Tag: rc sproul

7 Books That Tell the Big Story of Easter

If we spent last Lent reading books with a fresh take on the Easter story, this year, I want to focus on stories that tell not just what happened during Holy Week but why it mattered. Why did Jesus die? Why do we celebrate Good Friday with somber songs and Easter Sunday with joyous ones? I set out to find Easter books that fit the Resurrection into context, that showed it beginning and ending with the gospel.

But I couldn’t find them. Not in the Easter section, anyway. All the Easter books we had and all the ones I borrowed from the library told (beautifully, most of them) what happened, but none of them gave us the gospel.

So I went looking elsewhere. I dug out books from our everyday shelves that tell the story of Jesus’ life in full, that tell God’s redemptive story from beginning to end, that show God’s tenderness toward his people, that invite us to the view the gospel through allegory.

7 Books That Tell the Big Story of Easter | Little Book, Big Story

This is a list of books to read during Lent, but they aren’t specifically Easter books. I hope you enjoy them.

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 book tells the story of God’s redemptive plan from Genesis to Revelation. Christ’s Crucifixion and Resurrection are covered here, but they’re fit within their broader context, and Laferton explains perfectly why they matter in a way that even the youngest readers can follow. (Read the full review.)

The Light of the World, by Katherine Paterson

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

Newbery-winning author Katerine Paterson tells the story of Jesus’ life here on earth in a way that reminds us that Jesus was God, but he was also a warm, approachable man. His gentleness and strength are both evident here. (Read the full review.)

The World Jesus Knew, by Marc Olson

The World Jesus Knew, by Marc Olson | Little Book, Big Story

This book was a new find, one that made me deeply happy. The World Jesus Knew provides a different sort of context for Jesus’ story: Marc Olson has written a fascinating reference book for kids that, with the help of Jem Maybank’s illustrations, brings the first century to life to kids. What did Jesus eat? What was the temple like when he lived? What the heck is a centurion? Olson answers all those things (and more!) in this, my new favorite picture book.

The Prince’s Poison Cup, by RC Sproul

The Prince's Poison Cup (Review) | Little Book, Big Story

RC Sproul had a knack for sharing the gospel through allegory, and The Prince’s Poison Cup is one of his best. Through the story of a prince whose people have strayed, Sproul illustrates grace in a fresh and powerful way. (Read the full review.)

Found, by Sally Lloyd-Jones

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

Psalm 23 gets a sweet retelling in this board book. The picture of a shepherd—shown both in Lloyd-Jones’ poetry and Jago’s illustrations—searching for his lost sheep is beautiful, and it’s perfect for sharing the story of Easter with little readers. (Read the full review.)

The Biggest Story, by Kevin DeYoung

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

In this not-quite-story-Bible, Kevin DeYoung traces the Big Story of Scripture from beginning to end. This is like The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross, but for older readers. This would be a great book to read throughout Lent. For younger readers, The Biggest Story ABC is beautiful, too. (Read the full review.)

Miracle Man, by John Hendrix

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

And, of course: Miracle Man. John Hendrix’s book on the life of Jesus is perfect, and ends with a breath-catching moment of anticipation. (Read the full review.)

Have you found the books I’m looking for? What are your favorite Easter books?

5 Books to Read Together During Lent

This post originally appeared on this blog in March of 2015.

Our church celebrates Ash Wednesday with a simple liturgy read in a shadowy room. We light candles, draw the sanctuary’s chairs into a circle around our pastor, the table, and the ashes, and at the end of the service, file up to our pastor and wait for our turn with the ashes. As he draws a cross in black ash on each brow, the only sound is his voice saying, musically, “Dust you are, and to dust you shall return,” to each of us. Even the children—and a high percentage of our small church body is under the age of five—fall silent for this.

