As a progressive Christian parent, I struggle to find Lent and Easter books that can manage a story that is complex and nuanced in both a developmentally and theologically appropriate way. The story of death and resurrection needs to be handled in an developmentally responsible way—images of death and torture and the things those images are used to emphasize or claim about God are often troublesome and sometimes worse. I have worked with too many adults with religious trauma rooted in using scary images to frighten them as a child into a more religious life, to not be incredibly warry about it. For me, I want my children to know the way God’s love triumphs over the world’s violence. I am not interested in Easter theology that emphasizes that our badness was justification for God’s tolerance of violence for a larger purpose.
Which is what made Bare Tree and Little Wind: A Story for Holy Week by Mitali Perkins such an unexpected little read. Instead of focusing on the blood and death part of the story, Bare Tree and Little Wind: A Story for Holy Week tells the story of Easter using the wind as the character through out the story, from Palm Sunday to Ascension little wind moves about the trees with a posture of curiosity for what is happening. There are also ecological elements to this story that could be used for a hands on lesson.
The story is a bit abstract for little readers, but no more so than the Christmas stories that look at the manger through an animal point of view. And the dynamic and intricate illustrations more than make up for it. I had only one pause around the theology of Bare Tree and Little Wind at the end, when it narration talks about Jesus returning. I mention this dynamic so that you as the parent or Christian Educator are prepared to frame. In our house we don’t believe in a literal second coming, we believe that Christ returns every time we respond with love and compassion. So in reading it with my kids, that’s how we framed the waiting and longing for Jesus to come again.