The Big Picture Story Bible | David Helm

After six consecutive nights spent awake and in the company of a congested baby, you start to forget important things like why you normally leave your glasses on the bookshelf near the door and not on the floor for the baby to find, or that you were going to mention to your husband the fact that a bolt is missing from the rear wheel of the car, or, incredibly, how to pronounce your own first name (please tell me that has happened to you, too). Or you panic for a moment, while on a walk with the children, because you don’t see the baby–where is she?–before realizing that she is in the stroller that you are pushing right in front of you as you walk, kicking her feet happily as her sisters drop fallen leaves in her lap.

The Big Picture Story Bible | Little Book, Big Story

You also forget things like why you wanted to write a blog post about David Helm’s The Big Picture Story Bible. The post is there, at the top of your list of drafts, but you find yourself sitting on the couch at 5:57 am, drinking a rapidly cooling cup of Earl Grey tea and thinking about that missing bolt.

The Big Picture Story Bible | Little Book, Big Story

However, there is a light pinging way back in the back of my mind, reminding me that the ladies at Aslan’s Library wrote a beautiful review of not only The Big Picture Story Bible, but also of the accompanying audio CDs. Not only that, but they linked to this excellent presentation by David Helm on how to teach your children the whole story of the Bible (I watched that and it was so good, great for watching while folding laundry, knitting, or staring off into space). So today, I will refer you to Aslan’s Library and go back to nursing my now lukewarm tea and savoring the final chapters of Lila, by Marilynne Robinson.

Notice the heavily worn binding of our book–evidence, surely of a book worth reading again and again and again:

The Big Picture Story Bible | Little Book, Big Story

PS: Speaking of Lila, I learned yesterday that not only did Marilynne Robinson, one of my favorite authors ever, release a sequel to one of my favorite books ever–Gilead–this month, but the Abhorsen trilogy–one of my favorite trilogies ever–just got promoted to a quartet with the release of a brand new fourth book! Between Lila and Clariel, I’m a little giddy right now. Exhausted, but giddy.

Featured Author: C.S. Lewis

When I choose books to review on this blog, I find that there are some authors who have won my heart so thoroughly that I can’t decide which of their books to review first. These are the authors that I love for themselves, not for any single book, and whose name on the spine of an otherwise unknown volume is enough insurance for me to buy a copy without even peeking at the blurb on the back of the book. Introducing you to them is my way of saying, “Yes, we’ll get to the specific titles. But for now, just skip to the part where you read any book they have ever written.”

Today’s featured author is one who looms large in the recent history of Christian thought. He is one that you’ve doubtless encountered and may already love, but the thought that you may not have gone further into his work than The Chronicles of Narnia finally motivated me to put pen to paper and draft this post. Perhaps I’m reminding you of an old friend. Perhaps. But I hope that, for some of you, this post serves as a welcome introduction to a new author, one whose work will earn a well-dogeared place in your own library: C.S. Lewis.


To be perfectly honest, I labored through the first chapters of Mere Christianity when I first encountered it at 19. I made a few false starts before I pushed on through those introductory chapters and into the heart of the book, but once there I realized that I was in the hands of an author adept at explaining complex concepts, and I began to see that the very questions I wrestled with as a new Christian could not only be answered, but could be answered in a logical way. (I have read the whole book many times since.)

Why Should You Read C.S. Lewis? | Little Book, Big Story

C.S. Lewis fought in one world war but lived through them both, and he was a writer that spoke specifically to his time. But his voice carries, and his answers to the big questions about God and Christianity still satisfy readers today, when we, like the British soldiers and civilians of his original audience, struggle to understand why we should bother with Christianity–or any religion–at all.

Yet while he reasoned clearly on complex issues, he was not above telling stories that still appeal to children as well as adults, Christians as well as non-Christians, bookworms and those who are only caught by a good, old-fashioned adventure. His works span every genre and range in level of difficulty from those written for children (The Chronicles of Narniato works for adults; they cover everything from the afterlife (The Great Divorce) to prayer (Letters to Malcolm) to the question of pain and suffering (The Problem of Pain), all from a layman’s perspective, but with a scholar’s depth and a pitch-perfect ear for language (and humor).

