The Hobbit | JRR Tolkien

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.

Reading that sentence is, for me, like stepping onto the welcome mat of a beloved but infrequently-visited friend. Good company is sure to follow, and good food (or, in this case, descriptions of food).

But that sentence did not always affect me this way, nor does it affect everyone that way. When my mom first handed me the book, I was in high school and hardly made it past the opening paragraphs before I dropped it in favor of something with more drama, something probably written by Joyce Carol Oates. I did not encounter it again until a few years later, when the man I was smitten with recommended it (and love, as I’m sure you know, makes one willing to plunge into the lamest of books on the recommendation of one’s beloved). This time, The Hobbit took: I was irrevocably drawn into the adventures of Bilbo Baggins and, a few weeks later, into those of Frodo.

The Hobbit, by JRR Tolkien | Little Book, Big Story

It’s fair to say that my taste in literature changed dramatically from that summer on.

(My life changed from that year on, actually, as I married that man the following winter. How much of his suit’s success can be attributed to The Hobbit? It’s hard to say. But introducing me to Tolkien certainly didn’t hurt his chances.)

I’m not sure how much I need to tell you about The Hobbit, really. If you’ve read it, you know all about it; if you haven’t read it, then you should. And if you’ve ever started to read it but lost interest within the first few chapters, try again. That’s the abridged review.

The Hobbit, by JRR Tolkien | Little Book, Big Story

Here is the slightly longer one:

Part of the appeal of reading The Hobbit is, to me, the joy of reading something that was the first of its kind: we’ve most likely grown up hearing references from Tolkien’s books, and we’ve probably seen some (or all) of Peter Jackson’s movies. Tolkien has influenced so many authors that in their work, we’ve encountered themes and images that build upon his foundation. But I wish, sometimes, that I could have read his books when they first came out, when that sentence “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit” introduced a story the likes of which no one had heard before (I feel this way about the Sherlock Holmes stories, too).

The next best thing, though, is reading The Hobbit to our kids. My husband has called dibs on reading this one aloud, but I can’t wait to sit on the floor with my sketchbook and listen as our daughters meet Bilbo and Gandalf and Thorin & Co. for the very first time. These stories are well-worn and familiar to us—we both reread the series every few years—but to our daughters, they will be a new sort of adventure, one that takes them the first part of the way into Middle Earth and introduces them to characters that will, we hope, become friends that we’ll all have in common.

The Hobbit, by JRR Tolkien | Little Book, Big Story

And maybe, I hope, The Hobbit might have a hand in shaping the way they view literature from that season on. Maybe.


The Hobbit
JRR Tolkien (1937)

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My ABC Bible Verses From the Psalms | Susan and Richie Hunt

Lydia and Sarah curled up on the floor, listening or coloring as I read from My ABC Bible Verses From the Psalms. It was winter and we were well-pajamaed; outside, it was probably raining. I had just finished our reading for that day and moved to pick up our book of fairy tales when Sarah spoke over the squeak of her markers and said, “I like this book because it helps me see how to behave.”

My ABC Bible Verses from the Psalms, by Susan and Richie Hunt | Little Book, Big Story

I was struck by her insight: after all, that’s exactly what I like about this book, too. Susan and Richie Hunt collected twenty-six verses from the Psalms, fit them all to a letter of the alphabet, and wrote stories about a particular family to fit each one. There are stories about disobedience and service; stories about conversion and loving those that are hard to love. They all illustrate different qualities that we’d love to see our children take to heart, but they press past that, pointing toward our dependence upon God in a way that keeps this book from reading like a blue print for good works without faith.

My ABC Bible Verses from the Psalms, by Susan and Richie Hunt | Little Book, Big Story

For a five-year-old who is told daily to put others before herself but struggles to understand how that ought to look, it must be helpful to see a family live out that sort of love in the pages of a book. I know it’s helpful for me as a mother to watch the way the parents in the book answer their children’s questions, honor their own parents, and weave Scripture into their interactions with their children. Though the family may seem a little too perfect in places, the book is rich in grace and I’m thankful for that.

