Not only has this book been in the world for a while, winning awards and such, but it has also been on our shelves for a while. And I’m sure I had read it to someone before; I know I had read it to myself. But recently, Phoebe and I snuggled on the couch with this book spread across both our knees, and the pinball struck home: the story sunk in, and I came back to it after the girls were in bed, to read it again on my own.
Last Stop on Market Street, if you haven’t read it yet (though you probably have), follows a young boy and his grandmother as they ride the bus through their town. We see them leave church in the beginning of the book, but until the last pages, we don’t know where they’re going. The boy grumbles the way we all often do: Why do they have to ride the bus? Other people have cars. Why doesn’t he have a phone? Those big kids do.
But the way his grandmother answers his questions unhooks his eyes from fleeting pleasures and fixes them on the pleasures before him: You don’t need little music threaded through earbuds—you’ve got live music right here. Your poor friends in their cars—they miss meeting all the people here on the bus. They’re poorer for it.
There are lots of books out there about gratitude, but this one shows us what it looks like. I want to have eyes, like the grandmother’s, that see gifts in the most unlikely things. I want to remember that I am owed nothing, but have been given much.
When we learn where the boy and his grandmother are headed, it makes sense. For a woman who sees the world the way this one does, her gratitude must overflow into kindness.
A note to three-year-olds everywhere: if your parents buy you this book for your birthday, they are almost certainly hinting that it is time to start sleeping through the night. (We were when we bought this for Josie.)
Lisa Tawn Bergren’s God Gave Us series is lovely and I’ve reviewed a few of them here. But none have garnered as dedicated a following in our home as this one: for a time God Gave Us Sleep was Josie’s favorite pre-nap read. She flipped through it after I put her to bed, and I often found it on the floor beside her when she woke up, as though it had slipped out of her hands when she drifted off.
And it is a book worth reading and re-reading. Bergren explores sleep and why it matters; through the story, she shows what happens and how we feel when we don’t sleep well, and she reminds readers that sleep is not a punishment or an inconvenience but a gift from our loving God. Exhausted parents know this. Three-year-olds don’t always, so I’m thankful for a book that gently explains it.
Josie has finally started sleeping through the night, though she will sometimes come quietly into our room and wait for us to wake up and take her to the bathroom. She never tells us she’s there, but lets us become gradually aware of her presence by singing “Happy Birthday” softly to herself. That’s so much better than how she used to wake us that we don’t even mind.
I try to rein in the superlatives here, because I assume that you don’t want to read, week after week, that I thought a book was “extra super truly amazing.” I assume you’d rather not wade through the adjectives to reach the punchline, which is that, yes, I loved the book.
Each book in the series tells a Bible story, and each one does it with an eye toward the gospel: “What does this story tell us about Jesus?,” the authors ask. But Jesus and the Lion’s Den is still more purposeful about pointing the story forward to Christ.
Alison Mitchell tells the story of Daniel in a way that doesn’t only show readers how it connects to the story of Jesus, but allows readers to work it out for themselves (spoiler alert: there’s a code). Catalina Echeverri’s illustrations are vibrant and expressive, as always.
This series continues to be one of my favorites, and Jesus and the Lion’s Den is an extra super truly amazing new addition to it. (And they just keep coming! I can’t wait to read this one.)
Disclosure: I did receive a copy of this for review, but I was not obligated to review this book or compensated for my review in any way. I share this book with you because I love it, not because I was paid to do so.
Last year, we held a family meeting to settle our last-day-of-school tradition. Because I get to (sort of arbitrarily) pick which day is our last, this seemed important. And because, at the time of the meeting, we were at the beach with a trip to Menchie’s dangling in front of us like a sprinkle-coated carrot, the vote was unanimous: our last-day-of-school tradition shall henceforth be a day at the beach and a trip to Menchie’s.
That day came two weeks ago. We spent the morning picnicking on a rocky Pacific Northwest beach, rummaging through tidepools and climbing massive sandstone boulders, shaped through centuries of the water’s patient work (insert homeschooling metaphor here). We watched a trio of bald eagles swoop overhead, scraped our knees on barnacles, and petted sea stars.
Then, we concocted the most horrific frozen yogurt sundaes at Menchie’s: mine had more to do with peanut butter and chocolate, but there were some variations on a cotton candy + marshmallow sauce + sprinkles happening among the other members of our table. It was all very pink.
But I digress. What I meant to say was: we’re done with school. Summer is under way! And with it comes my annual summer break. Until mid-September or so, I’m going to share one of my favorite old posts with you every other week, so this will be the last new book review until the fall. But I hope to meet you on the other side with a whole bunch of beautiful new books. (I have a pile of them waiting for you already.)
In the meantime, may your summer be sticky, sandy, and sunny!
But this book can’t wait until September.
For those of you who annotate and doodle your way through every sermon or lecture, who find that listening to audio books is like not reading the book at all, who decode thorny problems by drawing them out in spidery graphs with squiggly lines—you visual people (you’re my people!). I’m talking to you.
Bible Infographics for Kids (subtitle: “Giants, Ninja Skills, a Talking Donkey, and What’s the Deal with the Tabernacle?”) is a collection of—wait for it—Bible infographics for kids. These are big, bold, graphic illustrations that, in the words of this book’s authors, “help [us] see information that might otherwise be hard to understand.” For the visual learners among us, getting to “see” information means we’ll also remember it. For all of us, it’s fun.
