Book Review—Wow! The Good News in Four Words

At its core, the gospel is quite simple. So simple that author Dandi Daley Mackall figured out how to express the good news in just four words.

And then she wrote a picture book about it.

Wow! The Good News in Four Words
written by Dandi Daley Mackall
illustrated by Annabel Tempest
published by Tyndale Kids (2017)
32 pages, 11 x 0.2 x 11 inches, jacketed hardcover

The four words are
Wow,
Uh-oh,
Yes, and
Ahh.

Wow, because God loves us.

Uh-oh, because our sin results in a broken world and separation from God.

Yes, because we can have forgiveness and a new start through Jesus.

Ahh, because saying yes to Jesus gives us eternal life and peace.

And, because as we grow in faith we want to tell others the Good News, that brings us back to Wow.

The text explains each word in 4-5 short rhyming blocks.

The concept is simple, but big! So I like that the size of the book (11 x 11) and the bursting-with-color-and-detail illustrations match the big concept.

I love the diversity of the people in the illustrations as well. Although I would have liked Adam and Eve to be a little less pink, there’s a good variety of skin tones and ages, men and women, boys and girls in the pictures.

A wonderful bonus at the back provides 5-6 Scriptures that explain and amplify the ideas in each part of the book.

All in all, Wow! is a most appropriate title for this gem.

About These Reviews and Recommendations

My career as a children’s book editor, acquisitions editor, and editorial director greatly influences my response to books. I have seen a LOT of manuscripts and books. I have high standards for text, illustration, book design, and the purpose of a book. (This is a nice way of saying I am slightly jaded and quite particular.)

I understand too that parents, grandparents, and others who buy books want and need good value in the books you choose. Your book budget is not unlimited.

I’m not writing these reviews as hype or promotion for fellow author’s books. I do care about helping authors—after all, I am one. I understand the effort authors pour into every book and the hopes they have for each one. The books I recommend, however, I’m choosing because of the merit I see in the book, no other reason.

I want to point you to the best books more than I want to point out books I don’t like, so I won’t be writing negative reviews. If I can’t support a book, I just won’t write about it. At times, however, I may note details or features I would have changed in a book I otherwise recommend. This is to help you make your own decisions about what books are right for your family.

– Diane

Book Review—The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden

The Biggest Story
written by Kevin DeYoung, illustrated by Don Clark
published by Crossway (2015)
jacketed hardcover, 132 pages, 8.8 x 0.8 x 10.8 inches

Children often learn Bible stories without understanding how each story fits into the story of the Bible as a whole.

To address this, Kevin DeYoung wrote The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden.

In ten short chapters, The Biggest Story takes readers through the biblical plot line and also develops two important themes.

First, how the Old Testament connects to Jesus’ life and mission. Second, how Jesus makes it possible for God to live with His people again, as He once did in the garden of Eden and will do again (Revelation 22).

The Snake Crusher is Jesus, of course, and the name comes from Genesis 3:15, where God says,

I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel” (NLT).

Fast-paced storytelling, with touches of humor, will engage upper elementary and middle grade children (and probably their parents too).

Striking illustrations by Don Clark, drenched in color and pattern and sometimes symbolic, invite everyone to linger.

A Note to Parents at the back tells how The Biggest Story came to be written and provides more details about the two themes developed in the book.

One choice of words, repeated several times throughout the book, I would change when reading this book aloud with children. After Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the garden, the author writes that God “kicked Adam and Eve out of the garden Paradise he had made for them.” Kicked them out feels vindictive to me, which God was not, and I think “God sent Adam and Eve out of the garden” would have been a better choice.

The Biggest Story has something to offer every family, whatever your current level of Bible engagement.

Children who already know a lot of Bible stories will recognize them as the narrative unfolds and see how the stories they know fit into the whole. Children not as familiar with the Bible will be introduced to it and, I hope, enticed to learn more.

 

About These Reviews and Recommendations

My career as a children’s book editor, acquisitions editor, and editorial director greatly influences my response to books. I have seen a LOT of manuscripts and books. I have high standards for text, illustration, book design, and the purpose of a book. (This is a nice way of saying I am slightly jaded and quite particular.)

I understand too that parents, grandparents, and others who buy books want and need good value in the books you choose. Your book budget is not unlimited.

I’m not writing these reviews as hype or promotion for fellow author’s books. I do care about helping authors—after all, I am one. I understand the effort authors pour into every book and the hopes they have for each one. The books I recommend, however, I’m choosing because of the merit I see in the book, no other reason.

