The Angel Knew Papa and the Dog | Douglas Kaine McKelvey

It’s serious work, choosing a book for vacation. I overthink it every time. A book cannot be too absorbing (see: family reunion, Estes Park CO—the year Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince came out, and I read in the midst of a beauteous landscape, ignoring family and nature alike). And it cannot be so meaty that I don’t want to pull it out in those moments when the coffee is hot and the cabin’s front porch calls.

The Angel Knew Papa and the Dog, by Douglas Kaine McKelvey | Little Book, Big Story

A book for vacation needs to be just right—every paragraph satisfying, so that even ten minutes in its company sends me back into a cabin full of children feeling recharged—and I have elevated the choosing of a vacation book to an art form (or an obsession, depending on your view). But this time, the artistry (or obsession) was solved for me when a package from the Rabbit Room arrived on our porch the day before we left for a weekend on San Juan Island. In it I found the slender new edition of Douglas Kaine McKelvey’s story, The Angel Knew Papa and the Dog.

I’ve mentioned McKelvey before on this blog, albeit indirectly. In my review of Wingfeather Tales, his was the “novella so devastating.” I have been waiting ever since to get a copy of this story, hoping it might be as lovely as that novella.

The Angel Knew Papa and the Dog, by Douglas Kaine McKelvey | Little Book, Big Story

I read The Angel Knew Papa and the Dog in full during a single naptime, in a log cabin overlooking a lake. And it was lovely, a book so sweet and true that it’s hard to describe because I am afraid that if I pull pieces of it apart to show you, I might damage the well-woven fabric of the book . I will say this: the new edition from Rabbit Room Press is illustrated by Zach Franzen, of The Green Ember, so it is beautiful in both word and image. And it is worth reading immediately—especially if you have a vacation coming up.


The Angel Knew Papa and the Dog
Douglas Kaine McKelvey, Zach Franzen (2017 – republication)

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Featured Author: Sally Lloyd-Jones

It’s been over two years since I shared a featured author with you, I know. But today is the day: I’m bringing the series back!


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.”

Featured Author: Sally Lloyd-Jones | Little Book, Big Story

Today’s author is a contemporary one, and one you’re familiar with if you’ve read this blog for any amount of time. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: Sally Lloyd-Jones.


One of the first picture books that I acquired as a parent, one of the first ones that showed me how beautiful Bible stories for children can be, was The Jesus Storybook Bible. We lived in an old corner store then—a meat market actually—that had been converted into an odd, stucco, square-shaped home, perfect for our family of three. The back quarter of the house had cork-lined walls left over from its days as a meat locker, and the front had windows that started near my knees and reached nearly to the top of the very tall room. I loved those windows. I loved sitting in front of them in the spring, watching the neighborhood dogs saunter past, and the cherry trees outside trumpet the season’s change. I loved sitting in front of them, with eighteen-month-old Lydia on my lap, and reading to her from The Jesus Storybook Bible.

The Jesus Storybook Bible | Little Book, Big Story

Sally Lloyd-Jones writes not simply for children but to them. Her books makes me feel, as a parent, like I am sitting in on a conversation she’s having directly with my child. I love and laugh with and am shaped by her words as well, but my involvement feels like an added bonus: her words speak right to my children with a warmth and understanding that reminds me at times of E. Nesbit’s writing.

Since that first copy of The Jesus Storybook Bible, we’ve made it a practice to purchase a new copy for each of our daughters around their second or third birthday (Phoebe just got hers). We do this mostly because we want each daughter to have her own childhood copy to carry with her into adulthood, but also because that’s usually about when the spine on our current copy begins to give way.

Sally Lloyd-Jones | Little Book, Big Story

But The Jesus Storybook Bible is not the only book Lloyd-Jones has written, and it’s certainly not the only one I’ve reviewed here on Little Book, Big Story. Here are a few of our favorite books by Sally Lloyd-Jones:

Picture Books

Baby Wren and the Great Gift (Illus. Jen Corace)

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

– How to Be a Baby, by Me the Big Sister (Illus. Sue Heap)

– How to Get a Job, by Me the Boss (Illus. Sue Heap)

– How to Get Married, by Me the Bride (Illus. Sue Heap)

– Skip to the Loo (Illus. Anita Jeram)

Skip to the Loo, My Darling!, by Sally Lloyd-Jones | Little Book, Big Story

– Just Because You’re Mine (Illus. Frank Endersby)

– Found (Illus. Jago)

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

– Bunny’s First Spring (Illus. David MacPhail)

– Baby’s Hug-a-Bible (Illus. Claudine Gevry)

– Lift-the-Flap Bible (Illus. Tracey Moroney)

Not Quite Picture Books

The Jesus Storybook Bible (Illus. Jago)

– Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing (Illus. Jago)

Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing | Little Book, Big Story

Christmas Books

– Song of the Stars (Illus. Allison Jay)

Song of the Stars, by Sally-Lloyd Jones | Little Book, Big Story

– Little One, We Knew You’d Come (Illus. Jackie Morris)


Also, if you want to know more about Sally Lloyd-Jones, or just want to be enchanted by her vision for life and writing, I highly recommend listening to her interview with Sarah MacKenzie on the Read-Aloud Revival

The ladies of Aslan’s Library interviewed her a while back, and that one’s lovely, too (Part 1 | Part 2).

