Tag: literature

My Book House | Olive Beaupre Miller

Our shelves are full of books I believe in. We own adventure stories, where after a few battles and close calls, good triumphs over evil. We own fairy tales, picture books, poetry collections, and a whole lot of Sandra Boynton board books. And books are everywhere in our home: in fact, the only room in our home that doesn’t have a single book in it is our laundry room. Everywhere else has a cache of books tucked into some corner or other.

I tell you this not because I’m in a mood to state the obvious, but because I want to paint a picture of a family who loves books, who reads them often, and who trades favorites on a regular basis. We read a lot—but we’re not very structured about it. I trust that by filling our shelves with great titles, our kids will get a well-rounded literary education.

But, of course, I am the weak link there: they will get a well-rounded education in books that I am familiar with. Books that like.

My Book House | Little Book, Big Story

So when I heard about My Book House, I was intrigued: In 1920, Olive Beaupre Miller, the series editor, chose character-building stories from classic literature, mythology, fairy tales and more, and arranged them in multiple volumes, each one progressively more challenging than the last. The idea was that a family could read straight through the series and provide their children with a rich literary foundation, from nursery rhymes to great historical speeches.

That’s pretty awesome. The series includes things I wouldn’t normally gravitate toward—fables, folk tales, and nursery rhymes, to name a few, as well as things familiar and well-loved. It’s delightful to be drawn outside our box.

My Book House | Little Book, Big Story

But while I was immediately smitten with the idea behind My Book House, it wasn’t until I saw pictures of the books themselves that I decided to take the plunge and order a set. The books are beautiful, and there’s something satisfying about seeing that many good stories huddled together in matching jackets on our shelves.

To clarify: Yes. I bought the books because they’re pretty.

Buying these books is a hefty investment, and I hesitated about whether or not to post them here because I hate to talk you into adding $100 worth of books (however beautiful) to your wishlists unless I’m positive you’ll like them. But the thought that you might see a set at a garage sale and pass it by because you’d never heard of them finally convinced me that I have a duty to share these books with you. So, check thrift stores, garage sales, and eBay (that’s where I found mine)—perhaps you’ll get lucky!

My Book House | Little Book, Big Story

How We Use Our Set

These books have become a part of our home school routine. I read them aloud to the girls, but I also encourage my newly fluent first grader to practice her reading on some of the early volumes.

We have been studying geography this year, so it’s been fun to read some of the stories from other countries. (I will warn you, though, that these books are a little dated in places. Some of the perspectives on race and culture might bring up some interesting discussions with your kids.)

I love digging into them around holidays: my set has a giant index at the end of the last volume, so when a holiday rolls around, it’s fun to rummage through that index and find the stories and poems that relate to each holiday and incorporate those into our reading for the week.

Plus, my girls love them so much that they often pull a volume down and curl up on the couch with it. That’s a hearty endorsement from the intended audience right there.

My Book House | Little Book, Big Story

A Note on Editions

I understand that there are different editions out there and that some of the older ones are a bit better than my 1971 set (read more about that at the link below), but I didn’t know that until after I purchased mine. And I’m kind of glad I didn’t, because the 1971 set is so darn pretty.

My Book House | Little Book, Big Story

One Last Thing

If you would like to know more about either the history of My Book House or how you might use it in your home, Pam Barnhill has an excellent article all about the series on her blog, Ed Snapshots. Read it here.


My Book House
Olive Beaupre Miller (1920)

10 Chapter Books to Read Aloud With Your Daughter

When we read a good book to our children, we delegate: we enlist the help of gifted authors to demonstrate for them (and for us, too) what life is like in other places, other times, other bodies. This is what it looks like, a good book says, to ask for forgiveness even when the asking is hard, to love the unloved, to find joy in the common graces of life.

A good book takes us outside our own experience, outside a particular moment where Papa reads aloud to the rest of us, who were drawing a moment before but now sit—sniffling, pens suspended—as we listen to Prince Rilian’s farewell to his father. This is grief. This is joy.

This is, in a sense, one aspect of what the Bible does for us: it shows us what it looks like to fight against God, to persevere when we don’t want to, to look forward to the life yet to come. We study the movements of the Lord’s hand through each story and find comfort in the fact that his hand moves in our stories, too. We watch other lives lived out in its pages and recognize ourselves in them; that recognition then shapes the way we respond to trouble when it comes. This is where rebellion leads; this is redemption.

