Category: Ages 8–11 (page 1 of 28)

Jesus Listens

I suppose every family picks up its own lingo, usually after an adorable toddler misspeaks and her invented word becomes enshrined in the family vernacular. Thus, when something is crooked in our house—a sock, say, or a ponytail—we call it “fonky.” Or when something is of the ordinary, tried-and-true variety, we don’t call it “regular”—we say it’s “reggly.” And so forth. These are the words our daughters will most likely take with them into adulthood, not realizing until they call something “fonky” in public that nobody else’s family says it quite that way.

But it’s funny to think that we’re learning language all the time—not just language, as in The English Language, but all those subtle forms of it. There’s Mom Language, for example, and its various dialects, each particular to the season of motherhood you’re in. These days, I’m pretty fluent in Writing Language, which means that, if you don’t stop me, I could really talk your ear off about the way Stoker employs dramatic irony in Dracula or about Semicolons, The Uses Thereof. When my husband talks Coding with another computer programmer, I definitely need a translator.

Jesus Listens, by Sarah Young | Little Book, Big Story

And there’s no denying it: the church has its own language, too. Sometimes it’s heavy with “thee’s” and “thou’s” or perhaps with talk about the heart—”the Lord put it on my heart,” or “guard your heart,” or “check your heart on that one.” I remember coming into the church at seventeen and putting some serious work into decoding these phrases, which seemed to fly most thickly during prayer time.

Have you noticed that? We seem to slip into our stiffest, most stilted language when we’re praying. Not all of us, all the time, of course. But I sure feel that temptation, and I know I’m not the only one.

Jesus Listens, by Sarah Young | Little Book, Big Story

And that is where Jesus Listens gets it right. This is a devotional for kids, written in first person, that helps guide children into a rich prayer life. In Jesus Listens, Sarah Young somehow strikes a balanced tone: these prayers feel like they’re offered to both to the God of the Universe, who made all things, and to our Heavenly Father, who loves to hear from us right where we are. Neither too casual nor too formal, these prayers are written in the language of childhood—open, honest, and direct. Each one draws heavily from Scripture and closes with a handful of verses for readers to explore.

This book is written as a devotional for kids to use during their own reading, but it also works when read aloud as a family. However you use it, Jesus Listens serves as a beautiful template for prayer. And every time I read one at the lunch table with my daughters I want to sigh happily and say, “That is so good.” I find that it’s teaching me a new language as well, one that encourages me to drop the Official Prayer Language and simply come before God as his child.


Jesus Listens: 365 Prayers for Kids
Sarah Young; Tama Fortner (2022)


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.

Wonderfully June

First of all: yeesh! Sorry I dropped off the map there for a few weeks! Covid finally caught up to our family, and while we all had fairly minor cases, it took a while to make its way through our household, and while it did several things (including blog posts) tumbled off the to-do list. But I’m back, I’m catching up on life, and I’m so glad to be here!


One of the delights of having all daughters is that it’s starkly clear to me how different they all are. We don’t have to account for gender differences; the ways our daughters differ from one another have a little to do with birth order and everything else to do with who they are. And from the time they were babies, we could see it: their demeanor before they could eat solid food is still somehow a part of them today. The one who was a quiet, thoughtful baby? She is still so today, though those qualities have deepened and matured. The one who was an observer, always watching the world around her with one eyebrow raised? That girl misses nothing now—she sees and makes sense of things in a way that’s uniquely her own. The daughter born with a sense of comedic timing, and the one who, from her birth onward, has done things her own way and followed none of her sisters’ footsteps? They’re quite the duo now, let me tell you. (We call them our Bluey and Bingo.)

Wonderfully June, by Sarah Murdock | Little Book, Big Story

There is something wonderful about this, about looking at the four of them and knowing that they are who God made them to be—and that he made them all very differently.

But of course these differences can be hard: some of our daughters fit in with others more readily or have a more immediate sense of what they like to do, while others struggle a bit to find their footing—much like June, in Wonderfully June. This sweet book tells the story of a girl growing up in a large family; her siblings have big personalities and clear giftings. June is shy and quiet and loves to write, but she’s hesitant to share the things she’s working on—she loves and trusts her family, but her writing is deeply personal. Sharing it feels vulnerable.

Wonderfully June, by Sarah Murdock | Little Book, Big Story

But when she makes a new friend, he draws her out and encourages her to let her light shine. This is a story told from a Christian perspective, and I love the portrait of family life it portrays—June struggles to find her place, but she loves her family and knows that they love her. She isn’t rocked by the same questions of identity and value that sometimes surface in some stories like this one. She knows she belongs, even if she isn’t quite sure yet where she fits.

