Deconstructing your faith is hard and can be even more complicated when you’re raising kids in the midst of your questioning. There are a lot of great books out there for adults, but it can be a little more challenging to find books for kids that represent a deconstructed Christian worldview. Don’t worry! I’ve got you! I scoured bookstores and found 9 stunningly beautiful children’s books for deconstructing your faith.
You can absolutely read these books with your kiddos, but I have to warn you: they may move you in ways other children’s books never will.
Now, I know there are a lot more topics to cover with our kids, so this isn’t meant to be your entire library. There are many great authors and illustrators producing beautiful books. Some of the creators of the books below have more than one book so we’ve linked their names to their websites whenever possible.
Without further ado, here’s my list of 9 stunningly beautiful children’s books for deconstructing your faith! You can ask for them at your local bookstore or click on the image to order online!
We Are Water Protectors
written by Carole Linstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goade
This 2021 Caldecott award winner is told through the eyes of a young Anishinaabe girl. She shares with the reader what her Nokomis (grandmother) has taught her about water being central to all life. On beautifully illustrated pages, she shares the old prophecy of the black snake and how it connects to current events by crisscrossing indigenous lands with oil pipelines. The final pages include short letters from the author and illustrator to add context and deepen our understanding of what it means to become a water protector. The last page includes an interactive pledge that readers can sign and date.
How this supports deconstruction: Decolonizing our view of the world, resources, and indigenous people is a key part of shifting out of a mindset that has been deeply traumatizing. Christian churches and Christian people led the genocide against Amerca’s indigenous people. We did not just participate; we said it was God’s idea. It also creates a foundation to talk about environmental issues and clean energy.
The Not-So-Friendly Friend: How to Set Boundaries for Healthy Friendships
written by Christina Furnival, illustrated by Katie Dwyer
Written by a licensed mental health provider, this book effectively teaches the reader how to set healthy boundaries with people who aren’t kind to them and when to get help. It does a lovely job of navigating the topic without characterizing the “not-so-friendly friend” as bad or opening the door for retaliatory bullying. I love that this book includes a discussion guide with the key terms and the illustrations feel more diverse than typical children’s books.
How this supports deconstruction: Let’s be honest: toxic religion doesn’t teach healthy boundaries and bullying is the norm in many settings. So learning how to step back from unhealthy people without blaming or shaming ourselves is a skill we all need!
The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family
written by Ibtihaj Muhammed with S. K. Ali, illustrated by Hatem Aly
First, this story brought tears to my eyes. While it focuses on an older sister wearing her hijab to school on the first day, we experience it through the younger sister’s eyes. This story bravely takes on bullying, coming of age, Islamophobia, and sisterly love. It is just magical. There were a few times I wanted to reach in, scoop up the narrator, and give her a big hug, but then I’d turn the page and realize she didn’t need me. Between her own brilliance and her momma’s advice, she had everything she needed to navigate the harsh critics. There’s even a note at the end from the author, Olympic star Ibtihaj Muhammed, who describes how this story is based on her childhood.
How this supports deconstruction: Christian books rarely have Muslim women and girls telling their own stories. This story confronts bullying and fear around being different and centers non-Christian voices. There’s no white saviorism or rescuing. The two girls and their momma have it covered.
Acceptance is My Superpower: A Children’s Book about
Diversity and Equality
written by Alicia Ortego
While focused on the main character being teased for her glasses, this book teaches that differences and disabilities should not impact how we value people. It’s an easy read that’s fun and rhyme-y! Near the end, the book states that acceptance of others starts with self-acceptance and invites the reader to list 6 things they love about themselves.
How this supports deconstruction: Self-love and acceptance are not strong suits of toxic religion. Learning that judging others is usually about avoiding our own fears, uncertainty, and discomfort will go a long way towards deconstruction our harmful beliefs.
Amy Dala and the Answer
written by Megan Gilmore, illustrated by Kay Fletcher
This may seem like a strange book to put on a deconstruction list, but I promise it deserves to be here! Amy Dala is a lovely introduction to the parts of the brain and how they help us navigate the world. If that sound’s boring, don’t worry, this book is a sing-song story that talks about friends and feelings in an easy-to-understand way.
How this supports deconstruction: You hear me say it all the time: Bodies and emotions are constantly put down by toxic religion. So if we want to break down all the bad doctrine associated with that system, we’ve got to get more familiar with how our brains work and learn that emotions are a healthy part of us.
