Category: Elementary (Ages 5-8) (page 1 of 23)

What Every Child Should Know About Prayer | Nancy Guthrie

Dear readers: we are home!! And I don’t know what to tell you about first.

Josie, jumping joyously in her own bed for ten minutes straight, yelling, “Jump my bed! Jump my bed!” with the exuberance of a toddler liberated from the pack-n-play for good?

Phoebe’s sudden urge to dress as though she wants to wear all of her clothes—unpacked at last after two months—at once?

The stab of happiness I get every time I walk into the kitchen and see not a wall but a real dining room so big and pretty it makes our table—even with both leaves installed—look small?

Before . . .

After!

I could tell you about the two-month adventure that went from intense to really intense when we learned that our church of thirteen years was dissolving. I could tell you about sharing a twin bed with Mitch for two weeks, or about learning to cook in six different kitchens, or about how ridiculously well the construction itself went, or about how thankful we are for everyone who hosted, fed, prayed for and/or helped us in the past two months.

But for now, I will tell you about a book.

What Every Child Should Know About Prayer, by Nancy Guthrie | Little Book, Big Story

We brought a lot of books with us on the road, mostly because we like options and we don’t like leaving books behind, but there are a few that we read daily and that lent structure to our otherwise structure-less lives. What Every Child Should Know About Prayer is one of those.

What Every Child Should Know About Prayer, by Nancy Guthrie | Little Book, Big Story

Even though half of my girls are well outside the recommended age range for this book, we started reading through What Every Child Should Know About Prayer together because this is the sort of subject I fumble through, either over-explaining or overlooking the fact that it needs explanation. And so I’m glad for Nancy Guthrie’s help here. I’m glad for her direct explanations and for the conversations they generate at our table.

Guthrie’s short readings each explore some aspect of who God is, what prayer is, why it’s important, and how it’s done. Each one closes with a prayer prompt or question that got us thinking outside the box, and they have generated some great discussions with kids little and big. (Also worth noting: this book is part of series that also includes Everything a Child Should Know About God, which we love, and Everyone a Child Should Know, which I suspect we’ll love once we read it.)

What Every Child Should Know About Prayer, by Nancy Guthrie | Little Book, Big Story

But for now, friends, it is good to be home. We still have a crazy amount of work to do—there are rough drywall edges everywhere and we’re living on the subfloor—but still. We are reveling right now in the amount of work already done.


What Every Child Should Know About Prayer
Nancy Guthrie; Jenny Brake (2018)

Building Our House | Jonathan Bean

I write this morning from the kitchen table of an adorable two-bedroom apartment. We rearranged one bedroom to accommodate four sisters and the pantry to hold our school books. Stacks of suitcases and plastic totes fill corners and line the short hall,  yet it already feels like home.

But why am I here and not at my own kitchen table?

Because that table is in storage. We are in the throes of a major home remodel, one that involves  the destruction and expansion of one portion of our home. Our books are stored in portable totes; we have been watching Fixer Upper to boost morale. I’ve been reading The Gospel Comes with a House Key to remind myself why we wanted to do this in the first place—but not recently, because I lost my copy. I think I packed it in the wrong tote.

Before | Little Book, Big Story

The plants, the porch, the fence, and that whole back addition are gone! And there’s a big hole in the ground (a crawlspace-to-be), reaching to about where the wheelbarrow is in the photo.

In the midst of this mayhem, I do need to keep the proverbial plate light and portable for the next few months, so I am going to take a short break from blogging. I anticipate being back some time in November, but I make no firm promises. Home remodels are not predictable, trustworthy things—that is what I am learning.

But I do want to leave you with a good book, and this, my friends, certainly qualifies as a Good Book.

Building Our House, by Jonathan Bean | Little Book, Big Story

You may know Jonathan Bean from This is My Home, This is My School or from his beautiful (and previously reviewed here) book At Night. I love every book of his I’ve read. But Building Our House is just the right book for now, and here’s why:

Building Our House follows his own family’s home-building endeavor, from the time they moved a camper onto their property to the day they move into their new home. The story itself is charming, but the illustrations add a new level of meaning to the story, as we watch his family grow and change with the seasons of work and waiting. Bean takes a slice of ordinary life and, by lifting it up, shows us that it is worth consideration. It is something worth celebrating.

