Tag: teens (page 1 of 1)

The Sin Eater

This book, in addition to being written by the incomparable Gary Schmidt, contains three of the things I love most in a story: a very old house, some cloudy family history, and a cemetery. No—two cemeteries, one of which is hidden away and overgrown. Which is my favorite kind of cemetery.

So regardless of what my daughters think about the book, I’m here to tell you that I loved it. Gary Schmidt has a reputation for tackling Hard Topics, and this book is no exception: after losing his mother to cancer, Cole watches as his dad disappears into his grief like it’s an attic he can lock himself inside. But they’re living with Cole’s grandparents in the house where his mother grew up, and it is layered with family stories—joyful and sad—that provide a sort of counterweight to his father’s depression. And his grandparents fill it with laughter, good food, and meaningful work.

The tension between these two parts of Cole’s life—his father’s despair and his grandparents’ comfort—becomes a force at the heart of the story as the light strives to overcome the darkness. That tension propels the story forward. But in the community Cole finds in Albion, New Hampshire, Schmidt has created something that is substantive, memorable, real. The setting itself seems to support Cole as his grief over his mother’s death and his father’s absence ebbs and flows.

This is a moving book, a beautiful one. I’ve read many of Schmidt’s novels, and he’s a master at what he does. But something about this older title especially got to me. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

(And yes, my daughter loved it, too.)


The Sin Eater
Gary D. Schmidt (1996)


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Bible Study Resources for Kids

When we were homeschooling, I learned a trick for teaching my daughters math. If they were struggling to solve a problem, I would wait until I was tempted to answer for them . . . and then I would slowly count to three. My daughters usually solved the problems during that window, when I was fighting the urge to say, “Thirteen! It’s thirteen!”

As it turns out, this is great advice for raising teens (and almost-teens), too. When my daughters are tackling something new, I hold back as long as I can and fight that mom urge to just do it for them. It’s not easy. Sometimes I have to do deep breathing. But those extra three seconds are often just enough time for my daughters to do the thing themselves and emerge victorious, with that sense of confidence because they figured it out on their own.

So it is with Bible study. We still read the Bible together as a family, but I’ve also been trying to nurture in our older girls a desire to study Scripture on their own. These habits aren’t easy to build, but this is another place where I find I need to hand them good tools, set up their workspace for success, and then step back and pray silently over them as they do the actual work on their own.

And so, here are a few resources our family has found helpful in different stages as this particular plane makes its way down the runway. (Has it fully lifted off yet for anybody? No. But it’s pulling away from the airport!) I’ve ordered this list to start with resources for the youngest readers before moving on to resources for teens.

A Full-Text Kids’ Bible

Of course, a full-text Bible for kids is a great place to start. There are lots of options out there, and the best ones feature a few tools that help kids connect with the text and understand what they’re reading. Some of our favorites over the years have been the ESV Seek-And-Find Bible, the ESV Big Picture Bible, and—most recently—the CSB One Big Story Bible.


Kaleidoscope Kids’ Bibles

Kaleidoscope Kids Bibles | Little Book, Big Story

These Bibles hit that sweet spot between story Bible and the Bible itself. Each volume features a paraphrased version of a book of the Bible, perfect for readers who are comfortable with chapter books but not quite ready to navigate Leviticus alone.


Exploring the Bible, by David Murray

Exploring the Bible: A Bible Reading Plan for Kids, by David Murray (review) | Little Book, Big Story

This is a fabulous Bible study for kids that gives them a survey of the whole Bible, one short reading at a time. Our family did this together one year and found that it helped our daughters fit the individual stories of Scripture into the larger narrative of the whole Bible. Murray’s Meeting with Jesus is excellent too. (Read the full review.)


Best News Ever, by Chris Morphew

Best News Ever, by Chris Morphew | Little Book, Big Story

This Bible study takes middle school readers through the book of Mark with short readings and deep questions. (Read the full review.)


Draw Near, by Sophie Killingsley

Draw Near, by Sophie Killingley | Little Book, Big Story

Draw Near is a sort of pre-made bullet journal, with cleverly illustrated habit trackers and study guides that help readers young and old make Scripture reading and prayer a daily part of their lives. (Read the full review.)


Head Heart Hands, by Linda Allcock

Head, Heart, Hands Bible Study | Little Book, Big Story

This trio of Bible studies takes teen girls through the gospel of Matthew, inviting them to answer thoughtful questions and take what they learn about Jesus to heart.


Teen Study Bibles

We haven’t dug into many of these yet, but I have long been a fan of the ESV Journaling Bible, which allows readers to process their reading with a pen in hand (this is how I do my best thinking). Our eldest daughter uses the NIV Bible for Teen Girls, which contains devotional readings on a wide range of topics (including sex, so give this one a pre-read). The ESV Student Study Bible is excellent too, and I’ve heard great things about the CSB Seven Arrows Bible.


Which resources have your kids found helpful?

