Hope you enjoyed our last BookNotes that had some lovely Advent and Christmas books for children. We so enjoy sending these sorts of books out and we thank you for your support.
As promised, here are some other kids books that make meaningful gifts. These are pretty awesome. Order today and we’re pretty sure we can get these to you within a few days. There’s time to get these to you by Christmas (not to mention the gift-giving season of the 12 days and Epiphany.) Order today! Happy Advent.
The Kingdom Tales Trilogy – 30th Anniversary Edition David & Karen Mains, newly illustrated by Zhivko Zhelelev (Mainstay Ministry) $29.95 each.
Tales of the Kingdom $29.95
Tales of the Resistance $29.95
Tales of the Restoration $29.9
Oh my, friends, if you have any budget left for your holiday shopping, this is something the whole family will enjoy, and makes a splendid gift for kids, or anyone interested in fantasy, allegories and great stories. We are so, so pleased to tell you about these new editions of these wonderful stories that tell of a good creation, a terrible disruption that leads to a holy resistance and a future restoration. In some circles – including some of our ‘90s era CCO staff friends – loved these books so very much and used them with high schoolers, college students, and, eventually, their own young ones. To say these have been among the most beloved books of our 35 years of bookselling is not an overstatement.
Here is part of the story: the lovely hardbacks went out of print and small, cheesy paperbacks were released with artwork that was so bad the authors and many fans were beyond disappointed. They didn’t capture the mature themes and grand adventures of these marvelously told stories, and so those dumb little paperback versions went out of print, too.
The great authors and radio preachers David and Karen Mains long wanted to re-do these popular fantasy stories and their adult son, who died a few years ago of cancer, really wanted them out again, but this time with multi-ethnic artwork. It was Jeremy Mains – who worked with immigrants and knew several languages and had a heart for diversity – who inspired the KickStarter campaign before he died that raised money to hire a world-class artist to redo the Kingdom Tales Trilogy with all new artwork. (With a name like Zhivko Zhelelev, you know this is global in scope and a bit mysterious.)
We are so proud to stock these three lavish new hardback editions of the classic award-winning allegories for “children of all ages” that include the rich, new, colorful artwork. These are volumes you’ll be proud to own.
Tales of the Restoration, the last book of the trilogy, reminds us, among other things, that:
King’s people must live by the King’s ways, lest they bring harm to the very place they are working to restore; lest they wound the very people they love. Everyone must exercise vigilance when Restoration is at hand!
That almost sounds like the Advent call to “be alert!” We are waiting, even participating, in God’s redemptive plan, and what a better way to help remember that than to read stories like this together this holiday season.
Order these today and we will get them to you by Christmas. You will be glad, and may even start shouting, “To the Kingdom! To the Restoration!” when you make your holiday toasts. Order one or two or three of these today.
God’s Great Love for You Rick Warren, illustrated by Chris Saunders (Zonderkidz) $19.99 We have loved the books Rick Warren has done for children such as the wonderful Lord’s Prayer. This hardback is simple, but beautiful, cool, contemporary, very impressive, just a lovely book for anyone. The main character is a lovable girl that looks like she stepped over the scene of the latest Disney or Pixar film. It is for younger readers, simple, and a reminder that God’s love is with them no matter where they go, so would be good as a basic truth for anyone, and certain for little ones with anxiety or fears. Illustrator Saunders has created atmospheric landscapes that are just beautiful, without being overdone.
No One Else Like You Siska Goeminne & Merel Eyckerman (Westminster/John Knox) $16.00 This is a slightly “tall” sized book, without a dust jacket, expertly designed. The author is Belgian and this was first done in Europe – it has a hip feel and modern look. We love this book as it affirms how very different everybody is (in a healthy way, it seems, just declaring it as interesting.) It explains that everybody has different religions and beliefs, everybody feels differently about their bodies, their families and more. One page is about how everybody lives in different sorts of situations and places; others explore other things that make us unique. Again, this is presented as a cool fact to know and an okay thing, affirming that there isn’t one expected “normal.” We like it, although it isn’t overtly Christian. It does say we all have one thing in common: that we are all unique.
