Category: Toddler (Ages 0-3) (page 1 of 9)

He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands | Kadir Nelson

A few weeks ago I stopped by the garden section of a favorite grocery store to visit with the plants. They flaunted spring finery and iambic names—columbine, stonecrop, a fluffy young thing called asparagus fern. Overhead played that ubiquitous shopping music, something by JLo maybe. I wouldn’t have noticed the music at all if two things hadn’t happened at once:

1. A song came on with a tolerable dance beat.

2. An old woman paused as she shuffled past me with her grocery cart. She got a good grip on the cart’s handle. And then she began to dance.

He's Got the Whole World in His Hands, by Kadir Nelson | Little Book, Big Story

She swayed happily back and forth the way my baby does when she hears a catchy tune, bobbing her head and closing her eyes in a moment of complete contentment. When the song ended and the old woman caught me beaming at her, she grinned and shrugged. “If they don’t want us to dance, then they shouldn’t play music with such a nice beat,” she said.

Amen.

That story has nothing to do with today’s review, nothing at all. But it was too lovely not to share.

He's Got the Whole World in His Hands, by Kadir Nelson | Little Book, Big Story

Today’s review has to do with a book whose text is simple—the lyrics from the old spiritual, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” The illustrations seem simple—light-soaked paintings that follow one boy as he explores what each line means for his life, his family. But that pairing of a traditional hymn born within the horrific fist of slavery with the wonder one child turns upon the world around him makes He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands a rich and beautiful book.

He's Got the Whole World in His Hands, by Kadir Nelson | Little Book, Big Story

I would not, of course, expect every kid to make the connection between the old and new here. But even without an underlying knowledge of the song’s roots, this is a book worth sharing, as it takes a familiar song and makes it a visible story, one rooted in hope and joy. Nelson’s paintings invite us warmly into the life of the main character. He introduces us to his family, shows us his interests, allows us to tag along as he visits the beach and studies the stars. He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands manages to be both weighty and feather-light; both broad and sweetly specific.

And it’s hard to read without singing.

He's Got the Whole World in His Hands, by Kadir Nelson | Little Book, Big Story


He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands
Kadir Nelson (2005)

Love is Patient, Love is Kind | Naoko Stoop

And just like that, she turned one.

Josephine, who yesterday was swaddled like a fleece burrito and cuddled into the crook of my arm, who chuckled in her sleep and spent her days with me in the corner of our bedroom, where we’d tucked the glider and a stash of books and chocolate—she turned one.

Josephine | Little Book, Big Story

I used to think that at some point, my children’s birthdays would grow less shocking. But they haven’t. Every one catches me off guard: I look at the baby who is clearly a one-year-old now and I do the math and I know that a year has passed. She army crawls around the room, adores her sisters, and hasn’t spent a day napping in my arms in months, but I’m still bewildered. I make plans for her birthday and still I wonder: When did that happen?

(I anticipate a similar sense of befuddlement in May, when Lydia turns nine. Nine. The single digits! Where are they going!)

Love is Patient, Love is Kind, by Naoko Stoop (review) | Little Book, Big Story

I think, though, that that confusion is part of what I love about celebrating my daughters’ birthdays. For a moment, I am brought up sharp and reminded that time is passing, and what seems like an repeated loop of breakfast, lunch, dinner, sleep is a loop that rolls us steadily forward. This is a season to be savored because it will not last, and because we move through it closer to the day when Jesus returns.

Love is Patient, Love is Kind, by Naoko Stoop (review) | Little Book, Big Story

Another thing I love about their birthdays: buying them books. My quest for a book that suits them right now, at this particular birthday, but that will also grow with them over the course of the coming year, is one I delight in. I start months before their birthday, checking books out potential candidates from the library, reading Amazon reviews, weighing the pros and cons of this board book over that one, before I land on what seems like the perfect birthday book.

