Tag: teen (page 1 of 2)

A Visual Theology Guide to the Bible

Just as I don’t know what I think until I write it down or say it out loud, I often don’t truly grasp an idea until I see it spread out in front of me. And so I love resources, like Tim Challies’s A Visual Theology Guide to the Bible, that deepen our family’s understanding of Scripture by allowing us to explore the themes and structure of Scripture in a visual way.

This book is meant as an introduction to the big picture of the Bible—how all 66 books fit together, for example, or how the Old Testament relates with the new, and so much more. The book isn’t all graphics, but it does contain a lot of graphics, and each one explores some aspect of Scripture in a way that helps readers envision key elements of our faith. Some, like the intricate image interweaving Old Testament prophecies with the stories of Jesus fulfilling each one, are so beautiful they elicit a sense of awe. Others are clean and simple, and illustrate the truths of the faith with the foam skimmed off so we can see into its depths more clearly.

Though this book isn’t specifically intended for families, my teen daughters read and enjoyed it, and I could see it serving as a great devotional resource for families with older children (or homeschooling families! This would be a great spine for a Bible curriculum). Or read A Visual Theology Guide to the Bible for yourself and allow it to deepen your own understanding of the Bible’s beauty, complexity, and simplicity.


A Visual Theology Guide to the Bible: Seeing and Knowing God’s Word
Tim Challies; Josh Byers (2019)

Beautiful Novels for Teens

This year, fifty percent of our offspring will be over the age of thirteen. Half our children will no longer answer to the word “children.” They’ll be inching toward driver’s licenses and trigonometry and, egad, adulthood. And I am thrilled by this—I love it! Of course I have my qualms about leaving the days of slept-in braids and tutus and what will I do with myself when no one roller skates through the kitchen dressed like a dragon? But when it comes to teen daughters, I’m a big fan.

Sure, the emotions are real, and the slopes drop toward them real quick. And yes, the stakes feel higher the older they get—we only have so much time left to teach them Everything They Need to Know Before They Leave Home! But one of my favorite parts of this season is watching my daughters’ friendship deepen and grow as they get older: when they get home from some event, they often curl up on the couch together and talk it over, just the two of them. They have inside jokes and favorite songs and sometimes I feel, just a little and in the right way, on the outside of things with them. They write duets on the piano and pass books back and forth and occasionally lose patience with each other and then patch things up without me—their friendship is a beautiful thing to watch bloom.

And so, to celebrate this shift in our home, I thought I’d party the way I usually do and share some of our favorite books from this season so far.

Beautiful Books for Teens | Little Book, Big Story

The Sinking City, by Christine Cohen

The Sinking City, by Christine Cohen | Little Book, Big Story

The Sinking City is a beautifully written story that weaves fantastic elements into the solid structures of a real city. Venice seems like a plausible place in which to find magicians and wrathful sea monsters, and Liona surprises herself as well as readers as she navigates the city, trying to save it, her own life, and that of her family. The story is enjoyable and unpredictable, and Christine Cohen’s ability to craft complex, believable characters is stunning. (Read the full review.)


The Letter for the King, by Tonke Dracht

The Letter for the King, by Tonke Dragt | Little Book, Big Story

While in the middle of the vigil required of all incoming knights, Tiuri hears a voice outside the church. He is forbidden to speak or to leave the church during the vigil, but the voice cries for help. What should a knight-to-be do: obey his king and remain seated, meditating upon his impending knighthood, or answer the cry for help? That conflict kicks off a good, old-fashioned quest, knight and all. (Read the full review.)


Forward Me Back to You, by Mitali Perkins

Forward Me Back to You, by Mitali Perkins | Little Book, Big Story

When Katina and Robin embark on a missions trip to India, they each bring their own issues: Katina is recovering from an attempted assault at school, while Robin is hoping to find answers to some big questions from his past. Mitali Perkins weaves their stories together and explores some powerful questions. (Read the full review.)


