Not only has this book been in the world for a while, winning awards and such, but it has also been on our shelves for a while. And I’m sure I had read it to someone before; I know I had read it to myself. But recently, Phoebe and I snuggled on the couch with this book spread across both our knees, and the pinball struck home: the story sunk in, and I came back to it after the girls were in bed, to read it again on my own.
Last Stop on Market Street, if you haven’t read it yet (though you probably have), follows a young boy and his grandmother as they ride the bus through their town. We see them leave church in the beginning of the book, but until the last pages, we don’t know where they’re going. The boy grumbles the way we all often do: Why do they have to ride the bus? Other people have cars. Why doesn’t he have a phone? Those big kids do.
But the way his grandmother answers his questions unhooks his eyes from fleeting pleasures and fixes them on the pleasures before him: You don’t need little music threaded through earbuds—you’ve got live music right here. Your poor friends in their cars—they miss meeting all the people here on the bus. They’re poorer for it.
There are lots of books out there about gratitude, but this one shows us what it looks like. I want to have eyes, like the grandmother’s, that see gifts in the most unlikely things. I want to remember that I am owed nothing, but have been given much.
When we learn where the boy and his grandmother are headed, it makes sense. For a woman who sees the world the way this one does, her gratitude must overflow into kindness.
A note to three-year-olds everywhere: if your parents buy you this book for your birthday, they are almost certainly hinting that it is time to start sleeping through the night. (We were when we bought this for Josie.)
Lisa Tawn Bergren’s God Gave Us series is lovely and I’ve reviewed a few of them here. But none have garnered as dedicated a following in our home as this one: for a time God Gave Us Sleep was Josie’s favorite pre-nap read. She flipped through it after I put her to bed, and I often found it on the floor beside her when she woke up, as though it had slipped out of her hands when she drifted off.
And it is a book worth reading and re-reading. Bergren explores sleep and why it matters; through the story, she shows what happens and how we feel when we don’t sleep well, and she reminds readers that sleep is not a punishment or an inconvenience but a gift from our loving God. Exhausted parents know this. Three-year-olds don’t always, so I’m thankful for a book that gently explains it.
Josie has finally started sleeping through the night, though she will sometimes come quietly into our room and wait for us to wake up and take her to the bathroom. She never tells us she’s there, but lets us become gradually aware of her presence by singing “Happy Birthday” softly to herself. That’s so much better than how she used to wake us that we don’t even mind.
I try to rein in the superlatives here, because I assume that you don’t want to read, week after week, that I thought a book was “extra super truly amazing.” I assume you’d rather not wade through the adjectives to reach the punchline, which is that, yes, I loved the book.
Each book in the series tells a Bible story, and each one does it with an eye toward the gospel: “What does this story tell us about Jesus?,” the authors ask. But Jesus and the Lion’s Den is still more purposeful about pointing the story forward to Christ.
Alison Mitchell tells the story of Daniel in a way that doesn’t only show readers how it connects to the story of Jesus, but allows readers to work it out for themselves (spoiler alert: there’s a code). Catalina Echeverri’s illustrations are vibrant and expressive, as always.
This series continues to be one of my favorites, and Jesus and the Lion’s Den is an extra super truly amazing new addition to it. (And they just keep coming! I can’t wait to read this one.)
Disclosure: I did receive a copy of this for review, but I was not obligated to review this book or compensated for my review in any way. I share this book with you because I love it, not because I was paid to do so.
When our eldest daughter was a toddler, my mom dropped a heavy box off at our house. “Your books,” she said. “From when you were a kid.”
I had no idea what a wonderful thing she’d done until I took the lid off the box, and two dozen or more picture book spines looked back at me: books I’d forgotten completely were there, tucked alongside old favorites, and many bore handwritten notes from my mom, marking the birthdays and Christmases of my childhood.
Those books now live on our family shelves. The gift of those childhood books was so powerful that I have made it a tradition for every birthday, Easter and Christmas since to buy a new and beautiful theological book for each of our daughters and to inscribe them with a short note. I’m looking forward to the day when I can drop off a box of books with each of them and help establish their picture book libraries.
