Biblical Themes in Children's Literature

Presbyterians Today, the periodical of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), is offering a new Bible study series by MaryAnn McKibben Dana focusing on children’s literature:
This 10-part series explores biblical themes in familiar titles as well as some recent books "destined to be classics." Books marked with an asterisk (*) have been made into films and may be showing in theaters or available on DVD.

September 2008: Prince Caspian,* by C.S. Lewis
In this second installment in the classic Chronicles of Narnia, the Pevensie children return to Narnia and take up the struggle to assist Caspian as he reclaims Narnia in the name of Aslan, a lion who serves as the Christ figure throughout the series.

October 2008: Because of Winn-Dixie,* by Kate DiCamillo
A lonely preacher’s kid finds a sense of belonging through the companionship of a scruffy stray dog and various other colorful characters in her small Florida town.

November 2008: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,* by J.K. Rowling
The sixth volume in the Harry Potter series, this book explores the evil Lord Voldemort’s tragic past. Harry comes to terms with his destiny — to fight Voldemort in a battle in which only one will survive. The film adaptation of this book is due to be released in November 2008.

December 2008: A Wind in the Door, by Madeleine L’Engle
The followup to L’Engle’s classic A Wrinkle in Time, this book has Meg and her friend Calvin O’Keefe racing against time to defeat the Echthroi — sinister, mysterious beings who threaten to tear the universe apart.

January/February 2009: Holes,* by Louis Sachar
Unlucky Stanley Yelnats finds himself sentenced to hard labor at a Texas juvenile detention center. The boys are forced to dig holes in the desert, day after day. But what are they looking for?

March 2009: Bridge to Terabithia,* by Katherine Paterson
A classic tale of friendship and imagination by Presbyterian author Katherine Paterson, Bridge to Terabithia chronicles the unlikely relationship between Jesse Aarons and his new neighbor Leslie Burke, the mystical land of Terabithia that unites them and the real-life tragedy that rocks Jesse’s world.

April 2009: The Book of Jude, by Kimberley Heuston
Sixteen-year-old Jude finds her world turned upside down when her mother receives a fellowship to study for a year in Czechoslovakia. This book sensitively explores themes of adolescence, identity and mental illness, all against the backdrop of Prague at the end of the Cold War.

May 2009: The Giver, by Lois Lowry
This book is set in a pseudo-utopian society in which Sameness is the ideal and strong emotions are all but eradicated. Jonas, a 12-year-old boy, receives an unusual assignment — to become the sole Receiver of Memory, the only one who knows the people’s history and all that came before.

June 2009: The Higher Power of Lucky, by Susan Patron
Ten-year-old Lucky lives with her father’s ex-wife after the untimely death of her mother. Her favorite pastime, eavesdropping on 12-Step meetings, inspires her own plucky search for a Higher Power — though she’s not sure what that is. The story explores family and faith with wit and grace.

July/August 2009: The Wednesday Wars, by Gary D. Schmidt
Poor Holling Hoodhood is the sole Presbyterian in his seventh-grade class. His Jewish and Catholic classmates all leave school early on Wednesdays for religious instruction, while Holling is stuck with his teacher, who he’s sure is out to get him because she makes him read Shakespeare. The horror! This poignant and humorous book is set in 1968.

Discussion guides (grades 5–8 level) will be available online. Download a free sample study guide for Prince Caspian, one of the books in the beloved Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis, now a major motion picture.