The Lost Tales of Sir Galahad, by Jennifer Trafton, A.S. Peterson & more

Editors Jennifer Trafton and A.S. Peterson have assembled a collection of tales for those who have long loved Arthurian stories, as well as those (like me) who are only loosely familiar with them. Presented as a collection of rediscovered documents, The Lost Tales of Sir Galahad are liberally sprinkled with pseudo-scholarly footnotes. Some of these stories are clever and funny; some are beautiful and heart-rending; most are seasoned with a little bit of all those things. The book itself is gorgeously designed and illustrated by Ned Bustard.


The Shiloh Series, by Helena Sorenson

The Shiloh Series, by Helena Sorenson | Little Book, Big Story

The story of Shiloh begins in the dark, and it is a heavy tale, one that is honest about the damage of sin and the havoc it wreaks in our hearts. The characters go on grueling journeys through the darkness of Shiloh, but, as the back of the book promises, the story is ultimately one of courage and hope: Helena Sorenson brings the trilogy to a glorious conclusion. (Read the full review.)


Once Upon a Wardrobe, by Patti Callahan

This gorgeous historical novel weaves the biography of C.S. Lewis into the sweet story of Oxford student Megs and her invalid brother, George. I say “novel,” because that’s what the book itself wants me to call it, but this is also a book of ideas: what is a story? Why do stories move us so much? Callahan explores these rich concepts even as she tells us a beautiful story, one my teen connected with deeply.


Rosefire, by Carolyn Clare Givens

Rosefire, by Carolyn Clare Givens | Little Book, Big Story

Rosefire begins with one small action: Karan, daughter of one of the leading families of Asael, welcomes a girl with no memory of her past into her father’s home against his wishes. But this act establishes both Karan’s place and the place of the girl, Anya, in a story far greater than either of them—one that will shape and redeem their fragmented land. (Read the full review.)


Emily of Deep Valley, by Maud Hart Lovelace

Emily of Deep Valley, by Maud Hart Lovelace | Little Book, Big Story

Emily of Deep Valley follows Emily Webster, who has just graduated high school but feels like an outsider among her friends, who are all heading off to college while Emily stays home to care for her grandfather. This is a story rich in themes of sacrifice and love, one that challenges readers to stop looking over the fence at the next green field and start cultivating the soil they’re standing in. Emily keenly feels the boundaries placed about her, and yet she learns to flourish there. (Read the full review.)


Which books did your teens love?

Emily of Deep Valley

Firstly: you may have noticed the blog looking spiffier, perhaps? For some reason, the week after Christmas consistently inspires me to give this site a makeover. It always seems so fun at first, like a project I’ll start and finish between rounds of Nertz with my girls, but then I end up deep in the weeds, reformatting the titles for every single post I’ve written over the past almost-decade, and I invariably think to myself, around page 67 of 96, I’ve made a huge mistake.

But when I’m done, I’m always glad I did it: with every redesign of this site, I try to make it tidier, easier for you to use, and (of course) prettier. This time, I’ve actually resurrected and updated an old design—one whose simplicity and clean white margins made it one of my favorites. If you find any broken links or if there was something from the previous design you miss, please let me know! You are ultimately the reason I tinker with this site at all—I want it to be a pleasure to comb through as you look for good books. So please do reach out in the comments or via email and let me if there’s anything I can do to make it so.

And now . . . today’s book! A beauty!


When I finally picked up Mitali Perkins’s lauded Steeped in Stories, I was delighted to find that six of the seven children’s books she lists as her favorites were my favorites, too. But best of all, the seventh—Emily of Deep Valley—was a book so brand new to me that I’d never even heard of it. I’d read the first few Betsy-Tacy books when my girls were very small, but apart from that, I knew nothing about Maud Hart Lovelace’s work. And I’d certainly never read Emily of Deep Valley.

