Christmas With Anne | L. M. Montgomery

Today’s post originally appeared in the Christmas 2018 issue of Wildflowers Magazine.


If you could spend Christmas in any story, which would you choose?

Would you squeeze into the Weasleys’ living room or celebrate Narnia’s first Christmas after the thaw? Would you join the Ingalls around the woodstove in their little house on the prairie? 

Christmas with Anne, by L. M. Montgomery | Little Book, Big Story

I would spend mine among the puffed sleeves and plum puddings of Anne of Green Gables, where the company dishes twinkle prettily in the candlelight. I would finally get to wear one of those glorious dresses with their full skirts and strands of buttons. And oh, to savor a slice of dark, spicy fruitcake with Anne Shirley herself!

But reading Christmas with Anne is the next best thing. Christmas With Anne is a collection of warm and welcoming short stories, featuring Anne Shirley as well as a cast of new characters: strangers stranded on a train, students stuck in a boarding house over Christmas, families separated by bitterness and comically reunited by chance.

Christmas with Anne, by L. M. Montgomery | Little Book, Big Story

Reading these stories is a little like celebrating Christmas over and over again. Each one tells of a different celebration in a different home, but each one also tells of some hurdle a character must overcome to better love those around her. L.M. Montgomery’s stories are a beautiful reminder that, though we can’t visit the world of our favorite stories, the Author of our story visited ours. Christmas With Anne illustrates beautifully what it looks like to love others the way he loves us.


You can purchase that (and any other) issue of Wildflowers Magazine right here. And watch for the Christmas 2019 issue, which will make an entrance any day now!


Christmas with Anne
L.M. Montgomery

Prepare Him Room | Marty Machowski

If I had the authority to bestow a title upon anyone, I’d be quick to dub Marty Machowski “The King of Devotionals.” We are reading or have read through several of his books, and each one looks closely at its subject—whether a particular book of the Bible, the entire Bible, one testament of the Bible, or systematic theology—studying it from this angle and that, and inviting the readers into a discussion that gets hands gesturing and minds pondering.

Prepare Him Room, by Marty Machowski | Little Book, Big Story

Prepare Him Room is no exception. Machowski uses a fictional story to stitch together an engaging fabric of Scripture reading, hymns, crafts*, and discussion questions. When we read through this book together last year, I found that that combination worked like magic on everyone from my ten year old to my two year old. (Bonus: Putting the accompanying album on after we finished reading made for excellent Christmas-themed dance parties.)

Prepare Him Room, by Marty Machowski | Little Book, Big Story

*Do you have to do all of the crafts? Of course not! We didn’t. (I honestly can’t recall us doing any of them. Unless baking cookies was one? We did that.)


Prepare Him Room
Marty Machowski (2014)

4 Family Devotionals for Advent

Note: This post is a leftover from last year, one I ran out of room to publish because I suffered from an ailment known as So Many Christmas Books to Review, So Little Time. But because the books are still worth sharing, even though our dining room is now properly floored and even has a few things on the walls, I present to you now a slightly-outdated collection of our favorite Advent devotionals.

Enjoy!


One of the advantages of not having fully moved into your house is that you can put your Christmas tree pretty much anywhere. One of the disadvantages is that your Christmas decorations and books are buried somewhere in the shop behind all the other stuff, so you might not have any actual decorations on display at the start of Advent.

Ah, well. But we have a dining room. That’ll do.

We also have a handful of Advent devotionals I’m eager to share with you! At least one of us will be somewhat prepared for Advent this year. (Hint: you.)

4 Family Devotionals for Advent | Little Book, Big Story

The Advent Jesse Treeby Dean Lambert Smith

The Advent Jesse Tree: A Family Devotional for Advent | Little Book, Big Story

This is our tried-and-true, come-back-to-it-every-year favorite. The Advent Jesse Tree walks readers through the whole story of redemption, one day (and one tiny ornament) at a time. You can read my full review of the book here, or learn what a Jesse Tree is and how our family uses ours in this post right here.

