Tag: sarah mackenzie

Where I Find Our Favorite Books

High school was, for me and many others—maybe even you—a time of reining in. An exhilarating bass line, indigo eyeliner, the perfect shade of peroxide blonde: I could rave about these without compromising my carefully researched, deliberately executed image. But I savored in silence the pleasure of baking a just-jiggly cheesecake. I read Les Miserables and parts of it thrilled me, but I kept my delight tamped down.

One couldn’t gush about the Wrong Things.

Browse | Little Book, Big Story

But now, I’m grown up, and though adults do still feel pressure to like the Right Things, that pressure doesn’t bind the way it used to. So many of us love and geek out over and dedicate our life’s work to our own strange, specific passions: Edwardian cosmetics; a rare butterfly; an elegant line of code. That our enthusiasms are so strikingly different seems to me one of the beauties of our humanity. I may not understand your passion for the stark lines of minimalist furniture, but heck. I love listening to you talk about it.

Here, we gush about children’s books. I love sharing that with you. It’s true that, like my daughters after an unseemly binge on Halloween candy, I do most of the talking, but you’re great listeners and when you do chime in, you have the best things to say. Today’s post is meant to give you a greater share in the conversation, because instead of sharing a book with you that I think you should read, I’m going to pull back the curtain on some of my favorite places to find great books. I’m going to take you straight to the sources. But I want to ask you, too: where do you find your favorite book recommendations? Where do you find great books for cheap?

My list is compiled below.

Where I Find Our Favorite Books: A list of booklists and resources for finding beautiful books for pretty cheap | Little Book, Big Story

Prepare to be overwhelmed.

Read-Aloud Revival

Read-Aloud Revival | Little Book, Big Story

Surely, this one doesn’t surprise you. But the range of ways to find books through the Read-Aloud Revival might. Perhaps you find yourself indiscriminately ordering books while listening to an episode of the podcast, or you subscribe to the mailing list and receive a new list of seasonal favorites each month.

You could browse their (regularly updated) list of favorite read-alouds, or, if you’re a member, you might visit their forum to solicit recommendations for specific ages or situations (you might even contribute a few recommendations while you’re at it!).

If you’re into audio books, you might browse their list of Librivox favorites or their list of current Audible deals. That’s a wealth of ideas right there, and I’m almost positive I’ve forgotten one.

Westminster Bookstore

Westminster Bookstore | Little Book, Big Story

This carefully curated bookstore from Westminster Theological Seminary is one of my favorite places to find new books. If they endorse a book, I will probably buy it without doing further research, and I have yet to purchase a book from them that I didn’t love. (In fact, I was researching a book recently and the fact that Westminster didn’t offer it gave me pause.)

Of course, I realize that many of you share my love of literature but not my exact theological leanings, so I would encourage you to learn more about WTS before purchasing books unreservedly from their store. But if Reformed theology is your cup of tea, you love church history, and you thought The Biggest Story was brilliant, then I highly recommend subscribing to their mailing list. They regularly run deals on new releases, and I can say without exaggerating that a great number of the books featured on this blog were purchased (at 50-70% off!) in one of their sales.

The Rabbit Room Store

This beautifully curated store is filled with books I either own or wish I owned.  They offer worthy titles from other publishers, but Rabbit Room Press has also released a number of  beloved books, like Henry and the Chalk Dragon, The Angel Knew Papa and the Dog, and, of course, The Wingfeather Saga (written by Rabbit Room founder Andrew Peterson). Get thee on their mailing list, and you’ll be the first to know about sales and such.

The rest of the website, founded by Andrew Peterson, is full of equally lovely, hand-picked content.

Ambleside Online

AmblesideOnline Book Lists | Little Book, Big Story

One of my great struggles as a book-loving parent is keeping Lydia supplied with books that challenge her but don’t expose her to content she isn’t read to contend with yet. But just when I feared that she would tread water with Nancy Drew forever and never climb out of that pool, I discovered the AO reading lists. Our nook on the library’s hold shelf hasn’t been empty since.

