Tag: bible story (page 1 of 9)

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.

Unwrapping the Name of Jesus for Kids

The bedtime stories my dad told us were were usually about things he did before we were born. Back then he was a pirate, he said, and—briefly—a human cannonball. These careers ended abruptly and disastrously and elicited more than a few giggles from my brother and me as we listened from our beds.

When I tell my own daughters stories, they often fit in one of three categories: a) hilarious things my dad did when I was little, b) stories about sweet girls who live in treehouses or cozy boats and encounter some kind of magic, and c) retellings of stories from Scripture.

But Unwrapping the Names of Jesus for Kids somehow captures the magic of all three of those genres and combines them into one story: as the narrator’s mother tells a story from her own childhood—of the time her family spent following Jesus during his ministry—readers get to delight in a good story that is true, joyful, and feels magical, while also hearing the story of Jesus’s years on earth in a new light.

Unwrapping the Names of Jesus for Kids, by Asheritah Ciuciu | Little Book, Big Story

As this story unfolds, Asheritah Ciuciu connects each scene to one of Jesus’s names—Prince of Peace, etc.—an act that reminds us, as we read, that the story of Jesus has its roots in every other story in Scripture. This reminds us, too, that though we celebrate Jesus’s birth at Christmas, we don’t only celebrate his birth. This season reminds us of both what came before his Incarnation and of what is yet to come.

Unwrapping the Names of Jesus for Kids, by Asheritah Ciuciu | Little Book, Big Story
Unwrapping the Names of Jesus for Kids, by Asheritah Ciuciu | Little Book, Big Story

Unwrapping the Names of Jesus for Kids is an offshoot of Unwrapping the Names of Jesus, Ciuciu’s Advent devotional for adults. But it doesn’t feel derivative: it feels, instead, like a bud on the same branch. Reading the adult version highlights for me how much research and thought and preparation must go into writing a picture book like this one, which condenses all that study into a warm, engaging story. This book is a great read for Advent, as it tells not just of Jesus’s birth but of his whole ministry, death, and resurrection. It reminds us where he was headed, why he came, and what it looks like for us to follow him today. In that, it is the best kind of story.

Unwrapping the Names of Jesus for Kids
Asheritah Ciuciu; Jennifer Zivoin (2022)

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.

The Boy From the House of Bread

Certain books make Jesus feel more real, more visible. They persuade our hearts of what our minds already know: Jesus was a real man, who lived in a particular time and place, and who encountered many more people than we hear about in the Gospels. These books remind us that he is bigger than we may think, but also smaller, humbler, and more approachable. The Boy From the House of Bread is one of these books.

But that’s only one of the many reasons to love The Boy From the House of Bread. This book rhymes, not in a sticky-sweet cute way, but in a musical, complex way that makes it a joy to read aloud. In it, Andrew Wilson draws out the theme of bread and deftly uses it to introduce young readers to Jesus. And best of all, this book approaches the story of the Gospels with wonder, showing Jesus as someone you could imagine saying “Let the children come to me” and meaning it.

The Boy From the House of Bread, by Andrew Wilson | Little Book, Big Story

This book brings readers up close to Jesus: we see him from the height of the narrator, a young boy who is watching the story unfold and doesn’t yet know all the ins and outs we see in the Gospels. At certain points, the boy and his father do cross into the story we know, playing roles that connect them to Jesus in new, deep ways. This is beautiful: by telling the story from a child’s perspective, Wilson invites kids into the story of Jesus, showing his warmth and his kindness in an appealing way and reminding us all that we, too, will one day see him face to face—grown-ups and children alike.

The Boy From the House of Bread
Andrew Wilson; Arief Putra (2022)

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 Promise & the Light

We have heard the story year after year: the stable, the shepherds, the wise men, the star. It is easy to let that familiarity rub some of the wonder off Jesus’ birth story. But it is wonderful—that the nativity exists at all; that it is peopled with livestock, angels, and dazed and newly benighted parents; that the Maker of all things entered creation there, amid the blood and pain of birth? This news is wonderful and worth hearing anew every year. God does not distance himself from us but draws near, taking on our humblest, most helpless form in order to show us his love.