Love is Patient, Love is Kind, by Naoko Stoop (review) | Little Book, Big Story

For Josie, that perfect birthday book is Love is Patient, Love is Kind, a sweet rendering of that passage in 1 Corinthians 13—you know the one. We so often hear it quoted at weddings, but it’s a beautiful picture of life in the body of the church that translates readily to life in the heart of a family, as the youngest of four sisters. Naoko Stoop’s illustrations are charming, and the board book format makes it a just-right first birthday book for our littlest daughter.

Josephine | Little Book, Big Story

Because, really: One? When did that happen?


Love is Patient, Love is Kind
Naoko Stoop (2017)

Found | Sally Lloyd-Jones

This review might seem a little redundant. I did just write about another Sally Lloyd-Jones book, after all, and I reviewed a book about Psalm 23 not long ago. I even went on about books on Psalm 23 in that post, saying that they were nice and all, but that not many were worth sharing.

But the next month Sally Lloyd-Jones and Jago released a book on Psalm 23, and of course it’s worth sharing.

Found, by Sally Lloyd-Jones | Little Book, Big Story

Found is a bigger-than-usual board book that pairs the text from The Jesus Storybook Bibles Psalm 23 with Jago’s illustrations of a shepherd and his sheep. Of course, that’s the approach that I ultimately shrugged my shoulders at in my January post, but Jago’s interpretation is anything but bland. His shepherd is tender with his sheep in a way that seems just right for a book aimed at the littlest readers.

Found, by Sally Lloyd-Jones | Little Book, Big Story

An aside: I love Jago’s illustrations in The Jesus Storybook Bible. But his newer work is amazing—take a look at his Etsy shop and you’ll see what I mean. This book, like Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing, is done in that newer style, and I love it.

Found, by Sally Lloyd-Jones | Little Book, Big Story

So, once again, Sally Lloyd-Jones and Jago, the super group we know and love, have illuminated a well-worn passage of Scripture in both word and image. I tucked this beauty away and will give it, I think, to Phoebe for Easter, because it’s just perfect for giving to little people for Easter. What will you do with your copy? (Because you’re buying this right now, aren’t you?)


Found
Sally Lloyd-Jones, Jago (2017)

The Lord’s Prayer | Tim Ladwig

There comes a time in every book reviewer’s life (I assume) when the book titles trickle in slowly. Sometimes, they arrive in a rush of books so beautiful that I’m left with a full and happy editorial calendar—those are the good days. But sometimes, I’m left trawling through that vague “Religion” section at the library or clicking thumbnails on Amazon almost at random, hoping there’s a new book out by a favorite author or something worth sharing with you.

I’m in that place now: there are a number of new books coming out this spring (by Jennifer Trafton! And Douglas Kaine McKelvey!), but they’re not here yet. And I have a number of books on hold at the library, but I’m not holding them yet. And so I went book-hunting on Amazon and—success!—found The Lord’s Prayer.

The Lord's Prayer, by Tim Ladwig | Little Book, Big Story

I have reviewed a number of Tim Ladwig’s books, and I know by now that his illustrations don’t sit quietly in the background, behaving nicely while the text tells the story. No, they spring from the mind of a storyteller: as the text tells its story in print, Ladwig tells his in pictures, harmonizing with the written word and illuminating the humor, heartbreak, or joy in each sentence.

The Lord's Prayer, by Tim Ladwig | Little Book, Big Story

The Lord’s Prayer is no exception: many of us have heard it recited plenty (our church says it aloud together every Sunday), and so I imagine it’s challenging to find a way to illustrate such familiar words. But by centering his illustrations around a father and daughter who set out to serve an old woman, Ladwig shows how each line of the prayer can be lived out in practice. A whole story unfolds behind Jesus’s words, and it draws them out of the realm of rote repetition and holds them close enough for us to see what it looks like to ask God for “our daily bread,” or to “deliver us from evil.”

The Lord's Prayer, by Tim Ladwig | Little Book, Big Story

This book quickly became a favorite among our girls. We had fun finding details in the illustrations and talking them through together (“What is she doing? Why do you think he did that?”). But Ladwig’s strength, really, lies in his characters’ faces—he gets those expressions just right, and that brings his paintings to life. A gentle look passed between father and daughter, or the grateful smile of an old woman convey as much or maybe more than plain text could.