Featured Author: Sally Lloyd-Jones | Little Book, Big Story

And (how neat is this?) here is a video interview with Lloyd-Jones from Haven Today, celebrating the tenth anniversary of The Jesus Storybook Bible. Tell me: do you recognize any of the photos featured in it?

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Deeply Rooted Magazine, Issue 11: Wisdom

The newest issue of Deeply Rooted arrived at my house last week, and since then I’ve loved flipping through its pages, sampling articles and admiring artwork. I’m anticipating a nap time some day in the near future, when I may sit out on the front porch and read with my feet on the porch railing and a cat in my lap.

But that probably won’t happen. I’ll probably read this issue in the pick-up line at school or in bits and pieces throughout the day.

And that’s okay. Deeply Rooted is a magazine meant for women who want deep refreshment in small bites and for women who are able to linger over the articles, savoring them like a feast.

Deeply Rooted Magazine, Issue 11: Wisdom | Little Book, Big Story

My article for this issue, titled “The Good Gift of Feeling Left Out,” was a hard one to write:

Being a member of a church is not unlike being married. The first few years for me were like something from the end of a story, where the heroine decides that at last, after everything she’s been through, all is well. I was glad to be there with my husband, making friends and singing my heart out to old hymns and understanding new things about God with the suddenness of a light switched on in a dark room. All was well.

But a membership covenant is no more an end to things than a wedding is. Five or six years into life at our church, I found myself wondering uncomfortably if those early years were not an epilogue but a prelude to something much bigger, something I had not fully understood when I signed up.

We have been a part of our church for twelve years now (that’s much of my adult life, most of my married life, and all of my time as a mom), and in those years we have experienced a lot of joy in deep fellowship. We have also suffered some deep, deep wounds. Writing this article hurt, and I think that’s a good thing. Submitting it brought a measure of relief, and seeing it in print felt even better.

Deeply Rooted Magazine, Issue 11: Wisdom | Little Book, Big Story

But that piece is only one in a curated collection of works. Lexy Sauvé wrote a beautiful piece titled “Thoughts From a Recovering Minimalist.” Dianne Jago assembled a playlist of music by Christian artists for people who aren’t overly fond of the usual Christian music (sound familiar?). And my dear friend Jennifer Harris contributed her first piece, a rich and satisfying look at how we can sow seeds of wisdom in our children. (You can order a copy of this issue here.)

Deeply Rooted Magazine, Issue 11: Wisdom | Little Book, Big Story

Whether you read it in a leisurely manner or in bits and pieces, I hope this issue of Deeply Rooted is a blessing to you, too!


Issue 11: Wisdom
Deeply Rooted Magazine

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Brave Girls: Beautiful You | Jennifer Gerelds

Nine. My eldest daughter just turned nine.

I thought this was momentous because it was her last single digit year, but no: a friend mentioned yesterday that she was halfway there, and the park around us got suddenly swimmy. It took me a minute to realize what my tear ducts understood instantly: “halfway there” meant halfway to adulthood, and the park looked swimmy because I was crying.

Yikes.

Brave Girls: Beautiful You (A 90-Day Devotional for Girls) | Little Book, Big Story

But this birthday called for a little something different, as birthday books go, and so I explored the “devotional Christian girl” shelves of Amazon. I found a cheap book, one that looked promising, and ordered it.

Brave  Girls: Beautiful You was (whew!) not a theological mess in pink and floral print. It is a collection of devotions that encourage girls with a growing awareness of their appearance and identity to measure these things by God’s metric and to weigh their beauty on his scales. As I flipped through it, I was impressed by the depth of the devotions and the simple way they illustrated, through the imagery of “putting off” our old selves and “putting on” Christ, how a young girl can best glorify God in whatever situation comes her way.

Brave Girls: Beautiful You (A 90-Day Devotional for Girls) | Little Book, Big Story

There are quizzes in here, too, which initially made me nervous, but again and again I saw that they were intended as an expedition through a girl’s heart and not as a measurement of her value or success.

So, this is a new sort of book for this blog, because we are in a new sort of season. Brave Girls: Beautiful You is sweet, yes. But it is also rich, and, I hope, it is the sort of fuel my young daughter needs as she begins to set her sights on becoming a young woman.

Brave Girls: Beautiful You (A 90-Day Devotional for Girls) | Little Book, Big Story

Footnote

I was not able to read this book from cover-to-cover before I needed to wrap it up, so though I recommend it, I can’t promise that there isn’t some murky spot in there somewhere. But every page I landed on was good and true.