This is the kind of book that makes the quiet kids feel seen, and that gives words to some of those struggles that can feel hard to name. And because it’s told from June’s perspective, we get to see her thoughts and worries in a way that will make more than one reader (and at least one of my daughters) say, “Yes, me too!”


Wonderfully June
Sarah Murdock; Andre Ceolin (2022)


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 Elk King

When I was studying creative writing in college, there was this sort of pall over the subject of publication. “It probably won’t happen to you,” our professors cautioned. If you’re lucky, they said, you may land a story or two in a literary journal—probably a small journal, don’t get your hopes up. They pushed us to write well, and then to write better than that, but when I graduated I still felt a little vague on what was supposed to happen after we’d polished a story until there was no grit to rub off. Should we frame it? Fold it into a paper airplane and hope our aim carried it toward an interested reader?

But now, nearly twenty years later, we live in a world full of online publications, small presses, rogue print magazines, and self-publishing—all of which combine with mainstream publishers to give authors a spectrum of ways to share their stories with readers. I love this. I love that I get to have anything to do with any of it.*

Because this means that authors like Jenn Discher get to tell their stories the way they want to. In the case of The Elk King, Discher’s first book in her Tales of Animalia series, this is an excellent thing. The Elk King follows the story of Prince Draven and his family, as they live through an uncertain time: rumors of treachery and of a mysterious illness affecting the Elk surface, and it begins to seem possible that Draven may inherit the throne earlier than he’d like.

The Elk King, by Jenn Discher | Little Book, Big Story

Discher has published this book with a lot of thoughtfulness and care, which gives the book a hand-crafted, carefully-tended feel to it that I love. And her land of Animalia is a gorgeous place, filled with beautiful landscapes and an assortment of talking animals, each with their own distinctive culture (her footnotes on some of these cultural details are delightful!). Jessica Linn Evans’s illustrations suit the mood of the story so well and help bring the characters to life.

For readers who already love Redwall, The Green Ember, or The Mistmantle Chronicles, reading The Elk King will feel like traveling to a beloved but wholly new place, full of characters well worth your affection. And because this book is the first in a promising series, you can read it with the hope that there is more of Animalia to explore and more to discover about Draven and company.


The Elk King
Jenn Discher (2022)


* In this case, I got to serve as copy editor for The Elk King, which I maintain makes me an extra-qualified reviewer. If I can read a book through three times and come away loving it better, that’s a sure sign it’s a book worth reading and re-reading!

God’s Attributes

That first week the schools closed, a friend sent us a care package filled with hand-cut paper petals and centers—red, yellow, orange, and black pieces that, once assembled, would make paper poppies the size of dessert plates. She thought we might need something fun to do, and she was right.

We put those poppies together, and then wrote two attributes of God on each flower—God is infinite; he is accessible; he is our Father, and so on. The girls had been learning these attributes in school but hadn’t made it all the way through the list before school closed, so we got a copy of the full list from one of their teachers and filled our poppies with these truths.

God's Attributes, by Jill Nelson | Little Book, Big Story

These attributes were a comfort to us during those unpredictable weeks, and they became, in themselves, answers to some of our hardest questions. Would we have what we needed, or would the grocery store shelves be sparse this week? God is faithful. How long would this all go on, and would we all come out safely on the other side? God is sovereign. How could God allow this to happen? God is omniscient—he knows so many things we cannot yet know. He is also wise and patient and merciful.

Jill Nelson’s new book, God’s Attributes, takes a deep and thoughtful look at this list of attributes and offers readings to correspond with each one. God’s Attributes is rich in Scripture and anchored by great discussion questions that encourage kids to imagine and think deeply about the material in each chapter, which makes this a great devotional for families (likes ours) that are reading to kids of all different ages. (The readings may be a little long for the youngest readers, but I think it would work well to—as I plan to—read them over a few different days or even a week and spend longer with each attribute.)

God's Attributes, by Jill Nelson | Little Book, Big Story

For those first few months, our poppies were simply taped to our kitchen wall. But after a while, we found that we wanted to give them a permanent place right there, in the center of our home. We hung a window salvaged from our home remodel over them like a frame and there they still are today—a reminder of who God is, and how untamable he is. Good and wrathful. Merciful and just. Incomprehensible and—always, ever, whatever happens—love.


God’s Attributes
Jill Nelson (2022)


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.

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)