The Lord’s Prayer
Tim Ladwig (2002)

Skip to the Loo, My Darling! | Sally Lloyd-Jones

Our first two daughters ate homemade baby food. They experienced story time at the local library and were both potty-trained by the time they were two.

They did not, however, have sisters big enough to tote them around, sing them beautiful nonsense songs, and read them board books from the moment they were born. They did not have a mom who had learned some things the hard way and lightened up a bit.

Skip to the Loo, My Darling!, by Sally Lloyd-Jones | Little Book, Big Story

So, I suppose it works out for everyone, right? But I do miss that “potty-trained by the time they were two” bit. Potty-training in the more usual way, it turns out, is just as much work as practicing EC with a baby, except that babies are pretty chill about the whole thing and toddlers bring a little more sass (and mobility) to the endeavor. There have been days when Mitch and I sorely needed someone to help us laugh about it.

I ordered Skip to the Loo, My Darling! on a day when potty-training morale was particularly low—”We will be doing this for years to come” low—thinking that, if anyone could write a potty book that would make us laugh at ourselves while also, fingers crossed, make the potty seem slightly more appealing to our reluctant pupil, it would be Sally Lloyd-Jones.

It was Sally Lloyd-Jones.

Skip to the Loo, My Darling!, by Sally Lloyd-Jones | Little Book, Big Story

Her playful rhythm and just-right rhymes had both Phoebe and me in giggles by the end of the book. Skip to the Loo, My Darling! became Phoebe’s favorite for days, and none of us (big sisters included) grew tired of reading it to her or exploring Anita Jeram’s delightful illustrations. Phoebe took it to bed with her at night and slung it into our laps first thing in the morning.

She also, fingers crossed, made great strides in potty-training shortly afterward. I like to think that a certain skipping bunny had something to do with that.


Skip to the Loo
Sally Lloyd-Jones, Anita Jeram (2016)

Look and Be Grateful | Tomie dePaola

When you’re growing your first baby, people are quick to tell you how that baby will change your life. They know; you don’t. So they feel free to share. One of the things strangers were most eager to tell me, in a doom-and-gloom, beginning of the end sort of way, was that I would never sleep again. Never. Which I knew was an exaggeration, but still: I like sleep. I’m not a night owl, I’ve (thankfully) never struggled to sleep. My eight hours have always been there, more or less waiting for me, as long as I got in bed in a timely manner and claimed them.

But then I had my first baby and realized that, when the childbirth class teacher said that babies need to eat every two hours of so, she failed to mention (or I failed to hear) that I may or may not get fifteen to thirty minutes of sleep myself between feedings. “Never” was an overstatement, but when I was in those first days of my first baby’s life, it didn’t feel that way: as I snuggled the child whose dark curls struck me with awe even as she hauled me out of sleep again and again, I thought (as much as I could think anything then), “My word. They were right. I’ll never sleep again.”

Look and Be Grateful, by Tomie dePaola | Little Book, Big Story

 

When I was expecting my fourth baby, though, folks were not quite as quick with the ominous warnings. I think they assumed that I knew what I was getting myself into, which was fair, but here’s the funny thing: we seasoned parents, we parents of multiple children, who have done this many times before, are surprisingly quick to forget what having a baby is like when we don’t actually have one. As the babies become toddlers, we forget about waking every few hours to cuddle, rock, pat, and shush. We forget what it’s like having an infant.

And then we have one, and we remember.

Look and Be Grateful, by Tomie dePaola | Little Book, Big Story

Having a baby is glorious in so many ways. I’m one of those obnoxious people now who revels in it, who likes the smell of my baby’s neck and who gets all starry-eyed every single time she sneezes, and who turns to mush in the presence of a friend’s newborn. I never thought I’d see the day—me, the one who had never changed a diaper until I had my first child and who babysat only when my mother made me do it—but there it is. I love babies.

I even love teething babies, which is fortunate, because I have one of those now. Growing teeth is hard work, and hard work, when you’re a baby, calls for mom-snuggles in the wee hours. But because I usually like to sleep during the wee hours, I find myself sleeping now in the less-wee hours. And that is when I usually write.

