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The Biggest Story ABC | Kevin DeYoung

What I loved best about Kevin DeYoung’s book The Biggest Story was the way he distilled the grand narrative of Scripture down into a straightforward, engaging book for children. I was impressed. Funneling a vast story like that into the uncluttered language of childhood (without dumbing it down) is a challenge, and DeYoung succeeded admirably.

With his new book, The Biggest Story ABC, DeYoung distills the gospel down even further and writes a remarkably coherent explanation of it for toddlers, using the letters of the alphabet as guideposts for the story.

The Biggest Story & The Biggest Story ABC, by Kevin DeYoung | Little Book, Big Story

This approach seemed a little too cute to me at first, but not so cute that I didn’t pre-order it the moment I saw it listed on Amazon. But when I finally read it, I was shocked—shocked, I tell you!—at how beautifully the gospel does fit into an alphabetized book. Even the plagues are neatly alphabetical (Egypt, flies, gnats, hail):

The Biggest Story ABC, by Kevin DeYoung | Little Book, Big Story

as are portions of Israel’s history (judges, kings, law, Messiah):

The Biggest Story ABC, by Kevin DeYoung | Little Book, Big Story

And the way DeYoung describes concepts like substitution and atonement is truly beautiful. Don Clark illustrates these concepts richly, opening visual doors in them so we can behold their beauty in a new way.

The Biggest Story ABC, by Kevin DeYoung | Little Book, Big Story

I set The Biggest Story ABC aside as a Christmas gift for Phoebe, and that seems a painfully long time to wait to share it with her. I can’t wait to read it through together and hear what conversation stems from this story—our story. The one we are never to young—and never too old—to hear.

The Biggest Story ABC, by Kevin DeYoung | Little Book, Big Story


The Biggest Story ABC
Kevin DeYoung, Don Clark (2017)

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John Ronald’s Dragons | Caroline McAlister

Announcement!

The hyper-observant among you (I am decidedly not one of these, my husband will assure you) may have noticed that the “Bookshop” link is no longer available in the menu up there. Alas! Amazon no longer supports the store feature, so I had to retire it. The Book List is still there, though, so if you want a flyover view of my favorite titles, that’s the place to look.

That is all.


There are those who like to know the story behind their favorite stories, and there are those who don’t. Lydia is one of the latter. Biographies of her favorite authors, interviews or seminars—when offered, she turns them down with a polite “No, thank you.” She maintains that she likes the stories the way they are, without bothering with the shadows and scaffolds behind them.

But I am one of the former. I watched all of the extras on the Lord of the Rings DVDs. I read interviews with favorite authors, as well as prefaces, introductions, afterwords, and author’s notes. Those “in progress” videos my favorite illustrators post to Instagram are among my life’s simple pleasures.

John Ronald's Dragons, by Caroline McAlister | Little Book, Big Story

And so books like John Ronald’s Dragons: The Story of J.R.R. Tolkien, which tell the life of a beloved author in words and pictures, are just my cup of tea. But this one, with its well-told story and endearing illustrations, suited Lydia, too. McAlister follows JRR Tolkien from childhood until the creation of The Hobbit, using Tolkien’s lifelong love of dragons to shape a story that deals gently but honestly with childhood, loss, war, and love.

John Ronald's Dragons, by Caroline McAlister | Little Book, Big Story

Eliza Wheeler’s illustrations, meanwhile, are beautiful. I know there’s a better adjective out there to describe them, something that conveys a sense of coziness, of light and dark, of delight, but I haven’t found it. Her surprising use of perspective and the way she works biographical and historical detail into each painting (and documents them in, yes, the Illustrator’s Note) adds another layer of meaning to the story, allowing us to read, in the margins, more about the inventive Tolkien and the major events of his life.

John Ronald's Dragons, by Caroline McAlister | Little Book, Big Story

John Ronald’s Dragons gives us an enchanting look into the story behind one of our favorite stories, and it’s one I know our family will return to again and again. It also motivated me to look for the story behind that story, and in my sleuthing I found a fascinating post about Eliza Wheeler’s research trip to Oxford, as well as this trailer for John Ronald’s Dragons. I also found her on Instagram.


John Ronald’s Dragons: The Story of JRR Tolkien
Caroline McAlister, Eliza Wheeler (2017)

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The Door Before | ND Wilson

Is there a better moment for a bookworm than the one when a favorite author announces that his newest book will be a reentry into the world of one of his most beloved series? I doubt it. But is there a more depressing moment than the one that comes when a reader realizes, halfway through the new book, that the original series was better without the late entry? No. After a few experiences of that sort, I’ve come to regard announcements like this one with an immediate rush of joy (a return ticket to a beloved world!) followed by apprehension (But what if it’s like Clariel?).

But when ND Wilson announced The Door Before, a prequel to his 100 Cupboards trilogy, the apprehension didn’t flood over me, but only lapped quietly at my toes. If anyone could do it, I thought, ND Wilson could.

And he did. He did it right.