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

And so we fill the corners of our hearts with Scripture and the corners of our home with good books. We surround our daughters with characters that they can connect with, characters who are foolish and funny, warm and wise, prone to mischief or perhaps a little too perfect. We introduce them to AnneJo, Heidi, Lucy, and Laura, of course. And then we move on to Bobbie, Phyllis and Irene, Emily and Rose—heroines of the lesser-known works of great authors or of the books picked up on a whim that are, perhaps, unassuming on the outside but radiant within.

Here, for your pleasure, is a list of our favorites. These stories don’t appeal exclusively to girls, by the way. Quite a few of them feature male characters that share the spotlight with the female lead or simply steal it outright, but they’re boys (and men) of good quality that I want my girls to know and love. I suspect that those of you with sons might find that your boys scoot their Legos a little closer to the couch whenever you pull these books out to read with your daughter. (I’ve marked those books with an asterisk.)

*THE RAILWAY CHILDREN, by E. Nesbit

The Railway Children, by E. Nesbit | Little Book, Big Story

When their father is unexpectedly (and mysteriously) called away from home, three children move to the English countryside with their mother. Adventures large and small ensue, all told in the charming style of E. Nesbit. This book is one of my very favorites. (Read the full review.)

*THE PRINCESS AND THE GOBLIN, by George MacDonald

The Princess and the Goblin, by George MacDonald | Little Book, Big Story

An old fairy tale of the best sort, written by an author who came to my attention because C.S. Lewis gave him a hearty endorsement. This is, I think, the best of his books for children, and features the princess Irene and her unlikely friend, Curdie. There is also a magical great-great-great-great-grandmother and a whole passel of ornery goblins. (Read the full review.)

WHAT KATY DID, by Susan Coolidge

What Katy Did, by Susan Coolidge | Little Book, Big Story

Circumstances change abruptly, both in life and in plot lines. What Katy Did demonstrates both aspects of this, and through the story of Katy Carr, shows how the road of suffering often leads to the most glorious destinations. (Read the full review.)

THE TINKER’S DAUGHTER, by Wendy Lawton

The Tinker's Daughter, or "Why is it so hard to find strong Christian characters in fiction?" | Little Book, Big Story

Here is a marriage of history and fiction. Wendy Lawton tells the story of Mary Bunyan, the sightless daughter of John Bunyan, as she navigates life during her father’s imprisonment. This is a beautifully told story and shows the progress of Mary’s fledgling faith alongside the robust, proven faith of her father. (Read the full review.)

*THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, by Roger Lancelyn Green

The Adventures of Robin Hood | Little Book, Big Story

There is a good deal of “bashing of crowns” and “striking one another with blows” in this book, it’s true. But this unlikely candidate merits a spot on this list for three reasons: 1) Maid Marian is no nameless damsel in distress here but a woman bold, courageous, and virtuous. 2) The men in this book know how to treat the ladies. 3) My daughters loved it. (Read the full review.)

EMILY OF NEW MOON, by L.M. Montgomery

Emily of New Moon, by LM Montgomery | Little Book, Big Story

You already know about Anne. Emily of New Moon is the slightly darker tale—a deep violet to Anne’s brassy red, twilight to Anne’s fresh morning—of Emily Starr, poetess, orphan, and bewitching lead lady. My affection for this book is deep, my friends. So deep. (Read the full review.)

*TREASURES OF THE SNOW, by Patricia St. John

Treasures of the Snow, by Patricia St. John | Little Book, Big Story

Have you heard of this book? I hadn’t either until a friend recommended it at a wedding reception dinner. But Treasures of the Snow is a beauty worth seeking out: in it, you’ll find the gospel faithfully represented in a fictional setting, as a feud rises up between two families that needs the wisdom of a grandmother and the power of the gospel to resolve. (Read the full review.)

THE KING’S EQUAL, by Katherine Paterson

The King's Equal | Little Book, Big Story

The author of Bridge to Terebithia tells an old-fashioned tale of an arrogant prince who cannot assume the kingship until he finds a wife who is “his equal.” (He thinks himself so wonderful that this must be all but impossible.) The King’s Equal is available as either a very short chapter book or a rather long picture book. In either format, it’s a joy to read. (Read the full review.)

A LITTLE PRINCESS, by Frances Hodgson Burnett

A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett | Little Book, Big Story

Okay, so you probably have heard of this one. It isn’t as famous than its celebrated cousin, The Secret Garden, but if I’m perfectly honest, I liked it better. Sara Crewe—wealthy and petted, but gentle and kind—suffers a fall of fortunes and determines to be a true princess throughout her trial. Unlikely friendships, unexpected blessings, and a satisfying conclusion spring from this decision. (Read the full review.)