So that’s why this post is mostly about sleeping and not sleeping. I’m trying to tell you about Tomie dePaola’s beautiful book Look and Be Grateful, but all that’s coming out is paragraph after paragraph of nonsense, all of which could be summed up in four words: “People, I am tired.”

Look and Be Grateful, by Tomie dePaola | Little Book, Big Story

It is fitting, then, that this week I’m reviewing a book on gratitude—a very short, simply worded book on gratitude. Of dePaola’s many books, this one reminds me most of Let the Whole Earth Sing Praise: the gentle illustrations, the carefully curated text, and the small format make this book, too, one that is clearly meant to be held and savored by the littlest readers.

Open your eyes,
and look.
Open your eyes,
and see,
and say thank you

This is a quiet meditation of a book that does my soul good, even as I read it to Phoebe before her nap, even as I fight to stay awake while I read it to Phoebe before her nap. It is a book that I love sharing with all of my daughters, big and small, because I want gratitude and wonder and thanksgiving to saturate our days as a family. I want to take that gratitude and wonder with me, too, into the wee hours, when I wake with the baby again, but can still marvel at her dimpled hands as she nurses, can still wonder at the weight of her and the way we were meant to fit together. I can remember:

Today is a day, and it is a gift.
So, be grateful.

Look and Be Grateful, by Tomie dePaola | Little Book, Big Story

On that note

I’m taking next week off. All that baby-snuggling means I’ve had little time to write and little brainpower with which to string words together and no time to take photos of anything (except the baby, of course), so I’m going to give myself a week of grace to catch up on sleep and blog posts. I have a bunch of good books to share with you, though, so I’m excited to get back to work!


Look and Be Grateful
Tomie dePaola (2015)

Psalm 23 | Barry Moser

Of all the psalms, this one feels most familiar. This is the one I recite to myself when I can’t fall asleep, the one I’ve taught my daughters to recite to themselves when they can’t fall asleep, the one whose images are comforting in an unfluffy way: David talks about The Valley of Death, after all, so this psalm is assurance for very real suffering.

There are a number of good picture book versions of this psalm out there, but none that have made it onto this blog yet. I don’t know exactly why that is, but until now, I returned every one to the library without feeling the need to review it. Barry Moser’s version is different.

Psalm 23, by Barry Moser | Little Book, Big Story

By following a shepherd boy through his day’s work, Moser takes a fairly standard approach to illustrating this psalm, but instead of featuring a Sunday-school David in short bathrobe and sandals, Moser models his shepherd on a young Caribbean boy. Moser’s shepherd wears modern day clothes, squints into the sun, and tends his sheep gently as the text of the psalm follows him from scene to scene.

The Lord is my shepherd
I shall not want.

Putting these familiar words into a fresh setting made me listen closely as I read them to my daughters. It reminded me that the Lord is my shepherd, yes, but he is also their Shepherd. And your Shepherd. And the shepherd of the shepherds tending flocks near the equator. His gentle hand guides and comforts me in trial, but his reach extends even to islands in the Pacific, where the trees are laden not with prickly evergreen boughs but with slender palm leaves. His reach extends further even than that.

Psalm 23, by Barry Moser | Little Book, Big Story

The comfort of Psalm 23 runs deeper, then, when I realize that, though the flock of sheep he tends is vast, our Shepherd cares for us all. He knows not only my name, but yours too, and that of the boy Moser modeled his shepherd on.

That is, I think, why Moser’s Psalm 23 connected with me more deeply than any of the other versions I’ve read. His illustrations are light-filled and beautiful, and they present Psalm 23 as a psalm for all of us, no matter where we live or what we look like. He illuminates the goodness of our Shepherd through the picture of one faithful young boy.

Psalm 23, by Barry Moser | Little Book, Big Story

Speaking of Psalm 23 . . .

Did you hear that Sally Lloyd-Jones and Jago are working on a version as well? A happy dance here is perfectly appropriate.


Psalm 23
Barry Moser (2008)