Tag: picture book (page 2 of 15)

At Jerusalem’s Gate | Nikki Grimes

I finally figured out how to use our public library.

It’s been there for years—I frequented it myself as a child—and I have taken my daughters there semi-regularly since Lydia was a baby. But my approach to checking out books was haphazard at best: throw books that looked interesting in our book bag and sift through them when we got home. Return them a few months overdue, pay fines, and sheepishly avoid the library for a while. Every so often I would reserve a book, forget to pick it up, and sheepishly dodge the library again.

At Jerusalem's Gate, by Nikki Grimes | Little Book, Big Story

Something changed a few months ago, though, when I sat down to the online catalog and reserved every book I had ever bookmarked on Instagram. Every few days after that, I got an email announcing that some new book was in, waiting for me. These were the best books, the ones usually not on the shelves because their hold lists were so long they just moved from drop-box to hold shelf to somebody’s home and so on.

We found The Princess in Black this way. We discovered Mustache Baby. We checked out every available John Hendrix book this way (sorry, Whatcom County John Hendrix fans! We’ll bring them back soon, I promise).  We learned that our library cards max out at seventy-five books, and that our county actually has a pretty respectable Easter selection.

At Jerusalem's Gate, by Nikki Grimes | Little Book, Big Story

You already know how to use your library, I’m sure. I am extremely late to this particular party. But I love this party: we go to the library weekly now, collect our box full of books and go home happy, not having entered the children’s department once. In this baby-and-toddler season of life, that’s a welcome development.

But about those Easter books.

At Jerusalem’s Gate was one of my favorite library finds this Lent, a title I remember from long ago on Aslan’s Library. In a genre where every other book seems to be titled either The Easter Story or What is Easter?, Nikki Grimes gives us something unexpected: a collection of poems that branches off from the familiar story of Easter.

At Jerusalem's Gate, by Nikki Grimes | Little Book, Big Story

Grimes walks the line between Scripture and speculation gracefully: each poem explores some aspect of the story that has caught her attention—the meaning of Judas’ name, the story of Pilate’s wife, Mary’s response to the Crucifixion—while making it clear in each poem’s introduction that these are the author’s thoughts, not canon. She invites the reader into her own musings and expands the world around the well-trod path of the Gospel accounts, reminding us that actual people lived the events of Holy Week—people who wept and wondered and lived the story’s beginning, middle and end.

This book is, obviously, available at our local library, but we loved it so much that I purchased our own copy (sadly, Jerusalem’s Gate is out of print, but you can sometimes find affordable copies on Amazon). It has been a beautiful part of our family’s reading for Lent, and it’s one I’ll look forward to reviving every spring.

At Jerusalem's Gate, by Nikki Grimes | Little Book, Big Story

Footnote

If you aren’t entirely smitten with this book yet, I highly recommend reading Sarah’s review on Aslan’s Library. It’s beautiful and gives a detailed look at some of the poems. You know what? You should read that review anyway, even if you’ve already put the book on hold at your library.


At Jerusalem’s Gate: Poems for Easter
Nikki Grimes, David Frampton (2005)

Found | Sally Lloyd-Jones

This review might seem a little redundant. I did just write about another Sally Lloyd-Jones book, after all, and I reviewed a book about Psalm 23 not long ago. I even went on about books on Psalm 23 in that post, saying that they were nice and all, but that not many were worth sharing.

But the next month Sally Lloyd-Jones and Jago released a book on Psalm 23, and of course it’s worth sharing.

Found, by Sally Lloyd-Jones | Little Book, Big Story

Found is a bigger-than-usual board book that pairs the text from The Jesus Storybook Bibles Psalm 23 with Jago’s illustrations of a shepherd and his sheep. Of course, that’s the approach that I ultimately shrugged my shoulders at in my January post, but Jago’s interpretation is anything but bland. His shepherd is tender with his sheep in a way that seems just right for a book aimed at the littlest readers.

Found, by Sally Lloyd-Jones | Little Book, Big Story

An aside: I love Jago’s illustrations in The Jesus Storybook Bible. But his newer work is amazing—take a look at his Etsy shop and you’ll see what I mean. This book, like Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing, is done in that newer style, and I love it.

Found, by Sally Lloyd-Jones | Little Book, Big Story

So, once again, Sally Lloyd-Jones and Jago, the super group we know and love, have illuminated a well-worn passage of Scripture in both word and image. I tucked this beauty away and will give it, I think, to Phoebe for Easter, because it’s just perfect for giving to little people for Easter. What will you do with your copy? (Because you’re buying this right now, aren’t you?)


Found
Sally Lloyd-Jones, Jago (2017)

John Brown | John Hendrix

I knew two things about this book when I grabbed it off the library shelf:

  1. John Brown was a controversial guy whose legacy had something to do with a militia, maybe.
  2. 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 man 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.

John Brown: His Fight For Freedom, by John Hendrix | Little Book, Big Story

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.

John Brown: His Fight For Freedom, by John Hendrix | Little Book, Big Story

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?

John Brown: His Fight For Freedom, by John Hendrix | Little Book, Big Story

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 for his neighbors. And John Hendrix tells that story well, both in his words and illustrations.


