Tag: Preschool (page 2 of 29)

Seek & Find: The First Christmas

I am about to reveal one of my top-tier parenting secrets. Are you ready?

I never leave home without a deck of cards and a tiny tin of thinking putty. (And at least six different kinds of lip balm, but that’s neither here nor there.)

Many mid-sermon fidgets have been averted by that tin of putty, and many a restaurant tantrum has been defused by an impromptu game of War. For a full decade, we had either a baby or a toddler (occasionally both at once), so I became adept at keeping small hands busy whenever we encountered a lull.

For car rides or waiting rooms, here is my other secret: seek-and-find books. I Spy, Where’s Waldo, Things to Spot books—these are crisis-averters, road-trip-savers, Makers of Happy Hands and Calm Hearts. Though my daughters can manage most car rides without diversions these days, I still like to keep a few of these around, just in case.

So, how wonderful to discover a seek-and-find book for Christmas!

Seek and Find: The First Christmas, by Sarah Parker | Little Book, Big Story

Each spread in Sarah Parker’s The First Christmas features a short, paraphrased passage from the Christmas story, accompanied by brilliant illustrations filled with things to find. From hanging baskets to the charming Ruth Wren, there are treasures tucked into these pages that draw our attention into the story and invite us to pause and reflect on what’s happening.

This book moves at a different speed than the typical picture book does: “Here is the story,” it says. “Let’s sit and study it together for a while.” I think that’s part of why these treasure-trove books keep appealing to my kids even after they outgrow other books meant for young readers. Seek and Find: The First Christmas invites them to pause and consider; to stop fidgeting for a moment, to settle. To meditate again on the humility of Christ, the God born as a baby.


Seek and Find: The First Christmas
Sarah Parker; Andre Parker (2022)


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.

Unwrapping the Name of Jesus for Kids

The bedtime stories my dad told us were were usually about things he did before we were born. Back then he was a pirate, he said, and—briefly—a human cannonball. These careers ended abruptly and disastrously and elicited more than a few giggles from my brother and me as we listened from our beds.

When I tell my own daughters stories, they often fit in one of three categories: a) hilarious things my dad did when I was little, b) stories about sweet girls who live in treehouses or cozy boats and encounter some kind of magic, and c) retellings of stories from Scripture.

But Unwrapping the Names of Jesus for Kids somehow captures the magic of all three of those genres and combines them into one story: as the narrator’s mother tells a story from her own childhood—of the time her family spent following Jesus during his ministry—readers get to delight in a good story that is true, joyful, and feels magical, while also hearing the story of Jesus’s years on earth in a new light.

Unwrapping the Names of Jesus for Kids, by Asheritah Ciuciu | Little Book, Big Story

As this story unfolds, Asheritah Ciuciu connects each scene to one of Jesus’s names—Prince of Peace, etc.—an act that reminds us, as we read, that the story of Jesus has its roots in every other story in Scripture. This reminds us, too, that though we celebrate Jesus’s birth at Christmas, we don’t only celebrate his birth. This season reminds us of both what came before his Incarnation and of what is yet to come.

Unwrapping the Names of Jesus for Kids, by Asheritah Ciuciu | Little Book, Big Story
Unwrapping the Names of Jesus for Kids, by Asheritah Ciuciu | Little Book, Big Story

Unwrapping the Names of Jesus for Kids is an offshoot of Unwrapping the Names of Jesus, Ciuciu’s Advent devotional for adults. But it doesn’t feel derivative: it feels, instead, like a bud on the same branch. Reading the adult version highlights for me how much research and thought and preparation must go into writing a picture book like this one, which condenses all that study into a warm, engaging story. This book is a great read for Advent, as it tells not just of Jesus’s birth but of his whole ministry, death, and resurrection. It reminds us where he was headed, why he came, and what it looks like for us to follow him today. In that, it is the best kind of story.


Unwrapping the Names of Jesus for Kids
Asheritah Ciuciu; Jennifer Zivoin (2022)


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.

The Jesse Tree

Years ago, I wrote about our family’s Jesse Tree tradition. And then our girls grew older, and a few of our ornaments broke, and that one book felt a little tired after several straight years of readings. We decided it was time for a change, so we tried a different devotional each year; we sampled some Advent calendars and some reading cards. And we liked them all—the stickers, the paper ornaments, everything. They were fine.

But a few weeks ago, my eldest daughter (now fourteen) mentioned our Jesse Tree wistfully. “I liked that,” she said. And I felt resolved: our youngest is six—we haven’t done a Jesse Tree since she was a baby. So I ordered a new set of ornaments—a beautiful, lasting set that I could see the girls reminiscing over when we pull them out decades from now for the grandkids to play with. And I pulled out a book I’d bought, oh, years ago but never really used as a devotional.

