I swear it isn’t a marketing ploy, but a sincere hat tip to the ancient wisdom of the Christian calendar. As the mall tells the story, Xmas starts in the fall, and then goes full tilt from the stupid black Friday frenzy, ending abruptly, cynically, as quickly as they can stock the shelves with Valentine stuff. Then it’s on to the President Day sales! Whatever.
But the month of December is for Christians not a time of Christmas, but an Advent time of waiting, hoping, expecting, and crying out — Ferguson and Iraq aren’t the only places that cries “how long O Lord?” but we join them in lament and longing. Yes, yes, we want Christ to “be born in us today” but we want Christ not only in our own broken little hearts but to reign, bringing his shalom to his fallen creation as a redeemer King. We want those crazy promises of the Magnificat to come true in history, don’t we? This takes a lot of faith and so it helps to have a lot of ceremony and ritual over a substantive block of time.
Which is why we are glad to continue to suggest books and gifts to keep the festivities going through the classic twelve days of Christmas. We used to give our own family gifts to our children on Epiphany, celebrated 12 days after Christmas day, teaching them that one of the reasons we give gifts at Christmastime is because of the wise men who did so. It was our way of trying to honor the liturgical calendar, a little way to subvert how the culture tells the story, and a even little way to relieve us of gift-buying anxieties in mid-to-late December. And we got to keep our tree up — what fun!
So, yep, we’re happy to try to sell you some more books, to help you give gifts for some of the 12 days. This is a grand time to give small items, especially to children, as we stretch out the happy days of this glad season. Here are a few, mostly new, that we wanted to recommend.
We show the regular retail price, but will deduct the 20% discount when you enter the title at our website’s order form page. (Please see the link below.) The page is certified secure so you can enter credit card numbers safely, or you can just as for an invoice, if you’d rather send a check, later. We like that! Either way, we promise a prompt, personal confirmation.
Happy gift-giving. Merry Christmastime.
Let There Be Light Desmond Tutu & Nancy Tillman (ZonderKidz) regular hardback book, $16.99; small board board, $7.99 When this came out a year ago, we raved. Beth continues to tell customers that it is one of her all time favorite children’s books. The combination of an esteemed, powerful, winsome, global Christian leader and one of our most lovely children’s illustrators combines for a truly beautiful, moving, happy story, an imaginative and even playful vision of the creation — with royal humans cavorting with animals of all kinds. Yes, that is a son of Adam writing an ostrich on the cover! You’ve got to see this close up to appreciate how great it is. We have a few on hand now for immediate shipment, and a few more coming in later in the week. Nice for little ones! Splendidly creative.
The Song of the King Max Lucado (Crossway) $17.99 You may know of the many beloved children’s stories of this master communicator, and you may appreciate his gentle way of telling a story which is a metaphor for things of God’s Kingdom. The back cover here states, “A timeless tale about the most important choice on your journey through life.” This is at first blush a story of a princess, brave knights that want to prove their worth, and with only the King’s song to guide them, they must overcome obstacles. “Who will be victorious? Carlisle the strongest, Alon the swiftest, or Cassidon the wisest?” Illustrated by Chuck Gillies, of Kendall School of Design and a popular illustrator for over 50 books. Ages 5 and up.
Andrew Draws David McPhail (Holiday House) $16.95 Wow — this is not only a charming little book, but a great conversation starter. On the first page, the child star of the book finds a crayon and starts to scribble on the floor and walls. His love of drawing is honed over the years, he becomes better and better and you realize this is a book about finding one’s passion, the power of art, the joy of creativity. It is simple, but good. But then one day he asked a someone what they would like him to draw and when she says a bird, he draws a nice on, and it flies right off the page on to her shoulder. He becomes famous for this, and soon the President of the US calls him, asking him for some help. What will he do? What does he draw, and for whom? What a great question? What might your child say? The crayon stub is almost gone, he’s got enough for one picture left. (Spoiler alert: he makes a drawing for himself. Which licks him, afterwards.)
The Magnificent Thing Ashley Spires (Kids Can Press) $16.95 Do you know any enterprising children who like to make stuff? Who are maybe even destined to be inventors? Or you might like a story of encouragement, even if things don’t work out at first? This little girl and her assistant (a odd little dog) are making the most magnificent things. She repurposes all kind of junk and almost makes a great thing, but, uh, well, it just isn’t quite right. But then she goes back to the drawing board and it ends up being just what she wanted. Fun for early elementary children. It notes on the copyright page, by the way, “The artwork in this book was rendered digitally with lots of practice, two hissy-fits, and one all-out tantrum.” The author apparently understands the “it turned out all wrong” frustration, and knows how to keep at it, with whimsy and joy.
