Tag: toddler (page 2 of 6)

Look and Be Grateful | Tomie dePaola

When you’re growing your first baby, people are quick to tell you how that baby will change your life. They know; you don’t. So they feel free to share. One of the things strangers were most eager to tell me, in a doom-and-gloom, beginning of the end sort of way, was that I would never sleep again. Never. Which I knew was an exaggeration, but still: I like sleep. My eight hours have always been there, more or less waiting for me, as long as I got in bed in a timely manner and claimed them.

But then I had my first baby and realized that, when the childbirth class teacher said that babies need to eat every two hours or so, she failed to mention (or I failed to hear) that I may or may not get fifteen to thirty minutes of sleep myself between feedings. “Never” was an overstatement, but when I was in those first days of my first baby’s life, it didn’t feel that way: as I snuggled the child whose dark curls struck me with awe even as she hauled me out of sleep again and again, I thought (as much as I could think anything then), “My word. They were right. I’ll never sleep again.”

Look and Be Grateful, by Tomie dePaola | Little Book, Big Story

When I was expecting my fourth baby, though, folks were not quite as quick with the ominous warnings. I think they assumed that I knew what I was getting myself into, which was fair, but here’s the funny thing: we seasoned parents, we parents of multiple children, who have done this many times before, are surprisingly quick to forget what having a baby is like when we don’t actually have one. As the babies become toddlers, we forget about waking every few hours to cuddle, rock, pat, and shush. We forget what it’s like having an infant.

And then we have one, and we remember.

Look and Be Grateful, by Tomie dePaola | Little Book, Big Story

Having a baby is glorious in so many ways. I’m one of those obnoxious people now who revels in it, who likes the smell of my baby’s neck and who gets all starry-eyed every single time she sneezes, and who turns to mush in the presence of a friend’s newborn. I never thought I’d see the day—me, the one who had never changed a diaper until I had my first child and who babysat only when my mother made me do it—but there it is. I love babies.

I even love teething babies, which is fortunate, because I have one of those now. Growing teeth is hard work, and hard work, when you’re a baby, calls for mom-snuggles in the wee hours. But because I usually like to sleep during the wee hours, I find myself sleeping now in the less-wee hours. And that is when I usually write.

So that’s why this post is mostly about sleeping and not sleeping. I’m trying to tell you about Tomie dePaola’s beautiful book Look and Be Grateful, but all that’s coming out is paragraph after paragraph of nonsense, all of which could be summed up in four words: “People, I am tired.”

Look and Be Grateful, by Tomie dePaola | Little Book, Big Story

It is fitting, then, that this week I’m reviewing a book on gratitude—a very short, simply worded book on gratitude. Of dePaola’s many books, this one reminds me most of Let the Whole Earth Sing Praise: the gentle illustrations, the carefully curated text, and the small format make this book, too, one that is clearly meant to be held and savored by the littlest readers.

Open your eyes,
and look.
Open your eyes,
and see,
and say thank you

This is a quiet meditation of a book that does my soul good, even as I read it to Phoebe before her nap, even as I fight to stay awake while I read it to Phoebe before her nap. It is a book that I love sharing with all of my daughters, big and small, because I want gratitude and wonder and thanksgiving to saturate our days as a family. I want to take that gratitude and wonder with me, too, into the wee hours, when I wake with the baby again, but can still marvel at her dimpled hands as she nurses, can still wonder at the weight of her and the way we were meant to fit together. I can remember:

Today is a day, and it is a gift.
So, be grateful.

Look and Be Grateful, by Tomie dePaola | Little Book, Big Story

On that note

I’m taking next week off. All that baby-snuggling means I’ve had little time to write and little brainpower with which to string words together and no time to take photos of anything (except the baby, of course), so I’m going to give myself a week of grace to catch up on sleep and blog posts. I have a bunch of good books to share with you, though, so I’m excited to get back to work!