Brave Girls: Beautiful You
Jennifer Gerelds (2016)

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Through the Waters | Deeply Rooted Blog

I had read books about childbirth, books that described contractions as “waves”—manageable ones, if you had the right attitude—and birth as a warm, glowy experience best concluded with champagne.

But when I went into labor with my first daughter, I felt no glow of incoming life, just the repeated beating of city-high waves that, from the beginning, thundered over me without a break between them. My tiny boat of coping techniques promptly capsized; I couldn’t think or breathe. After ten hours of pummeling, the doctor handed me some papers, said something to my husband who tried to translate it for me (but I was underwater and couldn’t hear him) and then: the OR. An unexpected c-section. Lots of light, but not the kind mentioned in the books. Our baby’s face as a nurse on her way to the NICU held her up for me to see.

Birth stopped being something I did, and became a thing that happened to me. It required, in the end, not strength but surrender.

And so, I would learn every day afterward, does motherhood.

My first daughter was born on Mother’s Day. This week, as we celebrate her ninth birthday, I got to celebrate my entrance to motherhood by writing a piece for Deeply Rooted on becoming a mother and being one.

You can read the full article here.

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He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands | Kadir Nelson

A few weeks ago I stopped by the garden section of a favorite grocery store to visit with the plants. They flaunted spring finery and iambic names—columbine, stonecrop, a fluffy young thing called asparagus fern. Overhead played that ubiquitous shopping music, something by JLo maybe. I wouldn’t have noticed the music at all if two things hadn’t happened at once:

1. A song came on with a tolerable dance beat.

2. An old woman paused as she shuffled past me with her grocery cart. She got a good grip on the cart’s handle. And then she began to dance.

He's Got the Whole World in His Hands, by Kadir Nelson | Little Book, Big Story

She swayed happily back and forth the way my baby does when she hears a catchy tune, bobbing her head and closing her eyes in a moment of complete contentment. When the song ended and the old woman caught me beaming at her, she grinned and shrugged. “If they don’t want us to dance, then they shouldn’t play music with such a nice beat,” she said.

Amen.

That story has nothing to do with today’s review, nothing at all. But it was too lovely not to share.

He's Got the Whole World in His Hands, by Kadir Nelson | Little Book, Big Story

Today’s review has to do with a book whose text is simple—the lyrics from the old spiritual, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” The illustrations seem simple—light-soaked paintings that follow one boy as he explores what each line means for his life, his family. But that pairing of a traditional hymn born within the horrific fist of slavery with the wonder one child turns upon the world around him makes He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands a rich and beautiful book.

He's Got the Whole World in His Hands, by Kadir Nelson | Little Book, Big Story

I would not, of course, expect every kid to make the connection between the old and new here. But even without an underlying knowledge of the song’s roots, this is a book worth sharing, as it takes a familiar song and makes it a visible story, one rooted in hope and joy. Nelson’s paintings invite us warmly into the life of the main character. He introduces us to his family, shows us his interests, allows us to tag along as he visits the beach and studies the stars. He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands manages to be both weighty and feather-light; both broad and sweetly specific.

And it’s hard to read without singing.

He's Got the Whole World in His Hands, by Kadir Nelson | Little Book, Big Story


He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands
Kadir Nelson (2005)

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Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard | Jonathan Auxier

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes won me over quietly—I almost didn’t see it happening. Jonathan Auxier’s story of an orphaned thief who eyes were (eep!) pecked out by ravens has a wit and charm and enough unexpected quirks to make it unlike any other books I’ve read. I liked it. I passed it on to Lydia, who loved it. But for some reason (maybe it was the thieving? Or the crows?), I didn’t immediately review it for this blog.

But then I read Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard.

Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard, by Jonathan Auxier | Little Book, Big Story

There was nothing subtle about the way this book won me over: affection for it roared over me like a semi truck, overtaking me so abruptly that, at one point, I thumped the cover at Mitch while I read and announced, “Oh my word, I love this book!” before diving back into the story. It was the sort of book I adored so much, so immediately, that I kept my fingers metaphorically crossed for the rest of the book in the hope that the ending wouldn’t fizzle.

It didn’t.

This book is glorious from start to finish.

Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard, by Jonathan Auxier | Little Book, Big Story

Sophie Quire is a sequel to Peter Nimble, in that it happens after Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes, Peter Nimble is in it, and it was written by the same author. But it might be more accurate to call it a companion book, I don’t know, because the main character here is Sophie Quire, a young bookmender in the city of Bustleburgh, which is currently banishing nonsense in all its forms. When she meets a certain blind thief and takes on an unlikely commission, everything in Sophie’s life changes.

Jonathan Auxier’s writing is as exhilarating in this book as it is in The Night Gardener and Peter Nimble. His characters are bizarre and loveable, and through their adventures, Auxier explores (among other things) the importance of stories and nonsense. Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard is a beautiful book, one that has a deeper layer of truth underneath the story, waiting for those willing to look for it.

Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard, by Jonathan Auxier | Little Book, Big Story


Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes
Jonathan Auxier (2012)

Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard
Jonathan Auxier (2017)

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