Beautiful Hands Kathryn Otoshi & Bret Baumgarten (Blue Dot Press) ($17.99) We’ve talked about this before and when we take it to book displays it is gushed over as adults love thinking about how they will share it with their children. It is stunningly cool, with artwork made by kid’s hands dripping in paint. In each spread there is a word and the artwork colorfully shows the hands of the kids, in vivid pictures the publisher calls “illustrative surprises.”
The bigger point is that it invites kids to do good in the world, asking, for instance, “what will your hands do today –what will you plant?” Each page shows what hands can do, and then follows with a question –“what will you lift?” or “what will you stretch?” or “what will you imagine?” and it answers each one, with creative answers like “spirits” (that is, lifting “spirits” answers the questions “what will you lift today?” To the “what will you touch?” the answer is “hearts.”) It moves deftly from these quesitons to imaginative (sometimes surprising) ideas for answers. It celebrates imaginative, inspiring capacities. It isn’t Christian, but you can work with it, I’m sure. What fun!
En la mesa de Dios / At God’s Table Maria Eugenia Cornou, Carrie Steenwyk, John Witvliet, illustrated by Joel Schoon-Tanis (Calvin College Press) $18.99 What a great book this is – we’ve mentioned it before but because it is published by a small college-related press, and is bi-lingual, it hasn’t gotten nearly as much publicity as it deserves. These artwork pieces that illustrate the simple Spanish and English text, are rich, deeply hued, a bit sloppy – giving them weight and motion and energy. This retells the Last Supper and offers simple language about what some traditions call Eucharist. Done in cooperation with the legendary Calvin Institute on Christian Worship this is a fabulous small hardback. It includes good explanations for younger elementary children and some information for parents or educators. Highly recommended.
The Day God Made Church: A Child’s First Book About Pentecost Rebekah McLeod Hutto, illustrated by Stephani Hig (Paraclete) $15.99 Again, I’ve recommended this here before and we display it at churchy events and folks love it. There is very little on the Pentecost story and this is one which – in really colorful and creative text — captures the mystery and importance of this day which many consider “the birthday of the church.” This is powerful storytelling and healthy Biblical education and a stimulating, creative picture book helping us learn to celebrate a day in the church calendar that is sometimes overlooked. Alleluia!
You Are With Me: Prayers for Every Part of the Day illustrated by Birgit Antoni (Spark House Family) $7.99 How fun to find a chunky board book that reminds kids that God is with them all day long. This is, in some ways, the first prayer book a child may have as it helps children talk to God throughout the day. It’s fun without being overly silly, and helps kids realize God is with them. Perfect for a stocking stuffer or small gift for a little one.
First Bible Basics: A Counting Primer Danielle Hitchen, art by Jessica Blanchard (Harvest House) $12.99 Consider this a first catechesis, one of the most fun and substantive little books like this I’ve ever seen. Some may this the “baby believer” saying might be a bit audacious, or goofy, but this almost 7 x 7 board book is a gem. It is a counting book, and teaches things like 1 is for 1 God (and looks at “I Am”) and 2 is for the two natures of Christ (yes, Saint Nicholas would be glad that there’s a baby book on Jesus being fully God and fully human!) 3 is for the Trinity (what did you expect) and is for the 4 gospels (with very cool pictures of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.) 5 is for, well…. you get the picture. This is a great little book. Kudos to all involved.
Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey Margriet Ruurs, artwork by Nizar Ali Badr (Orca Book Publishers) $20.00 Whenever we take this book to book displays, everyone is so excited to see it and it always becomes a conversation starter. It is a poignant story of a Syrian family that takes everything they can carry on their backs and seeks refuge in Europe. What an important and moving story, what socially engaged, award-winning children’s author Jane Yolen says “both childlike and sophisticated; a text that will both break and mend your heart.”
The artwork in this is stunning and you won’t believe how well this Syrian artist uses polished stones and pebbles to create people and animals. It is exquisite, a true work of art unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
And what is also quite cool about this book is that it is bi-lingual, in both Arabic and English. You really should check it out and if you know of any libraries or resource rooms, it is worth sharing it. Order some today!
