In the beginning, God created numbers. Numbers declare the glory of God.
That is where God Counts begins: right at the very beginning. From there, Irene Sun counts to twelve (and beyond!) with readers, pausing at each number to share a verse and show how each number points us to God. On its surface, this seems like a simple concept, one that could could go wrong if the author decided to play it safe and count animals marching into the ark. But Sun explores big theological concepts through this counting format, and she does it beautifully:
Two tells us we are not alone. In the beginning, God made two people, Adam and Eve. They walked with God, side by side. The talked to God, face to face.
God Counts aims not only to teach our kids about numbers, but to show young readers (and parents who might need reminding) that even numbers declare the glory of God.
Here is what I know about three. Two gets all the bad press, being terrible, but in our house, three has always been the hardest and sweetest year. At two, our daughters spotted boundaries and pushed against them. They used “No” to great effect. But at three, their bones seem to liquify and they drop to the floor and they cry and cry and cry. Maybe they’re cold. Or hungry. Or sad. Or in a blind rage.
We don’t know; we can only guess.
Meanwhile, they weep. One of our older girls used to have what we darkly called “the 11:00 meltdown.” Months later, we learned that after a morning spent running around barefoot, she was cold, and if we wrestled her into tights first thing in the morning—socks she can’t take off!—the meltdowns stopped. But every daughter has her different drama at three, and it’s Josie’s turn now.
So, given that emotions are a big part of our family’s life right now, an Easter-themed “emotions primer” seems like just the ticket. Danielle Hitchen, author of the already-beloved First Bible Basics and Psalms of Praise, takes readers through the events of Holy Week, but in an unusual way: she uses emotions as a scaffolding for the story, then rounds them out with passages from Scripture.
(Side note: I love that she specifies which translation she used for each quote.)
Jessica Blanchard’s illustrations use color and texture and expression to capture each emotion, making this a book whose approach, though unexpected, works.
In the beginning of this post, I said that three is “the hardest and sweetest” year. But we’ve only talked about the hard part. The sweetness is what happens the rest of the time, when Josie drapes herself over the back of the couch like a cat to wait for her friend to come over. Or when she pokes Phoebe, yells, “Not get me!” and runs—a clear invitation to play chase. Or when she drops a book in Lydia’s lap and climbs up without invitation, confident that her sister will deliver the goods. Or when she walks into a room with her shirt pulled up over her face, as though this is a perfectly normal thing that people need to do from time to time.
Three is a year of big feelings, but it’s also a year of deep connection: Josie has always been a part of our family, but now she is a walking, talking, opinion-having, joke-cracking, kitty-loving, chase-playing part of it. And that is worth every single meltdown.
Exaggerated eyebrows! Dropped jaws! I sometimes miss the depth of emotion in Scripture or the strength with which people respond to Jesus, but a good illustrated Bible story doesn’t bury those feelings. Rather, it lets us see what it looks like to respond to some of the bewildering, awe-inspiring, terrifying events of Scripture the way a human being would —with feeling.
A Very Happy Easter takes this one step further and incorporates those feelings right into the text. Where Tim Thornborough’s excellent Christmas book, A Very Noisy Christmas, invited readers to respond to the story of Jesus’ birth with sound and celebration, A Very Happy Easter invites readers into the story through expression:
In most books there is work for your eyes and ears. You look at the pictures, and listen to the words. But in this book, there is work for your face too!
Every time readers see a character react to something in the story, we get to respond by mimicking the expression of the characters. Are they astonished? Let us be astonished too! Are they confused or disbelieving? Well, then, so are we. Startled? Afraid? Amazed? Us too!
This is a great way to engage younger readers, but I have a hunch that my older girls—with some initial eye-rolling, perhaps—will get into it, too. And anything that puts our feet on the ground of the Easter story is a welcome addition to our library.
Disclosure: I did receive copies of this 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.
Last year, I struggled to find good Easter books to review for you and share with my family. My plight was so dire I resorted to making an “Easter” book list of books that aren’t exactly about Easter. But this year I am delighted to report that I have a handful of wonderful Easter books to share with you, many of them recent releases!
