Everything a Child Should Know About God | Kenneth Taylor

I must begin with a confession: You know Facebook-stalking? How people haunt the Facebook pages of people they only sort of know? I did that with this book. I frequented its Amazon listing and read reviews; I saw it ranked as a staff pick in the Westminster Bookstore and I read their reviews; I read a few sample pages.

And I didn’t get it—in either sense of the phrase. I didn’t understand what the book was getting at, and so I didn’t buy it.

Everything a Child Should Know About God, by Kenneth N. Taylor (Review) | Little Book, Big Story

But a few weeks ago, I was at a friend’s house, rummaging through her shelves on a quest for a perfect book to take with me on vacation (this is an art, as you know), when I came across her copy. Sure, she said. I could borrow it.

So I brought it home, and Phoebe promptly fell in love with Everything a Child Should Know About God.

The very things that I was skeptical about—the super short readings, the simple illustrations, the very basic questions—sparked Phoebe’s curiosity. She carried it around with her everywhere; she called it her “Bible.” And so I sat down and scanned the table of contents.

I got it. I got it in both senses of that phrase, because when my friend heard how much Phoebe loved the book, she gave it to us, and because I finally understood what the book is.

Everything a Child Should Know About God, by Kenneth N. Taylor (Review) | Little Book, Big Story

Everything a Child Should Know About God is a systematic theology for toddlers. Like The Ology, the book we’re currently reading through as a family, Everything a Child Should Know About God explores what the Bible is, who God is, what he’s done, and why we love him. But it scales these things back to their simplest, clearest forms. The questions point to the illustrations, which give young readers something clear to visualize as we talk about these vast concepts. They are little pegs these readers can hang bigger truths on as they grow in size and understanding.

Phoebe and I now sit down together each morning and read through one page of this book together. It takes five minutes, and we both love that. But I love the way this book gives me a doorway into discussion with her, one that reaches her right where she is, right now, at four.

I finally get what this book is about.

Everything a Child Should Know About God
Kenneth N. Taylor; Jenny Brake (2014)

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The World Jesus Knew | Marc Olson

Years ago, a friend invited us to Passover seder, a cozy one hosted by friends of his. This was early in our marriage, before kids, and we squeezed into this small apartment with our friend and a half-dozen strangers. We passed plates and glasses of wine and lounged, ancient Israelite-style, around the table on cushions.

The couple hosting led us through the Haggadah, and while the Hebrew was a mystery to me, lovely and impenetrable, the symbolism of each dish on the seder plate wasn’t: one by one, the readings illuminated them, showed us both how they remembered the Exodus and how they anticipated the Messiah who would come and fulfill each prophecy. And, they explained, he had come. He had fulfilled them all.

I had one of those moments, in my corner around the table, as I dipped parsley in salted water and touched it to my tongue, when the window was open and the tree outside stirred in the darkness and I thought, The Jewish people have observed this for centuries, remembering the Exodus. They have waited this long for the Messiah. And I thought, too, The Last Supper looked like this. As we broke bread and served wine, communion changed irrevocably for me as I realized that Jesus wasn’t instituting something new as he passed the cup to his disciples, but fulfilling something ancient—a promise made centuries before.

The World Jesus Knew, by Marc Olson | Little Book, Big Story

History became, in that moment, three-dimensional for me. I saw Jesus in this new context and understood that everything he did and said, the stories he told, carried particular meaning to the shepherds, priests, and prostitutes around him—meaning that is occasionally lost on me, given my unfamiliarity with sheep, mustard seeds, and the grape harvest. And yet: those words still carry enough fire to spark transformation in the heart of a new wife standing in a stairwell, watching friends open the door for the coming Elijah and rejoicing that he has already come.

This seems like a big lesson for kids to take in, but Marc Olson has written a book that takes some awfully long steps in that direction. The World Jesus Knew is a picture book filled with details about first century Jerusalem—what the Israelites and Romans wore, what they ate, how they interacted. A book like this could be dry or overwhelming, but this one isn’t: Jem Maybank’s illustrations arrange that information well, making it easy to follow and fun to explore, and Marc Olson describes these things with energy and wit.

