Tag: book review

Getting Out of the Boat: An update on blogging and life

For the last four years, we’ve been homeschooling part time with the support of an amazing Classical school. Our daughters attended class three days a week and studied at home with me on the remaining two. All decisions about curriculum were made; I taught art classes and watched my daughters flourish alongside their classmates. Attending this school was our plan for the foreseeable future.

Back to School 2013 | Little Book, Big Story

Kindergarten (2013)

But then the future took a sharp turn around a corner, and I can no longer see where it leads (Anne of Green Gables reference intended). A few months ago, we learned that a change to the school’s schedule meant that it would no longer be the perfect fit it had been for our family.

When I learned this, I stood watching my husband wash dishes, the scrub brush going around and around the inner lid of a pot, and I said, Well, I guess we could homeschool.

Queasiness. That was what I initially felt. But within an hour, the fear had given way to another sensation, one the bubbled up from some buried recess in my heart and surprised us both: excitement. The prospect of homeschooling our daughters full-time excited me.

Back to School 2014 | Little Book, Big Story

1st Grade (2014)

The re-enrollment deadline went by, and we did not turn in our application. I taught my last classes, cleaned out the art cupboard, held my daughters’ hands as we said goodbye to the friends we’ve made over the last four years, to the teachers we have loved, and to the school that has served us so well.

In her beautiful book Teaching From Rest, Sarah MacKenzie writes:

You are Peter. You, mother of that little flock of children you have there. Motherhood is a mad and swirling sea. It is wind beating on waves, storm on the horizon, tumult on the waters. It’s bigger than you can ever hope to be. You are clinging to your boat, quite a distance from the land now, and the storm is rougher than you imagined it would be.

And then God calls you to homeschool—to step out on the water. “Come.” Homeschool? Must I take on this too? “Take heart; it is I. Have no fear.”

And so you do. You step out of the boat.

Crossing the parking lot that last day felt very much like stepping out of a boat onto the waters.

Back to School 2015 | Little Book, Big Story

2nd Grade & Kindergarten (2015)

So, that is the update on life: big and exciting stuff for our family. The update on blogging may not strike you the same way, but you are a gracious bunch, and I feel comfortable assuming that you will receive it well. I will say first, though, that I am not retiring this blog. So that’s out now.

What I am doing is reducing my blogging schedule a bit. Since starting this blog four years ago, I have posted a book review every single week, with only a few exceptions. But between taking on some additional writing assignments and beginning that unsteady trek across the sea of home education (I have a lot of reading and learning things the hard way ahead of me!), I’m going to move toward posting reviews every other week on the blog. I love writing for you all, and I hope the existence of the book list helps soften the blow here. That and the assurance that I have some really great books on the calendar to review this summer.

Back to School 2016 | Little Book, Big Story

3rd Grade & 1st Grade (2016)

Thank you all for reading this blog and, better yet, for reading the books I review here for you! I love hearing about the ones you have loved, so just for fun (and because this is a bittersweet post that I’d like to end on a sweet note), would you share in the comments your favorite books that you’ve found through this site? I would love to know which ones resonated most deeply with you. Survival tips on homeschooling are most welcome, too!

Love,
Théa

2017 | Little Book, Big Story

Before the last end-of-year program (2017)

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)

The Storm That Stopped | Alison Mitchell

Dear reader, this book brings me such joy. I can’t pinpoint the moment when I fell for it—was it the illustration of the disciples pulling their boat out into the sea?

The Storm That Stopped, by Alison Mitchell | Little Book, Big Story

Their expressions during the storm?

The Storm That Stopped, by Alison Mitchell | Little Book, Big Story

Or was it only at the end, when Mitchell brought the story to its beautiful conclusion, that I knew I’d fallen whole-heartedly in love with The Storm That Stopped?

I can’t say. But the book became one of my favorites to read aloud almost immediately.

The Storm That Stopped, by Alison Mitchell | Little Book, Big Story

What Scripture presents as a fairly simple narrative, Alison Mitchell shares with the energy of a good bedtime story. She tells not only what happened but why it was important: When Jesus calmed the storm with just a few words, what did it mean? What did that tell the disciples about who Jesus is? After reading the book, my husband said, “It’s a little like a sermon,” meaning that Mitchell doesn’t stop at telling the story, but goes one step further and tells us what the story is about.

Catalina Echeverri’s illustrations add yet another layer to the story and, if I’m perfectly honest, are what really got to me. You’ve seen her work already in The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross, but she is at her best when illustrating the disciples: she shows how genuinely frightening it must have been to face the storm, but she does it in a way that is funny and endearing. My daughters and I giggled quite a bit over the disciples’ response to the storm, but a few short pages later, I found myself tearing up again—this time not from laughter but from wonder.

