Any kid, boy or girl, who loves dinosaurs will find this devotional hard to resist. And while learning about 75 different dinosaurs, they’ll also explore 75 different biblical concepts about living as a child of God. Read More…
What’s your greatest hope for your children and grandchildren? That they will love and follow Jesus all their lives, of course. This bedtime- or anytime-read plants that prayer in young hearts in quite a winsome way.
The look and feel of this story in rhyme has an obvious connection to Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss. But the smaller size (7 X 9 inches, like an early reader) makes it perfect for the preK through early elementary crowd. Read More…
Max Lucado’s classic text for every child (and parents too) got an endearing visual update last year, and may have opened up a whole new group of readers—parents of adult kids (like me) who love those kids as fiercely as we did when they were little.
Now the narrator is a big lovable bear (it could be a mama or a papa bear, making the story one that either parent can read aloud), but the real star of the show is the sweet teddy bear child.
And also all his teddy bear friends! Read More…
Christian publishing for children needs more books written by people of color, illustrated by people of color, and depicting people of color. This new picture book is all three.
I could be happy to see this new picture book for that reason alone.
But I have other reasons as well! Read More…
My career as a children’s book editor, acquisitions editor, and editorial director greatly influences my response to books. I have high standards for text, illustration, book design, and the purpose of a book.
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.
Making Him known to the next generation,
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day thought ordinary “sinners” were beneath them and definitely not worth caring about. Ah, but God loves every single one, and so Jesus told the story we know as the parable of the lost sheep.
Looking for the Lost Sheep
illustrated by Tim Ludwig, text from Luke 15:1-7 (NIV)
published by Our Daily Bread for Kids (August 2020)
hardcover picture book, 32 pages, 9 x 9.2 inches
In this book, warm illustrations unfold most of the story, letting the text from the New International Version of the Bible lead the way.
Some illustrations have no text at all but amplify the words that have come just before. I especially like the illustrations of the snarling wolf about to pounce on the defenseless little lamb, and those of the shepherd fighting it off and chasing the wolf away. All are memorable images representing how Jesus rescues us.
Children will identify with the shepherd’s desire to find the lost sheep, his intense search, and his joy when the sheep is found and safely back where it belongs—a good foundation for learning to understand God’s intense love for them. A parent letter at the back of the book provides several good questions for discussing the parable with children.
Making Him known to the next generation,
On July 20, 1969, the day of the historic US walk on the moon, I was 18 and working at Disneyland in Anaheim, California.
Actually, I grew up in Anaheim, with Disneyland just a 10-minute drive away. Walt Disney opened his theme park in July 1955. As I grew up, the park did too. A trip to Disneyland always meant magical fun.
Because of the park’s anniversary this month and the moon walk’s anniversary today, I’ve been reminiscing. On the day of moon walk, Disneyland visitors could follow the event on a screen at the Tomorrowland Theater. I remember walking by and watching on my dinner break, amazed.
Costumes and Cast Members
Back then I didn’t recognize or appreciate the perfect execution the lunar mission required to be a success. But I did know a little something about the standards and execution required to create the magic of the Magic Kingdom.
College students coveted working at Disney. I longed to be a tour guide or ride operator but gladly accepted cashiering positions at the Plaza Pavilion restaurant and the Emporium gift shop, both on Main Street.
Disneyland employees (always called cast members) received freshly washed and pressed costumes (never called uniforms) every day. At the Emporium we wore pastel Victorian-style blouses tucked into floor-length fit-and-flare skirts.
After getting into costume, cast members walked across a large open area called the berm toward a door in the high fence that bordered the back of Main Street attractions. Disneyland’s Main Street is built to three-quarter scale, creating the sensation of entering another world as well as another time. Walking through that door always emphasized the magic for me.
From Main Street to Tomorrowland, from It’s a Small World to Pirates of the Caribbean, every land and attraction featured carefully crafted details. A legion of roaming custodians unobtrusively swept up any trash anywhere in the park as fast as it hit the ground. At night after the park closed, painters searched for scratches and nicks and touched up every surface. Walt Disney called Disneyland the happiest place on earth, and it was, like Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way.
What Does This Have to Do with Jesus?
In the US—and in any other country whose citizens are blessed with voice and vote in how their government will run—the challenge for followers of Jesus is taller than Disneyland’s iconic Matterhorn. We can’t help evaluating, even judging, our leaders, issues, and the responses of other believers—and it’s a sure bet we don’t agree with them all.
But agreement isn’t necessarily the challenge. The attitude of our hearts is the challenge, because the bent of our hearts determines our words and our actions.
Jesus tells us that if His followers love one another, the world will know we’re His disciples. He prayed for His followers to have unity. Letters in the New Testament repeat this theme again and again. How we treat one another matters. Unity and love among believers show Christ to the world, whether we’re worshiping together, assisting those in need, talking about racism, or discussing the President online.
It’s not wrong to be concerned about the behavior of other believers. Jesus called out the Pharisees for their hypocrisy and the crowds for their spiritual apathy. Paul chastised Peter when Peter had second thoughts about associating with Gentile Christians. James commended bringing wandering believers back into the way of truth.
But we also have this from Jesus: “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:1-3).
So we each have to decide if, when, and how to speak up, and most important, the attitude of our heart—the why.
Believe me, I am preaching to myself here. It’s easy to simply avoid the people I disagree with or who express their opinions in unkind, snarky ways, and think I’ve got this covered.
But as forgiven and beloved children of God, declared righteous because of our faith in Jesus and our new birth, we’re told to put off sin and put on the attitudes and actions of righteousness. Following the Spirit, we progress toward the goal of becoming more fully who we already are in Christ.
Unlike stepping into the practically perfect Magic Kingdom for a day, we’ve got some work to do.
I’m pleading with my brothers and sisters to do it.
We’re ALL different. That’s the message of this new picture book.
We’re ALL alike. That’s the message of this new picture book too.
Different Like Me
written by Xochitl Dixon, illustrated by Bonnie Lui
published by Our Daily Bread for Kids (August 2020)
hardcover picture book, 32 pages, 9 x 9 inches
Cultural diversity, check. Physical disabilities, check. Communication differences, check.
But the kids in Different Like Me are also very much alike. Read More…
Bob Hartman has a storytelling gift, and he puts it to great use to beckon children into the Bible’s account of Paul and Silas and the Philippian jailer (found in Acts 16:16-40) in this book.
And like the subtitle says, the story is about more than simply God’s power or the dedication of Paul and Silas. The goal of this book is to show children how God uses people to save people.
The Prisoners, the Earthquake, and the Midnight Song
written by Bob Hartman, illustrated by Catalina Echeverri
published by The Good Book Company (2020)
hardcover picture book, 32 pages, 9 x 0.5 x 10.5 inches
The story opens with a question, engaging kids right away. Someone’s snoring. Do you hear it?
The text is simple and never mentions God, but this new picture book has lots to say about our appreciation of God’s gift of our bodies and the diversity within the human race.
I Love Me!
written by LaRonda Gardner Middlemiss, illustrated by Beth Hughes
published by Beaming Books (2020)
hardcover picture book, 32 pages, 8 x 0.5 x 8 inches
I think most young children are thrilled with their physical bodies as they grow and discover each new ability and skill. At some point, however, comparison creeps in. Kids may wonder why they don’t look like someone else or why they can’t do what some others do.
This new picture book can be a tool in the toolbox for teaching children to celebrate who they are before the comparison trap sets in—and, equally if not more important, to see and celebrate who others are too. Read More…