Mere Christianity | Little Book, Big Story

C.S. Lewis seemed always to have the perfect metaphor for the most abstract ideas, and that is, I suppose, why his illustrations turn up in sermon after sermon: if C.S. Lewis has written about the issue in question, then I doubt if anyone else has written about it better.

” . . . it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy has been offered to us. We are far too easily pleased, like an ignorant child who goes on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by an offer of a holiday at the sea.” (The Weight of Glory)

Fiction for Children

– The Chronicles of Narniathese are the books that earned Lewis a place on this blog, after all.

The Chronicles of Narnia | Little Book, Big Story

Fiction for Adults

– The Science Fiction Trilogy: these are all worth reading, but I bet you’ll be particularly taken with the second book, Perelandra.

The Science Fiction Trilogy | Little Book, Big Story

– The Screwtape Letters: letters from a senior devil to a junior devil, on how to tempt and enslave a man.

– The Great Divorce: an exploration of the afterlife, in narrative form. Utterly unforgettable.

– Til We Have Faces: a retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche, told by Psyche’s older sister. Unique and absorbing.

Why Should You Read C.S. Lewis? | Little Book, Big Story

Nonfiction for Adults

– Mere Christianity: an examination of what Christians believe and how they live in the light of those beliefs. A classic, and for good reason.

– The Weight of Glory: a collection of talks and sermons given at various points in his career. One of my favorites, it contains a number of his best-known illustrations, and is a good introduction to his nonfiction.

– The Four Loves: Lewis writes about the four different types of love.

Why Should You Read C.S. Lewis? | Little Book, Big Story

– Surprised by Joy: Lewis’s “autobiography of faith,” in which he examines his own conversion from atheism to Christianity.

– Letters to Malcolm: one side of a correspondence about prayer.

– Reflections on the Psalms: a concise meditation on the psalms, from the perspective of Lewis as a layman. He answers some of the common issues in the Psalms (the vindictive violence, for example) in satisfying ways.

– Letters to Children: sweet and charming responses from Lewis to the children who wrote to him about his Narnia books. This book is lesser known, but it’s a treasure.

 

The Boy and the Ocean | Max Lucado

Here is my thesis for this post: The Boy and the Ocean is beautiful. I loved it. The writing is rhythmic, the illustrations uncommonly gorgeous, the story endearing, and the whole thing describes the love of God in a way that appeals to my daughters–and to me.

The Boy and the Ocean follows an unnamed boy as he vacations near the sea with his parents. The story appears in three parts, as he explores the ocean, the mountains, and then studies the night sky with his parents, and reflects on how the ocean, mountains, and sky, like God’s love, are endless and unchanging.

This book is a little like Does God Know How to Tie Shoes?, a little like Psalm 19: “The heavens declare the glory of God, the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” And the illustrations are . . . oh, how to describe them? Like the sort of thing I think about before falling asleep–but that doesn’t exactly help you, does it? Suffice it to say, they are stunning, absolutely stunning:

The Boy and the Ocean | Little Book, Big Story

The color blue that T. Lively Fluharty uses throughout the book is one of my very favorites (a small detail, but one worth noting).

The Boy and the Ocean | Little Book, Big Story

The Boy and the Ocean was well received by both our six-year-old and our (newly) four-year-old–it was her birthday gift– so I would recommend it for a wide age range. Even a toddler might enjoy looking at the illustrations (I know that I, an adult, sure did).

Deeply Rooted, Issue 3 is here!

 

And inside it, you’ll find a little something special:

If you remember how much I admire JJ Heller, then you can guess how thrilled I was to have the opportunity to interview her for Deeply Rooted, but in case you’ve forgotten, know this: I did at least one happy dance when I got the assignment. And as much fun as the article was to work on, it’s just a tiny piece of the overall loveliness of this autumn issue, which tackles subjects like grief, gratitude, the exclusivity of Christ, and how we as busy moms can serve those outside our families. Also, there’s a recipe for a kale and sausage casserole. I made it for dinner on Saturday, and the casserole was delicious.

You can order your copy of the magazine here. (And you can read about why I write about Deeply Rooted on my blog for kids’ books here.)

