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Interview with Author Taylor Everett Brown

Taylor Everett Brown’s book Rootless is an adventure story set in the fictional (and fantastic!) realm of Pateramor. He kindly answered some questions for us so we can learn more about the story behind Rootless and about him, the author behind the story.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Sure, I’m a giant nerd who aspires to great adventures, fantastic romance, and saintly holiness. And, every once in a while, I come close to reaching those aspirations.

For example, I once managed to pluck a diamond out of the glittering, salty sea-spray of the Texas coast. Realizing the miraculous nature of what had taken place, I dropped to a knee and proposed to my (now) wife, stunning her just long enough to secure a “yes” and sweep her off her feet!

Since then we have set about the serious(ly fun) business of building a home and filling it with amazing children.

And on a related note, I am certain that I am called to the vocation of fatherhood because I have been telling dad-jokes my entire life.

Rootless, by Taylor Everett Brown | Little Book, Big Story

What inspired you to write Rootless?

I’ve always enjoyed faerie tale stories, whether they came in books, video games, or songs. And, as faerie tales tend to do, they inspired my own musings on the origins of magical worlds, fantastical beasts, and wonderful peoples.

I started capturing those ideas and writing them down while I was in college and, after more than a decade, they had grown into a living breathing world. I knew it was special and I wanted to do something with it. I just lacked the resolve and the focus. Then my son, Everett, came along and provided the spark I needed to write my first story in the world of Pateramor.

I thought it would be so much fun to write a little bedtime story, starring my son, that I could read to him throughout his childhood. Well, the bedtime story turned into a series of bedtime stories and, finally, into the full novel, Rootless. I was so happy with it, I decided to publish it.

An Interview with Author Taylor Everett Brown | Little Book, Big Story

I loved reading about the different forests of Pateramor. Which part of Pateramor would you most like to visit?

It makes me so happy to hear you say you loved reading about the forests. I wanted the forests to be like characters in the book, each with their own personality, feel, and quirks. I really enjoyed writing about them.

Rootless takes place in the Kingdom of Windfall, which is only one small part of the world of Pateramor. But even just in Windfall, there are so many places I would like to visit. From the serenity and solitude of the Singing Mountains to the hand-made grandeur of Fortuna to the other-worldly beauty of the glowing forest. It’s hard to choose!

But, for me, I think the dragon forest edges out the rest of the destinations. I just love dragonapple trees. Everything about them, from their warmth, to their giant fruit, to the ecosystem they create is intriguing.

And, between you and me, I will admit that I designed the dragonapples to really appeal to someone with my taste buds. That mixture of sweet and spicy is something that I relish. I would love to try one.

Of course, what really seals the deal is the dragons. Who doesn’t want to see dragons? Especially dragons as exhilarating and as beautiful as phytodrakes?

Rootless, by Taylor Everett Brown | Little Book, Big Story

What are some of your favorite books? Which ones particularly fuel your writing?

I recently read Augustine’s Confessions and it is incredible! It reads as easily as a modern novel and the troubles he deals with in his life are so easy to relate to . . . and yet it was written 1600 years ago!

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas is one of my all-time favorite books. It’s thrilling and inspiring from beginning to end, which is saying something given how much story it packs between its covers.

I also really enjoy reading anything by C.S. Lewis. One gem of his that not many talk about is Perelandra from his sci-fi trilogy. C.S. Lewis is so good at speaking about evil and there’s a scene in the second book where he explores what it was like when Eve was tempted in Eden. It is deliciously terrifying!

But in the end, J.R.R. Tolkien is still my favorite. When I need to get inspired to write I reach for him. The completeness of his world, the beauty of his language, and the sheer size of his story, you just can’t beat it. I can re-read his books over and over and I am always in awe.

Can we look forward to any new books from you?

You know, I do have a second son now, Augustine Michael Brown. And it would be a shame for him to grow up hearing and reading about his brother going on faerie tale journeys and not have any himself.