Riachel Spier Weaver & Anna Haggard, illustrated by Eric Elwell (Harvest House) $14.99 I suppose you know that there aren’t many really great books for elementary aged children about women of the Bible. This is the first in a series by women who work for HOPE International, and it is great. Miriam, as you know, was raised as a slave, and learned courage from her mother when they had to be creative to save her brother, Moses. Miriam matured and became a gifted musician and discovered other God-given talents. As it says on the back cover, “When God called Miriam –along with her siblings – to guide the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, she was ready to lead.” I respect these women who have written this interesting, solid book, and the illustrator who has blended traditional and digital art techniques. Keep an eye out for the second in this series about girls and women of the Bible that will be called An Extraordinary Teacher: A Bible Story about Priscilla.
The Memory Box: A Book About Grief Joanna Rowland, illustrations by Thea Baker (Spark House Family) $16.99 I can hardly think of a sadder thing then the grief of a child who has lost a loved one. We have a number of books about this and this new one is one of the very best. “I’m scared I’ll forget you,” the young child cries out, and we all know the profound fear that is.
This lovely book shows how the child creates a memory box, full of things that will help her remember her lost loved one. (The story doesn’t say who has died, whether it is a grandparent, parent, or sibling.) The story is touching, the idea is beautiful, and I want to say how important I think this is – perhaps you could donate one to your local library or bereavement center or hospital chaplain’s office.
By the way, there isn’t much in here about faith, although there is one scene where the girl is praying in front of a stained glass window as she thinks of doing things that will remind her of her lost loved one. So that little part is less about talking to her Creator but thinking of this practice that must she must have done with her loved one.
The Memory Box has a few pages in the back by a Lutheran pastor who has done hospice and chaplaincy work about how to help children process grief.
The Watcher: Inspired by Psalm 121 Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Bryan Collier (Eerdmans) $17.00 This is one of the most amazing children’s books of the year – of many a year. It combines stunning artwork, a poignant, powerful, important story, and another feature that will take your breath away.
The story revolves around two kids, Tanya and Jordon, in an urban school, a white boy bullied by a black girl, who both have problems at home and both apparently have some connection to church. There is complexity and fear and anxiety here that many children will relate to and that most will find really interesting. There is bullying at school, issues on the bus, and this full-colored, big book shows it in some nuance and detail. It’s powerful, even as a third boy enters the story, a new kid named Israel.
The book is well written, too, as you would expect from the award-wining writer and African America poet Nikkie Grimes. The story is beautifully crafted, as a story, told in poetic lines. It’s remarkable.
But then comes the truly amazing surprise, woven into the story. It is a device called “The Golden Shovel” where the last word of every line – that is, the last word on the far right of the paragraph – forms another story, read vertically. The printer has bolded these words so it becomes quite clear, that the last line of each sentence makes another story read vertically throughout The Watcher.
And that story? Yes, it is Psalm 121.
Wow. This is unlike any children’s picture book you’ve ever seen and I hope it becomes widely known. It is a moving story about God’s presence among these troubled kids and how God’s caring faithfulness is a sub-text of all our stories. Enjoy this, and talk about it — the story, the art, and this clever, amazing device. The Watcher is a fabulous work of art, a great book.
Stories from the Bible: 17 Treasure Tales from the World’s Greatest Book Kathleen Long Bostrom, illustrated by Dinara Mirtalipova (Francis Lincolns) $19.99 There are a lot of children’s Bibles we really like; to have a truly great kid’s picture Bible there needs to be the right blend of artful illustration, good-looking and well-written text, theologically-wise telling of the story with some sensitivity to questions of gender and violence, and, of course, the complex matter of an artful illustration that is interesting and aesthetically pleasing in a manner that will appeal to a child’s best instincts. There are lots of fine, but goofy, kids Bibles, but really great ones are rare. (We like, by the way, the brilliant Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones, Desmond Tutu’s glorious, internationally illustrated Children of God Story Bible, and The Doubleday Illustrated Children’s Bible by Sandol Stoddard, illustrated by Tony Chen, among a few others.)
This new Stories from the Bible is one of them.
Kathleen Bostrom has long been known as a thoughtful Bible storyteller and this is her masterwork. The illustrator is gifted and the entire design is beautiful. Most importantly, the book reads well out loud; we don’t have any little ones in our house these days so Beth read some of this out loud to me! It is wonderful, captivating and beautifully told for youngsters.
