In the BookNotes that went out just yesterday, I listed some children’s books that are about Lent and Easter. It was a good list, some older, some newer. I forgot to list one that I really, really wanted to tell you about so thought I’d do another quick listing, another BookNotes recommending books for kids. These would make great Easter gifts as almost all are, in one way or another, about faith in the resurrected power of Christ. The first one is about Easter, but all the others are very special, too.
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The King of Easter: Jesus Searches for All God’s Children Todd Hains, illustrated by Natasha Kennedy (Lexham Press) $17.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $14.39
This is a splendid children’s book explaining the story of Christ’s life, passion and death and resurrection. It is illustrated so well by Kennedy and, in a great move, Jesus looks nearly black. Better than the goof-ball European ones we more commonly see. Hooray.
As it says in the promo material: “Whether friends or enemies — if they are lost, Jesus came to seek and save them. At every step, he brings his new friends to join the search.” It ends, by the way, with the conversion of Paul who carries on the mission. It’s very thorough and great for family use.
This is part of the developing “FatCat” series, where a chubby feline helps with the story. Silly as that sounds, it is serious and thoughtful. The first in that series (see below) was the stellar one The Apostles’ Creed by Ben Myers, after his fabulous, small adult hardback.
The Apostles’ Creed: For All God’s Children Ben Byers, illustrated by Natasha Kennedy (Lexham Press) $17.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $14.39
This was the first in the FatCat line (the second being The King of Christmas: All God’s Children Search for Jesus.) I hope there will be more. This one is fun and accessible as it invites children to visualize, memorize, understand and confess this important, ancient, unifying creed. After every line from the creed there is a simple reflection for young readers and families “to tuck into their hearts.” There is a list of Scriptures for further learning and a family prayer.
Who Is Jesus? 40 Pictures to Share with Your Family Kate Hox, illustrated by Joe Hot (New Growth Press) $19.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $15.99
I’ve been waiting for months to tell you about this stunning, provocative, interesting, clarifying book which is good for little kids or older ones, for that matter. As one professor from Westminster Theological Seminary puts it, “Kate and Joe Hox have produced a captivating and colorful mini-biblical theology.” The authors are graduates of Dordt College in Iowa.
It offers the gospel throughout Scripture, the gospel for all of life, by showing a picture (a symbol, an illustration, almost like a logo, not a full painting.) This whole Bible full of word pictures helps us come to know and love Jesus.
In Who Is Jesus? the husband and wife team combine illustrations and deep thoughts to teach simply about who Jesus is, what He did, what His Kingdom is about, the nature of the gospel. It offers a great Biblical overview and is what graphic novelist John Hendrix calls “a gorgeous delight.” Every family with kids should have this on hand. Ideal for ages 5 -10 or so, I’d say 4 – 12. Yes, it is great for Lent and Holy Week, but useful all year long.
The Really Radical Book of Kids: More Truth. More Fun Champ Thornton, designed and illustrated by Scot McDonald (New Growth Press) $29.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $23.99
I hope you remember the game-changing extraordinary 2019 book The Radical Book for Kids which taught clear and relevant evangelical theology to middle-grade elementary kids with such robust gusto and strikingly vivid imagery that it was a book to share even with older ones. It was a blast to look at, a sincere bit of disciple-making to mentor kids into this vision of living for Christ.
Thornton is an acquisitions editor at Crossway Books and has done a number of gospel-based books for kids and families. This brand new sequel to The Radical Book, happily called The Really Radical Book has more imaginative plans to teach God’s Word. There are unusual foods to make, secret codes to break, fun crafts to try, and strange planes to fly. As it continues on the back cover, “You’ll also encounter exciting ways to read the Bible, factual reasons to believe, stunning truths about God, and incredible examples of “radical” men and women who trusted Jesus in challenging times.
We are really fond of this, even if they don’t run with the “radical” word in ways you might expect. That is, there is nothing about Dorothy Day or MLK or St, Francis, even; that is, it isn’t as radical as it claims to be. There is a great piece on Lemuel Haynes though, which is cool. Importantly, Scot McDonald is a whimsical and fun (and award winning) graphic designer whose wife is a children’s librarian. He knows his stuff. If kids really get this, maybe it will be subversive after all.
God’s Beloved Community Michelle Sanchez, illustrated by Camila Carrossine (Waterbrook) $12.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $10.39
I’m telling you, there is a lot packed into this succinct children’s book — one the adults sharing it with them will be challenged by, no doubt.
Michelle Sanchez is the exceptionally talented and visionary black woman who wrote Color-Courageous Discipleship for adults (as well as the adapted teen version, Color Courageous Discipleship Student Edition.) Here she offers for little kids, in lilting, rhyming text, a visionary invitation to build what Martin Luther King famously called the “beloved community” God calls us, she insists, from being “color blind to being color brave.” We can proclaim God’s own truth that all people are precious. God did, after all, create a world filled with vibrant variety and called it good! Hooray. As she puts it, “from flamingos and crows to shooting stars and rainbows, to all our different shades of hair, eyes, and skin, God declared it all very good.”
