Religion’s not a topic that you often see covered in children’s fiction – I suspect because it can be quite controversial – but I’ve noticed that when authors do decide to touch on in, they tend to do it very well (so long as they can avoid being over-preachy). I’ve not read too many religious books, but here are a few that stood out to me:
1) My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher. This story follows a young boy whose sister died in a terrorist bombing in London, after which his family fell apart. Now living with his increasingly intolerant father, Jamie struggles over the Christian command to honour one’s father and mother, in the face of his growing friendship with a muslim girl at his new school.
2) The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean by David Almond. This post-apocalyptic novel focuses on the secret, illegitimate son of a priest, who’s lived in seclusion all his life. Billy’s perspective (and spelling!) can be a little confusing at times, but the story is both powerful and chilling, and the religious aspects of it are incredibly well thought out.
3) The Fire & Thorns trilogy by Rae Carson. A high fantasy series about a young princess who was born with something called a “godstone” embedded in her belly, indicating that she would have an important duty to perform for God. The actual religions portrayed in this are fictional, but the attitudes towards them and the conflicts that arise between them ring true.
4) How to Be Bad by E. Lockhart, Lauren Myracle & Sarah Mlynowski. For the most part, a fun contemporary novel about three friends on a road trip. One of the girls (Jesse, whose character was written by Lauren Myracle), however, is deeply religious, and often wonders if the troubles that she and her family are facing are some kind of divine punishment for her sins.
5) The His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman. Last up, I’ve picked out a much darker take on religion for you. His Dark Materials follows a girl called Lyra, who leaves her home in Oxford for the Arctic Circle in pursuit of a missing friend. On the surface, this doesn’t sound like it has much to do with religion at all, but the Church plays a huge (antagonistic) part in the story, and there’s a lot of allegorical allusions as well, particularly as the series goes on.