Category: All Ages (page 1 of 3)

4 Gorgeous Christian Allegories

When it comes to allegories, people have Opinions. Some readers find them unbearably cheesy, which is, I guess, understandable: few things grate on the nerves like a story that’s too handholdy—the kind that tells us what we’re supposed to think about every element of the story. And allegories can certainly come across as handholdy. There’s no dodging it: every allegory mentioned in this post features characters whose names explicitly tell you what they’re meant to represent within the story.

But you know what? I love allegories. I love the way they take an abstract truth and, by portraying it as a character, bring it to life. Allegories give those truths structure and presence—they give them a body. And I love what allegories do in our hearts as our family reads them: they give us illustrations we can return to when faced with a difficult moment. “Remember when Little Pilgrim strayed from the path?” we might say. “This situation is kind of like that because . . .”

When reading Little Pilgrim’s Progress we’re reminded that our life is not a linear line but a journey, filled with moments of peril and conviction as well as rest and peace. When reading Hinds’ Feet on High Places, we remember that our Shepherd is just a call away and that he’ll come bounding down the mountainside to our help when we call. Of course the best stories can also have this effect, allegorical or not, but allegories excel at it: they give us something concrete to picture in those moments when our vision is clouded by grief or discouragement or doubt.

4 Gorgeous Allegories | Little Book, Big Story

So, here are a few of our family’s favorites. There’s a little something on this list for all age levels, so I’ve organized it from the ones written for the littlest readers to the ones written for the biggest.

Little Pilgrim’s Progress, by Helen L. Taylor (& Joe Sutphin)

Little Pilgrim's Progress, by Helen Taylor & Joe Sutphin | Little Book, Big Story

This adaptation takes the big truths of John Bunyan’s classic Pilgrim’s Progress and translates them into characters and images that are accessible for young readers. Joe Sutphin’s illustrations in this edition open them up further. (Read the full review.)

Tales of the Kingdom, by David & Karen Mains

Tales of the Kingdom, by David & Karen Mains | Little Book, Big Story

Tales of the Kingdom was written in the eighties (you can see it in the artwork), which makes this one feel the most like modern life. These books are full of delightful stories and a prince we all long to know better. (Read the full review.)

Hinds’ Feet on High Places, by Hannah Hurnard

Hind's Feet on High Places, by Hannah Hurnard | Little Book, Big Story

Hannah Hurnard’s tale of Much-Afraid and her journey to the High Places is one worth meditating upon and savoring. My older daughters love this one; I keep a copy by my bed so I can read a little each day. (Read the full review.)

The Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan

The grand-daddy of allegories, Pilgrim’s Progress follows Christian as he journeys from the City of Destruction to the City of Light—and is waylaid, challenged, or fortified by those he meets along the way. This edition features updated language and some annotation that makes John Bunyan’s old-school language open up for modern readers. Another point in its favor? It’s so pretty!

Theology is Awesome (Videos)

Our theology influences every part of our lives, and yet so many theology resources are fairly abstract—they’re hard to decipher, and tough for kids to decode. We adults can leap a little more nimbly from one abstract concept to another, so applying theology—what we believe about God—to a dicey situation at work may come more easily to us. It isn’t easy, of course, but we’ve had more practice. Our brains can handle a little abstract thinking.

But when our kids are campaigning for a last-minute drink of water before bed, or testing for a yellow belt, or squabbling with each other—what does theology have to say to that? The other day my daughter was wrestling with some unsavory feelings toward her sister, and I found myself rambling about, you know, God’s love and maybe the cross? And my words shot past her like so many misaimed arrows.

In that moment, she needed me to be concrete. She needed to hear examples she recognized, from the world she sees around her. My fluffy abstract nouns like “love” and “forgiveness” gave her nothing to hold onto and turn over in her hands. She needed me to sit down next to her and point to something she could study and say, “There. It looks like that.”

Theology is Awesome (Videos) | Little Book, Big Story

The videos produced by Theology is Awesome do exactly that: Kate and Brannon take tricky concepts and big questions and explain them in a way that gives viewers something to see and something to take with them. They frame some of the big questions we all ask about God and the world, from “Does theology matter?” to “Why is theology so boring?”, in creative ways that make even the most abstract-thinking of us take notice. They bring energy (and such a sense of humor!) to subjects that could have been flat and colorless. You’ll finish each video wishing you knew them personally (which—full disclosure—we do! They’re good friends of ours, and, yes, they really are that delightful).

So, where should you start watching? They have some delightful introductory videos, but I recommend jumping into the deep end with “How to Teach Theology to Kids.” It’ll make you laugh, and it’ll prepare you to pause mid-soup-stir to answer your child’s question about Pharaoh’s hard heart (yikes).

Theology is Awesome (video resource)
YouTube | Facebook

Also worth visiting: the Ellises’s business Credibility. They’re legit!

Treasury for Children

When my eldest daughter was a toddler, she discovered James Herriot’s Moses the Kitten. She dropped that book in my lap again and again, and we read it until the book spine felt limber and the pages soft. It is a long book—not ideal for a hasty pre-nap read—but I loved the descriptive passages, we both loved the warmth and coziness of the story, and my daughter loved the paintings of the kittens.

We eventually expanded our library to include Herriot’s Treasury for Children, in print and on audio. And in the decade that followed, we read and reread that book, as three other daughters joined our crew and each in turn fell for Herriot’s stories.