I ran into a hitch this year, though. Lydia was suddenly harder to shop for: the only Christian books I found at her reading level were missionary biographies, and while she has a few of those already, she doesn’t seem particularly enchanted with them yet. So I wanted to get her something different—but what?
Enter The Radical Book for Kids, by Champ Thornton. Part encyclopedia of the Christian faith, part Dangerous Book for Girls (or Boys), The Radical Book for Kids is full of so many wonderful things that I’m finding it hard to improve upon the publisher’s description of the book. So I’ll just quote it here:
This power-packed book is “radical” in more ways than you might think! It is “radical” in the sense of the original meaning of the word, “going to the root or origin.” The Radical Book for Kids will take children on a fascinating journey into the ancient roots of the Christian faith. But it’s also “radical” in the more modern sense of being revolutionary. Kids read about men and women who learned to trust Jesus and stand for him—displaying radical faith—even when everything seemed against them.
But The Radical Book for Kids is also “radical”—meaning fun or cool—in the eyes of a child. Kids read about ancient weapons (and how to make one), learn about jewels, create pottery, discover ancient languages, use secret codes, locate stars, tell time using the sun, play a board game that’s 3,000 years old—and more.
This is the sort of book that I pull out after the kids go to bed and get lost in: the material in it is deep yet engaging, and every page is beautiful. I have a hunch that Lydia will disappear into it, too, and emerge full of interesting facts about ancient Hebrew, Lottie Moon, and handmade slings. And my hope is that, when she finds The Radical Book for Kids in a box of childhood favorites, years from now, her eyes will light up and she’ll say, “Oh, I loved this one!”
Today’s summer re-run originally appeared in 2016. But it’s an excellent book, worth sharing twice. I hope you enjoy it!
I knew two things about this book when I grabbed it off the library shelf:
John Brown was a controversial guy whose legacy had something to do with a militia, maybe.
No such controversy surrounds John Hendrix, whose book Miracle Man is one of my favorites, and whose hand-lettered “Hendrix” on this book’s spine compelled me to tuck it in my book bag.
I learned a lot more about both Johns when I got home. John Brown was controversial—I was right about that. As a white abolitionist living when the tide was turning, yet hadn’t fully turned, against slavery, John Brown took up arms and fought to bring slavery to an end. He loved the Lord and saw violence as a way to bring a great grief to an end. His raid on a federal armory in the town of Harper’s Ferry was distastrous and led to his capture and execution.
He is not an obvious hero.
But John Hendrix treats his story well, neither glorifying Brown’s call to violence, nor underplaying Brown’s passion and love for those enslaved. Here was a man who saw injustice and said not, “Somebody should do something about that,” but “Something must be done”—and then did something about it.
I try to keep my daughters’ shelves stocked with stories of heroes—people who trusted the Lord through difficult circumstances, yes, but also figures from history whose stories are worth telling and retelling. John Brown fits almost into both of those categories, but his story is not a clear success and that is, I think, one of its merits. We have to think about this story: Was he right to wage an actual war against slavery? Did he, in the end, accomplish what he set out to do? How was he changed by the events at Harper’s Ferry?
There is no setting this book down and thinking, Well, that was nice. John Hendrix’s words as well as his illustrations push the reader into deeper study, and his author’s note at the end of the book gives an interesting glimpse into what drew him to write about John Brown:
John was a devout believer in Christianity. He used the Bible’s words—that men are loved and valuable to God—as a holy plumb line. When he held this truth up against the crooked world, he knew things should be different. I was astonished to read about John’s belief that black people should not just be free but equal, which was an idea far outside mainstream abolitionism in the antebellum United States. His passion for freedom was undisputed. Frederick Douglass said of John Brown: ‘His zeal in the cause of my race was greater than mine. I could live for the slave, but he could die for him.’
Those are powerful words about a man who, in the end, did just that: he loved and laid down his life for his neighbors.
Last year, we held a family meeting to settle our last-day-of-school tradition. Because I get to (sort of arbitrarily) pick which day is our last, this seemed important. And because, at the time of the meeting, we were at the beach with a trip to Menchie’s dangling in front of us like a sprinkle-coated carrot, the vote was unanimous: our last-day-of-school tradition shall henceforth be a day at the beach and a trip to Menchie’s.
