As part of my “Hooray! We’re launching a book!” series—which celebrates the imminent release of Wild Things & Castles in the Sky—I’m pleased to invite you over to the Square Halo blog, where I got to share about some of my favorite Easter books for toddlers. Why toddlers? Because one of the chapters I wrote for Wild Things was all about toddler books. Maybe I took the assignment because my girls are all big now and I needed an excuse to break out the Sandra Boynton books again? It’s possible.
That’s exactly why I did it.
But please, join me over at Square Halo today. You’ll find that post right here. May you find some exuberant and indestructible Easter books that will bless a toddler near you!
This week we had a big discussion about when exactly Advent begins, and I was certain that it started next weekend. I had looked at the schedule for Advent readings at our church—I knew what was up. I was sure.
“Are you sure?” my daughter asked.
“Yes,” I answered. I was sure.
But at church the poinsettias were out, and the first candle was lit. As we sang the opening verse of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” I looked down the row at my daughter and sheepishly mouthed, Oops.
We don’t start our family readings until December 1, though, so I had a few days of grace to break out the calendars and books. This year, we’re reading through Ed Drew’s new Advent book, The Adventure of Christmas. In our family, we have daughters on both sides of that curious divide between child and teen, so it’s hard to find devotionals that resonate with all four girls. But last Lent we read Drew’s Easter devotional, Meals With Jesus, and I was pleasantly surprised by how well it worked for both age groups: he offered questions written for each age level from preschooler to teen and provided enough material with each reading to allow families to customize the conversation for wherever their kids are at.
The Adventure of Christmas follows a similar format. After a short Scripture reading come questions, from which parents can pick and choose, as well as “Optional Extras” likes crafts, deeper discussion topics for older kids, and resources for parents’ own Advent studies. It’s like a buffet with a little something for everyone! I love that about this book. And I hate to admit it, but I also love how short and to-the-point the readings are—perfect for discussing over dinner on a December weeknight and unlikely to make anybody groan.
One of the things I find most intriguing about The Adventure of Christmas is the fact that we won’t encounter Jesus’ birth on Christmas Day, but somewhere in the middle of the month—which leaves room for the stories of Simeon and Anna, and allows readers to look forward to who Jesus would when he grew up. Drew doesn’t present Jesus’ birth as the climax of the Christmas story, but as an event pointing toward a still bigger event; that is, I think, what truly sets this book apart from the many, many Advent resources our family has encountered over the years. (This is evident on the Advent calendar as well, which places the manger in the center of the timeline, not at the end.)
And, mercifully, the readings begin on December 1—but the schedule is flexible. You’re not required to read all twenty-five throughout Advent, so if you also missed the first Sunday, never fear! You, like me, still have time to catch up.
Disclosure: I did receive a copy of this book for review, but I was not obligated to review it 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.
In February I had the sort of realization I hate having: I had forgotten something. Last year swallowed up a lot of things, and as it passed, we noted and mourned a lot of those losses. But this loss bobbed to the surface one morning, as startling as a shark fin in a smooth sea: This was supposed to be Josie’s preschool year.
Preschool, in our house, is a small affair. But for each of our girls so far, this year before kindergarten has been the one where I make playdough from scratch at least once, introduce them to the alphabet, collect snails with them, read all those picture books I want to read with them, and occasionally break out the super-messy art supplies with nary a thought for our floor.
But we were well into February by the time I thought of this. All the upheaval of starting a new school year under Covid protocols and, well, just surviving and tending to everyone’s needs—it had shunted this thought so far to the back of my mind that I’d noticed its absence, something felt off, but I hadn’t been able to name it. That morning I got out my giant binder of preschool magic, assembled a bag full of books to read together that month, and I began making lists.
I am utterly, profoundly, abundantly grateful that God brought this to mind when he did. Josie and I still had four months together to read and play and make messes in the garden while the older girls were at school; she still had hours each day when she knew she had me to herself. And every school-day lunchtime we had our routine—not, as formerly, she eats at the table while I tidy the dining room around her or something, but: we sat down together; we read a Bible story and a picture book. We took our time over them. It was delightful.
And so Jared Kennedy’s The Beginner’s Gospel Story Bible became the stem of our time together, with everything else branching off it. The readings in this book are short but honest and deep, and they ask great questions of us. Trish Mahoney’s illustrations (have I mentioned yet how much I love her illustrations?) represent some fairly abstract ideas in ways that make sense to young readers. They’re symbolic and beautiful.