James Herriot's Treasury for Children | Little Book, Big Story

These days, my older daughters have graduated to Herriot’s Cat Stories and Dog Stories; I’ve graduated to his memoirs. And as I read them I began to understand why his stories are so appealing: James Herriot loved his work as a vet in the English countryside; he loved the place he lived and the people he encountered there, with all their flaws and quirks. He loved the animals he cared for. Herriot’s stories invite us into a time and place we could never have occupied otherwise: a veterinary surgery in the 1930s, when draft horses were giving way to tractors, old medicines were making way for the new, and the brief peace after the First World War was giving way to the devastation of World War II.

Herriot’s stories aren’t fraught with drama. He wrote about everyday happenings: the small conflicts between a country vet and his colleagues; the tension between a vet and his clients (be they animal or owner); the victories and losses of veterinary practice; the mishaps in which Herriot often played the loveable fool. But through his delightful descriptions and attentive writing, Herriot made the ordinary episodes of his life enjoyable—even magical. In his memoirs, he reaches through those stories toward some difficult topics and finds compassionate ways to discuss issues like suicide or loss.

James Herriot's Treasury for Children | Little Book, Big Story

But in his Treasury for Children, he shares a handful of stories written for younger readers, delightfully illustrated by Ruth Brown and Peter Barrett. These stories exert a magnetic pull in our house: I may open the book at the request of my five- or seven-year-old daughter, but it isn’t long before my ten- and thirteen-year-old drift in to hear the story of Oscar, cat-about-town, or of Gyp and his solitary woof. Even my husband turns the water pressure down on the sink so he can listen while he finishes the dinner dishes.

James Herriot told stories no one else could tell—stories of his work, his family, and his village. And in doing so, he reminded us that the stories most of us live through will be ordinary ones, about our own work, our families, our towns. The joy and gratitude with which he told his stories quietly reminds us, big and small readers alike, that our lives are full of stories worth telling, masterfully crafted by the best Storyteller. I, for one, am grateful Herriot took the time to sit down and tell his.

James Herriot’s Treasury for Children: Warm and Joyful Tales
James Herriot; Ruth Brown, Peter Barrett (1992)

The Wilderking Trilogy (A New review)

In some ways, this has been the summer of Jonathan Rogers at our house. It began with my determination to finally, finally start that review of The Wilderking Trilogy I’d promised Story Warren an embarrassingly long time ago. So I re-read the books and remembered all over again why I love them. And with all the free time I’ve had to actually take writing classes this summer, I joined Rogers’ writing community, The Habit. (I haven’t regretted that. It’s wonderful.)

Then we discovered the recordings of Jonathan Rogers reading his other book, The Charlatan’s Boy (which deserves a place on this blog, let me tell you). Every day at lunch, we pulled up a chair for Jonathan and listened to him read.

Which led naturally to us purchasing and enjoying the full Wilderking trilogy on audiobook (read, again, by Jonathan Rogers). That was the first time through the books for all three of our younger daughters, and ever since, the bark of the bog owl pierces the woods when we go on family hikes. Little girls zip past our house on bikes, bellowing out the feechie battle cry, “Ha-weeeeeee!” And when we set up the sprinkler in the backyard and it made puddles all around, the girls declared it the Feechifen Swamp. These books are a deeply entrenched part of our family culture.

And if they aren’t a part of yours and you want convincing, please, read the full review of the series over at Story Warren. Or skip that and just go buy the books. You won’t regret it.

A Nature Poem For Every Day of the Year

Earlier this year I shared the beautiful anthology of nature poetry for children, Sing a Song of Seasons. What happened shortly after was that I bought a beautiful anthology of nature poetry for my own, perched it in our dining room window where I’d see it every day, and set myself the loose goal of reading a poem whenever it crossed my mind.

A Nature Poem for Every Day of the Year, edited by Jane McMorland Hunter | Little Book, Big Story

A Nature Poem for Every Day of the Year features poems old and new, one for—wait for it—every day of the year. From E. Nesbit to Shakespeare, some are easy to follow and some invite us to reach beyond what feels comfortable. Some are excerpts from older, lengthier works like Paradise Lost or The Faerie Queen; many are single stanzas. But all are a glimpse of the sun as it peers over the horizon at dawn. As editor Jane McMorland Hunter writes in her introduction:

“Animals, birds, flowers, trees, the sea and the sky allow our imaginations to soar. This can only improve our lives.”

I would go further and say that animals, birds, flowers, trees the sea and the sky lift our eyes up to the Lord, maker of columbine and wild geese, cumulus clouds and cherry trees, and in him our imaginations soar. These poems remind me to lift my eyes from the page (or, alas, from the news feed on my phone) and remember the Lord who cares for sparrows and lilies and, more so, for us.

A Nature Poem for Every Day of the Year, edited by Jane McMorland Hunter | Little Book, Big Story

Whether you read a poem daily or weekly (or, as I do, sometimes one and sometimes the other); whether you read your poem seated at the table with you family, outside under a flowering plum tree, or (as I do) standing by the shelf where you store the book, pausing for a moment mid-stride, this is a book of wonder and beauty worth savoring. Though this anthology is intended for grown-ups, I haven’t seen anything in it that couldn’t be read as a family—and I do sometimes read a poem aloud to any nearby child who might be listening.

A Nature Poem for Every Day of the Year
Ed. Jane McMorland Hunter (2018)