Ms Sanchez is the senior discipleship and evangelism leader of the Evangelical Covenant Church (with a degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a certificate in spiritual direction from Boston College.) Visual artist Camila Carrossine lives in Sao Paulo, Brazil and is a talented visual storyteller.
All Will Be Well: Learning to Trust God’s Love Lacy Finn Borgo, illustrated by Rebecca Evans (IVP Kids) $18.00 OUR SALE PRICE = $14.40
I hope you know Lacy Finn Borgo who wrote the thrilling and deeply spiritual volume Spiritual Conversations with Children: Listening to God Together and the forthcoming — due in early May! — Faith Like a Child: Embracing Our Lives as Children of God. She is an expert curriculum writer and has done this lovely kids book drawing, of course, on the lines from St Julian of Norwich. There is a sick grandma, a worried child, the gift of a hazelnut (of course — Borgo obviously knows her Julian) and a new sense of knowing God’s love.
There is a nice note from the author to adults in the back about helping children process grief, teaching them simple spiritual practices (like breath prayer) and how to lean into the famous promise of Julian — all shall be well. Very impressive.
Sparrow’s Prayer Roger Hutchison, illustrated by Ag Jatkowska (Beaming Books) $17.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $14.39
This cute children’s book is powerful for its earnest and profound claim that “each life is a prayer.” Sparrow wakes up each morning ready to sing a prayer of thanksgiving. As it says on the back, “Not today. Today his words get tangled and knotted in his beak like old yarn and straw. When he asks his friends how they pray, he discovers he may not need any words at all.” Wow.
The animals in this busy book each offer a certain insight about praying — from singing to dancing to being silent. Hutchison gets this — he has written other books about more reflective and contemplative prayer (and a marvelous book about using the arts in processing grief called My Favorite Color Is Blue and The Painting Table.)
The little Sparrow raises his wings at the end in praise as the text gives us Psalm 139. There’s an afterword, too, with some questions and things to ponder and to try. Sweet.
When I Talk to God, I Talk About You Chrissy Metz & Bradley Collins, illustrated by Lisa Fields (Flamingo Books) $18.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $15.19
We’re delighted that Chrissy Metz, the famous This Is Us star, has gotten some good buzz about her new book. We admire her very much and celebrate this book done by her and her partner — a leader in artist advocacy in Nashville. The book is colorful and evocative and sweet as it reminds children that their parents pray for them. What a true, true book, eh?
With large pictures of animals (babies and parents) the gentle rhymes honor the various fears and concerns of children, but reminds all that “When I talk to God, I talk about you.” And then, the big ending — “Did you know you can talk to God, too?” Hooray for this.
The Biggest Story Bible Storybook Kevin DeYoung, illustrated by Don Clark (Crossway) $29.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $23.99
I’ve highlighted this before and it stands out as one of the most colorful and well-crafted children’s storybook Bibles we know. We have a handful of favorites re-tellings — Libby Caldwell & Carol Wehrheim’s Growing in God’s Love: A Story Bible, Desmond Tutu’s Children of God Storybook Bible, The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name (by Sally Lloyd Jones), and The Lion Bible for Children, among others.
This one is bright, very modern looking, well-designed, visually captivating. The story telling itself has something that is persuasive — it seems to get the big narrative, the grand plot of the big picture. It was inspired by a shorter (and equally vivid) book by DeYoung and Clark called The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden, which I am fond of. This bigger one is spectacular.
The Ology: Ancient Truths Ever New Marty Machowski, illustrated by Andy McGuire (New Growth Press) $29.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $23.99
This is a hefty book, not as small or thin as many, and made with hefty paper, so it’s weighty and a keeper. The art is fairly conventional — very well done and appealing, if traditional in pastel wooden pencils, perhaps. There are flowers and butterflies and close up pictures of children studying, handsome drawings of ancient scrolls and crowns and trumpets, with some whimsical scenes, too — a squid holding a pencil.
This is essentially a theology for kids. It is about God and God’s redemptive story. It is honest about goodness, about sin, about redemption, about discipleship, about hope and glory. As they say on the back it offers “Deep Truth, Simply Told.”
No theology book (for adults, or the rare ones for kids) is complete and there are themes and notions that are left unexplored. But for the simple truth of the basic stuff of Christian conviction, this is a good start. I would suggest it for families of younger children, even though it is content-rich. Maybe ages 7 – 11.
See also their tremendously lovely, thick study of some of the Psalms called Wonderfull: Ancient Psalms Ever New (New Growth Press) $29.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $23.99
This one has a small plot as a boy named Oliver reads the Psalms and learns to use them in prayer with his aging grandfather. As Oliver and his grandfather read through the Psalms together, they learn about God’s love and pray for each other as the seasons change. Even when the leaves fall and Oliver’s grandfather grows weaker, the Psalms strengthen them both to put their trust in God” Whew. Wonder-full.
