Top Ten Tuesday: “Gateway” Books In My Reading Journey

Gateway Books that Drew Me into Researching Spirituality in Children’s  & YA Literature

These are ten “gateway” books that were influential in my adventure of exploring spirituality in children’s and young adult fiction. These were the books that really drew me into wanting to find out more about what it meant for a book to contain spiritual aspects, and even what it meant that a book could engage a person’s spirituality. Though not all readers would think some of these stories, spiritual, they all were certainly spiritually significant to me.

Tom’s Midnight Garden


I didn’t discover this British fantasy from 1958 until I saw it on the reading list for the master’s program I would enter the following autumn. I started working on the books the previous spring and summer, and was absolutely enchanted by this fantasy! Tom hears the clock strike thirteen at night and goes to investigate. He discovers a garden behind his aunt and uncle’s house, but he inadvertently steps back in time and meets Hattie. It’s a delightful time slip novel that engaged my wonder in multiple ways.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane


Edward Tulane’s journey turned into something that I could relate to, though when I first read it upon its release, 2006, I didn’t know just how significant it would be! Though I had finished my master’s program by the time I read this, the story became part of my Ph.D. dissertation several years later. Edward’s journey through the challenges of a broken heart and opening up to love is a journey we can all appreciate.

The Hobbit


I read The Hobbit as a young reader, and Bilbo Baggins’ great adventure stirred in me a desire to embark on my own great adventure. The story certainly made me think more deeply about the notion of journey as “spiritual” and it’s something that I still reflect on in my reading of children’s and young adult literature.

Emily of New Moon


When I re-read Emily of New Moon in graduate school, I was struck by how Emily was in tune to the natural world as well as God, and this story gave me the urge to return to all of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s (one of my favorite authors) books to appreciate their spirituality.

Marianne Dreams


Like Tom’s Midnight Garden, I encountered Marianne Dreams in graduate school in England and loved this fantasy so much, I included it as one of the books for my master’s thesis. The story gets into the significance of dreams, deep connection to other people, as well as the concept of providential aid and coincidence.

The Children of Green Knowe


This book by Lucy Boston, published in 1958, is another story I included for my thesis, and this British fantasy is a fantastic classic. The idea of connectedness to the past is a strong spiritual element in this story, and the book represented an important one for my thinking about how literature can highlight the importance of the past for those in the present.

A Wrinkle in Time


The battle between good and evil in this science fantasy was powerful to me, as well as the close relationship between Meg and her brother Charles Wallace. This is yet another story that drew me into the world of children’s literature and spirituality.

The Mouse and His Child


This is another classic that I didn’t discover until graduate school, but I included it in my Ph.D. dissertation. With a good dose of philosophy, this book is a perfect example of a story that made me think about all kinds of spiritual issues including the meaning of life, relationships, and infinity.

The Heart and the Bottle


It was in the bookstore I discovered this amazing picturebook by Oliver Jeffers. When a girl loses a close family member, she decides to keep her heart in a bottle, so as not to get hurt anymore. The result is a beautiful and important story about the power of keeping one’s heart open to wonder and a childlike perspective.

The Red Tree


This picturebook by award winning illustrator Shaun Tan is intense and moving, and it ends on a note of hope. The story was an important story for me during a crucial time when I was nearing the end of my stay in England. Many other books of Tan’s have continued to give me inspiration and engage with spiritual themes through both the pictures and the words.

What books were important in your reading journey?? Do share!

This weekly meme is hosted by The Broke and Bookish—check out their wonderful blog for all things book-related in the world of young adult literature!



15 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: “Gateway” Books In My Reading Journey

  1. I haven’t read most of these, although The Children of Greene Knowe (and its sequels) have been on my TBR since I saw the film version, From Time to Time (available on Netflix).
    All of these books sound fabulous, either to read myself, or to my 2 children.

    • I still need to watch From Time to Time. I can’t believe I still haven’t seen it–thanks for the reminder. I think your children would definitely enjoy some of these–they are all worthy of re-reading too.

      • Not having read the books, I can’t speak to how well it was adapted, but I really enjoyed the film. I loved seeing some of my favorite Downton Abbey actors in other roles. 🙂 My kids loved The Hobbit, so I’m sure they’ll enjoy these other books as well.

  2. I feel like I should re-read a Wrinkle in Time. Just thinking about that book makes me smile, I know I really enjoyed it as a kid, but can’t remember much about it.

  3. Tom’s Midnight Garden, yes! Emily of New Moon, yes! Marianne Dreams, yes! All wonderful stories. (Have you read Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer? If you liked those books, you might like that one.)

  4. I have never heard of Marianne Dreams! I must look it up. Do you know Wise Child and Juniper by Monica Furlong? Those are amazing stories about spiritual training. I blogged about them here.

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