Four for families enjoying spirits of our furry friends

Wrapping up Animal Week at ReadTheSpirit, today we’re recommending four books for families!
Please, enjoy all of our stories about the spiritual side of our relationships with animals:

1 For Families: In Our Image, by Swartz and Hall

You can see a two-page image from the book, above.

This is a large-format, full-color picture book that’s perfect for Jewish and Christian children. Jewish Lights Publishing produced and sells the book—and devoted a lot of time to gathering endorsements from Protestant, Catholic and Jewish authors.

However, if you’re a parent, what you really want to know is: Will my child love it? Will we read it more than once? The answer is: Yes! The basic idea is that, when God decided to create humans, God asked animals to help design these new creatures. (The pages, shown above, are from the middle of this story.) You’ll have lots of fun reading these lines and making up strange voices for the various creatures. Get your children involved in helping you re-read this story and they’ll come up with even more dramatic voices!

2 For Families: How Did the Animals Help God? Swartz and Hall (Board Book)

Want to start early with your toddler in enjoying this kind of fanciful story about creation? The publisher of the large-format picture book also produces this board book, perfect for toddlers who are capable of truly devouring their reading materials. This sturdy small book will survive a bit of gnawing and tiny hands dragging it from one room to another. In fact, you might want to order both the large-format and the board-book editions on the publisher’s site. Then, you can “graduate” from one version to the other around age 4.

This board-book edition naturally is shorter and the illustrations are edited to fit the smaller pages. But, there’s still a whole theater of storytelling possibilities between these sturdy covers.


Each year at ReadTheSpirit, we hear from more readers about animal blessings. These rituals are traditional in many Catholic and Anglican parishes around the world; now, they’re becoming popular in a small but growing number of evangelical churches, as well. In addition, millions of families are spontaneously creating rituals involving companion animals, especially when a beloved pet dies.

But what words do we use? Some Christian groups have published liturgies for animal blessings—and now poet and educator Lynn L. Caruso has collected more than 200 pages of “Prayers and Ceremonies to Celebrate God’s Creatures, Wild and Tame,” which is the subtitle of her book that’s available through SkyLight Paths. She reaches far beyond Christianity into Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and other world religions. She also reaches into works of great poets, including Walt Whitman, W.B. Yeats, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Rumi, D.H. Lawrence and Christina Rossetti. (She even makes room for a bit of her own verse.) This is a rich collection of spiritual ideas for families!


Along with the growing number of animal blessings, we’ve seen a rising number of programs that encourage interaction with animals as part of therapy or helpful service. Dogs in particular have become important companions in retirement communities, in therapy for survivors of trauma, even in elementary education. Author Rachel McPherson is founder and executive director of the Good Dog Foundation, which encourages “Dogs Helping Humans.” Her group is responsible for thousands of animal visits to hospitals, community groups and schools each year. Good Dog helped organize theraputic visits by animals to the exhausted people working on the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in New York and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

Sounds like a noble idea, doesn’t it? But how do these interactions work? What happens? In a little more than 200 pages, McPherson writes two dozen true stories about dogs making a difference in human lives. Sprinkled among these inspiring stories are short sections that explain the nuts and bolts of such programs—and the various kinds of dogs who meet the many human needs described in the book. Amazon sells, “Every Dog Has a Gift: True Stories of Dogs Who Bring Hope & Healing into Our Lives” at a discount.

We want our international conversation to continue

Conversation is far better than the dangerous shouting matches we’ve been witnessing in our global culture. So, please, email us at [email protected] and tell us what you think of our stories—and, please tell a friend to start reading along with you!

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