What’s in the Bible? (Videos) | JellyTelly

Vischer

Way back in this blog’s beginning posts, I wrote a bit about What’s in the Bible? I told you that it was awesome and that you should watch it, but that was over a year ago and now it’s a cozy sort of season when movies and fleece blankets are in high demand, so I thought I’d give the series its very own post–even though it’s not a book, but a series of movies about the book.

What’s in the Bible? is a series of 26 episodes that works its way through the entire Bible, but probably not in the way you’re thinking. Yes, it tells the creation story and shares a stellar retelling of the Book of Ruth, but the overall focus of the series is less on the celebrated stories of the Bible and more on the great, overarching story of the Bible. What is actually in the Bible? Why does it matter to us? What’s in the Bible? strives to answer those questions with creativity and sincerity (a great combination when dealing with anyone, little or big). The mind behind it all belongs to Phil Vischer, of JellyTelly (and formerly of VeggieTales). He briefly explains the vision of What’s in the Bible? here:

As you may remember from my post about his book, Sidney and Norman, I think very, very highly of Mr. Vischer. He appears on the show as a sort of anchor for an eclectic cast of puppets (which features, among other things, a Sunday school teacher, a news anchor, and a pirate), where he doesn’t shy away from difficult topics, but speaks to kids as though they can and should understand what the Bible says about tricky topics like sin, salvation, and theological doctrine. Take the show’s explanation of the Trinity, for example:

 

Our daughters love these videos. My husband and I love them, too, and through the show’s vivid illustrations we have both learned a lot about key aspects of the Bible. The episodes that touched on Paul’s back story or the silence between the Testaments switched lights on for both of us, and now our daughters tend to do things like, oh, list the books of the Bible in order just for fun. The show is full of catchy songs (a song about the Pentateuch–sung on a riverboat!) and great topical segments (A Pirate’s Guide to Church History!) that go far beyond the traditional fare of Christian children’s programming.

Take this song about the book of Judges (yes, Judges):

Oh, okay, and our favorite song about Leviticus (yes, Leviticus):

 Now, where you can you find this excellent series? If you live in our area, you can request copies of the DVDs at the public library, but by far the easiest way to watch them is to subscribe to JellyTelly. The monthly fee is cheap and grants you access to all 26 episodes of What’s in the Bible? as well as a variety of other shows and games that our family has yet to explore. (Do I sound like an infomerical? Don’t worry, this is not a sponsored post–none of my posts are–so it’s simply my enthusiasm for this show that you hear taking on a cheesy radio-announcer persona.)

JellyTelly’s mission is “be a tool to help raise the next generation of Christians so they know what they believe and know how to live it and to help launch the next generation of Christian storytellers.” I love that vision and see it succeeding marvelously through What’s in the Bible? 

The Story of Creation | Norman Messenger

 

The Creation Story | Little Book, Big Story

I never tire of hearing the creation story. How exuberant life must have been then, as the world burst into being, perfect and new–a place where moments might be savored without the bitter knowledge that they would not last, and work was done with delight. That world slips away from us after the third chapter of the Bible, but those first three chapters hint at what might have been.

The Creation Story | Little Book, Big Story

Picture books are a lovely medium for capturing that exuberance and joy. I have come across many that capture it well–in fact, I have drafted posts of two others for you, but each one has been replaced by a version I liked better than the last, until I finally came across Norman Messenger’s The Story of Creation and realized that it just couldn’t get much better than this. Norman Messenger captures the the newborn world in illustrations that manage to look as thought they’ve burst onto the page, despite the fact that they must have taken a long time and a lot of patience to complete (colored pencil is not a medium for the impatient).

The illustrations alone make this a book that the littlest readers can enjoy–it is fun to examine the detailed drawings of plants and animals and admire the depth and creativity of God’s work with them, as Messenger skillfully piles the images on top of one another, creating a picture that ought to feel crowded but instead feels exciting and new every time we read the book.

The Creation Story | Little Book, Big Story

Messenger tells the story itself through passages pulled from the New Living Translation which, though not usually my translation of choice, works well here because the story moves along swiftly without the hindrance of the dated (though lovely) language of the King James used in many of the other versions I’ve read, gaining momentum before dropping smoothly into that seventh day of rest. How refreshing it is to end on that day of rest and to forget for a moment what came after it!

The Creation Story | Little Book, Big Story

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:


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