Across the globe religion can be an important aspect of a culture’s identity or a region or country’s history. The titles recommended here explore those religions and their relationships with culture or history. It should be noted that prior to exploring any religion or faith with students, their prior knowledge of the religion or faith should be explored and the study guided.
Anne Frank: by Josephine Poole, illustrated by Angela Barrett; Jewish faith/Holocaust. Illustrated story depicting the life and hiding of Anne Frank, her family and other Jewish people who went into hiding with them during World War II. There is a timeline of events at the end of the book. Middle elementary and older.
*Anne Frank: The Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography: by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón; Jewish faith/Holocaust. Graphic novel biography of Anne Frank, beginning with her parents’ backgrounds, through Anne’s death and beyond. This book also covers the social and political aspects of what was happening in Germany, the Netherlands and the world as the war began and progressed. Direct quotes, maps and diagrams help further enhance the storytelling. This title would be an excellent addition to an Anne Frank unit. Middle school and older due to illustrations of blood, death and murder.
The Boy and the Bindi: by Vivek Shraya, illustrated by Rajni Perera; Indian/Hindi. A young boy asks his mother about the “dot” between her eyes, her bindi. The story gives a general overview of what a bindi is, but there is little reference to Indian or Hindu culture, aside from the illustrations depicting Indian characters who wear bindis. Would be a good starting point for research and discussion. Elementary and older.
Golem: written and illustrated by David Wisniewski; Jewish/Cabala faith. A dark legend from Prague tells of Jewish persecution and a rabbi who created a Golem to fight the persecution. This tale is Jewish part history, part legend and part Cabalistic mysticism combined. There’s a author’s note at the end of the book that goes into more historical details of the legend. Late elementary and older.
Hana’s Suitcase: by Karen Levine; Jewish faith/Holocaust. A Japanese Holocaust museum is loaned items from the Auschwitz Museum and one of the items is a child’s suitcase. The Japanese museum’s director and children’s class endeavors to discover all it can about the suitcase’s owner and her story during the Holocaust. Middle elementary and older.
Muhammad: written and illustrated by Demi; Islamic faith. An illustrated telling of the life of Muhammad, the Koran and the beginning of the Islamic faith. There is a forward that explains the art and some terminology. Late elementary and older.
Proudest Blue: by Ibtihaj Muhammad, illustrated by Hatem Aly; Islamic faith. A young girl’s older sister wears her hijab to school for the first time and experiences some bullying due to it. Both girls learn about pride in their cultural customs and overcoming adversity. Elementary and older.
The Secret Seder: by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully; Jewish faith/Passover/Holocaust; Jaques and his father hike to a hidden cabin in the woods of France to celebrate Passover with other Jewish people during the Nazi occupation. Author’s note at the end. Elementary and older.
Available on MelCat:
Aidan’s First Full Moon Circle: written and illustrated by W. Lyon Martin; Wiccan; Aidan and his family participate in their coven’s camp out and full moon ceremony, and Aidan gets to help. Elementary with guidance and/or prior knowledge of Wiccan terminology (glossary/term definitions not provided).
Cakes and Miracles: A Purim Tale: by Barbara Diamond Goldin, illustrated by Jaime Zollars; Jewish faith – Purim; A young boy, blinded by an illness, wants to help his mother make treats to sell at the town’s Purim celebration. Author’s note at the end of the story gives a brief description and history of Purim. Elementary and older.
Going to Mecca: by Na’ima B. Robert, illustrated by Valentina Cavallini; Islamic faith. A family is making their pilgrimage (Hajj) to Mecca and tells about what happens at each step of the way. There is an afterward that explains in more detail about Hajj. Elementary and older.
Growing Up Pagan: by Raine Hill; Pagan/Wiccan; Stories and activities for Pagan and Wiccan families to work through together to learn about the various traditions, customs, symbols and celebrations, or for those wanting to learn more about Pagan and Wiccan beliefs. Pre-K and older; meant to be used as a family workbook.
The Keeping Quilt: Written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco; Jewish faith. Autobiographical story of a family quilt that is made from remnants of Ms. Polacco’s great-grandmother’s dress and babushka, as well as clothes from other family members. The quilt is used for play, births, weddings and deaths, and is passed down through generations. The story also reveals changes in Jewish wedding traditions over decades. Elementary and older.
Legendary Ladies: written and illustrated by Ann Shen, Pagan; Short descriptions and stories of 50 goddesses from various cultures, mythologies and belief systems. Late elementary and older.
The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh: by Supriyah Kelkar, illustrated by Alea Marley; Sikhism. Harpreet Singh loves to wear many different colored patkas, depending on what he’s feeling or the occasion. There have been a lot of changes in his life (a move to a new part of the country, new school, new weather), and his patka color choice reflects his desire to be invisible. Will he be able to wear sunny yellow again? Preschool and older.
Once Upon an Eid: edited by S.K. Ali and Aisha Saeed, illustrated by Sara Alfageah;Muslim faith/holiday. A collection of 15 fictional, short Eid celebration stories told from the perspective of pre-teen and teenaged Muslims of varying cultures, countries and situations. Late elementary and older.
Oskar and the Eight Blessings: by Richard Simon and Tanya Simon, illustrated by Mark Siegel, Jewish faith/Hanukkah; Oskar is sent to New York to live with his aunt after Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass in Germany, 1938). He arrives on the last night of Hanukkah and Christmas Eve and makes his way from the boat to his aunt’s apartment, encountering blessings along the way. Author’s note provides some historical background, as well as a brief glossary and a map following Oskar’s journey from the ship to his aunt’s place. Elementary and older.
Rebekkah’s Journey by Ann E. Burg, illustrated by Joel Iskowitz; Jewish faith/WWII refugee; A fact based story of a Jewish girl, Rebekkah, and her mother as they flee the Nazis and enter America as refugees. Elementary and older.
Under My Hijab: by Hena Khan, illustrated by Aaliya Jaleel; Islamic faith. Through colorful illustrations and rhyming text, a young girl explores how 6 women in her life wear their hijab and express their individuality with their hijab on and without it, when at home. Preschool and older.