Tag: girl (page 2 of 4)

The Ordinary Princess

What if a princess was not golden-haired and willowy, with eyes like sapphire and so on, but was—in every way—perfectly ordinary?

This is the question that struck author M. M. Kaye after re-reading her favorite fairy tales from childhood: what if an ordinary child was born into a fairy tale family? And so the story of the Ordinary Princess began. Princess Amethyst Alexandra Augusta Araminta Adelaide Aurelia Anne—called Amy—was born the seventh daughter of a king and queen, and being the seventh, she was even more beautiful and serene than her sisters. She was, that is, until the Fairy Crustacea declared at her christening that she should be Ordinary.

The Ordinary Princess, by MM Kaye | Little Book, Big Story

And just like that, her golden ringlets turned mouse-brown; her serene, rosebud mouth screwed into a baby-like howl, and Amy became a baby like any other non-royal baby.

This is a slender chapter book, and it’s enchanting. I loved Kaye’s unusual approach to the usual stories, and was especially smitten Amy’s disposition: though her family considers her ordinariness a Great Problem, Amy hardly seems to notice it. She enjoys life at the palace as best she can, sneaking out into the woods to play with squirrels and peasant children, until her father comes up with a dramatic plan to fool an unsuspecting prince into marrying her. Then things take a turn.

The Ordinary Princess, by MM Kaye | Little Book, Big Story

I haven’t read this one to the girls yet, but it’s next on our list after we finish Twig. Of all the reinterpretations of fairy tales out there, The Ordinary Princess is quite possibly my favorite: the heroine is strong and humble and hard-working. She’s content with her lot and entirely likable. And she’s ordinary—quite a few of us with mouse-brown hair can relate to that.


The Ordinary Princess
M. M. Kaye (2002)

A Baby Girl!!

When reviewing our ultrasound results yesterday, my doctor asked, “Do we know yet if it’s a boy or a girl?”

“A fourth girl!” I said, beaming.

He smiled, thought for a moment, and asked, “Have you ever read The Penderwicks?”

A medical degree is important and everything, but what I really look for in a doctor is the willingness to discuss literature in the exam room.

A baby blanket in the making | Little Book, Big Story

I’ve compared our family before to the Marches and—best of all—the Ingalls, and now I can add the Penderwicks to the list (I do hope this daughter is just a little bit like Batty). One more, and we’ll be the Bennetts!

Sarah has changed her name vote from “Robin Hood” to “Maid Marian,” Lydia has already mentioned “Mary . . . or maybe Laura,” and Phoebe has taken to marching around with the ultrasound photo, chanting “Bebe! Bebe!” Mitch has been to the bank to see about expanding our wee little home, and I have cast on a handful of stitches for a lovely and feminine baby blanket.

To celebrate, I’ll dig up a favorite post: “Ten Chapter Books to Read Aloud With Your Daughter.” That particular branch of our library is about to get stronger and richer:

10 Chapter Books to Read Aloud With Your Daughter | Little Book, Big Story

The Green Ember

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

Almost a year ago, Mitch and I cancelled our Facebook accounts. This is not a good conversation starter. 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)

The Creation Story

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)