Category: Middle Grade (Ages 8-11) (page 1 of 19)

My Book House | Olive Beaupre Miller

Today’s summer re-run originally appeared in November of 2016.


Our shelves are full of books I believe in. We own adventure stories, where after a few battles and close calls, good triumphs over evil. We own fairy tales, picture books, poetry collections, and a whole lot of Sandra Boynton board books. And books are everywhere in our home: in fact, the only room in our home that doesn’t have a single book in it is our laundry room. Everywhere else has a cache of books tucked into some corner or other.

I tell you this not because I’m in a mood to state the obvious, but because I want to paint a picture of a family who loves books, who reads them often, and who trades favorites on a regular basis. We read a lot—but we’re not very structured about it. I trust that by filling our shelves with great titles, our kids will get a well-rounded literary education.

But, of course, I am the weak link there: they will get a well-rounded education in books that I am familiar with. Books that like.

My Book House | Little Book, Big Story

So when I heard about My Book House, I was intrigued: In 1920, Olive Beaupre Miller, the series editor, chose character-building stories from classic literature, mythology, fairy tales and more, and arranged them in multiple volumes, each one progressively more challenging than the last. The idea was that a family could read straight through the series and provide their children with a rich literary foundation, from nursery rhymes to great historical speeches.

That’s pretty awesome. The series includes things I wouldn’t normally gravitate toward—fables, folk tales, and nursery rhymes, to name a few, as well as things familiar and well-loved. It’s delightful to be drawn outside our box.

My Book House | Little Book, Big Story

But while I was immediately smitten with the idea behind My Book House, it wasn’t until I saw pictures of the books themselves that I decided to take the plunge and order a set. The books are beautiful, and there’s something satisfying about seeing that many good stories huddled together in matching jackets on our shelves.

To clarify: Yes. I bought the books because they’re pretty.

Buying these books is a hefty investment, and I hesitated about whether or not to post them here because I hate to talk you into adding $100 worth of books (however beautiful) to your wishlists unless I’m positive you’ll like them. But the thought that you might see a set at a garage sale and pass it by because you’d never heard of them finally convinced me that I have a duty to share these books with you. So, check thrift stores, garage sales, and eBay (that’s where I found mine)—perhaps you’ll get lucky!

My Book House | Little Book, Big Story
How We Use Our Set

These books have become a part of our home school routine. I read them aloud to the girls, but I also encourage my newly fluent first grader to practice her reading on some of the early volumes.

We have been studying geography this year, so it’s been fun to read some of the stories from other countries. (I will warn you, though, that these books are a little dated in places. Some of the perspectives on race and culture might bring up some interesting discussions with your kids.)

I love digging into them around holidays: my set has a giant index at the end of the last volume, so when a holiday rolls around, it’s fun to rummage through that index and find the stories and poems that relate to each holiday and incorporate those into our reading for the week.

Plus, my girls love them so much that they often pull a volume down and curl up on the couch with it. That’s a hearty endorsement from the intended audience right there.

My Book House | Little Book, Big Story
A Note on Editions

I understand that there are different editions out there and that some of the older ones are a bit better than my 1971 set (read more about that at the link below), but I didn’t know that until after I purchased mine. And I’m kind of glad I didn’t, because the 1971 set is so darn pretty.

My Book House | Little Book, Big Story
One Last Thing

If you would like to know more about either the history of My Book House or how you might use it in your home, Pam Barnhill has an excellent article all about the series on her blog, Ed Snapshots. Read it here.


My Book House
Olive Beaupre Miller (1920)

Wildflowers in General; The Summer Issue in specific

We recently took a vacationa proper vacation, with moving sidewalks and deep-fried Oreos and fireflies and speed boatsand when we came home, the spiders had moved in. The afternoons still felt sticky-hot, but the mornings now feel dewy and chill. We find ourselves reaching for sweaters and slow-cooking stock and we knew, that first morning, that the end was near: summer is packing her things, taking with her the zinnias and the cabbage whites, and fall is settling in for a stay.

Wildflowers Magazine, Summer 2019 | Little Book, Big Story

I am not sorry about thisI love fall. But this “foot in both seasons” moment is a sweet onesummer isn’t fully gone and fall isn’t fully hereand I am savoring it by drinking tea in the morning and eating popsicles in the afternoon. And by re-reading the summer issue of Wildflowers. But not just re-reading it: I got to review the whole magazine for Story Warren, so rather than go on at length about it here, I’ll send you there for the full review.

