Archives (page 2 of 98)

A Place to Hang the Moon

This spring, I turned forty. My husband crossed that threshold a few years before I did, so I wasn’t particularly nervous about it. But here I am now, on the other side, with a sprinkle of gray hairs, a new ukulele, and some really great friends—the kind who whisk me away for an overnight “reading retreat,” wherein we eat meals foraged from my favorite books (Latvian stew from A Gentleman in Moscow! Eggs and scones from My Family and Other Animals!) and go to bed before ten. On this trip we packed mostly books, which we read on a beach on Lummi Island, the three of us alternately eating, talking, reading, and napping on a quilt spread beneath a pleasantly overcast April sky.

It was perfect. Just perfect.

Of course I packed my book bag before I packed anything else. When one of the primary goals of the trip is to read, you want to bring something good, you know? Something absorbing in a comfortable way, that you can put down when a good conversation begins and pick up when it ends without having the find your place again. I scoured my shelves for Books I’d Been Longing to Read But Hadn’t Yet and settled on these three: Deeper, by Dane Ortlund; Redeeming Vision, by Elissa Yukiko Weichbrodt; and A Place to Hang the Moon, by Kate Albus.

A Place to Hang the Moon, by Kate Albus | Little Book, Big Story

A Place to Hang the Moon is a sweet story about three orphans who find themselves without a guardian but with a sizeable inheritance during WWII, when children were being evacuated from London. So, they embark on a dubious plan: to pose as evacuees, in the hopes that the family that takes them in might prove to be their adoptive family.

This is a story about hardship and loss and uncertainty, yes. But it is also a sweet story about sibling love and trust and libraries. It is a warm story set during difficult times, and I enjoyed every minute of it. And, at the risk of spoiling the ending, I’ll say this: I love that the author went for a good, old-fashioned, all-the-ends-tied-up-neatly ending. Not all stories have to do that, but I like that this one did!

But what did my daughters think? No results yet—I’m saving it to read aloud with them once we’ve finished The Chronicles of Narnia. (But I’m confident they’ll love it too.)


A Place to Hang the Moon
Kate Albus (2022)

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.

The Sower

Good gravy, that was quite the break I just took! I’ve missed weeks posting before, of course, but not that many. What happened? I suppose the simplest explanation is that life suddenly filled up with end-of-school shenanigans. Meanwhile, a number of writing and editing assignments landed in my inbox simultaneously, all of them due stat. Dear readers: my sincere apologies. I don’t flatter myself that you’re checking in every Friday, wondering what on earth you’ll read to your children without my guidance, but I do consider it my end of the bargain to post consistently each week. And I let down the side! So, I’m sorry. May I make it up to you with a long-overdue post about a truly beautiful book?

The Sower, by Scott James | Little Book, Big Story

We’ve been slow to begin our garden this year, and there are many reasons for this. Spring was mostly cold, damp, and uninspiring; our dog is uninterested in the distinctions between our raised beds and the rest of the yard, so I don’t trust him yet around seedlings. Also, I sprained my ankle a few months back and kneeling and squatting are still questionable endeavors. So I am deeply grateful for the daffodils I planted last fall—ivory, canary-yellow, creamy and ruffled—that worked their way up from among the weeds. I needed them this spring. They reminded me of what our garden could be if I would just get out there and do the work.

And so, as part of my self-motivating campaign, it feels fitting to share a book about a garden today. The Sower, by Scott James (author of He Cares for Me and many others), is a retelling of the gospel story from creation to redemption. This book feels different in tone than many of the other Bible picture books out there—quieter, more contemplative. Between Stephen Crotts’s gorgeous illustrations and James’s creative use of the images of the sower and the seed, this book feels like a poem—rhythmic, musical, filled with incredible visuals. It is truly a pleasure to read. And it is good to hear this story—the Story—told with such beauty and grace.

The Sower, by Scott James | Little Book, Big Story

The Sower
Scott James; Steven Crotts (2022)


* When I see an adult with a sprained-ankle-caliber injury, I like to ask, “Was it a good story?” And so, for the two of you out there wondering if this is a good story: it’s a funny one, at least. I sprained my ankle when I was rollerskating in our dining room with my daughters, as one does. We like to put on loud music and a disco light and have skate parties in our house, but one day as I was sitting down (!) to take off my skates, I fell weird, felt my ankle pop, and involuntarily suspended my skate career for the next few months.

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)

Ghost Signs

Back when we homeschooled, I got really interested in “the nature walk.” This is exactly what it sounds like: a walk—short or long, urban or otherwise—in which you and your young pupils—enthusiastic or otherwise—take note of seed pods and chickadees and the neighbor’s dahlias. Sometimes you write things down later, back at home; most times you don’t.

Looking back, I wonder if, out of all of us, I learned the most from these walks. I’ve always been a noticer, but after these nature walks I became an absorber—one who doesn’t just see but who soaks in the details. Which is how I first noticed and then became obsessed with ghost signs. So obsessed, in fact, that I wrote an essay about them, which published this week over on Story Warren:

When a ground-floor business changes hands, the storefront gets remade, its windows adorned with a new hand-painted sign, sometimes edged in gold. But those upper stories rarely change: the bricks continue to crumble artfully, their cracks and smitten masonry bearing witness to the weather and to the passage of time. Above the awnings, many of these buildings are surprisingly ornate, adorned with discs of green marble, or herringbone bricks, or a floral border cut from sandstone. I’ve seen courtyards hidden up there, their arched openings veiled with weeds, and gabled windows so small I wonder what could possibly be behind them.

At first, I thought I was just looking at these upper stories, but before long I realized that I was reading them. Most of these old buildings have names—elegant ones, like the Clover Block or the Crown Plaza, or names that, like the Windsor Hotel, give some clue as to what they used to be. The year they were built is often etched up there, too, in the peak of a roof, or above an upper window. Walking downtown has become a sort of self-guided history tour to me, full of clues to the size and shape of our city over a century ago.

But my favorite roof line discovery has been the faded signs painted on the building’s brick sides. They’re old and partly scrubbed off by the rain, but most of the ones I’ve found are still legible. To my delight, I learned that these are called ghost signs, and I can’t stop talking about this: ghost signs. That’s about the most perfect name I’ve ever heard anything called. . . .

Read the full post here.