The World Jesus Knew, by Marc Olson | Little Book, Big Story

I know I can’t fabricate those moments of realization for my kids, the ones that open history wide for them so they see that other people, other fascinating people, really lived in this world, though in very different ways than we do now. But I can do my best to give them opportunities to see it. Books like this help a great deal.

The World Jesus Knew
Marc Olson; Jem Maybank (2017)

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5 Beautiful Devotionals for Lent

We have one window in our living room—one window highly sought after by the cats, who get their best bird views there—and it’s in that window sill that I heap the books I’m currently reading. This is a terrible place for books—they fall when you bump them or when you put the blinds down (or when you lunge at a bird), and they block a small portion of coveted daylight. But it’s close to the armchair where I like to read, and so that is where the books stay.

And with Lent upon us, a handful of the books in that sill are Easter-related, which made me think of other Easter-related books you might like, which made me think that a post about Easter reading for you, dear grown-up reading this blog, might be well received. This list is a short one, but I’m sure you have other books worthy of joining its ranks. I would love to hear about them in the comments.

5 Beautiful Devotionals for Lent | Little Book, Big Story

So, here it is: a list of  devotionals for Lent! The first two are the ones I’m reading this year, followed by ones I’ve read (and loved) in the past.

Comforts From the Cross, by Elyse Fitzpatrick

Comforts From the Cross, by Elyse Fitzpatrick | Little Book, Big Story

This devotional isn’t marketed for Lent and I didn’t plan to read it for Lent, but I did start reading it and it struck me that it is, in fact, perfectly Lent-worthy. Each reading describes some new aspect the gospel—the beauty of it, how it transforms our lives—in Fitzpatrick’s warm, grace-filled voice. Familiarity may tempt us to grow deaf to the melody of the gospel, but Fitzpatrick reminds us that the Lord plays endless variations upon it in our lives, and that that melody will never grow repetitive to those who pay attention. Comforts From the Cross highlights some of those variations, and the result is stunning.

The Valley of Vision, edited by Arthur Bennett

The Valley of Vision, ed. Arthur Bennett | LIttle Book, Big Story

The Valley of Vision is a collection of Puritan prayers and devotions written by a plethora of authors whose names occasionally end with “Spurgeon,” “Edwards,” or “Bunyan.” You can see by the condition of the cover that this is an oft-frequented book at our house (or at least one that got knocked off my nightstand and lost under the bed for a while), and I’m reading it this Lent with Joe Thorn’s guide for praying through The Valley of Vision.

I’m two weeks in and I love it already: these little breaks for prayer reorient my heart every few hours, and I need that. (It’s true that I pray on the stairwell, often with one or two daughters in my lap, poking my face and asking me what I’m doing, but praying in the midst of that is perfect training for praying through the greater storms of life. Right?)

Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die, by John Piper

Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die, by John Piper | Little Book, Big Story

You thought there was just the one reason, didn’t you? Nope. In fifty short chapters, John Piper lays out fifty illuminating reasons why Jesus suffered and died for us. What this is, really, is fifty reasons to praise God for his redemption!

Note: Piper’s book The Passion of Christ is actually the same material repackaged under a new title. How do I know? Because I own them both and planned to review them each separately here—until I read the table of contents. But hey, now we know they’re both good books!

Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross, Ed. by Nancy Guthrie

Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross, ed. Nancy Guthrie | Little Book, Big Story

I read this book during Lent last year, and it was beautiful. Nancy Guthrie has curated a collection of twenty-five readings from authors that span church history. You’ll find Augustine here alongside J.I. Packer, John Calvin next to Francis Schaeffer. This isn’t technically a devotional but an anthology, one that’s easy to pick up and read any time of the day. (Guthrie’s Advent anthology Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus is lovely, too.)

King’s Cross (Jesus the King), by Timothy Keller

King's Cross (Jesus the King), by Timothy Keller | Little Book, Big Story

This is one of my favorite books, and again, it’s not one specifically written for Lent. But Timothy Keller’s study of Jesus’s life through the book of Mark places Jesus’ life within the greater framework of God’s redemptive story. This is not a difficult read, but it’s a deep one that will give you much to ponder.