5 Books to Read Together During Lent | Little Book, Big Story

Ash Wednesday leads us into Lent gently but decisively, just as Lent leads us toward Easter with the patience of a farmer sowing seeds. I love Ash Wednesday, though it tends to sneak up on me each year, coming as it does almost on the heels of Christmas. But this year, I got the jump on it: while planning posts for this blog, I saw it on the calendar and thought, “A ha! Not this year, my friend!” This year, I was ready for it. I dug out the Easter books and photographed them for you; I considered Lent with prayer for an entire week before Ash Wednesday.

And I gave thought to how our family would celebrate, which led me to think about how you might like to celebrate with your family. I suspect that, for both of us, a good celebration begins with good books, and with that in mind, I compiled a short list of books for Lent that our family has loved from year to year.

1 | Petookby Caryll Houselander

5 Book to Read Together During Lent | Little Book, Big Story

Houselander tells the story of Easter through a parallel story of a rooster named Petook; Tomie dePaola weaves little details into the illustrations that will surprise you and your little readers. (Read the full review.)

2 | Peter’s First Easterby Walter Wangerin, Jr.

5 Book to Read Together During Lent | Little Book, Big Story

Through the chapters of this picture book, Wangerin puts the reader right in Peter’s shoes, describing his love for Jesus, and his grief as he walks through the events of Holy Week. (Read the full review.)

3 | The Story of Easterby Aileen Fisher

5 Book to Read Together During Lent | Little Book, Big Story

The Story of Easter goes beyond telling the story of Holy Week (though it does that, too) and explains a bit about the traditions and symbols linked to Easter. This is one of my favorites. (Read the full review.)

4 | The Light of the Worldby Katherine Paterson

Though not strictly an Easter book, I love Katherine Paterson’s telling of Jesus’ life and think it perfectly fitting for Lenten reading, as it places Holy Week in a larger context and reminds us of what Christ accomplished on the Cross. (Read the full review.)

5 | The Donkey who Carried a Kingby R.C. Sproul

5 Beautiful Books for Easter | Little Book, Big Story

R.C. Sproul nests the story of the crucifixion within the story of a donkey named Davey. That story is nested, in turn, within the story of a young boy who is picked last for the team. It sounds confusing, but Sproul executes the story-within-a-story trick beautifully. (Read the full review.)

5 Beautiful Books for Easter | Little Book, Big Story


These are my top five Easter favorites, but they are not the only Easter books featured on Little Book, Big Story. You can read the other reviews in the Easter section of the blog. I’ll share still more with you during the next few weeks, as a bookish way to observe Lent.

The Prince’s Poison Cup | RC Sproul

Today’s summer rerun first appeared on June 14, 2013.

My daughter once told me, “When I’m at a friend’s house, I go straight for the books.” I loved this, because I do that, too: when invited to a friend’s house for the first time, I gravitate toward the bookshelf (especially if they have bookshelves, plural), and scan the spines for familiar titles.

I know that friendship will come easily when I see certain books lining their shelves, or better yet, when this new friend follows me to the bookshelf, leans over my shoulder and says, “You like that one? Then you have to read this.” Before I know it, my arms are full of new books.

I met The Prince’s Poison Cup at a just such a new friend’s house. As we chatted, I flipped it open carelessly and found myself confronted with an illustration so beautiful that it moved me to tears at once: a father, a king, holding his son in the deepest of embraces, both of them radiant with light.

The Prince's Poison Cup | Little Book, Big Story

I didn’t care what the book was about—we needed our very own copy. And when we did get our copy, I found that it was an allegory of quality and depth, written around the verse, “Shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” (John 18:11b). R.C. Sproul puts his Bible knowledge to good use as he weaves the gospel through this story of a prince who rescued his Father’s people by . . . but wait. I won’t give the story away.

I will tell you that Justin Gerard’s illustrations do more than display the story—they interact with it, advancing the plot in beautiful double spreads. This is a story that will appeal to heroic little boys, but that has also captured the hearts of my girly girls, perhaps because it is full of the elements of the Best Story Ever (you know the one).