John Brown: His Fight For Freedom
John Hendrix (2009)

The Lord’s Prayer | Tim Ladwig

There comes a time in every book reviewer’s life (I assume) when the book titles trickle in slowly. Sometimes, they arrive in a rush of books so beautiful that I’m left with a full and happy editorial calendar—those are the good days. But sometimes, I’m left trawling through that vague “Religion” section at the library or clicking thumbnails on Amazon almost at random, hoping there’s a new book out by a favorite author or something worth sharing with you.

I’m in that place now: there are a number of new books coming out this spring (by Jennifer Trafton! And Douglas Kaine McKelvey!), but they’re not here yet. And I have a number of books on hold at the library, but I’m not holding them yet. And so I went book-hunting on Amazon and—success!—found The Lord’s Prayer.

The Lord's Prayer, by Tim Ladwig | Little Book, Big Story

I have reviewed a number of Tim Ladwig’s books, and I know by now that his illustrations don’t sit quietly in the background, behaving nicely while the text tells the story. No, they spring from the mind of a storyteller: as the text tells its story in print, Ladwig tells his in pictures, harmonizing with the written word and illuminating the humor, heartbreak, or joy in each sentence.

The Lord's Prayer, by Tim Ladwig | Little Book, Big Story

The Lord’s Prayer is no exception: many of us have heard it recited plenty (our church says it aloud together every Sunday), and so I imagine it’s challenging to find a way to illustrate such familiar words. But by centering his illustrations around a father and daughter who set out to serve an old woman, Ladwig shows how each line of the prayer can be lived out in practice. A whole story unfolds behind Jesus’s words, and it draws them out of the realm of rote repetition and holds them close enough for us to see what it looks like to ask God for “our daily bread,” or to “deliver us from evil.”

The Lord's Prayer, by Tim Ladwig | Little Book, Big Story

This book quickly became a favorite among our girls. We had fun finding details in the illustrations and talking them through together (“What is she doing? Why do you think he did that?”). But Ladwig’s strength, really, lies in his characters’ faces—he gets those expressions just right, and that brings his paintings to life. A gentle look passed between father and daughter, or the grateful smile of an old woman convey as much or maybe more than plain text could.


The Lord’s Prayer
Tim Ladwig (2002)

Skip to the Loo, My Darling! | Sally Lloyd-Jones

Our first two daughters ate homemade baby food. They experienced story time at the local library and were both potty-trained by the time they were two.

They did not, however, have sisters big enough to tote them around, sing them beautiful nonsense songs, and read them board books from the moment they were born. They did not have a mom who had learned some things the hard way and lightened up a bit.

Skip to the Loo, My Darling!, by Sally Lloyd-Jones | Little Book, Big Story

So, I suppose it works out for everyone, right? But I do miss that “potty-trained by the time they were two” bit. Potty-training in the more usual way, it turns out, is just as much work as practicing EC with a baby, except that babies are pretty chill about the whole thing and toddlers bring a little more sass (and mobility) to the endeavor. There have been days when Mitch and I sorely needed someone to help us laugh about it.

I ordered Skip to the Loo, My Darling! on a day when potty-training morale was particularly low—”We will be doing this for years to come” low—thinking that, if anyone could write a potty book that would make us laugh at ourselves while also, fingers crossed, make the potty seem slightly more appealing to our reluctant pupil, it would be Sally Lloyd-Jones.

It was Sally Lloyd-Jones.

Skip to the Loo, My Darling!, by Sally Lloyd-Jones | Little Book, Big Story

Her playful rhythm and just-right rhymes had both Phoebe and me in giggles by the end of the book. Skip to the Loo, My Darling! became Phoebe’s favorite for days, and none of us (big sisters included) grew tired of reading it to her or exploring Anita Jeram’s delightful illustrations. Phoebe took it to bed with her at night and slung it into our laps first thing in the morning.

She also, fingers crossed, made great strides in potty-training shortly afterward. I like to think that a certain skipping bunny had something to do with that.


Skip to the Loo
Sally Lloyd-Jones, Anita Jeram (2016)

Look and Be Grateful | Tomie dePaola

When you’re growing your first baby, people are quick to tell you how that baby will change your life. They know; you don’t. So they feel free to share. One of the things strangers were most eager to tell me, in a doom-and-gloom, beginning of the end sort of way, was that I would never sleep again. Never. Which I knew was an exaggeration, but still: I like sleep. My eight hours have always been there, more or less waiting for me, as long as I got in bed in a timely manner and claimed them.

But then I had my first baby and realized that, when the childbirth class teacher said that babies need to eat every two hours or so, she failed to mention (or I failed to hear) that I may or may not get fifteen to thirty minutes of sleep myself between feedings. “Never” was an overstatement, but when I was in those first days of my first baby’s life, it didn’t feel that way: as I snuggled the child whose dark curls struck me with awe even as she hauled me out of sleep again and again, I thought (as much as I could think anything then), “My word. They were right. I’ll never sleep again.”

