Some Sort of Change

Maybe I felt that between starting home school, planning art lessons for my daughter’s co-op, cleaning up after a mobile baby, and editing essays, I just didn’t have enough to do during nap-time. Maybe I breathed in the fall air a little too deeply and felt that I, like the leaves, trees and sky, needed to make some sort of change.

The Time Quartet | Little Book, Big StoryBut whatever it was that inspired the change, I made it, and I’m glad I did: on Saturday, I enlisted the help of my husband and we sat on the couch, side by side, with cups of cold green tea between us, and we reworked this site completely, giving a lot of thought to what might make it easier for you to read through my existing posts and rummage through the archives when you’re looking for a specific title.

Not only that, but I’ve spent the last week photographing books for these posts so I can do away with the tiny thumbnails once and for all.  (I did this on the front porch, where the light is best and the background clean, but hovering over a stack of books with a camera is a bit awkward when the neighbors walk by.)

The most exciting change (I think) is this: if you take a minute to enter your email address–which I promise not to share–you can now subscribe to this blog via email:

Enter your email address:

Did you do it? Hooray! You shall henceforth find my newest posts waiting for you in your inbox.

There will be hiccups while I update photos and re-format posts and such, so please bear with me. If it’s any consolation, there are other changes in the queue that I think you’ll like, but I don’t want to give anything away quite yet. I am taking requests, though: is there anything that you would like to see,  anything that might make it easier for you to navigate Little Book, Big Story?

Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing | Little Book, Big Story

Twenty and Ten | Claire Huchet Bishop

Twenty and Ten | Little Book, Big Story

It makes sense that I would be an unofficial librarian at my daughter’s school. I grew up among books, you know–the business of words has always appealed to me. I put my enthusiasm for books on a slow simmer for a time as I pursued other things, but now, between my roles as a blogger, copy editor and librarian, it’s back at a roaring boil: I think in paragraphs–in complete, crafted sentences–and hear my life and the things I look at narrated back to me in what I wish was a lilting British accent like Jim Dale’s but is, in fact, my own voice. But, oh well. We were talking about me being a librarian.

The good news (but isn’t it all good news?) is that I have a book budget and a license to hunt out quality books for our growing co-op school. I now haunt bookstores and thrift shops with a new purpose and vigor, and our house looks as though books have multiplied all over it–the tops of the shelves and the floor in front of them are filled with stacks of books, organized by their relationship to the library catalog. I am tasked with pre-reading a lot of donated chapter books, which is, as you can imagine, no hardship, except that some of them are pretty lame, and so I don’t finish those. But the good ones are really good, and I never would have found out about them otherwise.

Twenty and Ten | Little Book, Big Story

Twenty and Ten came to me in just such a box of books. It was skinny, with awkward cover art, something with a foreshortened Nazi and some kids sort of floating in the grass behind him in what looked like a puddle but was, it turns out, meant to be a cave. But the warped perspective is pardonable, for the book within the cover is graceful and concise. The author is an experienced storyteller–a verbal storyteller, that is–so the story rolls along in a conversational tone that makes you feel like you are sitting down to tea with the narrator, twenty or fifty years after the events of the story occurred.

What the book is about is twenty French schoolchildren who were evacuated to the countryside during World War II, and the ten Jewish children hidden in their midst. The story ends happily and on a note of hope, but it is suspenseful and the stakes are high. This is a book for children, but it’s about WWII, and children were called upon to make some terrible decisions in WWII; because of that, I’d only recommend this book to older children–and to you, of course. It’s so slender, you’d finish it in an afternoon.

Twenty and Ten | Little Book, Big Story

The Maggie B. | Irene Haas

I am not one to grow weepy at the thought of my children getting older, but there is something about the thought of this child turning four that gives me pause.

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She has always been so little, you know–fiesty and loud and sweet and little–and yet, tomorrow she turns four, an age that isn’t exactly big but that does turn some sort of corner, taking her out of toddlerdom and into a new season of life, where the questions are frequent and the play enthralling.

The Maggie B. | Little Book, Big Story

The Maggie B. suits this season in Sarah’s life and so it makes sense that she enjoys it: the story is an adventure story but a comforting one, where the objects of everyday life–soup, storms and younger siblings–are a part of the quiet action. When Margaret Barnstable, heroine of The Maggie B., wishes on a star, she wishes for a ship “named after me, to sail for a day alone and free, with someone nice for company.” She gets her wish, and she and her brother sail the seas together in a comfy ship (complete with farm and fruit trees) for a single day. It is a wish I could see Sarah making.

The Maggie B. | Little Book, Big Story

In fact, it is a wish I might have made as a child–or might still make, if given the opportunity. Something about this book enchanted me the very first time I read it, and it has remained a favorite in our family ever since, but I am glad to see Sarah adopting it as a personal favorite now and bringing it to me while I clear the table after dinner with that sleepy question: “Will you read this to me?” The thought that she’ll be reading to herself soon, that I won’t hear that question from her for much longer–that might make me a little weepy. But until then, I’ll enjoy those moments on the couch with Sarah’s hair tickling my chin, reading The Maggie B.