Look and Be Grateful
Tomie dePaola (2015)

Papa, Do You Love Me? | Barbara M. Joosse

The giveaway is over, and it was so much fun! Congratulations to Teresa and Emily, and thank you so much to all of you who entered. And to those of  you who tried to enter on Friday but couldn’t because the giveaway closed twenty-four hours before I said it would: I’m so sorry! I thought I’d worked all the kinks out of the giveaway system, but I missed that one. My apologies. Can I make it up to you with a new book review?

I hope so. Here it is:


This summer, we started a tradition. It involved library trips in the morning and a picnic blanket in the afternoon, along with a stack of books, simple homemade caramel corn and cream soda.

If that sounds insanely idyllic though, remember this: it also involved taking a toddler to the library.

Papa, Do You Love Me? | Little Book, Big Story

With a baby in the carrier and a book bag over one arm (a book bag that grew increasingly heavy the longer we stayed), I had only one arm free for herding Phoebe away from the easy fiction, where she happily unshelved books one series at a time, and back toward the board books—only to have her slip away when I wasn’t looking and head toward the bathroom.

It is no coincidence that our Fridays also involved a post-library stop for coffee.

Papa, Do You Love Me? | Little Book, Big Story

But while browsing the library with a toddler in tow has its downsides, it also has a few notable upsides: namely, the books she slipped into her own book bag, that were checked out by an older sister and brought home unnoticed until I pulled them out and read them aloud on our picnic blanket. We found a few gems that way.

We found Papa, Do You Love Me? that way.

Papa, Do You Love Me? | Little Book, Big Story

This book is a beautiful, “Yes, child, I love you to the moon and back and nothing you can do will change that” sort of story, but it’s set in the Masai culture in Africa, so while it tells a familiar, comforting story, it also quietly shows how universal that story is. The child, Tender Heart, presses his father with questions: “Do you love me? How much? What would you do if I was hot? If  I was thirsty but the river ran dry? If I disobeyed?” And his father answers honestly and beautifully, painting a picture not just of a father’s love but of Our Father’s love as he does so.


Papa, Do You Love Me?
Barbara M. Joosse, Barbara Lavallee (2005)

The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross | Carl Laferton

There are some trends I can’t get behind, like jeggings and cookie dough dip. But I do see a trend emerging that I can fully endorse: for a while, we’ve had some stellar story bibles that treat Scripture as one big story (The Jesus Storybook Bible; The Big Picture Story Bible), but lately, I’ve noticed more and more picture books that try to capture some aspect of Scripture’s big story. Some tackle the entire arc of Scripture (The Biggest Story); others focus on a few crucial books of the Bible (Miracle Man).

These have, so far, been beautifully illustrated. And so far, they’ve all been awesome.

The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross, by Carl Laferton | Little Book, Big Story

The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross is another stunning example of a book that distills the big story of Scripture down into a potent dozen or so pages, so kids can read through the main arc of Scripture’s story in one sitting. Carl Laferton uses the curtain that separated the Israelites from the Holy of Holies, the part of the temple where God lived, to illustrate the effect that the Fall had on our relationship with God. Throughout the book, a simple refrain crops up:

Because of your sin, you can’t come in

Aided by Catalina Echeverri’s colorful illustrations, Laferton explains how that separation happened (the garden), what it was like while it lasted (the curtain), and how it ended (the Cross).

The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross, by Carl Laferton | Little Book, Big Story

On my first read-through, though, I must confess that I thought the story has been simplified a little too much. But when I reached the end and saw what Laferton had been building toward, I realized that, no, that simplicity was just right. And when I read it aloud to my daughters, the story came alive.

The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross, by Carl Laferton | Little Book, Big Story

Because of your sin, you can’t come in

Like an unresolved chord, that refrain hangs unfinished throughout the story, until the last note—the note of Christ’s suffering on our behalf—joins in:

Because of your sin, you can’t come in,
but I died on the cross to take your sin . . .
So all my friends can now come in!