Be warned, though: the AmblesideOnline website is a little hard to navigate, especially if you don’t use their curriculum. But the books on these lists are worth the work! Here’s how you hop straight to them: from the home page, click “AmblesideOnline Curriculum.” In the left toolbar, click the link that corresponds with your child’s approximate grade level. You should reach a page that looks a little like this:

AmblesideOnline Book Lists | Little Book, Big Story

Scroll down until you see a heading that reads “Literature.” That list and the lengthy one following it (“Additional Books For Free Reading”) are your gold mine.

AmblesideOnline Book Lists | Little Book, Big Story

If you wince when you read the first titles on the list, keep scrolling! The range on these lists is huge: Year 2 starts with Pilgrim’s Progress in the original language, but it also includes with Frog & Toad and The Courage of Sarah Noble. So don’t worry: you’re bound to find books that fit your child perfectly.

Story Warren

Story Warren is the creation of SD Smith, author of the Green Ember series, and it’s a haven of beautifully-written, thoughtful reviews of books and other media of various types. You might come for the book reviews, but you’ll stay for the gorgeous blog posts. (And you’ll probably go home with a wooden rabbit sword.)

House Full of Bookworms

House Full of Bookworms | Little Book, Big Story

Carolyn Leiloglou reviews books all across the spectrum—good, mediocre, and bad—with the idea of sparing overworked parents the trouble of reading the latest trendy series before recommending it to a child. I look here when I come across a book I want a trusted opinion on but don’t feel up to reading. Sometimes I look here when I have a book all picked out and want to know how Carolyn liked it. And her list of “Best Books for Every Age” is an excellent, printable resource.

See also: Common Sense Media

In a vein similar to House Full of Bookworms, this site features reviews of popular books, music, movies, and more, but these reviews are written by other parents. I peek in here when choosing new shows for the girls, since I’m far less likely to pre-watch than I am to pre-read.

Common Sense Media is a great resource, but do read discerningly: as parents we all have different comfort levels with different topics, so I would encourage you to look beyond the star ratings and take the time to read a few reviews before deciding to introduce or avoid a particular book.

Amazon Recommendations

This might seem obvious, but one of the ways I most consistently find  great new books is by browsing Amazon. Dang, but their recommendations are (usually) right up my alley.

Aslan’s Library

Aslan's Library | Little Book, Big Story

This was the blog that got me started, and though Sarah and Haley no longer write new posts, Aslan’s Library is still a wealth of beautiful, rich book recommendations. If you haven’t yet, I encourage you to spend some time with their site: you’ll probably  come across titles that you wouldn’t have looked at twice on Amazon but that their thoughtful reviews compel you toward. It’s certainly happened to me.

ChristianBook.com

This site offers a wide range of stuff, some of which I would happily never purchase, but they do sometimes have great deals on truly great books. This is another mailing list worth subscribing to!

Books about Books

7 of My Favorite Books About Books | Little Book, Big Story

I shared some of my favorites in an earlier post titled “7 of My Favorite Books About Books.” They’re all still awesome.

Favorite Publishers

Patrol Books | Little Book, Big Story

One last group that I like to keep an eye on are publishers that release reliably awesome books. If you notice that a number of your favorite books share a publisher, subscribe to the publisher’s email list. Haunt their store. Watch for new releases. You may not love everything they launch, but you’re bound to find a few favorite books this way. Two publishers I keep tabs on are Patrol Books and The Good Book Company.


Where have you found your favorite books? Inquiring minds want to know!

7 of My Favorite Books About Books

I was raised a reader. Though I don’t have many clear memories of being read to, my dad opened his bookshelves to me and kept a steady supply of good books on the shelves in my room. My mom gave me books at almost every birthday. That I would pass this love of the written word on to my children seemed inevitable, but how I would do it and why, exactly, it was so important were harder for me to articulate when I first became a mother.

So today I thought I would share with you some of the titles that helped shape our family’s reading life, either by supplying us with specific titles or by encouraging me to try again when a read-aloud flopped or a child waded stiffly through a reading lesson. This is a broad list, and one that I hope gives you some inspiration as you build your family’s library. It’s not an exhaustive list, though, because I have a pile of books about books that I’ve yet to read, and it’s almost as long (or longer!) than this one. Perhaps this post is only the first in a series?