That, my friends, has been remedied—and swiftly!

Perhaps it’s too simplistic to refer to Maud Hart Lovelace as a “Minnesotan L.M. Montgomery,” but that’s the most concise way I can think of to send all you Anne of Green Gables fans out in search of this book immediately. I’ll start there: if you love L.M. Montgomery’s books, look up Maud Hart Lovelace post haste!

Emily of Deep Valley, by Maud Hart Lovelace | Little Book, Big Story

She’s best known for her Betsy-Tacy books, but what I didn’t realize is that the Betsy-Tacy series, much like Montgomery’s Anne series, follows its characters into adulthood. Emily of Deep Valley is the stand-alone story of Emily Webster, a girl just graduating high school a few years after Betsy and Tacy. She feels on the outside of her friends, who are all heading off to college while Emily stays home to care for her grandfather.

This is a story rich in themes of sacrifice and love, one that challenges readers to stop looking over the fence at the next green field and start cultivating the soil they’re standing in. Emily keenly feels the boundaries placed about her, and yet she learns to flourish there—ultimately getting to know and care for a community of Syrian refugees that many in her town have overlooked.

Emily of Deep Valley is a sweet story, yes, but its roots go deep: Lovelace asks meaningful questions about race and relationships (Emily’s first love interest is most emphatically Not a Keeper) and true friendship. And it’s one that will send readers—in our house, at least—into the rest of Lovelace’s books, eager to read them all.


Emily of Deep Valley
Maud Hart Lovelace (1950)

5 Lovely Collections of Prayers

I came to faith in a church that emphasized personal experience, where prayer was something instinctive—the more free-form, the better. And there’s something beautiful and true about that. But when I first encountered written prayers, I was struck by how quickly they transformed my own prayers by giving me words for those feelings I couldn’t name or that, when joy or grief submerged me, I couldn’t articulate.

As my daughters grow and we look for ways to help them deepen and mature in their own faith, I find myself reaching for written prayers—not because they teach us The Only Way to Pray, but because they connect us to the Christians who came before us, those who wrote their verses on papyrus or in ink dipped from a pot nearby. These old prayers remind us that the psalmists and writers of long ago wrestled with doubts and praised the Lord with emotions still recognizable to us.

But there are new prayers being written today, too—in a coffee shop, maybe, with a phone buzzing nearby, or on a park bench, as the writer looked out over the water. The means and the language differ, but the things the writers wrestled with rarely change. The conviction of sin; the delight of grace; the blank absence of doubt; the joy of deliverance—all are familiar to us, from the time King David penned his psalms to today.

I love how these collections of prayers set our aim a little higher than we might think to reach on to our own. They draw us out of our own particular worries (though God loves to hear about them, too) and remind us just who it is we’re talking to: the God of all things, the maker of the universe. The God who tends to needs both big and small.

And so, I love a good collection of prayers, whether old or new. Here are a few favorites we’ve gathered over the years that have blessed our family with words when we struggled to find our own and that have inspired us to praise the Lord from the heights as well as the depths.


The Valley of Vision, ed. by Arthur Bennett

This classic book of Puritan prayers was my first introduction to written prayers. These are beautiful, theologically rich prayers that model a deep, stirring, challenging faith, and they cover everything from confessing sin to praising the Lord to preparing for the Sabbath.


Every Moment Holy, by Douglas Kaine McKelvey

These books (both Volumes 1 and 2) encourage us to meet every trial and celebration by drawing near to God. Though they’re meant to be read corporately as liturgies, these work well as private prayers too. I love how specific these prayers are: some deal with small concerns and others (especially in Volume 2) deal with some of the deepest griefs we can face. (Read the full review.)


Into His Presence, by Tim Chester

Into His Presence reads like an updated, more accessible version of Valley of Vision, with prayers drawn from the Puritans and lightly edited so they read a little more like contemporary works. Each chapter deals with a different circumstance (“Prayers of Gratitude,” “Prayers for the Lost,” etc.) and reminds us that the Lord meets us in every season.