Yes! I am thrilled to announce that I have begun writing a second story in the world of Pateramor! I’m aiming to complete it before the end of the year. So stay tuned!

Rootless, by Taylor Everett Brown | Little Book, Big Story

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

Always! If you want to know more about the me, the books, or the world of Pateramor, I encourage you to go and explore Pateramor.com. I’m slowly building up a treasure trove of information on that website to fill in the blanks between the books.

For example, right now there’s a great article on the race of little inventors called the Munchkins (to which readers were introduced in Rootless). And I hope to soon publish an article on their “superior” brand of technology called “munchkintech”.

Check it out and let me know what you think!

Rootless | Taylor Everett Brown

Not long ago, I was the proving ground for our family’s books. But now Lydia has reached an age where I can trust her to discern tricky themes and talk with me about them—and she reads much, much faster than I do. I can’t keep her waiting for every single book.

So when Taylor Everett Brown explained, in an email, how his passion as a Christian, parent, and writer converged as he wrote this book, I had no qualms about handing his book to Lydia first, with the stipulation that she tell me, in detail, how she liked it. The only question—and it was one that made me nervous—was whether this book was any good.

By way of an answer, Lydia read it through twice. She urged me to read it. With her endorsement, I read it and found that Taylor Everett Brown is not only a kindred spirit—he is also a promising storyteller.

Rootless, by Taylor Everett Brown | Little Book, Big Story

Rootless follows the journey of Everett and his friend Rrrwin, an Ent-like creature who suffers from a terminal root defect, as they travel through the country of Pateramor, on a quest to see all seven of the land’s forests before Rrrwin’s death. I will be perfectly honest and let you know that this book is self-published by a brand-new author, and there are areas where I am excited to see Taylor Brown grow as a writer. But I want to see him grow as a writer: the story itself is fascinating; his characters struggle with some genuine doubts and conflicts; and the forests, when they reach them, are incredibly inventive. Lydia and I both finished the book with the desire to read more about Pateramor, for surely, there is much, much more than forests to explore there.

Stay tuned!

I had the opportunity to interview Taylor Everett Brown and learn more about why he wrote Rootless and what it was like, and what we can expect from him in the future. Tune back in next week to read it.


Rootless: Adventures in the Seven Forests of Windfall
Taylor Everett Brown (2016)


Disclosure: I did receive a copy of this for review, but I was not obligated to review this book 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.

Maybe God is Like That, Too | Jennifer Grant

An unseen God can be hard to explain to children, but not, I think, because they find him hard to believe in. They are better at that than we are. When my daughters and I discuss him, I am the one who fumbles for words to describe him without a picture to point to and say, “There he is! That’s him.” Creation itself is one of the best teachers, and that is where I tend to point. We see God’s exuberance in flowers, whose geometric designs tempt us to think that they are carbon copies of one another, but they are not: each bud on each stem has its own personality—a fragment, in some way, of him.

Trees speak of his patience in low, quiet voices.

Spiders speak (in whispers that make us shiver) of his precision, his delight in making beautiful webs from eight-legged, unsettling beings.

Music sings of his joy.

Math (I remind my girls morning after morning) demonstrates his steadfastness, his consistency: the way 7 x 7 will always be 49, he will always be good. He will always love them.

Maybe God is Like That, Too, by Jennifer Grant (review) | Little Book, Big Story

In Maybe God is Like That, Too, Jennifer Grant narrows the scope from all of creation to us, his people, and through a conversation between a young boy and his grandmother, illustrates the way we can study God through the actions of others. At first, this sounds a bit pantheistic, as though God is in all things, but as the book goes on it becomes clear that Gal. 5:22-23—the fruit of the Spirit—is guiding their discussion. When the young boy asks his grandmother what God is like, she points him outward, toward the world around him, and says that when we see those things, we see God, too. We see, through the rest of his day, how watches for these things and finds examples of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control in the people around him.