*EIGHT COUSINS, Louisa May Alcott

Eight Cousins, by Louisa May Alcott | Little Book, Big Story

Sheltered and newly orphaned Rose meets her uncle and eight boy cousins for the first time, finds them bewilderingly active but ultimately endearing and goes on to forge the best sort of friendship with them. This book is funny, charming, and beautiful all at once, and sparkles with the same delight in story and language that fuels Alcott’s Little Women. (Read the full review.)


Have I missed any? What are your favorite little-known chapter books for girls?

How to Play Librarian

Last week, while sifting through the photos stored on my laptop, I found this:

How to Play Librarian | Little Book, Big Story

That’s Lydia. The one that turns seven next week. I went through the usual shock and aww that accompanies a discovery like that, from “Really? She was ever that small?” to “Oh, the cheeks!”, and as I moved from one photo to the next it occurred to me that you might be interested in these photos, not because they cause you to meditate on the rapid passage of time (though they may affect you that way if you’ve seen Lydia lately), but because they are from the day we built ourselves a library and named Lydia head librarian.

little-book-big-story-cardboard-library (7)

I suppose this is a picture of one way that we have made books a part of the daily fabric of our family life: we play with them as well as read them, and share them with each other in inventive, quirky ways.

We had received a library kit as a gift not long before those photos were taken. It came with Ex Libris tags, a date stamp, and a small notebook, and for the longest time, I wasn’t sure what to do with it—we had more books than Ex Libris tags, and I have no desire to loan books out with due dates—but then we received a box of old books from a friend and those books, that kit, and a big box left over from a move combined to make a trifecta of creative play. We made library cards for the family, tucked tags in the front of each book, and Lydia’s shift began.

How to Play Librarian | Little Book, Big Story

How to Play Librarian, or "A DIY Cardboard Library for the Ages" | Little Book, Big Story

So, how do you play librarian? It has less to do with the way you build a cardboard desk and more to do with how you view books. We have always kept our books within our children’s reach, and while that costs us some book covers when we have a toddler in the house, that price is worth the sense of ownership our girls feel when they browse the bookshelves of our home. They learn to respect books, yes, but better yet, they learn to value them for what they contain—not just for how they look on the shelves.

I grew up with that sense of ownership: my dad gave us free access to his books (and I mean free: when given the opportunity to choose my own subject for a book report, I once went my dad’s bookshelves and selected Bimbos of the Death Sun. It’s a pity I can’t remember how my teacher graded that paper) and so I always knew where to go when I needed something new to read—and who to ask if I needed help finding it.

How to Play Librarian | Little Book, Big Story

How to Play Librarian | Little Book, Big Story

We want our kids to be comfortable with our family’s books and so we carefully curate a library that we can share with them. We want them to feel free to read and touch and explore and play with the books we collectively own, and I have visions of watching them, nearly grown, browse the shelves, looking for something good to read. I will probably hover conspicuously in the background and ask (the way I do to my husband whenever he glances toward a bookshelf), “Can I help you find something?”

That is how I play librarian.

But better still, I have visions of watching my daughters pass books to each other, asking, “Have you read this one yet? You’ll love it.” And that is why I gave our daughters a box of old books to stamp and share at whim.

How to Play Librarian, or "A DIY Cardboard Library for the Ages" | Little Book, Big Story

Librarian turned out to be an enduring game and it’s one that Lydia asks to play every so often, in part because we keep those old books with the library kit (it’s still around, on a shelf in their bedroom) and I know she’d like to read them again, and in part because she just loves playing Librarian.

How to Play Librarian | Little Book, Big Story

Gunner covers Lydia’s lunch shift

Eight Cousins | Louisa May Alcott

One of  the quirks about having only daughters is that, unless you happen to have a pack of boy cousins handy, your girls might find the behavior of boys a bit shocking.

You see, our girls have a lot of friends that are boys. In fact, most of their friends are boys. But when Lydia started school, we learned that a boy (singular) is different than boys (plural), and that our daughter—who was just fine playing Legos with a boy (singular), or reading quietly on the couch with a boy (singular)—came home weepy and overwhelmed after spending a day in the company of boys (plural).

(Let the record state that her school is a small cooperative school, in the Classical tradition, with about a dozen students aged five to ten. So when I say “many boys,” I mean five. Five boys, with their yelling and chasing and leaping off of playground equipment, was enough to make her hide out in the classroom during recess, clutching a copy of Little House on the Prairie.)

