Category: Bible Stories (page 2 of 7)

The Christmas Promise | Alison Mitchell

When I pulled our Christmas books out of the attic this year, I couldn’t help but notice a theme: our collection is heavy on stories about the first Christmas and noticeably light on stories about any Christmas that came after.

Advent Books | Little Book, Big Story

We have some notable exceptions (Great Joy; Saint Nicholas; An Early American Christmas), as well as the classics: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, The Snow Man, and Good King WenceslasWe even have the token Fancy Nancy Christmas book.

But every other book is set in a stable in Bethlehem.

The Christmas Promise, by Alison Mitchell | Little Book, Big Story

I don’t think this is a short-coming, not really, because what impresses me is how many ways that one story can be told. Some books tell it from the perspective of the animals in the stable (Who is Coming to Our House?, The Friendly Beasts); some books tell the story just the way it’s told in Scripture (The First Christmas).

Some tell it through the eyes of  Mary (Mary’s First Christmas; My Son, My Savior), or through the perspective of an imagined character (The Little Drummer Boy).

Others are by Sally Lloyd-Jones and are, therefore, wonderful (Little One, We Knew You’d Come; Song of the Stars).

The Christmas Promise, by Alison Mitchell | Little Book, Big Story

But The Christmas Promise begins not with the good news that Jesus has come, but with the news that he is coming: Alison Mitchell (beloved author of two of my favorite picture books) begins with God’s promise of a coming king—”a new king, a rescuing king, a forever king!”—and then goes on to show, through the telling of the nativity story, how Jesus is all of those things.

That big picture approach is one that we did not yet have in our collection, and it’s one that has endeared Mitchell’s other books me. The fact that it’s illustrated by Catalina Echeverri, illustrator of three of my favorite picture books, is a thick, delicious swirl of frosting on the cake.

The Christmas Promise, by Alison Mitchell | Little Book, Big Story

One more thing this book has going for it: The Christmas Promise falls under the heading of “Books I Will Read Any Time, For Any Reason, No Matter What Else Is Going On.” It’s short. It’s charming. It’s hard not to read with gusto. And I am reminded every time I read it of the ties connecting this season to the rest of Scripture, to our strange times now, and to the wonderful times that are coming.


The Christmas Promise
Alison Mitchell, Catalina Echeverri (2014)

Golly’s Folly | Eleazar and Rebekah Ruiz

Some of the best parts of Scripture feature unsavory elements. Genocide, for example. Prostitution. Murder. And because those passages tend toward the unsavory, they don’t often get shared with children.

Maybe that’s as it should be. Maybe those books are better after the wait.

Golly's Folly, by Eleazar & Rebekah Ruiz | Little Book, Big Story

But sometimes authors take the plunge and pull surprisingly beautiful themes out of Scripture’s darker corners. Authors Eleazar and Rebekah Ruiz did just that when they adapted the story of Ecclesiastes into a parable called Golly’s Folly.

Golly is a prince who grows impatient for his turn to be king. But when his father hands his crown over to Golly, Golly uses his new authority to surround himself with wealth, possession, and knowledge—all in an effort to make himself happy. That goes about as well as you might expect. Eventually, Golly learns that what makes him truly happy was his before he ever wore a crown.

Golly's Folly, by Eleazar & Rebekah Ruiz | Little Book, Big Story

I happened upon a trailer for this book months ago, and while I was promptly smitten with the illustrations and the design, I was most taken with the message of the book. From a young age, our children are surrounded with countless variations on the theme that we can find our happiness in possessions and experiences and achievements, and they watch us wrestle with those same temptations (with varying degrees of success). So I’m thankful for a book that shows our children, clearly and concisely, where our true happiness lies.

Golly's Folly, by Eleazar & Rebekah Ruiz | Little Book, Big Story

And while I’m excited to tell you about Golly’s Folly myself, this week’s review doesn’t end there: on Tuesday, you’ll get to hear directly from authors Eleazar and Rebekah Ruiz, who were kind enough to let me interview them for this blog! I think you’re going to love what they have to say about children’s books, beauty, and their new publishing company, Patrol Books. (We’ll also be giving away a copy of the book!)

But if you can’t wait until then and want to know more about the book right now—why they wrote it, how it was made—here are a few behind-the-scenes videos about the making of Golly’s Folly to tide you over:

Behind the Story |  Behind the Art | Behind the Letters


Golly’s Folly
Eleazar and Rebekah Ruiz, Rommel Ruiz (2016)

Long Story Short | Marty Machowski

Our family started reading this book when our oldest two daughters were small. We loved everything about it: the short Bible studies, the chronological walk through Scripture, the way each story points to Jesus.

What we didn’t love was trying to discuss these stories with a four year old while trying to intercept the two-year-old’s plate before it hit the floor. After a few months of failing to convince reality to conform to our vision of happy dinnertime devotions, we shelved Long Story Short and went back to reading The Jesus Storybook Bible at bedtime, when everyone was pajamaed and cuddled up with a quieting cup of milk.