Heaven & Nature Sing

Each of Hannah Anderson’s books is more beautiful than the last (and I say this as a bit of a fan girl who has read each of her books at least once). She has a gift for seeing clearly and for articulating what she sees in language both beautiful and incisive at once. Many of her books pair this clear sight with illustrations of the natural world, which I love: the illustrations make the books themselves things of beauty—works of art to be savored and lingered over.

Not dry and academic, these books. But not flowery or theologically soft, either.

Heaven and Nature Sing, by Hannah Anderson | Little Book, Big Story

Heaven and Nature is Hannah Anderson’s work at its best. This is a collection of essays intended for Advent reading—for you, perhaps, or for older children or teens. In each essay Anderson weaves personal stories with Scripture, exploration of the natural world with illustrations by her husband, Nathan Anderson. This is a very humble, inviting Advent book: not full of crafts you won’t get to or lengthy readings you won’t finish. These essays feel like a gift in themselves, an invitation to pause and consider and prepare for the celebration of Christmas. Heaven and Nature Sing is beautiful inside and out.


Heaven and Nature Sing: 25 Advent Reflections to Bring Joy to the World
Hannah Anderson; Nathan Anderson (2022)

Forward Me Back to You

After a disturbing encounter with a classmate fractures Katina’s sense of safety and peace, her mother sends Katina across the country to stay with a woman neither of them has never met—the great-aunt of her mother’s best friend—and try to recover.

Robin has been raised by his loving adoptive parents, but as he grows older he feels rootless. Everyone else wants to know where he’ll go for college, what he’ll do after high school. But he wants to know: who left him in the orphanage in India? How is he supposed to face his future when he doesn’t know his past?

Mitali Perkins weaves the stories of these two characters together beautifully, bringing them into fellowship with one another—through the wonderful medium of Viola Jones—where they challenge each other and help each other heal.

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

I had never read Mitali Perkins before reading this book, and I’m eager to read more—this was easily one of the best books I read last year. Forward Me Back to You deals with difficult content, but Perkins handles subjects like abuse and human trafficking honestly: nothing about this story is formulaic or predictable. Instead, Perkins allows Robin, Katina, and the other characters work through these challenges in ways that feel true and honest: they respond the way actual people might—with complex emotions, motivated by things they don’t understand in the moment and may not understand for years.

But Perkins writes with hope and with an eye on beauty and goodness, as well as truth. She brings her characters to a point of peace, but resists pushing past that to wrap up everything with a tidy bow. She gives them a way forward, and allows us to imagine what the path looks like from there.


This post is part of my “Hooray! We’re launching a book!” blog series, celebrating the upcoming release of Wild Things & Castles in the Skya book I both contributed to and, alongside Leslie & Carey Bustard, helped edit. Today’s post features an author who graced us with a powerful interview for Wild Things.


Forward Me Back to You
Mitali Perkins (2020)

KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR’s Reading Guides

This blog has always been light on two categories: books for boys, and books for teens. But now that we have a teenager in the house, one of those categories is about to start growing. Lydia recently turned thirteen, and while I was tempted to sort of gloss over it and think about it as, well, the next number after twelve, she wasn’t having that: every few days leading up to her birthday, she’d drift through the kitchen and sigh, “I can’t believe I’m almost a teenager!” About the fourth or fifth time, it hit me: my stars, she’s almost a teenager!

And now she is one. And apart from the looming sense that she may only live with us for five more years, I love it so far: the company in the front seat of the car, the insightful conversations, the sense that the world around her is just bigger and that she’s aware of it more. Deep conversations have already sprung from her expanding perspective on the world, and we talk about these issues the way we talk about most things at our house: through really great books.

Karen Swallow Prior's Guides to Reading and Reflectioning | Little Book, Big Story

That is where Karen Swallow Prior comes in. These editions of classic books are framed by an insightful introduction by Prior, meant to introduce a Christian audience to great works of fiction, and by a selection of questions for reflection and discussion. They contain the full text of the classic work, with insightful footnotes that help decode some of the older language.

I had the chance to try these out in a small book group recently—we read and discussed Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (I’ll hold off on reading that one with my daughter for a while, though), and I was startled by how Prior’s introduction and questions gave our conversation a foundation and direction. While the whole group arrived having read the book but not sure we’d understood it at all, by the time we left we’d hit some deep points of reflection and reached some understanding of the story and the author’s main themes. It was magical.

Karen Swallow Prior's Guides to Reading and Reflectioning | Little Book, Big Story

This is a newer series, and I hope Karen Swallow Prior is working on more. I could see these being a gift for parents who want to read classics with their teens but who aren’t sure how to go about discussing them after. But already I’m struck by how much Prior’s guides add to my understanding of these classic stories—and I can’t wait to share them with my daughter.


Heart of Darkness: A Guide to Reading and Reflecting
Joseph Conrad; Karen Swallow Prior (1899; 2020)

Jane Eyre: A Guide to Reading and Reflecting
Charlotte Bronte; Karen Swallow Prior (1848; 2021)


Disclosure: I did receive a copy of Jane Eyre 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.