Tag: illustrated (page 1 of 49)

Jesus and the Gift of Friendship

We live in a college town, where jobs are few and far between and the cost of living is high. So that major event so many kids face at least once—the best friend who moves away—has happened to each of my daughters many times. It is hard to stay here, so many friends they love have had to leave.

And each time, it is hard. Some of these friends have been good, true friends—those rare friends who speak your particular language, however quirky the dialect, and who seem utterly irreplaceable. The hope of “making a new friend” just doesn’t cut it when you lose a friend like that (for example) the summer before you start high school. Of course you don’t want a new friend—you want that friend. But that friend is halfway across the country now, and letters don’t sufficiently bridge that distance.

(In case you’re noticing the high school examples here and asking, “But I thought this was a picture book?”—yes. Under the guise of reading them to my younger daughters—and while everyone is busily eating lunch—I sure do still read picture books to my teenage daughters. I am staunchly of the opinion that one can never be too cool for picture books.)

So Jesus and the Gift of Friendship says beautifully what I’ve tried to say fumblingly to heart-broken daughters many times, when it’s been too long between letters or when they feel achingly alone in their class: Jesus is our true friend, and he will never leave. But also, pray for a new friend and be open to the idea that a new friend may not resemble your old friend in the slightest.

Jesus and the Gift of Friendship is a beautiful book, both in its message and in its artwork. The style of the illustrations reminds me a bit of Ezra Jack Keats, so while the book feels new and fresh, it still has a classic feel that fits this old, old story of Losing a Best Friend perfectly.

In this book, it is Zeke who moves away from his best friend, Sam, and he grieves that loss. But as his mom walks him through what friendship with Jesus looks like—both for Zeke today and for the followers who walked alongside Jesus during his earthly ministry—Zeke begins to pray each night for a new friend. When he does find one—after a long wait, by the way—she isn’t anything like Sam. But Zeke’s heart is no longer focused on replacing Sam, so he’s open to the idea that he can have an entirely new friend.

As a mom, I love books that help articulate some of these deep truths of childhood and that give us room to talk through tough things during the cozy safety of a read-aloud time. So I’m grateful for Jesus and the Gift of Friendship—I suspect we’ll return to it often.


Jesus and the Gift of Friendship
Trillia Newbell; Kristen & Kevin Howdeshell (2023)

Though I did receive a free copy of this book for review, I am not being paid to promote it. My enthusiasm for this book is abundant and purely voluntary!


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Saint Valentine the Kindhearted

Huzzah for the third book in Ned Bustard’s series of saint biographies!1 Like the first two, Saint Valentine is a charming, rhymed, gospel-rich biography for young readers.

This book tells the story of Saint Valentine’s life while pointing readers back to Christ again and again, glorifying the Giver of Gifts rather than elevating the saint himself. Ned Bustard’s art is, as always, rich in symbols and significance, and in this case it contains some fun meditations on the four loves (be sure to read the author note in the back of the book). These layers lend a depth to Valentine’s story and to our understanding of his holiday.

In short, Saint Valentine the Kindhearted is a worthy and welcome addition to a series that gives readers a perfect way to root our Valentine’s Day celebrations in the love of Christ.


Saint Valentine the Kindhearted
Ned Bustard (2024)

Though I did receive a free copy of this book for review, I am not being paid to promote it. My enthusiasm for this book is abundant and purely voluntary.


  1. See also: Saint Nicholas the Giftgiver and Saint Patrick the Forgiver. ↩︎

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)

The Sower

Good gravy, that was quite the break I just took! I’ve missed weeks posting before, of course, but not that many. What happened? I suppose the simplest explanation is that life suddenly filled up with end-of-school shenanigans. Meanwhile, a number of writing and editing assignments landed in my inbox simultaneously, all of them due stat. Dear readers: my sincere apologies. I don’t flatter myself that you’re checking in every Friday, wondering what on earth you’ll read to your children without my guidance, but I do consider it my end of the bargain to post consistently each week. And I let down the side! So, I’m sorry. May I make it up to you with a long-overdue post about a truly beautiful book?

