Category: Book Lists (page 2 of 11)

4 Gorgeous Christian Allegories

When it comes to allegories, people have Opinions. Some readers find them unbearably cheesy, which is, I guess, understandable: few things grate on the nerves like a story that’s too handholdy—the kind that tells us what we’re supposed to think about every element of the story. And allegories can certainly come across as handholdy. There’s no dodging it: every allegory mentioned in this post features characters whose names explicitly tell you what they’re meant to represent within the story.

But you know what? I love allegories. I love the way they take an abstract truth and, by portraying it as a character, bring it to life. Allegories give those truths structure and presence—they give them a body. And I love what allegories do in our hearts as our family reads them: they give us illustrations we can return to when faced with a difficult moment. “Remember when Little Pilgrim strayed from the path?” we might say. “This situation is kind of like that because . . .”

When reading Little Pilgrim’s Progress we’re reminded that our life is not a linear line but a journey, filled with moments of peril and conviction as well as rest and peace. When reading Hinds’ Feet on High Places, we remember that our Shepherd is just a call away and that he’ll come bounding down the mountainside to our help when we call. Of course the best stories can also have this effect, allegorical or not, but allegories excel at it: they give us something concrete to picture in those moments when our vision is clouded by grief or discouragement or doubt.

4 Gorgeous Allegories | Little Book, Big Story

So, here are a few of our family’s favorites. There’s a little something on this list for all age levels, so I’ve organized it from the ones written for the littlest readers to the ones written for the biggest.


Little Pilgrim’s Progress, by Helen L. Taylor (& Joe Sutphin)

Little Pilgrim's Progress, by Helen Taylor & Joe Sutphin | Little Book, Big Story

This adaptation takes the big truths of John Bunyan’s classic Pilgrim’s Progress and translates them into characters and images that are accessible for young readers. Joe Sutphin’s illustrations in this edition open them up further. (Read the full review.)


Tales of the Kingdom, by David & Karen Mains

Tales of the Kingdom, by David & Karen Mains | Little Book, Big Story

Tales of the Kingdom was written in the eighties (you can see it in the artwork), which makes this one feel the most like modern life. These books are full of delightful stories and a prince we all long to know better. (Read the full review.)


Hinds’ Feet on High Places, by Hannah Hurnard

Hind's Feet on High Places, by Hannah Hurnard | Little Book, Big Story

Hannah Hurnard’s tale of Much-Afraid and her journey to the High Places is one worth meditating upon and savoring. My older daughters love this one; I keep a copy by my bed so I can read a little each day. (Read the full review.)


The Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan

The grand-daddy of allegories, Pilgrim’s Progress follows Christian as he journeys from the City of Destruction to the City of Light—and is waylaid, challenged, or fortified by those he meets along the way. This edition features updated language and some annotation that makes John Bunyan’s old-school language open up for modern readers. Another point in its favor? It’s so pretty!

3 Books About the Church

I haven’t always gone to church. It wasn’t until middle school that I started going at all and not until late high school that I started attending regularly and with gusto. So I can only sympathize in a sort of theoretical way with my daughters as they slide down their seats and stage whisper, “Is the sermon almost doooone?” Their experience with the church is already different from mine, and I know there will be both joy and challenge that comes with that. So I love a good picture book that zooms us out from our weekly routine and reminds us that we’re a part of something bigger on Sunday mornings—something living and wild, complex and beautiful.

This is the Church, by Sarah Raymond Cunningham

This is the Church, by Sarah Raymond Cunningham | Little Book, Big Story

Church isn’t about the building—it’s the people. That’s the idea behind this book, which takes the childhood rhyme “This is the church, this is the steeple, open it up and see all the people” and deepens it, reminding us sweetly that the church isn’t just full of people—it is the people. God’s family.

The Celebration Place, by Dorena Williamson

This book also focuses on the people of God (rather than on the place where they meet) and celebrates the many different people that gather under the church roof. The Celebration Place portrays a multi-cultural church that points toward the day that all tribes and nations will worship the Lord together.

God Made Me for Worship, by Jared Kennedy

God Made Me for Worship, by Jared Kennedy | Little Book, Big Story

While the first two focus on the people of the church, God Made Me to Worship explores the rhythms of it. In that way, I suppose, this one isn’t just about the church but about worship: why is the church service structured the way it is? What do the different parts of the service mean? Because of that, this one won’t be directly applicable to all readers, as many church services flow differently from the one portrayed here. But still, it serves as an interesting introduction to the different way church can look.

4 Short Read-Alouds

Sometimes, you need a short read-aloud, one you can pick up and read here and there—at the park, say, or on a trip. You can’t commit months of your family’s life to reading it, and you need to be able to put it down for a few days or even a few weeks. Or you just need a book you can finish quickly. What I’m saying is: there’s a time for reading all seven Narnia books aloud, and there’s a time for reading a collection of Father Brown stories.