Building Our House, by Jonathan Bean | Little Book, Big Story

I bought a copy of Building Our House and have it stowed in a tote with various and sundry other Mom surprises (sticker dolls! Non-messy craft kits! New board games!) that I hope will keep us occupied on rainy days in small spaces. I hope to pull it out and read it aloud on the day part of our house gets broken to bits and tossed in a giant dumpster. You know, to remind us that it’s not all destruction, but that there’s some marvelous new construction coming.

Building Our House, by Jonathan Bean | Little Book, Big Story

In the meantime, I will miss you all! I’ll read lots of good books and come back with some great titles to share. I hope you are all enjoying the fall weather and baking things with pumpkin in them. When I return, I hope to have a dining room (no more homeschooling in the kitchen!) and a second bathroom (no more “estimated wait times” for the first one!).

And also, a heart full of gratitude to the One who makes this huge undertaking possible, and for all the folks who took us in and prayed with us and installed things for us along the way. You know who you are.

Before | Little Book, Big Story

Footnote

The light in these photos is extra strange and orange-y, and here’s why: I took them when a blanket of wildfire smoke drifted our way from British Columbia, California, Eastern Washington, and Siberia, and smothered our town for a few days. It smelled awful and did who knows what to our lungs, but man—it was pretty.


Building Our House
Jonathan Bean (2013)

What’s in the Bible? (Videos) | JellyTelly

Vischer

The weather isn’t cool, but it will be soon. And when it is, we plan to watch this series for the third (or possibly fourth?) time. This post originally appeared on this blog in October 2014, and we still love this show as much as we did then.

We have discovered some new favorites on JellyTelly since I first shared this post (The Nature of God, Stevie’s Trek to the Holy Land, Friends & Heroes—to name a few), but What’s in the Bible? remains one of our family’s All-Time Favorite Shows. I hope you love it, too!


Way back in this blog’s beginning posts, I wrote a bit about What’s in the Bible? I told you that it was awesome and that you should watch it, but that was over a year ago and now it’s a cozy sort of season when movies and fleece blankets are in high demand, so I thought I’d give the series its very own post—even though it’s not a book, but a show about the book.

What’s in the Bible? is a series of 26 episodes that works its way through the entire Bible, but probably not in the way you’re thinking. Yes, it tells the creation story and shares a stellar retelling of the Book of Ruth, but the overall focus of the series is less on the celebrated stories of the Bible and more on the great, overarching story of the Bible. What is actually in the Bible? Why does it matter to us? What’s in the Bible? strives to answer those questions with creativity and sincerity (a great combination when dealing with anyone, little or big). The mind behind it all belongs to Phil Vischer, of JellyTelly (and formerly of VeggieTales). He briefly explains the vision of What’s in the Bible? here:

As you may remember from my post about his book, Sidney and Norman, I think very, very highly of Mr. Vischer. He appears on the show as a sort of anchor for an eclectic cast of puppets (which features, among other things, a Sunday school teacher, a news anchor, and a pirate), where he doesn’t shy away from difficult topics, but speaks to kids as though they can and should understand what the Bible says about tricky topics like sin, salvation, and theological doctrine. Take the show’s explanation of the Trinity, for example:

 

Our daughters love these videos. My husband and I love them, too, and through the show’s vivid illustrations we have both learned a lot about key aspects of the Bible. The episodes that touched on Paul’s back story or the silence between the Testaments switched lights on for both of us, and now our daughters tend to do things like, oh, list the books of the Bible in order just for fun. The show is full of catchy songs (a song about the Pentateuch—sung on a riverboat!) and great topical segments (A Pirate’s Guide to Church History!) that go far beyond the traditional fare of Christian children’s programming.

Take this song about the book of Judges (yes, Judges):

Oh, okay, and our favorite song about Leviticus (yes, Leviticus):

 Now, where you can you find this excellent series? If you live in our area, you can request copies of the DVDs at the public library, but by far the easiest way to watch them is to subscribe to JellyTelly. The monthly fee is cheap and grants you access to all 26 episodes of What’s in the Bible? as well as a variety of other shows and games that our family has yet to explore. (Do I sound like an infomerical? Don’t worry, this is not a sponsored post—none of my posts are—so it’s simply my enthusiasm for this show that you hear taking on a cheesy radio-announcer persona.)

