Easter books
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Date: 5 April, 2004

To order any of the titles, and raise money for Christian Aid, simply click on the title or cover of the book

Charlotte Haines Lyon recommends Easter books for adults and Andy Jackson chooses his favourite Easter books for children.

To order any of the titles, and raise money for Christian Aid, simply click on the title or cover of the book.

To jump to the books for kids, click here


Jesus Now and Then
Richard Burridge and Graham Gould, SPCK 9.99
Feeling a little bit overwhelmed by all those long theological words that some people on surefish use? Worry ye not, this book not only explores Christian thought about Jesus but uses nice clear boxes to explain theological jargon and the role of historical figures.

As we contemplate who Jesus really was, Burridge and Gould introduce us to the Jesus of history. This is not just historical writings at the time of his life, but also how Jesus has been thought of through the different centuries.

We are then treated to an analysis of the Gospels and what we can learn from each writer. The same approach is taken to Paul and other New Testament views of Jesus. The book tries to encapsulate as many understandings of Jesus as possible, making for a lively and provoking read.

Modern conservative opinions sit alongside post-modern and radical outlooks, enabling the reader to develop a much deeper knowledge of the man so central to their faith.

Cardinal Hume: A Spiritual Companion; Reflections through the year
Lion Publishing 6.99
Starting in Lent, but ending in Epiphany this really is a year round treasure. Writings - many previously unpublished, of the late beloved Cardinal Hume, have been brought together to inspire, challenge and comfort.

After an explanation of Holy Week, there are short meditations and prayers for each day up to Good Friday. Unlike many lent books, Easter does not end with the resurrection on the Sunday, rather readings are provided through the whole season up until Pentecost.

Even the most tentative of enquirers cannot fail to be moved by the stunning prose of the Cardinal. His writing on suffering and death is the least smug and patronising I have read in a long time. If only all church leaders could write with such humility and grace.

Songs of Praise, The Nation's Favourite Hymns
Andrew Barr, Lion Publishing, 8.99
The nation's top 40 hymns have been set to history, mini biographies and vivid anecdotes from various editions of Songs of Praise. My favourite, Make Me a Channel of Your Peace, is accompanied by the story of St Francis and Daniel O'Donnell's thoughts after singing it in the Albert Hall.

And did you know that the hymn Lord Jesus Christ (Living Lord) was inspired by Cliff Richard's Living Doll? It is not just old hymns and songs from the fifties. Shine Jesus Shine is in at number 20, and apparently Graham Kendrick attributes the song's popularity to his listening to the Beatles on pirate radio as a child - alongside Godly inspiration of course.

The story of pompous bishops in Westminster Abbey being taught the song by some of the poorest parishes in the country, actually gave me some respect for the song. Lit beautifully with inspirational photographs, including one of Diego Velazquez's painting of the crucifixion, it is a gift for all hymn lovers.

Michael Arditti, Arcadia, 10.99
An epic tale of church life highlights the Easter story in the everyday. A child suffers the stigma of AIDs; the gay curate is dealing with loneliness after the death of his partner whilst Huxley the vicar, is trying to hold his crumbling church together.

Although this is a piece of fiction, I am sure Arditti has based it on my old church. Okay, we didn't have a wayward donkey during the Palm Sunday service. Nor as far as I know, a rather perverse Archdeacon but the usual church suspects are all there.

Why do we suffer? How can we be compassionate to those we disagree with? What is the meaning of sacrifice and Easter for modern day society? Such questions are asked throughout the book, culminating in a meditation on how the resurrection is acted out in individual lives.

Be warned that there is some fairly graphic sex, but the dilemmas and anguish that surround it justify its presence. One scene is particularly heartbreaking and demands compassion. Arditti has exposed the fears, phobias and prejudices that vie for attention as Christians attempt to follow Christ.

Simon Blackburn, Oxford University Press, 9.99
This is the third in OUP's series, The Seven Deadly Sins, which asks popular philosophical writers to probe the likes of Sloth, Greed and of course Lust. With delicious humour Blackburn rescues lust from the grasps of the early church and moral majority.

Analysing the intricacies of sex, he concludes that lust is not the unhealthy, evil sin that we have been brought up to condemn. Not that he is encouraging as all to lust after power, or people, but to engage intelligently with sexual desire. Neither is it sex, sex, sex, as some readers may worry.

Blackburn also criticises the objectification of women and men in modern culture and explores how sex has become a commodity. Elegantly written, Lust earns its place in the set of gift books for critical thinkers.

