Tag: Preschool (page 3 of 30)

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.

The King of Christmas

Where is the King of Christmas? Where can we find him?

At this point in the Christmas season, I sometimes find myself wondering: Is he in the piles of presents accumulating in closets around our house? Is he in the minivan with us, as we drive to one gathering after another? Is he in the kitchen with us as we bake, or in the bedrooms with us as we fall asleep, exhausted after a Christmas recital, a December birthday party, a family gathering?

Where can we find him?

And so I love Todd Hains’s new book, The King of Christmas, which follows the wise men, who follow the star, asking as they search: “The heavens where the stars shine—is the King of Christmas there? The thrones where the mighty sit—is the King of Christmas there?” The answer, of course, is “no”—until they reach the manger where animals eat, and the cross where criminals die. Jesus’s throne room is found in the lowly, humble places; his court serves all who search for it—they have only to ask to gain admission.

The King of Christmas, by Todd R. Hains | Little Book, Big Story

This book is a lovely addition to Lexham Press’s FatCat books (see also: The Apostle’s Creed). Natasha Kennedy’s illustrations are filled with details for young readers to find (every page, for example, features FatCat, the series mascot), which add another layer of depth to the story. With these engaging illustrations and the musical, repeated refrain, this book is a delight for the youngest readers. But though we no longer have any of those “youngest readers” in our house, we read and enjoyed it together all the same.

Of course, today the Lord—through the Spirit—is with us everywhere. He is in the minivan, the kitchen, the dim, quiet bedrooms. This is the truth I return to here, near the end of Advent: the Lord is in all of it, working in ways we do not see just yet. So we rejoice in him! As we wrap one last present, write one last card, pull one last pan of sugar cookies from the oven.

Where is the King of Christmas? He is here, with us.

Merry Christmas, friends.


The King of Christmas
Todd R. Hains; Natasha Kennedy (2022)


Disclosure: I did receive a copy of this 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.

Seek & Find: The First Christmas

I am about to reveal one of my top-tier parenting secrets. Are you ready?

I never leave home without a deck of cards and a tiny tin of thinking putty. (And at least six different kinds of lip balm, but that’s neither here nor there.)

Many mid-sermon fidgets have been averted by that tin of putty, and many a restaurant tantrum has been defused by an impromptu game of War. For a full decade, we had either a baby or a toddler (occasionally both at once), so I became adept at keeping small hands busy whenever we encountered a lull.

For car rides or waiting rooms, here is my other secret: seek-and-find books. I Spy, Where’s Waldo, Things to Spot books—these are crisis-averters, road-trip-savers, Makers of Happy Hands and Calm Hearts. Though my daughters can manage most car rides without diversions these days, I still like to keep a few of these around, just in case.

So, how wonderful to discover a seek-and-find book for Christmas!

Seek and Find: The First Christmas, by Sarah Parker | Little Book, Big Story

Each spread in Sarah Parker’s The First Christmas features a short, paraphrased passage from the Christmas story, accompanied by brilliant illustrations filled with things to find. From hanging baskets to the charming Ruth Wren, there are treasures tucked into these pages that draw our attention into the story and invite us to pause and reflect on what’s happening.

This book moves at a different speed than the typical picture book does: “Here is the story,” it says. “Let’s sit and study it together for a while.” I think that’s part of why these treasure-trove books keep appealing to my kids even after they outgrow other books meant for young readers. Seek and Find: The First Christmas invites them to pause and consider; to stop fidgeting for a moment, to settle. To meditate again on the humility of Christ, the God born as a baby.


Seek and Find: The First Christmas
Sarah Parker; Andre Parker (2022)


Disclosure: I did receive a copy of this 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.

Unwrapping the Name of Jesus for Kids

The bedtime stories my dad told us were were usually about things he did before we were born. Back then he was a pirate, he said, and—briefly—a human cannonball. These careers ended abruptly and disastrously and elicited more than a few giggles from my brother and me as we listened from our beds.

When I tell my own daughters stories, they often fit in one of three categories: a) hilarious things my dad did when I was little, b) stories about sweet girls who live in treehouses or cozy boats and encounter some kind of magic, and c) retellings of stories from Scripture.

