The One O’Clock Miracle | Alison Mitchell

At the start of the year, I knew nothing of the series “Tales that Tell the Truth.” I had never seen Catalina Echeverri’s artwork, nor heard of Alison Mitchell or Carl Laferton.

But that changed when I read The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross. Not long after reading that book, I found The Storm that Stopped, and felt a sudden conviction that our family must own these books. All of them. Immediately. These books are beautifully told, truthful, well made, and worth reading dozens of times. We needed them.

The One O’Clock Miracle was the next to join our collection:

The One O'Clock Miracle, by Alison Mitchell | Little Book, Big Story

The One O’Clock Miracle tells of the young boy Jesus healed, through the perspective of his father, who walked miles and miles to meet Jesus, only to hear the words, “Go. Your Son will live.”

But Alison Mitchell isn’t content to simply retell the biblical story. Instead, she uses the story as a lens through with readers can view Jesus: the sub-title, “A True Story About Trusting the Words of Jesus is the perfect summary of her purpose here. The story is fun to read, but by the end the end of the book, it shows us something new about trusting Jesus, something we hadn’t seen before.

The One O'Clock Miracle, by Alison Mitchell | Little Book, Big Story

Catalina Echeverri’s illustrations are, again, full of energy and charm. And I’m pleased to report that, though our collection is growing, there are still more “Tales That Tell the Truth” out there for our family to collect.

And collect them we will.


The One O’Clock Miracle
Alison Mitchell, Catalina Echeverri (2015)

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Ember Falls (Giveaway!) | SD Smith

Ember Falls landed on our porch in a box full of goodies from SD Smith’s Kickstarter campaign. Oh, I thought. Yay! Lydia will like this.

I admired the cover.

I flipped it open to read the dust jacket.

I came to twenty-four hours later, starry-eyed, having finished the book.

Ember Falls, by SD Smith | Little Book, Big Story

In Ember Falls, S.D. Smith continues the story of Heather and Picket, who are no longer the young, lost rabbits of The Green Ember’s opening pages. Picket is a well-trained warrior; Heather is . . . well. I’ll let you read that part for yourself. But that development was one of many that I met with a satisfied, “Oh, yes. Of course.”

S.D. Smith has written a sequel that feels inevitable, as though the story developed itself. Nothing feels forced; nothing feels cheap. His characters work hard and suffer for their victories, and those victories are deeply satisfying.

Ember Falls, by SD Smith | Little Book, Big Story

S.D. Smith’s vision of hope in this series is potent, reaching beyond the pages of his books and into our lives as we read: as the characters fix their eyes on the Mended Wood, so we fix our eyes on a Better City. When my eyes stray from that City to the brokenness of this world, when I am tempted to believe that the brokenness is all there is or ever will be, then I am grateful for the faithful rabbits who remind me that we must go on fighting.

We must hope.

We must bear the flame.

Every book in this series is better than the last, which makes Ember Falls the best yet. And Ember Falls brought my eldest daughter into the fold: finally ready for the series, she read all three books in a week and now wears her “Bear the Flame” necklace proudly. (Even Sarah, who hasn’t read the series yet, adores her necklace. “It’s like Heather’s!” she tells everyone—even strangers at the grocery store. Then, confidentially, “Heather is a bunny.”)

Ember Falls, by SD Smith (necklace) | Little Book, Big Story

Now, ordinarily, I would hustle you off the Story Warren shop with a link and nudge and a “What are you waiting for? Go read it!” But this week, I have a treat for you: S.D. Smith has graciously offered to send a set of all three books to one of you, plus your choice of either a “Bear the Flame” necklace or a set of stickers*.

Ember Falls, by SD Smith (giveaway prizes) | Little Book, Big Story

The books are a great prize. Definitely. But my favorite part of opening a package from a beloved author was watching my kids make the connection that S.D. Smith is, you know, a human. A human who sends mail. And writes books.

They both immediately declared their intent to become authors and took up residence at the kitchen table with stacks of paper, pencils and erasers (and for writers, those erasers are super important). They may be writing fan fiction about their favorite series at this point, but that’s just a few degrees away from writing the next classic, right?

Enter the Giveaway

To enter, fill in as many options as you like in the widget below. The giveaway closes on Tuesday, Sept. 27 (I’m going to get it right this time, I really am). After that, a winner will be randomly selected and notified by email.

Game on!

*The actual stickers to show up in the winner’s mailbox may not look just like the ones pictured.
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8 Books That Bring the World to Your Child

We don’t get out much. I would blame it on the fourth baby or on this “hectic” season of life, but I can’t really. Even before we had kids, we didn’t get out much. We just like staying home.

