The Prince’s Poison Cup | RC Sproul

Today’s summer rerun first appeared on June 14, 2013.


My daughter once told me, “When I’m at a friend’s house, I go straight for the books.” I loved this, because I do that, too: when invited to a friend’s house for the first time, I gravitate toward the bookshelf (especially if they have bookshelves, plural), and scan the spines for familiar titles.

I know that friendship will come easily when I see certain books lining their shelves, or better yet, when this new friend follows me to the bookshelf, leans over my shoulder and says, “You like that one? Then you have to read this.” Before I know it, my arms are full of new books.

I met The Prince’s Poison Cup at a just such a new friend’s house. As we chatted, I flipped it open carelessly and found myself confronted with an illustration so beautiful that it moved me to tears at once: a father, a king, holding his son in the deepest of embraces, both of them radiant with light.

The Prince's Poison Cup | Little  Book, Big Story

I didn’t care what the book was about—we needed our very own copy. And when we did get our copy, I found that it was an allegory of quality and depth, written around the verse, “Shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” (John 18:11b). R.C. Sproul puts his Bible knowledge to good use as he weaves the gospel through this story of a prince who rescued his Father’s people by . . . but wait. I won’t give the story away.

I will tell you that Justin Gerard’s illustrations do more than display the story–they interact with it, advancing the plot in beautiful double spreads. This is a story that will appeal to heroic little boys, but that has also captured the hearts of my girly girls, perhaps because it is full of the elements of the Best Story Ever (you know the one).


The Prince’s Poison Cup
RC Sproul, Justin Gerard (2008)

An Interview with Gloria Furman | Deeply Rooted

I had the privilege of interviewing Gloria Furman, author of Glimpses of Grace and Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full (among others), for the Deeply Rooted blog! While writing a review of Glimpses of Grace and preparing to interview her, I really got to bond with Gloria Furman’s books—and that’s an experience I recommend. Her answers to the interview questions are just as lovely and life-giving as her books. You can read the interview here.

Glimpses of Grace, by Gloria Furman | Little Book, Big Story

I’d Be Your Princess | Kathryn O’Brien

This week’s summer rerun originally appeared on June 21, 2013, just before we learned that we were expecting a third daughter.


After the birth of our first daughter, we felt that general terror of new parents: We can’t do this. Raise a child? Us? Two years later, when we learned that we were expecting our second daughter, I felt a new pressure: we were evidently specializing in raising daughters. Shouldn’t we get it right? (Ha! As if we could.)

And so I found myself lying awake at night, thinking about princesses.

When the time came, would our daughters develop a Princess Fixation? Would they want only princess-themed underwear, snack foods and books? Would they insist on wearing tiaras to the store, or answer only to “Your Royal Highness”? Would they swoon over an imaginary Prince Charming?

Three years later, I think I can safely say that we’ve dodged that bullet. Our girls have worn their share of tutus to the store and have spent hours playing dress up in, yes, princess dresses, but we seem to have dodged the Fixation. They enjoy playing “Little House” and “Narnia” far more than they enjoy being royalty. And we’re glad: we don’t want our daughters to settle for the brief pleasure of being treated “like a princess.” They are daughters of the King, and we want them to live like it. A life lived in his family calls for confidence and grace, sacrifice and courage—not fluffy gowns and flimsy love interests.

Here is what we’re doing to combat the Fixation.

1) We don’t watch Disney princess movies

There are a number of reasons for this, but the initial one was almost purely practical: one of our daughters is very sensitive to scary movies, and those movies all have at least one scene that terrified me as a child (which tells you whose sensitivity she inherited).

Another reason that we have elected not to watch these movies with our kids is more, well, moral. Many of the Disney movies, like The Little Mermaid, discard the moral lesson of the original fairy tale in favor of a “happily ever after” ending. The Little Mermaid of Hans Christian Anderson’s version abandons her family for a foolish love, sells her voice for legs, tries and fails to woo the Prince and ultimately sacrifices her life for his. Disney’s Little Mermaid makes the same series of selfish choices, but suffers no lasting consequence at all.

For a five-year-old whose moral sense is being shaped moment by moment, interaction by interaction, this is unhelpful. What we do matters. Our choices bring consequences, for ourselves and for others, and to pretend that they don’t for even ninety minutes does our very young children a disservice. And we can’t shrug and say, “Oh, well, it’s just a fairy tale,” because one of the original purposes of the fairy tale was to communicate morality to children.

