Tag: ned bustard (page 1 of 2)

Saint Valentine the Kindhearted

Huzzah for the third book in Ned Bustard’s series of saint biographies!1 Like the first two, Saint Valentine is a charming, rhymed, gospel-rich biography for young readers.

This book tells the story of Saint Valentine’s life while pointing readers back to Christ again and again, glorifying the Giver of Gifts rather than elevating the saint himself. Ned Bustard’s art is, as always, rich in symbols and significance, and in this case it contains some fun meditations on the four loves (be sure to read the author note in the back of the book). These layers lend a depth to Valentine’s story and to our understanding of his holiday.

In short, Saint Valentine the Kindhearted is a worthy and welcome addition to a series that gives readers a perfect way to root our Valentine’s Day celebrations in the love of Christ.


Saint Valentine the Kindhearted
Ned Bustard (2024)

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.


  1. See also: Saint Nicholas the Giftgiver and Saint Patrick the Forgiver. ↩︎

Saint Patrick the Forgiver

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.

Saint Nicholas the Giftgiver

To Santa, or not to Santa—that was the question. We were new parents raised with Santa-rich holidays, and that first Christmas with our first baby, that decision sat before us, ours to make. But how? The Christian literature on the subject was plentiful and opinionated: those for Santa argued against Christmases devoid of magic and wonder; those against claimed that inviting Santa to the party was akin to lying to our child. And so we sat in the middle, pondering (between diaper changes) how this momentous decision would affect our daughter into adulthood and whether she would, one day, discuss it with a therapist.

I overthought it, of course. It wouldn’t be a Rosenburg decision if I hadn’t.

It seemed to us that there must be a third option. Beneath the commercial Santa of our youths there was a saint of legend—a man imbued with the ability to defy time and space and celebrated long before Black Friday was a thing. Beneath the legend, there was a historical man—but who was he? After lots of research and conversations with friends, we landed on “not to Santa”—but to Saint Nicholas!

And so on December 6, Saint Nicholas Day, the shoes in our house mysteriously fill with chocolate coins, and we curl up before breakfast with a book about Saint Nick. Right there at the start of Advent, we discuss who Nicholas was and what’s up with Santa. Then we spend the rest of Advent talking about Jesus.

Saint Nicholas the Giftgiver, by Ned Bustard | Little Book, Big Story

Ned Bustard’s new release, Saint Nicholas the Giftgiver, captures that whole spectrum of Nicholas’s story, from faithful Christian bishop to man of myth and legend. In this sweet rhymed book, Bustard—illustrator of Church History ABCs and Every Moment Holy—shares Santa’s origin story with the youngest readers and shows how the historical man became “Good Saint Nick.” This is a both/and book: we can tell our children the story of Saint Nicholas and we can celebrate Christmas in a way that holds Jesus at the center. Bustard’s linocut illustrations make this book feel both historical and magical. In his “Note From the Author,” Bustard writes:

“Both history and legend portray for us a man moved to action by his faith. The apostle John wrote that we love because God—the greatest Giftgiver—first loved us. And it was God’s generous love that filled Nicholas with gratitude, prompting him to respond with love and generosity to others.”

Saint Nicholas the Giftgiver, by Ned Bustard | Little Book, Big Story

This is the heart of Nicholas’s story—not the presents, the traditions, or the stockings, but his faithful obedience to the true giftgiver. Saint Nicholas the Giftgiver gets this just right.


Saint Nicholas the Giftgiver
Ned Bustard (2021)


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.

Bible History ABCs

I don’t know what you thought when you saw the title of this book, but I thought, “Yes, a new one!” I have long loved Church History ABCs and Reformation ABCs and, frankly, everything I’ve ever read by Stephen J. Nichols or seen by Ned Bustard, so I had a hunch I’d love this book too.

Bible History ABCs, by Stephen J. Nichols | Little Book, Big Story

But I also thought, “Oh, nice, Bible History ABCsas in the history of the Bible.” What it is, though, is much better than that: Nichols uses the alphabet as a framework for telling the entire story of Scripture, from Adam to Zion. It has all the fun wordplay of the first two books, as well as more of Ned Bustard’s illustrations, which are somehow always just what a book needs.

