Category: Elementary (Ages 5-8) (page 1 of 24)

The Friend Who Forgives | Daniel DeWitt

Peter is a very relatable guy for many of us—he is bold and devoted to Jesus and ready to speak up (often before thinking). He is impulsive, which sometimes works in his favor and sometimes doesn’t. Daniel DeWitt tells Peter’s story through the lens of friendship. What was Peter like as a friend? What is Jesus like as a friend? How does Peter’s understanding of friendship change during his time with Jesus?

The Friend Who Forgives, by Daniel DeWitt | Little Book, Big Story

I enjoyed reading this book, but I was also deeply grateful for it: I have one child whose sins, ahem, go before her in a way some of her sisters’ sins often don’t. And that can be hard on her. I was glad to give her this book, a beautiful picture of a friend who failed several times, in very big ways, and of the friend who forgives over and over and over again. This is an excellent book for many different reasons, but that was the one that endeared it to me: for those kids who struggle with impulsivity, who are asked several times a day “What were you thinking?” and can’t give an answer—here is an answer. And here is hope.

The Friend Who Forgives, by Daniel DeWitt | Little Book, Big Story

The Friend Who Forgives is my current favorite in the Tales That Tell the Truth series, but probably only because it’s the one I just read. I love them all so much!


The Friend Who Forgives
Daniel DeWitt; Catalina Echeverri (2018)


Disclosure: I did receive copies 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.

A Child’s First Book About Marriage | Jani Ortlund

As a child, I found marriage confusing. I lived with each of my parents half of the time and saw them happily married to step-parents I loved. But my life had been revised by divorce, and I wondered, Why do people get married at all?

By sixteen, I vowed that, rather than risk a split, I’d skip marriage.

By twenty, I was a wife.

What changed? The Lord tenderly showed me that my life was not my own—not a thing I was meant to fumble with, trying this and that in the desperate hope that something might span the chasm at my feet.

Instead, he built a bridge himself and carried me across, and for once I saw the world as a place of beauty and order—a place where marriage wasn’t intended to make us happy (though it often does). No, marriage is a part of God’s old, old plan for us, born in the moment when God, three persons in one, looked at solitary Adam among the animals and said, “It is not good that the man should be alone.”

Marriage was not our idea.

A Child's First Book of Marriage, by Jani Ortlund | Little Book, Big Story

Jani Ortlund picks up this thought and carries it through A Child’s First Book About Marriage. 

Ever since that first wedding, people have been getting married. Just like everything that comes from the heart of God, marriage is beautiful and good.

A Child's First Book of Marriage, by Jani Ortlund | Little Book, Big Story

Much of the book centers around this idea that God created marriage, and though it isn’t always easy, it is good and beautiful. She touches gently on topics like sex and attraction, and the beauty of friendship within marriage. She pares away the whorls of doctrine and says simply,

Marriage is about love, but it’s about more than love. Marriage is a vow, a sacred promise. When a man and a woman get married, they promise God that—no matter what—the man will stay with the woman and the woman with the man as long as they both live. A bride and groom make these promises because sometimes it is hard to love each other. Marriage vows help keep a couple together even when they don’t feel like loving each other.

A Child's First Book of Marriage, by Jani Ortlund | Little Book, Big Story

She knows that marriage doesn’t always look beautiful and good, and I appreciate the gentleness with which she discusses divorce and conflict within marriage. And the love with which she discusses differing views about marriage. She doesn’t pick up the harsh language that seems to characterize many of these discussions, but speaks kindly to readers, exhorting us to love those who see things differently than we do and to trust God’s plan even when we don’t understand it. And she doesn’t idolize marriage either, or treat it as anything greater than a good gift from our Creator. She explains,

A biblical marriage shows the world a tiny picture for all to see of the Big Romance—the one between Christ and His Church in love together. When you love Jesus, then you are a part of that Church and nothing and no one will ever be able to separate you from God’s love for you.

I bought this book on impulse because it was the only book I had ever seen for on marriage for children. But I love how balanced it is, how wise and clear Ortlund’s perspective is. I love Angelo Ruta’s watercolor illustrations, which show families in different configurations, from different backgrounds, and subtly use color and composition to deepen Ortlund’s text.

A Child's First Book of Marriage, by Jani Ortlund | Little Book, Big Story

I realize that much our own daughters’ understanding will come from watching us, their parents, live out our marriage before them. We will fumble our way through this, too, but God is here with us, giving us the grace we need to apologize, to forgive, to go on setting the other’s good before our own. But I am grateful to Jani Ortlund for writing a book that equips us to lift our daughters’ eyes above that one, living example, and see the big picture of marriage: what it is, what it isn’t, Who made it, and why.


A Child’s First Book About Marriage
Jani Ortlund; Angelo Ruta (2018)

The Mistmantle Chronicles | M.I. McAllister

Some might consider what I’m about to do cruel.

First, I’m going to rave about The Mistmantle Chronicles. I’m going to tell you that they are everything I look for in a book. They are:

a) a delight to read

b) beautifully written

c) shaped by a deep and rich Christian worldview

And then I’m going to tell you that they’re difficult to find. Not so difficult that you can’t find some of them, but elusive enough that you may search for months for a copy of the last book. You may scour eBay and ThriftBooks and every used bookstore in your area, just in case someone didn’t realize what they had and let it go. You may briefly contemplate spending $120 on Amazon for a paperback copy*. You may request that your library purchase a copy. You may even email the author directly with a plea for help.

You may search and search. And you still may not find it.