A few of our family's favorite books about books | Little Book, Big Story

 

HONEY FOR A CHILD’S HEART, BY GLADYS HUNT

Honey For a Child's Heart, by Gladys Hunt | Little Book, Big Story

When it comes to books about books, this one must be the standard: it’s the first I read when I discovered the genre, it’s the first that crops up any time someone asks a blogger or interviewee where to find good books, and it continues to be a favorite since its publication in 1969. Gladys Hunt shares a beautiful vision for reading aloud as a family, some practical tips for how to do it well, and chapters upon chapters of wonderful recommendations divided by age and topic. This is one to own and dog-ear thoroughly.

As parents we are concerned about building whole people—people who are alive emotionally, spiritually, intellectually. The instruction to ‘train up a child in the way he should go’ has enormous dimensions. It is to teach a child to think, to influence character, to give high ideals, and to encourage integrity. It is to provide largeness of thought, creative thinking, imaginative wondering. How large are your goals for your children? . . . Young children, fresh with uncluttered minds, the world before them—to what treasures will you lead them? With what will you furnish their spirit?

— Honey For a Child’s Heart (p. 23)

FOR THE CHILDREN’S SAKEby Susan Schaeffer Macaulay

For the Children's Sake, by Susan Schaeffer Macauley | Little Book, Big Story

In For the Children’s Sake, Macaulay distills the educational philosophy of Charlotte Mason down into a slender, inspiring book. This is a great introduction to the work of Charlotte Mason and to homeschooling in general, but best of all, it introduces the concept of “living books.” (If you’re not familiar with that term but you enjoy reading this blog, then read this book posthaste!) Macauley also gives a beautiful portrait of the life of a family, as well as some really great parenting advice. I reread this one every few years and come away each time refreshed and reminded that it is a joy to explore this world (both in person and in story) with my children.

If we begin by choosing the tried and true, the best of literature, we will give the child a love of excellence and the really ‘good.’ As we go on reading he will find that there are distressing happenings, stories which need discussion. Literature can help children think about what life is like before they live it as adults.

— For the Children’s Sake (p. 115)

CAUGHT UP IN A STORYby Sarah Clarkson

Caught Up in a Story, by Sarah Clarkson | Little Book, Big Story

Sarah Clarkson’s lovely book views childhood as a narrative arc with an exposition, rising action, crisis, falling action and denouement. She dedicates a chapter to each part of the story and peppers her book with book recommendations that suit each age and whose great and timeless stories can shape the hearts of young readers.

Stories challenge us to see our lives as the narrative in which we have the chance to live all the beauty and bravery we can imagine. What hero will I become? What great thing have I been created to accomplish? I believe those questions of heroism are the driving force behind a life of virtue, creativity, and purpose . . . Search deeply enough into the history of any real life hero and I am convinced that you will find a story, imagined or actual, on which that hero’s life is largely based, a narrative that opened their eyes to the part they were called to play in the story of the world.

— Caught Up in a Story (p. 5)

AMUSING OURSELVES TO DEATH, by Neil Postman

Amusing Ourselves to Death, by Neil Postman | Little Book, Big Story

Though this book was first published in 1985 as an examination of how television was transforming the way our culture learned, thought and reacted at the time, it has turned out to be eerily prophetic: what Postman had to say about the advent of TV could easily be said about the introduction of the internet, smart phones, and social media today. (To test this theory, I read a passage aloud to Mitch, leaving out the references to TV, and asked him what the author was talking about. “Twitter,” he said. Oh my.)

Postman’s contrast between the printed word and image-based learning made me want to read a lot more and cancel my Facebook account. This is a fascinating book, folks.

This book is an inquiry into and a lamentation about the most significant American cultural fact in the second half of the twentieth century: the decline of the Age of Typography and the ascendancy of the Age of Television. This change-over has dramatically and irreversibly shifted the content and meaning of public discourse, since two media so vastly different cannot accommodate the same ideas. As the influence of print wanes, the content of politics, religion, education, and anything else that comprises public business must change and be recast in terms that are most suitable to television.

