Archives (page 2 of 98)

A Break and a Big Book List

Well—I find myself at a cross-roads and, dear readers, I don’t know how I feel about it. The truth is, we have crossed this wonderful threshold as a family and now, behold! Every human in our family is a fluent reader. We still read aloud together now, but it’s become optional. No one really needs me to read to them (or pre-read for them) in the way they once did. And I’m left wondering: is this blog something I’ll continue in this stage of life? Or is there something else the Lord is calling me to?

Right now, I don’t know. But a rest seems wise, and some time to reflect. So here is my plan: I’m going to take a six-month sabbatical from posting here. My hope is that this step outside my weekly rhythms of publishing (ten years of them!) will allow me to prayerfully consider what’s next—and if “what’s next” is returning here, then huzzah! I’ll come back with renewed vigor and a whole heap of new books to share.

In the meantime, I plan to continue sharing occasional reviews at Story Warren, and I’ll pop back in to let you know when they’re up. I may also send out periodic updates on my newsletter, so if you haven’t subscribed but want to stay in touch, you can subscribe to that right here:

* indicates required

I cannot, however, bear to leave you without new reading material, so prepare yourself for over-compensation! I’ll finish this post with a giant list (and I mean giant) of all the books I’ve had piled up waiting to be shared. The ones I’ve been itching to tell you about. The ones I hope you’ll enjoy between now and next January.

Dear readers, thank you. You are such a joy to me, and the thought of changing what or how or if I write here makes me . . . oh, is there a word for it? The possibility of something new feels exciting! But also, the possibility of things changing here feels so, so sad. It’s been a long time, friends. I enjoy my work here immensely.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves! Instead, let’s pray. I’ll be seeking wisdom and resting, and I’d appreciate any prayers for clarity you’d like to offer on my behalf. I am so grateful for you.

And now, enough of that. Let’s talk about books!

The Big Fat “I’ll Miss You” Book List

Go and Do Likewise, by John Hendrix — A lovely and insightful look at the parables, from one of our favorite author/illustrators (also known and loved for Miracle Man and The Faithful Spy).

The Betsy-Tacy Series, by Maud Hart Lovelace — This series follows Betsy and Tacy through their school years, into the first years of their marriages. Delightful and lovely (even if Betsy gets awfully silly about boys for a few books there in the middle). If L.M. Montgomery had been raised in Minnesota, I imagine her books would read like Betsy-Tacy.

The Strange New Dog, by James Witmer — A chapter book for early readers, by one of our family’s favorite writers (see also: A Year in the Big Old Garden). This book is the first in a series—watch for the second one later this year!

The Arrow and the Crown, by Emma Fox — A retelling of “Beauty and the Beast” for teens that has become one of my daughters’ favorite rereads.

Growing in Godliness, by Lindsay Carlson — Written for teen girls, this book helps readers consider what it looks like to grow in Christ right now, where they’re at.

Arlo and the Great Big Cover-up, by Betsy Childs Howard — What does the gospel mean to us when we’ve disobeyed? This book walks through it beautifully.

The Story of Us, by Mitali Perkins — A poetic look at the whole story of the Bible, by the most wonderful author of Forward Me Back to You and Steeped in Stories.

Helen Roseveare: The Doctor Who Kept Going No Matter What, by Laura Caputo-Wickham — An excellent picture book biography for young readers about Helen Roseveare, a doctor who served God in the heart of Africa and risked an awful lot to do so. We love this whole series so much.

What Do I Do With Anger?, by Dr. Josh and Christi Straub — How can we think about anger biblically—in that moment when we’re mad things didn’t go our way? This book does a great job exploring that question in a practical, applicable way.

Working Boats, by Tom Crestodina — If your family loves cross-sections the way our family does, you’ll love this delightful nonfiction picture book (written and illustrated by our neighbor!).

Miriam at the River, by Jane Yolen — The story of Moses, through Miriam’s eyes. The illustrations are stunning!

The Forgotten King, by Kenneth Padgett — A powerful parable of the gospel, beautifully illustrated by Stephen Crotts.

Good Night Body, by Britney Winn Lee — Sometimes, going to sleep isn’t easy. This cozy picture book walks readers through the process of calming our bodies so we can fall asleep. When our youngest was in the throes of extended illness, this book became a nightly read and a lovely way to connect at the end of the day.