Sheltering Mercy, by Ryan Whitaker Smith & Dan Wilt

Sheltering Mercy is a collection of responsive poems written in the wake of Psalms 1-75. These read beautifully as prayers and show us that Scripture is something we can engage with: we can read it, pray it, and write poems by its light. (Read the full review.)


And one late addition, discovered after I photographed the other books. But I just couldn’t leave it off this list!

Jesus Listens: 365 Prayers for Kids, by Sarah Young

Our family is reading Jesus Listens right now and it’s an unexpected pleasure. This collection of prayers includes one for each day of the year, each accompanied by a few verses that connect the prayers to Scripture. The language in this book is so warm and inviting, it deserves (and shall receive!) a full review, but I couldn’t bear to pass over it here.

My Tech-Wise Life

We jokingly called this past summer The Summer of Life-Skills. It was a make-up summer, one in which I determined to teach my kids a bazillion things they might need to know as adults—practical lessons, like How to Ride the City Bus, or How to Order Your Own Italian Soda. For much of the pandemic, my daughters were able to attend their small school in person, and I’m grateful for that. But even so, we continue to find little residual burdens the pandemic has laid upon our daughters. So many things were closed for so long that our girls hardly remembered how to navigate them, and with my husband working from home, it just wasn’t necessary for me to bring them along with me on errands like grocery shopping or each other’s dental appointments. We were all a little rusty when it came to interacting with the world.

Thus, Our Summer of Life Skills. We invented tasks that would send the older girls to the grocery store alone because we, I don’t know, urgently needed a half-dozen doughnuts. We rode the bus downtown throughout the summer, much to the amusement of our route’s regular driver. Imagine: me and four girls, from fourteen to six, filing on board and filling the back seats. The older girls took summer jobs babysitting and cracking eggs at our favorite bakery.

It was a crash course in Being Out in the World and Talking to Adults Who Are Not Your Parents or Teachers. In June, the girls were nervous about it. By August, they were talking to the librarian like it was no big deal and ordering their own ice cream cones. Success!

But now, our next phase of Life Skills is upon us. Our oldest daughter wants to know: when can she have her own phone? And our answer has always been, “Way after you think you should.” But good gravy, now she’s in high school and her best friend has moved across the country and we’ve discovered internet-free phones, so we’ve been thinking about it. Slowly, but we’re thinking about it.

My Tech-Wise Life, by Amy Crouch & Andy Crouch | Little Book, Big Story

And in the spirit of that, I picked up Amy Crouch’s My Tech-Wise Life, which, like her father’s book The Tech-Wise Family, is brilliant. Full of helpful research and thoughtful insights, My Tech-Wise Life is written by a young adult for young adults. After all, her generation’s experience with technology is profoundly different than that of their parents: we old-timers remember a time before the internet, but many of our children have been on the internet since back when they were the adorable, dimply stars of their parents’ Facebook accounts.

And so Amy Crouch brings a valuable voice to the conversation about technology. She brings the perspective of her family, and the way they approached technology, as well as her own experience growing up with it. Each chapter ends with a letter from her dad, Andy Crouch, written to her. These letters are insightful, moving, and full of grace. Between the two of them, they provide a comprehensive, practical way of viewing and using technology—which is, I think, one of the toughest life skills to learn these days.

So, will we get our daughter a phone soon? That’s still under discussion. But when we do, we plan to give her a copy of this book along with it.


Worth noting: This book includes a chapter on pornography, as it should. While not graphic, it does discuss the subject at length and in depth, so I’d encourage you to pre-read at least that chapter before handing this book to your teen. But really, the whole book is a great read for parents as well as teens.


My Tech-Wise Life: Growing Up and Making Choices in a World of Devices
Amy Crouch & Andy Crouch (2020)