Closing the Door

Ecclesiastes 3 is clear: there are times for both beginnings and endings. My career in Christian publishing began more than 50 years ago, and I’ve been wondering for a while if I should continue or close the door.

I’ve gone back and forth about it in my heart and with the Lord, and in the past couple months the answer came, and with it, peace.

Author Ann Spangler wrote recently about her own need to put her Substack, Surfing the Culture, on hiatus. She said:

“I’m … old enough to realize I have less stamina than previously. Things have shifted. These days I find myself longing for a little more white space—what publishers call the blank space on a page that makes for easier reading.

“I long for more hours in which to be less productive and more reflective. I would also love more space to simply be available for those who need me, like family members and friends.”

Ann expressed exactly how I feel.

I’m grateful for all I’ve experienced as an editor and author through the years. I’m especially grateful for everyone I’ve learned from and everyone who’s helped promote my books in any way at all. I appreciate you!

A special thank-you to all who’ve sent me photos of your children or grandchildren with one of my books. I cherish each of those pics!

My prayer for all of you is that you will remain faithful to the Lord and continue teaching the children in your life about God’s wonders and His unswerving love for them.

– Diane

Your Armor Is Ready

I have a bookmark designed by a friend that says, “Your armor is ready. Put it on.

You wouldn’t go deep-sea diving or mountain climbing without the right equipment. And you wouldn’t simply carry your gear, you’d wear it, right? You’d know when and how to use it correctly too.

“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11).

Paul uses the image of a Roman soldier’s armor—belt, breastplate, shoes, shield, helmet, and sword—to represent the gear God has given us for our protection in this world: knowledge of truth, right standing with Him, the peace of the gospel, faith, salvation, and the Word of God.

And like the Roman soldier, we’re expected to wear our armor every day and use it in our daily battles.

What battles? “We are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against might powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

Peter describes Satan as a roaring lion, prowling around, searching for someone to devour. Sometimes Satan tries to knock us a little lower when we’re already down, and other times, it seems to me, he comes after us with even more force when we’re standing strong.

Satan wants to keep the gospel from spreading, and he wants to tear down our faith. He’s already been defeated, of course, but he’s still fighting.

So put that armor on—and use it!

Post adapted from Encountering God’s Heart for You by Diane Stortz
Illustration credit: David Padfield/
– Diane

Book Review—The Girl With 5 Hearts

The Girl With 5 Hearts, written and illustrated by Chastidy and Matthew Ronan (OeO Books).

When Chastidy Ronan worked as a nanny, she made up a story to tell her young charge. She and her husband, Matthew, talked about turning the story into a picture book, and Matthew even began some pencil sketches of possible illustrations.

Now, several years after Chastidy’s death from colon cancer, Matthew has completed their dream of creating a book about The Girl With 5 Hearts.

It’s a picture book parable with a universal message, reminiscent in tone to I’ll Love You Forever by Robert Munsch. A girl with five hearts gives them one by one to people and causes she loves, only to have her heart rejected and broken.

The story is painfully honest yet hopeful, because in the end the girl gives her hearts back to the One who made them and she is fully restored.

No stranger to heartbreak and loss, Chastidy took her inspiration for her story from her own life. The Girl With 5 Hearts will inspire both young and old and point toward healing even the deepest of wounds.

– Diane

Book Review—The Things God Made

Children curious about world who love learning (that’s all of them, really) will love this stunning new picture book. The title and subtitle describe it well—The Things God Made: Explore God’s Creation through the Bible, Science, and Art.

That’s exactly what author and illustration Andy McGuire invites readers to do with his unique presentation of the creation story.

He combines the biblical account in Genesis 1, noteworthy science facts kids will enjoy, and amazingly realistic artwork that bursts off the pages—all wrapped up in easy to understand text.

Callouts on each spread provide additional science facts about God’s creation: land and sea, plants and animals, the heavens above us and the deepest ocean life below.

Each callout includes a picture from another spread in the book for children to seek and find. There’s also a list of birds and animals for children to search and find in the final illustration.

Author’s notes at the back of the book and a bibliography give parents and caregivers additional scientific information and ideas to consider and talk about with their children.

The Things God Made avoids mention of the days of creation and the length of creation, but this doesn’t detract from its strong biblical foundation (or get in the way of the invitation to children to explore what God has made).

I think you’ll love this beautiful 9×12, jacketed hardcover book as much as I do!

– Diane

New Books to Explore, November 2022

My Advent Nativity Press-Out-and-Play-Book, by Tama Fortner (Tommy Nelson). Day by day from December 1 to 25, families can learn about the true meaning of Advent and Christmas and build a childlike nativity scene with figures and stable that actually press out of this board book.

