Want more great books for Catholic kids? Be sure to check my top five picks for tots, kids, tweens and teens!