The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross, by Carl Laferton | Little Book, Big Story

The story resolves beautifully. Our story resolves beautifully. And we simply cannot hear that good news enough.


The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross
Carl Laferton, Catalina Echeverri (2016)

Baby Wren and the Great Gift | Sally Lloyd-Jones

A new book by Sally Lloyd-Jones is always something to celebrate, but when the new book is itself a celebration—even better! Baby Wren and the Great Gift follows the story of Baby Wren, who admires the gifts of the other creatures in the canyon around her and wonders what she can do that’s wonderful, too. By the end of the story, she has her answer, and in the process, gives one of the most stirring examples of worship I’ve read.

The repetition in this story is lovely—rhythmic, musical, but not mind-numbing to read aloud—and all three of my older daughters (ages 2-8) loved the book. Jen Corace’s illustrations (you may recognize her work from Little Pea or many other lovely books) are gorgeous, too.

So. Baby Wren and the Great Gift is a beautiful book.

Baby Wren and the Great Gift, by Sally Lloyd-Jones | Little Book, Big Story

But it is also an example of how an author, while introducing a truth to children, may bring that same truth out to meet parents—parents who sorely needed this reintroduction—again. As Baby Wren looks admiringly on the gifts given to kingfishers, sunfish and ring-tailed cats (but not to canyon wrens), I found myself thinking of the many ways that adults do this:

Look at how bold you are, talking to strangers about the Gospel.

Look at how clean your home is, how ready you are to welcome people into your life!

Look at how gentle you are with your children, how kindly you answer their questions. 

Baby Wren and the Great Gift, by Sally Lloyd-Jones | Little Book, Big Story

And we ask, like Baby Wren, Why can’t I do those things too? This simple story has for its foundation a deeper truth, one that can bear the weight of adults as well as children, and I found myself challenged as I read this one with my children (again and again—did I mention they loved it?) to admire the gifts that God has given those around me—in our church body, in our neighborhood and in our family—and to look again at how to use well the gifts he’s given me.

Baby Wren and the Great Gift, by Sally Lloyd-Jones | Little Book, Big Story

That is one of the things I love about Sally Lloyd-Jones’ books: her ability to connect with parents as well as children, without weighing the story down with a moral or aiming jokes at the parents that soar over the children’s heads. If you’ve read her best-known work, The Jesus Storybook Bible, then you’ve seen this ability in action. Baby Wren and the Great Gift is another beautiful example of Lloyd-Jones using the gifts she’s been given to do something beautiful—to fill families with song.


Baby Wren and the Great Gift
Sally Lloyd-Jones, Jen Corace (2016)

What is Easter? | Michelle Medlock Adams

This post originally appeared on this blog on March 22, 2013.

Sometimes, you want the deluxe explanation for a holiday. You want to know its origins, and how the celebrations have changed with time. You want to know how the holiday is celebrated in various corners of the world. Other times, you have a fidgety toddler in your lap, and then you want to cut to the chase.

What is Easter? does exactly that. With engaging illustrations and rhymes, Wummer and Adams take us through the different details typically associated with Easter—chocolate bunnies, Easter chicks and new dresses, to name a few—and then cut to the core of the celebration with a neat turn, reminding readers that, while those things might have their place in a family celebration, they don’t lie at the heart of the holiday. That spot is reserved for Jesus.

What is Easter? | Little Book, Big Story

Some folks might find this book a little too sweet and tidy, but our girls enjoyed it and I was delighted to find something direct enough for my youngest but deep enough for my oldest. (Plus, it’s a board book, which makes for a great “first Easter” gift for babies.)


What is Easter?
Michelle Medlock Adams, Amy Wummer (2006)


Stay Tuned for the First-Ever Little Book, Big Story Giveaway!

Next week, I’ll be hosting my first giveaway here—something I’d only do if I had something really good to offer. And, friends, I do have something really good to offer: a copy of the brand-spankin’ new Slugs and Bugs album, Sing the Bible Vol. 2!