The Storm That Stopped, by Alison Mitchell | Little Book, Big Story

Mitchell and Echeverri make a marvelous team and I am glad, because this isn’t their only book together. I’m already itching to read the others!


The Storm That Stopped
Alison Mitchell, Catalina Echeverri (2016)

The Complete Brambly Hedge | Jill Barklem

Late pregnancy and winter. Those two forces lean heavily on both my shoulders, keeping me mostly content to nap and read my way through January, one volume of Sherlock Holmes stories at a time. But every now and then, a breeze sneaks in the door when I let the cat out and it smells like life, little and green. Sometimes, that smell inspires me to bundle little girls into winter coats and froggie boots and take a stroll through the neighborhood, where forsythia buds stud certain lucky branches and the puddles look blue in the morning light.

Sometimes, that happens. The rest of the time, there’s Sherlock Holmes, tea, and fleecy blankets.

The Complete Brambly Hedge, by Jill Barklem | Little Book, Big Story

Oh, and Brambly Hedge. A few months ago, I asked folks in the Read-Aloud Revival forum for their favorite book recommendations from past episodes of the podcast, and the response was amazing—like asking a room full of kindergartners their favorite color and receiving a response that includes every color known to man and a few not yet invented.

That forum thread cost me a lot of money in new books—really excellent new books that wound up in everyone’s stockings at Christmas (Sarah MacKenzie compiled the list of recommendations for a “Best of Read-Aloud Revival” post on her blog, so you can see for yourself how great some of these recommendations are!).

The Complete Brambly Hedge, by Jill Barklem | Little Book, Big Story

One of the clear favorites among readers at our house was Jill Barklem’s The Complete Brambly Hedge, a collection of stories about English mice living in a hedge near a stream and having all kinds of cozy and seasonally charming adventures, perfect for reading together with tea and fleecy blankets. Barklem illustrates the stories in Potter-esque watercolors, complete with cutaways that show the mices’ homes in detail: these were easily our favorite pages, and we took our time poring over them (and wishing that we were smaller and lived in tree stumps).

The Complete Brambly Hedge, by Jill Barklem | Little Book, Big Story

From the moment I opened this book I knew that my daughters would love it, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much they loved it: Lydia and Sarah now answer to Shell and Primrose and Phoebe (the poor third daughter who ends up being Olaf to their Anna and Elsa) is Shrimp. They have taken these mice into their hearts and adopted them as their own—the best seal of approval they can give.


Brambly Hedge
Jill Barklem (1980)

Glimpses of Grace | Deeply Rooted Magazine

When you’re assigned a book review for the book that you’re currently reading, you know you’re the right girl for the job. Or you know that the book is the right book for the job. Or that—never mind. What I’m trying to say is that I had the privilege of reviewing Gloria Furman’s book, Glimpses of Grace, for the summer issue of Deeply Rooted. (Of lesser importance is the fact that I got to use the word “rhinoceri” in the review.)

Glimpses of Grace, by Gloria Furman (a review in Deeply Rooted) | Little Book, Big Story

You can order the new issue here. And you can preview it for free here!


Deeply Rooted Magazine
Issue 6: Light (Summer 2015)

Glimpses of Grace
Gloria Furman (2013)

Tomie de Paola’s Book of Bible Stories

There is a spectrum of Bibles available for kids: at one end sits the actual Bible; at the other, the lovely picture books that give a faithful retelling of a single Bible story, many of which have appeared on this blog. In the middle sit the quality story Bibles like The Jesus Story Book Bible or The Gospel Story Bible. (I have banished from the spectrum books that are vacuous and cute, and reduce stories like “Daniel in the Lion’s Den” to a moral tale told in rhymed couplets from the spectrum. I’m a snobby book blogger. I can do that sort of thing.)

Tomie dePaola’s Book of Bible Stories sits just inside the spectrum, spine to spine with the actual Bible. It doesn’t point each story back to Jesus, but trusts that its readers have grown past the need for that and tells the stories in slightly adapted passages from the NIV translation, framed by dePaola’s gorgeous, full-page illustrations.

Tomie dePaola's Book of Bible Stories | Little Book, Big Story

If your child is ready to move past story Bibles and into the realm of Scripture itself, Tomie dePaola’s Book of Bible Stories serves as a great bridge: though we prefer the ESV for our family readings, the NIV makes a nice introduction to the language of the Bible for kids that find the ESV too ponderous at first. It is also a great reference for tackling specific stories as they come up in conversation. (Not only that, but it is somewhat of a classic, so it’s easy to find secondhand.)

Tomie dePaola's Book of Bible Stories | Little Book, Big Story


Tomie de Paola’s Book of Bible Stories
Tomie de Paola