For us, this is lunchtime on the weekends, when I like to read to my daughters something different—something short that we can pick up and put down during the week without losing our place. And so we’ve found a few short read-alouds worth sharing, gems that are fun to return to when we can return to them but that don’t shame us if we miss a few days here and there. Without further ado:

4 Short Read-Alouds | Little Book, Big Story

A Father Brown Reader, adapted by Nancy Carpentier Brown

The Father Brown Reader, by Nancy Carpentier Brown | Little Book, Big Story

These adaptations of some of G.K. Chesterton’s best-known Father Brown stories are beautifully written and a delight to read aloud. My daughters loved the mystery of each one, as well as the clever illustrations, and they belly-laughed in all the right places.


Junction Tales, by Glenn McCarty

Set in the world of Tumbleweed Thompson, these historical fiction tales will make you laugh and—well, mostly laugh. Really hard. Beloved characters from The Misadventured Summer of Tumbleweed Thompson surface here and there throughout the stories, and while each story is different, they’re all an awful lot of fun. (McCarty’s Dead-Eye Dan and the Cimarron Kid is also a great, short read-aloud.)


Beside the Pond, by James Witmer

James Witmer’s sweet stories of backyard life have long been a favorite around our lunch table. Beside the Pond follows his A Year in the Big Old Garden and centers on Ferdinand the smallest bullfrog in the world, who watches the happenings in and around his pond. These are delightful, lightly illustrated stories that will have kids looking under leaves and into puddles for new friends like Ferdinand.


James Herriot’s Treasury for Children

James Herriot's Treasury for Children | Little Book, Big Story

Speaking of enchanting animals stories, this one is just about perfect. An anthology of Herriot’s tales of veterinary practice adapted for young readers and illustrated with gorgeous watercolors, this book tells a handful of stories about Herriot’s life as a country vet in the 1930s. Whatever the age of your readers, there’s something in this book for everyone to love. (Read the full review.)

6 Easter Books for Toddlers

As part of my “Hooray! We’re launching a book!” series—which celebrates the imminent release of Wild Things & Castles in the Sky—I’m pleased to invite you over to the Square Halo blog, where I got to share about some of my favorite Easter books for toddlers. Why toddlers? Because one of the chapters I wrote for Wild Things was all about toddler books. Maybe I took the assignment because my girls are all big now and I needed an excuse to break out the Sandra Boynton books again? It’s possible.

It’s likely.

That’s exactly why I did it.

But please, join me over at Square Halo today. You’ll find that post right here. May you find some exuberant and indestructible Easter books that will bless a toddler near you!

Coming Soon: A Book!

A large percentage of the books on our family shelves are actually about books. They’re books within books, if you will, and they’re filled with wisdom on how to read with children, why to read with children, and—best of all—what to read with them. The closing chapters of these books are always my favorites: they’re full of fascinating book lists.

I wouldn’t be in this business if I didn’t love book lists. (My blog is, after all, essentially a nine-years-long book list.) And so I am pleased to introduce you to Wild Things and Castles in the Sky: A Guide to Choosing the Best Books for Children. This is an anthology of essays, edited by Leslie Bustard, her daughter Carey Bustard, and myself. With over forty essays written by dozens of contributors, Wild Things covers a range of reading-related topics, from fairy tales to graphic novels, classics to contemporary works, board books to Shakespeare. It’s all in there—the how, the why, and the what. A few of the stellar contributors are:

Cindy Rollins — author of Mere Motherhood and all-around homeschool guru
Missy Andrews — of BiblioFiles and Center for Lit!
Mitali Perkins — author of Steeped in Stories
Carolyn Leiloglou — author of Library’s Most Wanted
Katy Hutson — of Rain for Roots
Dorena Williamson — author of GraceFull
Carolyn Clare Givens — author of Rosefire
Matthew Clark — singer/songwriter
. . . and lots, lots more!

The essayists write from a variety of backgrounds, and while their interests and tastes vary (assuring there’s something in this book for everyone) every essayist recommends books full of truth, beauty, and goodness. (I know, because we read a lot of them as I wrote my chapters and edited the rest. Our library basket overfloweth!)

The book will be published this spring by Square Halo Books (the official listing is here, and you can pre-order a copy there). In the meantime, I’ll be sharing some books here that our family found through this project that I think you’ll love—books the other Wild Things contributors introduced us to. The Square Halo blog is also running posts by the editors and contributors, and we’re sharing even more wonderful books over there. If your library basket also overfloweth, our work is done!

Pictured above: all books mentioned somewhere in Wild Things & Castles in the Sky. Every one of them is worth reading!


Wild Things and Castles in the Sky: A Guide to Choosing the Best Books for Children
Ed. Leslie Bustard, Carey Bustard, Théa Rosenburg (2022)