Love Letters from God Bible Stories written by Glenys Nellist, illustrated by Sophie Allsopp (Zonderkidz) $16.99 This is without a doubt one of the best designs in a children’s Bible story collection we’ve seen — it is colorful, fun without being cute, with a creatively designed part that sets it apart and brings it all home. Yes, it has engaging pictures, sidebars and graphic design on each two page spread; if that were all, it would still be much better than average and highly recommended. But there is also a little tipped in, lift the flap sort of letter or card, with a letter to the child in each one. In other words, it says in simple, personalized prose exactly how this passage teaches about God’s great love and faithfulness to the child. These notes are very colloquial, and talk about “being on Jesus’ team” and things being super-duper. It is child-like, just a little silly, even. This lift-the-flap feature isn’t so prominent as to distract from the pictures and the telling of the story, but is an extra, enhancing contribution. We love this book, and congratulate ZonderKidz for doing such fine work.
Sharing God’s Love: The Jesus Creed for Children Scot McKnight & Laura McKnight Barring illustrated by Dave Hill (Paraclete Press) $15.66 I hope you know the impressive, important, and very useful book about loving God and others simply called The Jesus Creed by the preeminent (and fun) New Testament scholar. There is a teen version of this book, and now a children’s book. This is a splendid resource, with pastel art and a gentle storytelling style (the co-author is Laura McKnight Barringer, Scot’s daughter, a kindergarten/first grade teacher and graduate of Wheaton College. The illustrations are not stunning, just straight on illustration which for this book is, I think, perfect. This book is more about the life-changing content then the story itself, although it does work nicely as a fun book to read with an elementary age student.
Ann Voskamp writes of it’s importance and value:
Parents know what the great theologians know: Good theology for future grown-ups should start when kids are little. Start with books that become their favorites that they want to return to over and over again. This book is one for every home of faith. If a generation of children made the words in these pages their creed, it’d change the world — and eternity.
Shauna Niequist nicely says,
Like all parents, Aaron and I are always on the hunt for ways to each big ideas to our little people, and this book makes it easy. I love the illustrations, and I love that by the end, my kids have learned a creed they can carry with them, through childhood and beyond.
My Librarian is a Camel: How Books Are Brought to Children Around the World Margriet Ruurs (Boyds Mill Press) $16.95 Any kid who goes to the library will be thrilled to learn how other children get their books. This shows bunches of libraries, some in, uh, surprising locations! How interesting, and what a testimony to the love (and value) of the printed page. This brightly photographed book has won a number of important awards — a “Notable Book for a Global Society” and was a “Children’s Crown Award” nominee for the National Christian Schools Associations. It’s sold from National Geographic to other prominent museum shops. This teaches about books, offers global awareness with a eye-popping multi-ethnic around the world journey. What a fun book, truly fascinating. Maybe adult book lovers will get a kick out of it, too.
Whatever You Grow Up To Be Karen Kingsbury, illustrated by Valeria Docampo (ZonderKidz) $15.99 What a curious, wacky, fun, sentimental book this is! With zany pictures in each busy two-page spread, the mom wonders what the boy will grow up to be. Political leader, Fireman, Businessman, Rock star, husband? In each case, the dream is named, the ethical and noble way he will serve in that vocation simply described, and (of course) the big if. Perhaps this is a book for moms and dads — or grand-moms or grand-dads, since it ends there, actually. Fun for kids, fun for parents, fun for grandparents, to remind one and all about God’s plans for God’s own children, whatever they grow up to be. I have to admit, I was choked up as I read it, grinning.
As Good as Anybody: Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Joshua Heschel’s Amazing March Toward Freedom Richard Michelson illustrated by Raul Colon (Knopf) $16.99 Is it the soon-to-be-released Selma movie that makes me want to name this book, or the troubles in Ferguson and beyond? We have stocked it for several years, and smile at the powerful story, hard as it is. It shows Martin’s youth anger, how he stepped into his father’s vocation of being a preacher, and, well, you know the rest. He gives out a call for other people of other faiths to join him at the bridge in Selma. Heschel is a notable, wondrous Jewish scholar — his book on the prophets and his book on sabbath remain true classics that we continue to sell! — raised in Poland. As a child, he, too, wondered if he as as good as others. You can imagine the horror. It shows him moving to America, and, as a young rabbi, taking up King’s call. The two men were good friends, Christian and Jew, black and white, leaders for peace and justice. We need to tell this story, and this book is a splendid way.
Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Bryan Collier (Hyperion) $6.99 This slightly over-sized book has big pictures, exceptionally artful design, and a perfect use of vocabulary and text. It is no wonder it has been awarded for such excellence, over and over. Every child should see something like this, and it may be our favorite kids book on King. It offers a bit about his life, some of the key events, with a few good, actually quotes. (By the way, the same artful blend of text and image is found in the similar book Abe’s Honest Words about Lincoln, and other colorful bios of Teddy Roosevelt, Helen Keller, Jack Kennedy. Very nicely done!) Highly recommended,
A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel Madeleine L’Engle Adapted and Illustrated by Hope Larson (FSG) $19.99 I wrote a bit about this last year when it first came out, and not only celebrated the brilliant idea of it, but its artistic excellence; I mentioned, importantly, I think, that the L’Engle family approved of this large project. We sold a few, then, and those who got it were astonished at how very cool it was. This is a contemporary classic, written by dear and wise Christian woman, and this new graphic edition — like a serious comic book, in a sturdy hardcover — brings it freshly. What a great gift idea this is! Popular YA author James Patterson insists it is “page-turning, eye candy of the highest order.” Yes!
Remnants: Season of Wonder Lisa T. Bergren (Blink) $15.99 This is another one of the new and important releases for the new imprint of books called “Blink.” This is a YA/teen fiction line created by Christian writers, but muting the overt messages, making the stories more applicable for a wider market, longing for wholesome books with good writing, without some of the sex and violence and vulgarity that is prevalent in YA titles these days. This is a great example, Book One in “The Remnant” fantasy/adventure series, a not too distant cousins of The Hunger Games and the like. Yes, there are kids that have to save the world, but what else would you want? Right on! Ms Bergren is a prolific and award winning author, with most of her 40 books appearing in the Christian marketplace. Kudos to her, to Blink, and to the kids of The Remnants. As it is written,”our coming was foretold by the elders…”
Brown Girl Dreaming Jacqueline Woodson (Nancy Paulsen Books) $16.99 Not only is this a fantastic book by a great YA writer, it has won the National Book Award in her category. It unfolds as a story, written as a series of poems. Wow — so good. Here is what one reviewer wrote: “Jacqueline Woodson, one of today’s finest writers, tells the moving story of her childhood in mesmerizing verse. Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.”
DVD Kaleidoscope: A Skateboarding Film Steelroots (Kaleidoscope) $19.99 I’m not gonna lie — I don’t know enough about skateboarding to say I love this. But the reviews have been good, and we are eager to promote it. It really is the real deal; very authentic, with much blood, sweat, and tears spilled, years of hard work going into making this killer movie about 10 world-class skateboarders sharing their Christian faith as they travel around the world. They have footage from Barcelona to New York, from Philly to California and I might say it really rocks. This is a documentary of the talent and testimony of this crew, and includes some extras (outtakes, of course, interviews, Bible studies and more.) This might appeal to unchurched punk kids, and it would appeal to Christian teens or young adults who are into the skate scene.
The NIV Teen Study Bible (Zondervan) Italian duo-tone, $34.99 / $39.99 There are a number of teen-friendly Bibles, in various translations. (NRSV? New Living Translation? ESV? Catholic or Protestant? Call us if you need more guidance.) This one, though, in the popular and readable New International Version is a good bet, at least for Protestants — it has very fine information alongside many passages, sidebars and a bit of graphic interest, some color, some Q & A stuff, but not tooo much. It’s reliable, relevant, interesting. It comes in a regular Bible size and a compact size, in hardback and paperback. Here are some great gift editions, soft, leather-like Bibles that are rich and artful and beautiful to hold and use, and that hold up under use (or carrying around in a backpack.) Although they look much better up close and personal, here you can see four lovely faux leather versions called “Italian Duo-Tone.” They are named chocolate (with a Celtic-like cross design), espresso (with a darker look and cool embedded pattern), sienna (with a small, crisp cross), and raspberry/chocolate. The second one shown (with the pattern) is $39.99 and has a cool design on the page edging, too. The other three are regularly $34.99 — we off course will take off our BookNotes sale discount. Just click below to order.
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