Tag: boy

The Boy and the Ocean | Max Lucado

This post originally appeared on the blog in October 2014.


Here is my thesis for this post: The Boy and the Ocean is beautiful. I loved it. The writing is rhythmic, the illustrations uncommonly gorgeous, the story endearing, and the whole thing describes the love of God in a way that appeals to my daughters—and to me.

The Boy and the Ocean follows an unnamed boy as he vacations near the sea with his parents. The story appears in three parts, as he explores the ocean, the mountains, and then studies the night sky with his parents, and reflects on how the ocean, mountains, and sky, like God’s love, are endless and unchanging.

This book is a little like Does God Know How to Tie Shoes?, a little like Psalm 19: “The heavens declare the glory of God, the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” And the illustrations are . . . oh, how to describe them? Like the sort of thing I think about before falling asleep—but that doesn’t exactly help you, does it? Suffice it to say, they are stunning, absolutely stunning:

The Boy and the Ocean | Little Book, Big Story

The color blue that T. Lively Fluharty uses throughout the book is one of my very favorites (a small detail, but one worth noting).

The Boy and the Ocean | Little Book, Big Story

The Boy and the Ocean was well received by both our six-year-old and our (newly) four-year-old—it was her birthday gift, and it is a story that draws our eyes up past the beautiful illustrations, the lovely writing, to the maker of oceans and mountains and authors and artists.


The Boy and the Ocean
Max Lucado, T. Lively Fluharty (2013)

The Green Ember | SD Smith

My husband and I called work assignments back and forth as we unloaded the minivan after church. “You get the baby, I’ll get lunch,” “I’ve got the bag!”—that sort of thing. I was halfway up the front steps when I saw the box.

“Never mind!” I called. “No lunch today! I’ve got books!”

We did eat lunch that day—I even made it—but while we ate cold leftovers in rumpled church clothes, I unpacked the box at the table. My family watched the proceedings with varying degrees of interest. How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare, Caught Up in a Storyboring Mom stuff (clearly influenced by a recent Read Aloud Revival binge). Treasuring Christ With Your Hands Fullagain, Mom only. But then:

The Green Ember, by SD Smith | Little Book, Big Story

“Oh, what is that book about?” Only the baby remained uninterested—everyone else huddled around me to study the cover of The Green Ember. My husband murmured reverently, “It’s beautiful.”

I dropped everything else from my reading list and started The Green Ember that afternoon. Written by S.D. Smith of Story Warren, The Green Ember tells the tale of Heather and Picket, two rabbits set adrift in a corrupted wood by the loss of their home and family.

Someone somewhere (where was that quote?) called this “a new story with an old soul,” and I can see why: in the tradition of classics like The Chronicles of Narnia or The Princess and the Goblin, Smith uses fantastic elements to tell a story that is lively and engaging but that courses with good, old-fashioned virtue. Though the story has allegorical moments, it is not a strict allegory, and in that way Smith presents a beautiful picture of a community living in the hope of restoration, looking forward to the day when harms will be mended and the world made right.

The Green Ember, by SD Smith | Little Book, Big Story

A word of warning, though: the opening chapters are intense. If your family is up for that, awesome! Proceed. But if your kids are anything like mine, you might hold off on this one for a few years lest they have nightmares. Those opening chapters gathered steam slowly for me—I wanted to know more of the story earlier in the book—but once the train left the station, the ride was wonderful. And by the end?

No spoilers. But the book rocketed to the top of my favorites. May that be endorsement enough.


The Green Ember
S.D. Smith, Zach Franzen (2014)

Good news! You can also pre-order a copy of the prequel, The Black Star of Kingston!

The King’s Equal | Katherine Paterson

Almost a year ago, Mitch and I cancelled our Facebook accounts. This is not a good conversation starter: “So, we cancelled our Facebook accounts.” People get shifty-eyed when you say something like that. They tend to greet that news with polite nods and then silence and then a subject change, and I don’t blame them for not asking, “Why?”, but instead bringing up the weather or asking about my kids. You can practically hear the rant lurking behind that sentence, just waiting for that one word to unleash it.