It’s easy to forget, as a grown-up, how hard it can be for a child to see how to behave, and so I was grateful for Sarah’s reminder that we do need to see it, parents and children alike: we can’t just be told, but we need to see those around us living out their faith. And while a good book is no replacement for a real, live example, it can certainly be a help.

My ABC Bible Verses from the Psalms, by Susan and Richie Hunt | Little Book, Big Story


My ABC Bible Verses From the Psalms
Susan Hunt, Richie Hunt (2013)

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Beyond the Ballgown: 9 Unusual Books About Princesses

When a friend asked for advice about raising daughters (he and his wife were expecting their first), all I came up with was, “Expect to find baby dolls in strange places. And there will be glitter all over your house, but you won’t know where it came from.” In retrospect, I’d like to add: “People will buy you princess things—so many princess things. Even when they know that you don’t want princess things in your house.”

Also, I’d probably say something about daughters being a gift from the Lord, and it being such a joy to raise them. And so on.

I’ve written before about our family’s approach to princesses, and have meant, for a good long time, to revisit that topic with a list of the books that our girls have fallen in love with—books that do a little, at least, to combat the pull of the Disney franchise by portraying princesses and queens in a courageous, wise, and truly beautiful (not weirdly-animated beautiful) light.

9 Unusual Books About Princesses | Little Book, Big Story

Some of these leading ladies aren’t technically princesses, but you’ll find queens in the mix and ladies and little girls who display beautifully what true princess-ness means. Here are some unusual books about princesses:

THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, by C.S. Lewis

The Chronicles of Narnia, by CS Lewis | Little Book, Big Story

Every good book list ought to open with these books, I think. And any list of books about strong leading ladies who are loving, empathetic and brave ought to open with Lucy Pevensie. (Read the full review.)

THE PRINCESS AND THE GOBLIN, by George MacDonald

The Princess and the Goblin, by George MacDonald | Little Book, Big Story

This book is old and wonderful: the story of Princess Irene, the miner Curdie, and Irene’s great-great-grandmother gives a great illustration of what it looks like to be a princess during the good times and the bad, in safety and in danger. (Read the full review.)

THE ORDINARY PRINCESS, by M.M. Kaye

The Ordinary Princess, by MM Kaye | Little Book, Big Story

When a cantankerous fairy bestows not the gift of grace, beauty or charm on the infant princess Amethyst, but instead gives her the gift of ordinariness, the story of Princess Amy, thoroughly ordinary in every way, begins. This book takes a good look at what makes us truly beautiful and how to recognize those that appreciate those qualities. (Read the full review.)

THE STORY OF ESTHER, by Eric Kimmel

The Story of Esther | Little Book, Big Story

What better picture of royal courage can we pull from Scripture than that of Esther? Though married to King Artaxerxes against her will, Queen Esther serves the Lord where she is placed and through her obedience, saves his people. She’s beautiful, faithful, and brave! (Read the full review.)

I’D BE YOUR PRINCESS, by Kathryn O’Brien

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

This sweet picture book follows the conversation between a father and a daughter as she imagines what it would be like if he was a king and she was a princess. Her father ties her vision gently back to Scripture and encourages his daughter to cultivate the qualities that Scripture emphasizes. (Read the full review.)

A LITTLE PRINCESS, by Frances Hodgson Burnett

A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett | Little Book, Big Story

Though not a literal princess, Sara Crewe lives like one: pampered by her beloved papa and treated as royalty by the headmistress of her boarding school, she enjoys life’s luxuries—until a plot twist takes them all (every last one) away. But she determines to go on living like a princess in all the right ways all the same. (Read the full review.)

