Tag: jesus (page 1 of 2)

10 Beautiful Books About Jesus

This last week of Advent hits our house like a hurricane. We light candles and dress up our Jesse Tree, but we also skip naps, binge on sugar cookies, and attend at least three different family celebrations (not counting our own here at home). We have a lot of family very close by, and that is a blessing.

But right now, reminders of who we’re celebrating and why are crucial: when I’m tempted to hide under a fleecy blanket with a good book and recover from the crowds, I need to be reminded of Jesus, who went on pouring himself out for others, even when the crowds followed him to his quiet mountainside. He didn’t seem to worry much about boundaries or expectations or past hurts—he went on serving. He gave himself to others, and in doing so, gave us all the best gift imaginable.

10 Beautiful Books About Jesus | Little Book, Big Story

So this year I made a list of my favorite picture books about Jesus. These aren’t necessarily Christmas books, because you’re already reading your favorites for the year, aren’t you? These are beautiful, all-year-round books about Jesus, books that prepare us all, parent and child alike, to live the rest of the year like the Incarnation matters.

Because it does. Remembering that refreshes my soul more than the deepest of post-party naps. I hope it refreshes you, too.

Miracle Man, by John Hendrix

Miracle Man, by John Hendrix | Little Book, Big Story

When I make book lists, I usually arrange the books in “no particular order.” Not so this time. Miracle Man comes first for a reason. John Hendrix uses every medium at his disposal to capture the tenderness of Jesus as well as his intensity by following his miracles and the crowds’ reactions to them. Everything about this book—illustrations, story, layout, cover—is arresting. (Read the full review.)

The Light of the World, by Katherine Paterson

The Light of the World, by Katherine Paterson | Little Book, Big Story

The Light of the World  walks readers through the full life of Jesus, from birth to death and resurrection. Newbury-award winning author Katherine Paterson tells the story well; Francois Roca’s illustrations deepen it. This is a great book for any time of the year, but I do love bringing it out at Christmas and Easter because it puts both the Incarnation and the Resurrection within the context of the larger story of Jesus’ life. (Read the full review.)

The Garden, The Curtain and The Cross, by Carl Laferton

The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross, by Carl Laferton | Little Book, Big Story

This is another “big picture” book, but it looks not only at Jesus’ life but at his role in God’s redemptive plan for mankind. Carl Laferton fits a lot of great theology (and history) into one slender, richly illustrated book. (Read the full review.)

The Biggest Story, by Kevin DeYoung

The Biggest Story by Kevin DeYoung and Don Clark | Little Book, Big Story

In ten chapters, Kevin DeYoung tells the story of Scripture with Jesus at the center. Full of beautiful truth and beautiful illustrations, The Biggest Story would be a great read for the last week of Advent or for Holy Week. (Read the full review.)

The Storm That Stopped, by Alison Mitchell

The Storm That Stopped, by Alison Mitchell | Little Book, Big Story

Allison Mitchell’s book explores the question “Who is this Jesus?” by telling the story of that time Jesus calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee. Catalina Echeverri’s illustrations play beautifully on the humor in the story while still keeping things serious in just the right way. (Read the full review.)

The Song of the Stars, by Sally Lloyd-Jones

Song of the Stars, by Sally-Lloyd Jones | Little Book, Big Story

Okay, so this is a Christmas book. In it, Sally Lloyd-Jones shows how the whole world anticipated the coming of Christ. This is my favorite book for Christmas Eve. (Read the full review.)

Ballad of Matthew’s Begats, by Andrew Peterson

The Ballad of Matthew's Begats, by Andrew Peterson | Little Book, Big Story

Andrew Peterson’s book reminds us of the long history behind Jesus’s coming by turning the geneaology of Jesus into a picture book and a catchy song. (Read the full review.)

The One O’Clock Miracle, by Alison Mitchell

The One O'Clock Miracle, by Alison Mitchell | Little Book, Big Story

What does it look like to trust Jesus? Alison Mitchell and Catalina Echeverri get it right in The One O’Clock Miracle. (Read the full review.)

Easter, by Jan Pienkowski

Easter, by Jan Pienkowski | Little Book, Big Story

It is good to be reminded, as we celebrate the Incarnation, that Jesus came with a purpose. That purpose wasn’t pleasant, but it was good. Jan Pienkowski shows us why in this gorgeous book. (Read the full review.)