A Jesus Christmasby Barbara Reaoch

A Jesus Christmas, by Barbara Reaoch | Little Book, Big Story

This is a brand-new, interactive devotional that reminds me a little of our beloved Exploring the Bible. There is family journaling space with each reading, as well as room to write answers to questions. You could simply read it as a family and ignore the journaling prompts; you could read it and then discuss it and have one person record answers to the questions; or you could do what we plan to do and get all the writers in your family their own copy. (Read the full review.)

The Littlest Watchman, by Scott James

The Littlest Watchman, by Scott James | Little Book, Big Story

Through the story of the Watchmen, a fictional family tasked with watching and waiting for the Messiah’s coming, Scott James invites families to see what it might have been like for the Israelites to wait . . . and wait . . . and wait for the Messiah. That long wait makes his coming all the more joyous! This is a great devotional for families with young kids. You can even get a (very affordable) Advent calendar and devotional to go along with it. Our family used this book last year and loved it. (Read the full review.)

Prepare Him Room, by Marty Machowski

Prepare Him Room, by Marty Machowski | Little Book, Big Story

If Marty Machowski keeps writing awesome devotionals, our family will keep buying them. Prepare Him Room follows the format of Wise Up (more so than, say, Long Story Short), in that it’s a series of daily devotions sprinkled liberally with hymns to sing and projects to do. This one also features a story that draws readers into the celebration. The Gospel saturates everything, as always.


Which ADvent Devotional Does Your Family Love?

Tales of the Kingdom Trilogy | David & Karen Mains

The way I used to feel about the new dELiA*s catalog: that’s how Lydia feels about the catalog from Lamplighter Books. Before it hits the kitchen counter, she whisks it away, and when I find it next, there are stars in the margins by the titles she most wants to read.

And thus, she deserves credit for discovering today’s series. After her starring and dog-earing spree, she spent the better part of her savings on the Tales of the Kingdom trilogy. The day it arrived was the first day I found a box of books on the porch that wasn’t addressed to me. Calling her down to check the mail felt like the passing of some torch.

Tales of the Kingdom, by David & Karen Mains | Little Book, Big Story

In the catalog blurb, Lamplighter Books compares Tales of the Kingdom, favorably, to Pilgrim’s Progress and The Chronicles of Narnia—an ambitious comparison, certainly, but not unwarranted. This series has the allegorical feel of both classics, and a similar knack for inviting deep truths in the side door while you’re distracted by a wonderful story. I do not think I will summarize the plot for you, because I enjoyed diving into this series equipped only with the Lamplighter blurb and Lydia’s endorsement. But know that this is a delightful set of stories, and I can’t stop thinking about them.

Tales of the Kingdom, by David & Karen Mains | Little Book, Big Story

The Tales of the Kingdom books are pricey, but they’re worth it. They’re a little dated, but in this era of ’80s nostalgia, that’s pardonable. These are stories that I savored when I read them alone and that now hold all four of my daughters rapt at the table after school when we read them together. And I am so grateful to Lydia for introducing me to them.


The Tales of the Kingdom Trilogy
David and Karen Mains (1980)

I encourage you to purchase these through Lamplighter Books rather than Amazon, because Lamplighter is a company worth supporting! But used copies do crop up on ThriftBooks from time to time, so you might be able to save some money by purchasing through ThriftBooks.

Last Stop on Market Street | Matt De La Pena

Not only has this book been in the world for a while, winning awards and such, but it has also been on our shelves for a while. And I’m sure I had read it to someone before; I know I had read it to myself. But recently, Phoebe and I snuggled on the couch with this book spread across both our knees, and the pinball struck home: the story sunk in, and I came back to it after the girls were in bed, to read it again on my own.

Last Stop on Market Street, if you haven’t read it yet (though you probably have), follows a young boy and his grandmother as they ride the bus through their town. We see them leave church in the beginning of the book, but until the last pages, we don’t know where they’re going. The boy grumbles the way we all often do: Why do they have to ride the bus? Other people have cars. Why doesn’t he have a phone? Those big kids do.