The Door Before, by ND Wilson | Little Book, Big Story

The Door Before introduces us to new aspects of Wilson’s ever-expanding world, and masterfully links  (so I hear) this series to his Ashtown Burials series. Because I haven’t yet read that other series (I have been saving it, so I’ll never not have an ND Wilson series to look forward to), I can’t comment much on how delightful that is, except in theory. But I can tell you that the story of The Door Before is a powerful force, and I was swept into it immediately.

The Door Before answers old questions and raises new ones, and makes the world(s) of 100 Cupboards seem both bigger and more well-ordered than before. Old characters appear throughout this book, and I wanted to cheer when I met them, the way we do when an old friend saunters onscreen during a new Star Wars movie. But I couldn’t, because Mitch hasn’t read the book yet. I cheered inwardly, ate some chocolate, and kept reading.

The 100 Cupboards series, by ND Wilson | Little Book, Big Story

Every book I read by ND Wilson cements his place at the top of my list of favorite authors—the way he views our world and his created world, the way he gives his characters room to move and make gut-wrenching decisions, enables him to craft stories that are intense and sometimes gruesome but always strangely beautiful, too.

 The Door Before is a welcome addition to the 100 Cupboards collection—one I can’t wait to reread alongside the original trilogy and the Ashtown Burials series in a giant ND Wilson binge.


The Door Before
ND Wilson (2017)


also

My dear friend Jennifer Harris interviewed me on her blog Every Morning, New Mercies! You can read the interview here  and learn more about why I started this blog, how I know I’ve found a book worth reviewing, and when I fell in love with classics. But you should stick around and read her posts, too! “The Hospitality of Frog and Toad” is one of my favorites, as is her piece (featured in “The Warren & the World”) about Charlotte’s WebAnd her post on the myth of balance is just lovely.

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At Night | Jonathan Bean

First, Two (and a half) Things:

1) We started school last week, and while I know that, eventually, the books will stop smelling new–the pens will run down; enthusiasm will wane–I took an informal poll on Friday, and the results are in: we love homeschooling. Thank you all for your encouragement during this summer of planning (that is, guessing) and research! You are a lovely lot, and it’s a privilege to write for you.

Back to School 2017 | Little Book, Big Story

Back to School (Pre-K, 2nd & 4th Grade)

That leads me to my second thing:

1.5) Though we are now officially homeschooling our daughters, it has always been important to me that this blog appeal to parents, regardless of how we all educate or raise our kids. My goal is to not turn this, even accidentally, into a blog about homeschooling.

I will continue to flavor my reviews with glimpses into our family’s life together, because it has always been an important part of my plan to let you get to know me, at least a little, so that you can decide whether or not you trust my reviews or feel you need to take them with a grain of salt. These peeks will probably now include an occasional mention of our educational endeavors at home, because that is what we are doing. But it is not what I think you should be doing. Please remember that. And please know that as I write, I am thinking of you, however you educate your kids, and my hope is–as it always has been–to introduce you to titles that your family will love, whether you read them after a full day of traditional schooling, as a part of your school day at home, or something in between those two.

Back to School 2017 | Little Book, Big Story

(Why Josie was not in the photo)

In short, this is not a homeschooling blog now. It is a blog about books, for parents who love Jesus and who long for their children to love him, too. It is also a blog with some big news:

2) I tried writing every other week, and while it won me some time to read curriculum, I found that I really, really missed writing here. I actually wrote less overall (and, without my own weekly deadlines, spent more time aimlessly roaming the internet), and that was sad. But I love this blog, I love writing about books, and sharing only one book every other week just didn’t satisfy. So I’m back. I shall henceforth see you every week! Huzzah!


At Night, by Jonathan Bean | Little Book, Big Story

We love the books of Jonathan Bean. We first learned about them when we read, at Sarah MacKenzie‘s urgent recommendation, This is My Home, This is My School. We loved that book. We studied the illustrations and searched for every hidden detail.

Then my Sarah noticed, on the back of the book, that Jonathan Bean had published several other books. “Mom!” she said. “I want to read them!”

At Night, by Jonathan Bean | Little Book, Big Story

How could I say no to that? I reserved them all at the library and they trickled into our library basket, a few at at time. We loved Big Snow and Building Our House. But my favorite by far was this humble book, At Night.

Set in the city, At Night follows one small girl who cannot sleep. The text is brief and poetic; the illustrations beautiful. If you only know Bean’s other books, this one comes as a surprise: the illustrations are not quite as energetic as some of his others, and that’s perfect for a story about a sticky summer’s night.

At Night, by Jonathan Bean | Little Book, Big Story

Though this book is set in the city rather than the countryside featured in Building Our House and This is My Home, This is My School, it still points beautifully to the world beyond the city. And it contains one of the sweetest examples of . . . well, I don’t want to tell you, because the quiet surprise of it is part of what makes this book so lovely. But At Night is a book worth reading during these last weeks of summer, just before the evenings cool down.

At Night, by Jonathan Bean | Little Book, Big Story


At Night
Jonathan Bean (2007)

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10 Books About God for Toddlers

This summer, we planted flowers—rows and rows of them. In the bed typically dedicated to trailing squash, we sprinkled seeds that grew into cosmos, zinnias, poppies (four kinds), larkspur, dainty dwarf zinnias, snapdragons. Walking barefoot among those rows, watching the flowers wake, became one of our favorite morning routines.