When I opened my Instagram account a few months ago and started seeing all the amazing places my friends take their kids, I began to feel a little guilty about that, like maybe we should be putting our kids in backpacks and trekking up mountains and stuff. And maybe we will once, just so they know what it’s like. But I grew up doing things like that and somehow, it never took. I’d just rather be at home, having dinner with the neighbors and harvesting tomatoes until my hands smell like tomato plants, putting the kids to bed on time and then watching The Clone Wars with my husband.

8 Books That Bring the World to Your Child | Little Book, Big Story

We don’t see ourselves as a family who will travel a lot, at least not for the sake of exploration. We would like to show our kids some parts of the world, yes. That sounds pretty cool. But we have always had a clear vision of our home as a place of refuge, a place our children return to when they are grown and need a rest from their travels, and shaping that refuge (wherever it eventually is) is a daily work that we find it hard to walk away from.

Just because we may not take our children around the world ourselves, though, doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t know what’s out there. I find myself looking for more and more ways to broaden their borders so that they grow up grounded but not sheltered: we have dinner with friends from other countries and host foreign exchange students (okay, we did that once, before we filled our house to capacity with babies. But it was a wonderful experience for all of us). We look up every little thing on Google Earth, and bring home stacks of library books about life in other countries.

8 Books That Bring the World to Your Child | Little Book, Big Story

Many of the books on this list came to my attention through Jamie C. Martin’s beautiful book, Give Your Child the World. If anything on this list whets your appetite, then please: read her book first. It’ll fill your cart with incredible titles and your heart with stories of life around the world. The rest of the books on this list are family favorites.

ALL THE COLORS OF THE EARTH, by Sheila Hamanaka

All The Colors of the Earth, by Sheila Hamanaka | Little Book, Big Story

This books describes children not as “black” or “white,” but as “cinnamon, walnut, wheat” and more. Hamanaka uses both her words and her illustrations to celebrate the many different ways children can look. (Read my full review.)

PAPA, DO YOU LOVE ME?By Barbara M. Joosse

Papa, Do You Love Me? | Little Book, Big Story

Set in the Maasai culture of Africa, Papa, Do You Love Me? follows the questioning of a young child as he asks his father, “What would you do if I was cold? If I was hungry? If I did wrong?” The papa’s patient and generous answers show that the love of a father for is child is truly cross-cultural. (Read the full review.)

BEGINby Philip & Erin Ulrich

The Growly Books: Begin, by Philip and Erin Ulrich | Little Book, Big Story

A book about a talking bear may seem like an unlikely choice for this list, but I loved the way that the authors present Growly’s exchanges with other animals: as he runs into cultural differences and language barriers, he meets them with humility and respect. This is a lovely story about a young bear whose world is much larger than he originally thought.

PEOPLE, by Peter Spier

People, by Peter Spier | Little Book, Big Story

This book is an impressive, “big picture” look at people: the many ways they can look, the things they do, the places they live, and more. It’s a fun one to read together or to study alone (the illustrations are incredibly detailed). By looking at the many ways we differ and the few things we have in common, Spier creates a fascinating portrait of the human race.

The Anna Hibiscus Booksby Atinuke

The Anna Hibiscus books, by Atinuke | Little Book, Big Story

Anna Hibiscus lives in Africa, amazing Africa, and Atinuke celebrates that by exploring her daily life in Africa through Anna’s charming perspective. These are early chapter books and heavily illustrated, so they’re perfect for sharing with a beginning reader. In fact, my beginning reader likes to follow me around while I do housework, reading aloud from them like she is my own private audio book. (Read the full review.)

Children Just Like Meby Anabel and Barnabas Kindersley

Children Just Like Me | Little Book, Big Story

My girls found this book enchanting. Dozens of countries appear in its pages, represented by one or two children who give a glimpse into their daily lives. We found ways in which those lives differed dramatically from our own, of course, but we also found many things that our families have in common. If People is a big picture look at humanity, this is a close-up detail shot that focuses on one child at a time.

TO EVERYTHING THERE IS A SEASON, by Jude Daly

To Everything There is a Season | Little Book, Big Story

Jude Daly uses the familiar passage from Ecclesiastes 3 for the book’s text, but places her illustrations in South Africa. By having one family enact the different “times” described, she gives a fascinating portrait of life in the South African countryside. (Read my full review.)