JellyTelly’s mission is “be a tool to help raise the next generation of Christians so they know what they believe and know how to live it and to help launch the next generation of Christian storytellers.” I love that vision and see it succeeding marvelously through What’s in the Bible? 


What’s in the Bible? (DVD series)
Jelly Telly

The Boy and the Ocean | Max Lucado

This post originally appeared on the blog in October 2014.


Here is my thesis for this post: The Boy and the Ocean is beautiful. I loved it. The writing is rhythmic, the illustrations uncommonly gorgeous, the story endearing, and the whole thing describes the love of God in a way that appeals to my daughters—and to me.

The Boy and the Ocean follows an unnamed boy as he vacations near the sea with his parents. The story appears in three parts, as he explores the ocean, the mountains, and then studies the night sky with his parents, and reflects on how the ocean, mountains, and sky, like God’s love, are endless and unchanging.

This book is a little like Does God Know How to Tie Shoes?, a little like Psalm 19: “The heavens declare the glory of God, the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” And the illustrations are . . . oh, how to describe them? Like the sort of thing I think about before falling asleep—but that doesn’t exactly help you, does it? Suffice it to say, they are stunning, absolutely stunning:

The Boy and the Ocean | Little Book, Big Story

The color blue that T. Lively Fluharty uses throughout the book is one of my very favorites (a small detail, but one worth noting).

The Boy and the Ocean | Little Book, Big Story

The Boy and the Ocean was well received by both our six-year-old and our (newly) four-year-old—it was her birthday gift, and it is a story that draws our eyes up past the beautiful illustrations, the lovely writing, to the maker of oceans and mountains and authors and artists.


The Boy and the Ocean
Max Lucado, T. Lively Fluharty (2013)

The Railway Children | E. Nesbit

This summer re-run first appeared on my blog in January 2014. It features one of my favorite books. I hope you enjoy it (and your summer break!), too.


Was there ever a better narrator than E. Nesbit? The way she banters with the reader in charming asides and includes her own voice as a part of the story makes reading her work an act of listening, as though a favorite aunt has drawn little you onto her lap as she tells you a story about some children that she once knew. Her voice is comfortable, familiar; she exists within the story in a delightful way.

C.S. Lewis also had a knack for establishing this intimacy between author and reader. I used to think that I recognized his voice in Nesbit’s work until I learned that she was one of his favorite authors as a child, and that really, I was hearing her voice in his work. This just made me love her more than ever, and I love her best of all in her book, The Railway Children.

The Railway Children, by E. Nesbit | Little Book, Big Story

After their father is mysteriously called away from home, Roberta, Peter and Phyllis leave their comfortable life in London and move to the countryside with their mother, where they are materially poor but find a wealth of excitement in the railway that cuts through the hills near their new home. Adventures of a noble sort ensue, all told in Nesbit’s endearing (but never, ever sappy) tone.

The small fry in our home are so smitten with The Railway Children that, for a time, they answered only to Roberta and Phyllis, and we found ourselves hosting an imaginary brother named Peter for months (we currently host an imaginary brother and sister named Curdie and Irene—from The Princess and the Goblinas well as a sister named Applesauce, and an imaginary cow named Charlotte. Our house is cozy, but never dull).

The Railway Children, by E. Nesbit | Little Book, Big Story

One closing note: you’ll notice that I never give age recommendations on my blog. The reasoning behind that is simple: all children are different, and the book one child cracks open at four, another child may not properly enjoy until eight. You know better than I do where your child falls on the spectrum, so I leave it up to you to decide if your child is ready for this book. Read it yourself and see. I’m quite certain that you will enjoy it.


The Railway Children
E. Nesbit (1906)

Gutsy Girls: Dr. Jennifer Wiseman | Amy L. Sullivan

In ninth grade, I decided that I wasn’t a science person. Most of the other decisions I made that year—”dog chains are a great way to hold your wallet in place,” for example, or “Shirley Manson is everything I want to be when I grow up”—I eventually discarded.