But inside our home, another kind of flower unfurled as Josie took her first steps, said her first words, and learned how to make us laugh. She shed her babyhood, in which she watched the world happen around her, and stepped into the thick of things, poking at and exploring the world and expecting it to respond.

10 Books About God for Toddlers | Little Book, Big Story

I had watched this transition three times before, but, like watching flowers shed those green things that encapsulate crumpled petals, it is amazing every time—I think because, with each child, I see more clearly how little I did to bring about that unfolding personality and how much of it was already there, sown into each daughter before I had ever seen her face.

So, in honor of Josie’s summer of unfurling, I made a list for you of my favorite books for toddlers. We love Sandra Boynton and BabyLit books, of course, but this list is for the little ones demanding answers from the world: If I poke the cat, what does he do? If I make this face, will Mama laugh? Let’s give them big answers in small books and see what happens:

10 Books About God for Toddlers | Little Book, Big Story

Let the Whole Earth Sing Praise, by Tomie de Paola

Let the Whole Earth Sing Praise | Little Book, Big Story

This exuberant book considers every aspect of creation and urges it all to praise God. Beautiful, simple, and vibrantly illustrated. (Read the full review.)

Found, by Sally Lloyd-Jones

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

Sally Lloyd-Jones’ newest book leads readers through Psalm 23, drawing out the tenderness and warmth of our Good Shepherd as she paraphrases the familiar psalm into a poem that moves readers big and small. Jago’s illustrations here are stunning. (Read the full review.)

Read-Aloud Bible Stories, by Ella K. Lindvall

Read-Aloud Bible Stories, by Ella K. Lindvall | Little Book, Big Story

Each volume of these Bible stories is full of familiar stories, written in language that looks simple but does justice to the biggest truths of our faith. (Read the full review.)

Love is Patient, Love is Kind, by naoko stoop

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

Naoko Stoop’s sweet board book departs from the usual Noah’s Ark/Joseph’s Coat/Moses’ Moment at the Red Sea picture books and gently unwraps 1 Corinthians 13 for readers. (Read the full review.)

Hug-a-Bible, by Sally Lloyd-Jones

Baby's Hug-a-Bible, by Sally Lloyd-Jones | Little Book, Big Story

Fuzzy on the outside, rich and vibrant on the inside. Lloyd-Jones introduces small readers to the idea that the Bible is not just a collection of epic stories, but an invitation from God to know him, by condensing the truths of a handful of Bible stories into short, beautiful poems.

Look and Be Grateful, by Tomie De Paola

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

Tomie dePaola’s book of gratitude is one that pokes at parents as we read it to our kids. The text and illustrations are simple but weighty, and they urge us to look around and savor the God who made all things big and small. (Read the full review.)

Prayer for a Child, by Rachel Field

Prayer for a Child, by Rachel Field | Little Book, Big Story

Prayer for a Child is a sweet but not too sweet look at prayer from a child’s perspective. My copy doesn’t show it, but this one won the Caldecott in 1945—at a time when the children reading it were living through a world war. (Read the full review.)

Lift the Flap Bible, by Sally Lloyd-Jones

Lift-the-Flap Bible, by Sally Lloyd-Jones | Little Book, Big Story

What toddler doesn’t love lifting flaps? Sally Lloyd-Jones again distills favorite Bible stories down to their gospel essence, while Tracey Moroney’s bright illustrations give little hands plenty to do while they listen. (Read the full review.)

The Biggest Story ABCs, by Kevin DeYoung

The Biggest Story ABCs, by Kevin DeYoung | Little Book, Big Story

Using the alphabet as a guide, Kevin DeYoung lays out the big story of Scripture from beginning to end in a way that points back to Jesus over and over. (Read the full review.)

Jesus Storybook Bible, by Sally Lloyd-Jones

The Jesus Storybook Bible | Little Book, Big Story

No booklist on this blog would be complete without The Jesus Storybook Bible. The truths in here are huge, but the format is small: perfect for introducing toddlers to Jesus through the beautiful stories of Scripture. This book is a standard second birthday gift in our home. (Read the full review.)


What About You? Which books do you love to read to your toddlers?
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Abide: On the Spiritual Disciplines | Deeply Rooted Blog

Not long after my conversion, I bought two things I thought necessary to the Christian life: a cross necklace, which I nestled among my studded chokers, and a Bible cover wrapped in pink fur. 

I forgot to mention this when the series actually began (sorry!), but I had the privilege of working on a series on the spiritual disciplines for the Deeply Rooted blog, alongside Hunter Beless, Katelyn Sullins, and Sarah Scott Pape. The first post, my introduction, went up two weeks ago, followed by Hunter’s post on studying Scripture. In the coming weeks, we’ll cover topics like prayer, fellowship, and evangelism. It’s a powerful series, so I urge you, in the words of Ira Glass: stay with us!

Read

Abide: Grace-Fueled Practices of Spiritual Discipline,” by Théa Rosenburg
God’s Word: Our Life and Joy,” by Hunter Beless

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