Tag: young adult (page 2 of 3)

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

Cassie Logan’s family owns their land. Their neighbors are mostly sharecroppers caught in the web of their landlord’s rules, fees, and whims, but Cassie’s family owns four hundred acres of good farmland. They go without a lot of things in order to pay taxes on that land, but the land and all it affords them is worth it; it is theirs.

From the first pages, reading Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry is like watching a storm build—at times, the tension crackles and pulls. Early on, a band of white men attack a black family, burning three black men so badly one of them dies. Cassie hears about it in bits and pieces through neighborhood gossip until her mother takes her to visit one of the survivors—an old man wrecked by his wounds. The white men face no punishment, though everyone knows who did it. That violence looms over the story like a thunderhead.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred D. Taylor | Little Book, Big Story

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry follows Cassie’s family through the rest of that year, as Cassie’s awareness of the way things stand in her community grows. Mildred Taylor shows the complexity of life in a specific place at a specific time, drawing on her own father’s stories to give her book shape and weight. She does not paint in thick, bold strokes here but with skill and precision. She shows violent, arrogant white characters as well as kind ones, foolish black characters as well as strong, humble ones. Taylor does not tie the story up in a neat bow, either, as though the issues in it could be resolved in two hundred pages. She doesn’t explain it all for us, but gives us, the readers, room to do a lot of thinking.

And, if I’m honest, a lot of crying. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry contains a powerful instance of grace, one that made me cry in a most undignified manner on my front porch, in full view of the neighbors. We have not done away with violence or injustice, Taylor seems to say. But we have not quenched grace, either.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
Mildred D. Taylor (1976)

It Couldn’t Just Happen

As much as I enjoyed this book, I debated about whether or not to share it here. Though I do occasionally review books I know will be controversial, I tend to pass over titles on topics that might widen already wide schisms between Christians. I find plenty of excellent, gospel-focused books to share here without reviewing books on baptism, or educational philosophies, or particular denominations.

My own opinions on those things sometimes show through as I write, I know, and I don’t mind that—I want you to get to know me and where I’m coming from so you can factor that in as you read my reviews. But I don’t choose books because they support my stance, just books I found interesting and helpful and that I think you’ll find helpful, too.

It Couldn't Just Happen, by Lawrence O. Richards | Little Book, Big Story

All of which is to say: I wasn’t sure at first if I’d share this one, because I’m confident that we hold a variety of views on this subject. But you know what? I think that’s a good thing. That’s a discussion worth having. And I think Lawrence O. Richards addresses those differences of opinion well in this book by laying out multiple views on things like the old earth vs. young earth debate, or macroevolution and microevolution.

I ultimately decided to share this book because the author took such care to present the material in a respectful way (though those committed to evolution may disagree). Also, I looked so hard for one like it and was so happy when I found it that I figured at least one of you out there is going to sigh with relief and say, “Finally!” because this is the book you’ve been looking for. For that one of you, here you go.

It Couldn't Just Happen, by Lawrence O. Richards | Little Book, Big Story

It Couldn’t Just Happen is, essentially, an introduction to a Christian perspective on science and the theory of evolution. Lawrence O. Richards lays out both sides (or, in cases where there are more than two perspectives, all sides) of the debate, holding them up to scrutiny and showing readers how to ask good questions of the things they read. But he also spends a wonderful amount of time reveling in and discussing the wonders of our world, exploring everything from termites’ towering houses to the specialized tongue of the woodpecker. (I still think about the section on bees when I work in our garden.)

This is not a book that tells the reader what to think but how to think. By encouraging readers to look behind a headline to the assumptions a writer begins with, Richards strives to equip readers with tools that will benefit them as they study a variety of subjects, not just evolution.

It Couldn’t Just Happen: Knowing the Truth About God’s Awesome Creation
Lawrence O. Richards (Reprinted 2011)

The Giver

In the early pages of The Giver, life in “the community” sounds almost pleasant. Jonas and his family share warm, convivial meals; they live neat and ordered lives. The community’s rules seem firm, but reasonable.

Jonas is happy. His family and neighbors are happy. He is a Twelve this year and looks forward, nervously, to The Ceremony, where the Committee of Elders will announce the vocations of the community’s Twelves. But after Jonas receives his assignment—an unexpected, once-a-generation or so assignment—he begins to see his life differently, and our understanding of the community shifts as his does.

The Giver, by Lois Lowry | Little Book, Big Story

We notice, now that Jonas mentions it, speakers in each home that must remain switched ON. And as he learns more about them, the rules start to seem less and less reasonable. We begin to see, beneath the seemingly tranquil surface of the community, the faintest current of fear.

