If you read only one "serious" book this season, make it "The Spiritual Life of Children" by Robert Coles. It's the eighth and last volume of his 30-year Pulitzer-Prize-winning study of children.

Coles introduces the reader to dozens of children of various religious traditions, from a 9-year-old Tennessee girl who sees God as her "parents' parent" to the 10-year-old Hopi girl who tries to explain to Coles the difference between the personal God of the "Anglos" and her God:"Our God is the sky, and lives wherever the sky is. Our God is the sun and the moon, too; and our God is our (the Hopi) people, if we remember to stay here (on the consecrated land). This is where we're supposed to be, and if we leave, we lose God."

These are children living their faiths and grappling, sometimes fiercely, with the nature of God and of good and evil. Their intelligence and goodness renew one's faith in humanity.

The book is enriched by Coles' presence - the respect with which he questions and listens to the children, and the way he grapples with his own faith. He is at times a man of science, at times a man struggling toward God.