I want to point you to the best books more than I want to point out books I don’t like, so I won’t be writing negative reviews. If I can’t support a book, I just won’t write about it. At times, however, I may note details or features I would have changed in a book I otherwise recommend. This is to help you make your own decisions about what books are right for your family.

– Diane

Book Review—The Tiny Truths Illustrated Bible

Mom or grandma, Sunday school teacher or children’s ministry leader, I know you care about influencing children and preteens toward faith. Good Christian books can be an invaluable tool.

So to help you find them, I’ve returned to reviewing and recommending books I believe are most worthy of a place on your child’s bookshelf.

In addition, from time to time I’ll also let you know about valuable parenting resources, especially those that can help you point children to Jesus and disciple them as His followers.

If you’re signed up for my author newsletter, Paper Airplane, you’ll receive an email alert whenever a new review is posted (2-3 times per month). I’ll also include links to each month’s reviews when the monthly issue of the newsletter goes out.

If you’re not already a newsletter subscriber, you can sign up here.

To start the new year off right, this month I’m focusing on Bible stories and helping children understand the gospel. This week, it’s The Tiny Truths Illustrated Bible.

Created by Joanna Rivard and Tim Penner
Published by Zonderkidz (February 2019)
224 pages, 7.4 x 0.6 x 8.7 inches, hardcover

I discovered The Tiny Truths Illustrated Bible on a retailer’s bookshelf recently. The bottom shelf, actually. But the cover made me reach out for the book, and the tagline made me open it.

The dark-skinned people on the cover (and throughout the book) aim to bring a sense of realism to these Bible stories, which I am always glad to see rather than representing Bible people as Caucasians.

And the tagline? “The incredible story of who God is, who you are, and who you were meant to be.”

(If you’ve read any of my own books, you know I’m all about reading the Bible to get to know God!)

The Tiny Truths Illustrated Bible is what it says it is.

It presents the story of the Bible as one continuous story told in 15 Old Testament and 18 New Testament stories (they function just like chapters).

It focuses on God’s heart and actions from creation through the exodus, bringing the Israelites into the promised land, warning the kings and people of Israel to remain true to him, and through the captivity in Babylon.

It presents all the people of the world as greatly loved by God, and the purpose for our lives as loving God and everyone else.

It presents Jesus as God’s Son, the special king God had promised to send to teach and heal and show God’s love to everyone, and His death as part of God’s plan to make things right again.

As a whole the book presents an engaging and age-appropriate introduction to the story of God’s love and his redemption plan for ages 3–5. Children 6 or 7 who have learned to read will enjoy how much of the book they can read on their own. Older brothers and sisters may find themselves drawn in to listen too as mom or dad reads the stories aloud to younger siblings.

The story texts read as if the stories are being told aloud, and the illustrations fit and amplify the story details. Children will like them, and despite the cartoon style of the artwork, adults may be drawn into the illustrations too.

The book repeatedly calls all human beings God’s children, a term the New Testament reserves for those who have placed their faith in Jesus. And some parents not familiar with the Bible might have liked Scripture references for the stories if they had been provided.

But The Tiny Truths Illustrated Bible IS a starting place, after all, and I think it’s a good one.

About These Reviews and Recommendations

My career as a children’s book editor, acquisitions editor, and editorial director greatly influences my response to books. I have seen a LOT of manuscripts and books. I have high standards for text, illustration, book design, and the purpose of a book. (This is a nice way of saying I am slightly jaded and quite particular.)

I understand too that parents, grandparents, and others who buy books want and need good value in the books you choose. Your book budget is not unlimited.

I’m not writing these reviews as hype or promotion for fellow author’s books. I do care about helping authors—after all, I am one. I understand the effort authors pour into every book and the hopes they have for each one. The books I recommend, however, I’m choosing because of the merit I see in the book, no other reason.

I want to point you to the best books more than I want to point out books I don’t like, so I won’t be writing negative reviews. If I can’t support a book, I just won’t write about it. At times, however, I may note details or features I would have changed in a book I otherwise recommend. This is to help you make your own decisions about what books are right for your family.

– Diane

Start Here: 5 Reasons to Read the Whole Bible (and 2 Tools to Help You Do It)

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. –Colossians 3:16

When you hear “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,” what comes to mind first? Memorizing Bible verses? Doing a Bible study? Going to a conference, or reading a popular book by a Bible teacher or a pastor?

How about simply reading the Bible? Just reading it.

In January 2000, I responded to an invitation to join a group of women forming to read through the Bible in a year to get to know God and to meet weekly to discuss what we read.

The experienced changed my life, and I’ve been part of many other similar groups since then. All of my children’s books and my two books for women got their start when I experienced reading through the whole Bible with others with the sole purposed of getting to know God better.

