Category: Lent & Easter (page 1 of 7)

Sacred Seasons

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Above our dining room window hangs a set of four tiles, each one depicting a season. A little orange house sits in the center of each picture, half-buried in snow, then surrounded by spring blooms, fresh apples, and fallen leaves in turn. These tiles travelled with us from home to home growing up, but since my mom gave them to me a few years back, they’ve hung in our dining room, where they remind us of the shape of things: lush leaves will turn brittle and fall; bare branches will leaf out again come spring.

Over the years, we’ve also adopted the shape of the church calendar into our home and learned the patterns of Lent and Easter, Advent and Christmas. We’ve found our way into this little by little, learning more where we could, but when I read the introduction to Sacred Seasons, I was struck by how much more there was to learn—and I was grateful to Danielle Hitchen for explaining it all so beautifully and graciously.

Sacred Seasons reads like a guidebook to the church year, with some flyover introductory chapters that invite readers into the idea and structure of the church calendar followed by chapters that give an array of options for how families might observe each season. These options feel like just the right kind of abundance: not so many that the choice feels overwhelming, but enough that there’s bound to be celebrations in here that will work for most families. Stephen Crotts’s illustrations, too, lend depth and beauty to this book—especially the wheel illustrating the different seasons within the church calendar.

It is good to be reminded through the church calendar that, in God’s story, life follows death just as spring follows winter. These little celebrations slow us down and remind us where we are in the scheme of things—and what we are looking toward.


Sacred Seasons: A Family Guide to Center Your Year Around Jesus
Danielle Hitchen; Stephen Crotts (2023)

The King of Easter

Every year, Easter sneaks up on me. I think it’s the way it slinks around the calendar, sometimes popping up before spring begins, and sometimes lingering, waiting until the end of April to make its appearance with our forsythia.

Usually, I like to smuggle a new armload of Easter books into the house each Sunday throughout Lent, arranging them enticingly on the window seat or the piano for my daughters to discover and curl up with. But this year, being what it’s been so far, Easter caught me off guard. I brought the first batch of books in on Palm Sunday, when I realized that, egad! It was already here! I brought them in all at once, and heaped them so deep on the window seat that we can hardly find room to sit down.

Which explains why my one and only Easter review is appearing now, on Good Friday.

Alas.

The King of Easter, by Todd Hains | Little Book, Big Story

But at least this one-and-only Easter book is a good one—one worth looking forward to next year, even if it doesn’t arrive in time for Easter 2023. In the footsteps of the most excellent The King of Christmas, this book invites readers to meet Jesus, the King of Easter. But where The King of Christmas sent various figures from the Christmas story searching for the king, in this book the king does the searching: one by one he seeks and saves people large and small.

His mother Mary, who believed the angel’s word—
did the King of Easter find and save her? Yes!

Here at the end of Jesus’s earthly ministry, we see him gathering people to himself: Anna and Simeon, Matthew, the centurion at the cross. He is building a kingdom of people that he has found and saved—however unlikely they may seem.

The King of Easter, by Todd Hains | Little Book, Big Story

This book doesn’t focus on the crucifixion and resurrection so much as it does on the reason Jesus came in the first place: to rescue and redeem his people. This perspective makes it a welcome and already beloved addition to the piles of Easter books currently entrenched on our window seat.

And to you all: may you have a somber and meditative Good Friday, followed by a joyful, exuberant Easter. He is risen!


The King of Easter: Jesus Searches for All God’s Children
Todd R. Hains; Natasha Kennedy (2023)


Disclosure: I did receive a copy of this book for review, but I was not obligated to review it 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.

The Easter Story

I love an Easter picture book that find an unexpected way into the story. But I love, too, an Easter picture book that tells the story itself, simply and beautifully, and that places readers (children and parents) alongside Jesus and the disciples as they walk through Holy Week one day at a time.

Antonia Jackson’s The Easter Story is a book of this sort: Jackson recounts the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection in clear and lovely language, without much commentary, so readers are free to make our own connections, or to sit with the story for a moment and wonder at it. Giuliano Ferri’s illustrations complement this style beautifully, using light to intensify the shadows of the darker moments or to illuminate the joy of the lighter ones. Jackson’s The Easter Story is simple without being sparse, gentle enough for young readers without being too soft.

The Easter Story, by Antonia Jackson | Little Book, Big Story

In the years I’ve spent building our family’s library of Easter books, I’ve looked hard for books like this one. They can be hard to find—there are ditches on either side that it’s all too easy to fall into (by being too cute in retelling the story, for example, or by being so dry they miss the beauty and wonder of the story). But The Easter Story does everything well: it is good, it is beautiful, and—best of all—it is true.