THE PRINCESS AND THE KISSby Jennie Bishop

The Princess and the Kiss, by Jennie Bishop | Little Book, Big Story

Jennie Bishop’s fable about a princess who is given a gift at birth meant only for the man she marries gives a lovely picture for young girls of marriage and purity—even answering gently, at one point, the question, “What if he isn’t out there for me?” This is a book that I appreciate for the way it helps shape our daughters’ views on marriage and sexuality while telling a story about a royal family who knows what to truly value.

THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, by Roger Lancelyn Green

The Adventures of Robin Hood | Little Book, Big Story

Okay, Maid Marian isn’t technically a princess, but she does rub elbows with royalty, wear lovely gowns (sometimes, at least), and marry her true love at the (almost) end of the story. But she’s also fearless and loyal, willing to stand her ground against injustice and to fight for good alongside her fiance. There are many retellings of Robin Hood’s adventures, but Maid Marian’s character in this one makes it my favorite. (Read the full review.)

THE KING’S EQUAL, by Katherine Paterson

The King's Equal | Little Book, Big Story

Katherine Paterson, author of The Bridge to Terebithia and many, many other books, puts a beautiful twist on those stories that marry off princesses as prizes for killing dragons and so on. When the king dies, he leaves his kingdom to his proud and quite unlikeable son on the stipulation that he finds a wife that is truly his equal. The search for such a woman leads to lovely and unexpected results—and no one is more surprised by them than the prince. (Read the full review.)

What are your favorite books about princesses?
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Miracle Man | John Hendrix

I imagine reviewers for large publications opening white-covered galley copies of newly released books, their minds empty of expectation. I imagine—wrongly, I hope—that they read with a sort of professionalism, exploring major themes and images with an air of detachment, and I laugh. Because I enjoy being a highly-biased reviewer: I get to dive whole-heartedly into a book by a beloved author, announcing to myself as I do so, “I want to love this book.”

If I know nothing about the author, then it’s usually the illustrations that provoke this longing in me: a beautifully illustrated book makes me desperately want the story to do them justice.

Such was the case with Miracle Man.

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

I wanted so badly to love John Hendrix’s book—the cover alone was persuasive—and oh, dear reader, I do. I love it. I love Miracle Man so much that I bumped it up eight spots on my publishing schedule just so I could share it with you immediately.

Miracle Man follows the life of Jesus through his miracles, showing an interpretation of who he was as an incarnated man that fits well with Scripture but creatively reveals aspects of how his nature as the Son of God may have overflowed the bounds of humanity. Hendrix renders Jesus’ words as part of the illustrations, not part of the text, so everything Jesus says arrests your eyes and causes you dwell on every letter of every word. He made the deliberate choice to portray Jesus himself and infuses the illustrations with details that (I’m not ashamed to admit it) made me cry because they are so awe-inspiring.

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

My favorite example:

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

Jesus’ footsteps are filled with live, growing things, as though the sole of his foot is so infused with life that its imprint causes the earth to burst into flower out of season.

Yes, I wanted to love this book. I wanted to so badly that I would have overlooked some slightly lackluster prose for the sake of those stunning illustrations, but I didn’t have to. There was nothing lackluster to overlook.

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

And now, I want desperately to love every other book Hendrix has written.


Miracle Man
John Hendrix (2016)

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Ember Falls: a sequel to The Green Ember!

If you read The Green Ember, you probably a) loved it, and b) wanted more. If you answered yes to one or both of those, then, my friend, this post is for you:

SD Smith launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund Ember Falls, the highly-anticipated sequel to The Green Ember. There are all kinds of fun perks to supporting the campaign (t-shirts and stickers, yes, but also swords), but of course the best reward is the book itself and the joy of getting closure on some of the unanswered questions of The Green Ember.

You can join the cause here.

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Baby Wren and the Great Gift | Sally Lloyd-Jones

A new book by Sally Lloyd-Jones is always something to celebrate, but when the new book is itself a celebration—even better! Baby Wren and the Great Gift follows the story of Baby Wren, who admires the gifts of the other creatures in the canyon around her and wonders what she can do that’s wonderful, too. By the end of the story, she has her answer, and in the process, gives one of the most stirring examples of worship I’ve read.