— Amusing Ourselves to Death (p. 8)

GIVE YOUR CHILD THE WORLD, BY JAMIE C. MARTIN

Give Your Child The World, by Jamie C. Martin | Little Book, Big Story

Jamie Martin provides us a booklist with a slightly different vision: in Give Your Child the World, she takes us around the world, chapter by chapter, sharing a different global region at each stop. I hadn’t realized that our home library was a bit thin when it came to multi-cultural titles, but that quickly became apparent (and was quickly remedied) before I finished the first chapter of this book.

Martin’s enthusiasm for introducing her children to many cultures (or deepening their connection with their own) is contagious, but it’s also timely: listening to the news each morning, I’m reminded of the importance of teaching our children to value and respect everyone they meet, regardless of race or culture, and books are a beautiful way to do that. (Read the full review.)

Parents naturally get concerned when we look at the state of the globe today. And it’s true—your children and mine will one day inherit a world filled with unique issues and problems. But that is no accident. They have been chosen to lead their generation through its difficulties. Destined for this moment in history. With love, faith and compassion firmly rooted in their spirits thanks to the power of story, they’ll be able to see the people beyond the headlines . . . Our job is to fill their lives with that love, faith and compassion today—so they can rest their feet on a story-solid foundation in their tomorrows.

— Give Your Child the World (p. 24)

The Read-Aloud Handbook, by Jim Trelease

The Read-Aloud Handbook, by Jim Trelease | Little Book, Big Story

Jim Trelease was one of the first people to write a popular book on reading, a book that made its way into the hands of teachers and parents and brought out the importance of not just teaching kids to read, but of reading to them. This book is full of research (some of it pretty astonishing) on the benefits of reading to kids little and big, and it includes a treasury of read-aloud titles at the back of the book.

I found this book inspiring and helpful, but deliberated about whether or not to include it here. Trelease’s tone can, at times, put pressure squarely on the shoulders of parents and teachers in a way that might be discouraging, were we to forget that we do not raise our children without God’s grace. I am including it here, though, because The Read-Aloud Handbook is full of so many practical ideas for including stories in the daily life of families and classrooms, I just couldn’t pass it by. This one also includes a list of great read-alouds.

Reading is the ultimate weapon, destroying ignorance, poverty, and despair before they can destroy us. A nation that doesn’t read much doesn’t know much. And a nation that doesn’t know much is more likely to make poor choices in the home, the marketplace, the jury box, and the voting booth. And those decisions ultimately affect an entire nation—the literate and the illiterate.

— The Read-Aloud Handbook (p. xxvi)

THE READING PROMISEby Alice Ozma

The Reading Promise, by Alice Ozma | Little Book, Big Story

When Alice Ozma was in the fourth grade, her father set out to read to her for 100 consecutive nights. But when they reached that goal, Alice and her dad decided to keep going. This sweet memoir about a reading streak that ended only when Alice left for college is charming, yes, but it’s also deep and, at times, quite sad. I loved Alice’s perspective and her way with language.

The greatest gift you can bestow on your children is your time and undivided attention. As the years advance, you may reflect upon your life and see that in some areas, you have regrets about what you took to be a priority. No one will ever say, no matter how good a parent he or she was, ‘I think I spent too much time with my children when they were young.’

 Alice’s dad, from the foreword of The Reading Promise (p. xiv)

Bonus!

The Read-Aloud Revival Podcast, by Sarah MacKenzie

Why I Love the Read Aloud Revival podcast | Little Book, Big Story

In every episode of Read-Aloud Revival, Sarah MacKenzie inspires and motivates listeners to “build your family culture around books.” To that end, she introduces guest after amazing guest and fills our wishlists with rich and beautiful books. I have bought many books on her recommendation and can’t think of a single one that fell short of my expectations. Listening to the podcast is a sure way to revive my waning enthusiasm for reading as a family. (Read the full review.)

What about you? Which books have shaped the way you read?

The Best Books I Read in 2016

When I spend time with my favorite moms, we ask a lot of questions of each other. Mine tend to focus around housekeeping, a subject that has perplexed me well into adulthood: “But when do you clean? Why are your floors so shiny?”

