Category: Ages 8–11 (page 2 of 29)

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)

The Enchanted Garden

So in the fall we caught Covid, and the day—the very day—that first test developed a second line, this package arrived. Now, any time a package arrives at our house and it’s nobody’s birthday and it’s not Christmas, the assumption is that the package is books. Ninety-nine percent of the time that assumption is correct, and this time was no exception.

In that package—on this day when fevers were climbing and sore throats were blooming and I was trying to get us the food we needed before I, too, succumbed—was The Enchanted Garden, a sweet, self-published parable from author Erin Greneaux. We began reading it that day over lunch and later, when I sick enough to sound like Tom Waits and wasn’t doing any extra-curricular talking, Sarah took over reading it at bedtime. You know how you can listen to some albums (say, Eight Arms to Hold You by Veruca Salt) and bam! you’re in your best friend’s car that summer between ninth and tenth grade, heading to the lake to swim? This story is like that: I picked it up for this review and I could smell rice pudding and hear Sarah’s voice reading to us while I tried not to fall asleep on the floor.

And the memory of all that is sweet to me.

The Enchanted Garden, by Erin Greneaux | Little Book, Big Story

Still, I hope your experience reading it isn’t colored by sickness—but if you do find yourself in need of a good sick-week read, I don’t think you could do better than The Enchanted Garden. Greneaux’s story follows two sisters who discover a hidden garden and, through their time working alongside the Gardener, learn some beautiful lessons about grace and forgiveness. It’s one of those rare chapter books that is perfect for beginners—heavily illustrated and shorter than average, but still a delight to read.

One of my favorite parts is that, in the back of the book, Greneaux invites readers to join an old-school fan club called The Gold Feather Gardeners. That sounds fun enough on its own, but when you join, which we did, you receive a gold feather necklace with a hand-written note telling girls that they are loved and that the necklace is a reminder to them that they are loved. This is brilliant and heart-warming, and some of my girls have worn their necklaces just about every day since receiving them.

The Enchanted Garden, by Erin Greneaux | Little Book, Big Story

So, for those with girls among you, just ready to graduate to chapter books (or perhaps older than that! We all enjoyed it): consider The Enchanted Garden. Sick day not required.


The Enchanted Garden
Erin Greneaux; Taisiia Kolisnyk (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.

Jesus Listens

I suppose every family picks up its own lingo, usually after an adorable toddler misspeaks and her invented word becomes enshrined in the family vernacular. Thus, when something is crooked in our house—a sock, say, or a ponytail—we call it “fonky.” Or when something is of the ordinary, tried-and-true variety, we don’t call it “regular”—we say it’s “reggly.” And so forth. These are the words our daughters will most likely take with them into adulthood, not realizing until they call something “fonky” in public that nobody else’s family says it quite that way.

But it’s funny to think that we’re learning language all the time—not just language, as in The English Language, but all those subtle forms of it. There’s Mom Language, for example, and its various dialects, each particular to the season of motherhood you’re in. These days, I’m pretty fluent in Writing Language, which means that, if you don’t stop me, I could really talk your ear off about the way Stoker employs dramatic irony in Dracula or about Semicolons, The Uses Thereof. When my husband talks Coding with another computer programmer, I definitely need a translator.

Jesus Listens, by Sarah Young | Little Book, Big Story

And there’s no denying it: the church has its own language, too. Sometimes it’s heavy with “thee’s” and “thou’s” or perhaps with talk about the heart—”the Lord put it on my heart,” or “guard your heart,” or “check your heart on that one.” I remember coming into the church at seventeen and putting some serious work into decoding these phrases, which seemed to fly most thickly during prayer time.

Have you noticed that? We seem to slip into our stiffest, most stilted language when we’re praying. Not all of us, all the time, of course. But I sure feel that temptation, and I know I’m not the only one.

Jesus Listens, by Sarah Young | Little Book, Big Story

And that is where Jesus Listens gets it right. This is a devotional for kids, written in first person, that helps guide children into a rich prayer life. In Jesus Listens, Sarah Young somehow strikes a balanced tone: these prayers feel like they’re offered to both to the God of the Universe, who made all things, and to our Heavenly Father, who loves to hear from us right where we are. Neither too casual nor too formal, these prayers are written in the language of childhood—open, honest, and direct. Each one draws heavily from Scripture and closes with a handful of verses for readers to explore.

This book is written as a devotional for kids to use during their own reading, but it also works when read aloud as a family. However you use it, Jesus Listens serves as a beautiful template for prayer. And every time I read one at the lunch table with my daughters I want to sigh happily and say, “That is so good.” I find that it’s teaching me a new language as well, one that encourages me to drop the Official Prayer Language and simply come before God as his child.


