Alternative Kid's Lit
December 12, 2007 1:17 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for some good subtly pagan/world religion themed children's books, toys, movies etc for my 6 year old niece in Arkansas. It doesn't have to be specifically pagan, just something that fits the themes and values of most any earth-based or mystical religion.

My niece is stuck in the middle of the bible belt and therefore is given many Christian oriented gifts for the holiday season. Since my sister's side of the family ranges from staunch atheist to various flavors of pagan/other, I would like to at least expose her to other view points without completely freaking out my brother-in-law's family (yes, my sister is hip to this, as long as it isn't too preachy, she wants her to make up her own mind when she grows up). I have already stocked her with numerous fairy tale collections, ancient Egyptian gods coloring books, Native American life pop up books etc, but now that she is a precocious 6 year old, I would like to give her something with a little more complexity without losing the entertainment value. Ideas? Favorites?
posted by evilcupcakes to Religion & Philosophy (15 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Here are some book I loved as a young, precocious reader:

The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander (based on Welsh mythology - 5 book series)
The Giver by Lois Lowry (utopian sci-fi novel - also has sequels)
The Moomintroll books by Tove Jansson (Finnish children's books - available in English - start with A Comet in Moominland or Finn Family Moomintroll)

These might be a little too advanced for a 6 year old, but maybe someone could read them to her?
posted by ljshapiro at 1:31 PM on December 12, 2007

The Epic of Gilgamesh in children's book form. And there's tons of Greek and Roman mythology in that form, Jason and the Argonauts, et cetera. I always loved Clash of the Titans when I was a kid (though I think there's a spot of nudity in it, plus some slaughter of course).
posted by XMLicious at 1:39 PM on December 12, 2007

The Shortest Day and The Lights of Winter are two good books about solstice and related winter celebrations for her age group without getting too preachy or LOLDRUIDS about it. In browsing those I came across this list: Raising a Free Thinker, which has a lot of good stuff in it too.
posted by ulotrichous at 1:40 PM on December 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

When I was that age I read Enid Blyton, but she's fallen out of favor of late. Still, might be worth trying.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 2:31 PM on December 12, 2007

I heartily recommend The Ramayana for Children. It is a beautifully illustrated book (this link will let you peruse its contents) of the classic Indian epic. As an epic, it reads like most cultural mythology, so it imparts its message without any heavy-handed indoctrination, while allowing the reader to explore a new religio-cultural atmosphere.

The suggested reading ages for this book are 9-12, but I bought this book for my sister's 7th birthday, and she adored it. I presume that almost all of the characters' names will be unfamiliar to your niece, so this might be a good book for your sister to read with her.

I am working under the assumption that by "world religion" you mean religions that are unfamiliar, and only not limited pagan religious traditions. If I have misinterpreted this, I apologize.
posted by numinous at 2:35 PM on December 12, 2007

I don't know Diane Duane's religion, but she has written a series of young-wizards books (that predate Potter by well over a decade), and there are about nine of them now, if memory serves. To me, they seem to espouse a pagan/earth mother sort of vibe; I've always found the spirituality of Duane's works — namely, that life's purpose is to fight entropy — to be a good fit. And the one that is set in Ireland (A Wizard Abroad) is more explicitly pagan, if memory serves. Also, in the series, there are definitely gods and not a singular monotheistic God.

Really, very high recommendation to you on this one. If I were trapped on a desert island with 10 books, a few of these would definitely be in the mix.
posted by WCityMike at 3:02 PM on December 12, 2007

Diane Duane's books ARE great, I loved them for years... but perhaps better for a slightly older child, as they deal with "transitioning out of being a kid" instead of "being a kid" -- if that distinction makes any sense. I can't imagine having read them in first grade.

Maybe a copy of Island of the Blue Dolphins?

Or, .. well, this is sort of silly, but Klutz books are fun if not particularly enlightening: Fairy Making

Perhaps something on the Zodiac?
posted by samthemander at 5:42 PM on December 12, 2007

I'm In Charge of Celebrations. / It's not nature religion, but just nature appreciation.
posted by salvia at 9:38 PM on December 12, 2007

Avatar: The Last Airbender. It's more subtle than some of the other works mentioned, but there's definitely a Buddhist/nature spiritual element to the show that is pretty noticeable.
posted by spinifex23 at 9:50 PM on December 12, 2007

I adored Juniper while I was growing up. Wise women, mother-goddess worshipping, etc... but not blatant or offensive. A bit suspenseful for a 6 yr. old but I would definitely hang onto it for a future birthday.
posted by like_neon at 1:55 AM on December 13, 2007

The Wind in the Willows might work.
posted by jon1270 at 2:44 AM on December 13, 2007

D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths. It's a bit above her reading level, but the pictures are beautiful and definitely stimulate the imagination. I used the check this book out from the "media center" in elementary school at least once a month!
posted by kidsleepy at 7:05 AM on December 13, 2007

The Three Candles of Little Veronica was one of my favorites when I was a child.
posted by saffronwoman at 9:20 AM on December 13, 2007

C. S. Lewis' Till We Have Faces is probably a good dark horse for this situation. It doesn't even mention christianity. Lewis was a noted lover of paganism, and spent lots of time telling people that paganism and Christianity are very akin.
posted by koeselitz at 4:07 PM on December 14, 2007

Wise Child is the first book in the series like_neon mentions. Juniper is second. Both lovely books. I love them. Age range is 9-12, so they could be read aloud to her starting fairly soon.

Along those same lines, perhaps some Karen Cushman might fit the bill.

Same deal with Elissa's Quest--earthy, feminist, pluralist, light fantasy for middle grade. This one's much more recent, of course.

I'd also check out the "customers also bought" sections on all these for more ideas.
posted by lampoil at 8:35 PM on December 14, 2007

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