God Cares For Me

Over the past two months, one of our daughters in particular has been assailed by a series of sicknesses. If we had a punch card for the urgent care clinic, we joke. If I had a dollar for every generic waiting room painting I’ve studied this year, I say. In the grand scheme of things, her ailments are small, but they’re persistent. And when you’re six, two solid months of illness uses up a significant portion of your life lived so far.

That can feel pretty discouraging.

So the other morning, when she was back at home again, missing not just a cool field trip but the do-over field trip we’d scheduled to make up for the missed one, I made her yet another bed on the living room couch, brought her yet another cup of tea, and read her this book.

God Cares for Me, by Scott James | Little Book, Big Story

I’d purchased Scott James’s God Cares for Me an embarrassingly long time ago, but for some reason I’d never read it aloud to the girls. It hadn’t been the right time? It disappeared into one of our many bookshelves before I could? I don’t remember why. But that morning was the morning: the exact right day to read it to her.

This tiny person who now knows her way around the doctor’s office—who has had her ears checked and her throat swabbed and her temperature taken and her belly x-rayed so many times since 2022—broke into a smile as I read God Cares for Me. When the main character, Lucas, voiced his nervousness at visiting the doctor, I could feel my daughter’s shoulders relax. When he went through a series of tests, she chimed in, “I did that, too!” Seeing her own experience mirrored in the pages of God Cares for Me was profoundly encouraging to her.

God Cares for Me, by Scott James | Little Book, Big Story

But the book serves as more than a mirror: throughout the book, Lucas’s parents and doctor explain to him what is happening and why, and they remind him that the God who made him cares deeply for him, even during sickness, when the brokenness of the world feels particularly sharp. For my daughter, this note resonated, too. Later that day I overheard her telling one of her stuffed animals “God cares for me!” with a touch of wonder in her voice.

I have read a lot of books to my girls over the years, but I don’t think I’ve ever had such a profound sense of reading just the right book to just the right child at just the right time. The timing was, in itself, a beautiful reminder to both of us that yes, God does care for her. How wonderful.

God Cares for Me: Helping Children Trust God When They’re Sick
Scott James; Trish Mahoney (2021)

Saint Patrick the Giftgiver

Firstly, wow. Email me, I said. I don’t know what I expected after that last post—a high five gif from a friend maybe, and one or two emails saying, “Yes, we’ve been here this whole time”? I did not expect a swell of emails, all of them thoughtful and kind and so sweetly specific. You gave me glimpses into your lives and let me see how God has used all these good books in them and, honestly, you just kind of blew my mind.

Because this is what this blog looks like from my end: I sit here at our kitchen table at 5:47 a.m. and I write these posts and then they kind of disappear. I mean, I know they’re there—but does anybody else? Your emails told me most emphatically that yes, you know they’re there. I felt like I put a seed in the dirt and went back inside, thinking, Well, I hope that works out, and God just brought me back outside and showed me a dazzling patch of sunflowers. It was moving. You guys: I needed tissues.

Thank you.

And now, enough about me. Let’s talk about Ned.

Ten years ago, I discovered Church History ABCs. I bought it on a whim—no one had recommended it to me; I’d never seen it reviewed. I just happened across it on Amazon and thought, That looks awesome. And while I loved everything about that book—the historical depth, the wordplay, the way it made my daughters belly-laugh—the illustrations were what really stuck with me. They were arrestingly different from the cartoons or soft watercolors I’d encountered in other Christian picture books. There was nothing soft about them: they were all crisp edges, bright colors, clean lines. They were playful and witty and I remember thinking as I studied them, Christian art can look like this? I made note of Ned Bustard then and have devotedly followed his work ever since.*

You may recognize his art from the Every Moment Holy books, or maybe you (lucky you!) have one of his linocuts hanging in your home. Maybe you know him from the Rabbit Room or The O in Hope or you own an album or two with his work on the cover. (If his name is new to you, seek him out. You won’t regret it.) But for me, it all goes back to that book—the one I wanted to share with all my friends so badly that I started a blog to get the word out.

And so it feels fitting to celebrate this blog’s tenth anniversary with Ned Bustard’s newest book, Saint Patrick the Forgiver.

Saint Patrick the Forgiver, by Ned Bustard | Little Book, Big Story

Like Saint Nicholas the Giftgiver, this book introduces readers to the saint behind a holiday and tells that saint’s full story (the facts and the legends, too). This book is short and a lot of fun to read aloud, but don’t let that fool you: it deals in some deep themes. The first half of the book, for example, is a complete story: Patrick is kidnapped by pirates, saved by God, and then restored to his family (huzzah!). God could have stopped there and still given us a satisfying story about how he works out his good plan even on pirate ships or in muddy pastures. But no! The story doesn’t end there, so Bustard’s telling doesn’t either. Patrick says,

And to this day I’d still be home,
but for another vision . . .

