This week’s summer re-run originally published in June 2020, back when my kids were so small.

Not long ago, a single spider could clear any room of our house. (I take no pride in saying that I was often the first one to leave.) One report of a spider in the play room and no one would go up there again until Mitch had presented evidence of a body. One web on the front porch, and no one would use the front door until every corner of the porch had been swept.

But now we have pet spiders—three of them. Goldie the garden spider hangs her web outside our dining room window; a wee baby spider just set up shop over a planter on the patio. And Rosie, the incredible redback jumping spider, tucked her burrito-shaped web into a crack in our raised garden bed. We visit her every day and often, to Rosie’s chagrin, the little girls hover right over her, chatting and pointing.

What changed?

Indescribable, by Louis Giglio | Little Book, Big Story

We learned more about spiders. They became not a whole scary lot of bugs that run, as C.S. Lewis once unforgettably observed, like disembodied hands, but individuals: a male house spider may be horrifyingly large, but now we know he’s just hanging out in the corners of our dining room, looking for a lady friend. A garden spider isn’t spinning a web across our porch steps out of spite, but because she’s hoping to snack on a few of the bugs that try to snack on our hellebore.

Just as this shift isn’t limited to spiders (we now have snail friends and roly poly friends, and it’s all I can do to deter the younger girls from keeping ladybugs in their pockets), it isn’t limited to one book either. But if I had to choose one book that has taught us to love the world around us a bit better and to see it in a little more detail, I’d choose Indescribable.

Indescribable, by Louis Giglio | Little Book, Big Story

Indescribable sits in the windowsill near our table and hardly anyone grumbles when we pull it down to read at dinner. This book is a curious mix of Scripture, scientific exploration, devotional readings, and fun “Bet you didn’t know this!” facts about our world.

Each reading looks at some incredible aspect of the world and considers, without reaching far for the connection, what that aspect says about God. The death of stars; our respiratory system; shark’s teeth—each of these topics spark wonder in us, and each of these can teach us something about God. When so many people assume that God and science stand in opposition to one another, Louis Giglio shows us that science does not inevitably lead to skepticism but can instead teach us to recognize, through even unlikely things like spiders and snails, the personality and joy of God.

Indescribable, by Louis Giglio | Little Book, Big Story

Giglio has introduced us to incredible facts about whales and volcanoes and trees and snow. But he doesn’t just point at those things and say, “Isn’t this cool? Isn’t it great how this happens?”—and then walk away. Instead, he points from the tree to the Tree Maker and says, “Look what this says about him. Look how purposeful and wonderful this tree is. Enjoy it. And through it, know the one who made it.”

“The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1), and so do redback jumping spiders named Rosie. Rejoice.

Indescribable: 100 Devotions About God & Science
Louis Giglio; Nicola Anderson (2017)

The Little White Horse

Over the years here, I’ve reviewed so, so many books. And sometimes in the summer I like to pull past reviews back to the top of the pile, because this both:

a) lightens my summer schedule up a bit (thereby freeing me up to do things like rummage in tidepools and nap in hammocks and drive my girls all over the county to attend Fun Things) and

b) gives me an excuse to share some of my very favorite books with you (again), books that might otherwise have languished in the archives of the blog forever because they were originally published waaaaay back in, say, 2018.

So! This marks our first summer re-run, my friends, and where better to begin than with the beloved book we’re currently re-running (that is, re-reading) around the lunch table at our house? (Good news—it’s still glorious.) I hope your summer is off to a sunshiney start, and that you find moments to read on your own and with your people.

Now, without further ado—a post that originally appeared on Story Warren, back in May of 2018.

“I absolutely adored The Little White Horse.
—J.K. Rowling

That sentence alone persuaded me to purchase The Little White Horse, a book I knew nothing else about by an author I’d never heard of. If this story fed the imagination of young J.K. Rowling, I wanted to save our family a seat at the feast.

The Little White Horse starts the way so many classics do: Maria Merryweather, newly orphaned, is delivered by carriage to an unknown relative. She is to live at Moonacre Manor with her cousin Sir Benjamin, and to her that prospect sounds simply awful.

But when she arrives she finds Moonacre Manor and the valley around it infused with the unexpected, for the country life Maria dreaded is not dull at all but rich in mystery and delight. She finds clothes laid out in her room each morning, embroidered with someone else’s name. She discovers a room in the manor where every object has some secret shut up in it. And she roves the countryside with a freedom she never had in London, exploring and building unlikely friendships.

Yet there is one blot upon this otherwise unmarred place—the wicked men of the pine wood. In her determination to learn who the men are and how they came to the valley, Maria learns something unexpected—and thoroughly unpleasant—about her own ancestors.

Like an old fairy tale, The Little White Horse assures us from the start that all shall be well and, by the book’s end, all is well—all bows are tied up neatly, all difficulties resolved. But Elizabeth Goudge keeps the route from beginning to end unpredictable: we never know what is coming around the next bend, only that it will be wonderful. And it is wonderful. This book I bought on a whim has become one of the most beloved books in our family library.