But the science one stuck. We spent a lot of time listening to lectures that year. We watched the teacher diagram things on the board and peeked through microscopes a few times. We dissected frogs. But for the most part, we explored the world around us and the way it worked by sitting in our desks, being told about it.

I left class, my wallet firmly in place and my hair crimson, and thought, “Nope. Not my thing.”

Gutsy Girls: Dr. Jennifer Wiseman | Little Book, Big Story

But this year, while learning how to teach my own daughters to study and explore the world around us, it became my thing. The moth under our porch light with its lace-like wings, the frills and whorls of a snapdragon, the snail’s polka-dotted track—we notice these things now, so much so that our need to stop and study and touch what we see has made us all a bit like toddlers.

But of all the things we studied this year, my favorite was the stars. Learning the basic alphabet of astronomy opened my eyes to what has always been plainly written in the sky: God’s handiwork is vast, intricate, beautiful. We are but one beloved part of it.

“The heavens declare the glory of God,

and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1)

Gutsy Girls: Dr. Jennifer Wiseman | Little Book, Big Story

Dr. Jennifer Wiseman has known for years what I am just learning now: all of creation sings God’s praises; evidence of his attention and provision is everywhere. As an astronomer for NASA, she works with the Hubble Space Telescope, exploring the galaxy far beyond what we can see with our naked eyes. But in this newest volume of Amy Sullivan’s Gutsy Girls series, Sullivan depicts Wiseman first as a child who loved exploring the creatures in her backyard, marveling at the Creator of the turtle’s shell and the water strider’s legs. These small discoveries led to bigger ones, including a comet now named for Dr. Wiseman and a colleague.

Gutsy Girls: Dr. Jennifer Wiseman | Little Book, Big Story

While the rest of the Gutsy Girls series focuses on well-known women from church history (Gladys Aylward, Corrie ten Boom, and Fanny Crosby), this newest volume is different in a few respects: Dr. Wiseman is not a figure from church history (yet), but a living woman. Her work as an astrophysicist isn’t what most would consider missions work, yet she works among many who consider science and faith incompatible and  argues graciously that they are, in fact, deeply compatible. What we learn from scientific study isn’t meant to refute or prove God’s existence but to teach us more about Him.

Gutsy Girls: Dr. Jennifer Wiseman | Little Book, Big Story

In that light, we are all science people. We are meant to learn more about our Creator wherever we are, whatever bit of creation is before us. Creation speaks eloquently of His nature. We have but to listen.


Gutsy Girls, Book Four: Dr. Jennifer Wiseman
Amy H. Sullivan, Beverly Ann Wines (2017)


Disclosure: I did receive a copy of this for review, but I was not obligated to review this book 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 Tinker’s Daughter | Wendy Lawton

First of all, my apologies for publishing nothing last week. We are preparing for a dramatic home remodel, and as I bend my attention toward packing and dismantling and readying ourselves to live a nomadic life for a few months, things have begun to fall through the cracks.

Last week’s post fell through the cracks.

But I’m back this week with a summer re-run! This post originally appeared in February 2015. I loved reading back through it and realizing that I have found so many more books that portray Christian characters beautifully and believably since writing this post’s lament. But I am always searching for more! Please, tell me if you know of any I might have missed.


Twice in one week, I found myself deep in conversations with friends about one question: Why is it so difficult to write about Christian characters?

The question surfaced after I narrowly resisted the urge to throw a certain children’s book across the room when the heroine—a Christian girl who held fast to her faith during adversity and yet to whom I remained thoroughly unsympathetic—”sobbed violently” one too many times. This offended both the reader and the editor in me, but also flummoxed the Christian in me, because shouldn’t a character’s relationship with the Lord form a compelling thread within a story? It’s something so beautiful, so rich. Shouldn’t authors be able to capture that well?

Some do. John Bunyan comes to mind, and so does C.S. Lewis. And Marilynne Robinson. But when the work is intended for children, somehow the Christian element emerges either in an understated theme or in allegory—both of which are fine—or else the Christian threads become so overt that they seem superimposed upon the story’s plot, lending the book an unwelcome awkwardness. A preachiness. And I wonder if anybody likes preachiness.