Very few people ask me for tips about housework, which is probably wise. They do, however, ask me a lot about reading: what am I reading, what should they read, and, most often, when do I read. My answer to that last one is simple: whenever I can. I read in the pick-up line, the bathtub, in bed, while nursing, while waiting for the pasta to cook (this may answer the housekeeping questions, actually). I read during naptime and in those rare moments when everyone is playing contentedly outside and no one is looking at me or needing me for anything. I am always armed with a book, even if it’s just a pocket-sized book of poetry.
Of all the books I read in 2016, I liked these 10 the best | Little Book, Big Story

This year was a year of reading everywhere. Many of these books were finished in bits and pieces in unlikely places, because that is what life is like with two school-aged children, one toddler, and a baby: bits and pieces. I read nonfiction, deep and rich, and started keeping a commonplace book for the first time. I read a lot of great kids’ books, too, and many of my favorites from this year have already appeared on the blog.

But here are ten books that I haven’t shared yet, ten that I thought you, dear parents, might like for yourselves:

The Supper of the Lamb, by Robert Farrar Capon

The Supper of the Lamb, by Robert Farrar Capon | Little Book, Big Story

I’m hard pressed to know what to call The Supper of the Lamb: part cookbook (with recipes), part meditation on the beauty of creation, part opinionated treatise on cooking techniques, part endearing glimpse into the life of an Episcopalian priest in the 1960s, this book made me laugh aloud, spring for new wooden spoons, and stare with wonder at an ordinary onion.

Teaching From Rest, by Sarah Mackenzie

This book on homeschooling, by the beloved host of the Read-Aloud Revival podcast, plunges beneath the technical details of how to do it and into the depths of why we do it. Her heart for connection with her kids is contagious, and I love her big-picture perspective on education and where we, as moms and educators, place our priorities. This is a short book, but it’s a rich one, and it’s worth reading whether you’ve been homeschooling for years or are just starting to wonder if it might be for you. (I loaned this one out, so alas! I could not photograph it for you.)

Pilgrim’s Inn, by Elizabeth Goudge

Pilgrim's Inn, by Elizabeth Goudge | Little Book, Big Story

This is the second book in The Eliot Family Trilogy, and all three of the books are worth reading. But in Caught Up in a Story, Sarah Clarkson singles out this book for her recommendation, and I can see why: by telling the story of a post-WWII family who buys and restores an old pilgrim inn, Elizabeth Goudge paints a beautiful picture of what a home is and how a good one transforms us.

(Also: resist the urge to judge this book by its cover. That’s a strong urge, I know. But fight it! The book is lovely inside.)

Letters & Life, by Bret Lott

Letters and Life, by Bret Lott | Little Book, Big Story

Confession: I am still reading this one. But when Lott opened his book on writing with the Apostle’s Creed, anchoring his view of art in the solid ground of theology, he endeared himself to me immediately. His tone throughout the book is warm and wonderful, as he explores who artists are within our culture and as created beings. He quotes Francis Schaeffer at length, while calling him, “that old Hobbit-like fellow in the knickers and sporting the funky little white beard” and shares stories from his life that made me giggle and read them aloud to Mitch. I’m reading this one slowly on purpose, and I can already tell that it’s joined the canon of Books I Re-Read Every Few Years.

The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Lord of the Rings, by JRR Tolkien | Little Book, Big Story

Speaking of hobbits and books I re-read every few years, I re-read these books this year. Good news! They’re still amazing.

Missional Motherhood, by Gloria Furman

Missional Motherhood, by Gloria Furman | Little Book, Big Story

By reminding us of God’s ultimate plan for our salvation and of the grand story he’s woven throughout Scripture, Gloria Furman argues that no woman is just a mom. We are all called to work that has eternal significance, even though it seems tethered (rather tightly, at times) to the quotidian work of wiping noses, settling disputes, and fishing Duplos out of the baby’s crib again.

This is another gospel-saturated book from Furman, worth reading and re-reading and heavily underlining. (If you want to know more about Gloria Furman, you can read my interview with her here.)