What is God Like?
written by Rachel Held Evans and Matthew Paul Turner,
illustrated by Ying Hui Tan
Doesn’t being written by Matthew Paul Turner and the late Rachel Held Evans say it all? But let me go a little deeper for those who aren’t familiar with RHE’s groundbreaking work. This book does a spectacular job of expanding our view of who God is outside the box toxic religion puts Them in. The beautiful illustrations feature a lovely modern take on the Trinity, as well as diverse children and adorable critters. It’s an NYT bestseller for a good reason.
How this supports deconstruction: Unlearning the misogynistic, hypermasculine God that is so prevalent in toxic religion is a key step in deconstruction. This book invites us to see a bunch of different perspectives and pronouns that represent an expansive Creator.
written by Teresa Kim Pecinovsky, illustrated by Khoa Le
This breathtaking book takes an untraditional yet sorely-needed approach to the attributes of God as a mother. It highlights the maternal aspects of God based on scripture. There’s even a companion scripture guide available for download in the FAQ section of her website.
How this supports deconstruction: Unraveling the masculine-centric attributes of God that reigns over toxic religion is vital to faith deconstruction. Having a well-rounded view of God leads to a healthier approach to faith and spirituality.
Listening with My Heart: A Story of Kindness and Self-Compassion
written by Gabi Garcia, illustrated by Ying Hui Tan
Whew! This one got me. It’s the powerful story of Esperanza, a compassionate girl who loves everyone but is really, really hard on herself when she makes a mistake. Sound familiar? It did to me, too, and that’s why I’ve included it on this list. Self-love and compassion seem like concepts we can easily agree are important, but if no one ever taught you how to do so, they can be hard to put into practice. There’s also a fantastic study guide at the end to help you learn how to check in with your body and a mantra you can speak over yourself when things feel hard.
How this supports deconstruction: Unjust power structures like toxic religion rely on people, particularly women, to underestimate their worth and the value of their time, energy, and work. So if you’re deconstructing, especially if you’re a woman, you’ve probably been taught to put everyone else’s needs first and push until there’s nothing left for yourself. This book is a simple reminder that self-love and compassion are fierce acts of resistance against unjust systems.
Eyes that Kiss in the Corners
written by Joanna Ho, illustrated by Dung Ho
This is another one that brought tears to my eyes because it’s such a beautiful story of self-love and valuing our differences without “othering” people. There’s also fiercely-feminine ancestral energy in these pages that speaks to us tenderly about carrying the fingerprints of our grandmothers’ grandmothers’. The Illustrations are gorgeous and I adore the main character’s interaction with her little sister. She makes sure Mei-Mei is seen and cherished, just as her mother and grandmother have seen and cherished her.
How this supports deconstruction: American Evangelicals have not been kind to AAPI people, like, ever. The same terrible racism is at the root of old atrocities and recent cases of violence, exploitation, and human trafficking (including the Atlanta murders and decades of abuse by prominent apologist Ravi Zacharias). To deconstruct we have to uproot the anti-AAPI racism that is rampant in our culture and this book is a great step in the right direction.
Are there any books you would add to the list of
children’s books for deconstructing faith?
Let me know so I can check them out!
Hey there friend! I’m Angela J Herrington, MA, LSCC and I’m a Faith Deconstruction coach who provides soul care for people who are untangling from toxic religion.
As a certified life coach and seminary-trained online pastor, I have a lot of experience helping people connect with God. But this is also a very personal journey for me.
For the last decade, I’ve been on my own journey to break free from learned smallness and step into wild sacred holy womanhood. Long story short, after finding faith in my early 30’s I began to realize that what I was hearing from the church about women didn’t always line up with what God was telling me. I loved God but realized the church was teaching some really toxic stuff.
So this Enneagram 8, first born, Gen Xer started deconstructing. I questioned and challenged everything I thought I knew about faith, gender, and myself.
It was messy and took a lot of work to sort it out. Therapy. Coaching. Bodywork. Spiritual healing. Conferences and retreats. And even a couple of college degrees.
You name it…I tried it.
But the thing that made the biggest difference was the presence and support of wise people who helped me up when I didn’t know where else to turn.
That’s why in September 2021, I created and hosted The Deconstructing Faith Summit. I gathered 20 phenomenal deconstruction experts to share their expertise and hosted over 1100 attendees in the week-long virtual event. Those who attended realized they weren’t alone, had a safe space to ask questions, learned dozens of strategies to help them deconstruct, and released tons of pent-up emotions they didn’t even know they were carrying around.
We laughed, we cried, and we danced, but the best part was…We did it together.
It was AMAZING and it was just the beginning.
So now, I’m doubling down on my commitment to create an inclusive support system for people, like you, who are longing to get away from toxic religion and cultivate a nourishing spiritual life.