Along with so many other women who have participated along with me, I discovered five wonderful reasons to read it.

Reasons to Read It

1. We discovered that God reveals himself through his Word. It’s been said that the Bible is the only book whose Author is right there with you when you read it. Although I have always believed in God, it wasn’t until I began to read the whole Bible that I started to truly get to know Him. And every time we read through, God speaks to our lives at that time, and there is always more to learn.

2. We discovered a sense of sisterhood, a “one-anotherness” as we interacted with the Word and with each other each week.

3. We discovered that we were developing discernment, the ability to evaluate what we hear others say and write about the Bible, about life, about faith.

4. We discovered that we could indeed teach and admonish one another with wisdom—God’s wisdom. As years went on, we could bring in Scripture from other places in the Bible that all had some bearing on the question being discussed–or on the crisis or decision one of us faced. The rustle of Bible pages as women talk about the Word is a very satisfying sound!

5. I’m convinced that one of the most loving things we can do for someone else is invite and encourage her to become a lifelong reader of the Word, and to read it together.

When you start to see connections between the Old and New Testaments, as you discover that the Bible actually tells one big story, and when you find yourself getting to know God more and more through his Word—that’s when it really gets exciting!

Need a Place to Start?

My new devotional, Encountering God’s Heart for You: 365 Devotions from Genesis Through Revelation, can guide you through the Bible from start to finish.

You won’t read every single chapter, but you’ll get the big picture of the Bible’s whole story, a clearer sense of biblical history, and lots of encouragement. The daily devos are short and, as one reviewer said, “simple in approach but not shallow.”

I can’t wait for you to read it and share it with your friends! My publisher, Bethany House, designed this hardcover book with a beautiful pearlized cover. (It would make a lovely gift!)

My earlier book from Bethany House, A Woman’s Guide to Reading the Bible in a Year, contains short background explanations to each week’s reading, plus space to journal and tips for reading through the Bible in a year with a group.

Read through the Bible in a year? Yes, you can do it!

My prayer is that as you read through the Word and encounter God’s heart for you, you’ll also discover and deepen your heart of love for Him.

– Diane

Start Here: How to Ask Questions That Get Kids Talking

Good conversations are like windows; they help us see and be seen.

Children can be fascinating conversationalists, but sometimes we grownups need a little help asking questions that will get kids talking.

Conversations with your child create heart-to-heart connection. You get to learn what your child feels and thinks and what she experiences away from you. Your child gains confidence and develops a deep sense of value when mom and dad want to hear what he has to say.

But we’ve all experienced the “How-was-your-day?” “Fine” syndrome, right?

Why doesn’t our child or grandchild want to tell us more? Here are three possible reasons and their potential solutions.

1. We might be asking the wrong kind of questions.

Questions that can be answered with just one word—yes and no, finenothing, or OK—usually end a conversation before it starts.

Instead, ask open-ended questions that invite children to share, to think, or to problem solve. Open-ended questions usually start with HowTell meWhatWhereWhen, or Why.

When you ask a child an open-ended question, he feels important to you and feels that his response is important to you. He thinks about the question to express his ideas.

In addition, young children need questions that are more specific than general. And give your child your full attention as you speak to him. Put down your phone, get close, look her in the eyes.

“Tell me about the game you played at recess today.”
“What was hard for you today?”
“What are some ways you could be a friend to someone who looks different from you?”

2. We might be asking questions at the wrong times.

Some children are super talkative after school or sports practice. Others need their space and a little quiet time before they’re ready to engage. Know your child, respect how he’s wired, and time your questions accordingly.

3. We might be asking questions about our interests, not our child’s.

It’s right to care about your child’s day at school or the sitter’s and how practices and lessons are going. But asking questions about other areas of life may help you know your child better as you discover new aspects of the remarkable person he is.

Reading books and watching TV shows or movies together offer many opportunities for open-ended questions:
“What do you think is about to happen?”
“Do you think there is another way to ______ ?”
“If you were _____ , what would you do?”

Pay attention to your child’s interests and problems and encourage her with questions:
“Tell me about your drawing.”
“What do you especially like about soccer this year?”
“What do you think might happen if you _____ ?”

It might take some time to learn to use open-ended questions, to time your questions, and to ask about what interests your child.

It might take some time for your child to get used to your new question-asking style and begin to engage with you.

So, be patient. As you build respect for their thoughts and answers, you’ll find your children want to respond!

– Diane

Start Here: How to Pray for Your Grandchildren

This little guy has grown—he started preschool today!