The Easter Story
Antonia Jackson; Giuliano Ferri (2012)

Bare Tree & Little Wind

A few weeks ago I gave my pilea—a peppy little houseplant, with leaves that seem to float in the air like lilypads—a trim. By which I mean, I cut it down, all but an inch-high stem. (It was leggy and discolored, and this was a desperate last act to save it from the compost pile.) I watered that stump well and placed it in a sunny window, back by the washing machine, where looking at it every day wouldn’t make me sad.

And guess what? Less than a week later, I spotted a fur of green on the stump, little specks here and there. A few days later, those specks were freckles; a few days after that, they were clearly infant leaves sprung from a stump I’d almost despaired of saving.

That, dear readers, is Easter. Sometimes you have to sit with the dead stump and wonder how God could bring life out of anything so decayed. And sometimes you get to clap with delight and proclaim, “Life! Life!” It goes on whether we’re ready for it or not.

Bare Tree and Little Wind, by Mitali Perkins | Little Book, Big Story

Mitali Perkins’s beautiful new Easter book shows life surviving in the unlikely, burned-out places, only to bear fruit long after new fruit seemed possible. Through the characters Bare Tree and Little Wind, Perkins tells the story of Holy Week. But she doesn’t stop at the resurrection: as Little Wind travels through Jerusalem, visiting his favorite trees and witnessing Jesus’ death and resurrection, he visits, too, with Bare Tree—a palm whose fronds, seeds, and dates have been so thoroughly harvested that all that’s left of her is a stump. But when soldiers burn the beautiful palms of Jerusalem in the years after Jesus’ resurrection, Bare Tree’s apparent barrenness becomes a hidden blessing.

Bare Tree and Little Wind, by Mitali Perkins | Little Book, Big Story

Mitali Perkins (Forward Me Back to You) has swiftly become one of my favorite authors, and this book shows exactly why. It reads like a folk tale—but different. Like a traditional Easter story—but not quite. She brings a voice and perspective all her own to the story and invites us to see Jesus’ death and resurrection through the eyes of God’s creation.

And Khoa Le’s illustrations? They are gorgeous! Just as Little Wind seems to soar from one corner of the page to another, so the illustrations seem to lead one into another so that the whole book feels beautifully arranged and organically whole. Even the saddest parts of the story seem to promise life and hope. Which is true even today: our God is continually bringing life out of death and unfurling little leaves in the unlikeliest places.


This post is part of my “Hooray! We’re launching a book!” blog series, celebrating the April 19 release of Wild Things & Castles in the Skya book I both contributed to and, alongside Leslie & Carey Bustard, helped edit. Today’s post features an author who graced us with a powerful interview for Wild Things.


Bare Tree and Little Wind: A Story for Holy Week
Mitali Perkins; Khoa Le (2022)

Darkest Night Brightest Day

Does any holiday capture both light and darkness the way Easter does? It is a study in contrasts: the deepest depth of all human history, followed three days later by the brightest light. But I’ve noticed, in my extensive research on Easter books for children, that many Easter books tend to favor the light over the dark. The hope over the despair. And considering the audience, I think that’s appropriate.

But Good Friday has its place in the story, and rushing through it year after year can make it easy for us to forget what Jesus truly did, what he suffered, on our behalf. And so, I’m deeply smitten with Marty Machowski’s new book, Darkest Night Brightest Day, which—get this!—is really two books in one. The book’s format means that we can’t speed through the sad parts of the story to the happy ending: we have to read Darkest Night slowly, one day and a time during Holy Week. Then we pause. And then, we physically flip the book over and begin a new story—Brightest Day—that takes us from the Resurrection to Pentecost.

Darkest Night Brightest Day, by Marty Machowski | Little Book, Big Story

I love this. I cannot tell you enough how I love it.

Our old pastor once sent us home from a Good Friday service with the injunction to forget the end of the story, just for that Saturday. Think what it would have been like for the disciples, who didn’t know yet what would happen on Sunday, to bury Jesus and walk away from that tomb. To reconcile, for many of them, with the fact that they had abandoned him and now had no opportunity to seek forgiveness. Machowski’s book gives us room to stop. To close the book. To wonder, whether we mean to or not, What if that was the end of the story?

Darkest Night Brightest Day, by Marty Machowski | Little Book, Big Story

But it isn’t, and that’s the beauty of Easter. Jesus didn’t stay dead; the sun rose. The brightest day followed the darkest night, and we have hope in Christ that we will rise with him one day. What joy! And because this book takes the Easter story all the way through Pentecost, we are reminded of the hope we have through his Spirit—we are part of his continuing work. The dark night broke before the light of day.


This post is part of my “Hooray! We’re launching a book!” blog series, celebrating the upcoming release of Wild Things & Castles in the Skya book I both contributed to and, alongside Leslie & Carey Bustard, helped edit. Today’s post features an author whose books are warmly recommended in Wild Things.


Darkest Night Brightest Day: A Family Devotional for the Easter Season
Marty Machowski; Phil Schorr (2022)