Tag: tomie de paola

10 Books About God for Toddlers

This summer, we planted flowers—rows and rows of them. In the bed typically dedicated to trailing squash, we sprinkled seeds that grew into cosmos, zinnias, poppies (four kinds), larkspur, dainty dwarf zinnias, snapdragons. Walking barefoot among those rows, watching the flowers wake, became one of our favorite morning routines.

But inside our home, another kind of flower unfurled as Josie took her first steps, said her first words, and learned how to make us laugh. She shed her babyhood, in which she watched the world happen around her, and stepped into the thick of things, poking at and exploring the world and expecting it to respond.

10 Books About God for Toddlers | Little Book, Big Story

I had watched this transition three times before, but, like watching flowers shed those green things that encapsulate crumpled petals, it is amazing every time—I think because, with each child, I see more clearly how little I did to bring about that unfolding personality and how much of it was already there, sown into each daughter before I had ever seen her face.

So, in honor of Josie’s summer of unfurling, I made a list for you of my favorite books for toddlers. We love Sandra Boynton and BabyLit books, of course, but this list is for the little ones demanding answers from the world: If I poke the cat, what does he do? If I make this face, will Mama laugh? Let’s give them big answers in small books and see what happens:

10 Books About God for Toddlers | Little Book, Big Story

Let the Whole Earth Sing Praise, by Tomie de Paola

Let the Whole Earth Sing Praise | Little Book, Big Story

This exuberant book considers every aspect of creation and urges it all to praise God. Beautiful, simple, and vibrantly illustrated. (Read the full review.)

Found, by Sally Lloyd-Jones

Found, by Sally Lloyd-Jones | Little Book, Big Story

Sally Lloyd-Jones’ newest book leads readers through Psalm 23, drawing out the tenderness and warmth of our Good Shepherd as she paraphrases the familiar psalm into a poem that moves readers big and small. Jago’s illustrations here are stunning. (Read the full review.)

Read-Aloud Bible Stories, by Ella K. Lindvall

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

Each volume of these Bible stories is full of familiar stories, written in language that looks simple but does justice to the biggest truths of our faith. (Read the full review.)

Love is Patient, Love is Kind, by naoko stoop

Love is Patient, Love is Kind, by Naoko Stoop (review) | Little Book, Big Story

Naoko Stoop’s sweet board book departs from the usual Noah’s Ark/Joseph’s Coat/Moses’ Moment at the Red Sea picture books and gently unwraps 1 Corinthians 13 for readers. (Read the full review.)

Hug-a-Bible, by Sally Lloyd-Jones & Claudine Gevry

Baby's Hug-a-Bible, by Sally Lloyd-Jones | Little Book, Big Story

Fuzzy on the outside, rich and vibrant on the inside. Lloyd-Jones introduces small readers to the idea that the Bible is not just a collection of epic stories, but an invitation from God to know him, by condensing the truths of a handful of Bible stories into short, beautiful poems.

Look and Be Grateful, by Tomie De Paola

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

Tomie dePaola’s book of gratitude is one that pokes at parents as we read it to our kids. The text and illustrations are simple but weighty, and they urge us to look around and savor the God who made all things big and small. (Read the full review.)

Prayer for a Child, by Rachel Field & Elizabeth Orton Jones

Prayer for a Child, by Rachel Field | Little Book, Big Story

Prayer for a Child is a sweet but not too sweet look at prayer from a child’s perspective. My copy doesn’t show it, but this one won the Caldecott in 1945—at a time when the children reading it were living through a world war. (Read the full review.)

Lift the Flap Bible, by Sally Lloyd-Jones

Lift-the-Flap Bible, by Sally Lloyd-Jones | Little Book, Big Story

What toddler doesn’t love lifting flaps? Sally Lloyd-Jones again distills favorite Bible stories down to their gospel essence, while Tracey Moroney’s bright illustrations give little hands plenty to do while they listen. (Read the full review.)

The Biggest Story ABCs, by Kevin DeYoung & Don Clark

The Biggest Story ABCs, by Kevin DeYoung | Little Book, Big Story

Using the alphabet as a guide, Kevin DeYoung lays out the big story of Scripture from beginning to end in a way that points back to Jesus over and over. I haven’t reviewed this beauty yet, but a full review is coming!

Jesus Storybook Bible, by Sally Lloyd-Jones & Jago

The Jesus Storybook Bible | Little Book, Big Story

No booklist on this blog would be complete without The Jesus Storybook Bible. The truths in here are huge, but the format is small: perfect for introducing toddlers to Jesus through the beautiful stories of Scripture. This book is a standard second birthday gift in our home. (Read the full review.)


What About You? Which books do you love to read to your toddlers?