The Jesus Storybook Bible, by Sally Lloyd-Jones

The Jesus Storybook Bible, by Sally Lloyd-Jones | Little Book, Big Story

Of course. (Read the full review.)

Which books about Jesus are your favorites?

The Bronze Bow | Elizabeth George Speare

My edition of The Bronze Bow told me delightfully little about the book—what it was called, who wrote it, what else the author is known for and that the book won a Newbery Award, but nothing at all about the story. I bought the book because of that award, and because I had a dim memory that somebody I respected had once said something about The Bronze Bow. But the book sat on my shelf, unread, until a few months ago when I finally took it down and plunged into the story.

The Bronze Bow, by Elizabeth George Speare | Little Book, Big Story

The story itself was a pleasant surprise: set in Galilee during the first century, The Bronze Bow follows Daniel, a young man orphaned by the Romans and exiled from his village. Daniel longs to see Israel freed from the rule of the Roman Empire and dedicates all he has to fighting in an underground rebellion. But when his circumstances change and Daniel is drawn back into the life of his village, he is forced to reconsider what sort of victory God is working toward and how Daniel can best help bring it about.

I loved the historical detail in this book, but one of my favorite aspects of it is the way the story runs alongside that of the gospels, bumping up against the story of Jesus every so often. Jesus is a character in this book, so if that makes you squeamish, you’ve been warned. But the way Speare portrays him is beautiful and respectful and, as far as I can see, consistent with Scripture, though of course she portrays him creatively, supplying details outside those mentioned in the gospels. I found her descriptions so compelling, and I loved the way the other characters had to reckon with Jesus, the way his words and very presence kept shaping their decisions and responses in ways they could not explain.

The Bronze Bow, by Elizabeth George Speare | Little Book, Big Story

Because of the age of the main characters (18 or so) and because Jesus appears in a fictional setting, I’d recommend saving this one until our child is old enough to separate this story from that of the gospels and to view it with discernment. Of course, you know your child better than I do, so take that recommendation with a grain of salt.

But The Bronze Bow is a beautiful example of historical fiction that brings history to life for the reader. And now, I’m off to read Speare’s other books—she’s fully won my trust as an author.


The Bronze Bow
Elizabeth George Speare (1997)

The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross | Carl Laferton

There are some trends I can’t get behind, like jeggings and cookie dough dip. But I do see a trend emerging that I can fully endorse: for a while, we’ve had some stellar story bibles that treat Scripture as one big story (The Jesus Storybook Bible; The Big Picture Story Bible), but lately, I’ve noticed more and more picture books that try to capture some aspect of Scripture’s big story. Some tackle the entire arc of Scripture (The Biggest Story); others focus on a few crucial books of the Bible (Miracle Man).

These have, so far, been beautifully illustrated. And so far, they’ve all been awesome.

The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross, by Carl Laferton | Little Book, Big Story

The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross is another stunning example of a book that distills the big story of Scripture down into a potent dozen or so pages, so kids can read through the main arc of Scripture’s story in one sitting. Carl Laferton uses the curtain that separated the Israelites from the Holy of Holies, the part of the temple where God lived, to illustrate the effect that the Fall had on our relationship with God. Throughout the book, a simple refrain crops up:

Because of your sin, you can’t come in

Aided by Catalina Echeverri’s colorful illustrations, Laferton explains how that separation happened (the garden), what it was like while it lasted (the curtain), and how it ended (the Cross).

The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross, by Carl Laferton | Little Book, Big Story

On my first read-through, though, I must confess that I thought the story has been simplified a little too much. But when I reached the end and saw what Laferton had been building toward, I realized that, no, that simplicity was just right. And when I read it aloud to my daughters, the story came alive.

The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross, by Carl Laferton | Little Book, Big Story

Because of your sin, you can’t come in

Like an unresolved chord, that refrain hangs unfinished throughout the story, until the last note—the note of Christ’s suffering on our behalf—joins in:

Because of your sin, you can’t come in,
but I died on the cross to take your sin . . .
So all my friends can now come in!

