Category: Lent, Easter (page 1 of 4)

Jesus is Risen | Agostino Traini

One of the difficulties of telling the Easter story to young readers is the fact that the main character, the Creator of the Universe, dies right in the middle. The story doesn’t end there (praise the Lord!), but that is still a dark moment. Authors might soften it by moving Jesus’ death and all the horror of it off stage, but no author can remove it entirely without crippling the story. They shouldn’t.

Jesus is Risen!, by Agostino Traini | Little Book, Big Story

Agostino Traini (author of The Life of Martin Luther) handles this conundrum thoughtfully and begins Jesus is Risen three days after Jesus’ death. Rather than take readers through Jesus’ life or through the timeline of Holy Week, Traini tells the story of the Resurrection itself, from Easter morning to the arrival of the Holy Spirit.

These passages sometimes read, to me, like an epilogue at the end of the gospels (or like a preface to the book of Acts), so I love reading a book that focuses solely on Jesus resurrected. We get to see the disciples’ bewilderment and Jesus’ kindness as he answers their questions, lets them examine him, and cooks them breakfast.

Jesus is Risen!, by Agostino Traini | Little Book, Big Story

Jesus is Risen would be a beautiful book to read on Easter morning. It is all joy and delight (with pop-ups!), perfect for sharing over Easter breakfast or, if you roll the way we do, early-morning cookies. (You know it’s a true feast day when it starts with cookies.)

Jesus is Risen!, by Agostino Traini | Little Book, Big Story

And to all of you: Happy Easter! He is risen!


Jesus is Risen
Agostino Traini (2018)

A Very Happy Easter | Tim Thornborough

Exaggerated eyebrows! Dropped jaws! I sometimes miss the depth of emotion in Scripture or the strength with which people respond to Jesus, but a good illustrated Bible story doesn’t bury those feelings. Rather, it lets us see what it looks like to respond to some of the bewildering, awe-inspiring, terrifying events of Scripture the way a human being would
—with feeling.

A Very Happy Easter, by Tim Thornborough | Little Book, Big Story

A Very Happy Easter takes this one step further and incorporates those feelings right into the text. Where Tim Thornborough’s excellent Christmas book, A Very Noisy Christmas, invited readers to respond to the story of Jesus’ birth with sound and celebration, A Very Happy Easter invites readers into the story through expression:

In most books there is work for your eyes and ears. You look at the pictures, and listen to the words. But in this book, there is work for your face too!

A Very Happy Easter, by Tim Thornborough | Little Book, Big Story

Every time readers see a character react to something in the story, we get to respond by mimicking the expression of the characters. Are they astonished? Let us be astonished too! Are they confused or disbelieving? Well, then, so are we. Startled? Afraid? Amazed? Us too!

A Very Happy Easter, by Tim Thornborough | Little Book, Big Story

This is a great way to engage younger readers, but I have a hunch that my older girls—with some initial eye-rolling, perhaps—will get into it, too. And anything that puts our feet on the ground of the Easter story is a welcome addition to our library.


A Very Happy Easter
Tim Thornborough; Jennifer Davison (2019)


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.

The Giant Easter Book List!

Last year, I struggled to find good Easter books to review for you and share with my family. My plight was so dire I resorted to making an “Easter” book list of books that aren’t exactly about Easter. But this year I am delighted to report that I have a handful of wonderful Easter books to share with you, many of them recent releases!

This gives me great hope for mankind.

Easter is one of Christianity’s biggest holidays. And though I know it involves betrayal, execution, and very few cute barnyard animals, it also tells the story of the key event in our faith—the one without which we have no hope of redemption at all (1 Corinthians 15:13-17). The fact that I could find only a handful of books that told that story faithfully and skillfully prompted at least one rant from me per year.

But now! Authors and publishers are stepping into that gap and bringing us creative, gospel-rich new Easter books, and that brings me a great deal of joy. I cannot wait to share them with you.