GIVE YOUR CHILD THE WORLD, by Jamie C. Martin

Give Your Child The World, by Jamie C. Martin | Little Book, Big Story

Jamie C. Martin makes a compelling case for why we should read things that expand our children’s understanding of the world. She isn’t bossy about it, though: she makes her case quietly, by sharing what has worked for her own multi-cultural family and describing their favorite books so enthusiastically that I found myself filling an Amazon cart as I read (oops . . . ).

What are your favorite books about life outside your own community?
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Lily, The Girl Who Could See | Sally Oxley

I did not grow up on a steady diet of missionary biographies. A steady diet of Goosebumps: yes. But the missionaries that have been childhood friends for many of you are new acquaintances to me. I met Corrie ten Boom, Elisabeth Elliot, Amy Carmichael and more only after reaching adulthood, but in the few years since I first read their works, their stories have challenged me and shaped my faith. And of all the stories I’ve read, either on my own or while curating a collection of biographies for my daughters, few stand out as brightly to me as the story of Lilias Trotter.

Lily, the Girl Who Could See, by Sally Oxley | Little Book, Big Story

Trotter left home and family behind to follow the Lord wherever he sent her, but she sacrificed something else as well: Lilias Trotter was an unusually gifted painter, a woman able to “see” what made a flower a flower or a face a face and capture that essence with her brush. She trained under a renowned instructor who saw in her the makings of a great artist. But when her dedication to art seemed to come in conflict with her work among London’s poor, Lilias Trotter sought the Lord’s counsel and strove to bring everything—her service, her love for him, and her gifts—under his authority. The result was a life lived beautifully, a work of art in its own right.

Lily, the Girl Who Could See, by Sally Oxley | Little Book, Big Story

This is a subject dear to me because I talk to many mothers who are worried that, in laying down a gift that God has given them in order to raise children, they are, perhaps, giving up too much. But I have seen in my own life the way that the Lord often asks us to give up the very gifts that seem to come from him, only to give them back to us later, transformed by his touch. For me, this was music (I wrote at length about this for Deeply Rooted Magazine, Issue 7: Legacy). For some, it is teaching. Or accounting. Or even serving within the church.

The story of Lilias Trotter beautifully captures the struggle of a Christian who is torn between two good gifts, but who chooses instead to serve the Lord who gives the gifts—whatever the cost. The book’s language is simple; Tim Ladwig’s watercolors, gorgeous (he’s quickly becoming one of my favorite illustrators). This picture book is a lovely introduction to the life of Lilias Trotter, and one that gives a powerful example of a Christian laying down their life in the service of the Lord and yet receiving back, in this life, what they lost one hundredfold.

Lily, the Girl Who Could See, by Sally Oxley | Little Book, Big Story


If you would like to learn more about Lilias Trotter, you can find her story in Noel Piper’s excellent book, Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God (that’s where I first met her). And I just started reading the biography that Lily, The Girl Who Could See is based on: A Passion for the Impossible, by Miriam Huffman Rockness. So far, it’s lovely.

Which missionary should I meet next?

Lily: The Girl Who Could See
Sally Oxley, Tim Ladwig (2015)

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Papa, Do You Love Me? | Barbara M. Joosse

The giveaway is over, and it was so much fun! Congratulations to Teresa and Emily, and thank you so much to all of you who entered. And to those of  you who tried to enter on Friday but couldn’t because the giveaway closed twenty-four hours before I said it would: I’m so sorry! I thought I’d worked all the kinks out of the giveaway system, but I missed that one. My apologies. Can I make it up to you with a new book review?

I hope so. Here it is:


This summer, we started a tradition. It involved library trips in the morning and a picnic blanket in the afternoon, along with a stack of books, simple homemade caramel corn and cream soda.

If that sounds insanely idyllic though, remember this: it also involved taking a toddler to the library.

Papa, Do You Love Me? | Little Book, Big Story

With a baby in the carrier and a book bag over one arm (a book bag that grew increasingly heavy the longer we stayed), I had only one arm free for herding Phoebe away from the easy fiction, where she happily unshelved books one series at a time, and back toward the board books—only to have her slip away when I wasn’t looking and head toward the bathroom.

It is no coincidence that our Fridays also involved a post-library stop for coffee.

Papa, Do You Love Me? | Little Book, Big Story

But while browsing the library with a toddler in tow has its downsides, it also has a few notable upsides: namely, the books she slipped into her own book bag, that were checked out by an older sister and brought home unnoticed until I pulled them out and read them aloud on our picnic blanket. We found a few gems that way.

We found Papa, Do You Love Me? that way.

