Category: Bible Stories (page 2 of 6)

The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross | Carl Laferton

There are some trends I can’t get behind, like jeggings and cookie dough dip. But I do see a trend emerging that I can fully endorse: for a while, we’ve had some stellar story bibles that treat Scripture as one big story (The Jesus Storybook Bible; The Big Picture Story Bible), but lately, I’ve noticed more and more picture books that try to capture some aspect of Scripture’s big story. Some tackle the entire arc of Scripture (The Biggest Story); others focus on a few crucial books of the Bible (Miracle Man).

These have, so far, been beautifully illustrated. And so far, they’ve all been awesome.

The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross, by Carl Laferton | Little Book, Big Story

The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross is another stunning example of a book that distills the big story of Scripture down into a potent dozen or so pages, so kids can read through the main arc of Scripture’s story in one sitting. Carl Laferton uses the curtain that separated the Israelites from the Holy of Holies, the part of the temple where God lived, to illustrate the effect that the Fall had on our relationship with God. Throughout the book, a simple refrain crops up:

Because of your sin, you can’t come in

Aided by Catalina Echeverri’s colorful illustrations, Laferton explains how that separation happened (the garden), what it was like while it lasted (the curtain), and how it ended (the Cross).

The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross, by Carl Laferton | Little Book, Big Story

On my first read-through, though, I must confess that I thought the story has been simplified a little too much. But when I reached the end and saw what Laferton had been building toward, I realized that, no, that simplicity was just right. And when I read it aloud to my daughters, the story came alive.

The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross, by Carl Laferton | Little Book, Big Story

Because of your sin, you can’t come in

Like an unresolved chord, that refrain hangs unfinished throughout the story, until the last note—the note of Christ’s suffering on our behalf—joins in:

Because of your sin, you can’t come in,
but I died on the cross to take your sin . . .
So all my friends can now come in!

The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross, by Carl Laferton | Little Book, Big Story

The story resolves beautifully. Our story resolves beautifully. And we simply cannot hear that good news enough.


The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross
Carl Laferton, Catalina Echeverri (2016)

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)

Easter | Jan Pienkowski

First of all, congratulations to Carolyn of House Full of Bookworms! She is the official, randomly chosen winner of the Slugs & Bugs giveaway. She is also a fellow children’s book blogger, so in a way, I suppose that you all win a little something, too, because now you know about her blog (if you didn’t already). I think you’re going to like it.

Thank you so much to all of you who entered! That giveaway was great fun, and I really enjoyed hearing from so many of you in the comments—so much so that I find myself wondering, “What else can I give you all?” I just may have to do something like that again in the future.

And now, down to business: this is the last post before I take a little break to celebrate our baby.


This post originally appeared on this blog on March 20, 2015.

Christmas books are easy to come by. We have many, and there are many more waiting on my “To Read” list, and that is good. But Easter books are scarce—really good Easter books, I mean, the kind that have less to do with eggs and bunnies and the beauty of nature than they do with the glory of God and the death and resurrection of his Son. We have some, but not many. And I was hard pressed to find new ones this year.

Easter, by Jan Pienkowski | Little Book, Big Story

Perhaps, I mused in the comments at Aslan’s Library, that is because there is no baby in the Easter story and so few farm animals (just that donkey that crops up again and again). Later on, it struck me: there is no baby in the Easter story and there are few farm animals. But what is in the story is not the usual fodder for children’s books: Execution. Betrayal. Suicide. Torture, death, abandonment. Grief.

How does an author or illustrator of books for children handle those subjects with delicacy and honesty? No wonder so many authors prefer to come at the story through peripheral characters; no wonder authors tell this story from a slight distance.

Easter, by Jan Pienkowski | Little Book, Big Story

I touched lightly on this in an earlier post when I mentioned my surprise at finding that we had only one book that told the story head on, without some sort of literary filter. After that, a wise commenter directed me toward Jan Pieńkowski’s book, Easter, which I found later that week at our library and lo! It was beautiful. (We have since purchased our own copy.)

The text is that of the King James Bible, so it is rich and elegant and somehow just right. Pieńkowski’s silhouetted illustrations are unique and powerful, yet so simple, that they suit the intensity of the story of Christ’s Crucifixion and Resurrection, allowing him to depict details that would be too disturbing if shown head on without losing any of their gravity. (How he pulls so much expression out of black paper, I don’t know, but he does and he does it well.)

Easter, by Jan Pienkowski | Little Book, Big Story

Easter is a moving book—one that is hard to read without sniffling at least a little. It is a book that doesn’t look away from the horror of the Crucifixion of Christ, but one that opens and closes with these radiant endpapers meant to remind us that Christ’s death was neither the beginning nor the end of the story, for after it came the Resurrection. After that, everything changed.