The Giant Easter Book List | Little Book, Big Story

Before I do, though, I decided to gather up all the Easter titles I have previously reviewed and drop them right here in a pile. I added the new titles to the list as well so you can get a jump on reading and loving them.

Now. Let’s find some new favorites!

Stories of Jesus’ Death & Resurrection

Easter, by Jan Pienkowski
Easter, by Fiona French
Petook, by Caryll Houselander
The Donkey Who Carried a King, by R.C. Sproul
Peter’s First Easter, by Walter Wangerin, Jr.
Jesus is Risen!, by Agostino Traini
On That Easter Morning, by Mary Joslin
A Very Happy Easter, by Tim Thornborough
The Easter Story, by Katherine Sully
The Easter Story, by Brian Wildsmith

The Story of Easter, by Aileen Fisher

Great Books About Easter

The Story of Easter, by Aileen Fisher
What is Easter?, by Michelle Medlock Adams
God Gave Us Easter, by Lisa Tawn Bergren
Holy Week, by Danielle Hitchen
At Jerusalem’s Gate: Poems of Easter, by Nikki Grimes
Michael Hague’s Family Easter Treasury

Books That Tell the Big Story of Easter | Little Book, Big Story

Books That aren’t exactly About Easter . . . but That Are Still Pretty Awesome

The Light of the World, by Katherine Paterson
The World Jesus Knew, by Marc Olson
The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross, by Carl Laferton
Goodbye to Goodbyes, by Lauren Chandler
The Biggest Story, by Kevin DeYoung
The Biggest Story ABC, by Kevin DeYoung
Loved, by Sally Lloyd-Jones

Family Devotionals for Easter

Mission Accomplished, by Scott James

Beautiful Devotionals for Lent | Little Book, Big Story

Lent Reading for You

Comforts from the Cross, by Elyse Fitzpatrick
Valley of Vision
Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die, by John Piper
Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross, ed. Nancy Guthrie
Jesus the King, by Timothy Keller


What about you? What are your favorite Easter books?

Goodbye to Goodbyes | Lauren Chandler

How do you talk to a child about death?

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.

Goodbye to Goodbyes, by Lauren Chandler | Little Book, Big Story

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.

Goodbye to Goodbyes, by Lauren Chandler | Little Book, Big Story

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.)

Goodbye to Goodbyes, by Lauren Chandler | Little Book, Big Story

I said in my post about The Friend Who Forgives that 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.

Goodbye to Goodbyes, by Lauren Chandler | Little Book, Big Story

Goodbye to Goodbyes: A True Story About Lazarus and an Empty Tomb
Lauren Chandler; Catalina Echeverri (2019)

On That Easter Morning | Mary Joslin

“Christians are strange people,” our pastor announced on Sunday.

So true, I laughed. We really are.

“Christians gather to celebrate the death of their leader. We rejoice in it!”

We’re totally weird.

But that is the backward logic of the gospel: The path to freedom runs through sacrifice. The way to strength lies through weakness.

And the path of life begins with death. Jesus died so we could set foot on that path—he is our way in. But we also die as we walk that path, both spiritually (as God prunes from us our old desires, clearing space for new growth) and physically (the only way to resurrection is through death).

On That Easter Morning, by Mary Joslin (review) | Little Book, Big Story

That is all backward, opposite what we want and what our broken world praises. We crave strength and success, and he calls for surrender. We demand rights and recognition, and he models humility. The Jewish people, anticipating the Messiah, longed for a King, a Leader who would drive the Romans out of Israel and restore the kingdom—but God sent a baby. A carpenter’s son, who grew into a man gentle and tender to those hurting, and fiery toward the prideful, the hypocrites.

This man was poised to claim his throne, wasn’t he? He rode into Jerusalem, fulfilling prophecies, welcomed by the praises of his people. Freedom was close; strength stood in their midst. When would he strike, some of his followers wondered. When would he claim what was his?

But instead, Christ was betrayed, arrested, tried and convicted. Crucified.