Wildflowers Magazine, Summer 2019 | Little Book, Big Story

I will add, however, that this summer issue came with a fun, new side project. A group of us (adults and adorable little girls) partnered with Gateway Hymns to record three of Fanny Crosby’s hymns to accompany Jennifer Harris’s biography of Fanny in this summer issue. You can listen to the hymns here and purchase the issue (biography and all) here. With its help you can hold on, just a little bit, to summer before fall settles in for good.

Wildflowers Magazine, Summer 2019 | Little Book, Big Story
My Adventures in Illustration continues! I painted the pictures on the left page to accompany Kendra O’Blenis’s lovely story “The Great Escape.”

The Anne of Green Gables Series | L.M. Montgomery

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.)

Anne of Green Gables (series), by LM Montgomery | Little Book, Big Story

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 of Green Gables (series), by LM Montgomery | Little Book, Big Story
Anne of Green Gables (series), by LM Montgomery | Little Book, Big Story
Sometimes, when it is windy, I need a small assistant

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.

Anne of Green Gables (series), by LM Montgomery | Little Book, Big Story

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.


Anne of Green Gables
L.M. Montgomery (1908)

John Brown | John Hendrix

Today’s summer re-run originally appeared in 2016. But it’s an excellent book, worth sharing twice. I hope you enjoy it!


I knew two things about this book when I grabbed it off the library shelf:

  1. John Brown was a controversial guy whose legacy had something to do with a militia, maybe.
  2. No such controversy surrounds John Hendrix, whose book Miracle Man is one of my favorites, and whose hand-lettered “Hendrix” on this book’s spine compelled me to tuck it in my book bag.

I learned a lot more about both Johns when I got home. John Brown was controversial—I was right about that. As a white abolitionist living when the tide was turning, yet hadn’t fully turned, against slavery, John Brown took up arms and fought to bring slavery to an end. He loved the Lord and saw violence as a way to bring a great grief to an end. His raid on a federal armory in the town of Harper’s Ferry was distastrous and led to his capture and execution.

He is not an obvious hero.

John Brown: His Fight For Freedom, by John Hendrix | Little Book, Big Story

But John Hendrix treats his story well, neither glorifying Brown’s call to violence, nor underplaying Brown’s passion and love for those enslaved. Here was a man who saw injustice and said not, “Somebody should do something about that,” but “Something must be done”—and then did something about it.

John Brown: His Fight For Freedom, by John Hendrix | Little Book, Big Story

I try to keep my daughters’ shelves stocked with stories of heroes—people who trusted the Lord through difficult circumstances, yes, but also figures from history whose stories are worth telling and retelling. John Brown fits almost into both of those categories, but his story is not a clear success and that is, I think, one of its merits. We have to think about this story: Was he right to wage an actual war against slavery? Did he, in the end, accomplish what he set out to do? How was he changed by the events at Harper’s Ferry?

John Brown: His Fight For Freedom, by John Hendrix | Little Book, Big Story

There is no setting this book down and thinking, Well, that was nice. John Hendrix’s words as well as his illustrations push the reader into deeper study, and his author’s note at the end of the book gives an interesting glimpse into what drew him to write about John Brown:

John was a devout believer in Christianity. He used the Bible’s words—that men are loved and valuable to God—as a holy plumb line. When he held this truth up against the crooked world, he knew things should be different. I was astonished to read about John’s belief that black people should not just be free but equal, which was an idea far outside mainstream abolitionism in the antebellum United States. His passion for freedom was undisputed. Frederick Douglass said of John Brown: ‘His zeal in the cause of my race was greater than mine. I could live for the slave, but he could die for him.’

Those are powerful words about a man who, in the end, did just that: he loved and laid down his life for his neighbors.


John Brown: His Fight For Freedom
John Hendrix (2009)

An Incomplete List of Bibles for Kids (Sorted By Age)

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.

An Incomplete List of Bibles for Kids (Sorted by Age) | Little Book, Big Story

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.

But these are our favorite Bibles for kids:

Story Bibles for Readers 5 & Under

Read-Aloud Bible SToriesby Ella K. Lindvall

lindvall-ella-read-aloud-bible-stories-3

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.)

The Jesus Storybook Bible, by Sally Lloyd-Jones

The Jesus Storybook Bible, by Sally Lloyd-Jones | Little Book, Big Story

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.)

The Big Picture Story Bibleby David Helm

The Big Picture Story Bible, by David Helm | Little Book, Big Story

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.)

