Today’s summer re-run originally appeared way back in February 2014, in the early days of this blog. But it is about one of my favorite series in all of literature, so it’s worth sharing again. (Also, these books are perfect for reading beneath a favorite tree. Just in case you were looking for books perfect for reading beneath a favorite tree . . . )
L.M. Montgomery’s books make me want to befriend some patch of land and explore it thoroughly until I know and have named every tree, every brook, every starry-eyed flower in its thickets. I want to wear clothes made from fabric with names that sound edible—chiffon, taffeta, voile—in colors like “dove gray,” “dusky rose” and “pale green.”
Oh, to eat preserves from quilted jelly jars and don hats festooned with silk flowers and curling ostrich feathers! (I also want to clean, because I harbor a strong suspicion that Marilla Cuthbert and Mrs. Rachel Lynde would not approve of my standards of housekeeping.)
Montgomery’s writing transports me so completely to the Prince Edward Island of yesteryear that it is with a jolt that I come to at the close of the chapter to find myself camped out on the couch with a sleeping baby on my chest and a mean crick in my neck (a scene no less lovely, by the way—just slightly less romantic).
You have read Anne of Green Gables, of course. I had—twice—and had also acted in the play (some of you may recall that I married Gilbert Blythe), so I was more than familiar with Anne’s story. But in these early days of new motherhood, I decided to read on in the series and, in doing so, discovered a story of rare beauty.
Anne is an endlessly endearing, perfectly imperfect heroine, settled into a story of lush scenery and unforgettable characters. To walk with a character through childhood and into adulthood, to watch her friendships and marriage grow and change, is a delight. Montgomery’s ability to present Anne in the various stages of life without slackening the pace or vibrancy of the story, allowing the reader to watch Anne grow in wisdom as she becomes a mother, confronts loss and watches her own children mature without slackening, shows just how masterful an author she is.
There is something singular about seeing a life spun out in story like that. I can’t help but hope that, in heaven, we’ll see our own lives in a similar way: we’ll step back from it a bit so we can see God’s delicate foreshadowing in our own stories and, knowing the end of things, we’ll see, in those moments when life seemed “a vale of tears,” the first glint of the glorious light up ahead.
Today’s summer re-run originally appeared in November of 2016. But here it is, dusted off and ready for revisiting!May your park picnics be lovely, and may you find a new favorite Bible to share with your kids this summer.
Finding beautiful, theologically sound Bibles for kids is, to me, like finding volunteer sunflowers in a flowerbed given over to weeds: you know you’ll find flowers in that bed, of course, but somehow you don’t expect them to be so flashy and radiant.
So many children’s Bibles mean well, but by chopping Scripture into disjointed stories or by tacking a moral onto each one that points away from the Lord and toward the child, these Bibles dilute the beauty of Scripture and become like weeds. They may be the pretty kind of weed that you wish you could let grow, but you know you’ll regret indulging them if they sow seeds of self-righteousness or despair in a child. So, weeds.
But there are so many Bibles out there for children that are beautiful and complex, that stand well above the weedy undergrowth in the children’s section at the Christian bookstore. And in the three-and-a-half years since I started this blog, I have found quite a few of them—so many, in fact, that I decided to do something only people who love checklists do: I made a list for you. Of all of them. Organized by age.
This list is not comprehensive. There are a lot of wonderful Bibles out there for children, but I haven’t seen all of them in person or read them through with my kids, so I’m sticking with the ones our family knows and loves. And because our family is full of children 11 and under, my list is woefully short on anything targeted at children over age 11. Sorry about that.
These tiny re-tellings of Bible stories pack a lot of truth into a few short sentences. Each volume contains five or six stories, but they’re not told in chronological order. In fact, we own the first four, and with the exception of a few excursions into the Old Testament, they’re all mostly about Jesus. But these are great for beginning readers as well as toddlers. (They’re especially great for beginning readers who like reading to toddlers.) (Read the full review.)