Eight Cousins, by Louisa May Alcott | Little Book, Big Story

You can imagine my interest, then, when a friend mentioned  the premise of Eight Cousins: delicate Rose Campbell finds herself surrounded by strapping young lads (cousins, all) when sent  to live with her great-aunts Peace and Plenty (actual names).

When I read through the book myself, I was confirmed in my suspicion that this book was a keeper. So many endearing relatives! Such a great illustration of camaraderie between boys and girls! Plus, one of Rose’s many aunts (the best aunt of all, really) indulges in a lengthy tirade about what constitutes trashy reading, thus forever winning my allegiance.

I haven’t read this book to Lydia yet, but only because we’re firmly entrenched in the American Girl books right now (see? It’s not all hard-core literature around here. We’re reading Kaya’s Hero, if you want to know). But Eight Cousins is next in the queue, and we’re both looking forward to reading it.

Eight Cousins, by Louisa May Alcott | Little Book, Big Story

By the way, Lydia has changed her tune about boys since September. After that first month of tears and trepidation, she jumped into the fray and never looked back. Now, when I peek out the window while tidying the lunch room (it’s a co-op, remember), I see her brown braids bouncing along in the thick of a game involving a prison, some jump ropes, a wild horse or two and boys (plural).


Eight Cousins
Louisa May Alcott (1875)

An Exciting Announcement

I recently started working as a copy editor for Deeply Rooted magazine! This is exciting for two different reasons. Firstly, Deeply Rooted is the kind of publication I can wholeheartedly endorse and I am thrilled at the prospect of reading through (and bonding with) their articles. For more about who they are, what they do and why they love to do it, click here (and order a copy!).

Secondly, I get to edit. I didn’t know how much I enjoyed editing until I found myself saying (on multiple occasions, and with audible italics), “Oh, you write? Well, if you ever want somebody to read things through for you, please send them my way. I love helping with stuff like that.”

Having an outlet for my enthusiasm is great, though the jury is still out as to whether this will make me more or less bearable as I person. I figure it’ll be like my first weeks working as a dental assistant, when I had trouble navigating conversations because all I could see when I looked at people were teeth, teeth, teeth. Eventually, that went away, and so one hopes that, eventually, I’ll stop seeing ellipses, ellipses, ellipses every time I read a blog post. (The fact that Mitch has taken to reading particularly adjective-laden passages aloud from The Da Vinci Code—just to spite me—is not helping.)

Lest I grow too snobbish, though, I ask you: have you seen the number of parentheses in this post? And the italics! Somebody fetch me a red pen, stat!

What Katy Did | Susan Coolidge

Every now and then a book that startles you by beginning as one thing and ending as something else altogether. Maybe it’s an adventure story that morphs into a pitch perfect allegory.* Or maybe it is a love story that winds its way, oddly but beautifully, into an illustration of how sin and redemption alters us forever.

In the case of What Katy Did, what begins as an episodic tale of life in a busy household takes an abrupt turn and pitches the characters (and the reader) into deep, deep waters so quickly that you only just have time to see the change coming before it is upon you.

What Katy Did, by Susan Coolidge | Little Book, Big Story

Katy Carr is the eldest of six children, an altogether wonderful character who means well but rarely succeeds in doing well. For the first half of the book, the Carr children live an ordinary, boisterous life: they make friends, have adventures, explore and make mischief. Katy mans the ship. She is captain and commander, steering them all into and out of trouble, until—in a single afternoon—her life is utterly changed and she is admitted into what one character knowingly calls “the School of Pain . . . where the Teacher is always at hand. He never goes away. If things puzzle us, he is there close by, ready to explain and make all easy.”

And so a peppy book about childhood merges gracefully with a beautiful lesson on how God uses suffering to train us an draw us out of ourselves. As Katy learns to see the blessing in a devastating event, so do we; as she sees the love of her heavenly Teacher, we can’t help but see it, too.

What Katy Did, by Susan Coolidge | Little Book, Big Story

It was a courageous move on Coolidge’s part, introducing a lesson on suffering into a book that was humming along nicely without it, but she manages the transition well. In fact, I admire her for doing so, and  think that the book gains immeasurably by that one bold plot twist. I look forward to reading What Katy Did to my daughters when they are older, and, in the meantime, to reading the sequels, What Katy Did at School and What Katy Did Next.

Have you read What Katy Did, or either of the sequels? What did you think?

*The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis

**Kristen Lavransdatter, by Sigrid Undset


What Katy Did
Susan Coolidge (1872)