A friend described this book as “The Jesus Storybook Bible for even younger readers” and I think there’s something to that. But though it works wonderfully for toddlers, it doesn’t work only for toddlers: Josie, at five, picked up on big questions and mulled them over as she finished her peanut butter and honey sandwich. As we read, I saw her putting down roots in the truths of our faith and learning to know God a little better for herself.
School is out now and our house is full again with the daily bustle of sisters. But those mornings with Josie still feel like a gift—one we savored then, and one we’ll continue to savor in the years ahead.
Last week we took a trip to a tiny fishing town on the coast of Washington. That first night in our borrowed beach house, my husband and I settled the girls into bed and, once they were asleep, reminisced a bit about the trips of our childhood: “Remember how when you’re a kid, you don’t know what any of the weird sounds in a new place are?” We laughed. “You don’t think, Oh, that’s just the refrigerator. That’s probably a branch of the apple tree against the siding.” Every sound is new and alarming. But we’re adults now; we know better.
The next night, we woke to an ominous hissing, popping, percolating sound, so loud it woke us from two rooms away. It came from the laundry room—from a gray tank in the laundry room, which looked very much like it was under pressure and could possibly, probably, at any moment explode. Had we known what the tank was or what the noise meant, we might have been dignified about it. Perfectly calm. But for about fifteen minutes, I drafted exit strategies in my head. How would I get the girls out of the house? Where was the nearest exit? Had we seen a fire station when we drove through town? Did this town even have a fire station?
We prayed for wisdom and, mid-prayer, the tank simmered down. And we went back to bed feeling all the unpleasant nostalgia of being a kid in a world where home appliances are hostile and every twitching shadow might belong to a mutant spider.
So much of our fear seems to spring from what we don’t know, and the night is filled with things we don’t know. In The Bright Light and the Super Scary Darkness, Dan DeWitt (The Friend Who Forgives) acknowledges that fear and explores the way that the Bible talks about light and darkness. “The whole Bible is really one big story about the light and the dark,” the young narrator explains.
Within that context, DeWitt shares the whole story of Scripture—the times when it seemed like the dark was winning, and the times that the light won. The book ends with a fun twist that reminds readers that though the darkness can be scary, it doesn’t have to be: after all, we know the One who is the Light of the World. Whatever darkness we face, whatever uncertainty, he has already vanquished it. And he will never leave us truly alone in the dark.
Disclosure: I did receive a copy of this book 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.
I’m used to feeling like an oddball during Lent—fasting privately and aware, perhaps, of a few other friends from church who spend the weeks leading up to Easter forgoing good things and meditating on what is in us that made the cross necessary. We gather at church on Sundays and sing the “Kyrie Elieson”—”Lord, have mercy upon us”—while our neighbors go about their spring-time business.
But last spring, I saw grief, fear, and uncertainty in the eyes of our neighbors, cashiers, and teachers (as they passed my daughters’ school books through the passenger window of my van). We all felt it: This is not how it’s meant to be.Something has gone horribly wrong.
This spring is, already, gloriously different. Last week I took my daughter with me to the store for the first time in a year. We had dinner with vaccinated family members—indoors, not around the firepit in the driveway. The neighbor I’ve brought groceries every so often told me that she’s almost clear to do her own shopping, and I wanted to cry and hug her right there in her front yard.
Crocuses, snowdrops, chickadees—they’re all going about their usual spring business, but I want to beam when I see them. They are still going! We are still here. We aren’t finished with this pandemic, of course, but we’ve made it this far.
And Easter is coming.
Tama Fortner’s picture book is full of movement, color, and light—it captures all this perfectly. Beginning with the beginning, Easter is Coming follows the story of Scripture from the garden of Eden onward and shows how every chapter of the story points to Jesus’s resurrection—and how even our chapter, now, points back to it.
I am a little in awe of how she manages this—in a board book, no less!—but she succeeds beautifully in showing how Jesus’s death and resurrection is the climax of all Scripture. Wazza Pink’s illustrations give the story texture and a lovely sense of abundance.
We are not out of the woods yet, I know. I know. And it’s tempting to believe that a “return to normal” is the thing our hearts truly long for. But Easter reminds us to set our sights higher: whatever comes next, the cross is behind us, and Jesus’s resurrection is finished, for our sake. The next time we see him will be his true return; he will set all things right. Easter is coming!
Hi, I'm Théa! I review classic literature, poetry, nonfiction, fantasy, picture books—children's books luminous with grace and beauty. These are books our family loved and that I think you'll love too. Thanks for stopping by!
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