Tag: holy week

Holy Week | Danielle Hitchen

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)

The Donkey Who Carried a King | RC Sproul

If there’s any approach to telling a Bible story that makes me immediately suspicious, it’s the one where an author frames the story within a neat moral. And if there’s any approach to telling a Bible story that means well but often gets things awfully wrong, it’s the one where an author whisks a character off the sidelines and tells the story through that character’s eyes.

And yet, if there’s any author out there who can masterfully wield both of those approaches in the same book, it’s RC Sproul, author of countless books  on theology for both children and adults.

In The Donkey Who Carried a King, the previously side-lined character is, obviously, the donkey of Palm Sunday fame. The neat moral is—well, I’ll let you read it for yourself. But it works well with the story, that’s the part I’d like to emphasize. And it’s the sort of moral we want to bring home to our kids.

The Donkey Who Carried a King | Little Book, Big Story

Sproul takes this seemingly unappreciated donkey and uses him to tell a crucial part of The Big Story, reminding us gently that it was precisely the quality that the donkey, Davey, most lamented in himself that made him most suited to carry a king. Chuck Groenick’s illustrations bring a delightful depth to the story as well, amplifying Sproul’s words with color and texture.

We—that is, I—have a penchant for buying books at the slightest provocation (I’ve written about this before), and one of the seasons that brings this penchant to the forefront is Easter, when I often buy a new Easter book or two for our Lenten enjoyment, as well as a new, theologically rich book for each child to open on Easter morning and read all year round.  The Donkey Who Carried a King met both requirements: lately, Sarah has been smitten with two of Sproul’s other books, The Prince’s Poison Cup and The Lightlings, so we picked this one for her, thinking it would make a great year-round reminder of the Cross.

The Donkey Who Carried a King | Little Book, Big Story

In case you missed it: yes, our children get books on Easter morning, plus, like, two pieces of chocolate or something. We have our priorities. And Phoebe, who can’t eat chocolate, will be getting one of these:

Etsy | TreehouseIllustrator

Etsy | TreehouseIllustrator


The Donkey Who Carried a King
R.C. Sproul, Chuck Groenink (2012)

Petook: An Easter Story | Caryll Houselander

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 de Paola (1988)

The Story of Easter | Aileen Fisher

We like to give books for every possible occasion. In fact, we like to buy books for every possible occasion. Or really, I should drop the pretense and say that I like to buy books for everything, all the time, but now I find sneaky ways to do it.

For example, we (alright, I) give each of our daughters a hand-chosen, excellent book every birthday, Christmas and Easter. But now, I also sneak a holiday-appropriate book onto the kitchen table each Sunday of Lent and Advent. Sometimes, I unveil a new book, but more often than not it’s an old favorite, smuggled down from the attic and presented for rediscovery. Either way, it gives us the opportunity to prepare for the coming holiday book by book, and to savor each addition to our library before introducing another. And so our library grows.

The Story of Easter | Little Book, Big Story

One of the first books to hit the table was Aileen Fisher’s The Story of Easter. For a minimally researched Amazon buy, it delivers admirably, and has quickly become one of the first books to reappear each Lent.

Now you might think, like I did, that “the story” the title refers to is that of Holy Week. But you (like me) would be mistaken. The Story of Easter refers to the story of Easter, with all its varied traditions. Fisher begins with Jesus, his death and resurrection, and goes on to give the history behind our many different Easter traditions, even delving into other cultures to do show where the bunny, eggs and pastels come from. She even introduced us to some traditions that we hadn’t yet met, like walks after church and the idea of intentionally wearing something new on Easter morning.

The Story of Easter | Little Book, Big Story

Fisher’s telling is clear and illuminating (for adults as well as children), and helps equip families with Easter’s back story without losing sight of its primary plot line.

Stefano Vitale’s artwork, too, is illuminating. Vitale deftly portrays everything from Jesus’s walk through Jerusalem to Eastern European egg designs to a modern day family in a style that is brings ancient art to mind while utilizing a gorgeous, modern palette.

The Story of Easter | Little Book, Big Story

But the fun doesn’t stop there! In addition to the story, the history and the illustrations, The Story of Easter also includes a recipe for hot cross buns and an Easter activity or two. This book has become my go-to book for explaining not only what we celebrate on Easter, but how we celebrate it, and why Easter can look so different from family to family.


The Story of Easter
Aileen Fisher, Stefano Vitale (1998)