This story isn’t simply about God’s provision during difficulty (though that’s certainly in there), but about God’s call upon Patrick to forgive his captors and return to the very place he’d just escaped. So Patrick returns to Ireland and ministers to the people there. But Bustard makes it clear that this is not the product of Patrick’s general awesomeness and budding saintliness—it is the fruit of God’s work in Patrick:

They stole me from my parents!
How could that be forgiven?
The only way I could return
was by the strength of heaven.

Bustard places God at the center of this story, just as he does in Saint Nicholas. Patrick’s faithfulness is wonderful and inspiring, but as he narrates his story, Patrick makes it clear again and again that it was God’s work in him that enabled him to return to Ireland. And so, when we reach the stories of miracles and legends, we know that this was a man acting in obedience to God and serving by God’s strength alone.

Saint Patrick the Forgiver, by Ned Bustard | Little Book, Big Story

And then there are those illustrations: I suspect that there is a whole visual language at work in Bustard’s illustrations—every detail seems to carry some added meaning, from the Celtic knots to the animals to the composition of each page. The art combines with the story to give us a full, exciting picture of Patrick’s life, but I suspect that the illustrations, if you were to dig deeper into them, tell a whole story unto themselves.

In short, Saint Patrick the Forgiver is exactly the sort of book that got me writing book reviews in the first place: one excellent in every aspect, that points readers from a good story to the Greatest Story, and that reminds readers that God is at work always, in every time and place.

*Very closely, in fact, as I now work for him through Square Halo Books (huzzah!).

Saint Patrick the Forgiver
Ned Bustard (2023)

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.

Ten Years! A History of Little Book, Big Story

As of this month, Little Book, Big Story is ten years old. Ten! An entire decade! Fashion trends, musical styles, large swaths of whole childhoods have come and gone in that ten years and yet, here I am—still standing on our back porch, hunched awkwardly over picture books, trying to photograph them before the March sun sets at 5:34 p.m. And because ten years is a lot of time, I thought I’d pause and do two things:

1) Say thank you. I know a handful of you have been reading along from the very beginning, and I’m pretty sure you have no idea how much that means to me. Thank you for your fortitude! Ten years generates a lot of weekly blog posts, and if you’ve opened even a third of those emails, that’s . . . a lot. Thank you. If you’ve been reading since those early years, I want to do something fun for you. Would you let me? Would you email me (thea@littlebookbigstory.com) and let me know? I’d like to send you something heartfelt and nice.

2) I want to tell you a story. Many of you have discovered this blog within the past few years and may not know the story behind it. So I thought you might like to hear why I started this blog in the first place—how it all went down.


How it All Went Down

I had two daughters back then. They were four and two, and though I didn’t know it, I’d be pregnant with the third weeks after launching this blog. As a stay-at-home mom, I was looking for a way to write regularly but, you know, purposefully. I’d kept one blog or another since college, when my dad told me what a blog was and that I should start one, but I wasn’t interested in writing a “mommy blog” (the world didn’t need my personal advice on parenting, gathered after four whole years of experience!). Still, my life was diapers and strollers and shirt-changes and peek-a-boo. I wasn’t sure what else to write about.

And then two things happened: I discovered a handful of excellent Christian picture books, and I had a handful of conversations with friends who lamented the lack of excellent Christian picture books.

And I thought, Aha. I could talk about good books for days—sometimes, I’m afraid, to the point of Being a Bit Much—so the idea of starting a blog about children’s books took root. I already spent a lot of time looking for good books for my family. If I could start a blog that would help my friends also find good books for their families . . .

So, I began designing a blog and drafting early posts. And I immediately broke nearly all the rules of Being a Good Blogger. I did not write short, punchy posts with catchy titles; instead, I wrote long posts with stories in them that I hoped readers would enjoy. I took on the time-consuming and extremely inefficient task of photographing every book I reviewed, because I wanted to give readers a sense of what the physical books look and feel like. I decided not to do ads or sponsored posts—and I still don’t, ten years in. (I do accept review copies from publishers, but only for books I’m already confident will be a good fit for this blog.) And though I tinkered with social media briefly at the beginning—I did love the way it allowed me to interact with readers on a more regular basis—I found myself spending just as much time crafting social media posts as I did writing blog posts. And I didn’t have time for both. So I stopped posting on social media, knowing that my blog would be less visible as a result.

I prayed instead that God would introduce my blog to readers who would be deeply blessed by it, however few they may be.

And has he ever! I do little to actively promote this blog, and yet: readers find it. Authors and illustrators have picked up reviews and shared them. Publishers have found and shared this blog as well. Friends have told other friends, teachers have told families, and within the last few years, Story Warren has begun introducing my posts to their own readers. Wild Things & Castles in the Sky readers have drifted this way, too. And because of this, everyone who lands here feels hand-chosen.

I am profoundly grateful for each one of you.

What it Looks Like Now

Ten years in, Little Book, Big Story is still a small, one-woman show—I do everything from design the blog to letter the headings to photograph the books to, ah yes, write the weekly posts and newsletters. And every few years I take this whole project up in my hands and bring it back to God. I ask him, Should I keep going? Is this still where you want me?