But now that we’re not checking our news feeds, drafting witty status updates and so on, what do we do with ourselves? Well, we do highly profitable things like watch 30 Rock episodes back to back and not clean the house. And we do moderately profitable things like fantasize about built-in bookshelves and then take actual steps toward making them a reality. Or we obsessively sort our books in the hope of reducing our collection to a more manageable size, before moving them onto those invisible bookshelves. (By “we,” I mean “me.” I am the obsessive sorter in our home.)

The King's Equal | Little Book, Big Story

That last one’s the sort of exercise that unearths gems, both in the books that have fallen behind the other books in the shelves and in the new books that one gets with trade credit at the used bookstore when one arrives with boxes and bags of books in hand. The King’s Equal was one of the former: a book that I’d purchased at a library book sale a year ago, read to Lydia once and then lost among the books at the back of the bookshelf, only to find it recently while rummaging through our ever-expanding collection of books.

Paterson has turned up on this blog before, as the author of The Light of the Worldbut her second appearance here is for a very different sort of book: it is a fairy tale in the old style, but with a twist, as the prince is an arrogant punk who no one—not even his ailing father—wants running the country. Just before his father dies, he declares that his son cannot wear his crown until he finds a wife who is his equal. The prince sees that as in impossibility, for who could ever be his equal? But he wants that crown, so he begins a search that takes the him down a path peopled with rich characters, transformative events and talking wolves.

The King's Equal | Little Book, Big Story

The King’s Equal is available as both a long picture book or a short chapter book, which makes it easy to find a version that will appeal to your child’s interest level. And it’s a good one for both girls and boys, given the presence of both a prince and a lovely lady named Rosamund, neither of whom are the bland stereotypes sometimes present in fairy tales.

Lydia spent a long while camped out on the couch with it after our copy emerged from the recesses of our bookshelves. When I asked her how she liked it on this read-through, she said, “Good.” And that was it. But the way she bent over the page intently, reading the text and absorbing the illustrations without fidgeting once, assured me that I’d better share this book with you quick. It’s a keeper.


The King’s Equal
Katherine Paterson (1999)

100 Cupboards | ND Wilson

I am a black belt in Taekwondo. By “am,” I mean “was,” as in “I earned my black belt in eighth grade.” And by “black belt,” I mean “zero degree black belt,” which is the lowest possible black belt a person can earn. But I like to toss that sentence—”I am a black belt in Taekwondo”—into conversations with boys of the ten-and-under set, just to see what happens.

I don’t have a lot of currency with boys, after all. As a mother of three daughters, I can throw a mean tea party, tell stories about sweet, talking animals and no bad guys, and please everyone in my house just  by putting on a nice dress and some lipstick. I am not adept at talking about football, playing ninjas, or understanding the appeal of wrestling. But I do know how to hold a nunchuck properly and I can still do a pretty decent side kick, so I like to think I’m not a complete dead zone where the boys are concerned.

100 Cupboards | Little Book, Big Story

Likewise, I’m not that great at finding good books for boys to review on this blog, simply because there isn’t much of a demand for them at our house. When I do find a book that I think boys might like I get really excited—and then I second guess myself. I start asking friends if their sons read the book and if so, did they like it? Do boys even like that sort of thing?

But I didn’t even have to ask about this one. I read 100 Cupboards in about two days, got more than a little creeped out, loved it, and knew I’d found a winning book that didn’t center around an unlikely heroine in Victorian dress, a book that would doubtless appeal to boys, their sisters, and their parents.

100 Cupboards Trilogy | Little Book, Big Story

The premise of 100 Cupboards is straightforward and awesome: while staying with his aunt and uncle after his parents’ mysterious disappearance, Henry discovers a bunch of cupboards hidden beneath the plaster of his bedroom wall, each one leading to a different place including (but not limited to) Endor, Byzanthamum, and Arizona. Adventure ensues.

This is the first of three books, and though I have not read the other two, I am definitely looking forward to reading them. The worlds that N.D. Wilson uncovers are enthralling—I can’t wait to see what else he has hidden away in those cupboards. A word of warning, though: parts of this book are unsettling to say the least, so this may be a bit much for younger kids (or for squeamish older kids). I’d compare the creepiness factor to that of Coraline, if that helps.

100 Cupboards | Little Book, Big Story

But it is an awful lot of fun to read.