The repetition in this story is lovely—rhythmic, musical, but not mind-numbing to read aloud—and all three of my older daughters (ages 2-8) loved the book. Jen Corace’s illustrations (you may recognize her work from Little Pea or many other lovely books) are gorgeous, too.

So. Baby Wren and the Great Gift is a beautiful book.

Baby Wren and the Great Gift, by Sally Lloyd-Jones | Little Book, Big Story

But it is also an example of how an author, while introducing a truth to children, may bring that same truth out to meet parents—parents who sorely needed this reintroduction—again. As Baby Wren looks admiringly on the gifts given to kingfishers, sunfish and ring-tailed cats (but not to canyon wrens), I found myself thinking of the many ways that adults do this:

Look at how bold you are, talking to strangers about the Gospel.

Look at how clean your home is, how ready you are to welcome people into your life!

Look at how gentle you are with your children, how kindly you answer their questions. 

Baby Wren and the Great Gift, by Sally Lloyd-Jones | Little Book, Big Story

And we ask, like Baby Wren, Why can’t I do those things too? This simple story has for its foundation a deeper truth, one that can bear the weight of adults as well as children, and I found myself challenged as I read this one with my children (again and again—did I mention they loved it?) to admire the gifts that God has given those around me—in our church body, in our neighborhood and in our family—and to look again at how to use well the gifts he’s given me.

Baby Wren and the Great Gift, by Sally Lloyd-Jones | Little Book, Big Story

That is one of the things I love about Sally Lloyd-Jones’ books: her ability to connect with parents as well as children, without weighing the story down with a moral or aiming jokes at the parents that soar over the children’s heads. If you’ve read her best-known work, The Jesus Storybook Bible, then you’ve seen this ability in action. Baby Wren and the Great Gift is another beautiful example of Lloyd-Jones using the gifts she’s been given to do something beautiful—to fill families with song.


Baby Wren and the Great Gift
Sally Lloyd-Jones, Jen Corace (2016)

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The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic | Jennifer Trafton

I have a confession to make: I read this book over a year ago, but even though it was lovely and completely worthy of a spot on this blog, I didn’t rush out and review it for you. I should have. The reasons I didn’t review it right away are hard to pin down, but they have something to do with the fact that it’s taken me over a year to realize that I just don’t know how to describe The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic. The story is delightful, charming, and unlike anything else I’ve read, but I still don’t know how to describe it. I’m writing about it now because I can’t keep it from you any longer: you need to know about this book.

The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic, by Jennifer Trafton | Little Book, Big Story

I’ll start with a summary, and perhaps that will get me warmed up: Persimmony Smudge (whose name is perfect, by the way) discovers a secret about the island where she lives and sets out to save her fellow islanders from certain doom. But Persimmony’s biggest obstacle isn’t a super villain with a diabolical scheme to take down the island government—it’s the islanders’ persistent refusal to believe that they are in any danger at all.

Persimmony stands up for the truth again and again, and I love that about her. She is ridiculed for believing something seemingly ludicrous by kings, peasants, loved ones, and strangers, but she is a determined heroine who does hard things no matter what it costs her. And the world she inhabits is quirky and worth saving, the sort of place that has new surprises tucked away in every cave and tunnel.

The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic, by Jennifer Trafton | Little Book, Big Story

There! Now that I’ve taken a stab at describing the story, I feel a bit better, and it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. There’s still that undefinable magic to Jennifer Trafton’s story that I can’t pin down, but I do hope I’ve shared enough to inspire you to add this one to the top of your reading list. If you’re still on the fence, though, there’s this: the book is illustrated by Brett Helquist, one of my very favorite artists and illustrator of many extraordinary stories, the most notable of which is Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. You’re sold now, aren’t you?


The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic
Jennifer Trafton (2011)

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