Category: Ages 8–11 (page 1 of 29)

Something Better Coming

I have written recently, in a few different places, about the loss of a very good friend and about her legacy. My daughters didn’t get to meet her, but they love her because she loved them—Leslie always asked about them, and even sent the occasional birthday gift their way, so she was a sweet presence to my girls even though she lived on the other side of the country.

The other day, my daughter asked about Leslie’s birthday. “We have to celebrate it,” she said. But when I opened my contacts to double-check the date of Leslie’s birthday, my daughter grew suddenly still. “You mean,” she said quietly, “you used to text her, but now—you can’t anymore?”

And then she slipped her arms around my waist and squeezed hard.

My friend has been gone for almost a year, but somehow that was the thing that made her death real—and suddenly, acutely wrong—for my daughter. That realization that, though my friend lives still, in a newer, better way, no message I can send her now will reach her.

“Oh death, where is your sting?” Scripture proclaims (1 Cor. 15:55). And yet, we feel the sting of death around us all the time—as it claims those we love, or in any number of endings that are woven into our daily lives. Things aren’t what they should be, and even our children know it on a bone-deep level.

And so I’m grateful for the season of Lent, where we expose that undercurrent of dis-ease for a bit and put it in its proper place, by reminding ourselves and one another that it will not always be this way. Through the death and resurrection of Christ, death will truly—and forever—lose its sting.

Megan Saben’s book Something Better Coming shows beautifully the hope and anticipation we have, in Christ, as we lean toward Easter. By telling the stories of the resurrections Jesus performed, each one building upon the previous one and pointing toward the next one with the refrain “There’s something better coming,” she gives readers a sense of culmination and completion through the story of Jesus’s resurrection.

This is a glorious way to read the Easter story. We see, through the building tension, that his resurrection was not a single event, disconnected from Scripture, but one woven seamlessly into it—a grand disruption, yes, but one that was promised and foreshadowed through a series of smaller resurrections sewn all throughout the Bible and, specifically, the Gospels.

I am deeply grateful for the truth of the resurrection and for its assurance that, though death stings now, there’s something better coming. I’m glad for that truth when I squeeze my daughter back and assure her that it won’t always be this way—there’s something better coming.


Something Better Coming
Megan Saben; Ryan Flanders (2022)


Though I did receive a free copy of this book for review, I am not being paid to promote it. My enthusiasm for this book is abundant and purely voluntary!

The Mousehole Cat

My favorite kind of mail is Surprise Mail: the packages that I didn’t order, but that arrive on our porch unannounced and full of possibility.

The Mousehole Cat arrived in just such a package: a friend sent it as a surprise, but also, because the card ended up arriving separately a few days later, as a bit of a mystery. I saw her name on the package but I didn’t have context for the gift. Instead, we opened the book and wondered at it—the why? and the what for?—before we sat down to lunch and read it aloud.

And the book was wonderful. The Mousehole Cat is about a cat, Mowzer, who lives with a fisherman in a place called “The Mousehole” because the bay is almost completely closed off from the sea, but when a storm rolls in that prevents the townsfolk from fishing and famine looms over them, the fisherman makes a brave and sacrificial decision to save the town. And Mowzer sails out with him.

The illustrations in this book are detailed and gorgeous, so much so that it felt hard to read aloud (almost!) because my eyes kept straying toward the pictures even as I tried to read the words. Imagine: Nicola Bayley portrays the storm as the Great Storm-Cat, personifying it in a way that makes it fun for young readers to spot the Cat curled among the clouds and wind, batting playfully with the waves and pouncing through the sky. How could one not get a little lost in illustrations like that?

The only solution, I suppose, is to read it again—and again—making this a book worth savoring. Through both the story and the illustrations, The Mousehole Cat gives us a stunningly beautiful example of what it can look like to love not merely “in word or talk but in deed and truth” (1 John 3:18).

The Mousehole Cat, by Antonia Barber | Little Book, Big Story
Sometimes I have “helpers”

The Mousehole Cat
Antonia Barber; Nicola Bayley (1990)

Jesus and the Gift of Friendship

We live in a college town, where jobs are few and far between and the cost of living is high. So that major event so many kids face at least once—the best friend who moves away—has happened to each of my daughters many times. It is hard to stay here, so many friends they love have had to leave.

And each time, it is hard. Some of these friends have been good, true friends—those rare friends who speak your particular language, however quirky the dialect, and who seem utterly irreplaceable. The hope of “making a new friend” just doesn’t cut it when you lose a friend like that (for example) the summer before you start high school. Of course you don’t want a new friend—you want that friend. But that friend is halfway across the country now, and letters don’t sufficiently bridge that distance.

(In case you’re noticing the high school examples here and asking, “But I thought this was a picture book?”—yes. Under the guise of reading them to my younger daughters—and while everyone is busily eating lunch—I sure do still read picture books to my teenage daughters. I am staunchly of the opinion that one can never be too cool for picture books.)

So Jesus and the Gift of Friendship says beautifully what I’ve tried to say fumblingly to heart-broken daughters many times, when it’s been too long between letters or when they feel achingly alone in their class: Jesus is our true friend, and he will never leave. But also, pray for a new friend and be open to the idea that a new friend may not resemble your old friend in the slightest.

Jesus and the Gift of Friendship is a beautiful book, both in its message and in its artwork. The style of the illustrations reminds me a bit of Ezra Jack Keats, so while the book feels new and fresh, it still has a classic feel that fits this old, old story of Losing a Best Friend perfectly.