Easter, by Jan Pienkowski | Little Book, Big Story


Easter
Jan Pieńkowski (1989)

5 Beautiful Books for Lent

This post originally appeared on this blog in March of 2015.

Our church celebrates Ash Wednesday with a simple liturgy read in a shadowy room. We light candles, draw the sanctuary’s chairs into a circle around our pastor, the table, and the ashes, and at the end of the service, file up to our pastor and wait for our turn with the ashes. As he draws a cross in black ash on each brow, the only sound is his voice saying, musically, “Dust you are, and to dust you shall return,” to each of us. Even the children—and a high percentage of our small church body is under the age of five—fall silent for this.

5 Books to Read Together During Lent | Little Book, Big Story

Ash Wednesday leads us into Lent gently but decisively, just as Lent leads us toward Easter with the patience of a farmer sowing seeds. I love Ash Wednesday, though it tends to sneak up on me each year, coming as it does almost on the heels of Christmas. But this year, I got the jump on it: while planning posts for this blog, I saw it on the calendar and thought, “A ha! Not this year, my friend!” This year, I was ready for it. I dug out the Easter books and photographed them for you; I considered Lent with prayer for an entire week before Ash Wednesday.

And I gave thought to how our family would celebrate, which led me to think about how you might like to celebrate with your family. I suspect that, for both of us, a good celebration begins with good books, and with that in mind, I compiled a short list of books for Lent that our family has loved from year to year.

1 | Petookby Caryll Houselander

5 Book to Read Together During Lent | Little Book, Big Story

Houselander tells the story of Easter through a parallel story of a rooster named Petook; Tomie dePaola weaves little details into the illustrations that will surprise you and your little readers. (Read the full review.)

2 | Peter’s First Easterby Walter Wangerin, Jr.

5 Book to Read Together During Lent | Little Book, Big Story

Through the chapters of this picture book, Wangerin puts the reader right in Peter’s shoes, describing his love for Jesus, and his grief as he walks through the events of Holy Week. (Read the full review.)

3 | The Story of Easterby Aileen Fisher

5 Book to Read Together During Lent | Little Book, Big Story

The Story of Easter goes beyond telling the story of Holy Week (though it does that, too) and explains a bit about the traditions and symbols linked to Easter. This is one of my favorites. (Read the full review.)

4 | The Light of the Worldby Katherine Paterson

Though not strictly an Easter book, I love Katherine Paterson’s telling of Jesus’ life and think it perfectly fitting for Lenten reading, as it places Holy Week in a larger context and reminds us of what Christ accomplished on the Cross. (Read the full review.)

5 | The Donkey who Carried a Kingby R.C. Sproul

5 Beautiful Books for Easter | Little Book, Big Story

R.C. Sproul nests the story of the crucifixion within the story of a donkey named Davey. That story is nested, in turn, within the story of a young boy who is picked last for the team. It sounds confusing, but Sproul executes the story-within-a-story trick beautifully. (Read the full review.)

5 Beautiful Books for Easter | Little Book, Big Story

Lastly

These are my top five Easter favorites, but they are not the only Easter books featured on Little Book, Big Story. You can read the other reviews in the Easter section of the blog. I’ll share still more with you during the next few weeks, as a bookish way to observe Lent.

Read-Aloud Bible Stories | Ella K. Lindvall

You know what reading to a two-year-old is like: if a book is about cows or kittens or is written by Sandra Boynton, I find I can usually make it through three or four pages before Phoebe tugs it out of my hands, closes it on my fingers, or wanders off to climb on something.

Read-Aloud Bible Stories, by Ella K. Lindvall | Little Book, Big Story

But the volumes of Read-Aloud Bible Stories are not about cows or kittens, and they are not written by Sandra Boyton: they are about Jesus and the Bible. In them, Ella Lindvall tells the stories of Scripture in the most basic yet enchanting way imaginable, and when I read them to Phoebe on the morning of her second birthday, here is what happened: she listened. She cuddled up to me as I read all five stories, and she listened. Lydia and Sarah, too, inched closer to us as I read, and all three were disappointed when we reached the end and had to go eat birthday pancakes for breakfast (theirs is a hard lot).

Read-Aloud Bible Stories: great story bibles for toddlers! | LIttle Book, Big Story

By the end of the book, the stories’ magic had worked on me, too: Lindvall doesn’t grasp for big theological ideas here, but tells the familiar stories of Zaccheus or Blind Bartimeus in a warm and welcoming way. She draws lessons from the stories that appeal to the smallest readers (and to those of us grown-ups still willing to admit that we need reassurance sometimes that God hears us, too).

