Tag: picture book (page 3 of 37)

The Awesome Super Fantastic Forever Party

One night at sleepover, a friend asked, “What do you think heaven will be like?”

A second friend chimed in wistfully, her voice sleepy and half-muffled by her pillow: “I think it will be like the happiest moment of your life, but it’ll last, like, forever.”

But, I wondered, what would be the happiest moment? And who gets to decide which moment I’d relive? What if that got boring—could I change moments later if I wanted to? (Yeah. I was that kid.)

The vision she volunteered, out of the sweetness of her heart, didn’t satisfy me: it was like being told I’d get to eat ice cream, which I adore, forever—which actually sounds pretty awful.

The Awesome Super Fantastic Forever Party, by Joni Eareckson Tada | Little Book, Big Story

So, really. What will heaven be like? Joni Eareckson Tada’s description of it (drawn from Scripture, of course) is far more compelling: in The Awesome Super Fantastic Party, she shows how the snippet we see in Scripture of the new heavens and the new earth sounds varied, exciting, and wonderful. Unlike a loop of one feeling, this party will be tangible, a real place full of delights we can’t yet imagine—endlessly surprising and perfectly satisfying.

The Awesome Super Fantastic Forever Party, by Joni Eareckson Tada | Little Book, Big Story

Because at the heart of it is a host who knows us perfectly, who draws us forward toward him. The future with him is full of wonders, and Tada and Catalina Echeverri capture this pull in a way that will draw young readers (and parents, too) into the story of Christ’s restoration. They remind us that this party won’t be abstractly warm and fuzzy but concrete, solid, and real. And everyone is invited!

The Awesome Super Fantastic Forever Party: A True Story about Heaven, Jesus, and the Best Invitation of All
Joni Eareckson Tada; Catalina Echeverri (2022)

Disclosure: I did receive a copy of this book 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.

Tiny, Perfect Things

A few weeks ago my eldest daughter turned fourteen, and we celebrated by taking a ferry to the peninsula (if you picture Washington state as a mitten, I explained to my younger girls, we traveled from the index finger to the thumb), where we spent the day exploring a fabulous, still-very-Victorian-looking town on the water. The water that day was choppy, so much so that the captain cautioned us over the intercom to find a seat and stay there. “If you rode a motorcycle on board, we advise that you remain with it,” he said, at which point my husband caught my eye and raised his eyebrows.

Living where we do, the two of us have ridden many ferries to one of the San Juan islands or another. But never had we ridden waves like these. As we pulled out from the dock we could feel the ferry shuddering as it hit them and then, as it turned alongside the waves, sliding sideways down into the trough of one wave before climbing the peak of the next. I’d brought our lunch up to the deck with us, but as we watched the waters pitch and roll outside the window, I said, “Maybe we’ll save lunch until we’re on land, okay?”

Tiny, Perfect Things, by M.H. Clark | Little Book, Big Story

The farther from land we travelled, the paler a few of us got, as though they were questioning every decision they’d ever made that may have brought us to that point. The rest of us pressed our faces to the glass and exclaimed over that burst of spray or that nearly-sideways sailboat, there, off to the left. “It’s so cool,” our fourteen-year-old said, while I decided to go check on the dog in the van, mostly as an excuse to stagger around the cabin watching the other passengers’ reactions and just, you know, taking it all in.

“Are you sure?” my husband asked. “I could go.”

“I’m sure,” I said. “I kind of want to.”

Tiny, Perfect Things, by M.H. Clark | Little Book, Big Story

Trying to walk was more than comical: I listed from one wall to the other, zigzagging against my will even as my brain thought it was telling my feet to tread a straight line. I made it to the stairs, then down them—clinging to the railing the whole way—only to realize that I’d chosen the wrong flight of stairs and landed right in the bow of the ferry, in front of all the cars, where only a bright orange chain hung between those on the deck and the open, frothing water. The waves slapped the deck in a burst of spray. Two ferry employees stood there, so well-balanced and secure-looking, making small talk as the waves crashed around them. It was a wonderful and terrible moment, as beautiful a thing as I’d seen in a long time, even as the sight of that turbulent, gray-green water made my stomach drop. I stood there for a while, just watching.

Later, on land, near the end of our day, we found a bookstore, and in it I found this book, Tiny, Perfect Things. That moment on the ferry wasn’t tiny, exactly, but it was perfect, and it’s the sort of thing noticing tiny, perfect things prepares one to appreciate, I think. But let me explain:

Tiny, Perfect Things is one of those quiet, lovely picture books about something as ordinary as a walk, shared by a grandfather and granddaughter. As they walk, the child collects little moments of beauty: a fallen leaf, a spider’s web, a snail. “The world is full of wonders, no matter where we go,” she tells her mother later.

Tiny, Perfect Things, by M.H. Clark | Little Book, Big Story

The beauty of this book is how it celebrates those small things and reminds readers that they are always underfoot or in the boughs just overhead. I read this book to my girls as we waited, in our van, to board ferry home (which was thirty minutes late due to the “windy conditions”). And then I watched as the younger two passed the book back and forth, each examining Madeline Kloepper’s illustrations, searching for tiny, perfect things not mentioned in the text. From the back seat, I heard:

“Oh! A ladybug!”

“And an anthill, look!”

Little kids often don’t need to be reminded to look for these little wonders. But as they get older, I notice, they begin to need those reminders—we adults do, too. When the ferry of life pitches and rolls, I suppose you could say, it can be a comfort to wonder at those waves and to remember that we live in the care of the One who made them. These tiny, perfect things remind us to wonder at the Maker of all things, big and small.