Slugs & Bugs Sing the Bible 2 (Giveaway!) | Little Book, Big Story

Check the blog next Thursday for details on why you’ll want it and how to enter.

The Secret Life of Walter Kitty | Barbara Jean Hicks

Phoebe is cultivating a taste for literature. She refines it by marching into a room with a book in the air, calling, “I read! I read!” and waiting to see who interprets that rightly as “You read this to me” and makes space for her on the couch at their side.

With four potential readers-of-books at her disposal, her odds of finding one who isn’t chopping onions or doing schoolwork are good. And so, in the midst of the moments you’d expect in a home with three daughters (dress-up dresses flying, sudden tears over something small), I find moments like this one, where all three girls curl up on the couch together around the newest Elephant & Piggie.

The Secret Life of Walter Kitty, by Barbara Jean Hicks | Little Book, Big Story

The fun of having a toddler discover our library of books for the first time is that she brings back old favorites—books so familiar to the older girls (and to us) that they rarely make their way off the shelves unless Phoebe finds them and, drawn to anything kitty-shaped, marches into a room, waving them in the air. “I read! I read!”

That is how we rediscovered Barbara Jean Hicks’ book, The Secret Life of Walter Kitty.

The Secret Life of Walter Kitty, by Barbara Jean Hicks | Little Book, Big Story

I love everything about this book, from the hilarious storyline (narrated by Walter Kitty, whose delusions of grandeur are recognizable to anyone with a cat) to Dan Santat’s illustrations (which sent me looking for everything else he’d illustrated. Did you know he’s the author and illustrator behind last year’s Caldecott award-winning book?) to the fun of reading this book out loud, silly voices and all.

There’s no theological undercurrent to this one, no connection to Lent, just pure delight. It’s one I’m happy to sit down to again and again when summoned by the call, “I read!”


The Secret Life of Walter Kitty
Barbara Jean Hicks, Dan Santat (2010)

Sadly, The Secret Life of Walter Kitty is no longer in print, but there are some good deals on used copies online. And if you find one in a used bookstore, grab it! You won’t regret it!

Read-Aloud Bible Stories | Ella K. Lindvall

You know what reading to a two-year-old is like: if a book is about cows or kittens or is written by Sandra Boynton, I find I can usually make it through three or four pages before Phoebe tugs it out of my hands, closes it on my fingers, or wanders off to climb on something.

Read-Aloud Bible Stories, by Ella K. Lindvall | Little Book, Big Story

But the volumes of Read-Aloud Bible Stories are not about cows or kittens, and they are not written by Sandra Boyton: they are about Jesus and the Bible. In them, Ella Lindvall tells the stories of Scripture in the most basic yet enchanting way imaginable, and when I read them to Phoebe on the morning of her second birthday, here is what happened: she listened. She cuddled up to me as I read all five stories, and she listened. Lydia and Sarah, too, inched closer to us as I read, and all three were disappointed when we reached the end and had to go eat birthday pancakes for breakfast (theirs is a hard lot).

Read-Aloud Bible Stories: great story bibles for toddlers! | LIttle Book, Big Story

By the end of the book, the stories’ magic had worked on me, too: Lindvall doesn’t grasp for big theological ideas here, but tells the familiar stories of Zaccheus or Blind Bartimeus in a warm and welcoming way. She draws lessons from the stories that appeal to the smallest readers (and to those of us grown-ups still willing to admit that we need reassurance sometimes that God hears us, too).

Read-Aloud Bible Stories, by Ella K. Lindvall | Little Book, Big Story

I haven’t found many Bibles geared toward toddlers that are worth sharing here on the blog—it’s hard to capture the truth and beauty of Scripture in three stanzas of rhymed verse, and you can only appropriately add so many cows and kittens to beloved Bible stories—but Read-Aloud Bible Stories are absolutely worth sharing. We promptly ordered the second volume (Merry Christmas, Phoebe!) and look forward to collecting the rest of the set over the next few years.


Read-Aloud Bible Stories
Ella K. Lindvall (1982)