Papa, Do You Love Me? | Little Book, Big Story

This book is a beautiful, “Yes, child, I love you to the moon and back and nothing you can do will change that” sort of story, but it’s set in the Masai culture in Africa, so while it tells a familiar, comforting story, it also quietly shows how universal that story is. The child, Tender Heart, presses his father with questions: “Do you love me? How much? What would you do if I was hot? If  I was thirsty but the river ran dry? If I disobeyed?” And his father answers honestly and beautifully, painting a picture not just of a father’s love but of Our Father’s love as he does so.


Papa, Do You Love Me?
Barbara M. Joosse, Barbara Lavallee (2005)

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5 Great Books About Art

My kitchen counter is currently submerged beneath a rising tide of art supplies. This means only one thing in our home: a new school year approaches! While I wrest the counter free from the clutches of colored pens and puck tempera, I’ll leave you with this post: an old one, but one of my very favorites. Though I’ve found several noteworthy art books since this post appeared in November 2014, the books on this list remain my trusty sidekicks in the art room. May your first weeks of the school year be colorful (but only in the best way)!


I am a writer. An artist. A musician. A singer of ridiculous songs. Drinker of tea. Dedicated fan of Foyle’s War. I am not—or had always maintained that I was not—a teacher. But then God said, “Ha!” And now I’m a teacher.

I mentioned before that my daughter attends a small university model, Classical school and that I am the makeshift librarian there. But as of this year, I am also the art teacher, a plot twist that I have enjoyed quite a lot and that now means that not only are there books on every available surface of our house but also pans of watercolors, oil pastel trays, and paintings laid flat to dry on our counters and tables and floors.

5 Great Books About Making Art | Little Book, Big Story

I test a lot of lesson plans (translation: I paint a lot!), but I also read a lot of picture books about art, because I’m finding that books are a great way to introduce an art lesson (or anything else, really) to a group of kids. And I’m finding that there are some really excellent books about art out there. In a departure from our usual fare (we seem to be making quite a few of those lately, which must mean that I’ve reviewed most of my very favorite books and am now looking elsewhere for inspiration), I have decided to share a list of my five favorite finds from the art section of our school’s small library:

1. MIX IT UP!, BY HERVE TULLET

Mix it Up! | Little Book, Big Story

How do you teach color theory to kids when they don’t have paint on hand to mix for themselves? Tullet gives us the next best thing: a book that the kids can interact with.

Mix it Up! | Little Book, Big Story

I read this book to all three of my classes, grades pre-K through 4, walking up and down the desks so that each student got a turn to press, smear, and shake the book, and I just loved watching how differently the students responded to it. One thing was universal: they adored it. One kindergartener looked at me wonderingly and said, “That book is really magic.” (I let her take it home for the weekend.)

2. LINES THAT WIGGLE, BY CANDACE WHITMAN

Lines That Wiggle | Little Book, Big Story

This playful book introduces children to the many, many ways we use lines both in art and everyday life. I just can’t get enough of the illustrations. The colors! The creativity! The wiggly lines!

Lines That Wiggle | Little Book, Big Story

I haven’t read this one to the students yet (or to my own children, one of whom is a student after all), but I am definitely looking forward to sharing it with them.

3. PANTONE COLORS

Pantone Colors | Little Book, Big Story

I didn’t immediately see the appeal of this book: at first glance, it looks like a slightly-larger-than-normal board book about colors with no discernible story line at all. But the magic of Pantone Colors is in the color squares: they have lovely names like “Orangutan Orange” or “Mitten Purple” and practically beg you to sit with your kids and study them.

Pantone Colors | Little Book, Big Story

We like to name our favorite color on each page, or guess each other’s favorite color, or choose our favorite color name (mine? “Wet Sidewalk Gray,” followed closely by “Grandma Gray.” Also, “Teapot Blue”). I originally bought a copy of this book for the school, but then . . . we kept it. So I had to buy a different one for the school.

4. BEAUTIFUL OOPS!, BY BARNEY SALTZBERG

Beautiful Oops! | Little Book, Big Story

This book is a tremendous gift for kids who struggle with perfectionism in drawing, as it explores mistakes and the various opportunities they provide. It’s a charming book, full of pop-ups, overlays, and clever three dimensional pages, like this one:

Beautiful Oops! | Little Book, Big Story

Beautiful Oops! encourages us to view mistakes as unexpected opportunities, and that is sage advice (delivered in a creative package).