I haven’t.

The Mistmantle Chronicles, by M.I. McAllister | Little Book, Big Story

I wondered if it was fair to introduce you to something so delightful and gripping and then announce that you might not be able finish the series. But I decided to introduce you anyway, because these books are among the best we’ve read, and also because I have this slim hope that maybe somebody someday will have the good sense to reprint them. And if we’re all out there requesting it at libraries and talking it up online and perhaps emailing the publisher, maybe that will help? Let’s start a Mistmantle Movement, people!

Here is the premise of the story: Urchin, an unusually pale squirrel, is discovered in the shallows off Mistmantle Island just after his birth. No one knows where he came from or what happened to his mother, but he was found on a night of riding stars, when portentous things are said to happen. The books follow Urchin as he grows and faces challenges of different sorts, but while they primarily center around him, McAllister also deftly weaves the stories of other animals, both good and evil, into Urchin’s story.

The Mistmantle Chronicles meld the gospel-rich worldview of (Scripture, of course, but also) The Chronicles of Narnia and The Wingfeather Saga with the warmth and coziness of RedwallM.I. McAllister’s characters are far from formulaic: they exhibit the unexpected quirks and details that make them inflate from two dimensions to three. They live; we believe in them. And though the challenges the characters face are deep and hard, they often resolve them by looking to the Heart (the God of their world) for strength and guidance.

The Mistmantle Chronicles, by M.I. McAllister | Little Book, Big Story

These books do have some dark themes—the first book deals with the subject of “culling,” a sinister plot to kill any babies who are weak or deformed in any way—but McAllister handles these gracefully, and always with an eye on what is right and good. These are stories that will bend our affections toward the good and lovely, and they are worth searching out, however long our quest.

*Those of you who read ebooks won’t suffer this hardship: the digital version is available for $6.99. If our library can’t track a copy down for us, I may go that route out of desperation.


The Mistmantle Chronicles
M.I. McAllister (2005-2012)

A Jesus Christmas | Barbara Reaoch

I am not one to feel warm and fuzzy about evergreen swag or potted poinsettias, so I decorate, rather chaotically, with Christmas picture books. We prop them up on shelves, gather them into baskets, and scatter them about the floor—anything, just so they’re  read and savored. Through them we hear the glorious refrain of Jesus’ coming again and again and again throughout Advent.

A Jesus Christmas, by Barbara Reaoch | Little Book, Big Story

This morning’s book is a new addition to our library, and one that takes a creative, more Exploring the Bible approach than most. A Jesus Christmas is formatted in a journal style and allows kids to read Scripture directly throughout Advent and respond to what they’ve read through words and art. Each reading contains a few questions, presented in a way that allows families flexibility in how they want to discuss them, as well as a short reading that expands upon the day’s passage.

There are several ways a family could use this. You could buy a copy for each of your readers, do the readings independently, and come together to discuss them. Or you could use a single copy as a family devotional, perhaps allowing different kids to be the “family recorder” for the day. With younger kids, you could do the reading, discuss it briefly, and turn it over to them for the drawing part. A Jesus Christmas is adaptable, and I like that.

A Jesus Christmas, by Barbara Reaoch | Little Book, Big Story

(And I wish I could have reviewed this earlier for you, but alas! It’s been That Sort of Year. But A Jesus Christmas is a resource worth bookmarking for next Advent.)


A Jesus Christmas
Barbara Reaoch (2018)


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 Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey | Susan Wojciechowski

The other day I pulled a pile of Christmas books out of the shop and tried to covertly photograph them while the girls were distracted. But they were at my elbow in minutes, hailing old friends, eyeing new ones with suspicion (“I don’t remember that book”), and trying to sneak favorites off the pile while I wasn’t looking. The most adored, the most likely to be snatched from the pile and spirited away to a comfy chair was this one: The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey.

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey | Little Book, Big Story

Jonathan Toomey is a woodcarver in a small village, known (and feared) for his gruff manner. But before the story itself truly begins, the author lets us in on a secret: Mr. Toomey wasn’t always this way. Once he was young and full of life, but he closed himself off after suffering terrible grief. Because Susan Wojciechowski introduces us to this side of Mr. Toomey first, watching his transformation throughout the story—as he meets the young widow McDowell and her son Thomas—is like watching someone open a gift we just know they’re going to love.

Here is the thing about the widow McDowell and Thomas: they show up at Mr. Toomey’s door with a request. They’ve lost their set of nativity figures and ask him to make them a new set. But Thomas also wants to watch Mr. Toomey work. His comments throughout the story and his true “little boyness” has us all giggling every time we read it, and yet this is a genuinely deep, sorrowful yet joy-filled book that also makes me cry every time I read it. That balance seems to me just right. (The illustrations are gorgeous, too. P.J. Lynch captures the characters’ expressions in such a living way that I feel as if I’ve walked in on the characters mid-conversation.)

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey | Little Book, Big Story

One of the things I love about this book is that, though it is called The Christmas Miracle, Etc., Jonathan Toomey’s transformation doesn’t come about through some nebulous holiday warm-fuzzery. It is nurtured by his interactions with the pieces of the nativity, as Thomas explains beautifully the purpose of each figure. It also nudged along by acts of gentle kindness, both to him and, eventually, by him, as he learns to give himself to others and to welcome them into his life again. And so it is one of the books the girls welcomed most eagerly into our lives this year. This book deserves such a welcome.


The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey
Susan Wojciechowski; P.J. Lynch (1948)

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)