After Christmas Giveaway Winners!

Congratulations to Charlene Sydnor, Christine Smyth, and Rita Antoinette Borg–the 1-2-3 winners in my After Christmas Giveaway!

I’ll be contacting each of you in order by e-mail so you can choose the book you’d like to receive and provide your mailing address. You’ll also receive a copy of my newest book, The Sweetest Story Bible for Toddlers.

Thanks and blessings to everyone who participated in the giveaway. There’s much more fun and celebration coming in 2015, and I want to stay connected with you. Please use the Follow Me! buttons and sign up for my newsletter so you won’t miss a thing!

– Diane

For Children’s Book Lovers, an After Christmas Giveaway!

large-whatever        MyFriendJesus       HeroDad      SparkleEgg

All through 2014 I’ve enjoyed buying a book a month to support retailers and fellow authors and recommending them to you. Now I’d like to give some of those books to you in my after Christmas giveaway! (They are all available except the book for June–because I gave the CD that comes with that one to my grandson . . .)

I’ll choose three winners to receive (in first-, second-, and third-place order) their choice of the books I spotlighted each month.

SweetestToddlerPlus, each winner will receive a copy of my newest book, The Sweetest Story Bible for Toddlers!

To enter the giveaway, you need to be signed up for my newsletter. (I send it out just a few times a year.) To get signed up, use the box at the left. If you already receive my newsletter, just tell me “I’m a subscriber” in a comment below.

The giveaway starts December 26 and ends December 31 at midnight EST. I’ll announce the winners January 2.

If you want to learn more about the books, clicking on a cover will take you to the post about that book. Best of luck as we keep the spirit of Christmas 2014 going to the end of the year with this after Christmas giveaway!

Horse-Dreams       LittlePeople       Rufus       Fall LoveLetters      SuchATime       52Scriptures-300x405       ChristmasJourney-300x366
– Diane

When Christmas Changes, Remember This

three photosWill you be far away from family this Christmas? Has life changed for you this year, and have those circumstances altered Christmas too?

I’ve lived most of my adult life far from my parents and siblings, and we’ve almost never been together at Christmas. When my daughters were 6 and 2 (quite some time ago!), I wrote an article for The Lookout magazine titled “What to Do When You Can’t Go Home for Christmas.”

Since I graduated from college and came to Cincinnati 12 years ago, I have spent only three Christmases with my parents and brother and sister. (I confess, one year I stayed in town to spend part of the holiday with the man I later married.) The cost for our family of four to fly to California every year is prohibitive,and my parents prefer not to visit the Midwest in winter. Not often being about to go “home for Christmas” remains a peculiar heartache. …

You are likely to find yourself in my situation at least once in your life. Death, divorce, illness, finances, work, weather, car that break down–any of these can keep the traditional American family Christmas from happening.

There have been lonely moments during my Christmases away from home, but none of those has been miserable. Maybe some of the coping skills I’ve discovered will help you this year, or any year, if you won’t be going home for Christmas.

Our little family made our own traditions and celebrated joyful Christmases. And Cincinnati, not California, has felt like home for years now. But I thought of that article recently as I reflected on what’s different about Christmas this year.

We’re waiting for grandson number 4 to appear, for one thing, and his parents and siblings are staying close to home until he does. We won’t have everyone under one roof on Christmas Eve. Our in-town grandson and his parents will come on Christmas Day, and then they’ll be out of town until the new year has begun.

It’s all fine, really–it’s just different!

The last heading in my Lookout article was “Try to Be Flexible.” I had realized that from year to year, not one of my adult Christmases had been the same. I’d spent Christmas with friends in Virginia, in my own apartment, as a newlywed (we were married on December 13), at Sea World in San Diego, and at home in Cincinnati with a new baby girl.

Four days before Christmas, Ed and I returned from our wedding trip to an apartment stacked with boxes. We bought the smallest tree we could find, chopped off the top half, and stuck it in a clay flower pot. It was Christmas. …

We have decorated the house and put up our tree right after Thanksgiving, in order to host a Sunday school class party, and we have put up a small live tree just before Christmas and moved it back into the garage immediately after. Last year, when Bethany was a toddler, the tree was in the playpen for safekeeping.

