Tag: childrens book (page 2 of 2)

The Complete Brambly Hedge

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)

God Made All of Me

I hate it that books like this one exist. I hate the fact that sexual abuse is something that we need to protect our children from and that it’s something we need to teach them about. But because it does exist (and because it happens shockingly often), I am thankful for authors like Justin and Lindsay Holcomb who are willing to take on a challenging and emotional subject and equip parents to handle it with grace.

God Made All of Me, by Justin and Lindsay Holcomb: A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies | Little Book, Big Story

But even though God Made All of Me addresses a dark and painful subject, the authors center the subject in a loving family discussion, so the overall tone of the book feels warm and secure. In the “Note to Parents,” they write,

We wrote this book as a tool so you can explain to your children that God made their bodies. Because private parts are private, there can be lots of questions, curiosity or shame regarding them. For their protection, children need to know about private parts and understand that God made their body and made it special. The message children need to hear is: “God made all of you. Every part of your body is good, and some parts are private.

That emphasis places the book not just within the context of a secure family but within the context of a secure worldview: God made us and he made us for good things. We have to be wary of those who would distort those good things and use them to their own ends, but we don’t have to view those good things with suspicion or fear. That’s a message I want my children to grow up knowing well.

God Made All of Me, by Justin and Lindsay Holcomb | Little Book, Big Story

God Made All of Me focuses on equipping children to recognize dangerous situations and to respond to them well. We do our best to protect our children, but there will be times when they are outside our protection and vulnerable to abuse, and when those come, our children need to know what to do. And so the authors discuss the difference between secrets (bad) and surprises (good!), and emphasize the fact that you don’t have to allow anyone to touch you:

If you don’t want to be hugged and kissed or give a high five or a handshake, just say, “No, thank you.” . . . . we don’t always want to be touched even if it’s by someone you love. If the person doesn’t listen to you, ask for help right away.

One of the children even raises the question (wisely), “But what if you or Daddy or my teacher are too busy to talk?” And the parents help him work out how to respond.

God Made All of Me, by Justin and Lindsay Holcomb | Little Book, Big Story

The book puts just enough emphasis on teaching children that they are in charge of their bodies, but it doesn’t stop there: it presents that information in a way that shows that they have a support network around them of parents, teachers, and doctors to talk to, so even though they are in charge of their bodies, they are not alone in protecting them.

This is a little book, but it’s one worth reading to your children. And while I hate having the conversations that remind our children that there are people out there who would hurt them, I’m thankful for a book like God Made All of Me that helps me share that information in a way that feels complete, empowering, and grace-centered. It becomes not something I tell them, but something we discuss together in the light of Scripture.


God Made All of Me: A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies
Justin S. Holcomb & Lindsay A. Holcomb, Trish Mahoney (2015)

FIONA FRENCH’s Easter

I have reviewed quite a few different Easter books since starting this blog, and most of them approach the story of Christ’s death and resurrection from a fresh perspective: through the lens of history and tradition, perhaps, or by letting a typically peripheral character tell the story.

It wasn’t until I read through Fiona French’s book, Easter, that I realized that the one thing our library of Easter books lacked was a simple, straight-forward telling of the Easter story—no frills, no fresh perspective. Just the story itself.

Easter, by Fiona French | Little Book, Big Story

French centers her book around text from the RSV, and the text informs her illustrations, which are “inspired by” (and I quote the dust jacket here) “the glorious English cathedral windows of Ely, Lincoln, York and Canterbury.” They are done in the style of stained glass windows, which lends a beautiful sobriety to the narrative of the events of Christ’s life between the Triumphal Entry and the Ascension.

Easter, by Fiona French | Little Book, Big Story

As Protestants of the reformed stripe, we don’t have much experience with elaborate stained glass windows—not on a weekly basis, anyway—so I loved giving our girls the opportunity to explore them through the pages of Easter. Between the clean, direct text and the beautiful illustrations, I can already tell that this book will be a staple in our house from year to year.