Fly High: Understanding Grief with God’s Help, by Michelle Medlock Adams and Janet K. Johnson (End Game Press). This new picture book helps children give names to the emotions they experience as they go through grief. A sister and brother enjoy watching a mama bird care for her babies, but the mother bird dies. When the baby birds learn to fly, the children experience the promise of hope that’s found in new beginnings. Features layered text (story text for children plus explanatory text for adults).

Fanny Crosby: The Girl Who Couldn’t See but Helped the World to Sing, by Laura Caputo-Wickham (The Good Book Company). An easy-to-read children’s biography of Fanny Crosby, known for her joyful life and some of the world’s most famous hymns despite the blindness she developed at just six weeks of age. Part of the Do Great Things for God series.

All About Christmas: Over 100 Amazing Facts Behind the Christmas Story, by Alison Mitchell (The Good Book Company). This colorful hardback book provides at-a-glance content about the first Christmas to help young readers learn that the Christmas story they hear so often is an actual event rooted in real places, real people and real history. Includes fun facts about how Christmas is celebrated around the world today.

The Worried Wiseman, by Susan Eaddy (Morehouse Publishing). What if not all the magi began their journey from the same location? What if one of them felt compelled to search for the newborn king but worried about every detail of the trip? An imaginative take on the biblical account that strays in details but stays true to the reason the magi followed the star—to find and worship God’s Son, Jesus. Well written and designed, with 3D clay illustrations by the author.

– Diane

New Books to Explore, October 2022

Who God Wants Me to Be by Crystal Bowman and Michelle S. Lazurek (Waterbook). A brand new rhyming picture book just for little girls. A diverse cast of characters imagines all the things they could be when they grow up and how they might serve God in those careers.

Courageous & Bold Bible Heroes: 50 True Stories of Daring Men and Women of God by Shirley Raye Redmond (Harvest House). For middle graders. Concise one-page biographies of men and women in the Bible who acted with bold trust in God in big and small ways. Includes characters kids don’t always hear about, like Zipporah and Eunice.

The Lord’s Prayer: For All God’s Children (A FatCat Book) by Harold L. Senkbeil (Lexham). Reflections on the model prayer with illustrations from Jesus’ life. FatCat, hidden on every spread, gets his name from the idea of using a catechism to aid Bible learning. Includes a responsive reading to use as a family prayer time and a list of Scripture references at the back.

Psalm 23: A Colors Primer by Danielle Hitchen (Harvest House). The newest addition to the Baby Believer series, this board book quotes the beloved shepherd’s psalm directly, paired with illustrations that change color spread by spread to help little ones learn Scripture and colors.  Lovely and definitely not just for babies!

A Very Thankful Prayer Seek and Find by Bonnie Jensen (Tommy Nelson). This larger-sized edition of A Very Thankful Prayer features whimsical illustrations of woodland animal friends and plenty of hidden objects on each page to seek and find. Perfect for the fall and Thanksgiving season.

– Diane

New Books to Explore, September 2022

Welcome to BibleWorld: Explore All 66 Books of the Bible, by Mike Nappa. This “seek and find” book imagines the Bible as a theme park, with rides, booths, and games all linked to event in God’s Word. Kids get an overall picture of the Bible’s message as they travel through the park.

365 Best-Loved Bedtime Bible Stories for Kids, by Jean Fischer. Nicely designed and illustrated, this paperback introduces kids to Bible stories in short chunks, perfect for bedtime.

The Awesome Super Fantastic Forever Party Storybook: A True Story About Heaven, Jesus, and the Best Invitation of All, by Joni Erickson Tada. Invites children to respond to Jesus’ invitation to be with Him forever when He comes back and brings a new heaven and earth.

Bedtime with Daddy, by Nancy I. Sanders. This board book features 8 daddy and baby animal pairs in eight different habitats around the world, playing, praying, praising, and snuggling as the little ones get ready for bed. The final scene shows a human dad and son pair.

Kids have questions, and two new books aim to help them find answers. Christian Q & A Book for Kids: 100+ Questions and Answers about God and the Bible, by Amy Houts, asks and answers common questions for children ages 6-9. A discussion guide and resource list at the back provides parent help. Moments with God for Kids, by Becky Kopitzke, for ages 8-12, presents an orderly arrangement of questions and answers that each include a Bible verse and questions to think about.

Lions to the Rescue! and Mystery in Crooked Creek Woods (Tree Street Kids series #3 and #4), by Amanda Cleary Eastep. Set in the 1990s, these new middle grade novels have Jack Finch and his friends deep into adventure and mystery once again, with lessons about love, trust, and forgiveness along the way.

– Diane

Book Review—The Christmas Quest

I will say at the start that I love SO very much about this new book about the wise men and their journey to find Jesus.

First off, it’s fun, and sometimes humorous, with just the right amount of lively rhyming text plus bright illustrations with wonderful details and facial expressions (even on the animals!). Read More…

– Diane