I am not permanently and forever anti-Disney. I realize that they have put a lot of effort into remaking their princess franchise, but having viewed most of the newer movies, I have to say: I’m still not sold. Our daughters will probably watch these movies at some point, but my hope is that they will be old enough to parse through them and see the stories for what they are. We will talk about them together. But we’re not going to incorporate them into the culture of our home as something that we accept without question.

Updated 7/11/14: We did watch Frozen with them, after watching it ourselves. We enjoyed (Olaf and) the commentary on the traditional princess movies; the girls loved the music and the line, “Reindeer coming through!” But the climax struck the chord of the Gospel and won us all over.

2) We look for books that feature awesome princesses

You know, ladies who have better things to do than fall head over heels for some dude that they met once, who know the responsibility that comes with their high office and who are willing to set aside their own desires for the sake of others. Who am I talking about?

Princess Irene of The Princess of the Goblin. The Queens Susan and Lucy, of The Chronicles of Narnia. Queen Esther of Persia. Belle, of the original “Beauty and the Beast” (my favorite retelling is in William Bennett’s The Book of Virtues). And the little girl in this book, I’d Be Your Princess.

I'd Be Your Princess | Little Book, Big Story

This story is told simply, through the dialogue of a young girl and her father. “If you were a king, I’d be your princess,” she begins. And her father responds, using each comment to draw his daughter out and show her that what is required of a princess (or a little girl, for that matter) is not an outward beauty, but a beauty that begins deep within.

“If you were a king, I’d be your princess,” she says. “We would sit side by side on our royal thrones . . . ”

“Yes,” said her father, “and whenever anyone asked an important question, I would want your opinion, because you know how to make good choices.”

At the foot of each page is a corresponding Bible verse. For this one, it’s Proverbs 2:6: “For the Lord gives wisdom.”

This is a simple story and a very moral one, so I wouldn’t blame folks who find it preachy. I did, at first, but I am thankful now for any arrow in my quiver that will help my daughters navigate the very mixed messages about femininity already encroaching upon their childhood. Wisdom matters; your dad values what you think. The Bible is the first place we look for instruction. Those are important lessons and ones that I’m glad to teach my daughters through this simple story about a girl and her dad and a shared daydream.

For those of you with little boys, O’Brien has a companion book to this one titled If I Were Your Hero, and it’s equally charming. In fact, I might pick up a copy for my girls (who love the story), because it’s important for girls to know what to expect from boys, right?

An important note

. . . and one that cannot be stressed enough: as parents we all draw the lines in different places. You might be comfortable with your kids watching Disney movies, and I’d like to say emphatically that this isn’t an issue of Good and Bad Parenting, with Disney movies serving as some hallmark of Bad Parenting.

For our family, this was an important issue and so I feel strongly about it. I might try to persuade you to look at your stance again, but I will not criticize you for choosing differently. This entire post has to do with our family and the places where our lines fall.

If you’d like to read more about princesses (on either side of the fence), I highly recommend Drew Dixon’s article “Disney Princesses: My Daughter Deserves Better” and, for balance, Mike Cosper’s pro-princess piece, “Are Fairy Tales Finished?


I’’d Be Your Princess
Kathryn O’Brien, Michael Garland (2004)

Meanwhile, on the official Wingfeather Saga blog . . .

I have some exciting news for you: this week, the illustrious and ever-present Madame Sidler graciously shared my review of Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga on the official Wingfeather Saga blog! If you haven’t explored the blog yet, please do—it’s a great (and greatly entertaining) resource for all things Wingfeather. You can read that post here.

And if you’re visiting here for the first time from the Wingfeather blog: Welcome! If you love the saga enough to frequent the Wingfeather blog, then we must be kindred spirits. I hope you enjoy your stay!

 

A Child’s Garden of Verses | Robert Louis Stevenson

This week’s summer rerun originally published on April 26, 2013 (my 30th birthday!).


I didn’t sit down and think, “A ha! I have it—the perfect edifying exercise!” It happened on its own one day at lunch, when I picked up A Child’s Garden of Verses and began reading poetry to the girls as they finished their quesadillas.

What happened next surprised me. They asked for another poem, and then another. And the next day at lunch, they wanted me to read to them again. And so it began: we assembled a small library of dinner-table books and began thumbing through one or two of them at each meal.

