A FEW GREAT PICTURE BOOKS FOR ADVENT & CHRISTMAS
â€¨Song of the Stars: A Christmas Story Sally Lloyd-Jones, illustrated by Alison Jay (Zonderkidz) $15.99 We have easily declared this to be the best holiday children’s picture book of the year! The illustrations are amazing—done in a crackly kind of painting that makes it seem old, like Grandma Moses or some European fresco. The scenes are oddly stylized, with all manner of cool animals, but not so much as to seem weird. The fabulous illustrations are mostly of animals and creation, all on tip toe awaiting the great thing about to happen. The writing is good, the theology wonderful as Lloyd-Jones captures the sense that Jesus’ birth is not just for humans, but for a whole creation that awaits rebirth and renewal. Christ is declared the Rescuer and Prince of Peace. Of course, Sally is the beloved author of a bunch of kids books, most significantly, our favorite young children’s Bible, The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name (Zondervan; $16.99) The exalted view of Christ is clear even in the last line of this new Christmas story as it sings “Heaven’s Son/sleeping under the stars/ that he made.” We are so grateful for this simple text, these moving paintings, this vital and worldview- shaping vision: Christmas is indeed, for the whole cosmos; it is a song of the stars! Highly recommended.
SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT for a LIVE ON-LINE PARTY WITH SALLY LLOYD-JONES December 8, 2011.
From 6 pm-7 pm, EST, Thursday, December 8th, visitors will be able to tune in at http://www.livestream.com/Zonderkidz for Lloyd-Jones’ live reading of Song of the Stars. The festivities will continue with a Q&A with the author, exciting prize giveaways, and special musical guest appearances from Ellie Holcomb, Arthur Alligood, Eric Peters, Jason Gray, Ben Shive, and more!
Of course, if you can’t join in, you can still get the book from us. We’re eager to sell a bunch of these and shape the young hearts and minds of children near and far—God owns this whole wide world, even the critters anticipated His humble coming once, and, as we know in this season of Advent longing, it awaits its final release from bondage (Romans 8:19) at another great coming. Can a delightful kids books help us learn this? We think so.
Mouse Tales: Things Hoped For: Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany Ruth L. Boling, illustrated by Tracey Dahle Carrier (WJK) $16.95 We announce this every year and are sad that it is no longer printed. (We still have some and can sell them while supplies last.) This brings to life the church mice from the lovely little A Children’s Guide to Worship and the colorful big book on the liturgical seasons, Come Worship With Me: A Journey Through the Church Year (WJK) which simply a must-have resource for mainline churches or others who want to pay even scant attention to the church year. Here, the mice are introduced in full color to Advent, Christmas and Epiphany. Come on, don’t you want your family and children to have more than the shopping days before Christmas? Live the full story, joining with Christians from every place and time. Wonderful!
Mary’s First Christmas Walter Wangerin, illustrated by Timothy Ladwig (Zonderkidz) $19.99 You may know Ladwig for the extraordinary work he has done illustrating an urban view of the 23rd Psalm or his brightly rendered story about a black family and a lost medallion that opens up The Lord’s Prayer for children. Here, he offers lush close ups and moving portraits coupled with novelist and storyteller Walt Wangerin’s moving rendition of the role and viewpoint of Mary the mother of Jesus. The story includes up to the youthful Jesus learning some skills in his father’s carpenter shop. Wangerin’s artful use of words, his cadence and rhetoric and storytelling power is clear in this tender, good telling, perfect for any family who wants to hear the story afresh. By the way, I hope you also know the companion volume Peter’s First Easter.
The Lion Storyteller Christmas Book Bob Hartman, illustrated by Krisztina Kallai Nagy (Lion) $19.99 The British press Lion has long been one of our favorite British publishers, especially since they produce high quality, thoughtful books and Bible storybooks for children. This includes Christmas tale and legends and is well suited for reading aloud (although there are great illustrations throughout.) What a great custom to read aloud over the holiday. Using this will allow you to dip in to Bible stories of the Old and New Testament, Christmas legends from around the (mostly) European world such as “Old Befana” from Italy, “Kind Bishop Nicholas” from Turkey, “The First Tinsel” from the Ukraine, “The Little Fir Tree” from Denmark, “The Little Lambs” from Arabia, and so forth.
DVD Buck Denver Asks…Why Do We Call It Christmas? (JellyFish) $14.99 You may not know it, but I’m a true-blue fan of the wacky post-Veggie Tale Phil Vischer production “What’s in the Bible.” (There are five volumes so far, which takes the project up to 1 & 2 Samuel. Get ’em from us!) These do excellent, provocative, campy, mile-a-minute Bible teaching, led (?) by the intrepid newsman Buck Denver. This new one tries to answer the big question—what does cutting down trees and hanging stockings and Santa have to
do with Jesus’ birthday? This is a whimsical (to put it mildly) “Christmas party to end all Christmas parties.” Beyond cute.
A FEW FAVORITE RECENT COLORFUL PICTURE BOOKS
Smack-Dab in the Middle of God’s Love Brennan Manning & John Blase, illustrated by Nichole Tedgell (Tommy Nelson) $14.99 This sweet book is ideal for anybody that wants to see God’s love in action, especially as care is shown for poor children, as it tells the story of Willie and Ana Juan; and one needn’t know much more than that. There are colorful pictures, tons of happy children, and this sense that we are always “smack dab” in the great love of God. The back story is this: the parable of Willie Juan was one of the first published works of mystic-servant-saint-ragamuffin Brennan Manning, based on a story he used to tell. It was later republished as The Boy Who Cried Abba: A Parable of Trust and Acceptance (Page Mill; this is selling for like $79 at other online places: we’ve got some for $10.00) and this is the colorful children’s picture book edition of that beloved tale. Willie Juan and Ana’s home is always full of neighborhood children, laughter, and love, and he teaches them about how deep and wide and endless is the love of God. Three cheers for Brennan Manning for children!
