When I’m looking for Easter books, I want books that show people celebrating Easter. There aren’t enough of them, as far as I’m concerned.
But if you’re looking for Easter books for toddlers, and if you take an expansive view of what it means to be celebrating Easter, you’ve really got a pretty good selection. Here are four that I’ve found this year. I hope there are more.
Bunny Day almost didn’t pass my requirement of people celebrating Easter. I mean, look at the title: Bunny Day. If you can’t say “Easter,” then it’s not an Easter book, as far as I’m concerned, no matter how many jelly beans are involved.
But the final rhyming couplet in the book is this:
Kisses, hugs, and flowers say
“I love you” on Easter day.
So Easter is there. Barely.
The board book has simple rhymes illustrated with photographs of adorable babies and toddlers. Photographer Michael Scott poses the little ones with hats and baskets and jelly beans. There’s no whisper of church, but the little ones in the photographs are include black and Asian children as well as white children. For some families, that will be enough.
Easter Sparkling Surprise
Easter Sparkling Surprise is a sparkly board book. Almost obnoxiously sparkly. Illustrator Colleen Madden highlighted every illustration in the book with sparkles. It doesn’t work for me, but I expect there are two- and three-year-olds who will love it.
The story by Elizabeth Spurr is told in simple rhyming text. Two children a red-headed boy and a black girl, are celebrating Easter Sunday with an egg hunt. They follow Mr. Bunny along the bunny trail, finding candy along the way.
As with Bunny Day, there’s no mention of church. The story presents Easter as a celebration of spring.
Miriam Nerlove’s Easter meets all of my requirements for an Easter picture book. It shows a family celebrating Easter together. They color eggs, go to church, have Easter dinner with the extended family, and have an Easter egg hunt.
But the rhyming story is, well, dull. It’s not helped that this 22-page book includes a four-page digression that tells, briefly, the story of the death and resurrection of Christ.
I mean, I suppose I should appreciate that. It makes it clear what Easter is about. But that’s another story, and inserting it into the story of a family’s celebration just doesn’t work.
It also bothers me that the family in the book is African American, and Jesus and the angel in the story-within-a-story are very, very white.
But the book has its fans. I’m just not one.
Painted Eggs and Chocolate Bunnies
I adore Painted Eggs and Chocolate Bunnies. In format, it’s between a board book and a regular book. It has a heavy padded cover, and the pages are cardstock rather than either boards or paper.
Like the other books, Painted Eggs and Chocolate Bunnies is written in simple rhyming text. There’s nothing particularly inspiring about Toni Trent Parker’s text. It clunks just a bit when you read it out loud. But it mentions Easter specifically and repeatedly, and it mentions church.
And the illustrations! Painted Eggs and Chocolate Bunnies is illustrated with photographs by Earl Anderson. The photos are all of African American children, mostly preschool age, smiling and giggling. They’re all dressed up in their Sunday best, and they have baskets and bunny ears, flowers and candy.
It is sturdy enough for the littlest book lover to turn pages and look at pictures independently. And it is by far my favorite of the Easter books for toddlers.
Easter Picture Books Keep Pascha Present: You might be tempted to put the Easter picture books away during Bright Week. Don’t do it! By keeping them out, you’ll help your little one understand that Easter lasts more than a single day.
Six Exceptional Multicultural Easter Books: If you’re looking for books that show the ways that people celebrate Easter, look here.
17 essential picture books for Orthodox Christian kids: If you’re looking for picture books that include stories about Orthodox Christian people and traditions, you’ll find them on this list.
Buy the Book: Catherine’s Pascha
FINALIST IN THE 2015 USA BEST BOOK AWARDS
Catherine doesn’t like vegetables. She doesn’t like naps. She doesn’t like it when her mom combs her hair. She loves hot dogs, chocolate cake, and her best friend, Elizabeth. Most of all, she loves Pascha! Pascha, the Orthodox Christian Easter, is celebrated in the middle of the night, with processions and candles and bells and singing. And Catherine insists that she’s not a bit sleepy.