Some years we’ve sent Christmas cards, some years we haven’t. Some years there’s been a reasonable amount of money for gifts, some years we’ve made do with less. We’ve gone to late-night Christmas Eve services and to early family services. Last year Christmas came on a Sunday, in the midst of a stretch of below-freezing temperatures. We decided to spend Christmas Eve at home, to have a short family service, open our gifts, and tuck our girls into be at the usual time.

Flexibility is freeing. The years I haven’t gone home for Christmas have taught me this: Christmas is not primarily an observance of family warmth and togetherness, though every form of media–and many Christians–treat it that way.

No, Christmas is the heart’s celebration of the birth of the Savior King. Christmas is the moment when, like Mary, I listen to the shepherds report the angel’s good tidings of great joy, and I “ponder all these things” in my heart–wherever I am and whomever I am with.

And I remember that Mary and Joseph were a long way from home on that first Christmas Day.

And Jesus, my Redeemer, the King of kings wrapped in swaddling clothes–was a long way from his home too.


– Diane

The Book I Bought for December: A Christmas Journey

ChristmasJourneyThis wonderful retelling of the Christmas story, written and illustrated by Susie Poole, starts at creation and ends in Nazareth after Herod has died and Mary, Joseph, and Jesus can safely return from Egypt.

Yes … it’s quite a journey!

This 40-page picture book (B&H Kids) puts the Christmas story into context for kids and families–Jesus is God’s gift, planned long before He was sent, to bring God’s light back into the world after Adam and Eve’s sin snuffed it out.

The language and illustrations are kid friendly. The story moves easily. Readers are introduced to Adam and Eve, the snake in the garden, the prophet Isaiah, God’s angel messengers, Zechariah and Elizabeth, baby John, Mary and Joseph, the Bethlehem shepherds, Simeon, King Herod, and wise men from the East.

One thing I especially like is that the text layout never overpowers the pages of the book.  Parent Connection questions at the back will help families talk about the story. There’s a simple glossary of important words and places too.

Whether you read through the book in one sitting or just a few pages a day leading up to Christmas, I know your family will enjoy this journey, year after year. Merry Christmas!


All through 2014 I’ve enjoyed buying a book a month to support retailers and fellow authors and recommending them to you! Read about the books I bought for January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, and November.


– Diane

The Book I Bought for November: I Can Learn the Bible

52ScripturesThe subtitle clinched it: 52 Scriptures Every Kid Should Know. I want kids to know God’s Word! So a book to help with that and with such a great contemporary look–this one had to be my choice for November.

One thing I really like about this book is that it’s a guide for parents. If you’re not sure how to go about helping your children understand or memorize Scripture, this book can help you learn how.

From the introduction:

This book is designed for parents and children to read together. Questions and fill-in-the-blank statements throughout the text will help prompt discussion. Each week’s devotion has a key verse to meditate on and commit to memory.

At the back of the book is a list of 12 different ways to memorize Scripture.

Author Holly Hawkins Shivers created the book as a adaptation of her father’s book The Joshua Code: 52 Scripture Verses Every Believer Should Know. The Bible verses in each book are the same. There’s quite a variety, and not every passage will be right for every child at a particular time. Some parental discernment is needed–does your child need to learn more about God’s love, presence, and provision, or is he ready to begin to consider choosing to follow Jesus as Savior?

But because there’s variety and because the devotional and discussion aspects are so strong, this is still a wonderful book to add to your family’s library and to use to focus on God’s Word throughout the week, all year long!

As the back cover says so well:

As parents, we want our children to learn about the Lord and know His Word. What a joy it is to watch them begin to understand God’s Word, speak it from memory, and be transformed as it becomes a part of them! It’s our job to equip them for life, to prepare them for whatever lies ahead. The words of God’s truth they hide in their hearts will be with them forever–a source of guidance, comfort, and spiritual nourishment no matter where they go.