The O in Hope, by Luci Shaw — Luci Shaw’s poetry, made available for young readers! This book is a delight.

The Fantastic Flying Journey, by Gerald Durrell A trip around the world, in a hot air balloon, to examine animals all over the globe? Yes please! A joyful and hilarious journey by the author of My Family and Other Animals.

The Quill’s Secret, by Erin Greneaux — The second book in the Gold Feather Gardener series, this early chapter book invites readers on another adventure with Maya and Everly. And stay tuned for the third book! It’s coming!

God, Right Here, by Kara Lawler — What can the seasons tell us about God? This sweet picture book explores that question.

33, by Andrew Roycroft — Thirty-three poems meditating on the Gospel of John, each thirty-three words long and illustrated by Ned Bustard. We’ve been savoring this book one a poem at a time over lunch.

The Friend Who Forgives: Family Devotional, by Katy Morgan — This devotional is intended for family use, but it also works beautifully as a devotional for kids to use independently. Based on the excellent picture book by Dan DeWitt.

GraceFull, by Doreena Williamson — When Hope befriends a girl at church who is a refugee from Syria, she’s left with some big questions. This picture book explores these questions with tenderness and grace.

Little Prayers for Ordinary Days, by Katy Bowser Hutson and more — Like Every Moment Holy, but for little readers!

The Dreamkeeper Saga, by Kathryn Butler — A fabulous new fantasy trilogy! Our girls loved this series.

Crossing Bok Chitto, by Tim Tingle — A gorgeous historical story about how the Chocktaw people helped slaves to freedom. This one makes me cry every time.

The Light Princess, by George MacDonald — A classic fairy tale by the author of The Princess and the Goblin, beautifully illustrated by Ned Bustard.

My Breakfast With Jesus, by Tina Cho — This picture book takes readers to breakfast tables all around the world and considers how Christians all over the globe welcome the day.

The Songs of a Warrior, by Katy Morgan — A fantastic retelling of the story of King David for middle-grade readers (from the author of The Promise and the Light).

Count Yourself Calm, by Eliza Huie — Oh so good and practical, this one. This book teaches kids to calm themselves down when they’re upset, one breath at a time. Written from a Christian perspective.

Sophie and the Heidelberg Cat, by Andrew Wilson — When Sophie sins against her sister, she doesn’t know what to do to make things right. But then she meets the Heidelberg Cat, who walks her through the doctrines of grace.

Beneath the Swirling Sky, by Carolyn Leiloglou — Full disclosure: I haven’t read this one yet. Full, full disclosure: Carolyn Leiloglou is a friend of mine, so I am pre-disposed to like this book. But! I think you will too, so I wanted to put this middle-grade adventure on your radar well before its September release.

Wild Things & Castles in the Sky, ed. Leslie & Carey Bustard, Thea Rosenburg | Little Book, Big Story

Also worth mentioning: you can find many, many more books listed in Wild Things and Castles in the Sky, that book about books I co-edited with Leslie Bustard and her delightful daughter Carey. If your bookshelves need refreshing, it’s a great place to start!

Thank you all so much for reading! Your willingness to read along with me is such a blessing. I’m so grateful for you all, and I’ll see you in January!

Disclosure: I did receive copies of some of these books for review, but I was not obligated to review them or compensated for my reviews in any way. I share them with you because I love them, not because I was paid to do so.

A Place to Hang the Moon

This spring, I turned forty. My husband crossed that threshold a few years before I did, so I wasn’t particularly nervous about it. But here I am now, on the other side, with a sprinkle of gray hairs, a new ukulele, and some really great friends—the kind who whisk me away for an overnight “reading retreat,” wherein we eat meals foraged from my favorite books (Latvian stew from A Gentleman in Moscow! Eggs and scones from My Family and Other Animals!) and go to bed before ten. On this trip we packed mostly books, which we read on a beach on Lummi Island, the three of us alternately eating, talking, reading, and napping on a quilt spread beneath a pleasantly overcast April sky.

It was perfect. Just perfect.