Update (6/2015)

This is the rare trilogy that gets better with each book! I finished the third book yesterday, and actually yipped—my husband will vouch for this—”Woo hoo!” at the story’s climax.  I may revise my post to reflect this at some point, but for now, know that I recommend not only One Hundred Cupboards but also its sequels, Dandelion Fire and The Chestnut King.

Further Update (9/2017)

ND Wilson wrote a prequel for this series! And it, too, is glorious.

The 100 Cupboards series, by ND Wilson | Little Book, Big Story


 

The 100 Cupboards Series
ND Wilson (2008-2011)

The Creation Story | Norman Messenger

I never tire of hearing the creation story. How exuberant life must have been then, as the world burst into being, perfect and new—a place where moments might be savored without the bitter knowledge that they would not last, and work was done with delight. That world slips away from us after the third chapter of the Bible, but those first three chapters hint at what might have been.

The Creation Story | Little Book, Big Story

Picture books are a lovely medium for capturing that exuberance and joy. I have come across many that capture it well—in fact, I have drafted posts of two others for you, but each one has been replaced by a version I liked better than the last, until I finally came across Norman Messenger’s The Creation Story and realized that it just couldn’t get much better than this. Norman Messenger captures the the newborn world in illustrations that manage to look as thought they’ve burst onto the page, despite the fact that they must have taken a long time and a lot of patience to complete (colored pencil is not a medium for the impatient).

The illustrations alone make this a book that the littlest readers can enjoy—it is fun to examine the detailed drawings of plants and animals and admire the depth and creativity of God’s work with them, as Messenger skillfully piles the images on top of one another, creating a picture that ought to feel crowded but instead feels exciting and new every time we read the book.

The Creation Story | Little Book, Big Story

Messenger tells the story itself through passages pulled from the New Living Translation which, though not usually my translation of choice, works well here because the story moves along swiftly without the hindrance of the dated (though lovely) language of the King James used in many of the other versions I’ve read, gaining momentum before dropping smoothly into that seventh day of rest. How refreshing it is to end on that day of rest and to forget for a moment what came after it!

The Creation Story | Little Book, Big Story


The Creation Story
Norman Messenger (2009)

King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table | Roger Lancelyn Green

Merlin and Morgan le Fay have become household names around here, not because of any particular affinity on our part for Camelot, but because Lydia is currently smitten with the books in the Magic Treehouse series, in which Merlin and Morgan le Fay appear as sidekicks of a sort to the time-travelling protagonists. This fact inspired me to brush up on Arthurian legend, because, contrary to the Magic Treehouse interpretation of the characters, I didn’t remember Merlin being the sort of fellow who typically relied on the help of eight-year-old children (I had yet to read The Once and Future King) and because I remembered Morgan le Fay as being, well, evil.

And so I read King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table, and found myself caught up in the golden age of chivalry, where the grass of Britain was emerald green, the knights thundered about on their horses, armor clinking, and the damsels suffered perpetual distress. Roger Lancelyn Green (one of the Inklings, by the way) writes beautifully, retelling the old, old stories of Arthur and company with a sweeping, noble air, and doing justice to the depth of characters like Launcelot, noble but broken, or Galahad in his seeming perfection, as they ride off on their famous adventures to battle wicked knights and quest for the Holy Grail.

King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table, by Roger Lancelyn Green | Little Book, Big Story

This is, in effect, a collection of stories about Arthur and his knights, shepherded under the banner of a common narrative, so while it’s a lovely read straight through, it’s easy to pick and choose the stories that your child might enjoy if you don’t feel they’re quite ready for some of the more—ahem—mature content yet. One of the major subplots in this book is adultery, after all, and there is quite a lot of beheading and severing of limbs and such, but this telling is geared toward children, so the content is handled gracefully. But if you’re just not ready to introduce certain topics to your child or find that, as in our house, there’s not a huge demand for stories about knights and chivalry, you can pick and choose your tales.

I read the first half of “The Sword in the Stone” to Lydia, mostly because I wanted to her to be familiar with at least part of the original story of Morgan le Fay and Merlin, and she enjoyed it in a polite sort of way before going back to her Magic Treehouse books. I, in turn, went back to The Once and Future King, which I had started reading immediately after finishing King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table—because it seems that I have developed an affinity for Camelot after all.


King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table
Roger Lancelyn Green (1953)