Bible History ABCs, by Stephen J. Nichols | Little Book, Big Story

Bible History ABCs includes a bunch of bonus material in the back—the sort of thing I like to get distracted reading while trying to tidy up our books—and tucked away in those last pages is a little spread about the history of the Bible. (Well played, sirs.) So this is not just an engaging look at the story of Scripture, but a thorough look at the story of Scripture. And it’s a book our family will revisit often, I can tell.


Bible History ABCs
Stephen J. Nichols; Ned Bustard (2019)


Disclosure: I did receive copies of these books for review, but I was not obligated to review this book 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

Every Moment Holy

I came of age as a Christian in a church plant “for people who don’t like church.” We were reinterpreting church, making it new for those who had grown up in stodgy, liturgical places and hungered for something heartfelt and sincere. We were a composite of black sheep: some of us had never gone to any church at all; others had drifted in from mega-churches, in search of a tighter, more authentic community. Most of us owned skateboards. We were all under thirty.

Mitch and I were married in that church when I was nineteen, but within the year, we gradually stopped attending—I don’t remember why. For a few years, we didn’t attend anywhere. But eventually we found ourselves at another small church plant, this one full of people who were not running from the church, but to it: some of them, like us, refugees from churches that had jettisoned doctrine in a dive toward “relevance.”

We heard a call to worship and prayed the Lord’s Prayer every week. We took communion not at special believers’ services, but every Sunday, together. We looked into one another’s eyes as we broke the bread.

Every Moment Holy, by Douglas Kaine McKelvey | Little Book, Big Story

It was through this church that I began to appreciate liturgical worship. I didn’t notice it happening—at first, I read clumsily through the bold print in the bulletin, not sure what I was supposed to feeling as I read.

Years later, a decade in perhaps, I began to understand that I didn’t have to adjust my feelings before reading the liturgy, but that God can use a good liturgy to shape my feelings and affections. No matter what I am grappling with when the service starts, by the time I’ve recited and responded and prayed and sung “The Doxology” and received the benediction, the Spirit has unstuck my heart from my worries and oriented it once more toward God.

It is a quiet work I cannot control. And it is one we participate in together, every Sunday.

Every Moment Holy, by Douglas Kaine McKelvey | Little Book, Big Story

Every Moment Holy invites liturgies into the home, around the table, outside under the stars—it is a collection of liturgies written by Douglas Kaine McKelvey (a writer I very much admire) and illustrated by Ned Bustard (an illustrator I also very much admire). These liturgies are prayers, meant to be read alone or together; in unison or in a call-and-response exchange. They are intended, as Andrew Peterson writes in the book’s introduction, to “edify you, reshape your thinking, recalibrate your compass, ignite your imagination, and pique your longing for the world to come.”

And they do: the words themselves set my thoughts running along new lines, and they draw my eyes upward in moments that may not normally elicit prayer. “Upon An Unexpected Sighting of Wildlife,” for instance. “Upon Feeling the Pleasance of a Warm Shower.”

Every Moment Holy, by Douglas Kaine McKelvey | Little Book, Big Story

These liturgies are not only for Sunday mornings, but for the week-in, week-out trials and celebrations that we often hurry through. Pausing to read “A Liturgy for the Preparation of a Meal” or “Liturgy for a Moment of Frustration at a Child” reorients our thoughts toward the One who gives us hands and herbs and aromatics and children who challenge our sense of order.

Every Moment Holy, by Douglas Kaine McKelvey | Little Book, Big Story

Though I had begun to appreciate liturgies at our last church, it wasn’t until that church dissolved and we started attending our new church that I truly began to love liturgies. We closed that final service with “The Doxology,” and the next week stepped into our first service at our new church knowing that we didn’t have to muster up certain feelings during worship but that we could rest in the familiar rhythm of the liturgy.

Every Moment Holy, by Douglas Kaine McKelvey | Little Book, Big Story

Participating in the liturgy of a new church was like hearing a beloved piece played by a different musician: we heard variations, but the melody still came through, beautiful and clear. At the end of the service we could sing with our new church family, “Praise God from Whom all blessings flow,” and by then we really meant it.


If you’re new to the idea of liturgy, or would just like to read more about it (besides reading Every Moment Holy, which is an excellent place to start), I highly recommend You Are What You Love, by James K. A. Smith. That book more than any other has helped shape my understanding of liturgy.


Every Moment Holy
Douglas Kaine McKelvey; Ned Bustard (2017)