Last Stop on Market Street, by Matt de la Pena | Little Book, Big Story

But the way his grandmother answers his questions unhooks his eyes from fleeting pleasures and fixes them on the pleasures before him: You don’t need little music threaded through earbuds—you’ve got live music right here. Your poor friends in their cars—they miss meeting all the people here on the bus. They’re poorer for it.

Last Stop on Market Street, by Matt de la Pena | Little Book, Big Story

There are lots of books out there about gratitude, but this one shows us what it looks like. I want to have eyes, like the grandmother’s, that see gifts in the most unlikely things. I want to remember that I am owed nothing, but have been given much.

When we learn where the boy and his grandmother are headed, it makes sense. For a woman who sees the world the way this one does, her gratitude must overflow into kindness.


Last Stop on Market Street
Matt de la Pena; Christian Robinson (2015)

God Gave Us Sleep | Lisa Tawn Bergren

A note to three-year-olds everywhere: if your parents buy you this book for your birthday, they are almost certainly hinting that it is time to start sleeping through the night. (We were when we bought this for Josie.)

Lisa Tawn Bergren’s God Gave Us series is lovely and I’ve reviewed a few of them here. But none have garnered as dedicated a following in our home as this one: for a time God Gave Us Sleep was Josie’s favorite pre-nap read. She flipped through it after I put her to bed, and I often found it on the floor beside her when she woke up, as though it had slipped out of her hands when she drifted off.

God Gave Us Sleep, by Lisa Tawn Bergren | Little Book, Big Story

And it is a book worth reading and re-reading. Bergren explores sleep and why it matters; through the story, she shows what happens and how we feel when we don’t sleep well, and she reminds readers that sleep is not a punishment or an inconvenience but a gift from our loving God. Exhausted parents know this. Three-year-olds don’t always, so I’m thankful for a book that gently explains it.

God Gave Us Sleep, by Lisa Tawn Bergren | Little Book, Big Story

Josie has finally started sleeping through the night, though she will sometimes come quietly into our room and wait for us to wake up and take her to the bathroom. She never tells us she’s there, but lets us become gradually aware of her presence by singing “Happy Birthday” softly to herself. That’s so much better than how she used to wake us that we don’t even mind.


God Gave Us Sleep
Lisa Tawn Bergren; Laura J. Bryant (2015)

Little Me, Big God Books | Steph Williams

I am well into eleven years of reading board books and can tell you that the few we still read—the ones that have been repurchased when their covers, loosened by soggy gums, finally fell off—are all by Sandra Boynton. Our daughters can still chant the full text of Moo Ba La La. I once recited—with friends at a dinner party—But Not the Hippopotamus from memory, as a spoken word poem, possibly read by William Shatner.

Little Me, Big God Series, by Steph Williams | Little Book, Big Story

I tell you this not because I’m reviewing a Boynton book today, but because I want you to remember, before we begin, how hard it is for an author to win over both toddler and parent at once.

And then I want to tell you that Steph Williams gets it right. Her Little Me, Big God books are ones I happily re-read any time Josie slings one into my lap. And she slings them into my lap often.

The Man Who Would Not Be Quiet, by Steph Williams | Little Book, Big Story

Each one tells a story about Jesus in a few short pages, and tells it in a way that neither condescends to the young reader or soars over their head. Williams researched the stories thoroughly and tells them simply. She also includes the stories’ full text in the back of each book.

The Man Who Would Not Be Quiet, by Steph Williams | Little Book, Big Story

The Best Thing To Do tells the story of Martha and Mary; Never Too Little tells of the children coming to Jesus; The Man Who Would Not Be Quiet tells the story of Bartimaeus. All of them are short and small and deep, as they point both toddler and parent toward the One they need most.


Little Me, Big God Series
Steph Williams (2019)


Disclosure: I did receive copies of these books for review, but I was not obligated to review this book or compensated for my review in any way. I share this book with you because I love it, not because I was paid to do so.