Maybe God is Like That, Too, by Jennifer Grant (review) | Little Book, Big Story

That conversation is one reason we loved this book. But another reason we loved it was Benjamin Schipper’s illustrations: he gave this family of grandmother and grandson such personality through the way he depicted their apartment, their surroundings, their affection for each other. We have been talking lately about the different shapes families can take, and so it was neat to see this grandmother caring for her grandson in a way that wasn’t a part of the story itself, but a foundation for it. Her tenderness and sacrifice, regardless of the reason she is his guardian, sets the stage beautifully for their conversation on the fruit of the Spirit, for in raising him, she displays all of these things herself.


Speaking of Benjamin Schipper: if you recognize his style from Jennifer Trafton’s book Henry and the Chalk Dragon, there’s a very good chance you already know and love his work!


Maybe God is Like That, Too
Jennifer Grant, Benjamin Schipper (2017)

On That Easter Morning | Mary Joslin

“Christians are strange people,” our pastor announced on Sunday.

So true, I laughed. We really are.

“Christians gather to celebrate the death of their leader. We rejoice in it!”

We’re totally weird.

But that is the backward logic of the gospel: The path to freedom runs through sacrifice. The way to strength lies through weakness.

And the path of life begins with death. Jesus died so we could set foot on that path—he is our way in. But we also die as we walk that path, both spiritually (as God prunes from us our old desires, clearing space for new growth) and physically (the only way to resurrection is through death).

On That Easter Morning, by Mary Joslin (review) | Little Book, Big Story

That is all backward, opposite what we want and what our broken world praises. We crave strength and success, and he calls for surrender. We demand rights and recognition, and he models humility. The Jewish people, anticipating the Messiah, longed for a King, a Leader who would drive the Romans out of Israel and restore the kingdom—but God sent a baby. A carpenter’s son, who grew into a man gentle and tender to those hurting, and fiery toward the prideful, the hypocrites.

This man was poised to claim his throne, wasn’t he? He rode into Jerusalem, fulfilling prophecies, welcomed by the praises of his people. Freedom was close; strength stood in their midst. When would he strike, some of his followers wondered. When would he claim what was his?

But instead, Christ was betrayed, arrested, tried and convicted. Crucified.

What devastation.

Yet that is what we celebrate today (that, and Josie’s second birthday—more on that later). We are a strange people. Jesus failed to take Jerusalem, failed to rescue his people from the Roman regime, failed to lead them boldly into a new, victorious era as free citizens.

On That Easter Morning, by Mary Joslin (review) | Little Book, Big Story

But his goal was not only the salvation of the Israelites. He did not die and remain buried; he did not decay, dissolving back into the earth, leaving only stories behind. His aim was the salvation of all who come to him: Israelites and Gentiles, as well as the generations upon generations who have been born and died since that first century. His death was not unexpected. It was not an aberration in the plan. It was the plan.

He did not fail.

We—we strange Christians—observe Good Friday today. We celebrate the death of our King, and we remember our role in it—the sins that pinned him to the Cross, and the ways we have cried out against him, desiring his death rather than recognizing our own guilt.

On That Easter Morning, by Mary Joslin (review) | Little Book, Big Story

But on Sunday, we’ll wake early. We’ll open the oven and feast on Resurrection cookies; we will share new books (like today’s book, which I’ll mention soon, I promise). We will sing “Who Will Roll Away the Stone?” at home and at church, we will sing “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” which such momentum, such volume, such joy.

But not today. Today we sing “Were You There?” We sing “What Have We Done?” We remember and we mourn.

We are strange people.


On That Easter Morning, by Mary Joslin (review) | Little Book, Big Story

On That Easter Morning is beautiful! The palette is all sunrise colors and delicate, transparent watercolors, with shimmering details. Mary Joslin’s text, drawn from different translations of the Bible and faithful to the story, is lovely. It is also (alas! I just realized this!) out of print, so a personal copy may be hard to come by. But our library carries it—perhaps yours does, too? Or maybe you’ll find it in thrift stores or on Thrift Books. If so, it is a beautiful book worth sharing early on Easter morning.