(And yes, many of the winsome animal characters in the illustrations are rabbits–and I love rabbits!)

Read about the books I bought for January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, and October.

– Diane

The Book I Bought for October: For Such a Time as This


The title of this just-released book for girls, of course, comes from the book of Esther. A Jewish girl turned queen of Persia is asked by her uncle Mordecai, “And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

Esther’s actions impacted not just the Persian kingdom but the kingdom of God, saving the Jews from extinction. Author Angie Smith wants today’s girls to know that they too have a purpose and calling in God’s kingdom—and that the stories in Scripture show us this is true.

Although told from a narrator’s point of view instead of more directly through the eyes of the women in the stories, readers still experience the forty stories in the book, for the most part, as the stories of the women who lived them.

Some stories, such as the story of Mary and Martha, are traditionally told this way. But others—such as the story of Jacob—often are not.

One thing I like about the storytelling in this book is that the author never downplays the significance of the men in the stories as she explores and shines a light on the experiences of the women in the same stories.

Take, for example, the story of Jacob and his wives, Rachel and Leah.

In “The Veil: The Story of Rebekah, Rachel, and Leah,” Leah knows that Jacob favors Rachel and tries to win his love by giving him sons. But when Leah’s fourth son was born, she named him Judah, which means “This time I will praise the Lord.”

She had no idea that her praise was offered to the same Lord who would, many years later, come to earth as a baby from the same family of Judah.

As she rocked her song into the midnight hours, she may have wondered if she would ever be chosen.

But as sure as the start lit the sky, God knew the answer:

You already have been, Love.

But all of the women in these stories aren’t rocking babies! Some, like Jael, are pounding tent pegs through an enemy’s skull. Others, like Delilah, are scheming and deceiving for pay. Yet every story is told with carefully chosen words, appropriate for the book’s audience (probably the 6-10 or 8-12 age groups), and the significance of the event and its part in God’s plan are always communicated.

The forty stories in the book begin with Eve in the garden and end with Priscilla working and teaching in the fledgling church. Each story ends with a devotional in three sections—He, Me, She—that provides a reminder about God’s goodness, an application takeaway for girls, and a prayer parents can offer for their daughters. There’s a Hebrew or Greek word to learn and a memory verse with each story too.

The book is highly illustrated by Breezy Brookshire in a traditional style in both color and black and white. Parents will appreciate the B&H Kids Parent Connection page, and parents and girls will enjoy the extras at the back of the book: “A Peek Behind the Scenes” by Angie and “From Concept to Illustration” by Breezy.

This beautiful storybook is well worth adding to your family’s collection if you’ve got girls!

– Diane

The Book I Bought for September: Love Letters from God

Children love to receive mail. So why not a book filled with “mail” just for them–from God?

First, I have to say that I really did buy this book. I also received a review copy from the publisher. So we’re going to have a giveaway! More about that at the end of the post.

I first saw this book at the International Christian Retail Show in June. Well, I saw proofs. And from then on I was looking forward to seeing the actual book. And the actual book does not disappoint. It’s beautifully designed and illustrated, with spot varnish on the dust jacket and the interior that makes the colors pop. The book has 40 pages rather than the customary 32 for a picture book, and the paper stock is almost greeting-card weight. Lift-the-flap “love letters” provide even more bulk. The book is a delight to hold and read.

Author Glenys Nellist is an accomplished storyteller who infused the 9 Old Testament and 9 New Testament stories in her book with wit and fun and occasional rhyme:

He made mighty mountains and silver seas. He made green grass and tall trees. He made leopards that leap and eagles that soar. He made bees that buzz and lions that roar.

* * *

Now David and Goliath were very different. David was small; Goliath was huge. David was quiet; Goliath was noisy. David was kind; Goliath was mean. David sang like a bird; Goliath roared like a lion. David ate porridge for breakfast; Goliath ate squirrels.