Of course I packed my book bag before I packed anything else. When one of the primary goals of the trip is to read, you want to bring something good, you know? Something absorbing in a comfortable way, that you can put down when a good conversation begins and pick up when it ends without having the find your place again. I scoured my shelves for Books I’d Been Longing to Read But Hadn’t Yet and settled on these three: Deeper, by Dane Ortlund; Redeeming Vision, by Elissa Yukiko Weichbrodt; and A Place to Hang the Moon, by Kate Albus.

A Place to Hang the Moon, by Kate Albus | Little Book, Big Story

A Place to Hang the Moon is a sweet story about three orphans who find themselves without a guardian but with a sizeable inheritance during WWII, when children were being evacuated from London. So, they embark on a dubious plan: to pose as evacuees, in the hopes that the family that takes them in might prove to be their adoptive family.

This is a story about hardship and loss and uncertainty, yes. But it is also a sweet story about sibling love and trust and libraries. It is a warm story set during difficult times, and I enjoyed every minute of it. And, at the risk of spoiling the ending, I’ll say this: I love that the author went for a good, old-fashioned, all-the-ends-tied-up-neatly ending. Not all stories have to do that, but I like that this one did!

But what did my daughters think? No results yet—I’m saving it to read aloud with them once we’ve finished The Chronicles of Narnia. (But I’m confident they’ll love it too.)

A Place to Hang the Moon
Kate Albus (2022)

All About Bible Animals

Our nine-year-old is all about animals. I joke that she is our Gerald Durrell, not just because she loves the fuzzy, purring, cuddling animals, but the many-legged and wriggling ones, too. (She does make a pronounced and emphatic exception for bees. And honestly, bees, if you’d stop stinging her, I feel confident that she’d love you, too!) She’s the one who materializes next to me with a pet snail named Cucumber; the one to name the spider nesting in the end of our garden bed Rosie; the one busily rescuing earthworms from The Evil Garden Fork of Doom.

She is the reason I picked up a copy of this book.

All About Bible Animals, by Simona Piscioneri | Little Book, Big Story

All About Bible Animals is part nature reference book, part Bible story book. In it, author Simona Piscioneri introduces readers to the animals mentioned in Scripture, investigating both the animals themselves and the stories that feature them. This might seem like a sort of unnecessary thing to do—why focus on the animals in these passages? But I love it: Scripture is full of incredibly rich images, with meanings layered artfully over some of the smallest details. So I love the idea of exploring some of these subtle connections in Scripture with kids.

For example, in the page about bees, Piscioneri answers that question we all secretly ask: What does it mean for a land to be “flowing with milk and honey”? And why would that be a good thing? Or on the page about deer: What’s the deal with that thirsty deer in the psalms? By learning more about the animals, she gives readers a chance to sit with and examine some of the more interesting images in Scripture.

All About Bible Animals, by Simona Piscioneri | Little Book, Big Story

But she doesn’t stop there: this book is full of information not just about deer in general, but about the specific kinds of deer David might have seen back in his psalm-writing days. Or about the sheep Jesus might have seen on the hillsides of Israel. Or about locusts . . . and who else besides John the Baptist might still consider them a suitable lunch.

All About Bible Animals is the sort of book that brings the Bible to life for readers, and from an unexpected angle. And I’m always grateful for books that do that.

All About Bible Animals: Over 100 Amazing Facts About the Animals of the Bible
Simona Piscioneri (2023)

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 Sower

Good gravy, that was quite the break I just took! I’ve missed weeks posting before, of course, but not that many. What happened? I suppose the simplest explanation is that life suddenly filled up with end-of-school shenanigans. Meanwhile, a number of writing and editing assignments landed in my inbox simultaneously, all of them due stat. Dear readers: my sincere apologies. I don’t flatter myself that you’re checking in every Friday, wondering what on earth you’ll read to your children without my guidance, but I do consider it my end of the bargain to post consistently each week. And I let down the side! So, I’m sorry. May I make it up to you with a long-overdue post about a truly beautiful book?