The Prince’s Poison Cup
RC Sproul, Justin Gerard (2008)

The Lightlings | RC Sproul

If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time at all, you’ve heard about R.C. Sproul. You know that he writes parables for children that encapsulate the Gospel and that he favors the voice of a grandparent talking to a child. His stories usually go like this:

I. Child has problem.

II. Grandpa comes for dinner, listens to child’s problem; responds with bewitching phrase, like, “I think I might know a story about that.”

III. Child goes wide-eyed, listens in wonder.

IV. Grandpa tells story, and it is the Gospel, every time.

Like Sproul’s other books, The Prince’s Poison Cup and The Donkey Who Carried a King, The Lightlings gives families an idea of how the Gospel appears in even the smallest of challenges. The story has to do with a fear of the dark, but it also has to do with the God who created the light and the dark and who reached into the dark to rescue the people that He loved. It works on two levels at once so skillfully that we have given this book to a friend whose son was afraid of the dark and heard later that it was, in fact, helpful for him at bedtime, because it reminded him both that God was greater than his fears and that he wasn’t alone in being afraid of the dark.

The Lightlings | Little Book, Big Story

But Sproul does more than tell a good story: at the back of each book is a catechism-style appendix that answers the many questions that children might have about the story with verses straight from Scripture. If it’s helpful for families to see that the Gospel can meet them in the daily business of life, it’s equally helpful to know that the Bible can give satisfying answers to our questions.

Lastly, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Justin Gerard’s illustrations. To put it simply, they glow: he uses light and dark skillfully to expand the tale of The King of Light and his subjects, and contains a quality that I’ll call, for lack of a less cliche description, “breath-taking.” In his work, I’m learning, there’s typically one picture per book that makes me say softly, “Wow.” I don’t know how he does it.

The Lightlings | Little Book, Big Story

The Lightlings
RC Sproul, Justin Gerard (2006)

The Donkey Who Carried a King | RC Sproul

If there’s any approach to telling a Bible story that makes me immediately suspicious, it’s the one where an author frames the story within a neat moral. And if there’s any approach to telling a Bible story that means well but often gets things awfully wrong, it’s the one where an author whisks a character off the sidelines and tells the story through that character’s eyes.

And yet, if there’s any author out there who can masterfully wield both of those approaches in the same book, it’s RC Sproul, author of countless books  on theology for both children and adults.

In The Donkey Who Carried a King, the previously side-lined character is, obviously, the donkey of Palm Sunday fame. The neat moral is—well, I’ll let you read it for yourself. But it works well with the story, that’s the part I’d like to emphasize. And it’s the sort of moral we want to bring home to our kids.

The Donkey Who Carried a King | Little Book, Big Story

Sproul takes this seemingly unappreciated donkey and uses him to tell a crucial part of The Big Story, reminding us gently that it was precisely the quality that the donkey, Davey, most lamented in himself that made him most suited to carry a king. Chuck Groenick’s illustrations bring a delightful depth to the story as well, amplifying Sproul’s words with color and texture.

We—that is, I—have a penchant for buying books at the slightest provocation (I’ve written about this before), and one of the seasons that brings this penchant to the forefront is Easter, when I often buy a new Easter book or two for our Lenten enjoyment, as well as a new, theologically rich book for each child to open on Easter morning and read all year round.  The Donkey Who Carried a King met both requirements: lately, Sarah has been smitten with two of Sproul’s other books, The Prince’s Poison Cup and The Lightlings, so we picked this one for her, thinking it would make a great year-round reminder of the Cross.

The Donkey Who Carried a King | Little Book, Big Story

In case you missed it: yes, our children get books on Easter morning, plus, like, two pieces of chocolate or something. We have our priorities. And Phoebe, who can’t eat chocolate, will be getting one of these:

Etsy | TreehouseIllustrator

Etsy | TreehouseIllustrator

The Donkey Who Carried a King
R.C. Sproul, Chuck Groenink (2012)