Tag: trish mahoney (page 1 of 1)

The Beginner’s Gospel Story Bible

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.

The Gospel Story Bible, by Jared Kennedy | Little Book, Big Story

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.

The Gospel Story Bible, by Jared Kennedy | Little Book, Big Story

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.

The Gospel Story Bible, by Jared Kennedy | Little Book, Big Story

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.


The Beginner’s Gospel Story Bible
Jared Kennedy; Trish Mahoney (2017)

Jesus Rose for Me

In the decade or so since we bought our house, I have planted many things: rhubarb, periwinkle, strawberries, summer after summer of vegetables, even a few forsythia bushes. But a few weeks ago, I planted our first tree—the first living thing that may outgrow and outlive us.

I named him Pevensie, in honor of the apple orchard in Prince Caspian, and settled him into a pit in our backyard while two houses away roofers cussed theatrically over the thock, thock, thock of their hammers. It was all very romantic.

But planting a seed is always an act of hope, or at the very least of wishful thinking. We scatter wildflower seeds each year for the bees, and every fall we shake the poppy seed pods all over our flower beds (and driveway—our little ones mean well). We plant seeds in the hope that they will emerge in the spring, having bided their time and done battle with birds and rocks and frost. We plant an apple tree—which is, at this point, basically a large stick harvested from a very kind friend’s yard—and hope that it will weather not one winter but dozens. May it survive not a handful of birds but a hundred, coming year after year to bear its fruit away.

And so it is with Easter: a season of hope, in which all creation seems to participate, when the brambles and bare branches that seemed dead only a few weeks ago start running with sap and putting on buds. Outside and in, this is a time of transformation. So it is, also, with parenting: all these little conversations are like seeds sown in our children’s hearts that will, Lord willing, blossom and bear fruit years from now.

Jesus Rose For Me, by Jared Kennedy | Little Book, Big Story

Jared Kennedy’s Jesus Rose For Me is an excellent little Easter-seed, meant for the soil of the tiniest hearts. Kennedy has slowly and quietly become one of my favorite current authors for children, as he writes in a way that explains tricky concepts so beautifully (more on his Beginner’s Gospel Story Bible in a separate post!). But this book is the Easter book I was looking for, all those Easters I spent years searching for a great book about the Resurrection for toddlers—not too graphic, you know, but not too fluffy either.

Jesus Rose For Me, by Jared Kennedy | Little Book, Big Story

Jesus Rose For Me begins with Palm Sunday and ends with the Resurrection, and invites readers into the story of Holy Week. Trish Mahoney’s illustrations, too, are rapidly filling our bookshelves, as she brings a bright simplicity to each story and captures so beautifully some of the more abstract portions of Scripture with symbols that just make sense to toddlers. I believe this book is comprised of excepts from Kennedy’s story Bible, and each one ends with a discussion question. Those questions are, I think, where the tilling comes in: Josie loves these questions, and I love hearing her answers. As she talks, I can almost see the seedlings sprout.


Jesus Rose for Me
Jared Kennedy; Trish Mahoney (2020)

God Made All of Me

I hate it that books like this one exist. I hate the fact that sexual abuse is something that we need to protect our children from and that it’s something we need to teach them about. But because it does exist (and because it happens shockingly often), I am thankful for authors like Justin and Lindsay Holcomb who are willing to take on a challenging and emotional subject and equip parents to handle it with grace.

God Made All of Me, by Justin and Lindsay Holcomb: A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies | Little Book, Big Story

But even though God Made All of Me addresses a dark and painful subject, the authors center the subject in a loving family discussion, so the overall tone of the book feels warm and secure. In the “Note to Parents,” they write,

We wrote this book as a tool so you can explain to your children that God made their bodies. Because private parts are private, there can be lots of questions, curiosity or shame regarding them. For their protection, children need to know about private parts and understand that God made their body and made it special. The message children need to hear is: “God made all of you. Every part of your body is good, and some parts are private.

That emphasis places the book not just within the context of a secure family but within the context of a secure worldview: God made us and he made us for good things. We have to be wary of those who would distort those good things and use them to their own ends, but we don’t have to view those good things with suspicion or fear. That’s a message I want my children to grow up knowing well.

God Made All of Me, by Justin and Lindsay Holcomb | Little Book, Big Story

God Made All of Me focuses on equipping children to recognize dangerous situations and to respond to them well. We do our best to protect our children, but there will be times when they are outside our protection and vulnerable to abuse, and when those come, our children need to know what to do. And so the authors discuss the difference between secrets (bad) and surprises (good!), and emphasize the fact that you don’t have to allow anyone to touch you:

If you don’t want to be hugged and kissed or give a high five or a handshake, just say, “No, thank you.” . . . . we don’t always want to be touched even if it’s by someone you love. If the person doesn’t listen to you, ask for help right away.

One of the children even raises the question (wisely), “But what if you or Daddy or my teacher are too busy to talk?” And the parents help him work out how to respond.

God Made All of Me, by Justin and Lindsay Holcomb | Little Book, Big Story

The book puts just enough emphasis on teaching children that they are in charge of their bodies, but it doesn’t stop there: it presents that information in a way that shows that they have a support network around them of parents, teachers, and doctors to talk to, so even though they are in charge of their bodies, they are not alone in protecting them.

This is a little book, but it’s one worth reading to your children. And while I hate having the conversations that remind our children that there are people out there who would hurt them, I’m thankful for a book like God Made All of Me that helps me share that information in a way that feels complete, empowering, and grace-centered. It becomes not something I tell them, but something we discuss together in the light of Scripture.


God Made All of Me: A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies
Justin S. Holcomb & Lindsay A. Holcomb, Trish Mahoney (2015)