Mary Oliver. A.A. Milne. Billy Collins. Shel Silverstein. Valerie Worth. Some were written for adults, some for kids, but all of them are lovely, hilarious, sustaining poetry.

A Child's Garden of Verses | Little Book, Big Story

We don’t do this at every meal, or even every day, but when I do grab a book from the shelf, four little eyes light up as the girls wait to see which poem I’ll choose. And when it’s from A Child’s Garden of Verses, one of their very favorites, they often put their forks down and listen closely.

Robert Louis Stevenson’s poems have a peace to them and feel for all the world as though you’re sprawled in the grass of a Scottish lawn as you listen. He had a sharp memory for the joys of childhood and a knack for choosing the perfect words to describe it. Poems like “Keepsake Mill” move me, while the girls can’t get enough of “The Cow,” “The Lamplighter,” or “My Bed is Like a Boat.” I mean, the man wrote half a dozen poems about bedtime, and every one of them is enchanting!

A Child's Garden of Verses | Little Book, Big Story

The only thing that could improve it, really, are Joanna Isles’s illustrations. Detailed and gorgeous, they show children doing what children do best: playing, inventing, imagining, creating little worlds within their games.

There are a number of editions of this book available, all with different illustrators, but we are all so smitten with Isles’s interpretations that I firmly encourage you, if possible, to track down her edition. We found our copy at Goodwill, and my oldest daughter spent the next day tracking a small orange cat through every single picture in the book. That’s still a great game for us, one that my youngest now loves as well: “Where is the cat in this poem? Can you find him?”

A Child's Garden of Verses | Little Book, Big Story

A Child’s Garden of Verses is classic children’s poetry at its best, a charming book that would fit right into any library. (Plus, it’s perfect for reading together over peanut-butter sandwiches.)


A Child’s Garden of Verses
Robert Louis Stevenson, Joanna Isles (1885, repub. 1995)

Sidney and Norman | Phil Vischer

It’s summer vacation! I’m taking the last month of the summer off, so I’m going to pull out a few posts from this blog’s early days, gussy them up, and share them with you (think of them as “summer reruns”). I hope you find some new titles among our old favorites! May your final weeks of summer be sprinkled with impromptu picnics, fresh tomatoes, and a healthy dose of Vitamin D.

Today’s post originally appeared on April 19, 2013.


Are you familiar with Phil Vischer? In the unlikely event that you’re not (as one of the original creators of VeggieTales, his work is hard to miss), I’d like to take a moment to explain to you why I hold him in such high regard.

In a time when many Christian artists simply knock off secular stuff and fill it with Christianese, Phil Vischer provides—through JellyTelly, What’s in the Bible?, and his children’s books—something new, wildly creative, and smart.

Have you seen What’s in the Bible? No? Go watch an episode now. I’ll wait.

You’ll notice that the writers of What’s in the Bible? don’t talk down to kids, but work steadily through the entire Bible, as though they think the Bible is something that kids can and should know from start to finish. They do not shy away from tricky questions like, “Why did  the Israelites have to kill everyone in Canaan?” but instead answer them with honesty, delicacy, and humor (where appropriate, of course), an approach which appeals to children, yes, but also to adults. My husband and I simply love watching this show with our daughters. (We cannot say the same of Dora the Explorer.)

So, Phil Vischer tackles projects that are high-quality, ambitious and uniquely Christian. In doing so, he connects with kids in a gracious, respectful way. Which brings me, at last, to Sidney & Norman.

Sidney and Norman | Little Book, Big Story

Sidney and Norman were two pigs, but they didn’t “oink or eat slop—no, this isn’t that kind of story. They wore suit coats and went to work.” So begins the tale of two pigs who live next door to each other, but who live very different lives. Norman is organized, punctual, and well-dressed, an award-winning sort of pig. Sidney, on the other hand, just cannot seem to get his act together, no matter how hard he tries, and he suspects that all the world—Norman included—must look down on him for his rumpled tie and clumsy manner.

But when both pigs are summoned for a meeting with God (at 77 Elm Street), they find that God views them both through a very different lens.

Sidney and Norman delivers a profound message, one that lies at the heart of gospel, and one that all of us—Sidneys and Normans alike—need to be reminded of often: God doesn’t love us because we are good. He loves us because we are his.

Expect interesting conversations to flow from a reading of this book. Expect to read it again and again. And expect to find yourself looking around for another book by Phil Vischer.

