Goodbye to Goodbyes | Lauren Chandler

How do you talk to a child about death?

When my daughters want to know why they no longer see a dear friend at church anymore, or how come their great-granddad had to die before they met him, I am profoundly grateful for the Resurrection. You will meet him one day, I say. You will see her again.

This is not fluffy-winged, angel-studded wishful thinking, but a promise: Jesus has gone first, through death and into new life (1 Corinthians 15:20). He died and rose from the dead, and he has made a way for us to follow him. Clothed in resurrected bodies, we will sit at the table with him and feast; we will fill a city with song; we will see our heavenly Father face to face.

We do not know what will happen between now and that moment, and sometimes the not knowing is bitter. But, I tell them, God knows how our stories go, and he will help us bear our burdens. He will shepherd us through those gates.

Goodbye to Goodbyes, by Lauren Chandler | Little Book, Big Story

I am glad for that hope when they sigh heavily or fearfully connect the dot “she died” with “I could die, too.” In those moments, we can look back to Jesus, who died—and yet what beauty came through his death! And we can look a back further still to Lazarus, whose story is both a beacon of what Jesus can do, as well as a foretelling of what he would do in himself.

Goodbye to Goodbyes, the newest installment of my absolutely favorite series Tales That Tell the Truth, shares the story of Lazarus and his sisters. Lauren Chandler’s telling is both gentle and honest—Jesus doesn’t swoop on the scene like a superhero and command Lazarus to live amid a cloud of applause and confetti. He takes his time coming to Lazarus, and Chandler lets that sink in: Mary and Martha called for him, and Jesus didn’t come right away. And while he dawdled, Lazarus died.

Goodbye to Goodbyes, by Lauren Chandler | Little Book, Big Story

But when at last Jesus does come, we see why he waited. And in the meantime, we see him grieving with Mary and Martha—Catalina Echeverri’s illustrations (again, among my favorites) capture their grief in a way that feels true to life and yet isn’t overwhelming for young readers. They weep and it’s messy, and the way Jesus holds them—I feel comforted just looking at it.

(In fact, those pictures of Jesus holding tight to them in their grief might be my favorite scenes in the whole book. We cannot see him now, but that reminder that he has arms for holding the hurting and that we will one day see and feel them wrapped around us—that is beautiful. I feel a little sniffly thinking about it.)

Goodbye to Goodbyes, by Lauren Chandler | Little Book, Big Story

I said in my post about The Friend Who Forgives that that one was my favorite of the Tales That Tell the Truth because it was the one I’d read most recently. Which means that this one must now be my favorite. And it is.

But I think it might really and truly be my favorite because of the story and the grace with which it’s handled. Giving children a book that addresses both the sorrow of grief and the hope of resurrection—that is beautiful and hard to do, and I am so grateful Lauren Chandler has done it.

Goodbye to Goodbyes, by Lauren Chandler | Little Book, Big Story

Goodbye to Goodbyes: A True Story About Lazarus and an Empty Tomb
Lauren Chandler; Catalina Echeverri (2019)

Loved | Sally Lloyd-Jones

Our girls say the Lord’s Prayer every Sunday in church and every morning over breakfast. Those who don’t yet know the words by heart know the rhythm of it and let their voices rise and fall in time with ours, and those who do almost chant them, the words bubbling up without effort from that place where such things are stored.

They know the Lord’s Prayer. But do they hear what they’re saying?

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

I wonder this sometimes even as I recite with our congregation. What is it we’re saying, I wonder. Do we understand? There is a discipline to memorizing Scripture, and there is a different discipline to meditating on it and absorbing its meaning. I find sometimes that reading a well-worn passage in a new translation can help me hear what I know by rhythm if not by heart.

Loved is a fresh look at the Lord’s Prayer. Like it’s predecessor Found, Loved graduates some of the text from The Jesus Storybook Bible to its very own picture book. In this case, the text is Lloyd-Jones’ adaptation of the Lord’s Prayer and it is beautiful—just the thing for helping my littlest readers understand better what that lengthy morning recitation is about. Jago illustrates it with a group of children climbing and playing and fighting and forgiving out in nature, where everything sings with the glory of God.

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

Loved helps train our eyes to see and our ears to hear the beauty of our God and Father. And it helps us listen again to what we say when we pray the Lord’s Prayer:

Hello Daddy!

We want to know you.

And be close to you.

Please show us how.


Loved: The Lord’s Prayer
Sally Lloyd-Jones; Jago (2018)

The Tell-Me Stories | Ella K. Lindvall

From the author of our beloved Read-Aloud Bible Stories comes this thrift store find: The Tell-Me Stories, a collection of Jesus’ parables told with warmth and welcome for the littlest, most fidgety crowd.

The Tell-Me Stories, by Ella K. Lindvall | Little Book, Big Story

I love the way Ella Lindvall finds her way into a Bible story and goes straight for the heart of it. She peels back the layers (layers I hope my kids return to and delight in discovering as they grow older) and gets to the core of the story. That is what she shares with her audience of toddlers and parents who might think they’ve heard it all.

