As an elementary school teacher, I love finding theology of the body (TOB) themes and messages in the children’s stories I use in my classes. But these stories are really appropriate for any age. I have used the ones listed here with children ages 5-11, but really even adults can enjoy these. I have always believed we are never too old for a good “picture book!” There is nothing better than spending time sharing a good story, especially ones that inspire deep, meaningful conversations about who we are and how we are to live.
I hope you enjoy these with your own family!
The Incredible Peepers of Penelope Budd (written by Marie Karns, illustrated by Amy Wummer)
This is one of my favorites! The story is a delightful reminder of God’s goodness in creating all things good and beautiful. Penelope is a little girl who has been gifted with one blue eye and one brown eye! People around her fail to see Penelope’s uniqueness as a gift, and they fail to notice God’s beauty around them.
Penelope sees the world around her with wonder and awe, noticing God’s gifts everywhere! God, in all his creation, gifted us with hearts that are drawn to the true, good and beautiful things around us. With her unique eyes, Penelope sees God’s goodness everywhere. She clearly understands that she is “just the way she’s supposed to be,” and is confident that she is a beloved child of God. Knowing her identity as God’s beloved daughter, Penelope chooses to love!
I Want Your Smile, Crocodile (written by Denette Fretz, illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic)
This is a fun, engaging story with whimsical illustrations. It is written in rhythmic tone, naturally drawing children into the story. The setting is a zoo called Serenity Park, where the main character, Jack the meerkat, decides he doesn’t like the way he looks. He isn’t happy with his own appearance so he sets off on an adventure, believing he will be happier if he could be like the other animals. As Jack goes from one exhibit to another, the reader can see the zookeeper in the background, pursuing Jack. By the time he catches up to Jack, the poor zookeeper shows signs of struggle and wounds, yet he embraces Jack telling him, “I want you back, Spunky Jack. I wish you understood – that God’s great heart designed each part and saw that you were good.”
Children easily understand that the zookeeper’s great love for Jack is much like Jesus’s love for us. This story is a beautiful reminder that we are made by love, to love and for love. Each and every person is a unique, unrepeatable creation, made on purpose, with purpose. Jack and the zookeeper remind us that it is so very good that we each exist.
Maybe God is Like That Too (written by Jennifer Grant, illustrated by Benjamin Schipper)
This is a moving story about a little boy who asks his grandma, “Does God live in the city?” Grandma lovingly encourages him to seek God, telling him he “just needs to know where to look.” She explains, “Whenever you see love, joy and peace, God is there.” Inspired by his grandma’s words, the young child begins to notice God in others as they live lives of virtue. God is revealed through bodily actions of others who express fruits of the Spirit. The little boy is awakened to the truth that while he cannot see God in the way he sees people, he can see God all around him, in others and even in himself.
God is everywhere. What a beautiful reminder that we are made for relationship with God and others. We are called to share God’s love with everyone in our daily lives. This story can foster conversations with children about where they have seen God around them, and that we are created in God’s image and likeness. We are called to be like Him in the way we treat others. We are called to image Him in our words and actions.
Our Tree Named Steve (written by Alan Zweibel, illustrated by David Catrow)
This is a favorite book among children of all ages, and is written in the form of a letter from a dad to his children (much like St. Paul’s letters to the people of the cities he ministered in). Steve, a symbol of God in the story, is a tree that has been part of a family for many years. The family represents God’s plan for us: to have free, total, fruitful familial relationships. Like God, Steve has been present for the children’s milestones, he has protected the family, and been a source of ever-present joy and love — he is truly the the center of the family’s life and activities.
Sadly, a storm ends Steve’s life. The dad tells his children that Steve will always be with them…in their hearts and thoughts..and in a new way in the yard. Steve experiences a kind of resurrection in the form of a treehouse. While he is no longer with the family as he was, he has been transformed into a new life.
Children hearing this story are moved by the mutual love between the family and Steve. While they have a sense of loss when Steve dies, they also have hope that he has not left them. He has new life. This story reminds readers that we are called to care for God’s creation, and that God speaks his love to us through his creation. We are called to be in relationship with God, seeing, knowing, and loving him as He reveals himself to us, even in times of loss.
— Embodied has a print magazine that is published quarterly and is the first magazine to showcase life through the lens of theology of the body. Use this link to subscribe and save 20%: Subscribe and save!