Note: This book has been republished under the title Jesus the King, so don’t let that throw you off the scent. Even if you don’t read it during Lent, it’s excellent reading any time of the year.

What about you? What are you reading for Lent?
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Jeanne D’Albret | Rebekah Dan

Lately my reading has begun to branch off our school studies, as I find that a picture book about Martin Luther whets an appetite for his full story, which sparks an interest in the life of his wife, which sends me on a quest to learn everything I can about the Reformation.

I love that about history: we cannot reach the bottom of it.

Jeanne D'Albret: Princess of the Reformation, by Rebekah Dan | Little Book, Big Story

One of my favorite recent discoveries is the story of Jeanne D’Albret, Queen of Navarre. Rebekah Dan has worked hard to reclaim her story from near obscurity, for though D’Albret was a contemporary of John Calvin and some of the other Reformers, and though her role in furthering the Reformation in her kingdom was costly and critical, she is not so nearly well remembered. I am glad that Dan has written a book that draws her name back up to history’s surface.

As the princess of Navarre (and eventual queen) during the Reformation, Jeanne had a powerful impact on her region’s response to the changes the Reformation ignited within and against the church. Her commitment to the gospel and the cause of the Reformation cost her the peace of her once-happy marriage and repeatedly put her life in danger. But D’Albret remained steadfast to the Lord, despite threats and unpopularity, and though Navarre would eventually revert back to a Catholic state, her faithfulness gave the Reformation a foothold in her country that was not easily lost.

Jeanne D'Albret: Princess of the Reformation, by Rebekah Dan | Little Book, Big Story

Rebekah Dan tells this story in a way that appeals to young readers, introducing Jeanne as a determined child, then young woman who, when married against her will, had to be forcibly dragged down the aisle when she refused to walk (this marriage was later annulled, and when she married again, it was to a man she loved). Dan captures moments like this one in vibrant colored pencil illustrations.

The only caution I have with this book is that it describes the causes of the Reformation in a simplified way that I felt needed more discussion with my daughters. But even so, this book is a lovely introduction to a nearly-forgotten woman whose life and sacrifices helped further the gospel among the people of Navarre. It was a delight to read with my daughters—and it sent me on a quest to learn all I could about Jeanne D’Albret.

Jeanne D’Albret: Princess of the Reformation
Rebekah Dan (2017)

Disclosure: I did receive a copy of this 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.

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5 Books on Church History for Kids (and Grown-ups)

I wrote a post about great (sometimes pop-up) church history books for Deeply Rooted. It boasts a few books that you know well and a few you haven’t met yet, and I think you’ll really like like them. (I know I really like the photos, which were taken by my neighbor Felicia*, who has a knack for that sort of thing.)

My father used to read to me from The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire. He read it in answer to some question about my homework, some question that probably did not involve the Romans, and he read it at length. I know now that that was an awesome thing to do—take my homework question and place it in context by linking it to the historical moment that preceded it—but as a sophomore eager to finish that assignment so I could get back to living life (i.e. watching MTV while I waited for my hair color to set), I did not appreciate my father’s approach. 

I appreciate it now. Just as we can’t pull Leviticus out of context and expect to understand its laws and commands, we can’t pull our point in history out of context and expect to understand how we got here, where we are headed, or what we must do to change. . . .

You can read the full post here.

5 Books on Church History for Kids (and Grown-Ups) | Little Book, Big Story

*The photos in this post were also taken by Felicia. See what I mean?

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7 Books That Tell the Big Story of Easter

If we spent last Lent reading books with a fresh take on the Easter story, this year, I want to focus on stories that tell not just what happened during Holy Week but why it mattered. Why did Jesus die? Why do we celebrate Good Friday with somber songs and Easter Sunday with joyous ones? I set out to find Easter books that fit the Resurrection into context, that showed it beginning and ending with the gospel.

But I couldn’t find them. Not in the Easter section, anyway. All the Easter books we had and all the ones I borrowed from the library told (beautifully, most of them) what happened, but none of them gave us the gospel.