Jesus Listens: 365 Prayers for Kids
Sarah Young; Tama Fortner (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.

Wonderfully June

First of all: yeesh! Sorry I dropped off the map there for a few weeks! Covid finally caught up to our family, and while we all had fairly minor cases, it took a while to make its way through our household, and while it did several things (including blog posts) tumbled off the to-do list. But I’m back, I’m catching up on life, and I’m so glad to be here!


One of the delights of having all daughters is that it’s starkly clear to me how different they all are. We don’t have to account for gender differences; the ways our daughters differ from one another have a little to do with birth order and everything else to do with who they are. And from the time they were babies, we could see it: their demeanor before they could eat solid food is still somehow a part of them today. The one who was a quiet, thoughtful baby? She is still so today, though those qualities have deepened and matured. The one who was an observer, always watching the world around her with one eyebrow raised? That girl misses nothing now—she sees and makes sense of things in a way that’s uniquely her own. The daughter born with a sense of comedic timing, and the one who, from her birth onward, has done things her own way and followed none of her sisters’ footsteps? They’re quite the duo now, let me tell you. (We call them our Bluey and Bingo.)

Wonderfully June, by Sarah Murdock | Little Book, Big Story

There is something wonderful about this, about looking at the four of them and knowing that they are who God made them to be—and that he made them all very differently.

But of course these differences can be hard: some of our daughters fit in with others more readily or have a more immediate sense of what they like to do, while others struggle a bit to find their footing—much like June, in Wonderfully June. This sweet book tells the story of a girl growing up in a large family; her siblings have big personalities and clear giftings. June is shy and quiet and loves to write, but she’s hesitant to share the things she’s working on—she loves and trusts her family, but her writing is deeply personal. Sharing it feels vulnerable.

Wonderfully June, by Sarah Murdock | Little Book, Big Story

But when she makes a new friend, he draws her out and encourages her to let her light shine. This is a story told from a Christian perspective, and I love the portrait of family life it portrays—June struggles to find her place, but she loves her family and knows that they love her. She isn’t rocked by the same questions of identity and value that sometimes surface in some stories like this one. She knows she belongs, even if she isn’t quite sure yet where she fits.

This is the kind of book that makes the quiet kids feel seen, and that gives words to some of those struggles that can feel hard to name. And because it’s told from June’s perspective, we get to see her thoughts and worries in a way that will make more than one reader (and at least one of my daughters) say, “Yes, me too!”


Wonderfully June
Sarah Murdock; Andre Ceolin (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.

The Elk King

When I was studying creative writing in college, there was this sort of pall over the subject of publication. “It probably won’t happen to you,” our professors cautioned. If you’re lucky, they said, you may land a story or two in a literary journal—probably a small journal, don’t get your hopes up. They pushed us to write well, and then to write better than that, but when I graduated I still felt a little vague on what was supposed to happen after we’d polished a story until there was no grit to rub off. Should we frame it? Fold it into a paper airplane and hope our aim carried it toward an interested reader?

But now, nearly twenty years later, we live in a world full of online publications, small presses, rogue print magazines, and self-publishing—all of which combine with mainstream publishers to give authors a spectrum of ways to share their stories with readers. I love this. I love that I get to have anything to do with any of it.*

Because this means that authors like Jenn Discher get to tell their stories the way they want to. In the case of The Elk King, Discher’s first book in her Tales of Animalia series, this is an excellent thing. The Elk King follows the story of Prince Draven and his family, as they live through an uncertain time: rumors of treachery and of a mysterious illness affecting the Elk surface, and it begins to seem possible that Draven may inherit the throne earlier than he’d like.

The Elk King, by Jenn Discher | Little Book, Big Story

Discher has published this book with a lot of thoughtfulness and care, which gives the book a hand-crafted, carefully-tended feel to it that I love. And her land of Animalia is a gorgeous place, filled with beautiful landscapes and an assortment of talking animals, each with their own distinctive culture (her footnotes on some of these cultural details are delightful!). Jessica Linn Evans’s illustrations suit the mood of the story so well and help bring the characters to life.

For readers who already love Redwall, The Green Ember, or The Mistmantle Chronicles, reading The Elk King will feel like traveling to a beloved but wholly new place, full of characters well worth your affection. And because this book is the first in a promising series, you can read it with the hope that there is more of Animalia to explore and more to discover about Draven and company.


The Elk King
Jenn Discher (2022)


* In this case, I got to serve as copy editor for The Elk King, which I maintain makes me an extra-qualified reviewer. If I can read a book through three times and come away loving it better, that’s a sure sign it’s a book worth reading and re-reading!