In Bible Infographics for Kids, the authors and illustrator use maps and probability charts and comparisons to bring home some of the weirder truths of Scripture (did you know that the odds of one person fulfilling just eight Old Testament prophecies is the same as someone finding one specific coin in a pile of silver dollars so big it covered the state of Texas two feet deep? Me neither. And yet Jesus fulfilled forty-eight Old Testament prophecies!).
But my favorite part, the book’s crowning beauty, is a Bible board game that is really a visual map of the Bible’s narrative. It’s color-coded. It’s clever. And it’s glorious.
I have found all of my kids (and some of their friends) curled up with this book at some point. I have even curled up with it myself. And despite the fact that I have been reading the Bible for nearly twenty years now, I still learn something new every time I pick up Bible Infographics for Kids: how the disciples all relate to one another! Which disciple took the gospel to which part of the world!
These may not be facts necessary to our understanding of Scripture, but they sure highlight the patterns and context of Scripture in a way that helps me (and, Lord-willing, my kids) better know and love its Author.
The older my kids get, the more Christian biographies I try to squeeze into our bookshelves. Of course I pray that God surrounds our daughters with godly examples—believers who can walk alongside and encourage them, whose steadfastness through trials bolsters their own fledgling faith, and whose love of Scripture is infuses their lives. There is something beautiful about watching the body of the church tend to and cultivate its youngest members.
But there is something powerful, too, about listening to the voices that carry from way back in history—voices that proclaimed God’s excellencies then and, through biographies, still speak to us now. Rachel Yankovic writes about it this way:
When I read about [God’s] tender love and care of His children, I learn more about Him. When I read how He used His children from all over the world for His purposes . . . then I see how our Father loves all His children with such attention and faithfulness. He provides for their every need, answers their prayers when they didn’t believe it was possible, introduces them to each other when they could not have found each other by any other means. When I rejoice in His love for them, I rejoice in His love for me. When I love those He loved, I learn more about who He is.
I want to fill our shelves with these stories and fill our family language with the names of our spiritual ancestors. Everyone a Child Should Know is a beautiful introduction to this sort of story.
Clare Heath-Whyte tells of fifty-two Christians from all across church history, some of their names familiar, some surprising. She touches on the main points of their story, sharing their lives in a way that connects with young readers and fits many stories into a short book. From Augustine to Corrie Ten Book; from Gladys Aylward to Rosa Parks; from Brother Lawrence to William Wilberforce—this is a little book spanning centuries and brimming with the love of God.
First, Fanny Crosby. I herded the smaller members of my team into the library, and found, front and center on the display shelf, a biography of Fanny Crosby. Ordinarily, the Christian books are shelved in a little side aisle, next to the Mythology section. They make brief forays out onto the display shelves around Easter and Christmas, but here was Fanny, shoulder to shoulder with Amelia Earhart in women’s history display.
Then it was Paul. Two weeks later we returned, and there was Paul Writes (a Letter), a book I’d just seen reviewed on Story Warren, eagerly catching my eye from another, bigger, closer-to-the-door display. I snatched it up before I even made sure all my daughters were in the door.
It seems that one of our librarians has excellent taste, and I am determined to find out which one. But in the meantime, I am happily reading and adoring Paul Writes (a Letter), a book that unexpectedly summarizes Paul’s letters while also introducing young readers to Paul’s personality. Rashka illustrates him in ways that so perfectly express his tone in some of his letters: joyful, as he contemplates his dear friends in Ephesus. Rubbing his forehead in exasperation, a glass of wine within reach as he writes to the church in Thessalonica.
Paul Writes (a Letter) invites young readers into a beautiful but—given its lack of story—perhaps less approachable portion of Scripture and shows one artist’s interpretation of the man behind the letters. This book doesn’t exactly follow a story either, but it’s a beautiful introduction to Paul, a faithful servant of God and a powerful instrument in God’s hands.
Paul Writes (a Letter) deserves that spot by the library’s front door and on our own shelves, as a regularly visited friend.
One of the difficulties of telling the Easter story to young readers is the fact that the main character, the Creator of the Universe, dies right in the middle. The story doesn’t end there (praise the Lord!), but that is still a dark moment. Authors might soften it by moving Jesus’ death and all the horror of it off stage, but no author can remove it entirely without crippling the story. They shouldn’t.
Agostino Traini (author of The Life of Martin Luther) handles this conundrum thoughtfully and begins Jesus is Risen three days after Jesus’ death. Rather than take readers through Jesus’ life or through the timeline of Holy Week, Traini tells the story of the Resurrection itself, from Easter morning to the arrival of the Holy Spirit.
These passages sometimes read, to me, like an epilogue at the end of the gospels (or like a preface to the book of Acts), so I love reading a book that focuses solely on Jesus resurrected. We get to see the disciples’ bewilderment and Jesus’ kindness as he answers their questions, lets them examine him, and cooks them breakfast.
Jesus is Risen would be a beautiful book to read on Easter morning. It is all joy and delight (with pop-ups!), perfect for sharing over Easter breakfast or, if you roll the way we do, early-morning cookies. (You know it’s a true feast day when it starts with cookies.)