The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross, by Carl Laferton | Little Book, Big Story

The story resolves beautifully. Our story resolves beautifully. And we simply cannot hear that good news enough.


The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross
Carl Laferton, Catalina Echeverri (2016)

Miracle Man | John Hendrix

I imagine reviewers for large publications opening white-covered galley copies of newly released books, their minds empty of expectation. I imagine—wrongly, I hope—that they read with a sort of professionalism, exploring major themes and images with an air of detachment, and I laugh. Because I enjoy being a highly-biased reviewer: I get to dive whole-heartedly into a book by a beloved author, announcing to myself as I do so, “I want to love this book.”

If I know nothing about the author, then it’s usually the illustrations that provoke this longing in me: a beautifully illustrated book makes me desperately want the story to do them justice.

Such was the case with Miracle Man.

Miracle Man, by John Hendrix | Little Book, Big Story

I wanted so badly to love John Hendrix’s book—the cover alone was persuasive—and oh, dear reader, I do. I love it. I love Miracle Man so much that I bumped it up eight spots on my publishing schedule just so I could share it with you immediately.

Miracle Man follows the life of Jesus through his miracles, showing an interpretation of who he was as an incarnated man that fits well with Scripture but creatively reveals aspects of how his nature as the Son of God may have overflowed the bounds of humanity. Hendrix renders Jesus’ words as part of the illustrations, not part of the text, so everything Jesus says arrests your eyes and causes you dwell on every letter of every word. He made the deliberate choice to portray Jesus himself and infuses the illustrations with details that (I’m not ashamed to admit it) made me cry because they are so awe-inspiring.

Miracle Man, by John Hendrix | Little Book, Big Story

My favorite example:

Miracle Man, by John Hendrix | Little Book, Big Story

Jesus’ footsteps are filled with live, growing things, as though the sole of his foot is so infused with life that its imprint causes the earth to burst into flower out of season.

Yes, I wanted to love this book. I wanted to so badly that I would have overlooked some slightly lackluster prose for the sake of those stunning illustrations, but I didn’t have to. There was nothing lackluster to overlook.

Miracle Man, by John Hendrix | Little Book, Big Story

And now, I want desperately to love every other book Hendrix has written.


Miracle Man
John Hendrix (2016)

Easter | Jan Pienkowski

First of all, congratulations to Carolyn of House Full of Bookworms! She is the official, randomly chosen winner of the Slugs & Bugs giveaway. She is also a fellow children’s book blogger, so in a way, I suppose that you all win a little something, too, because now you know about her blog (if you didn’t already). I think you’re going to like it.

Thank you so much to all of you who entered! That giveaway was great fun, and I really enjoyed hearing from so many of you in the comments—so much so that I find myself wondering, “What else can I give you all?” I just may have to do something like that again in the future.

And now, down to business: this is the last post before I take a little break to celebrate our baby.


This post originally appeared on this blog on March 20, 2015.

Christmas books are easy to come by. We have many, and there are many more waiting on my “To Read” list, and that is good. But Easter books are scarce—really good Easter books, I mean, the kind that have less to do with eggs and bunnies and the beauty of nature than they do with the glory of God and the death and resurrection of his Son. We have some, but not many. And I was hard pressed to find new ones this year.

Easter, by Jan Pienkowski | Little Book, Big Story

Perhaps, I mused in the comments at Aslan’s Library, that is because there is no baby in the Easter story and so few farm animals (just that donkey that crops up again and again). Later on, it struck me: there is no baby in the Easter story and there are few farm animals. But what is in the story is not the usual fodder for children’s books: Execution. Betrayal. Suicide. Torture, death, abandonment. Grief.

How does an author or illustrator of books for children handle those subjects with delicacy and honesty? No wonder so many authors prefer to come at the story through peripheral characters; no wonder authors tell this story from a slight distance.

Easter, by Jan Pienkowski | Little Book, Big Story

I touched lightly on this in an earlier post when I mentioned my surprise at finding that we had only one book that told the story head on, without some sort of literary filter. After that, a wise commenter directed me toward Jan Pieńkowski’s book, Easter, which I found later that week at our library and lo! It was beautiful. (We have since purchased our own copy.)