Easter, by Fiona French: an ornately illustrated yet simply told version of the Easter story, from Triumphal Entry to Christ's Ascension | Little Book, Big Story

Easter
Fiona French (2004)

Petook

I have good news for you, and I have bad news. I’m going to operate off the assumption that you, like me, would rather hear the worst first, so here’s the bad news: Petook: An Easter Story is out of print and going for something like $60 (minimum) on Amazon. The good news is that there are still copies out there available for less than that (I did not pay $60 for mine), and this book is worth the work of checking Amazon regularly or haunting book sales, garage sales, or Goodwill. Better yet, our library here in town has a copy, so, quick! Race to our library website and put a hold on it now! (Or read on to find out why I’m being so bossy about a book about a chicken.)

Petook | Little Book, Big Story

To say that Petook is a beautifully written book would be entirely true. But to say that without mentioning Tomie dePaola’s illustrations would be a critical omission: the best bits of this story are not written, but are embedded within the artwork, making Petook an incredibly moving book, unforgettable and lovely to look at.

To explain exactly how this works is a tricky business, because the bulk of the book’s beauty rests in the subtlety with which it tells the story of Easter, and subtlety is hard to pin down. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been more tempted to skip the summary of a story entirely and simply order you to go get a copy, but we’ve already discussed the difficulty of doing exactly that (see above), so I’ll have to take a stab at it.

Petook: An Easter Story | Little Book, Big Story

Petook is a story with a foreground and a background. In the foreground is Petook (a rooster), his mate, Martha, and their chicks. Petook doesn’t do anything terribly exciting, really, but Houselander’s telling of his story stands alone so beautifully that it’s tempting miss the drama unfolding behind the rooster, where dePaola draws out the events of Holy Week so quietly that they nearly slipped past me during my first reading of Petook.

As Petook passes an uneasy night or anticipates the hatching of his newest chicks, tiny figures in the background of the paintings show Jesus and his disciples in the Garden of Gethsamene, with a line of soldiers marching toward them, or depict the tomb, shut up and under guard. As Petook stretches his wings restlessly, there on the hilltop behind him stand three crosses in silhouette. Petook responds to these events with the rest of Creation, grieving when Jesus is crucified, rejoicing when he rises again. At points, his story touches that of Christ (you’ll know them when you see them).

Petook: An Easter Story | Little Book, Big Story

Petook is a modest tale at first glance, but it deepens with each reading, thanks to dePaola’s unusual approach. It has become one of our favorite Easter stories, and tends to be the first to emerge from the attic each year and the last one to retire. If you’re able to get your hands on a copy, do! If not, keep your eyes open; be patient. Petook is a book worth hunting for.


Petook: An Easter Story
Caryll Houselander, Tomie dePaola (1988)

The Story of Esther

Genocide. Execution. Arranged marriage. With themes like these, I can understand why there are few children’s version of the story of Esther on the market. And yet, it features a girl rich in courage and true beauty, a man whose life is a perfect illustration of the proverb “Pride comes before a fall,” and a God who, though unnamed in the story, orchestrates his people’s salvation in a lovely, symmetrical way. By dodging the darker themes, we sometimes miss the pulsing light running right through the heart of the story.

The Story of Esther | Little Book, Big Story

Eric Kimmel’s telling handles both aspects of the story gracefully. He manages to provide a thorough version that is (in the most important parts) faithful to the Bible, without burdening the story with unnecessary detail. There is a sense of motion to the narrative, perhaps due to Jill Weber’s illustrations: the characters are so expressive and animated that the story whisks along at the clip maintained by the Biblical book.

The characters are among my favorite in the Bible: Esther, the reluctant queen; Mordecai, a man faithful and full of integrity; Artaxerxes, a volatile king often portrayed as foolish, and perhaps rightfully so; and Haman, the perfect villain with a fitting end. I am so drawn to this story that I read any version I can get my hands on, and I can safely say that Kimmel’s is my favorite.

The Story of Esther | Little Book, Big Story

The Story of Esther: A Purim Tale
Eric A. Kimmel, Jill Weber (2011)