Tiny, Perfect Things
M.H. Clark; Madeline Kloepper (2018)

The Apostles’ Creed

My youngest daughter is in kindergarten which means that, when I teach art in her class, I get to hang out with kindergartners, who are some of the best people I know. By the time I get there, they’ve been in school for five hours, so they’re in a pleasant state of disarray—their hair wild, their knees stained. The line between the real and imagined is thin for them, and the world around them is so enormous: that leap off the playground structure is to them what a leap off a single-story roof might be to me. But they still leap, and they scream with joy when they do.

And when we do that trick with washi tape in art class—the one where you cover part of your paper in tape, paint all over it, and then peel the tape off, leaving behind a perfectly white, crisp pattern—they gasp audibly. Which is exactly what I want to do every time, I’m just too grown-up to do it. The way they see that clean white line reminds me that, you know what? It is amazing. We painted all over our paper, but there it is—still white.

The Apostles' Creed: For All God's Children, by Ben Myers | Little Book, Big Story

Reading Ben Myers’s new book, The Apostles’ Creed, is kind of like peeling the tape off a brilliant painting. At our church, we recite the Apostles’ Creed together, week after week, building up layers of color as we take those words to heart. But for my daughter the kindergartener, some of those words have blurry edges. She can’t see the beautiful pattern beneath them yet, not as long as the tape stays in place. But this picture book takes each line of the Apostles’ Creed and opens it up for readers, in clear, understandable language. It peels back the tape, with its layers of paint, and allows young readers to see the crisp white pattern beneath.

The Apostles' Creed: For All God's Children, by Ben Myers | Little Book, Big Story

The Apostles’ Creed is narrated by a child who articulates, one line at a time, these deep truths of our faith in childlike language, which allows readers to connect the world they see around them with these old, old tenets of Christianity. Every double spread introduces one line of the creed and closes with “That’s what I believe.” This, as we read a few pages each day over lunch, became a refrain my daughters voluntarily repeated with me: “That’s what I believe.” That structure continues the rhythm of the Apostles’ Creed at home and, with the help of Natasha Kennedy’s illustrations, invites children into these core Christian beliefs. Without condescending or being cute about it, Myers reveals some of God’s wonder and beauty and lets the kids marvel.

The Apostles’ Creed: For All God’s Children
Ben Myers; Natasha Kennedy (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 Easter Story

I love an Easter picture book that find an unexpected way into the story. But I love, too, an Easter picture book that tells the story itself, simply and beautifully, and that places readers (children and parents) alongside Jesus and the disciples as they walk through Holy Week one day at a time.

Antonia Jackson’s The Easter Story is a book of this sort: Jackson recounts the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection in clear and lovely language, without much commentary, so readers are free to make our own connections, or to sit with the story for a moment and wonder at it. Giuliano Ferri’s illustrations complement this style beautifully, using light to intensify the shadows of the darker moments or to illuminate the joy of the lighter ones. Jackson’s The Easter Story is simple without being sparse, gentle enough for young readers without being too soft.

The Easter Story, by Antonia Jackson | Little Book, Big Story

In the years I’ve spent building our family’s library of Easter books, I’ve looked hard for books like this one. They can be hard to find—there are ditches on either side that it’s all too easy to fall into (by being too cute in retelling the story, for example, or by being so dry they miss the beauty and wonder of the story). But The Easter Story does everything well: it is good, it is beautiful, and—best of all—it is true.

The Easter Story
Antonia Jackson; Giuliano Ferri (2012)

Darkest Night Brightest Day

Does any holiday capture both light and darkness the way Easter does? It is a study in contrasts: the deepest depth of all human history, followed three days later by the brightest light. But I’ve noticed, in my extensive research on Easter books for children, that many Easter books tend to favor the light over the dark. The hope over the despair. And considering the audience, I think that’s appropriate.

But Good Friday has its place in the story, and rushing through it year after year can make it easy for us to forget what Jesus truly did, what he suffered, on our behalf. And so, I’m deeply smitten with Marty Machowski’s new book, Darkest Night Brightest Day, which—get this!—is really two books in one. The book’s format means that we can’t speed through the sad parts of the story to the happy ending: we have to read Darkest Night slowly, one day and a time during Holy Week. Then we pause. And then, we physically flip the book over and begin a new story—Brightest Day—that takes us from the Resurrection to Pentecost.

Darkest Night Brightest Day, by Marty Machowski | Little Book, Big Story

I love this. I cannot tell you enough how I love it.

Our old pastor once sent us home from a Good Friday service with the injunction to forget the end of the story, just for that Saturday. Think what it would have been like for the disciples, who didn’t know yet what would happen on Sunday, to bury Jesus and walk away from that tomb. To reconcile, for many of them, with the fact that they had abandoned him and now had no opportunity to seek forgiveness. Machowski’s book gives us room to stop. To close the book. To wonder, whether we mean to or not, What if that was the end of the story?

Darkest Night Brightest Day, by Marty Machowski | Little Book, Big Story

But it isn’t, and that’s the beauty of Easter. Jesus didn’t stay dead; the sun rose. The brightest day followed the darkest night, and we have hope in Christ that we will rise with him one day. What joy! And because this book takes the Easter story all the way through Pentecost, we are reminded of the hope we have through his Spirit—we are part of his continuing work. The dark night broke before the light of day.

This post is part of my “Hooray! We’re launching a book!” blog series, celebrating the upcoming release of Wild Things & Castles in the Skya book I both contributed to and, alongside Leslie & Carey Bustard, helped edit. Today’s post features an author whose books are warmly recommended in Wild Things.

Darkest Night Brightest Day: A Family Devotional for the Easter Season
Marty Machowski; Phil Schorr (2022)