The text is that of the King James Bible, so it is rich and elegant and somehow just right. Pieńkowski’s silhouetted illustrations are unique and powerful, yet so simple, that they suit the intensity of the story of Christ’s Crucifixion and Resurrection, allowing him to depict details that would be too disturbing if shown head on without losing any of their gravity. (How he pulls so much expression out of black paper, I don’t know, but he does and he does it well.)

Easter, by Jan Pienkowski | Little Book, Big Story

Easter is a moving book—one that is hard to read without sniffling at least a little. It is a book that doesn’t look away from the horror of the Crucifixion of Christ, but one that opens and closes with these radiant endpapers meant to remind us that Christ’s death was neither the beginning nor the end of the story, for after it came the Resurrection. After that, everything changed.

Easter, by Jan Pienkowski | Little Book, Big Story


Easter
Jan Pieńkowski (1989)

Easter | Fiona French

I have reviewed quite a few different Easter books since starting this blog, and most of them approach the story of Christ’s death and resurrection from a fresh perspective: through the lens of history and tradition, perhaps, or by letting a typically peripheral character tell the story.

It wasn’t until I read through Fiona French’s book, Easter, that I realized that the one thing our library of Easter books lacked was a simple, straight-forward telling of the Easter story—no frills, no fresh perspective. Just the story itself.

Easter, by Fiona French | Little Book, Big Story

French centers her book around text from the RSV, and the text informs her illustrations, which are “inspired by” (and I quote the dust jacket here) “the glorious English cathedral windows of Ely, Lincoln, York and Canterbury.” They are done in the style of stained glass windows, which lends a beautiful sobriety to the narrative of the events of Christ’s life between the Triumphal Entry and the Ascension.

Easter, by Fiona French | Little Book, Big Story

As Protestants of the reformed stripe, we don’t have much experience with elaborate stained glass windows—not on a weekly basis, anyway—so I loved giving our girls the opportunity to explore them through the pages of Easter. Between the clean, direct text and the beautiful illustrations, I can already tell that this book will be a staple in our house from year to year.

Easter, by Fiona French: an ornately illustrated yet simply told version of the Easter story, from Triumphal Entry to Christ's Ascension | Little Book, Big Story


Easter
Fiona French (2004)

God Gave Us Easter | Lisa Tawn Bergren

I expected to like this series less than I do. The books are cute, after all, with talking polar bears and pastel palettes, and so I expected the content to be cute, too. But I have finally—after reading at least three of these books–realized that the content is more commendable than cute, more challenging than cuddly.

Before we go further, let me be clear: I don’t have anything against pastels or talking bears. I have nothing against Laura J. Bryant’s illustrations—in fact, I think they’re lovely. Her perspectives are unusual, her details vibrant, her use of patterns just right. But for some reason, when I first saw them I didn’t expect depth from the story: I expected sweetness. And so the depth, when I met it, was surprising.

God Gave Us Easter, by Lisa Tawn Bergen | Little Book, Big Story

Lisa Tawn Bergren uses the comforting structure of a child’s conversation with a parent to unearth deep truths—like where babies come from (in God Gave Us You) or what love is (in God Gave Us Love).

In God Gave Us Easter, her characters discuss Easter, yes, but they also discuss the gospel. And death. And prayer. The conversation dives into those deeper subjects while still meandering in the way that conversations with small children do. Somehow, Bergren hits those two notes—theology and simplicity—just right.

God Gave Us Easter, by Lisa Tawn Bergen | Little Book, Big Story

God Gave Us Easter was a welcome addition to our family’s collection of Easter books—it balances out our many retellings of the events Holy Week by delving into not the “what,” but the “why” and “how” of Easter, and it does that by zooming in on what the Resurrection means for one family, one child.

God Gave Us Easter, by Lisa Tawn Bergen | Little Book, Big Story

One cautionary note: this book does present the gospel from the perspective of polar bears in such a way that it might be tempting to think that the author intended, in some literal sense, to imply that Christ’s atoning death applies to polar bears, too. Because the bears also talk and dye Easter eggs and behave in other un-bearlike ways, I didn’t take it that way, and I don’t think my children did, either. If it comes up, I figure it makes for an interesting conversation with the kids, that’s all. But it is a point worth mentioning.


God Gave Us Easter
Lisa Tawn Bergen, Laura J. Bryant (2013)