What devastation.

Yet that is what we celebrate today (that, and Josie’s second birthday—more on that later). We are a strange people. Jesus failed to take Jerusalem, failed to rescue his people from the Roman regime, failed to lead them boldly into a new, victorious era as free citizens.

On That Easter Morning, by Mary Joslin (review) | Little Book, Big Story

But his goal was not only the salvation of the Israelites. He did not die and remain buried; he did not decay, dissolving back into the earth, leaving only stories behind. His aim was the salvation of all who come to him: Israelites and Gentiles, as well as the generations upon generations who have been born and died since that first century. His death was not unexpected. It was not an aberration in the plan. It was the plan.

He did not fail.

We—we strange Christians—observe Good Friday today. We celebrate the death of our King, and we remember our role in it—the sins that pinned him to the Cross, and the ways we have cried out against him, desiring his death rather than recognizing our own guilt.

On That Easter Morning, by Mary Joslin (review) | Little Book, Big Story

But on Sunday, we’ll wake early. We’ll open the oven and feast on Resurrection cookies; we will share new books (like today’s book, which I’ll mention soon, I promise). We will sing “Who Will Roll Away the Stone?” at home and at church, we will sing “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” which such momentum, such volume, such joy.

But not today. Today we sing “Were You There?” We sing “What Have We Done?” We remember and we mourn.

We are strange people.


On That Easter Morning, by Mary Joslin (review) | Little Book, Big Story

On That Easter Morning is beautiful! The palette is all sunrise colors and delicate, transparent watercolors, with shimmering details. Mary Joslin’s text, drawn from different translations of the Bible and faithful to the story, is lovely. It is also (alas! I just realized this!) out of print, so a personal copy may be hard to come by. But our library carries it—perhaps yours does, too? Or maybe you’ll find it in thrift stores or on Thrift Books. If so, it is a beautiful book worth sharing early on Easter morning.


Also, Josie’s birthday! She’s two today, and chatty and quirky and hilarious. And we love her like crazy.

Family Photo | Little Book, Big Story

Our Good Friday is going to be all joy as we descend upon the children’s museum, eat biscuits and gravy and smoothies for dinner (her favorites) and cupcakes for dessert, and then go to the church after the party, all somber. It’s a day as eclectic and disjointed as this post.


On That Easter Morning
Mary Joslin; Helen Cann (2006)

The Easter Story | Katherine Sully

When people ask about having four kids and I hear that panicked pitch to their voice—that “how do you do it?” pitch—they mean “How do you keep track of them all without leaving someone at the grocery store” or “How do you live with the noise and four kids’ worth of pink laundry?” But those really aren’t the issue for me. Yes, I sometimes panic, thinking I’ve left someone back by the banana display, and I have quit—I can use “literal” here in the literal sense—I have literally quit folding laundry. (We all just sort it and stuff it in drawers.)

The biggest challenge I face on a daily basis, as a mom to kids aged 1-9 is the whiplash that comes from helping a thoughtful nine-year-old think through her problem and talk about it and maybe cry a little, and then wrestling a toddler into tights because she won’t leave her socks on. I emerge from that battle sweaty and victorious to find the four-year-old launching onto the bed belly first, but before I can remind her that belly flops are forbidden and suggest that perhaps her energy might be better spent outdoors, the seven-year-old comes to me sorrowful because her favorite character in her book has just died.

Whiplash.

The Easter Story, by Katherine Sully (review) | Little Book, Big Story

Meeting the needs of different daughters, remembering that the seven-year-old won’t see things the way the nine-year-old does and that there is no reasoning with a toddler—that is my challenge. This makes family reading a tricky affair, too, because I love the idea of us all cozied up around the same book, but it’s hard to choose a book that will satisfy everyone. Our school books and family read-alouds tend to favor the older girls, so lucky Phoebe gets folded up into whatever we’re reading with Lydia and Sarah. This is true for Easter books, too.

