Tag: book review (page 1 of 2)

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.

From the Good Mountain | James Rumford

As you know, we are embarking on our first year of full-time home school, and for me, that means lots and lots of reading. Reading about schedules and curriculum. Reading about God, and how big he is and how faithful. Reading about educational philosophies. And about people’s experiences with and opinions on educational philosophies.

From the Good Mountain, by James Rumford | Little Book, Big Story

One of the philosophies I came across again and again was that of Charlotte Mason. I have always pulled in some elements from her work into our family life here and there, but I spent time this spring reading about her work more closely. And I was smitten all over again with the idea of “living books.” I’ve mentioned them previously on this blog, because that is, really, what I try to review: books by authors who aren’t writing to sell, but are genuinely passionate about their story or subject and able to write about it knowledgeably, truthfully, and well. I hope that every book on this blog qualifies for that definition.

From the Good Mountain, by James Rumford | Little Book, Big Story

But I found today’s book when I was doing some heavy Charlotte Mason reading, and it struck me within the first few sentences that From the Good Mountain was just the sort of book Mason must have meant when she defined living books. This is a biography of Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of the printing press, written playfully in riddles and illustrated in a way that allows us to see what those first books looked like. James Rumford writes and illustrates this book, but he is also a bookbinder, so the entire process of binding books is laid out by someone who knows the work firsthand and clearly loves it.

From the Good Mountain, by James Rumford | Little Book, Big Story

Rumford also includes, at the end, a note on the history of books both past and present. Through his words and images he contemplates the future of books and ebooks, but not in a gloomy “Alas! The end of paper is near” tone. He sounds almost excited about what the future holds, which reminded me that, though we love books, it is words that make up their life, and those words can exist in many forms.

From the Good Mountain, by James Rumford | Little Book, Big Story

So, this book is a story about the making of Gutenberg’s printing press. But it is about much, much more, and the enthusiasm that bubbles out in asides about the books’ materials and beauty is what makes this book more than ink and paper. That enthusiasm is what makes it live, and what gives it a place on our family’s shelves. May it find room on your shelves, too.


From the Good Mountain: How Gutenberg Changed the World
James Rumford (2012)

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)