One last thing

If you’d like to learn more about Mr. Vischer, I recommend his autobiography, Me, Myself & Bob. I like to know a bit about the authors behind my favorite books, especially when I’m reading them to my children, and hearing Vischer’s story really changed my perception of VeggieTales, as well as Vischer himself. (And it introduced me to JellyTelly, which was, in the end, a very good thing.)


Sidney and Norman
Phil Vischer, Justin Gerard (2012)

When Do We Find Time to Read Aloud?

Be warned: I am not a spontaneous person. Some people might look at our daily routine and weep over the repetition of it all, but I’m cool with that. I find that repetition comforting and conducive to productivity, but if you find it dull and horrifying, then—fair warning—this particular post might not be for you.

When Do We Read Aloud? | Little Book, Big Story

Moving on: We make a point of reading together at set times every day. As the kids grow and increase in number, these times have shifted, but they tend to stay centered around meals and bedtimes, because that is when we’re consistently together and typically seated.

I advocate for establishing a habit of reading because I suspect that the odds of us all feeling like sitting down to read a chapter out of a chapter book at the same time are not good, and if it does happen, it probably won’t happen every day. And to keep kids interested in the overarching narrative of a chapter book, I think they need to hear a bit of the story every day.

So, because I like making lists and schedules and spread sheets, I’m sharing a sample day at Chez Rosenburg with you. This is not every day, but it is an average day. Enjoy!

Early morning

Mitch and I wake at 5, make tea, and read our Bibles. He sometimes reads other things after that; I write. The girls play quietly or read or do what sounds like Riverdance upstairs from 6:30-7. And then the day officially begins.

Reading the Bible as a family | Little Book, Big Story

Lunch

I eat lunch with the older girls, then pile a mound of blueberries on Phoebe’s tray to keep her quiet and read a story aloud from the Jesus Storybook Bible. We used to read story bibles at bedtime, but as Lydia and Sarah have gotten older, we’ve advanced to more challenging evening readings. But I do like knowing that the little ones still get that big picture view of Scripture, so even if it means reading over Phoebe’s post-lunch screeching, I press on.

I consider it a success if we do this three times a week.

Naps

After lunch, I put Phoebe to bed (and read The Three Musketeers while I nurse her). Then Lydia, Sarah, and I tangle up comfortably on the couch and read a chapter from our current book (All-Of-A-Kind Familyby Sydney Taylor). I escort Sarah upstairs for her quiet time. She often insists on bringing our read-aloud book up with her, so she can look at the pictures and improvise her own story lines (loudly) while she rests.

When Do We Find Time to Read Aloud? | Little Book, Big Story

After Sarah is settled, I grab both my Bible and Lydia’s and join her in our room, where she does quiet time. We read a chapter together from my reading plan (currently the book of Matthew), underlining verses that stood out to us and talking (very minimally) about certain parts of the passage. This time quietly slipped into our schedule and has become one of the best parts of my day.

I leave her with stack of books and head out to the living room—or, on a nice day, the porch—where I read, nap, write, and/or plan art lessons until Phoebe wakes up and we kick off the afternoon.

BedTime

Training Hearts, Teaching Minds | Starr Meade

While I put Phoebe to bed, Mitch takes Lydia and Sarah through our catechism reading (from Training Hearts, Teaching Minds), then reads to them from a chapter book (currently Half Magicby Edward Eager). I grab my sketchbook once Phoebe’s down and join Sarah on the floor. We draw together—often scenes from our book, since these books tend to be well above her reading level—while Lydia curls up with Mitch on the couch.

With all three girls down, the house feels bigger and quieter—until someone comes downstairs because someone else won’t stop talking and is keeping her awake. But eventually, the chirping upstairs drops to a murmur and Mitch and I drift out to the comfy chairs on the front porch or flop limply onto the couch and watch The West Wing.

When we go to bed, we bring books. I read another chapter in my Bible and then a novel until I can’t hold my eyes open anymore. Mitch reads or plays a game on the iPad until he can’t hold his eyes open anymore.

Lights out.

Reading the Bible as a family | Little Book, Big Story

That might look like a lot of reading, but these chapter-long chunks of time spent together have become the sweet points in our day, the marshmallows in our Lucky Charms, and we get in big trouble with the little people in our home when we skip them for any reason, however reasonable.

Occasionally, I add other things into our routine (like poetry at snack time), or we drop things for time to accommodate new babies or a change in school routines. But this is the way things look right now.

When do you read with your family?