And that is good. When it comes to choosing read-alouds, I like to round up. But lately, I’ve been trying to find books that are just right for Phoebe. (Sandra Boynton’s books are always just right for Josie, so that doesn’t take much thought yet.) That is why we’ve begun reading Brambly Hedge together, and why I take a minute in the morning, with the towel still on my hair, to read Everything a Child Should Know About God to Phoebe.  I want her to hear, sometimes, things read just for her.

The Easter Story, by Katherine Sully (review) | Little Book, Big Story

And that brings me, at last, to Katherine Sully’s book The Easter Story. The story of Easter doesn’t lend itself to cute, cuddly picture books. It can be done—it has been done beautifully—but the story centers around crucifixion and violence, done not to the bad guy but to the hero, and that is hard to explain to young readers. But Sully recounts the story’s events simply and faithfully, as the lines of Simona Sanfilippo’s watercolor illustrations sweep across the pages—the figures seem to be in constant motion. Sully doesn’t offer much commentary, but just tells the story like it’s one worth listening to—like it’s one worth knowing well.

The Easter Story, by Katherine Sully (review) | Little Book, Big Story

The Easter Story is a simple, but not too simple, retelling of Jesus’s death and resurrection that draws young readers in, gives them much to ponder, and much to point to. For the few moments I spend reading this with Phoebe, I suffer no whiplash, but sit still with her. We are right where we need to be.


The Easter Story
Katherine Sully; Simona Sanfilippo (2014)

The World Jesus Knew | Marc Olson

Years ago, a friend invited us to Passover seder, a cozy one hosted by friends of his. This was early in our marriage, before kids, and we squeezed into this small apartment with our friend and a half-dozen strangers. We passed plates and glasses of wine and lounged, ancient Israelite-style, around the table on cushions.

The couple hosting led us through the Haggadah, and while the Hebrew was a mystery to me, lovely and impenetrable, the symbolism of each dish on the seder plate wasn’t: one by one, the readings illuminated them, showed us both how they remembered the Exodus and how they anticipated the Messiah who would come and fulfill each prophecy. And, they explained, he had come. He had fulfilled them all.

I had one of those moments, in my corner around the table, as I dipped parsley in salted water and touched it to my tongue, when the window was open and the tree outside stirred in the darkness and I thought, The Jewish people have observed this for centuries, remembering the Exodus. They have waited this long for the Messiah. And I thought, too, The Last Supper looked like this. As we broke bread and served wine, communion changed irrevocably for me as I realized that Jesus wasn’t instituting something new as he passed the cup to his disciples, but fulfilling something ancient—a promise made centuries before.

The World Jesus Knew, by Marc Olson | Little Book, Big Story

History became, in that moment, three-dimensional for me. I saw Jesus in this new context and understood that everything he did and said, the stories he told, carried particular meaning to the shepherds, priests, and prostitutes around him—meaning that is occasionally lost on me, given my unfamiliarity with sheep, mustard seeds, and the grape harvest. And yet: those words still carry enough fire to spark transformation in the heart of a new wife standing in a stairwell, watching friends open the door for the coming Elijah and rejoicing that he has already come.

This seems like a big lesson for kids to take in, but Marc Olson has written a book that takes some awfully long steps in that direction. The World Jesus Knew is a picture book filled with details about first century Jerusalem—what the Israelites and Romans wore, what they ate, how they interacted. A book like this could be dry or overwhelming, but this one isn’t: Jem Maybank’s illustrations arrange that information well, making it easy to follow and fun to explore, and Marc Olson describes these things with energy and wit.

The World Jesus Knew, by Marc Olson | Little Book, Big Story

I know I can’t fabricate those moments of realization for my kids, the ones that open history wide for them so they see that other people, other fascinating people, really lived in this world, though in very different ways than we do now. But I can do my best to give them opportunities to see it. Books like this help a great deal.


The World Jesus Knew
Marc Olson; Jem Maybank (2017)