I Think I Think A Lot

Bedtime at our house involves a fair amount of bustling, some snuggling, some tooth-brushing, and a lot of talking—so much talking. I like to joke that I’m a part-time counselor these days, now that all four girls are fluent conversationalists facing challenges that grow right along with them. Often the things they worry about step politely to the side during the day, when there is so much else going on. But at bedtime these worries stride down to the footlights and demand to be heard, and so one daughter or another will drift downstairs and sidle up to one of us, hoping we’ll ask them what’s wrong.

Often, the problem is as big and as broad as this: “I don’t know how to turn my brain off!” To which I can relate.

And so I, with my houseful of overthinkers, am grateful for Jessica Whipple’s sweet book, I Think I Think A Lot, in which the main character wrestles with the fact that she just seems to think and worry so much more than her peers do. The result is a series of insights about her friends that contrast the way she thinks about the world with the way they think about it. The story serves as a fun introduction to the different ways we all think about the world around us and invites readers to recognize themselves in one or other of the characters. And to know that, wherever they land, these differences are good and interesting.

Whipple writes from her own experience with OCD, which provides a helpful backdrop for the book. And she writes broadly enough that I Think I Think a Lot can help kids from all sorts of backgrounds begin to find words for the way they see the world—and to understand better how their friends and siblings might see it differently.

At our house, I think we all think a lot. And you know what? We can glorify God in that, too.

I Think I Think a Lot
Jessica Whipple; Josée Bisaillon (2023)

Though I did receive a free copy of this book for review, I am not being paid to promote it. My enthusiasm for this book is abundant and purely voluntary.

The Two Princesses of Bamarre

Occasionally, I find myself suffering from what I call “brave princess fatigue,” a condition caused by reading book after book about princesses who are not in need of some sort of rescue—heaven forbid!—but are, rather, hardy warriors themselves. I weary of these stories not because I object to brave princesses (in truth, I quite like them when they’re written well). What I’m grumbling about here is the princess whose moment of growth comes when she realizes that she’d always had the strength she needed—surprise!—within her the whole time.

But The Two Princesses of Bamarre came well before our current Brave Princesses. Written in 2001 by Gail Carson Levine (of Ella Enchanted fame), this book offers a nuanced look at what is—and isn’t—true courage, as shown through the lives of princesses Meryl, who is bold and fearless and anything but a damsel in distress, and Addie, who is timid and shy and relies on her sister for protection. Meryl intends to set out on a quest to discover a cure for the Gray Death that (if you’ll pardon the pun) plagues the kingdom of Bamarre, but when Meryl herself falls sick with the Gray Death, Addie is left to figure out what to do.

Addie’s path forward isn’t a straight one. It rises and falls and is punctuated with obstacles that force her to confront her own fears and insecurities again and again. She doesn’t discover, in a lightbulb moment, that she’s had the strength she needed within herself all along—instead, it grows in her as she suffers and struggles to save her sister. She also receives unexpected help from those around her and, in her moments of utter weakness, from a mysterious, un-seeable stranger. Addie is refined through her quest to save her sister, becoming both courageous as well as vulnerable (because aren’t we all vulnerable when we love others?). And while things end beautifully, they do not end predictably.

Had this story been about Meryl, already strong and courageous, setting out to save a kingdom, I think it could have been yet another Brave Princess story. But because Levine dug deeper, she gave us a richer, more beautiful book about a princess who knows she isn’t brave and who battles her fear the whole way, showing us that sometimes courage isn’t about who rides out boldly but about who rides out in humility, aware of her weakness, on behalf of those she loves.

The Two Princesses of Bamarre
Gail Carson Levine (2001)

A Visual Theology Guide to the Bible

Just as I don’t know what I think until I write it down or say it out loud, I often don’t truly grasp an idea until I see it spread out in front of me. And so I love resources, like Tim Challies’s A Visual Theology Guide to the Bible, that deepen our family’s understanding of Scripture by allowing us to explore the themes and structure of Scripture in a visual way.

This book is meant as an introduction to the big picture of the Bible—how all 66 books fit together, for example, or how the Old Testament relates with the new, and so much more. The book isn’t all graphics, but it does contain a lot of graphics, and each one explores some aspect of Scripture in a way that helps readers envision key elements of our faith. Some, like the intricate image interweaving Old Testament prophecies with the stories of Jesus fulfilling each one, are so beautiful they elicit a sense of awe. Others are clean and simple, and illustrate the truths of the faith with the foam skimmed off so we can see into its depths more clearly.

Though this book isn’t specifically intended for families, my teen daughters read and enjoyed it, and I could see it serving as a great devotional resource for families with older children (or homeschooling families! This would be a great spine for a Bible curriculum). Or read A Visual Theology Guide to the Bible for yourself and allow it to deepen your own understanding of the Bible’s beauty, complexity, and simplicity.

A Visual Theology Guide to the Bible: Seeing and Knowing God’s Word
Tim Challies; Josh Byers (2019)