Also, Josie’s birthday! She’s two today, and chatty and quirky and hilarious. And we love her like crazy.

Family Photo | Little Book, Big Story

Our Good Friday is going to be all joy as we descend upon the children’s museum, eat biscuits and gravy and smoothies for dinner (her favorites) and cupcakes for dessert, and then go to the church after the party, all somber. It’s a day as eclectic and disjointed as this post.


On That Easter Morning
Mary Joslin; Helen Cann (2006)

The Easter Story | Katherine Sully

When people ask about having four kids and I hear that panicked pitch to their voice—that “how do you do it?” pitch—they mean “How do you keep track of them all without leaving someone at the grocery store” or “How do you live with the noise and four kids’ worth of pink laundry?” But those really aren’t the issue for me. Yes, I sometimes panic, thinking I’ve left someone back by the banana display, and I have quit—I can use “literal” here in the literal sense—I have literally quit folding laundry. (We all just sort it and stuff it in drawers.)

The biggest challenge I face on a daily basis, as a mom to kids aged 1-9 is the whiplash that comes from helping a thoughtful nine-year-old think through her problem and talk about it and maybe cry a little, and then wrestling a toddler into tights because she won’t leave her socks on. I emerge from that battle sweaty and victorious to find the four-year-old launching onto the bed belly first, but before I can remind her that belly flops are forbidden and suggest that perhaps her energy might be better spent outdoors, the seven-year-old comes to me sorrowful because her favorite character in her book has just died.

Whiplash.

The Easter Story, by Katherine Sully (review) | Little Book, Big Story

Meeting the needs of different daughters, remembering that the seven-year-old won’t see things the way the nine-year-old does and that there is no reasoning with a toddler—that is my challenge. This makes family reading a tricky affair, too, because I love the idea of us all cozied up around the same book, but it’s hard to choose a book that will satisfy everyone. Our school books and family read-alouds tend to favor the older girls, so lucky Phoebe gets folded up into whatever we’re reading with Lydia and Sarah. This is true for Easter books, too.

And that is good. When it comes to choosing read-alouds, I like to round up. But lately, I’ve been trying to find books that are just right for Phoebe. (Sandra Boynton’s books are always just right for Josie, so that doesn’t take much thought yet.) That is why we’ve begun reading Brambly Hedge together, and why I take a minute in the morning, with the towel still on my hair, to read Everything a Child Should Know About God to Phoebe.  I want her to hear, sometimes, things read just for her.

The Easter Story, by Katherine Sully (review) | Little Book, Big Story

And that brings me, at last, to Katherine Sully’s book The Easter Story. The story of Easter doesn’t lend itself to cute, cuddly picture books. It can be done—it has been done beautifully—but the story centers around crucifixion and violence, done not to the bad guy but to the hero, and that is hard to explain to young readers. But Sully recounts the story’s events simply and faithfully, as the lines of Simona Sanfilippo’s watercolor illustrations sweep across the pages—the figures seem to be in constant motion. Sully doesn’t offer much commentary, but just tells the story like it’s one worth listening to—like it’s one worth knowing well.

The Easter Story, by Katherine Sully (review) | Little Book, Big Story

The Easter Story is a simple, but not too simple, retelling of Jesus’s death and resurrection that draws young readers in, gives them much to ponder, and much to point to. For the few moments I spend reading this with Phoebe, I suffer no whiplash, but sit still with her. We are right where we need to be.


The Easter Story
Katherine Sully; Simona Sanfilippo (2014)

Everything a Child Should Know About God | Kenneth Taylor

I must begin with a confession: You know Facebook-stalking? How people haunt the Facebook pages of people they only sort of know? I did that with this book. I frequented its Amazon listing and read reviews; I saw it ranked as a staff pick in the Westminster Bookstore and I read their reviews; I read a few sample pages.

And I didn’t get it—in either sense of the phrase. I didn’t understand what the book was getting at, and so I didn’t buy it.