So I went looking elsewhere. I dug out books from our everyday shelves that tell the story of Jesus’ life in full, that tell God’s redemptive story from beginning to end, that show God’s tenderness toward his people, that invite us to the view the gospel through allegory.

7 Books That Tell the Big Story of Easter | Little Book, Big Story

This is a list of books to read during Lent, but they aren’t specifically Easter books. I hope you enjoy them.

The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross, by Carl Laferton

The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross, by Carl Laferton | Little Book, Big Story

This book tells the story of God’s redemptive plan from Genesis to Revelation. Christ’s Crucifixion and Resurrection are covered here, but they’re fit within their broader context, and Laferton explains perfectly why they matter in a way that even the youngest readers can follow. (Read the full review.)

The Light of the World, by Katherine Paterson

The Light of the World, by Katherine Paterson | Little Book, Big Story

Newbery-winning author Katerine Paterson tells the story of Jesus’ life here on earth in a way that reminds us that Jesus was God, but he was also a warm, approachable man. His gentleness and strength are both evident here. (Read the full review.)

The World Jesus Knew, by Marc Olson

The World Jesus Knew, by Marc Olson | Little Book, Big Story

This book was a new find, one that made me deeply happy. The World Jesus Knew provides a different sort of context for Jesus’ story: Marc Olson has written a fascinating reference book for kids that, with the help of Jem Maybank’s illustrations, brings the first century to life to kids. What did Jesus eat? What was the temple like when he lived? What the heck is a centurion? Olson answers all those things (and more!) in this, my new favorite picture book.

The Prince’s Poison Cup, by RC Sproul

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

RC Sproul had a knack for sharing the gospel through allegory, and The Prince’s Poison Cup is one of his best. Through the story of a prince whose people have strayed, Sproul illustrates grace in a fresh and powerful way. (Read the full review.)

Found, by Sally Lloyd-Jones

Found, by Sally Lloyd-Jones | Little Book, Big Story

Psalm 23 gets a sweet retelling in this board book. The picture of a shepherd—shown both in Lloyd-Jones’ poetry and Jago’s illustrations—searching for his lost sheep is beautiful, and it’s perfect for sharing the story of Easter with little readers. (Read the full review.)

The Biggest Story, by Kevin DeYoung

The Biggest Story by Kevin DeYoung and Don Clark | Little Book, Big Story

In this not-quite-story-Bible, Kevin DeYoung traces the Big Story of Scripture from beginning to end. This is like The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross, but for older readers. This would be a great book to read throughout Lent. For younger readers, The Biggest Story ABC is beautiful, too. (Read the full review.)

Miracle Man, by John Hendrix

Miracle Man, by John Hendrix | Little Book, Big Story

And, of course: Miracle Man. John Hendrix’s book on the life of Jesus is perfect, and ends with a breath-catching moment of anticipation. (Read the full review.)

Have you found the books I’m looking for? What are your favorite Easter books?
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An Interview with Songwriter Caroline Cobb

I shared this in the email newsletter a few weeks ago, but then I forgot to post it here! Alas! But I recently had the privilege of interviewing Caroline Cobb for Deeply Rooted. Her music is everything you and I love in a good book: beautifully written, vivid, and anchored by Scripture. If you haven’t listened to her album A Home & A Hunger yet, I think you’re going to love it. (We do. We’ve had many a dance party to her songs.)

You can hear in her own words how much she loves the Lord and his Word, and how she longs to share them both with her listeners:

I was . . . simultaneously feeling the ache of the “not yet” of God’s kingdom and clinging to the hope of the “already.” I kept being drawn to write from passages that explored these themes: the beauty of God’s “upside-down” Gospel, the tension we feel as Christians between ache and hope. Each song parachutes into a different moment in Scripture, with every song tracing this overarching theme of kingdom hope. 

My prayer is that these songs would help people remember and rehearse God’s Story, and that his truth would get into their hearts and minds in the middle of their everyday: when they’re stuck in traffic, cooking dinner, changing a diaper, working from their desk. I’m also praying it will remind those that are walking through hard things of the secure hope we have in Christ and help us all remember the good news of Jesus. I know I need to remember and savor the Gospel again and again, and I’m praying this album will help others do that too. 

Read the full interview here.

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