The Biggest Story, by Kevin DeYoung

The Biggest Story by Kevin DeYoung and Don Clark | Little Book, Big Story

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.)

Story Bibles for Children 5-8

The Gospel Story Bible, by Marty Machowski

The Gospel Story Bible | Little Book, Big Story

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.)

Tomie dePaola’s Book of Bible Stories

Tomie dePaola's Book of Bible Stories | Little Book, Big Story

Tomie DePaola selected stories from the Bible, illustrated them, and arranged them in a way that reads like a story Bible but features the full NIV text for each story. (Read the full review.)

The Jesus Storybook Bibleby Sally Lloyd-Jones

The Jesus Storybook Bible | Little Book, Big Story

Because, honestly, this book is amazing at any age. (Read the full review.)

Full Text Bibles for Children 5-8

ESV Seek and Find Bible

ESV Seek and Find Bible | Little Book, Big Story

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.)

The Big Picture Bible

ESV Big Picture Bible | Little Book, Big Story

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.)

ESV Children’s Bible

The ESV Children’s Bible is classic and simple. Full-text, some illustrations, no frills. Our church keeps this one on hand for kids to read during the service, and it’s a good one.

Resources for Studying the Bible With Kids

Long Story Shortby Marty Machowski

Long Story Short, by Marty Machowski | Little Book, Big Story

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.)

The Ologyby Marty Machowski

A systematic theology for children? Yes, please! Introducing The Ology, by Marty Machowski | Little Book, Big Story

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.)

What’s in the Bible?  (JellyTelly)

What's in the Bible? DVD series | Little Book, Big Story

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.)

What about you? Which Bibles do your kids love?

Bible Infographics for Kids

Important Notice:

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.

The Last Day of School! | Little Book, Big Story

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.

The Last Day of School! | Little Book, Big Story

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 | Little Book, Big Story

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.

Bible Infographics for Kids | Little Book, Big Story

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.

Bible Infographics for Kids | Little Book, Big Story

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!

Bible Infographics for Kids | Little Book, Big Story

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.


Bible Infographics for Kids
Harvest House; Brian Hurst (2018)

The Good Master | Kate Seredy

It has been a while since I reviewed a classic children’s chapter book. And that’s not because I don’t love them—I do. Profusely. But keeping two voracious readers supplied with quality books means I have to pick and choose what I pre-read for them, and I have my methods of pre-reading triage: if a classic book turns up on a trustworthy reading list, I’m pretty comfortable handing it over to the girls without pre-reading it myself, especially if I’m already familiar with the author’s work.

But a new book, no matter which list it turns up on, generally gets a pre-read, because there are lots of things in those new books that need discussing. (There are, of course, lots of things in those old books that need discussing, too, but those tend to be discussions we already have regularly. The topics in new books sometimes catch me off guard. Which is a whole other post, I suppose.)

That all is a preface to this post, which is for a classic book that I pre-read and adored.

The Good Master, by Kate Seredy | Little Book, Big Story

The Good Master is set in Hungary and tells the story of Jancsi and his wild cousin Kate, whose father sends her from the city to live with Jancsi’s family. Kate is untamed, wild with a sort of energy that wears me out as I read, but Jancsi’s father slowly, patiently gentles her.

Kate Seredy (Kate the author, not the cousin) shows the progression of their relationship, from unstable to steady and flourishing, abounding with trust, and it is that progression that made me love The Good Master. But she also depicts life in a small, pre-war Hungarian village so beautifully, perhaps because she herself was born in Hungary before immigrating to the United States.

The Good Master and The Singing Tree, by Kate Seredy | Little Book, Big Story

(Additional interesting facts: Kate Seredy wrote her books in English, her second language. She also illustrated them herself, so there’s a depth and richness to her work that is hard to place but might have something to do with that.)

Footnote

The sequel to The Good Master, The Singing Tree, follows Jancsi’s family and village through WWI. I loved sharing this one with Lydia, because while everything else we read about the World Wars was told from the Allied perspective, The Singing Tree shared the perspective of one small village caught up on the Axis side of this global conflict.

The Singing Tree, by Kate Seredy | Little Book, Big Story

If The Good Master depicts ordinary hospitality—as Jancsi’s family invites Kate into both the blessings and boundaries of their home—The Singing Tree depicts hospitality under duress. Jancsi’s family expands in a beautiful way throughout the course of a terrible war.


The Good Master
Kate Seredy (1935)