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)

Tomie de Paola’s Book of Bible Stories

There is a spectrum of Bibles available for kids: at one end sits the actual Bible; at the other, the lovely picture books that give a faithful retelling of a single Bible story, many of which have appeared on this blog. In the middle sit the quality story Bibles like The Jesus Story Book Bible or The Gospel Story Bible. (I have banished from the spectrum books that are vacuous and cute, and reduce stories like “Daniel in the Lion’s Den” to a moral tale told in rhymed couplets from the spectrum. I’m a snobby book blogger. I can do that sort of thing.)

Tomie dePaola’s Book of Bible Stories sits just inside the spectrum, spine to spine with the actual Bible. It doesn’t point each story back to Jesus, but trusts that its readers have grown past the need for that and tells the stories in slightly adapted passages from the NIV translation, framed by dePaola’s gorgeous, full-page illustrations.

Tomie dePaola's Book of Bible Stories | Little Book, Big Story

If your child is ready to move past story Bibles and into the realm of Scripture itself, Tomie dePaola’s Book of Bible Stories serves as a great bridge: though we prefer the ESV for our family readings, the NIV makes a nice introduction to the language of the Bible for kids that find the ESV too ponderous at first. It is also a great reference for tackling specific stories as they come up in conversation. (Not only that, but it is somewhat of a classic, so it’s easy to find secondhand.)

Tomie dePaola's Book of Bible Stories | Little Book, Big Story


Tomie de Paola’s Book of Bible Stories
Tomie de Paola

Petook: An Easter Story | Caryll Houselander

I have good news for you, and I have bad news. I’m going to operate off the assumption that you, like me, would rather hear the worst first, so here’s the bad news: Petook: An Easter Story is out of print and going for something like $60 (minimum) on Amazon. The good news is that there are still copies out there available for less than that (I did not pay $60 for mine), and this book is worth the work of checking Amazon regularly or haunting book sales, garage sales, or Goodwill. Better yet, our library here in town has a copy, so, quick! Race to our library website and put a hold on it now! (Or read on to find out why I’m being so bossy about a book about a chicken.)

Petook | Little Book, Big Story

To say that Petook is a beautifully written book would be entirely true. But to say that without mentioning Tomie dePaola’s illustrations would be a critical omission: the best bits of this story are not written, but are embedded within the artwork, making Petook an incredibly moving book, unforgettable and lovely to look at.

To explain exactly how this works is a tricky business, because the bulk of the book’s beauty rests in the subtlety with which it tells the story of Easter, and subtlety is hard to pin down. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been more tempted to skip the summary of a story entirely and simply order you to go get a copy, but we’ve already discussed the difficulty of doing exactly that (see above), so I’ll have to take a stab at it.

Petook: An Easter Story | Little Book, Big Story

Petook is a story with a foreground and a background. In the foreground is Petook (a rooster), his mate, Martha, and their chicks. Petook doesn’t do anything terribly exciting, really, but Houselander’s telling of his story stands alone so beautifully that it’s tempting miss the drama unfolding behind the rooster, where dePaola draws out the events of Holy Week so quietly that they nearly slipped past me during my first reading of Petook.

As Petook passes an uneasy night or anticipates the hatching of his newest chicks, tiny figures in the background of the paintings show Jesus and his disciples in the Garden of Gethsamene, with a line of soldiers marching toward them, or depict the tomb, shut up and under guard. As Petook stretches his wings restlessly, there on the hilltop behind him stand three crosses in silhouette. Petook responds to these events with the rest of Creation, grieving when Jesus is crucified, rejoicing when he rises again. At points, his story touches that of Christ (you’ll know them when you see them).

Petook: An Easter Story | Little Book, Big Story

Petook is a modest tale at first glance, but it deepens with each reading, thanks to dePaola’s unusual approach. It has become one of our favorite Easter stories, and tends to be the first to emerge from the attic each year and the last one to retire. If you’re able to get your hands on a copy, do! If not, keep your eyes open; be patient. Petook is a book worth hunting for.


Petook: An Easter Story
Caryll Houselander, Tomie de Paola (1988)

Let the Whole Earth Sing Praise | Tomie de Paola

I’ll just say it: it’s hard to find good theological books for toddlers.

There are some awesome board book standards out there (most of them written by Sandra Boynton), but when it comes to Christian books for the under three set, the selection is lamentably sparse and regrettably prone to sticky sweet rhyme schemes.

Perhaps I am too critical. But when looking for books about God for an 18-month-old with an attention span three heartbeats long, I want meat. I want to cut right to the chase. (And I want awesome illustrations.)

Is that too much to ask?

Let the Whole Earth Sing Praise | Little Book, Big Story

Apparently, Tomie de Paola doesn’t think so. Let the Whole Earth Sing Praise is a beautiful book, short and to the point, based around verses culled from the book of Daniel and Psalm 148. There is a joy to the rhythm of the text, a passion to the illustrations, and a clear and perfect message for those busy little ones: “Hey, everybody! Praise God!”

If I have only three heartbeats in which to tell my child something, I want to tell her that: Praise God!

Let the Whole Earth Sing Praise | Little Book, Big Story


Let the Whole Earth Sing Praise
Tomie de Paola (2011)