Long Story Short, by Marty Machowski | Little Book, Big Story

But this year, I came across Long Story Short while gathering books for our home school year and decided to give it another try. We still have a two year old (just a different one), but we also have an eight year old and a six year old, so I tucked this book into our reading basket in the hope that maybe, just maybe, we might be ready for it.

The first few weeks of the school year were studded with tantrums and protests about reading the Bible, yes, but also about wearing shoes, eating snacks and everything else under the sun (I don’t know what the first few weeks of school are like at your house, but at our house, they are rough).

Long Story Short, by Marty Machowski | Little Book, Big Story

Eventually we settled into a routine. And Long Story Short has been a beautiful part of that routine: the way our older girls see the world has already made from some rich and rewarding discussion, and because we read on the living room floor now, where puzzles and blocks occupy the toddler, it’s actually gone pretty smoothly so far.

Long Story Short is meant to be read five days a week, for about ten minutes a day. Each week has a focus passage, but on any given day, Machowski may send us off into other corners of Scripture to read passages that point the week’s story back to Jesus.

Long Story Short, by Marty Machowski | Little Book, Big Story

The book takes us through Scripture chronologically, but it also treats the Bible as a whole, with themes that spread across books and bring Jesus back to the forefront of the story again and again. Reading Scripture this way makes it hard to believe that God’s Word exists to comfort or serve us; it reminds us rather that the Bible exists to help us know the One who is our comfort and strength.

When the toddler melts down and another child goes limp at the mere thought of doing schoolwork and the teapot is empty, I’m so glad that Scripture isn’t full of beautiful but empty verses that remind me to buck up and do better. I’m thankful, rather, that they tell me that I am not enough—but that the one who is enough has adopted us as his children. That is news worth sharing with my daughters.


Long Story Short
Marty Machowski (2010)

The One O’Clock Miracle | Alison Mitchell

At the start of the year, I knew nothing of the series “Tales that Tell the Truth.” I had never seen Catalina Echeverri’s artwork, nor heard of Alison Mitchell or Carl Laferton.

But that changed when I read The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross. Not long after reading that book, I found The Storm that Stopped, and felt a sudden conviction that our family must own these books. All of them. Immediately. These books are beautifully told, truthful, well made, and worth reading dozens of times. We needed them.

The One O’Clock Miracle was the next to join our collection:

The One O'Clock Miracle, by Alison Mitchell | Little Book, Big Story

The One O’Clock Miracle tells of the young boy Jesus healed, through the perspective of his father, who walked miles and miles to meet Jesus, only to hear the words, “Go. Your Son will live.”

But Alison Mitchell isn’t content to simply retell the biblical story. Instead, she uses the story as a lens through with readers can view Jesus: the sub-title, “A True Story About Trusting the Words of Jesus is the perfect summary of her purpose here. The story is fun to read, but by the end the end of the book, it shows us something new about trusting Jesus, something we hadn’t seen before.

The One O'Clock Miracle, by Alison Mitchell | Little Book, Big Story

Catalina Echeverri’s illustrations are, again, full of energy and charm. And I’m pleased to report that, though our collection is growing, there are still more “Tales That Tell the Truth” out there for our family to collect.

And collect them we will.


The One O’Clock Miracle
Alison Mitchell, Catalina Echeverri (2015)

The Storm That Stopped | Alison Mitchell

Dear reader, this book brings me such joy. I can’t pinpoint the moment when I fell for it—was it the illustration of the disciples pulling their boat out into the sea?

The Storm That Stopped, by Alison Mitchell | Little Book, Big Story

Their expressions during the storm?

The Storm That Stopped, by Alison Mitchell | Little Book, Big Story

Or was it only at the end, when Mitchell brought the story to its beautiful conclusion, that I knew I’d fallen whole-heartedly in love with The Storm That Stopped?

I can’t say. But the book became one of my favorites to read aloud almost immediately.

The Storm That Stopped, by Alison Mitchell | Little Book, Big Story

What Scripture presents as a fairly simple narrative, Alison Mitchell shares with the energy of a good bedtime story. She tells not only what happened but why it was important: When Jesus calmed the storm with just a few words, what did it mean? What did that tell the disciples about who Jesus is? After reading the book, my husband said, “It’s a little like a sermon,” meaning that Mitchell doesn’t stop at telling the story, but goes one step further and tells us what the story is about.

Catalina Echeverri’s illustrations add yet another layer to the story and, if I’m perfectly honest, are what really got to me. You’ve seen her work already in The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross, but she is at her best when illustrating the disciples: she shows how genuinely frightening it must have been to face the storm, but she does it in a way that is funny and endearing. My daughters and I giggled quite a bit over the disciples’ response to the storm, but a few short pages later, I found myself tearing up again—this time not from laughter but from wonder.

The Storm That Stopped, by Alison Mitchell | Little Book, Big Story

Mitchell and Echeverri make a marvelous team and I am glad, because this isn’t their only book together. I’m already itching to read the others!


The Storm That Stopped
Alison Mitchell, Catalina Echeverri (2016)

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)