But Unwrapping the Names of Jesus for Kids somehow captures the magic of all three of those genres and combines them into one story: as the narrator’s mother tells a story from her own childhood—of the time her family spent following Jesus during his ministry—readers get to delight in a good story that is true, joyful, and feels magical, while also hearing the story of Jesus’s years on earth in a new light.

Unwrapping the Names of Jesus for Kids, by Asheritah Ciuciu | Little Book, Big Story

As this story unfolds, Asheritah Ciuciu connects each scene to one of Jesus’s names—Prince of Peace, etc.—an act that reminds us, as we read, that the story of Jesus has its roots in every other story in Scripture. This reminds us, too, that though we celebrate Jesus’s birth at Christmas, we don’t only celebrate his birth. This season reminds us of both what came before his Incarnation and of what is yet to come.

Unwrapping the Names of Jesus for Kids, by Asheritah Ciuciu | Little Book, Big Story
Unwrapping the Names of Jesus for Kids, by Asheritah Ciuciu | Little Book, Big Story

Unwrapping the Names of Jesus for Kids is an offshoot of Unwrapping the Names of Jesus, Ciuciu’s Advent devotional for adults. But it doesn’t feel derivative: it feels, instead, like a bud on the same branch. Reading the adult version highlights for me how much research and thought and preparation must go into writing a picture book like this one, which condenses all that study into a warm, engaging story. This book is a great read for Advent, as it tells not just of Jesus’s birth but of his whole ministry, death, and resurrection. It reminds us where he was headed, why he came, and what it looks like for us to follow him today. In that, it is the best kind of story.


Unwrapping the Names of Jesus for Kids
Asheritah Ciuciu; Jennifer Zivoin (2022)


Disclosure: I did receive a copy of this 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.

The Jesse Tree

Years ago, I wrote about our family’s Jesse Tree tradition. And then our girls grew older, and a few of our ornaments broke, and that one book felt a little tired after several straight years of readings. We decided it was time for a change, so we tried a different devotional each year; we sampled some Advent calendars and some reading cards. And we liked them all—the stickers, the paper ornaments, everything. They were fine.

But a few weeks ago, my eldest daughter (now fourteen) mentioned our Jesse Tree wistfully. “I liked that,” she said. And I felt resolved: our youngest is six—we haven’t done a Jesse Tree since she was a baby. So I ordered a new set of ornaments—a beautiful, lasting set that I could see the girls reminiscing over when we pull them out decades from now for the grandkids to play with. And I pulled out a book I’d bought, oh, years ago but never really used as a devotional.

My friends, the Jesse Tree is making a comeback. (At our house, at least.)

The Jesse Tree, by Geraldine McCaughrean | Little Book, Big Story

Geraldine McCaughean’s The Jesse Tree tells the story of Jesus’s birth from the very beginning—the garden. And it tells the story not through a series of Scripture readings—which, just to be clear, is a wonderful way to tell the story—but through a narrative. A young boy meets a cantankerous woodcarver and invites himself to watch the man at work. And as the woodcarver works, he finds himself telling, one day at time, the story of each element as he carves it. From the garden, to the desert, to the stable, he tells this delightfully pesky child the story of Jesus’s birth.

This is a warm, comfortable way to hear the story. It’s inviting and funny, and I can see it aging well as our girls (continue to) grow older.

The Jesse Tree, by Geraldine McCaughrean | Little Book, Big Story

Will we ever not do a Jesse Tree again? Who knows! I don’t. (God does.) But this feels like returning to our roots—like remembering what we’ve loved about Advent and gathering together around it. Remembering, I suppose, God’s faithfulness not just to His People, but to the six people here in our home and—Lord willing—the generations that will follow us.

Edited 12/7/22: It is worth noting, now that we’re a ways into this year’s reading, that there are some theologically sticky spots in this book—particularly around the stories of Noah and Mary. There’s nothing major, though, and even those spots made for good conversation around our table. I do still recommend this book, but I thought you’d appreciate a head’s up.


The Jesse Tree
Geraldine McCaughrean; Bee Willey (2003)