Whether you call it Pascha or Easter, whether you celebrate it at midnight or in the morning, the Feast of the Resurrection is the most important day of the year for Christians all over the world. When my children were young, I expected the importance of the day to be reflected by a vast selection of beautifully illustrated and delightfully told multicultural Easter picture books.
Unfortunately, I was wrong.
Six Exceptional Multicultural Easter Picture Books
I have found fewer than 20 multicultural Easter picture books that have been published in English since 1950. I’ve read them all. I’ve added them all to my library. I’ve reviewed them all on my blog. And while I don’t think you necessarily need all of them, you should consider adding these six truly exceptional Easter picture books to your library, or giving them to the little ones that you love. (The images of the book covers in this post are affiliate links. If you click the book covers, and then buy the books, I’ll receive a small commission that helps me pay for this website.)
Catherine’s Pascha by Charlotte Riggle, illustrated by R.J. Hughes
In the Orthodox Church, Easter is called Pascha, and it’s celebrated in the middle of the night. The celebration at Catherine’s multi-ethnic parish includes candles and processions and joyous shouts of “Christ is risen!” in many languages. At the feast after the service, Catherine and her best friend Elizabeth celebrate with the egg-cracking game and the foods they’ve fasted from for all of Lent.
Of particular note is the fact that Elizabeth uses crutches and a wheelchair. The disability isn’t mentioned in the book, because the story isn’t about disability. It’s about people celebrating Pascha in all their wonderful diversity and joy.
Chicken Sunday by Patricia Polacco
A Ukrainian girl and her best friends, two black boys, want to buy the boys’ grandmother a new Easter hat. When they go to talk to the hatmaker, who is Jewish, some older boys have egged the store, and the hatmaker thinks it was them. They regain his trust with pysanky, Ukrainian Easter eggs. Sharp-eyed children might notice icons on the wall at the girl’s home.
Your children might notice that the hatmaker has a number tattooed on his arm. You’ll want to be prepared to discuss the Holocaust as you read the story.
The Dance of the Eggshells by Carla Aragόn, illustrated by Kathy Dee Saville
Libby and her brother celebrate the week after Easter with their grandparents in Santa Fe. They join their neighbors for the traditional Baile de los Cascarones, the Dance of the Eggshells. The children fill eggshells with confetti and dress in traditional costumes for the dance. At one point, the grandmother explains briefly that the dance is held after Easter instead of before, because in the past, people didn’t have parties or go visiting during Lent. I think that’s a question that will occur to some children, and it’s answered in the natural flow of the story.
Although the writing in this book is less polished than the others, it’s the only bilingual English/Spanish Easter picture book that I’ve found.
Miz Fannie Mae’s Fine New Easter Hat by Melissa Milich
This book is set in an African American community in Mississippi, perhaps a hundred years ago. Tandy’s daddy delivers milk in a horse-drawn wagon. When Tandy and her daddy go to the city to get Tandy’s mama a new Easter hat, Tandy falls in love with a hat adorned with netting and flowers and fruit and four tiny eggs. And it’s the most expensive hat in the store.
When they get home with the hat, Tandy’s mama doesn’t want to keep it, but her husband ensures that she does. And then, when a starling flies into the church on Easter morning, the hat provides an Easter miracle.
Rechenka’s Eggs by Patricia Polacco
Babushka lives alone in a warm and cozy house. She has icons on the wall and kulich and pashka with her tea, and she sees miracles everywhere she looks. When a goose is injured by hunters, she takes it in, and the goose keeps her company while she makes pysanky eggs for the Easter festival. She calls the goose Rechenka.
When Rechenka starts regaining her strength, she accidentally destroys Babushka’s eggs. But what looks like a disaster turns into a miracle in this fairy tale for Easter.
Sawdust Carpets by Amelia Lau Carling
A Chinese family who has immigrated to Guatemala joins their family in Antigua during Holy Week, anticipating the baptism of a new baby. In Antigua on Holy Thursday, the little girl who narrates the story helps create elaborate sawdust carpets on the streets for the processions of Holy Friday. She doesn’t realize that the carpets are meant to be trampled and destroyed.
The book captures the immigrant experience in many ways. The mom doesn’t read Spanish well, the children don’t read Chinese. There’s a sense of longing for the old country. And the prayer corner includes statues of both the Virgin Mary and a Buddhist goddess.
Other Easter Picture Books
Even if you want to focus on multicultural Easter picture books, you might want to round out your collection with a book that focuses on bunnies and baskets and eggs.
You won’t go wrong with The Easter Egg by Jan Brett and The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes by DuBose Heyward. While the characters in both books are bunnies, they both have multicultural themes. And they’re both simply fabulous books.
If you are looking for a picture book that tells the Gospel story of Easter, there’s only one that you need: The Easter Story by Brian Wildsmith. The illustrations are luminous, and Wildsmith manages to tell the story (which is really quite brutal) in a way that is both honest and appropriate for children.
Finally, if you’d like a truly comprehensive roundup of multicultural Easter picture books, check out my guest post on Kate Olson Reads. That post covers 16 multicultural Easter picture books that have been published since 1950.
Easter Picture Books Keep Pascha Present: Let your little ones read their Easter books all year round, to build their love of Pascha.
The Sweetest Easter Basket Treats: You don’t need candy to give your little ones the sweetest Easter baskets ever.
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.