The Maggie B. | Little Book, Big Story

What is the Gospel? | Mandy Groce

Groce - What is the GospelIn a previous post, I reviewed the charming and concise book, What is the Church? I overlooked the rhymed couplets because I was so taken with the well-answered question at the heart of the book; I saw what the authors were trying to do, and as a parent and a Christian, I loved them for tackling a big question in a way that satisfies even the littlest reader (three-year-old Sarah was the one most taken by the book in our home).

What is the Gospel? takes a similar approach to an even bigger and more challenging question, and the result is a deeper, richer book. Mandy Groce leaves the rhyme scheme behind and instead uses the narrative of a young boy questioning various family members about the gospel (I love the mother’s response) to reveal various aspects of the gospel before the boy’s conversation with his father brings everything together at the end.

What is the gospel? This book is small and cheap and worth the cost when it comes to explaining the gospel to children and understanding it better ourselves. With this book, the authors have assured my loyalty: I shall henceforth be on the lookout for any remaining or forthcoming books in the series, so expect to see  more of them reviewed here.

Today’s post is brought to you by: Mitch’s thirty-fifth birthday! This guy picks water lilies for his girls when he goes kayaking and grows sunflowers nearly twice my height (note the minivan for scale):

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It’s not uncommon to find a little girl on or around him, perhaps because he pushes them way higher than I do on the swings and cuddles with them while reading about church history:

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I have known and loved this guy for a long time now and am a better woman for it, so it is with a certain exuberance that I say, “Happy Birthday, Mitch!”

Special Edition Mid-Week Post

This week–the last week of my summer vacation–I get to share my favorite post from elsewhere with you (favorite, because I’m hugely biased and not at all humble).

You see, Deeply Rooted has accepted a handful of my pieces for publication either in the magazine or on the blog, and the first one went up this morning, so while we celebrate the very last day of summer vacation by going all Jackson Pollock on a bedsheet (and the garden, and the yard, and the lawn chairs), you can pop over to Deeply Rooted and read my piece about early mornings, Earl Grey tea and starting the day with my husband.

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King Arthur | Roger Lancelyn Green

King Arthur and His Knights | Little Book, Big Story

Merlin and Morgan le Fay have become household names around here, not because of any particular affinity on our part for Camelot, but because Lydia is currently smitten with the books in the Magic Treehouse series, in which Merlin and Morgan le Fay appear as sidekicks of a sort to the time-travelling protagonists. This fact inspired me to brush up on Arthurian legend, because, contrary to the Magic Treehouse interpretation of the characters, I didn’t remember Merlin being the sort of fellow who typically relied on the help of eight-year-old children (I had yet to read The Once and Future King) and because I remembered Morgan le Fay as being, well, evil.

And so I read King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table, and found myself caught up in the golden age of chivalry, where the grass of Britain was emerald green, the knights thundered about on their horses, armor clinking, and the damsels suffered perpetual distress. Roger Lancelyn Green (one of the Inklings, by the way) writes beautifully, retelling the old, old stories of Arthur and company with a sweeping, noble air, and doing justice to the depth of characters like Launcelot, noble but broken, or Galahad in his seeming perfection, as they ride off on their famous adventures to battle wicked knights and quest for the Holy Grail.

King Arthur and His Knights | Little Book, Big Story

This is, in effect, a collection of stories about Arthur and his knights, shepherded under the banner of a common narrative, so while it’s a lovely read straight through, it’s easy to pick and choose the stories that your child might enjoy if you don’t feel they’re quite ready for some of the more–ahem–mature content yet. One of the major subplots in this book is adultery, after all, and there is quite a lot of beheading and severing of limbs and such, but this telling is geared toward children, so the content is handled gracefully. But if you’re just not ready to introduce certain topics to your child or find that, as in our house, there’s not a huge demand for stories about knights and chivalry, you can pick and choose your tales.

I read the first half of “The Sword in the Stone” to Lydia, mostly because I wanted to her to be familiar with at least part of the original story of Morgan le Fay and Merlin, and she enjoyed it in a polite sort of way before going back to her Magic Treehouse books. I, in turn, went back to The Once and Future King, which I had started reading immediately after finishing King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table–because it seems that I have developed an affinity for Camelot after all.

Summer Vacation (Part V)

I’m in the midst of school shopping/writing art lesson plans (more on that later)/unpacking and cleaning house after hosting an exchange student and taking a trip to Lake Roesiger (now you understand why I’ve been milking this vacation series for weeks), so here for your written entertainment is “28 Books You Should Read if You Want To,” by Janet Potter at The Millions.

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As an added bonus, I’ve got a little something extra for you this week. (You’re welcome.)

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