Read-Aloud Bible Stories, by Ella K. Lindvall | Little Book, Big Story

I haven’t found many Bibles geared toward toddlers that are worth sharing here on the blog—it’s hard to capture the truth and beauty of Scripture in three stanzas of rhymed verse, and you can only appropriately add so many cows and kittens to beloved Bible stories—but Read-Aloud Bible Stories are absolutely worth sharing. We promptly ordered the second volume (Merry Christmas, Phoebe!) and look forward to collecting the rest of the set over the next few years.


Read-Aloud Bible Stories
Ella K. Lindvall (1982)

The Ballad of Matthew’s Begats | Andrew Peterson

Remember my post about the nooks and crannies of Scripture? Well, no passages are more nook-and-crannyish than genealogies. And if you can’t think of an author bold enough to turn a geneaology into a children’s book, then you, my friend, underestimate Andrew Peterson.

The Ballad of Matthew’s Begats pairs Jesus’ geneaology from Matthew 1 with Cory Godbey’s animated illustrations and puts the whole list to music: the book comes with a CD of Andrew Peterson’s musical interpretation of that famous list of names.

The Ballad of Matthew's Begats, by Andrew Peterson | Little Book, Big Story

We have enjoyed all that, but more than anything, I love the fact that simply owning a book that makes a story (and song) of a genealogy gives our kids the idea that every part of the Bible is worth exploring—even long lists of names we can’t pronounce.

And if you’re still not convinced that a list of Old Testament names can be set to music worth listening to, I refer you to The Bentley Brothers of What’s in the Bible? (I have nothing but respect for songwriters who can find an elegant rhyme for Nebuchadnezzar.)

 


The Ballad of Matthew’s Begats: An Unlikely Royal Family Tree
Andrew Peterson, Cory Godbey (2007)

The Biggest Story | Kevin DeYoung

Every now and then an author best known for writing nonfiction tries their hand at writing for children. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.

Authors accustomed to writing for adults sometimes think that writing for children means “say it slowly and simply” and so they distill big concepts down into pre-digested bits. Madeleine L’Engle thought differently. In Walking On Water, she wrote,

“When I am grappling with ideas which are radical enough to upset grown-ups, then I am likely to put these ideas into a story which will be marketed for children, because children understand what their parents have rejected and forgotten.”

The best authors understand this, whether they make it their business to write specifically for children or not.

The Biggest Story by Kevin DeYoung and Don Clark | Little Book, Big Story

But Kevin DeYoung gets this. The language in his first book for children is simple, but the story is grand: in the “Note to Parents,” he shares that the book began as a sermon series shared with his whole congregation, not as a Sunday school lesson aimed at kids. He acknowledges that some of the images and allusions will be difficult for children and parents to grasp, but he doesn’t apologize for it.

Instead he aims high and presents a book that is not based on a particular Bible story, nor is it a story bible. What it is, I suppose, is a picture book about the entire Bible. DeYoung breaks the story into chapters and covers many of the best-known Bible stories, but he shows how they each have a place in the story that the Lord is, even now, unfolding.

The Biggest Story, by Kevin DeYoung and Don Clark | Little Book, Big Story

The illustrations in this book deserve extra praise: Don Clark’s work is phenomenal. Every page is gorgeous—beautifully designed and vividly illustrated—but I want to give him extra credit for illustrating some of the more abstract elements of Scripture in a way that is striking. Take, for example, the picture of the world after the entrance of sin:

Before the Flood, from The Biggest Story, by Kevin DeYoung and Don Clark | Little Book, Big Story

Or this one of the Resurrection:

The Resurrection, from The Biggest Story by Kevin DeYoung and Don Clark | Little Book, Big Story

His renditions of familiar stories give the stories new life. Look at his interpretation of David and Goliath:

David and Goliath, from The Biggest Story by Kevin DeYoung and Don Clark | Little Book, Big Story

And of the Nativity:

The Nativity, from The Biggest Story by Kevin DeYoung and Don Clark | Little Book, Big Story

But while the addition of a book so beautiful in both form and content to our family’s library is something to celebrate, the real celebration at our house this week is in honor of Sarah, who has gone from this

Little Book, Big Story

to this

Little Book, Big Story

in what feels like a matter of moments. Don’t tell her yet, but this book is one of her gifts! We’ll celebrate her birthday by eating ice cream sundaes in our pajamas, riding bikes crazily around the block, making pancakes and mac-and-cheese, curling up on the couch and reading book after book after book—in other words, living the dream life of this particular five-year-old. It’ll be great.

One last thing

I know there are a variety of opinions out there on how Jesus should be depicted in illustrated books, and this book deals with that subject gracefully. The Spirit is shown as a dove and God the Father as a blazing light, while Jesus remains compellingly just off stage. Whatever your convictions, this book should suit them.

The Biggest Story by Kevin DeYoung and Don Clark | Little Book, Big Story


The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden
Kevin DeYoung, Don Clark (2015)