Discipleship for Kids: Helping Children Grow in Christ Rebecca Ruybalid Stone (NavPress) $9.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $7.99
I love this publisher but the cover is a bit of mystery. The subtitle on the top says “Helping Children Grow in Christ” which implies it is for parents or adult church leaders who are teaching children. The cover implies it’s for littler kids with the goofball art. The advance info says it is on a 3rd grade reading level, but it seems to me the good writing style, though, is for YA audiences, which is to say middle, school, maybe, or junior high, even? It’s brand new — wanna be the first to give this a try?
It looks really good, gracious and open-minded even as it invites youth to grow in a multidimensional and balanced way. The wheel on the cover shows up throughout the book as we circle around learning to pray and love, love and walk, walk and tell others, rooted in a love for God and the Bible and a clarity about Christ’s grace, among his community. The wheel is a teaching tool used by the Navigator’s disciple-making ministry all over the world, actually. It’s all very clearheaded and optimistic, if a bit truncated — it doesn’t cover all we do as followers of Jesus but it’s certainly some of the basics. We can do this. Let’s do this!
It does have a bit of Q + A throughout, short bits that imply some engagement from the reader; not homework, really, but some intentionality. Maybe that’s the point of the subtitle on cover — an adult may need to work through this with their child. Know anybody that needs a tool like this, one piece of the puzzle of whole-life formation?
Everything Sad Is Untrue (A True Story) Daniel Nayeri (Levine Querido) $17.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $14.39
In our years of bookselling there have been a handful of YA books that have such power — a magical story well-written with a profound moral center — that they become popular among children, parents, teens, older readers. You know the list of the truly great ones, the enduring books of the last 50 years. This, my friends, is doubtlessly one of them. We haven’t had such a buzz on a novel, let alone a youth novel, since, uh, maybe the hall icon days of Harry Potter. This one is a masterpiece.
I’ve written before about having met Daniel a few times and our respect for his work as writer, thinker, a person of serious faith, and publishing leader. (He works professionally in the children’s book world.) His mother escaped house church persecution in Iran decades ago and she, along with Daniel and his sister — who wrote remarkably about her experience in the excellent memoir, The Ungrateful Refugee — landed, finally, in the US. This colorfully written children’s tale is, in a sense, his story, told with spiraling and interconnected pieces that recalls great Persian storytelling — some reviewers have linked it to classics like 1001 Arabian Nights.
Here is how the publisher has introduced it:
At the front of a middle school classroom in Oklahoma, a boy named Khosrou (whom everyone calls “Daniel”) stands, trying to tell a story. His story. But no one believes a word he says. To them he is a dark-skinned, hairy-armed boy with a big butt whose lunch smells funny; who makes things up and talks about poop too much. But Khosrou’s stories, stretching back years, and decades, and centuries, are beautiful, and terrifying, from the moment his family fled Iran in the middle of the night with the secret police moments behind them, back to the sad, cement refugee camps of Italy and further back to the fields near the river Aras, where rain-soaked flowers bled red like the yolk of sunset burst over everything, and further back still to the Jasmine-scented city of Isfahan. We bounce between a school bus of kids armed with paper clip missiles and spitballs to the heroines and heroes of Khosrou’s family’s past, who ate pastries that made people weep and cry “Akh, Tamar!” and touched carpets woven with precious gems. Like Scheherazade in a hostile classroom, Daniel weaves a tale to save his own life: to stake his claim to the truth. And it is (a true story.)
I have told you about this before and have cited some of the prestigious endorsements it has received. I’ve exclaimed how much, especially, Beth liked it. I’ll just say this more — a friend (who reads a lot) recently finished it and said he was so moved he wonders if he will be able to read another book any time soon. Whew!
The Many Assassinations of Samir, the Seller of Dreams Daniel Nayeri (Levine Querido) $21.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $17.59
Okay, this is the new one, Daniel’s follow up to his last bestseller, Everything Sad Is Untrue which the New York Times called “A modern masterpiece — as epic as the Iliad and Shahnameh, and as heartwarming as Charlotte’s Web.”
A week or so ago I posted at our Hearts & Minds Facebook page a free sample look at the first chapter of this new, sprawling tale, and then shared a link to the exquisite New York Times review of it. It isn’t every youth novel that gets taken this seriously and, fun as it is, one has a sense that it is also important. It is, at least, a story about stories, a reminder of the power of words, a look at the teller of tales.
Here is how the publisher indices us with a hint of the setting:
A mesmerizing adventure set along the enchanting silk road, where caravans of merchants carried spices, perfumes, furs, and in the case of one swindler named Samir, nothing but dreams.
A swindler carrying nothing but dreams. Who by the way, now calls himself Monkey. Oh my.
There are some classy, pastel art works to illustrate The Many Assassinations of Samir, the Seller of Dreams. There is adventure galore and wild characters, including, a band of troublesome figures that were hired by the villagers, including, “a Viking berserker, a Rogue legion, a Persian mystic, a Bedouin clan, a Mongolian gunner, a Chinese abolitionist, and, if that wasn’t enough, the most terrifying killer of all, a mythic figure only known as Cid.”
Is this an epic tapestry or a buddy comedy? It is said to be “a heartfelt tale of what makes a family, the expansive nature of love, and the precise market value of a good story.” Ha.
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