If we tried to eliminate suffering, what would the world look like?

I think it would look a lot like this community: comfortable, ordered, predictable, but also colorless and controlled. Shallow. To avoid the lows, the community must also erase the highs, so while they manage pain and eradicate grief, they must also erase love, joy, and beauty. To make everyone truly equal, they must erase even the concept of history, so that all that is is what is right now. There is nothing before this, they say. And we see how much the community has truly lost.

Only Jonas and his teacher, The Giver, understand anything about life outside the community. The question before them is: What will they do with that knowledge?

The Giver, by Lois Lowry | Little Book, Big Story

This is a challenging read—absorbing and well-written but definitely one to discuss, as it shows by subtraction some of what makes us most human. What would life be like without suffering or discomfort, without pain and grief? They are terrible things to be sure, but they denote an absence of good and wonderful things: Love. Peace. Pleasure. Delight.

By the end of this book, I found myself grateful that we live in a world that has the one, even if (for now) it must also have the other.

The Giver
Lois Lowry (1993)

The Giant Easter Book List!

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.

The Giant Easter Book List | Little Book, Big Story

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.

Now. Let’s find some new favorites!

Stories of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection

Easter, by Jan Pienkowski
Easter, by Fiona French
Petook, by Caryll Houselander
The Donkey Who Carried a King, by R. C. Sproul
Peter’s First Easter, by Walter Wangerin, Jr.
Jesus is Risen!, by Agostino Traini
On That Easter Morning, by Mary Joslin
A Very Happy Easter, by Tim Thornborough
The Easter Story, by Katherine Sully
The Easter Story, by Brian Wildsmith

The Story of Easter, by Aileen Fisher

Great Books About Easter

The Story of Easter, by Aileen Fisher
What is Easter?, by Michelle Medlock Adams
God Gave Us Easter, by Lisa Tawn Bergren
Holy Week, by Danielle Hitchen
At Jerusalem’s Gate: Poems of Easter, by Nikki Grimes
Michael Hague’s Family Easter Treasury

Books That Tell the Big Story of Easter | Little Book, Big Story

Books That Aren’t Exactly About Easter . . . but That Are Still Pretty Awesome

The Light of the World, by Katherine Paterson
The World Jesus Knew, by Marc Olson
The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross, by Carl Laferton
Goodbye to Goodbyes, by Lauren Chandler
The Biggest Story, by Kevin DeYoung
The Biggest Story ABC, by Kevin DeYoung
Loved, by Sally Lloyd-Jones

Family Devotionals for Easter

Mission Accomplished, by Scott James

Beautiful Devotionals for Lent | Little Book, Big Story

Lent Reading for You

Comforts from the Cross, by Elyse Fitzpatrick
Valley of Vision
Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die, by John Piper
Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross, ed. Nancy Guthrie
Jesus the King, by Timothy Keller


And now, let’s discuss child labor laws and the plight of Victorian chimney sweeps.

Did you know that during the Victorian era children were the preferred “instruments” for cleaning chimneys because they were small and were considered—given the abundance of orphans on the streets—expendable? Or that they were “indentured” to masters who fed them little and worked them mercilessly? Or that they were not protected under law but often died of fire, hunger, exposure, or illness?

Sweep, by Jonathan Auxier | Little Book, Big Story

This is not a world many authors would invite children into, but Jonathan Auxier opens the door to it through the character of Nan, a young girl serving under a harsh master, who is good at her work and has learned to shut herself off from her fellow sweeps. But one part of her, though she tries to seal it away, continues to seep out: memories or dreams of Before, when she traveled with the Sweep.

The Sweep had a way with stories, a magic about him that she still remembers, even after he abruptly leaves her alone, with nothing but a bit of char in her pocket that never seems to grow cool. But that char offers Nan much more than a bit of warmth—as a gift from Sweep, it comforts and protects her in an unexpected way.

Jonathan Auxier infuses Sweep with magic and hope through the character of Charlie and his friendship with Nan, and turns what could be a dismal, depressing subject into a glowing story of love and sacrifice.

Sweep, by Jonathan Auxier | Little Book, Big Story

If you’ve read Auxier’s other books, you know that his stories can be intense for some readers. (Wonderful, but intense.) I think this one sits somewhere between Peter Nimble and The Night Gardenerand the historical aspect of it (as in, much of this happened to real kids) could be upsetting for some. I encourage you to read it yourself before giving it to your kids, for their sake but also for yours: I think you’ll love it.

Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster
Jonathan Auxier (2018)