My friends, the Jesse Tree is making a comeback. (At our house, at least.)

The Jesse Tree, by Geraldine McCaughrean | Little Book, Big Story

Geraldine McCaughean’s The Jesse Tree tells the story of Jesus’s birth from the very beginning—the garden. And it tells the story not through a series of Scripture readings—which, just to be clear, is a wonderful way to tell the story—but through a narrative. A young boy meets a cantankerous woodcarver and invites himself to watch the man at work. And as the woodcarver works, he finds himself telling, one day at time, the story of each element as he carves it. From the garden, to the desert, to the stable, he tells this delightfully pesky child the story of Jesus’s birth.

This is a warm, comfortable way to hear the story. It’s inviting and funny, and I can see it aging well as our girls (continue to) grow older.

The Jesse Tree, by Geraldine McCaughrean | Little Book, Big Story

Will we ever not do a Jesse Tree again? Who knows! I don’t. (God does.) But this feels like returning to our roots—like remembering what we’ve loved about Advent and gathering together around it. Remembering, I suppose, God’s faithfulness not just to His People, but to the six people here in our home and—Lord willing—the generations that will follow us.

Edited 12/7/22: It is worth noting, now that we’re a ways into this year’s reading, that there are some theologically sticky spots in this book—particularly around the stories of Noah and Mary. There’s nothing major, though, and even those spots made for good conversation around our table. I do still recommend this book, but I thought you’d appreciate a head’s up.


The Jesse Tree
Geraldine McCaughrean; Bee Willey (2003)

The Boy From the House of Bread

Certain books make Jesus feel more real, more visible. They persuade our hearts of what our minds already know: Jesus was a real man, who lived in a particular time and place, and who encountered many more people than we hear about in the Gospels. These books remind us that he is bigger than we may think, but also smaller, humbler, and more approachable. The Boy From the House of Bread is one of these books.

But that’s only one of the many reasons to love The Boy From the House of Bread. This book rhymes, not in a sticky-sweet cute way, but in a musical, complex way that makes it a joy to read aloud. In it, Andrew Wilson draws out the theme of bread and deftly uses it to introduce young readers to Jesus. And best of all, this book approaches the story of the Gospels with wonder, showing Jesus as someone you could imagine saying “Let the children come to me” and meaning it.

The Boy From the House of Bread, by Andrew Wilson | Little Book, Big Story

This book brings readers up close to Jesus: we see him from the height of the narrator, a young boy who is watching the story unfold and doesn’t yet know all the ins and outs we see in the Gospels. At certain points, the boy and his father do cross into the story we know, playing roles that connect them to Jesus in new, deep ways. This is beautiful: by telling the story from a child’s perspective, Wilson invites kids into the story of Jesus, showing his warmth and his kindness in an appealing way and reminding us all that we, too, will one day see him face to face—grown-ups and children alike.


The Boy From the House of Bread
Andrew Wilson; Arief Putra (2022)


Disclosure: I did receive a copy of this book for review, but I was not obligated to review it 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.

Read It, See It, Say It, Sing It

“Why?” is a question I hear a lot these days. Sometimes, yes, my girls use it as a stalling tactic. But often my daughters genuinely want to know: why did the caterpillar, lovingly housed in an old sour-cream container and doted on oh-so-much, have to die? Why is the sermon so long? Why did that best friend have to move? Why are there swimming lessons?

I answer a lot of these questions on the fly, with my fingers crossed. In my best moments and for the biggest questions, I send out a desperate plea for wisdom (Why, God, are we having this conversation right now? Oh help!). Or I reach for a book, of which we have many, and for precisely this reason. As a classic overexplainer, I am so grateful for picture books like Read It, See It, Say It, Sing It, that answer some of these big questions simply and cleanly (and, in this case, rhymingly).

Read it, See it, Say it, Sing it, by Hunter Beless | Little Book, Big Story

Read It, See It, Say It, Sing It looks at the question “Why do we read the Bible?” and helps readers understand that the Bible is not just any book: it is one we take to heart and are transformed by. Hunter Beless’s sweet text invites readers to love God’s word and worship him as we hear it read, read it for ourselves, memorize or discuss it with others, and sing his word with others. Better still, Beless weaves passages of Scripture as well as short references into the book, so we’re encouraged to look to God’s word even as we close her book.

I may not have the answers to all the “Why” questions I’m asked, but I’m grateful for such a solid (and sweetly illustrated) answer to this one.


Read It, See It, Say It, Sing It: Knowing and Loving the Bible
Hunter Beless; Hsulynn Pang (2022)


Disclosure: I did receive a copy of this book for review, but I was not obligated to review it 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.