If you don’t own this book, forget the rest of the post—no matter how old your children are. Buy this one. Even if you don’t have kids, buy this one. The Jesus Storybook Bible tells the stories of Scripture in such a way that “Every Story Whispers His Name,” and reminds us again and again of who Jesus is and why he matters. (Read the full review.)
David Helm walks through Scripture one story at a time, always keeping the big picture of Scripture in mind. Each story has its place in the greater story of Scripture, and the large format, short readings, and colorful illustrations make this a great Bible for toddlers. But the truth in it makes it a great fit for everyone else, too. (Read the full review.)
Kevin DeYoung’s book is a flyover picture of the big story in Scripture: in ten short chapters he moves from Creation to Revelation, looking at Jesus through a new lens in each story. Also worth noting: I love Don Clark’s illustrations in this book. (Read the full review.)
The big people and the little people in our home love this Bible. Machowski doesn’t shy away from the less popular corners of Scripture, but includes over 150 stories in The Gospel Story Bible. They’re well-told, pretty short, and finish with discussion questions. These readings are compact, but they go deep quickly. (Read the full review.)
This full-length Bible contains a neat coding system that builds beginning Bible study skills by teaching kids to look for context, to cross-reference verses, and to ask interesting questions about the text. It also has all manner of interesting maps and background information about the people and places in Scripture. (Read the full review.)
This Bible contains the full text of Scripture, as well as the familiar illustrations from The Big Picture Story Bible. We just bought it for our six-year-old, and it makes a nice transitional step from story Bible to full-length Bible. (Read the full review.)
Marty Machowski’s family study moves through the Old Testament chronologically, using short readings and engaging questions to introduce kids to every inch of Scripture. The accompanying book on the New Testament, Old Story New, is supposed to be good, too, but we’re still making our way through Genesis, so it will be a while before I can tell you definitively that it is good. (Read the full review.)
Marty Machowski again? Yes. His books are worth putting on any list about any kind of children’s Bible. The Ology is a systematic theology for kids (yes, you read that right) that introduces key doctrines in a clear way that connects for parents and children. This one, too, has short readings and solid questions, and I love it so much. (Read the full review.)
Okay, so this isn’t a book. What it is, though, is an amazing collection of videos that leads kids through the Bible chronologically, while answering questions and providing background along the way. Created by Phil Vischer, one of the original masterminds behind VeggieTales,What’s in the Bible? is one of our family’s very favorite resources about the Bible. (To learn more about where to watch it, read the full review.)
Last year, we held a family meeting to settle our last-day-of-school tradition. Because I get to (sort of arbitrarily) pick which day is our last, this seemed important. And because, at the time of the meeting, we were at the beach with a trip to Menchie’s dangling in front of us like a sprinkle-coated carrot, the vote was unanimous: our last-day-of-school tradition shall henceforth be a day at the beach and a trip to Menchie’s.
That day came two weeks ago. We spent the morning picnicking on a rocky Pacific Northwest beach, rummaging through tidepools and climbing massive sandstone boulders, shaped through centuries of the water’s patient work (insert homeschooling metaphor here). We watched a trio of bald eagles swoop overhead, scraped our knees on barnacles, and petted sea stars.
Then, we concocted the most horrific frozen yogurt sundaes at Menchie’s: mine had more to do with peanut butter and chocolate, but there were some variations on a cotton candy + marshmallow sauce + sprinkles happening among the other members of our table. It was all very pink.
But I digress. What I meant to say was: we’re done with school. Summer is under way! And with it comes my annual summer break. Until mid-September or so, I’m going to share one of my favorite old posts with you every other week, so this will be the last new book review until the fall. But I hope to meet you on the other side with a whole bunch of beautiful new books. (I have a pile of them waiting for you already.)
In the meantime, may your summer be sticky, sandy, and sunny!
But this book can’t wait until September.
For those of you who annotate and doodle your way through every sermon or lecture, who find that listening to audio books is like not reading the book at all, who decode thorny problems by drawing them out in spidery graphs with squiggly lines—you visual people (you’re my people!). I’m talking to you.
