The Mountains of Tibet, Mordecai Gernstein

Circle of Life Picture Book of the Day

My mother is Buddhist and I grew up going to mostly weddings, funerals, and remembrance ceremonies at Buddhist temples in the Los Angeles area. Years later, when I attended UCLA for business school, I ended up in West Los Angeles’ Little Japantown a half block down the street from the Buddhist temple that my grandparents went to.

Most the Buddhist services that I attended were in Japanese which I did not speak so it was a blur of strange sounds and an occasional joke while I squirmed in my seat, bored. I’d nudge my mom for a translation but it was often too complicated to be whispered to me right then and there. So you might say that I got very little by way of Buddhist philosophy despite my mother having taught at her Buddhist temple before she had us.

My parents let me attend any place of worship I was inclined towards. I went to Mormon church class with my best friend in 2nd grade and Catholic masses with my friend Natalie in college. I went to Baptist church camp and took communion with best friend from Junior High.

But the local Presbyterian church was my favorite. I went to Sunday School there because of the neighbor kids but stayed because of the Old Testament comic books that were handed out after class. Those stories always ended on a cliffhanger!

Yet, as I get older, Buddhism resonates the most for me. The idea of karma just seems logical. The circle of life makes a lot of sense too. For my pick of The Picture Book of the Week, I chose one with a circle of life theme by Caldecott author Mordecai Gerstein. I hope you enjoy it.

What picture books that explore religious or philosophical questions do you read with your kids? Please share!

Circle of Life Picture Books for Kids

The Mountains of Tibet by Mordecai Gerstein, with a commentary by Sogyal Rinpoche

Gerstein says of The Mountains of Tibet, “I’ve come to believe that during the course of our lives, we can live many lives. … At one particularly momentous new beginning, I looked back at all the choices I’d made that had brought me to that point. That was when this book began.”

The Three Questions by Jon Muth based on a story Leo Tolstoy

Nikolai is a boy who believes that if he can find the answers to his three questions, he will always know how to be a good person.

Seven Fathers retold by Ashley Ramsden, illustrations by Ed Young

A traveler is seeking shelter from a snow storm and it would seem that he might die if he doesn’t find it. He happens upon a house in the distance and must ask seven generations of fathers for permission to take shelter in their home. Each father is more ancient than the last; the final father is just a speck of dust. This lovely picture book COULD be the story of the afterlife.

Annie and the Old One by Miska Miles

Annie is a young Navajo girl who has difficulty accepting that her grandmother, the Old One, will die. Her grandmother gently teaches Annie about the circle of life before passing on.

The Gift by Carol Ann Duffy

Do you reap what you sow? In this gorgeous paper cut illustrated picture book, The Gift is the story of a young girl who plants a small garden in the woods. It explores the idea of the circle of life and the importance of family and friends.

p.s. I have two other book lists on this same topic:

Best World Religion Books for Kids

Zen Picture Books to Make You Think

To examine any book more closely at Amazon, please click on image of book.

The Mountains of Tibet, Mordecai Gernstein

I am an Amazon affiliate which means if you buy anything through my blog, I get a very small kickback at no cost to you. I use this money to pay for postage and handling for my giveaways.

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. What a great book list! Thank you for sharing, am looking forward to reading them all with my kids.
    Marie-Claude recently posted…Recipe: Popular Chinese Drink “Bubble Tea”My Profile

  2. Thank you for another wonderful list.

  3. Catherine

    I really like the sound of the first two, Mia. Thanks for sharing!
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  4. These books sound interesting! We haven’t really explored religion through books, yet.
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  5. Ann

    Oh I’ll have to check it out! I would like to learn a little about Buddhism and I like Gertein’s illustrations. I like Brother Sun Sister Moon by Katherine Paterson
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