In this book, it is Zeke who moves away from his best friend, Sam, and he grieves that loss. But as his mom walks him through what friendship with Jesus looks like—both for Zeke today and for the followers who walked alongside Jesus during his earthly ministry—Zeke begins to pray each night for a new friend. When he does find one—after a long wait, by the way—she isn’t anything like Sam. But Zeke’s heart is no longer focused on replacing Sam, so he’s open to the idea that he can have an entirely new friend.

As a mom, I love books that help articulate some of these deep truths of childhood and that give us room to talk through tough things during the cozy safety of a read-aloud time. So I’m grateful for Jesus and the Gift of Friendship—I suspect we’ll return to it often.


Jesus and the Gift of Friendship
Trillia Newbell; Kristen & Kevin Howdeshell (2023)

Though I did receive a free copy of this book for review, I am not being paid to promote it. My enthusiasm for this book is abundant and purely voluntary!


To receive posts like this one straight to your inbox, consider subscribing to my Substack, The Setting! I’d love it if you could join us.

All About Bible Animals

Our nine-year-old is all about animals. I joke that she is our Gerald Durrell, not just because she loves the fuzzy, purring, cuddling animals, but the many-legged and wriggling ones, too. (She does make a pronounced and emphatic exception for bees. And honestly, bees, if you’d stop stinging her, I feel confident that she’d love you, too!) She’s the one who materializes next to me with a pet snail named Cucumber; the one to name the spider nesting in the end of our garden bed Rosie; the one busily rescuing earthworms from The Evil Garden Fork of Doom.

She is the reason I picked up a copy of this book.

All About Bible Animals, by Simona Piscioneri | Little Book, Big Story

All About Bible Animals is part nature reference book, part Bible story book. In it, author Simona Piscioneri introduces readers to the animals mentioned in Scripture, investigating both the animals themselves and the stories that feature them. This might seem like a sort of unnecessary thing to do—why focus on the animals in these passages? But I love it: Scripture is full of incredibly rich images, with meanings layered artfully over some of the smallest details. So I love the idea of exploring some of these subtle connections in Scripture with kids.

For example, in the page about bees, Piscioneri answers that question we all secretly ask: What does it mean for a land to be “flowing with milk and honey”? And why would that be a good thing? Or on the page about deer: What’s the deal with that thirsty deer in the psalms? By learning more about the animals, she gives readers a chance to sit with and examine some of the more interesting images in Scripture.

All About Bible Animals, by Simona Piscioneri | Little Book, Big Story

But she doesn’t stop there: this book is full of information not just about deer in general, but about the specific kinds of deer David might have seen back in his psalm-writing days. Or about the sheep Jesus might have seen on the hillsides of Israel. Or about locusts . . . and who else besides John the Baptist might still consider them a suitable lunch.

All About Bible Animals is the sort of book that brings the Bible to life for readers, and from an unexpected angle. And I’m always grateful for books that do that.


All About Bible Animals: Over 100 Amazing Facts About the Animals of the Bible
Simona Piscioneri (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.

Like Me

It is 6:04 a.m. I am sitting at our kitchen table, fortifying myself with green tea as I prepare to write this post, surrounded by a stack of picture books, each waiting their turn to be reviewed. And yet: Like Me is conspicuously absent from that pile, because my daughter drifted downstairs a few minutes ago, sleepily proclaimed her love for that book, swiped it, and then drifted back upstairs to read Like Me in bed.

And that is the highest praise I can offer a book. Like Me is so beloved in our household that it’s taken me months to review it, because I keep having to fish it out of people’s bedsheets and backpacks and bookshelves. It is one thing for me, The Mom, to publish a 600-word review of a picture book to the internet. It is another entirely for a child to voluntarily spend her early morning curled up in bed reading it.

I think I know which one makes an author’s heart feel warmest and fuzziest.

Like Me, by Laura Wifler | Little Book, Big Story

But I get it: I get why my daughter chose this book out of the whole pile. Laura Wifler’s Like Me is a delightful invitation into the life of one family for one day, narrated by a boy whose youngest brother has disabilities. It is an ordinary day for his family—a day that will likely feel wonderfully recognizable to readers who have or live with someone who has disabilities. For those of us who aren’t currently sharing our daily lives with a loved one who has special needs, Like Me serves as a crystal-clear window into what can be like to have, or to love someone who has, disabilities.

And that is its strength: rather than introducing readers to ideas about disabilities (what they are, for example, or how to best love those who have them), Like Me offers us a story in which we see these big ideas lived out. Wifler tells this story in a way that feels honest and balanced, recognizing the challenges this family faces and dignifying them by revealing the parts of them that are shared. For example, the narrator loses his patience with his brother, a moment that highlights the frustrations one might feel when interacting with someone who sees the world so differently, even as it touches on a universal moment every reader can connect with (haven’t we all lost patience with someone we love?). Yet Wifler also emphasizes the narrator’s particular love for and enjoyment of his brother. And his affection is contagious: it invites readers to view his brother with compassion and to delight in the things the big brother loves about him. Wifler reminds us gently, through the mother’s words,

It’s a privilege to know another human being, no matter what they look like or how they act.

Like Me, by Laura Wifler | Little Book, Big Story

Skylar White’s illustrations, too, are worth noting. They are detailed and specific, giving readers a sense of visiting not just a house, but this house, inhabited by a particular family with a history and interests that extend beyond the pages of this book. (White’s work reminds me cozily of Trina Schart Hyman’s illustrations for A Child’s Calendar.)

Like Me is enlightening in the best possible way: by switching on a light in this story, Wifler and White invite us see just a little more clearly how much God loves every one of his people—no matter what we look like or how we act.


Like Me: A Story About Disability and Discovering God’s Image in Every Person
Laura Wifler; Skylar White (2023)