Whenever I start missing my grandchildren, I say a prayer for them.

Each year in early September comes National Grandparents Day, which is also Grandparents’ Day of Prayer, sponsored by the Christian Grandparenting Network and the Legacy Coalition.

Children and grandparents both benefit from spending time together.

A grandparent’s unconditional love and encouragement help buffer a child against the inevitable challenges and disappointments that come with growing up.

And research points to longer life for grandparents who spend time caring for their grandchildren.

But for many of us, distance or circumstances keep us apart from our grandkids.

If this is true for you (or even if your grandkids are close), don’t relinquish your most important role as a grandparent—pray!

Throughout each year, I try to pray often for my grandchildren, something like this:

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for my grandchildren! May they know and walk in your Word, and may it prepare them to choose Jesus early in their lives. May they follow him all the days of their lives.

Give them discernment as they grow, and spare them experimentation that would pull them away from you. Help them stand. But when they do fall, as they will, may they quickly and gladly receive your forgiveness and mercy and go forward again.

May they always shine brightly for you. Give them large, loving hearts. Guide them as they develop and use the abilities and talents you’ve placed in them for the good of the world. May they love your church and learn to use their spiritual gifts for the good of the Body.

Keep them healthy and strong. Protect them every day by your power and by the wisdom of your Word.

Guide their marriage and career decisions. Bless their future spouses.

Bless their parents with your wisdom and mercy too. May they always look to you to know how to live and how to love and raise these precious ones! Amen.

Here’s a basic prayer outline you can make your own:

Pray for protection from physical and emotional harm.

Pray for growth in character, discernment, and knowledge of right and wrong.

Pray for God to guide their dating, marriage, and career decisions. Pray for their future spouses.

Pray for your grandchildren’s parents to look to God to know how to love and raise these precious children for Him.

Pray for your grandchildren to know Jesus as their Savior and to desire to serve Him every day.

Want to know more about Grandparents Day of Prayer? Check out the Christian Grandparenting Network and the Legacy Coalition. Both groups have tons of resources to help you be the best grandparent you can be—this Sunday as you pray, and every day!

– Diane

I AM: The Names of God for Little Ones (June 2018 Giveaway)

Launch day for I AM: The Names of God for Little Ones is getting close—Tuesday, June 26—so it’s time to start celebrating with a giveaway!

I’ll be choosing five different winners at random.

Three will receive a signed copy of the new book.

One will receive a set of all three I AM booksI AM: 40 Reasons to Trust God, the I AM Devotional, and the new book for toddlers and preschoolers.

And one winner will receive a copy of the new book plus this set of 6 laminated placemats made by Shutterfly based on content from book!

My grandsons loved theirs!

To enter, just comment “I’d like to win” below this post between now and Tuesday night. Entries will close at 11:59 EDT Tuesday night, June 26. I’ll announce the winners on Wednesday, June 27, on my Facebook page, Diane Stortz Books. Open to residents of continental US and Canada only.

Thanks for helping me send the newest I AM book out into the world!

– Diane

Introducing a New Book to the “I AM” Series

No toddlers were bribed in the making of this blog post, I promise!

This adorable little guy saw my new book and needed to investigate. He noticed the bright colors and ALL THAT GLITTER on the cover right away.

He’s my youngest grandson, 20 months old, the perfect age to begin teaching little ones some of the names of God found in the Bible.

God’s names tell us who He is and what He does. I chose twelve to focus on in this book for toddlers and preschoolers. A SHORT Bible story, accompanied by a Bible verse and a short prayer, make the meaning of the name known to little ones in an age-appropriate way.

Creator
God All-Powerful
I AM
God Who Saves
The Lord Will Provide
The Lord Who Heals
Son of God
Teacher
Good Shepherd
Savior
Friend
King of Kings

As children discover the meaning of each name, they begin to understand God’s character and His love for them!

The book is an 8×8-inch board book with a padded cover and rounded corners. And glitter on the cover—did I mention All. The. Glitter?!?!

I’ve posted a sampler from the inside of the book along with links for finding local stores and online retailers here. You can download coloring pages based on the book there too!

           
– Diane

Start Here: 5 Fun Ways for Kids to Memorize God’s Word

When my youngest grandboy was 18 months old, he learned to sing “The Wheels on the Bus.” He knew when to chime in with all the sound words—up and down, beep-beep-beep, swish-swish-swish, waah-waah-waah, and shh-shh-shh.

Children, even toddlers like my grandson, have an amazing capacity for learning and for memorizing! Why not use that capacity to make sure that God’s Word gets placed in those little hearts and minds too? Those words “hidden in their hearts” will lodge there for a lifetime.

