Tag: danielle hitchen (page 1 of 1)

Sacred Seasons

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Above our dining room window hangs a set of four tiles, each one depicting a season. A little orange house sits in the center of each picture, half-buried in snow, then surrounded by spring blooms, fresh apples, and fallen leaves in turn. These tiles travelled with us from home to home growing up, but since my mom gave them to me a few years back, they’ve hung in our dining room, where they remind us of the shape of things: lush leaves will turn brittle and fall; bare branches will leaf out again come spring.

Over the years, we’ve also adopted the shape of the church calendar into our home and learned the patterns of Lent and Easter, Advent and Christmas. We’ve found our way into this little by little, learning more where we could, but when I read the introduction to Sacred Seasons, I was struck by how much more there was to learn—and I was grateful to Danielle Hitchen for explaining it all so beautifully and graciously.

Sacred Seasons reads like a guidebook to the church year, with some flyover introductory chapters that invite readers into the idea and structure of the church calendar followed by chapters that give an array of options for how families might observe each season. These options feel like just the right kind of abundance: not so many that the choice feels overwhelming, but enough that there’s bound to be celebrations in here that will work for most families. Stephen Crotts’s illustrations, too, lend depth and beauty to this book—especially the wheel illustrating the different seasons within the church calendar.

It is good to be reminded through the church calendar that, in God’s story, life follows death just as spring follows winter. These little celebrations slow us down and remind us where we are in the scheme of things—and what we are looking toward.


Sacred Seasons: A Family Guide to Center Your Year Around Jesus
Danielle Hitchen; Stephen Crotts (2023)

Holy Week

Here is what I know about three. Two gets all the bad press, being terrible, but in our house, three has always been the hardest and sweetest year. At two, our daughters spotted boundaries and pushed against them. They used “No” to great effect. But at three, their bones seem to liquify and they drop to the floor and they cry and cry and cry. Maybe they’re cold. Or hungry. Or sad. Or in a blind rage.

We don’t know; we can only guess.

Meanwhile, they weep. One of our older girls used to have what we darkly called “the 11:00 meltdown.” Months later, we learned that after a morning spent running around barefoot, she was cold, and if we wrestled her into tights first thing in the morning—socks she can’t take off!—the meltdowns stopped. But every daughter has her different drama at three, and it’s Josie’s turn now.

Holy Week, by Danielle Hitchen | Little Book, Big Story

So, given that emotions are a big part of our family’s life right now, an Easter-themed “emotions primer” seems like just the ticket. Danielle Hitchen, author of the already-beloved First Bible Basics and Psalms of Praisetakes readers through the events of Holy Week, but in an unusual way: she uses emotions as a scaffolding for the story, then rounds them out with passages from Scripture.

(Side note: I love that she specifies which translation she used for each quote.)

Holy Week, by Danielle Hitchen | Little Book, Big Story

Jessica Blanchard’s illustrations use color and texture and expression to capture each emotion, making this a book whose approach, though unexpected, works.

In the beginning of this post, I said that three is “the hardest and sweetest” year. But we’ve only talked about the hard part. The sweetness is what happens the rest of the time, when Josie drapes herself over the back of the couch like a cat to wait for her friend to come over. Or when she pokes Phoebe, yells, “Not get me!” and runs—a clear invitation to play chase. Or when she drops a book in Lydia’s lap and climbs up without invitation, confident that her sister will deliver the goods. Or when she walks into a room with her shirt pulled up over her face, as though this is a perfectly normal thing that people need to do from time to time.

Holy Week, by Danielle Hitchen | Little Book, Big Story

Three is a year of big feelings, but it’s also a year of deep connection: Josie has always been a part of our family, but now she is a walking, talking, opinion-having, joke-cracking, kitty-loving, chase-playing part of it. And that is worth every single meltdown.


Holy Week: An Emotions Primer
Danielle Hitchen; Jessica Blanchard (2019)

Psalms of Praise

These days, Josie exits a room just as quickly as she entered—a ringleted blur, sometimes wielding a ukulele, sometimes wearing pants (sometimes not). She is two, and she moves at full speed.

We have always lived in small spaces and have joked that we always have at least one less bedroom than we “should” have. Before the remodel, our home was 900-ish cozy square feet, and our kitchen was also our dining and school rooms. But on the other side of the remodel, we have a little elbow room and, to Josie’s delight, a little running room. Her track extends from the front door, through the kitchen, into the dining room and back, and she often jogs it in a monkey hat and little else, bellowing “Jingle Bells.”

She is a toddler in motion. And Danielle Hitchen gets that: Psalms of Praise is filled with encouragement for small readers to move and dance as we praise God. The readings on each page are short and center around an active verse from the psalms.

Psalms of Praise, by Danielle Hitchen | Little Book, Big Story

Jessica Blanchard’s illustrations add to the energy and joy of the book, and make it a fun one to read aloud with a little one (who may or may not wear pants).

Hitchen and Blanchard also collaborated on First Bible Basics, as well as on a few other books in the series that I haven’t yet read. But with these two, so far, they’re bringing theological meat to the board book set in a way that is active and honest but not oversimplified. I respect that, even as I jog along behind Josie, reading aloud.


Psalms of Praise
Danielle Hitchen; Jessica Blanchard (2018)

First Bible Basics

First Bible Basics is a board book written on two levels: on the ground level, it’s a counting primer based around core doctrines of the Christian faith—One God, Two natures of Jesus, Three persons of the Trinity, and so on.

First Bible Basics, by Danielle Hitchen (review) | Little Book, Big Story

But on the second story, it’s a theological primer for young readers, as Danielle Hitchen uses quotes from Scripture, hymns, old writings, or her own simple explanations to expand upon these core doctrines of the Christian faith.

Josie, at one, stays on the ground floor. We count commandments and beatitudes together, close the book, and go to bed. But four-year-old Phoebe rides up to the second floor, where we discuss those things a little more deeply. We read the verses and quotes and study the illustrations and sing whatever songs we know that go with them (after years of listening to Slugs & Bugs on repeat, this is a reflex. I can’t read “Matthew, Mark, Luke, John . . . ” without bursting into song).

First Bible Basics, by Danielle Hitchen (review) | Little Book, Big Story

Jessica Blanchard’s illustrations help articulate these truths for children (and, if we’re honest, adults). She represents broad, abstract ideas in a way that familiarizes readers with some of the wonders of our faith.

First Bible Basics would be a beautiful gift for new parents (or for new believers with a sense of humor). Hitchen and Blanchard have released a second book in the “Baby Believer” series, Psalms of Praise, but we don’t have it yet. It’s only a matter of time before I find an excuse to add it to our collection of board book theology.

First Bible Basics, by Danielle Hitchen (review) | Little Book, Big Story

First Bible Basics: A Counting Primer
Danielle Hitchen; Jessica Blanchard (2017)