The Tinker's Daughter, or "Why is it so hard to find strong Christian characters in fiction?" | Little Book, Big Story

I have read a few children’s books that not only weave threads of Christian belief into a plot gracefully but also make them a key point of the story, and here they are:

Heidi. Treasures of the Snow. What Katy Did. That’s it. I have read a lot of children’s books and those are the only three that come to mind.

So, why is it so difficult to write believably Christian characters and to capture their walk with Christ in a way that is both genuine and appealing?

Here is my theory: Writing about something as intimate as a person’s relationship with an unseen God must fall into the same territory as writing about one’s own marriage without resorting to cliche or sentimentality. To succeed in communicating something so intimate about a subject to which you are so close, you must strike all the notes just right or the chord fails and turns from pure music to dissonance, and the reader finds herself (for example) tempted to chuck a book across a room in frustration, because the thing the writer attempted to do should have been beautiful but wasn’t.

Daughters of the Faith Series | Little Book, Big Story

For a writer to capture something as personal as a character’s spiritual growth, they have to be willing to allow the character’s doubt onto the page at times, and to accept the fact that faith is complex—it is neither simple or moralistic. They have to be willing to step back from their own relationship with the Lord a little and observe how it works, and to lend their characters just enough of their own experience that the characters successfully cross that gap from stereotype to genuine, likeable person.

I say this as a reader, mind you. I haven’t even dared tackle this subject in my own writing. But I have seen novels make the ambitious attempt to scale the twin peaks of faith and fiction only to tumble into a crevasse somewhere between the two and land in my “used bookstore” pile. Which brings me back to that book that I did not finish.

That story should have been at least interesting, if not absorbing. But it wasn’t. And after I abandoned that particular ship, I found my desire for good, Christian literature hardening into a resolve to find good, Christian literature for our daughters, as well as for the kids at school. I took to roaming the e-aisles of Amazon, looking for potential gems.

The Tinker's Daughter, by Wendy Lawton | Little Book, Big Story

And that is how I found The Tinker’s Daughter. More to the point, I suppose, is the fact that I found Wendy Lawton, an author capable of writing a compelling story that neither cheapens her characters’ Christian faith nor makes them unpleasantly trite. The Tinker’s Daughter is a well-crafted, fictional account of Mary Bunyan, John Bunyan’s eldest daughter, during the time when her father was newly imprisoned for “unsanctioned” preaching. His faith throughout the story is abundant and beautiful to behold. Mary’s faith is that of a fledgling, taking off timidly by the end of the book.

Another point in Lawton’s favor: Mary is blind, and for an author who can make me feel and smell and listen to the world of a girl without sight, I have nothing but admiration.

Daughters of the Faith Series | Little Book, Big Story

I have read a handful of books in this series so far, and I must warn you that Lawton does not tackle easy material: Shadow of His Hand relates Anita Dittman’s experience in the concentration camps of Germany; Freedom’s Pen tells the story of Phillis Wheatley, who was captured in Africa as a young girl and endured the horror of the slave ships before being sold to a wealthy New England family.

Lawton handles this material well, including just enough detail for the reader to grasp how truly terrible these historical events were without making the stories too heavy to bear. She allows her characters to ask hard questions through it all, and includes answers that satisfy the reader without oversimplifying the truth. So, I like the fact that these books tackle content like the Holocaust and slavery. But I don’t recommend handing them over to your children without reading through them for yourself.

That said, some of them I did allow Lydia to read on her own (after reading them myself)—The Tinker’s Daughter was one of those. We’ll wait on Shadow of His Hand and Freedom’s Pen for now. I believe there are nine books in the series, so I have more to read, but for now I’m savoring each new volume and rejoicing in the existence of an author like Wendy Lawton. These books allow me to hope that there are other authors out there like her.

And it occurs to me that you might know about them: Do you know of any chapter books that center around characters whose Christian faith is a central part of the story? Please let me know in the comments!


The Tinker’s Daughter
Wendy Lawton (2002)