Bible Infographics for Kids (subtitle: “Giants, Ninja Skills, a Talking Donkey, and What’s the Deal with the Tabernacle?”) is a collection of—wait for it—Bible infographics for kids. These are big, bold, graphic illustrations that, in the words of this book’s authors, “help [us] see information that might otherwise be hard to understand.” For the visual learners among us, getting to “see” information means we’ll also remember it. For all of us, it’s fun.
In Bible Infographics for Kids, the authors and illustrator use maps and probability charts and comparisons to bring home some of the weirder truths of Scripture (did you know that the odds of one person fulfilling just eight Old Testament prophecies is the same as someone finding one specific coin in a pile of silver dollars so big it covered the state of Texas two feet deep? Me neither. And yet Jesus fulfilled forty-eight Old Testament prophecies!).
But my favorite part, the book’s crowning beauty, is a Bible board game that is really a visual map of the Bible’s narrative. It’s color-coded. It’s clever. And it’s glorious.
I have found all of my kids (and some of their friends) curled up with this book at some point. I have even curled up with it myself. And despite the fact that I have been reading the Bible for nearly twenty years now, I still learn something new every time I pick up Bible Infographics for Kids: how the disciples all relate to one another! Which disciple took the gospel to which part of the world!
These may not be facts necessary to our understanding of Scripture, but they sure highlight the patterns and context of Scripture in a way that helps me (and, Lord-willing, my kids) better know and love its Author.
When Noah finds a strange pet curled up in a hat at a garage sale, she finds her first pet. Cappy comes home with her through a loop hole in her parents’ “no pet” policy, but quickly becomes larger (and odder) than Noah or her parents anticipated. What guinea pig likes to swim? What dog eats vegetables?
What is Cappy?
This is the question at the heart of Carolyn Leiloglou’s sweet first novel, a skinny book kickstarting a series for new readers. Now is when I should mention that Carolyn is a friend of mine—a wonderful friend and fellow book blogger who is a wealth of writing advice, encouragement, and fabulous book reviews. It’s rare to find a friend who shares your weird hobby (in this case, reading and reviewing kids’ books), but if anything puts two people with the same weird hobby in the same room, it’s the internet.
Yay, the internet.
But I digress. Carolyn’s first book introduces Noah and Cappy and, after some endearing adventures, brings Noah to the point of making a Very Hard Decision. This is the part of the book I loved the best, because it was an ending that felt just right, as though it really couldn’t have ended any other way, and that is the best sort of ending.
I am—affection for the author aside—excited to see what Noah does next. And I am—affection for the author back at center stage—excited to encourage and support an author whose work is worth supporting.
Disclosure: I did receive copy of this book 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 older my kids get, the more Christian biographies I try to squeeze into our bookshelves. Of course I pray that God surrounds our daughters with godly examples—believers who can walk alongside and encourage them, whose steadfastness through trials bolsters their own fledgling faith, and whose love of Scripture is infuses their lives. There is something beautiful about watching the body of the church tend to and cultivate its youngest members.
But there is something powerful, too, about listening to the voices that carry from way back in history—voices that proclaimed God’s excellencies then and, through biographies, still speak to us now. Rachel Yankovic writes about it this way:
When I read about [God’s] tender love and care of His children, I learn more about Him. When I read how He used His children from all over the world for His purposes . . . then I see how our Father loves all His children with such attention and faithfulness. He provides for their every need, answers their prayers when they didn’t believe it was possible, introduces them to each other when they could not have found each other by any other means. When I rejoice in His love for them, I rejoice in His love for me. When I love those He loved, I learn more about who He is.
I want to fill our shelves with these stories and fill our family language with the names of our spiritual ancestors. Everyone a Child Should Know is a beautiful introduction to this sort of story.
Clare Heath-Whyte tells of fifty-two Christians from all across church history, some of their names familiar, some surprising. She touches on the main points of their story, sharing their lives in a way that connects with young readers and fits many stories into a short book. From Augustine to Corrie Ten Book; from Gladys Aylward to Rosa Parks; from Brother Lawrence to William Wilberforce—this is a little book spanning centuries and brimming with the love of God.