The Tell-Me Stories shares Jesus’ parables in a simple, straightforward way. Each one ends with a lesson, a tactic I don’t always love but that Lindvall does well. Through these stories we see Jesus the way he might have appeared to a child: welcoming, willing to part the grown-ups and make a path for the children to come to him.

The Tell-Me Stories, by Ella K. Lindvall | Little Book, Big Story

The Tell-Me Stories: Volume 1
Ella K. Lindvall; Kent Puckett (2000)

Patricia St. John: The Story Behind the Stories | Irene Howat

I did not grow up knowing Jesus, but I have many friends who did. And I love to ask those friends what they enjoyed reading as a child. While I read Goosebumps, I wonder aloud, what did you read? Some shrug (they can’t remember), some say they read Goosebumps, too, but most read missionary biographies.

This surprised me. I definitely wasn’t into, say, presidential biographies as a kid. I dabbled in classics. I scarfed down The Babysitters’ Club. But what kid sits around and reads biographies for fun? This perplexed me—until I started reading missionary biographies. Then suddenly I understood.

Patricia St. John (biography), by Irene Howat | Little Book, Big Story

A well-written biography gives us a window into someone else’s life, with a perspective we don’t see when we live alongside a person. Through a biography, we see how that person’s childhood influenced their adult life and how their work transformed over decades. We get to look back from our vantage point in history and see how their life has altered the world or blessed others. We understand things they couldn’t have known while they lived. And if the subject of the biography is a Christian, missionary or otherwise, we get to see how God proved faithful to them again and again.

We get to see a life of faith lived out in a few hundred pages.

Irene Howat has written dozens of missionary biographies (I have reviewed some of her collections before), and I make a habit of adding one or two to my cart every time I need to bump a ThriftBooks order over $10. I love reading these, both because the subjects of the stories lived fascinating lives, but also because they show me what it looks like to serve God in every time, place, and circumstance.

Patricia St. John (biography), by Irene Howat | Little Book, Big Story

Patricia St. John: The Story Behind the Stories tells the story of the beloved author of Treasures of the Snow (one of my favorite stories*) and many other books. St. John served as a nurse, missionary, and caregiver, and wrote several books over the course of her lifetime. Her stories display the gospel so clearly and vividly in a way few books do, and her eye for detail (Howat describes her as “a noticing person”) makes her characters live. Reading about the life behind those beautiful stories was a delight.

There is something undeniably appealing about biographies of other Christians. Our family read a bunch of books for history this year, but I couldn’t have predicted that the one our girls loved and asked for most would be a biography of George Mueller. Perhaps one day when they’re grown and someone asks them which books they loved most as a kid, their answers will surprise me.


*I love Treasures of the Snow so much that I reviewed it for the winter issue of Wildflowers magazine (available any minute in their online store!). Was the timing of this post some sort of publicity stunt to promote that issue? No, it was not. I read this biography last week and loved it so much I knew I needed to a) cram it into our history schedule, and b) share it with you ASAP. 

Wildflowers Magazine, Winter Issue | Little Book, Big Story

So here it is, beautifully but accidentally coordinated with the newest issue of Wildflowers. Both are worth reading immediately.


Patricia St. John: The Story Behind the Stories
Irene Howat (2008)

Sweep | Jonathan Auxier

And now, let’s discuss child labor laws and the plight of Victorian chimney sweeps.

Did you know that during the Victorian era children were the preferred “instruments” for cleaning chimneys because they were small and were considered—given the abundance of orphans on the streets—expendable? Or that they were “indentured” to masters who fed them little and worked them mercilessly? Or that they were not protected under law but often died of fire, hunger, exposure, or illness?

Sweep,. by Jonathan Auxier | Little Book, Big Story

This is not a world many authors would invite children into, but Jonathan Auxier opens the door to it through the character of Nan, a young girl serving under a harsh master, who is good at her work and has learned to shut herself off from her fellow sweeps. But one part of her, though she tries to seal it away, continues to seep out: memories or dreams of Before, when she traveled with the Sweep.

The Sweep had a way with stories, a magic about him that she still remembers, even after he abruptly leaves her alone, with nothing but a bit of char in her pocket that never seems to grow cool. But that char offers Nan much more than a bit of warmth—as a gift from Sweep, it comforts and protects her in an unexpected way.

Jonathan Auxier infuses Sweep with magic and hope through the character of Charlie and his friendship with Nan, and turns what could be a dismal, depressing subject into a glowing story of love and sacrifice.

Sweep,. by Jonathan Auxier | Little Book, Big Story

A note

If you’ve read Auxier’s other books, you know that his stories can be intense for some readers. (Wonderful, but intense.) I think this one sits somewhere between Peter Nimble and The Night Gardenerand the historical aspect of it (as in, much of this happened to real kids) could be upsetting for some. I encourage you to read it yourself before giving it to your kids, for their sake but also for yours: I think you’ll love it.


Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster
Jonathan Auxier (2018)

The Friend Who Forgives | Daniel DeWitt

Peter is a very relatable guy for many of us—he is bold and devoted to Jesus and ready to speak up (often before thinking). He is impulsive, which sometimes works in his favor and sometimes doesn’t. Daniel DeWitt tells Peter’s story through the lens of friendship. What was Peter like as a friend? What is Jesus like as a friend? How does Peter’s understanding of friendship change during his time with Jesus?

The Friend Who Forgives, by Daniel DeWitt | Little Book, Big Story

I enjoyed reading this book, but I was also deeply grateful for it: I have one child whose sins, ahem, go before her in a way some of her sisters’ sins often don’t. And that can be hard on her. I was glad to give her this book, a beautiful picture of a friend who failed several times, in very big ways, and of the friend who forgives over and over and over again. This is an excellent book for many different reasons, but that was the one that endeared it to me: for those kids who struggle with impulsivity, who are asked several times a day “What were you thinking?” and can’t give an answer—here is an answer. And here is hope.

The Friend Who Forgives, by Daniel DeWitt | Little Book, Big Story

The Friend Who Forgives is my current favorite in the Tales That Tell the Truth series, but probably only because it’s the one I just read. I love them all so much!


The Friend Who Forgives
Daniel DeWitt; Catalina Echeverri (2018)


Disclosure: I did receive copies 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.

A Child’s First Book About Marriage | Jani Ortlund

As a child, I found marriage confusing. I lived with each of my parents half of the time and saw them happily married to step-parents I loved. But my life had been revised by divorce, and I wondered, Why do people get married at all?

By sixteen, I vowed that, rather than risk a split, I’d skip marriage.

By twenty, I was a wife.

What changed? The Lord tenderly showed me that my life was not my own—not a thing I was meant to fumble with, trying this and that in the desperate hope that something might span the chasm at my feet.

Instead, he built a bridge himself and carried me across, and for once I saw the world as a place of beauty and order—a place where marriage wasn’t intended to make us happy (though it often does). No, marriage is a part of God’s old, old plan for us, born in the moment when God, three persons in one, looked at solitary Adam among the animals and said, “It is not good that the man should be alone.”

Marriage was not our idea.

A Child's First Book of Marriage, by Jani Ortlund | Little Book, Big Story

Jani Ortlund picks up this thought and carries it through A Child’s First Book About Marriage. 

Ever since that first wedding, people have been getting married. Just like everything that comes from the heart of God, marriage is beautiful and good.

A Child's First Book of Marriage, by Jani Ortlund | Little Book, Big Story

Much of the book centers around this idea that God created marriage, and though it isn’t always easy, it is good and beautiful. She touches gently on topics like sex and attraction, and the beauty of friendship within marriage. She pares away the whorls of doctrine and says simply,

Marriage is about love, but it’s about more than love. Marriage is a vow, a sacred promise. When a man and a woman get married, they promise God that—no matter what—the man will stay with the woman and the woman with the man as long as they both live. A bride and groom make these promises because sometimes it is hard to love each other. Marriage vows help keep a couple together even when they don’t feel like loving each other.

A Child's First Book of Marriage, by Jani Ortlund | Little Book, Big Story

She knows that marriage doesn’t always look beautiful and good, and I appreciate the gentleness with which she discusses divorce and conflict within marriage. And the love with which she discusses differing views about marriage. She doesn’t pick up the harsh language that seems to characterize many of these discussions, but speaks kindly to readers, exhorting us to love those who see things differently than we do and to trust God’s plan even when we don’t understand it. And she doesn’t idolize marriage either, or treat it as anything greater than a good gift from our Creator. She explains,

A biblical marriage shows the world a tiny picture for all to see of the Big Romance—the one between Christ and His Church in love together. When you love Jesus, then you are a part of that Church and nothing and no one will ever be able to separate you from God’s love for you.

I bought this book on impulse because it was the only book I had ever seen for on marriage for children. But I love how balanced it is, how wise and clear Ortlund’s perspective is. I love Angelo Ruta’s watercolor illustrations, which show families in different configurations, from different backgrounds, and subtly use color and composition to deepen Ortlund’s text.

A Child's First Book of Marriage, by Jani Ortlund | Little Book, Big Story

I realize that much our own daughters’ understanding will come from watching us, their parents, live out our marriage before them. We will fumble our way through this, too, but God is here with us, giving us the grace we need to apologize, to forgive, to go on setting the other’s good before our own. But I am grateful to Jani Ortlund for writing a book that equips us to lift our daughters’ eyes above that one, living example, and see the big picture of marriage: what it is, what it isn’t, Who made it, and why.


A Child’s First Book About Marriage
Jani Ortlund; Angelo Ruta (2018)