Icons do more than tell a story; they are windows into heaven that give us little glimpses of eternity, but often we don’t understand the depth of what we see when we contemplate them. Written by John Kosmas Skinas, Pictures of God: A Child’s Guide to Understanding Icons (published by Ancient Faith Publishing in 2013), is designed to help children uncover the underlying messages written in icons, in order to better understand them.
Twelve icons from a variety of artistic traditions, locations, and time periods are examined. Along with a full page photo of the icon, each icon’s story is told along with a short “Notice This” section, which directs the reader’s attention to a special feature or artistic detail in the icon, such as a brief explanation of how halos are painted and what they represent. The purpose of icons in pointing our attention towards God is gently emphasized, and the message of God’s love shines through the text as well as the icons.
This book gives a great introduction to icons for children, not just from the standpoint of what these twelve icons are telling us, but in guiding children to look more closely at icons that surround them in real life. This would be a great book to bring to church to encourage your child to compare the icons described in the book with the icons in their church. A Sunday school class could use this book to study icons. A great class project would be for each child to create a page modelled on the pages in this book describing an icon of their choice. With guidance from the teacher or priest, this might help them understand that icons show symbolic messages of God’s love and grace, which apply to each of our own lives.