First, Fanny Crosby. I herded the smaller members of my team into the library, and found, front and center on the display shelf, a biography of Fanny Crosby. Ordinarily, the Christian books are shelved in a little side aisle, next to the Mythology section. They make brief forays out onto the display shelves around Easter and Christmas, but here was Fanny, shoulder to shoulder with Amelia Earhart in women’s history display.
Then it was Paul. Two weeks later we returned, and there was Paul Writes (a Letter), a book I’d just seen reviewed on Story Warren, eagerly catching my eye from another, bigger, closer-to-the-door display. I snatched it up before I even made sure all my daughters were in the door.
It seems that one of our librarians has excellent taste, and I am determined to find out which one. But in the meantime, I am happily reading and adoring Paul Writes (a Letter), a book that unexpectedly summarizes Paul’s letters while also introducing young readers to Paul’s personality. Rashka illustrates him in ways that so perfectly express his tone in some of his letters: joyful, as he contemplates his dear friends in Ephesus. Rubbing his forehead in exasperation, a glass of wine within reach as he writes to the church in Thessalonica.
Paul Writes (a Letter) invites young readers into a beautiful but—given its lack of story—perhaps less approachable portion of Scripture and shows one artist’s interpretation of the man behind the letters. This book doesn’t exactly follow a story either, but it’s a beautiful introduction to Paul, a faithful servant of God and a powerful instrument in God’s hands.
Paul Writes (a Letter) deserves that spot by the library’s front door and on our own shelves, as a regularly visited friend.
When my daughters want to know why they no longer see a dear friend at church anymore, or how come their great-granddad had to die before they met him, I am profoundly grateful for the Resurrection. You will meet him one day, I say. You will see her again.
This is not fluffy-winged, angel-studded wishful thinking, but a promise: Jesus has gone first, through death and into new life (1 Corinthians 15:20). He died and rose from the dead, and he has made a way for us to follow him. Clothed in resurrected bodies, we will sit at the table with him and feast; we will fill a city with song; we will see our heavenly Father face to face.
We do not know what will happen between now and that moment, and sometimes the not knowing is bitter. But, I tell them, God knows how our stories go, and he will help us bear our burdens. He will shepherd us through those gates.
I am glad for that hope when they sigh heavily or fearfully connect the dot “she died” with “I could die, too.” In those moments, we can look back to Jesus, who died—and yet what beauty came through his death! And we can look back further still to Lazarus, whose story is both a beacon of what Jesus can do, as well as a foretelling of what he would do in himself.
Goodbye to Goodbyes, the newest installment of my absolutely favorite series Tales That Tell the Truth, shares the story of Lazarus and his sisters. Lauren Chandler’s telling is both gentle and honest—Jesus doesn’t swoop on the scene like a superhero and command Lazarus to live amid a cloud of applause and confetti. He takes his time coming to Lazarus, and Chandler lets that sink in: Mary and Martha called for him, and Jesus didn’t come right away. And while he dawdled, Lazarus died.
But when at last Jesus does come, we see why he waited. And in the meantime, we see him grieving with Mary and Martha—Catalina Echeverri’s illustrations (again, among my favorites) capture their grief in a way that feels true to life and yet isn’t overwhelming for young readers. They weep and it’s messy, and the way Jesus holds them—I feel comforted just looking at it.
(In fact, those pictures of Jesus holding tight to them in their grief might be my favorite scenes in the whole book. We cannot see him now, but that reminder that he has arms for holding the hurting and that we will one day see and feel them wrapped around us—that is beautiful. I feel a little sniffly thinking about it.)
I said in my post about The Friend Who Forgivesthat that one was my favorite of the Tales That Tell the Truth because it was the one I’d read most recently. Which means that this one must now be my favorite. And it is.
But I think it might really and truly be my favorite because of the story and the grace with which it’s handled. Giving children a book that addresses both the sorrow of grief and the hope of resurrection—that is beautiful and hard to do, and I am so grateful Lauren Chandler has done it.