Goodnight Angels Melody Carlson, illustrated by Sophie Allsopp (Zonderkidz) $15.99 I adore the lovely, crisp illustrations from this seasoned Brit artist and the realistic custom and cadence of a child saying goodnight to everything the child cares about. Okay, it is really derivative. Perhaps the author should have thanked MWB. Still, this is a very nice book, and makes a huge point: as the child says goodnight to the things he likes, he remembers to thank “Father-God.” And then to the angels “watching over me.” Awww.
Meena Sine van Mol, illustrated by Carianne Wijffels (Eerdmans) $17.00 Eerdmans Books for Young Readers has one of the most eccentric listing of children’s books we’ve seen, and this is a shout out to the odd and wonderful, by a great Belgium author and a clever (well, maybe unusual, too) Dutch artist. This is an entertaining story, a farce about misunderstandings, through the believable views of a child. The neighborhood kids think the old woman Meena is a witch, that she eats toads and, well, you can imagine the antic plans… Moral: you can find friends in unlikely places and things are not always as they seem. Yay.
The Barber Who Wanted To Pray R.C. Sproul, illustrated by T. Lively Fluharty (Crossway) $17.99 This is a rich, serious book, with lavish, thick oil paintings, capturing with some intensity the drama of the Reformation-era struggles and the passion of the great Martin Luther. I don’t know when I first heard of Luther’s famous letter to his barber, but this tells the story of how it came to be, and a bit about it– a children’s tale about Martin teaching his friend how to pray. It’s like a three-fold strand, you know… good for older children, even. By the way, Sproul did a few other good kids books which we like, offering substantial theology in nice story form.
I’m Like You, You’re Like Me: A Book About Understanding and Appreciating Each Other Cindy Gainer, illustrated by Miki Sakamoto (Free Spirit Publishing) $14.99 Free Spirit has been a leader in books about kid’s life issues, an early press for gifted students, and helpful, playful, guides to getting along and forming character. Simple words and goofy illustrations invite children to notice, accept, and affirm individual differences and similarities. Conservative critics may mock this as PC but we think it is not only charming, but hugely important. Includes an activity guide for adults.
Library Lilly Gillian Shields, illustrated by Francesca Chessa (Eerdmans) $16.00 All right, let me just say this (please!) There is going to come a time, because of the perfect storm of some of our neighbors not caring about reading, and others of our neighbors going utterly digital, that books are simply not going to be as known, as used, as given, as they once were. Now is the time to celebrate the book, to give books to immerse our little ones in stories about books. And then there is this: some of our neighbors are also agitating for greater budget cuts by the government and, sadly, libraries will be among the institutions hurt. Lovely library Lily is today’s unsung super-woman, a gal who loves books and finds ’em in the library. You want a better story than that? Well, read what Ms Shield does this with fun tale! Lily meets a friend (Milly) who doesn’t like to read much, but shows the bookish Lily that life an be lived in the outdoors, outside of the pages of a book. Oh yes, this is true. But wait, there’s more. Yay for Lily and Milly, for readers, players, and writers, too. Maybe their book will end up in a library some day!
I See the Rhythm of the Gospel (w/bonus CD) Toyomi Igus, illustrated by Michele Wood (Zonderkidz) $16.99 We raved about this last year and named it one of the best books of the year, a colorful study of the history and development of African American spiritual music. Okay, so it isn’t exactly new, but it hasn’t caught the attention it deserves, so we’re announcing it again. Do see our BookNotes rave review here. What a blend of poetry, contemporary art, historic music. What a provocative title, even! Highly recommended for any music lover and all of us who care about African American history.
Dragon Slayers: The Essential Training Guide for Young Dragon Fighters, Based Wholly on the Practice of the Great Dragon Slayers of Old and the Wisdom of Their Ancient Manuel Sir Wyvern Pugilist //aka Joyce Denham (Paraclete Press) $23.99 This is one hard book to describe, but once you see it, feel it’s texture and heft, see the full color maps and spooky pictures–the illustrator must have been studying old Tolkie
n editions—you’ll see the bookish glory of this creative work. Although it sneaks up on you, this artfully told tale is, in fact, a serious guide to what the Bible calls “spiritual warfare” and it is rooted in mature, contemplative spiritual formation. There is the fiction piece, here, first rate fantasy writing, the tale of the aforementioned Sir Wyvern. (Yes, the Pugilist name is good one, eh?) But then there are some helpful, if playful, nonfiction sections, explaining great saints from church history—Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant. Want your kids to fight gossip and greed, anger and laziness. This spiritual warfare guide will help, in a way they’ll find fascinating. (For this last issue, see the character “Slackbottom.” ’nuff said.) Good for ages 9 or 10 and up.
Ambrose and the Cathedral Dream Margo Sorenson, illustrated by Katalin Szegedi (Liturgical Press) $16.95 The Liturgical Press, an academic Roman Catholic publisher, is located at St. John’s Abbey, and this gives them an angle into the visual arts, but they still don’t do many children’s books. When they do one, it is usually beautiful, interesting, rooted, as this one is, in a medieval Catholic sensibility. This little mouse longs to follow in the tradition of his mouse family and help build a cathedral. Good for helping inspire children to hope in their own dreams. By the way, this is the second one in which little Ambrose appeared, and the second collaboration of Sorenson/Szegedi. An earlier one was a Christmas title, Ambrose and the Princess, also published by Liturgical Press.
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