Tag: story warren

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!

Whatever is Pure and Lovely | Story Warren

So. I spent a year writing two different articles—two very different articles. I spent a year tinkering with one of them, altering this sentence and then that one, cutting passages and pasting them elsewhere or—in a burst of spontaneity—deleting them altogether.

The other arrived half-complete: in a single morning, I wrote a promising opening, but no ending. Nothing for months, no matter how many times I opened my draft, stared at the blinking cursor and thought my thoughts.

And then I grew a baby, which meant I spent a lot of time sleeping. I had the baby, which meant I spent a lot of time not sleeping but not writing either.

But a few months ago, I opened the one article, dusted it off, cut or rearranged a few more lines.

I opened the other and, in a sudden gust, wrote the missing last half. In a single morning, they were both done. I sent them off, washing my hands of them in two clicks of the Send button, and did not see them again until this week, when they appeared on separate sites within days of each other.

Of course that makes me happy. It always does, when the words I shuffle around each morning go off into the world to connect with readers. But this piece, the second article, is especially dear to me. It’s a quirky one, a story that seemed just right. I don’t entirely understand it myself and there’s something about that that seems fitting. I hope you enjoy it too:

At 9:30, my daughter comes downstairs—she can’t sleep. She’ll be seven next month and the world is expanding around her, I can see it. She’s more aware of other people now, more aware of adult conversation, more aware, in this instance, of volcanoes.

“Volcanoes?” I repeat, settling down next to her on the couch. “What do you mean?”

“I don’t know,” she says. “I’m just worried about them. I read about them in class today and I . . . “. I know that she sees it clearly, whatever she read that day, as real to her as I am. A definite fear shapes the set of her mouth and she gives into it for a moment before drawing away and finishing lamely, “I’m just worried about them.”

I want to offer her comfort—immediate, tangible comfort—in the shape of a promise. They’re far away. We don’t have to worry about that here. Things like that don’t happen anymore. Or the great silence-killing assurance, “It’s okay.”

But I can’t say any of that.

You can read the rest of the article here.


Whatever is Pure and Lovely
Théa Rosenburg, Story Warren

Ember Falls: a sequel to The Green Ember!

If you read The Green Ember, you probably a) loved it, and b) wanted more. If you answered yes to one or both of those, then, my friend, this post is for you:

SD Smith launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund Ember Falls, the highly-anticipated sequel to The Green Ember. There are all kinds of fun perks to supporting the campaign (t-shirts and stickers, yes, but also swords), but of course the best reward is the book itself and the joy of getting closure on some of the unanswered questions of The Green Ember.

You can join the cause here.

The Black Star of Kingston | SD Smith

When I reached the end of The Green Ember (and gave out a whoop! of triumph), I was both satisfied with the story’s ending and hungry for more. But when Smith revisited the realm of The Green Ember for his next book, he did not write a sequel to the story of Heather and Picket—instead, he returned to The Green Ember’s opening pages and wrote a prequel.

The Black Star of Kingston, by SD Smith | Little Book, Big Story

Those opening pages detail a scene between two rabbits named Fleck and Galt. It’s a short scene, but it’s rich in the themes that make Smith’s books so worth reading—honor, bravery, loyalty—and that small scene springboards us into the story of The Black Star of Kingston.

Long, long ago, before Heather and Picket, there was King Whitsun and Fleck. Their adventure fills the pages of this slender book with so much excitement and tension that I found myself perched on a folding chair during the few minutes between art classes, frantically snacking with one hand and turning pages with the other. Though I cannot put my finger on exactly why, there was something about this book that I liked even better than The Green Ember. The characters are more mature, the story’s pace is satisfyingly quick (but not too quick), and the action—oh, the action! SD Smith writes it so well that I’m not tempted (as I’m usually tempted) to skim the fight scenes until the story picks up again.

The Black Star of Kingston, by SD Smith | Little Book, Big Story

It is always a pleasure to watch an author improve from book to book, and liking The Black Star of Kingston so well has me looking forward to Smith’s next book. (A sequel to The Green Ember, perhaps?)