Look and Be Grateful, by Tomie dePaola | Little Book, Big Story

When I was expecting my fourth baby, though, folks were not quite as quick with the ominous warnings. I think they assumed that I knew what I was getting myself into, which was fair, but here’s the funny thing: we seasoned parents, we parents of multiple children, who have done this many times before, are surprisingly quick to forget what having a baby is like when we don’t actually have one. As the babies become toddlers, we forget about waking every few hours to cuddle, rock, pat, and shush. We forget what it’s like having an infant.

And then we have one, and we remember.

Look and Be Grateful, by Tomie dePaola | Little Book, Big Story

Having a baby is glorious in so many ways. I’m one of those obnoxious people now who revels in it, who likes the smell of my baby’s neck and who gets all starry-eyed every single time she sneezes, and who turns to mush in the presence of a friend’s newborn. I never thought I’d see the day—me, the one who had never changed a diaper until I had my first child and who babysat only when my mother made me do it—but there it is. I love babies.

I even love teething babies, which is fortunate, because I have one of those now. Growing teeth is hard work, and hard work, when you’re a baby, calls for mom-snuggles in the wee hours. But because I usually like to sleep during the wee hours, I find myself sleeping now in the less-wee hours. And that is when I usually write.

So that’s why this post is mostly about sleeping and not sleeping. I’m trying to tell you about Tomie dePaola’s beautiful book Look and Be Grateful, but all that’s coming out is paragraph after paragraph of nonsense, all of which could be summed up in four words: “People, I am tired.”

Look and Be Grateful, by Tomie dePaola | Little Book, Big Story

It is fitting, then, that this week I’m reviewing a book on gratitude—a very short, simply worded book on gratitude. Of dePaola’s many books, this one reminds me most of Let the Whole Earth Sing Praise: the gentle illustrations, the carefully curated text, and the small format make this book, too, one that is clearly meant to be held and savored by the littlest readers.

Open your eyes,
and look.
Open your eyes,
and see,
and say thank you

This is a quiet meditation of a book that does my soul good, even as I read it to Phoebe before her nap, even as I fight to stay awake while I read it to Phoebe before her nap. It is a book that I love sharing with all of my daughters, big and small, because I want gratitude and wonder and thanksgiving to saturate our days as a family. I want to take that gratitude and wonder with me, too, into the wee hours, when I wake with the baby again, but can still marvel at her dimpled hands as she nurses, can still wonder at the weight of her and the way we were meant to fit together. I can remember:

Today is a day, and it is a gift.
So, be grateful.

Look and Be Grateful, by Tomie dePaola | Little Book, Big Story

On that note

I’m taking next week off. All that baby-snuggling means I’ve had little time to write and little brainpower with which to string words together and no time to take photos of anything (except the baby, of course), so I’m going to give myself a week of grace to catch up on sleep and blog posts. I have a bunch of good books to share with you, though, so I’m excited to get back to work!


Look and Be Grateful
Tomie dePaola (2015)

Psalm 23 | Barry Moser

Of all the psalms, this one feels most familiar. This is the one I recite to myself when I can’t fall asleep, the one I’ve taught my daughters to recite to themselves when they can’t fall asleep, the one whose images are comforting in an unfluffy way: David talks about The Valley of Death, after all, so this psalm is assurance for very real suffering.

There are a number of good picture book versions of this psalm out there, but none that have made it onto this blog yet. I don’t know exactly why that is, but until now, I returned every one to the library without feeling the need to review it. Barry Moser’s version is different.

Psalm 23, by Barry Moser | Little Book, Big Story

By following a shepherd boy through his day’s work, Moser takes a fairly standard approach to illustrating this psalm, but instead of featuring a Sunday-school David in short bathrobe and sandals, Moser models his shepherd on a young Caribbean boy. Moser’s shepherd wears modern day clothes, squints into the sun, and tends his sheep gently as the text of the psalm follows him from scene to scene.

The Lord is my shepherd
I shall not want.

Putting these familiar words into a fresh setting made me listen closely as I read them to my daughters. It reminded me that the Lord is my shepherd, yes, but he is also their Shepherd. And your Shepherd. And the shepherd of the shepherds tending flocks near the equator. His gentle hand guides and comforts me in trial, but his reach extends even to islands in the Pacific, where the trees are laden not with prickly evergreen boughs but with slender palm leaves. His reach extends further even than that.

Psalm 23, by Barry Moser | Little Book, Big Story

The comfort of Psalm 23 runs deeper, then, when I realize that, though the flock of sheep he tends is vast, our Shepherd cares for us all. He knows not only my name, but yours too, and that of the boy Moser modeled his shepherd on.

That is, I think, why Moser’s Psalm 23 connected with me more deeply than any of the other versions I’ve read. His illustrations are light-filled and beautiful, and they present Psalm 23 as a psalm for all of us, no matter where we live or what we look like. He illuminates the goodness of our Shepherd through the picture of one faithful young boy.

Psalm 23, by Barry Moser | Little Book, Big Story

Speaking of Psalm 23 . . .

Did you hear that Sally Lloyd-Jones and Jago are working on a version as well? A happy dance here is perfectly appropriate.


Psalm 23
Barry Moser (2008)