Who Counts? 100 Sheep, 10 Coins, and 2 Sons Amy Jill Levine & Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, illustrated by Margaux Meganck (WJK) $16.00 Well, if you’ve been around contemporary New Testament studies these days you may know the name of the Jewish scholar Amy-Jill Levine who teaches gospel studies at Vanderbilt — she’s amazing. And if you been involved in contemporary conversations or workshops on children’s faith formation you may know the name of the very popular interfaith author, Rabbi Sandy Sasso (who is known for lovely books like God’s Paintbrush.) That the two of these Jewish educators would team up with a Presbyterian publishing house to tell fabulous versions of three of Jesus’ most beloved and important parables is genius! Who Counts? is a delight to hear or read, with wise and insightful lines and a vivid capturing of the gospel parables. There’s some subtle stuff, too, that might help you talk about this with your kids in fresh and sensible ways. This is a very, very interesting book.
The art is equally captivating and very engaging, helping children “get” the stories. The shepherd with the lost sheep is a bearded, modern dude who sports a ten-gallon cowboy hat; the African American woman searching her apartment for the lost drachmas is fun (especially the party) and the Prodigal Son story is retold as a modern-day Latino family. It is very moving, and adds new layers of insight for adults or children — it’s very moving, we found. This is a great book and makes a great gift. I hope you order one today – in fact, get two, and give one to your church library or Sunday school room.
There will be more, I’m told, from this dynamic duo. Can’t wait!
God’s Very Good Idea Trillia Newbell, illustrated by Cataline Echeverri (Good Book Company) $14.99 I think I will name this as our top children’s book of the year, or very near the top. It’s just stunning in how interesting it is, how it relates the simple gospel to remarkable implications, and how it gets the full-orbed vision of the Kingdom of God being that redemptive force which rescues and renews the very creation. We sometimes talk about creation-fall-redemption and this book gets it! God’s very good idea was a good and safe and colorful creation and God is not giving up on God’s good idea. Jesus will come –as the big story of the whole Bible shows in it’s unfolding drama – to save the lost and redeem the creation, which includes a restoration of the (get this!) ethnic and personality and gender diversity of the original creation.
I simply know of know other book that so faithfully tells the gospel story in terms of the rescue of creation, the restoration of humankind’s role in God’s good world, and how racial reconciliation is central to that. God’s Very Idea of a church that models racial and ethnic diversity so that God’s plan of restoration of the diverse creation is seen by the whole world, is nothing short of brilliant. If only adults understood this creation-regained, racially diverse, upbeat and visionary theology! This book is whimsical and clever and witty and fun, and one heckuva story. The author has written an adult book on themes of racial reconciliation (called United) and the artist that did the illustrations is very accomplished. This is the real deal, friends, a gospel-centered, Kingdom book for Christian kids about stuff that matters in our world.. And anybody else who needs to hear the old old story in fresh, fun ways. Highly recommended.
Exploring the Bible: A Bible Reading Plan for Kids David Murray, illustrations by Scotty Reifsnuyder (Crossway) $14.99 This is not a kid’s picture book but I wanted to offer at least one recommended daily devotional for middle- elementary kids. (They say this one is for ages 6 – 12, but I’d say maybe 8 – 12.) I’ve been waiting to see this for a while as David Murray is really good at creating Bible reading plans and guides to helping folks understand and apply the big Biblical story. He’s a conservative Reformed pastor and has some popular books on evangelical publishing houses that we carry.
This one is a blast. He writes, on the back cover, that this is a journey through the Bible for kids. He says,
Reading the Bible is like taking a trip through God’s story, setting out to explore and experience the beautiful views found within. But without a map, it’s easy to get lost.
This is less a conventional devotional and more a workbook, with daily reading, questions to ponder, space to journal, a memory verse and a host of other cool stuff amidst some retro-looking, way cool graphics. There is even a page for Sunday where the youngster is invited to write the name of the sermon from church and take notes. Did I say this is kinda serious? But it’s fun, too, with the weirdo design, ironic and hip for cool parents who want their kids to get into this habit of studying the Bible. Check it out.
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