5. SACHIKO UMOTO’S ILLUSTRATION SCHOOL SERIES

Illustration School | Little Book, Big Story

These books are great for slightly older kids (or adults, for that matter. I originally bought these for myself). Sachiko Umoto’s illustrations are fun to duplicate, and she walks readers through each one step by step. One thing I specifically appreciate about this series is that even though she draws stylized illustrations of people, plants, and animals, she pays special attention to the anatomy of the object under study: she doesn’t teach readers how to draw flower, but how to draw a poppy, or a hyacinth, or a daffodil.
Illustration School | Little Book, Big Story

Likewise, she not only teaches how to draw a person or a dog, but demonstrates the underlying skeleton, so we readers can see how the figure should move and why the limbs are placed the way they are. Her lessons are simple, but thorough.

BONUS

Here is my favorite series to work from while creating lesson plans for art class:

20 WAYS TO DRAW A CAT (OR A TREE, Tulip, MUSTACHE, AND MORE)

20 Ways to Draw a . . . | Little Book, Big Story

The 20 Ways to Draw  . . . series is fun because it doesn’t actually tell you how to draw a shark, but instead gives you a double-page spread of twenty different sharks, shown from various angles and drawn in various styles, to use as inspiration for drawing your own shark (or jellyfish or pine cone or fern).

20 Ways to Draw a . . . | Little Book, Big Story

I pull from these books when looking for a clear, simple way to draw, say, an apple, and my girls love to flip through them and request lessons on how to draw a specific picture. (On a related note, I have drawn a lot of cats since we got that book.)

LASTLY

If you would like more artsy inspiration, you can follow me on Pinterest. My feed is chock full of art for (and by) kids!

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Carrot Top Paper Shop GIVEAWAY

One of my favorite aspects of the picture book is the way it connects word and image. Chapter books unfold in what is essentially a private place (our imagination), even when we read them aloud as a family. We may build a shared memory of having read the book together and may even pull a few favorite lines into the family lexicon, but we’ll all still picture Green Gables a little differently or hear Pa’s laugh in a slightly different way.

And that is as it should be.

But picture books draw both parent and child (and baby doll and long-suffering cat) into the same visual world, adding details from beyond the text to give our own imaginings color and structure.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Print, from Carrot Top Paper Shop | Little Book, Big Story

Our oldest readers still enjoy a good picture book, and I’m thankful for that. But as they move more solidly into the realm of the chapter book, I find myself looking for ways to strengthen their imaginations, to give them images and beautiful artwork to nourish their own visions of the text. I sketch scenes for the younger ones while their papa reads aloud; I hand-letter favorite quotes for our walls, so that the words themselves become beautiful. And I look for lovely prints by other artists that will broaden and deepen the way they see each story.

Jane Eyre bookmark, by Carrot Top Paper Shop | Little Book, Big Story

When, in my quest for those prints, I discovered that one of this blog’s very own readers ran an Etsy shop filled with gorgeous, literary-themed art, well. A giveaway seemed in order.

Jenny Williams of Carrot Top Paper Shop opened her shop after an unfruitful search for bookish art for her daughter’s nursery compelled her to create her line of Literary Heroine prints. I fell for those immediately. Also, her hand-lettered quotes make me wish I had an extra wall in our house just to display them. (Wouldn’t that be lovely? To have a wall dedicated only to words?)

Laura Ingalls Wilder Quote, from Carrot Top Paper Shop | Little Book, Big Story

I settled for buying her print of Jo March for our Josephine, though I have a hunch that all four girls might find a print from Jenny’s shop in their stockings this year.

Enter to win an 8x10 print and a set of Literary Heroine bookmarks from Carrot Top Paper Shop! (Giveaway open until 8/26) | Little Book, Big Story

Because I love those prints so much and because Jenny just launched her newest literary heroine (along with a whole slew of wonderful new things—greeting cards and even this gorgeous mug!), we’re doing a giveaway! If you win—and two of you will win—you’ll receive an 8×10″ print of your choice, as well as a set of her Literary Heroine bookmarks.

Elizabeth Bennett bookmark, by Carrot Top Paper Shop | Little Book, Big Story

But Jenny’s also offering a little something for the rest of us: until Friday, 8/26, Little Book, Big Story readers get 25% off anything in her shop! Just use the code THEASENTME at checkout.

Giveaway Details

Enter your info into the form below and complete as many of the possible options as you like: share, follow, or comment away! The giveaway closes at midnight on 8/26. Two winners will be randomly chosen and notified by email.

 

If you live outside the US, you are welcome to enter! But please note that you are responsible for customs or import taxes that may apply to the transport of your artwork.

Best of luck to you all!

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