The Sower, by Scott James | Little Book, Big Story

We’ve been slow to begin our garden this year, and there are many reasons for this. Spring was mostly cold, damp, and uninspiring; our dog is uninterested in the distinctions between our raised beds and the rest of the yard, so I don’t trust him yet around seedlings. Also, I sprained my ankle a few months back and kneeling and squatting are still questionable endeavors. So I am deeply grateful for the daffodils I planted last fall—ivory, canary-yellow, creamy and ruffled—that worked their way up from among the weeds. I needed them this spring. They reminded me of what our garden could be if I would just get out there and do the work.

And so, as part of my self-motivating campaign, it feels fitting to share a book about a garden today. The Sower, by Scott James (author of He Cares for Me and many others), is a retelling of the gospel story from creation to redemption. This book feels different in tone than many of the other Bible picture books out there—quieter, more contemplative. Between Stephen Crotts’s gorgeous illustrations and James’s creative use of the images of the sower and the seed, this book feels like a poem—rhythmic, musical, filled with incredible visuals. It is truly a pleasure to read. And it is good to hear this story—the Story—told with such beauty and grace.

The Sower, by Scott James | Little Book, Big Story

The Sower
Scott James; Steven Crotts (2022)

* When I see an adult with a sprained-ankle-caliber injury, I like to ask, “Was it a good story?” And so, for the two of you out there wondering if this is a good story: it’s a funny one, at least. I sprained my ankle when I was rollerskating in our dining room with my daughters, as one does. We like to put on loud music and a disco light and have skate parties in our house, but one day as I was sitting down (!) to take off my skates, I fell weird, felt my ankle pop, and involuntarily suspended my skate career for the next few months.

Like Me

It is 6:04 a.m. I am sitting at our kitchen table, fortifying myself with green tea as I prepare to write this post, surrounded by a stack of picture books, each waiting their turn to be reviewed. And yet: Like Me is conspicuously absent from that pile, because my daughter drifted downstairs a few minutes ago, sleepily proclaimed her love for that book, swiped it, and then drifted back upstairs to read Like Me in bed.

And that is the highest praise I can offer a book. Like Me is so beloved in our household that it’s taken me months to review it, because I keep having to fish it out of people’s bedsheets and backpacks and bookshelves. It is one thing for me, The Mom, to publish a 600-word review of a picture book to the internet. It is another entirely for a child to voluntarily spend her early morning curled up in bed reading it.

I think I know which one makes an author’s heart feel warmest and fuzziest.

Like Me, by Laura Wifler | Little Book, Big Story

But I get it: I get why my daughter chose this book out of the whole pile. Laura Wifler’s Like Me is a delightful invitation into the life of one family for one day, narrated by a boy whose youngest brother has disabilities. It is an ordinary day for his family—a day that will likely feel wonderfully recognizable to readers who have or live with someone who has disabilities. For those of us who aren’t currently sharing our daily lives with a loved one who has special needs, Like Me serves as a crystal-clear window into what can be like to have, or to love someone who has, disabilities.

And that is its strength: rather than introducing readers to ideas about disabilities (what they are, for example, or how to best love those who have them), Like Me offers us a story in which we see these big ideas lived out. Wifler tells this story in a way that feels honest and balanced, recognizing the challenges this family faces and dignifying them by revealing the parts of them that are shared. For example, the narrator loses his patience with his brother, a moment that highlights the frustrations one might feel when interacting with someone who sees the world so differently, even as it touches on a universal moment every reader can connect with (haven’t we all lost patience with someone we love?). Yet Wifler also emphasizes the narrator’s particular love for and enjoyment of his brother. And his affection is contagious: it invites readers to view his brother with compassion and to delight in the things the big brother loves about him. Wifler reminds us gently, through the mother’s words,

It’s a privilege to know another human being, no matter what they look like or how they act.

Like Me, by Laura Wifler | Little Book, Big Story

Skylar White’s illustrations, too, are worth noting. They are detailed and specific, giving readers a sense of visiting not just a house, but this house, inhabited by a particular family with a history and interests that extend beyond the pages of this book. (White’s work reminds me cozily of Trina Schart Hyman’s illustrations for A Child’s Calendar.)

Like Me is enlightening in the best possible way: by switching on a light in this story, Wifler and White invite us see just a little more clearly how much God loves every one of his people—no matter what we look like or how we act.

Like Me: A Story About Disability and Discovering God’s Image in Every Person
Laura Wifler; Skylar White (2023)