Because our family needs to hear this story over and over again, I am always grateful for books that tell it in creative and faithful ways. Katy Morgan’s new book, The Promise and the Light, is one of the better retellings I’ve found lately: a chapter book that invites readers into the Christmas story. But you always get to hear my mom-perspective on books, so I thought it would be fun, today, to share my oldest daughter’s recommendation. And so, from Lydia:

The Promise and the Light, by Katy Morgan, is the story of Christmas. But it isn’t the bare-bones, fly-over view of the story given to us in the Gospels; it is a well-woven tapestry written by an author who really knows what she is doing. Morgan gives us a glimpse into the lives of a carpenter named Joseph, a girl named Mary, and a priest named Zechariah. She shows us what it might have been like to have lived through the Christmas story, and what the primary characters might have thought about their roles in God’s plan.”

The Promise and the Light, by Katy Morgan | Little Book, Big Story

Through this book, Morgan reminds us that the joy of Christmas isn’t found in the “Seasonal” aisle of Costco but in the knowledge that Christ is truly “God With Us”—the God who knows our weakness and limitations, who is with us in our suffering and in our celebrations. As you all celebrate his birth, I pray that you would find comfort in his presence and be strengthened, in him, for the coming year.

Merry Christmas.

And now, a bit of housekeeping: This is the final review for 2021! I’ll take the next few weeks off, but I’ll return in 2022 with the annual “Best Books I Read Last Year” list—and with some exciting news. Stay tuned!

The Promise and the Light: A Christmas Retelling
Katy Morgan (2021)

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.

A Tale of Two Kings

Last month we had to put a beloved cat to sleep.

Her name was Captain Jack Sparrow, and she was one of two littermates my husband and I adopted early in our marriage when we decided, on a whim, to stop by the pet store just to “look at the kittens.”

Sparrow was a gray and copper tortoiseshell with sprinkles of white on her nose, chest, and paws. If one of us was sad, she knew: she’d find the woebegone one and puddle in her lap, purring like an oversize bumblebee until the suffering one, in spite of herself, began to smile a little. She scratched at bedroom doors in the middle of the night until we let her into her room of choice, where she’d drape herself over a sleeping inhabitant and set the mattress thrumming with her purr. Sparrow preferred her water fresh from the bathroom tap, and she’d meow in a rich contralto until we turned the tap on for her. She was awkward and charming, and she and I understood one another. Our family decided that if she had an epitaph, it would have to be a modified quote from James Herriot’s Moses the Kitten: “She was a connoisseur of comfort.”

Sparrow was sixteen years old; she died quietly, dwindling from the round cat she had been to a frail form who still purred feebly whenever someone looked at her. Her brother continues to scale six-foot fences and scrap with the neighborhood dogs like he intends to live forever. As these things go, it was a best-case scenario—but everything about it was wrong.

A Tale of Two Kings, by Gloria Furman | Little Book, Big Story

Our little loss is, of course, nothing compared to the harrowing separations those around us have faced over this past year and a half. But it awakens in me a lament: It isn’t supposed to be this way. Death isn’t random; it’s not meaningless; nothing about it is natural. We love with the knowledge that what we love will pass away—even children learn to worry about this. Something in us cries out for permanence, for the assurance that what we love will persist in some way. We long to love without loss.

Gloria Furman—author of many excellent books for adults—understands this. She knows the world isn’t supposed to be this way, and in A Tale of Two Kings she assures families that it won’t always be this way. Through this picture book contrasting the lives of Adam and Jesus, Furman shows us both how the world was broken (through Adam’s failure to fulfill his role as king) and how it is, already, being redeemed through Jesus, our perfect king.

A Tale of Two Kings, by Gloria Furman | Little Book, Big Story

This book is a slender presentation of the gospel and of the entire narrative arc of Scripture. Natalia Moore’s illustrations bring these deep truths to life, and Furman writes to her young readers with the same theological richness evident in her books for adults. “We have nothing to fear,” she writes at the end of A Tale of Two Kings. “Instead, we can have a great hope! Jesus is greater than anything scary and sad—he is greater than all the world. We can trust Jesus, the King who is making all things new.”

I don’t know if our cat has a place in the new heaven and earth; if she does, it will be in an unmovable patch of sunlight. But I do know that our God cares for his creation—sparrows, Sparrows, and all. I know that any loss we face, whether large or small, is a symptom of Adam’s failed kingship, not a whim of an impersonal universe. And I know that Jesus, our true and perfect king, is repairing what broke in the fall. He is making all things new.

“Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20)

A Tale of Two Kings: God’s Story of Redemption
Gloria Furman; Natalia Moore (2021)

Disclosure: I did receive a copy of this book 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.