A Passion for the Impossible, by Miriam Huffman Rockness

A Passion for the Impossible, by Miriam Huffman Rockness | Little Book, Big Story

The story of Lilias Trotter, a woman who followed God’s call to Algeria though it meant laying down her work as an artist to serve as a missionary, is one that’s dear to my heart. Though God calls many of us to surrender our gifts to him so he can cultivate and use them in his own way, that surrender is completely contrary to our culture’s cries to “Dream Big” and forge our own success. I found it encouraging to read about God’s faithfulness in Lilias’s life, and to see how her surrender gave God room to use her gifts in ways she couldn’t have foreseen. (I have written about Lilias Trotter here on the blog before. Twice.)

A Whole Lot of Sherlock Holmes, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sherlock Holmes (The Adventures, The Memoirs) | Little Book, Big Story

We re-watched all the seasons of Sherlock this year, and that drove me back to Arthur Conan Doyle’s original stories. Some of these I had read already; some I encountered for the first time. All of them are masterful pieces of fiction, perfect for reading with tea, under fleecey blankets, while the wind rattles the bare branches outside.

The Life-Giving Home, by Sarah and Sally Clarkson

The Life-Giving Home, by Sally and Sarah Clarkson | Little Book, Big Story

This book, by mother and daughter team Sally and Sarah Clarkson, reminds us why traditions and little bits of beauty in the home matter so much to our souls. Every chapter takes readers through one month of the year, touching on seasons and holidays and providing a library’s worth of ways we can show love to those in our home. Some are practical, some are lavish, but none are required: this books gives us a feast to pick and choose from without burdening us with guilt over what we cannot do. This book reads like an updated version of Edith Schaeffer’s The Hidden Art of Homemaking (one of my favorites).

Keep a Quiet Heart, by Elisabeth Elliot

Keep a Quiet Heart, by Elisabeth Elliot | Little Book, Big Story

Anything by Elisabeth Elliot is, of course, deep and beautiful and dripping wisdom. I picked this up in the later stages of Advent and decided that I should probably read it every December: as a collection of excerpts from Elliot’s newsletters, this reads almost like a devotional, almost like an anthology of brief essays, and exactly like a precursor to blog posts.


What About you? What beautiful books did you discover this year?

Why I Love the Read-Aloud Revival Podcast

I recently discovered Read-Aloud Revival (through Aslan’s Library, of course) and after listening to an episode or two was smitten. “I’ve found my people!” I told Mitch over dinner. He then pointed out that he was my people, as were the three little people around the table. Fair point.

So I found my other people, the bookish ones, the ones to whom phrases like “build your family culture around books” serve as rallying cries and who read poetry at lunch and read books about reading books. I found those people. And I love them.

What is Read-Aloud Revival? It’s a podcast about reading aloud to your kids. But wait—I can hear your skepticism brewing. How can someone devote a single hour-long episode to talking about reading aloud, let alone several episodes? What could there possibly be to talk about?

Read Aloud Revival: A podcast worth listening to! | Little Book, Big Story

Oh, my friend. There is so much to talk about. How do you choose books for your family? How do you discuss books with your kids? How do you read to toddlers or nuture your child’s imagination or read poetry to your kids? How do you introduce them to Shakespeare? How do you read aloud well, for that matter? Do you do voices or accents?

And what about the parents who don’t enjoy reading aloud but still want to nurture that part of their child that is fed by good books?

Read Aloud Revival: A podcast worth listening to! | Little Book, Big Story

If any of those questions hit that soft spot in your heart that brings you back to this blog more than once, then I think you’ll love Sarah MacKenzie’s podcast. Sarah MacKenzie is the charming host of Read-Aloud Revival, the one who has such engaging conversations with her guests that I find myself, at the end of each episode, wanting the conversation to go on for just a little bit longer.

Some podcasts are great for listening to while I cook dinner, when the kids are up and running amok, but not this one: this is the treat that I save for myself, the one that I listen to on the front porch during nap time, sketchbook open, paintbrush in hand. (My logic: if my hands are busy while I listen I’m less likely to impulsively purchase every other book mentioned on the program.)


Read-Aloud Revival (podcast)
Sarah MacKenzie