The Sower, by Scott James | Little Book, Big Story

We’ve been slow to begin our garden this year, and there are many reasons for this. Spring was mostly cold, damp, and uninspiring; our dog is uninterested in the distinctions between our raised beds and the rest of the yard, so I don’t trust him yet around seedlings. Also, I sprained my ankle a few months back and kneeling and squatting are still questionable endeavors. So I am deeply grateful for the daffodils I planted last fall—ivory, canary-yellow, creamy and ruffled—that worked their way up from among the weeds. I needed them this spring. They reminded me of what our garden could be if I would just get out there and do the work.

And so, as part of my self-motivating campaign, it feels fitting to share a book about a garden today. The Sower, by Scott James (author of He Cares for Me and many others), is a retelling of the gospel story from creation to redemption. This book feels different in tone than many of the other Bible picture books out there—quieter, more contemplative. Between Stephen Crotts’s gorgeous illustrations and James’s creative use of the images of the sower and the seed, this book feels like a poem—rhythmic, musical, filled with incredible visuals. It is truly a pleasure to read. And it is good to hear this story—the Story—told with such beauty and grace.

The Sower, by Scott James | Little Book, Big Story

The Sower
Scott James; Steven Crotts (2022)


* When I see an adult with a sprained-ankle-caliber injury, I like to ask, “Was it a good story?” And so, for the two of you out there wondering if this is a good story: it’s a funny one, at least. I sprained my ankle when I was rollerskating in our dining room with my daughters, as one does. We like to put on loud music and a disco light and have skate parties in our house, but one day as I was sitting down (!) to take off my skates, I fell weird, felt my ankle pop, and involuntarily suspended my skate career for the next few months.

Like Me

It is 6:04 a.m. I am sitting at our kitchen table, fortifying myself with green tea as I prepare to write this post, surrounded by a stack of picture books, each waiting their turn to be reviewed. And yet: Like Me is conspicuously absent from that pile, because my daughter drifted downstairs a few minutes ago, sleepily proclaimed her love for that book, swiped it, and then drifted back upstairs to read Like Me in bed.

And that is the highest praise I can offer a book. Like Me is so beloved in our household that it’s taken me months to review it, because I keep having to fish it out of people’s bedsheets and backpacks and bookshelves. It is one thing for me, The Mom, to publish a 600-word review of a picture book to the internet. It is another entirely for a child to voluntarily spend her early morning curled up in bed reading it.

I think I know which one makes an author’s heart feel warmest and fuzziest.

Like Me, by Laura Wifler | Little Book, Big Story

But I get it: I get why my daughter chose this book out of the whole pile. Laura Wifler’s Like Me is a delightful invitation into the life of one family for one day, narrated by a boy whose youngest brother has disabilities. It is an ordinary day for his family—a day that will likely feel wonderfully recognizable to readers who have or live with someone who has disabilities. For those of us who aren’t currently sharing our daily lives with a loved one who has special needs, Like Me serves as a crystal-clear window into what can be like to have, or to love someone who has, disabilities.

And that is its strength: rather than introducing readers to ideas about disabilities (what they are, for example, or how to best love those who have them), Like Me offers us a story in which we see these big ideas lived out. Wifler tells this story in a way that feels honest and balanced, recognizing the challenges this family faces and dignifying them by revealing the parts of them that are shared. For example, the narrator loses his patience with his brother, a moment that highlights the frustrations one might feel when interacting with someone who sees the world so differently, even as it touches on a universal moment every reader can connect with (haven’t we all lost patience with someone we love?). Yet Wifler also emphasizes the narrator’s particular love for and enjoyment of his brother. And his affection is contagious: it invites readers to view his brother with compassion and to delight in the things the big brother loves about him. Wifler reminds us gently, through the mother’s words,

It’s a privilege to know another human being, no matter what they look like or how they act.

Like Me, by Laura Wifler | Little Book, Big Story

Skylar White’s illustrations, too, are worth noting. They are detailed and specific, giving readers a sense of visiting not just a house, but this house, inhabited by a particular family with a history and interests that extend beyond the pages of this book. (White’s work reminds me cozily of Trina Schart Hyman’s illustrations for A Child’s Calendar.)

Like Me is enlightening in the best possible way: by switching on a light in this story, Wifler and White invite us see just a little more clearly how much God loves every one of his people—no matter what we look like or how we act.


Like Me: A Story About Disability and Discovering God’s Image in Every Person
Laura Wifler; Skylar White (2023)