Children will enjoy lifting the flaps to open “Your Love Letter from God” with every story, and parents will appreciate how each letter expands the message of the Bible story, reminding children of God’s ever-present love and care and concern for them. The Bible verse with each story, “God’s Wonderful Words to You,” does the same.

It’s often necessary to leave out details of some Bible stories when telling them to young children, but some of the stories in Love Letters from God add or change details more than I’m comfortable with. Still, the message of God’s love for us comes through so clearly and strong that I’m happy to recommend this book.

Now for the giveaway! It starts Monday September 22 at 6 a.m. and runs until midnight September 29. Entering is easy; just use the form below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Throughout 2014 I’m buying a book a month to support retailers and other authors.

Read about the books I bought for January, February, March, April, May, June, July, and August.

– Diane

The Book I Bought for August: The Fantastic Gifts of Fall

Here in Cincinnati where I live, summer weather (read that “hot and sticky”) didn’t truly arrive until last week … just as many children were starting back to school.

Generally speaking, I love fall. But fall means winter’s coming … and I don’t love winter. So I’d rather keep summer going for as long as I can. But finding this new picture book by Dandi Daley Mackall, published by B&H Kids, did help me anticipate fall a wee bit more.

And it’s a wonderful book for celebrating God’s gift of the fall season with your children. The brief rhyming text moves quickly and features a repeated refrain in the last line on each two-page spread.

Geese fly in a crooked V,
Ducks quack-quacking merrily.
You made everything I see.
Thank You, God, for autumn.
Even if your area of the country doesn’t experience trees changing color or piles of fallen leaves, children will enjoy seeing fall a different way in charming illustrations by Katherine Blackmore.
The book includes a Thanksgiving Day emphasis too:
Finally, it’s Thanksgiving Day!
Family come from miles away.
Don’t eat yet–it’s time to pray.
Thank You, God, for autumn.

At the back of the book, Parent Connection pages provide ideas, questions, and activities for expanding the give-God-thanks emphasis of the book. And related Bible verses throughout the book give families more to explore together.

Throughout 2014 I’m buying a book a month to support retailers and other authors.
Read about the books I bought for January, February, March, April, May, June, and July.


– Diane

The Book I Bought for July: Rufus and Ryan Say Their Prayers

With two little grandsons toddling around my house a lot earlier this month, I’ve been thinking about the books they like and the importance of enjoyable books that reinforce values and activities we want our children or grandchildren to learn and do.

So when I went looking for a book to buy for July, I zeroed in pretty quickly on Rufus and Ryan Say Their Prayers by Kathleen Long Bostrom, illustrated by Rebecca Thornburgh.

The colorful 20-page board book is part of a new series published by CandyCane Press, an imprint of Ideals Publications. Other books in the series are Rufus and Ryan Go to Church, Rufus and Ryan Give Thanks, and Rufus and Ryan Celebrate Easter.

Kathleen is the author of the popular Little Blessings series, published by Tyndale, which covers a lot of basic theological ground while charming preschoolers and their parents with adorable illustrations.

Ryan and his stuffed-animal friend Rufus go everywhere together. Their stories reflect simple and familiar activities many preschoolers know well–going to church, finding things to be thankful for on a rainy day, celebrating holidays, and saying bedtime prayers.

“Rufus, it’s time for bed!” says Ryan.
Daddy carries Ryan upstairs.
Ryan carries Rufus.

Teeth are brushed.
Pajamas come on.

“Let’s say our prayers,” says Ryan.
“What should we tell God?”
Ryan bows his head and closes his eyes.
“You, too, Rufus–no peeking!”

Ryan begins:
“Hi, God! It’s me, Ryan.
Did you have a good day?
I sure did!”

I like this series because it understands a child’s world and perspective and helps families underscore the importance of faith-building activities without getting preachy. I do wish Rufus and Ryan Go to Church included going to a Sunday school class, not just a worship service, since in many congregations preschoolers don’t attend the adult worship time. But I like the community of Sunday-go-to-church time that the book captures!

Throughout 2014 I’m buying a book a month to support retailers and other authors.
Read about the books I bought for January, February, March, April, May, and June.


– Diane


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