The Black Star of Kingston
SD Smith, Zach Franzen (2015)

A free peek at Deeply Rooted and a poem for Story Warren

This past week, while I was exploring the Washington Coast with my family and ignoring the internet, my poem “Reading Lessons” appeared on the most wonderful Story Warren. As always, their blog is worth a long perusal, preferably with a warm beverage in hand.

Deeply Rooted Magazine, Issue 6: Summer | Little Book, Big Story

Also, Deeply Rooted announced that they shall henceforth offer free previews of their issues online! My review of Gloria Furman’s book, Glimpses of Grace, is part of the preview for the most recent issue, alongside Mandalyn Renicker‘s article “Seeing Life Like Lewis,” Brian Sauve’s “Marriage Makes,” Lindsay Cournia‘s “Put on Love,” and more.

You can read more about why Deeply Rooted has decided to offer these previews here, and you can preview the issue itself here.

The Green Ember | SD Smith

My husband and I called work assignments back and forth as we unloaded the minivan after church. “You get the baby, I’ll get lunch,” “I’ve got the bag!”—that sort of thing. I was halfway up the front steps when I saw the box.

“Never mind!” I called. “No lunch today! I’ve got books!”

We did eat lunch that day—I even made it—but while we ate cold leftovers in rumpled church clothes, I unpacked the box at the table. My family watched the proceedings with varying degrees of interest. How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare, Caught Up in a Storyboring Mom stuff (clearly influenced by a recent Read Aloud Revival binge). Treasuring Christ With Your Hands Fullagain, Mom only. But then:

The Green Ember, by SD Smith | Little Book, Big Story

“Oh, what is that book about?” Only the baby remained uninterested—everyone else huddled around me to study the cover of The Green Ember. My husband murmured reverently, “It’s beautiful.”

I dropped everything else from my reading list and started The Green Ember that afternoon. Written by S.D. Smith of Story Warren, The Green Ember tells the tale of Heather and Picket, two rabbits set adrift in a corrupted wood by the loss of their home and family.

Someone somewhere (where was that quote?) called this “a new story with an old soul,” and I can see why: in the tradition of classics like The Chronicles of Narnia or The Princess and the Goblin, Smith uses fantastic elements to tell a story that is lively and engaging but that courses with good, old-fashioned virtue. Though the story has allegorical moments, it is not a strict allegory, and in that way Smith presents a beautiful picture of a community living in the hope of restoration, looking forward to the day when harms will be mended and the world made right.

The Green Ember, by SD Smith | Little Book, Big Story

A word of warning, though: the opening chapters are intense. If your family is up for that, awesome! Proceed. But if your kids are anything like mine, you might hold off on this one for a few years lest they have nightmares. Those opening chapters gathered steam slowly for me—I wanted to know more of the story earlier in the book—but once the train left the station, the ride was wonderful. And by the end?

No spoilers. But the book rocketed to the top of my favorites. May that be endorsement enough.


The Green Ember
S.D. Smith, Zach Franzen (2014)

Good news! You can also pre-order a copy of the prequel, The Black Star of Kingston!

The Conviction of Things Not Seen | Story Warren

Robin Hood came with us to the grocery store this morning. He lives at our house, actually, and eats breakfast seated cross-legged underneath Sarah’s chair. He’s thirty-five, she says, but still a kid.

In case that sounds insane, here is some context: Story Warren, a site dedicated to equipping parents to nurture their kids’ imaginations, has graciously published my post “The Conviction of Things Not Seen” on their blog today. (That feels like a triple exclamation mark sort of sentence, but because I am a well-mannered English major who cannot abide that sort of thing, I shall refrain from actually using three exclamation marks there. But you should read that sentence as though they are there.)

That post has everything to do with why Robin Hood lives with us, as Sarah’s imaginary brother.

The Conviction of Things Not Seen | Little Book, Big Story

You can read the full post here. And then I encourage you to explore the rest of their site, because if you ever get the sense that I am a kindred spirit, then I suspect that you, too, will love their content. Watch the about video. Savor this article. Look at all the books they recommend that I’ve never even heard of! (You know I’m going to fix that, pronto.)


 

The Conviction of Things Not Seen
Théa Rosenburg, Story Warren