Millennium People
JG Ballard, Flamingo, 16.99
For those who have read all the Lent books this year and just want to switch off on Easter Monday, treat yourself to a harsh satire. Psychologist David Markham is drawn into a group of middleclass protestors after his wife has been killed in a terrorist bomb.

Far from solidarity with poor or fighting for the environment, this bunch of professionals are in a violent battle for their own interests. Apparently trapped between the poor and the stonkingly rich, they are fed up with paying their taxes, being "forced" to pay for private schooling and other such stresses. They are supposedly battling to free themselves from the chains of respectability.

Sympathy waxes and wanes with their arguments, and it is easy to dismiss the scenario as humorous fairytale. However the glimpses into the terrorist mind are only too real. It is disturbing to see how difficult it is to turn off the road to destruction, once self-serving attitudes engulf us.

Books for kids

Mr G Are You Listening?
This is a wonderful book for teenagers by a teenager called "Davina". The book is the private diary of Kat, and starts on January 1 with New Year celebrations. It's a light-hearted read - "Monday 5 January: Back to school - Argh!" but serious issues are tackled: the arrest of a man hanging around Kat's school and the death of her grandfather are just two.

My only gripe is that Kat is meant a few years younger than the author but Davina's use of language gives the impression that it's been written by someone older. But then, I'm an adult and I suppose teenagers won't care what I think and love this book.

Angels, Angels All Around
Ask a child to draw an angel and you know what he or she will come up with - a pure white cassock, wings and a halo.
But popular children's author Bob Hartman questions that stereotype with his version of Biblical tales, Angels, Angels All Around.

He adds an angel to each of his stories, like the angel of fire protecting Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in King Nebuchadnezzar's furnace, based on the story in the book of Daniel.

Ten tales in all, each ending with a historical description of actual events, where in the Bible you can read the original and some words for children to think about.

Email Jesus @ Anytime
"Let's imagine that Jesus was teaching today," begins Hilary Robinson's Email Jesus @ Anytime. In this modern translation of the story of Christ, Robinson imagines that the news of Jesus spreads around the world thanks to the internet and that a world tour takes place.

But then the press publishes reports from false witnesses and the website is destroyed by hackers. Christ dies but four authors write about his life and the books become bestsellers. A good book (no pun intended) that will make kids and adults think.

Our Father - The prayer Jesus taught
A beautiful book by Mary Joslin with wonderful illustrations by Gail Newey. The Lord's Prayer is explored bit by bit using poetry and verses from the Bible.

My Very First Bible
How do you condense the story of Abraham into 12 pages? Well, by using short sentences, easy to understand language and lots of colourful pictures. Lion's My Very First Bible is a fantastic introduction to both Testaments from Lois Rock and illustrator Alex Aycliffe.

The nastier parts of the Bible are missed out (such as the Angel of Death killing Egypt's first born sons and Herod ordering the death of babies) but Jesus being crucified is not. This would make a wonderful Easter gift to a toddler who likes a bedtime story or two.

Poems and Prayers for a Better World
Su Box and Felicity Henderson collated this anthology of poems and prayers from people of all ages wanting to make the world a better place.

The book includes pieces by Mother Teresa, Christina Rossetti and DH Lawrence as well as traditional verses from all corners of the globe. Simple line drawings accompany the text that, if your child is old enough, could be coloured in.

The Lord is my Shepherd: Psalm 23 for children
Lois Rock retells the story of David for a younger audience. Psalm 23 is broken up and simply explained, with later pages including prayers that relate to that particular part of the Psalm.

When Goodbye is For Ever
This is an ideal book to give to a child dealing with bereavement. The book starts with a simple explanation of what goodbye means, placing into an everyday context.

Then the book moves on to permanent goodbyes, starting with losing a friend because she's moving away, and then the main section of the book that deals with the death of a grandparent. Very well constructed and beautifully illustrated, this book will be a great help to youngsters coming to terms with the loss of a relative.

Easter - The Everlasting Story
From Palm Sunday to Pentecost, this book retells events from the Gospels in a moving and accessible style. Christina Balit's illustrations add to the drama and pathos of the book.

All About Jesus
This series of books introduces older toddlers to Jesus, the Bible, God and prayer. Each book is nicely condensed and will take no more than a few minutes' to read. A simple series that can be used as part of a 'beginner's basics' for children. To buy the other titles, click on one of the links below.
All About the Bible
All About God
All About Prayer