And every time—no exaggeration here—every single time, I receive an email within the next twenty-four hours or so from a reader who just wanted to reach out and let me know how the books she’s found through this blog have blessed her family. Brand new parents; grandparents hoping to connect with their grandchildren; overseas missionaries with limited access to libraries; homeschooling parents; pastors gathering resources for the families in their congregations; even, this last time, the children’s ministry director at my very own church—I am in awe of the stories God is telling in the lives of those I’ve gotten to meet through this blog, and of their faithfulness in telling me, precisely when I need to hear it, to keep going.

This blog has always been meant to point readers away from its pages—toward the books I’m recommending, and through them, toward the Author of life itself. And so I love these little glimpses into where God sends you when you’re through reading reviews: back to your homes and churches, with your arms full, I hope, of new books to share.

In Gratitude (and Closing)

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Thank you for the time you’ve given this work over the years, and for the times you’ve sought out one of the books featured here and shared it with your loved ones. Thank you for the emails and the encouragement and for the book recommendations. Your fellowship is a gift to this blog and (though they don’t always know it) to my family and to me.

For ten years, thank you.

And for those of you who have been reading since those early years, please email me (thea@littlebookbigstory.com). I’m serious. Take me up on this! I’d love to send you a little something to say thank you.


The Lord’s Prayer

I love a good illustrated version of The Lord’s Prayer. We have—and have savored—several. But Harold L. Senkbeil’s The Lord’s Prayer: For All God’s Children does more than put the familiar words to a new tune: it explores those words, digging into what they mean for a child today. Like the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer can (at least in our family’s tradition) become so rhythmic, so familiar, that its edges feel worn off. And that is both a comfort and a challenge, because when it fits so smoothly in the palm like that, we tend to lose a sense of its shape.

The Lord's Prayer, by Harold Senkbeil | Little Book, Big Story

But this new book welcomes readers into the words of the Lord’s Prayer and examines the prayer line by line. Each double spread focuses on one line of the prayer and allows the narrator to explore the meaning behind it. Like The Apostles’ Creed, an earlier book in this series, this book is written in first person, from a child’s perspective, so these old, oft-recited words feel warm and welcoming.

Lord, teach us to pray.
Your will be done on earth as in heaven.
How do we know God’s will?
God’s word reveals his will to us.
Is it dark and scary? No!
It’s good and gracious.
God cares about what happens on earth.
That’s why he sent his Son Jesus for us all.

Like the other books in the FatCat series, this one is full of materials that equip families to dig deeper: prayers to read together, a list of verses that accompany each line of the Lord’s Prayer, information on the benefits of catechism—these books are a wealth of resources! And The Lord’s Prayer is worthy addition, one to savor as a family, a few pages at a time.

The Lord’s Prayer: For All God’s Children
Harold L. Senkbeil; Natasha Kennedy (2022)

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.

A World of Praise

The last few months at our house have been—how shall I put it?—an adventure. We haven’t been hit by a semi-truck of suffering, just by a series of rogue go-carts, I guess, one of them right after the other. Some seasons are like that, and when you’re in one, you can find yourself grumbling and grousing about every little thing before you realize exactly what’s happened.

And so last night, when I read A World of Praise to the girls, I was struck by how much my soul needed this book’s lifting and expanding. A World of Praise tours the globe, praising the Lord for things big and small, reminding readers of the wonders on other continents as well as in our own back yards. The words are gorgeous, and the illustrations harmonize with them beautifully; they are richly detailed in a way that invites readers to linger, ponder, and pray.

A World of Praise, by Deborah Lock | Little Book, Big Story

Oh, the wonder of a new morning!
Oh, the warmth of the prairie breeze!
Oh, the sway of the ripening wheat!
Oh, the fullness of our daily bread!
Thank you for all that you provide
to fill our daily needs.

The rhythm of this poem and the little windows of the paintings drew us out of our home (“Oh, the wonder of Urgent Care! Oh, the warmth of yet another fevered forehead!”) and set our sights higher: on the “God of far and wide, high and low, great and small.” The God who is with us as we disinfect the sink again, hold still for an ankle x-ray, and collect our last cat’s ashes from the “Pet After-Care Facility.” He is the God who blesses us even in seasons of stray go-carts.

This book makes the world bigger in two ways: by recalling for us how big God is, that he reaches every square inch of this world (and beyond!), and by reminding us how big the world is. Which has the double effect of reminding us how small we are and how safe we are in his hands.

So, this book is a soul-stirring delight—one that is a joy to sit and examine with small readers and a balm to read aloud before bedtime. In the last pages of A World of Praise, the author includes passages from the psalms she used as a foundation for the poem, so at its close the book strikes this beautiful note:

From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,
the name of the Lord is to be praised.

Psalm 113:3

Which is to say, in light and darkness, praise his name. In the dead of winter also.

A World of Praise, by Deborah Lock | Little Book, Big Story


A World of Praise
Deborah Lock; Helen Cann (2022)