This gives me great hope for mankind.
Easter is one of Christianity’s biggest holidays. And though I know it involves betrayal, execution, and very few cute barnyard animals, it also tells the story of the key event in our faith—the one without which we have no hope of redemption at all (1 Corinthians 15:13-17). The fact that I could find only a handful of books that told that story faithfully and skillfully prompted at least one rant from me per year.
But now! Authors and publishers are stepping into that gap and bringing us creative, gospel-rich new Easter books, and that brings me a great deal of joy. I cannot wait to share them with you.
Before I do, though, I decided to gather up all the Easter titles I have previously reviewed and drop them right here in a pile. I added the new titles to the list as well so you can get a jump on reading and loving them.
Our girls say the Lord’s Prayer every Sunday in church and every morning over breakfast. Those who don’t yet know the words by heart know the rhythm of it and let their voices rise and fall in time with ours, and those who do almost chant them, the words bubbling up without effort from that place where such things are stored.
They know the Lord’s Prayer. But do they hear what they’re saying?
I wonder this sometimes even as I recite with our congregation. What is it we’re saying, I wonder. Do we understand? There is a discipline to memorizing Scripture, and there is a different discipline to meditating on it and absorbing its meaning. I find sometimes that reading a well-worn passage in a new translation can help me hear what I know by rhythm if not by heart.
Loved is a fresh look at the Lord’s Prayer. Like it’s predecessor Found,Loved graduates some of the text from The Jesus Storybook Bible to its very own picture book. In this case, the text is Lloyd-Jones’ adaptation of the Lord’s Prayer and it is beautiful—just the thing for helping my littlest readers understand better what that lengthy morning recitation is about. Jago illustrates it with a group of children climbing and playing and fighting and forgiving out in nature, where everything sings with the glory of God.
Loved helps train our eyes to see and our ears to hear the beauty of our God and Father. And it helps us listen again to what we say when we pray the Lord’s Prayer:
From the author of our beloved Read-Aloud Bible Stories comes this thrift store find: The Tell-Me Stories, a collection of Jesus’ parables told with warmth and welcome for the littlest, most fidgety crowd.
I love the way Ella Lindvall finds her way into a Bible story and goes straight for the heart of it. She peels back the layers (layers I hope my kids return to and delight in discovering as they grow older) and gets to the core of the story. That is what she shares with her audience of toddlers and parents who might think they’ve heard it all.
The Tell-Me Stories shares Jesus’ parables in a simple, straightforward way. Each one ends with a lesson, a tactic I don’t always love but that Lindvall does well. Through these stories we see Jesus the way he might have appeared to a child: welcoming, willing to part the grown-ups and make a path for the children to come to him.
I apologize for not sharing a post last week. We were down with the flu. But we’re back now, with appetites! And senses of humor!
These days, Josie exits a room just as quickly as she entered—a ringleted blur, sometimes wielding a ukulele, sometimes wearing pants (sometimes not). She is two, and she moves at full speed.
We have always lived in small spaces and have joked that we always have at least one less bedroom than we “should” have. Before the remodel, our home was 900-ish cozy square feet, and our kitchen was also our dining and school rooms. But on the other side of the remodel, we have a little elbow room and, to Josie’s delight, a little running room. Her track extends from the front door, through the kitchen, into the dining room and back, and she often jogs it in a monkey hat and little else, bellowing “Jingle Bells.”
She is a toddler in motion. And Danielle Hitchen gets that: Psalms of Praise is filled with encouragement for small readers to move and dance as we praise God. The readings on each page are short and center around an active verse from the psalms.
Jessica Blanchard’s illustrations add to the energy and joy of the book, and make it a fun one to read aloud with a little one (who may or may not wear pants).
Hitchen and Blanchard also collaborated on First Bible Basics, as well as on a few other books in the series that I haven’t yet read. But with these two, so far, they’re bringing theological meat to the board book set in a way that is active and honest but not oversimplified. I respect that, even as I jog along behind Josie, reading aloud.