Everything a Child Should Know About God, by Kenneth N. Taylor (Review) | Little Book, Big Story

But a few weeks ago, I was at a friend’s house, rummaging through her shelves on a quest for a perfect book to take with me on vacation (this is an art, as you know), when I came across her copy. Sure, she said. I could borrow it.

So I brought it home, and Phoebe promptly fell in love with Everything a Child Should Know About God.

The very things that I was skeptical about—the super short readings, the simple illustrations, the very basic questions—sparked Phoebe’s curiosity. She carried it around with her everywhere; she called it her “Bible.” And so I sat down and scanned the table of contents.

I got it. I got it in both senses of that phrase, because when my friend heard how much Phoebe loved the book, she gave it to us, and because I finally understood what the book is.

Everything a Child Should Know About God, by Kenneth N. Taylor (Review) | Little Book, Big Story

Everything a Child Should Know About God is a systematic theology for toddlers. Like The Ology, the book we’re currently reading through as a family, Everything a Child Should Know About God explores what the Bible is, who God is, what he’s done, and why we love him. But it scales these things back to their simplest, clearest forms. The questions point to the illustrations, which give young readers something clear to visualize as we talk about these vast concepts. They are little pegs these readers can hang bigger truths on as they grow in size and understanding.

Phoebe and I now sit down together each morning and read through one page of this book together. It takes five minutes, and we both love that. But I love the way this book gives me a doorway into discussion with her, one that reaches her right where she is, right now, at four.

I finally get what this book is about.


Everything a Child Should Know About God
Kenneth N. Taylor; Jenny Brake (2014)

The World Jesus Knew | Marc Olson

Years ago, a friend invited us to Passover seder, a cozy one hosted by friends of his. This was early in our marriage, before kids, and we squeezed into this small apartment with our friend and a half-dozen strangers. We passed plates and glasses of wine and lounged, ancient Israelite-style, around the table on cushions.

The couple hosting led us through the Haggadah, and while the Hebrew was a mystery to me, lovely and impenetrable, the symbolism of each dish on the seder plate wasn’t: one by one, the readings illuminated them, showed us both how they remembered the Exodus and how they anticipated the Messiah who would come and fulfill each prophecy. And, they explained, he had come. He had fulfilled them all.

I had one of those moments, in my corner around the table, as I dipped parsley in salted water and touched it to my tongue, when the window was open and the tree outside stirred in the darkness and I thought, The Jewish people have observed this for centuries, remembering the Exodus. They have waited this long for the Messiah. And I thought, too, The Last Supper looked like this. As we broke bread and served wine, communion changed irrevocably for me as I realized that Jesus wasn’t instituting something new as he passed the cup to his disciples, but fulfilling something ancient—a promise made centuries before.

The World Jesus Knew, by Marc Olson | Little Book, Big Story

History became, in that moment, three-dimensional for me. I saw Jesus in this new context and understood that everything he did and said, the stories he told, carried particular meaning to the shepherds, priests, and prostitutes around him—meaning that is occasionally lost on me, given my unfamiliarity with sheep, mustard seeds, and the grape harvest. And yet: those words still carry enough fire to spark transformation in the heart of a new wife standing in a stairwell, watching friends open the door for the coming Elijah and rejoicing that he has already come.

This seems like a big lesson for kids to take in, but Marc Olson has written a book that takes some awfully long steps in that direction. The World Jesus Knew is a picture book filled with details about first century Jerusalem—what the Israelites and Romans wore, what they ate, how they interacted. A book like this could be dry or overwhelming, but this one isn’t: Jem Maybank’s illustrations arrange that information well, making it easy to follow and fun to explore, and Marc Olson describes these things with energy and wit.

The World Jesus Knew, by Marc Olson | Little Book, Big Story

I know I can’t fabricate those moments of realization for my kids, the ones that open history wide for them so they see that other people, other fascinating people, really lived in this world, though in very different ways than we do now. But I can do my best to give them opportunities to see it. Books like this help a great deal.


The World Jesus Knew
Marc Olson; Jem Maybank (2017)