Here are five ways to make Scripture memory effective and fun (at any age—you might want to try these out yourself). Repetition is key, but it doesn’t have to be boring!

1. Put the words to a beat and chant them together.

Add claps, taps, and foot-stomping if you’d like. Not sure which verses to learn? Check an age-appropriate Bible storybook with verses correlated to each story.

2. Sing the words. Make up your own tunes, or try some of the excellent Scripture songs available from children’s artists.

Try music from Yancy, Steve Green, the Seed Company, Twin Sisters, and Scripture Lullabies (great to play as children drift off to sleep).

My absolute favorite Scripture music for littles, though, has been the CD in the book My Sing-Along Bible by Steve Elkins.

Verses through the Bible are set in short, singable songs in a variety of styles. No one gets bored, and God’s Word gets in!

3. Make reading and repeating the verses aloud together a family activity. (This is one strength of the Charlotte Mason Scripture memory system.)

4. Make verses visible. Post them around the house where children will see them often.

Write a different verse each week on a chalkboard in the kitchen. Let children copy a verse themselves and choose where to post it.

5. Make verses tactile. When he was learning to read, my oldest grandson enjoyed verses I made magnetic for him to assemble and stick on the dishwasher, fridge, or a cookie sheet. Here’s how to do it:

Just print out the words in large type on colored paper with extra spaces between each word. Then back the verse with magnetic strips and cut the words apart.

Printing different verses on different colors helps children sort and assemble the verses too.

Ready to get started? Choose a verse and an activity and begin planting the seed’s of God’s Word in the hearts and minds of your children or grandchildren. The growth those seeds produce will be remarkable!

“From childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:16 ESV).

How do you help your children memorize Scripture?
Leave a comment to share with others.

– Diane

World Read-Aloud Day 2018

Make plans now to be sure to read aloud to your child or grandchild tomorrow! February 1 is World Read-Aloud Day, a day to enjoy reading aloud with children and to develop awareness of literacy needs around the world.

Did you know, for example, that

o A child born to a mother who can read is 50% more likely to survive past the age of five than a child born to an illiterate woman. (UNESCO)

o According to the latest report (2016), 758 million adults – two thirds of them women – lack basic reading and writing skills. (UNESCO)

o Poorly literate individuals are less likely to participate in democratic processes and have fewer chances to fully exercise their civil rights. (UNESCO)

o Reading aloud to children every day puts them almost a year ahead of children who do not receive daily read-aloud time, regardless of parental income, education, or cultural background. (Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research)

One of my favorite stories of reading aloud is found in the Book of Nehemiah, in the Bible. The Jewish people had been exiled in Babylon for 70 years. They rebuilt the temple when they were allowed to return to their own land, but the walls of Jerusalem remained in ruins. Then Nehemiah came on the scene. He made a plan and organized the workers, and despite opposition and harassment from enemies of the Jews, the wall was completely reconstructed in just 52 days.

Then the people gathered inside the walls and asked Ezra the priest to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, “which the Lord had given for Israel to obey.”

“So on October 8 Ezra the priest brought the Book of the Law before the assembly, which included the men and women and all the children old enough to understand. He faced the square just inside the Water Gate from early morning until noon and read aloud to everyone who could understand. All the people listened closely to the Book of the Law. … When they saw him open the book, they all rose to their feet.

“Then Ezra praised the Lord, the great God, and all the people chanted, “Amen! Amen!” as they lifted their hands. Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.

“The Levites … then instructed the people in the Law while everyone remained in their places. They read from the Book of the Law of God and clearly explained the meaning of what was being read, helping the people understand each passage. …

With understanding came weeping. But Nehemiah and Ezra and the Levites comforted the people and encouraged them to be joyful instead.

“So the people went away to eat and drink at a festive meal, to share gifts of food, and to celebrate with great joy because they had heard God’s words and understood them.” (Nehemiah 8)

Reading aloud to children benefits them in so many ways, as I often share about on my Facebook page DianeStortzBooks. Teaching them to love books and reading is one of those, and that just might be part of the key that unlocks a lifelong love of reading and understanding God’s Word.

So find a child, find a book, and get ready to read aloud. Tomorrow is World Read-Aloud Day!

World Read-Aloud Day is a project of LitWorld, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization founded by literacy expert Pam Allyn in 2007. LitWorld works with a broad coalition of national and international partners to ensure that young people worldwide can experience the joy and transformation of reading, writing, and storytelling.

– Diane

Freebie

You CAN Read the Bible in a Year … Here’s How!