That day came two weeks ago. We spent the morning picnicking on a rocky Pacific Northwest beach, rummaging through tidepools and climbing massive sandstone boulders, shaped through centuries of the water’s patient work (insert homeschooling metaphor here). We watched a trio of bald eagles swoop overhead, scraped our knees on barnacles, and petted sea stars.
Then, we concocted the most horrific frozen yogurt sundaes at Menchie’s: mine had more to do with peanut butter and chocolate, but there were some variations on a cotton candy + marshmallow sauce + sprinkles happening among the other members of our table. It was all very pink.
But I digress. What I meant to say was: we’re done with school. Summer is under way! And with it comes my annual summer break. Until mid-September or so, I’m going to share one of my favorite old posts with you every other week, so this will be the last new book review until the fall. But I hope to meet you on the other side with a whole bunch of beautiful new books. (I have a pile of them waiting for you already.)
In the meantime, may your summer be sticky, sandy, and sunny!
But this book can’t wait until September.
For those of you who annotate and doodle your way through every sermon or lecture, who find that listening to audio books is like not reading the book at all, who decode thorny problems by drawing them out in spidery graphs with squiggly lines—you visual people (you’re my people!). I’m talking to you.
Bible Infographics for Kids (subtitle: “Giants, Ninja Skills, a Talking Donkey, and What’s the Deal with the Tabernacle?”) is a collection of—wait for it—Bible infographics for kids. These are big, bold, graphic illustrations that, in the words of this book’s authors, “help [us] see information that might otherwise be hard to understand.” For the visual learners among us, getting to “see” information means we’ll also remember it. For all of us, it’s fun.
In Bible Infographics for Kids, the authors and illustrator use maps and probability charts and comparisons to bring home some of the weirder truths of Scripture (did you know that the odds of one person fulfilling just eight Old Testament prophecies is the same as someone finding one specific coin in a pile of silver dollars so big it covered the state of Texas two feet deep? Me neither. And yet Jesus fulfilled forty-eight Old Testament prophecies!).
But my favorite part, the book’s crowning beauty, is a Bible board game that is really a visual map of the Bible’s narrative. It’s color-coded. It’s clever. And it’s glorious.
I have found all of my kids (and some of their friends) curled up with this book at some point. I have even curled up with it myself. And despite the fact that I have been reading the Bible for nearly twenty years now, I still learn something new every time I pick up Bible Infographics for Kids: how the disciples all relate to one another! Which disciple took the gospel to which part of the world!
These may not be facts necessary to our understanding of Scripture, but they sure highlight the patterns and context of Scripture in a way that helps me (and, Lord-willing, my kids) better know and love its Author.
First, Fanny Crosby. I herded the smaller members of my team into the library, and found, front and center on the display shelf, a biography of Fanny Crosby. Ordinarily, the Christian books are shelved in a little side aisle, next to the Mythology section. They make brief forays out onto the display shelves around Easter and Christmas, but here was Fanny, shoulder to shoulder with Amelia Earhart in women’s history display.
Then it was Paul. Two weeks later we returned, and there was Paul Writes (a Letter), a book I’d just seen reviewed on Story Warren, eagerly catching my eye from another, bigger, closer-to-the-door display. I snatched it up before I even made sure all my daughters were in the door.
It seems that one of our librarians has excellent taste, and I am determined to find out which one. But in the meantime, I am happily reading and adoring Paul Writes (a Letter), a book that unexpectedly summarizes Paul’s letters while also introducing young readers to Paul’s personality. Rashka illustrates him in ways that so perfectly express his tone in some of his letters: joyful, as he contemplates his dear friends in Ephesus. Rubbing his forehead in exasperation, a glass of wine within reach as he writes to the church in Thessalonica.
Paul Writes (a Letter) invites young readers into a beautiful but—given its lack of story—perhaps less approachable portion of Scripture and shows one artist’s interpretation of the man behind the letters. This book doesn’t exactly follow a story either, but it’s a beautiful introduction to Paul, a faithful servant of God and a powerful instrument in God’s hands.
Paul Writes (a Letter) deserves that spot by the library’s front door and on our own shelves, as a regularly visited friend.