5 Children’s Books to Brighten Winter

Weather prognosticating groundhog Punxsutawney Phil makes his annual prediction on Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, on the 123rd Groundhog Day, February 2, 2009. Phil saw his shadow, predicting six more weeks of winter. REUTERS/Jason Cohn (UNITED STATES)

When Punxsutawney Phil looks around tomorrow morning, will we know how much longer winter plans to stick around?

Well, probably not. But whether the groundhog sees his shadow or not, a few good books can warm up winter days and help children learn more about our good God. Here are five to consider.

The Wonderful Gifts of Winter, by Dandi Daley Mackall (B&H Kids), part of the Dandi’s Seasons picture book series.

616e-8+JFULGod Made You Special, by Jennifer Holder (Tyndale Kids). Includes stickers for completing the illustrations and related activity pages too.

9166P72PVVLPrayers for All Seasons, compiled by Sophie Piper (Lion Hudson).

61eo3RIrqKL._SX405_BO1,204,203,200_The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats (Puffin Books). Not a Christian book, but a classic. (If you haven’t seen the Christmas-themed video based on the book, you’ve missed something sweet.)

51jvfaRNFYLTiny Blessings for All Seasons, by Amy Parker (Running Press). Board book for ages 1-3.

61-09g+qwULPhoto, Alessandro M., Creative Commons license




– Diane

15 Children’s Books for Valentine’s Day

“We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Why not include a children’s book in your Valentine’s Day plans and purchases this year? The right book can help your child or grandchild understand more about God’s love!

Here’s a list of 15 new and classic books for kids for Valentine’s Day for you to check out. And now’s a good time—you’ll find a number of them on sale.

Good FatherGood, Good Father, by Chris Tomlin and Pat Barrett (Tommy Nelson). For the picture book set, ages 3-8.

St ValSaint Valentine, by Robert Sabuda (Atheneum). This one comes close to historians’ limited knowledge of the real man named Valentine. For ages 6-10.

BBearsValentine Blessings, by Mike Berenstain (Zonderkidz).

Love HideWhere Does Love Hide? by Mary Manz Simon (Tyndale Kidz). With large lift-the-flaps that uncover ways we can all give love away to others.

LoveLettersThe “Love Letters From” series by Glynis Nellist (Zonderkidz) helps children realize that the Bible is like a love letter from God to us.

GodGaveLoveGod Gave Us Love, by Lisa Tawn Bergren (WaterBrook).

Love LetterA Love Letter from God, by P.K. Halliman (Ideals).

Board books for littler ones

StoryOfThe Story of Valentine’s Day, by Nancy J. Skarmeas (Ideals).

ValentineForJesusBBMy Valentine for Jesus, by Laurie Lazzaro Knowlton (Zonderkidz).

Big LoveHow Big Is Love? by Amy Parker (B&H Kids).

Just BecauseI Love You Just Because, by Donna Keith (Tommy Nelson).

LotsLoveLots of Love, by Kim Washburn (Zonderkidz).

Love You PrayerAn “I Love You” Prayer, by Amy Parker (Tommy Nelson).

ValStoryKindleOnlyMy Valentine Story, by Crystal Bowman (Zonderkidz), Kindle only.

baby-baby-cover-768x768My own Baby, Baby! (Worthy Kids/Ideals) features a high-quality mirror on the last spread so babies can see the answer to the question “Who does God love?”

Have I left out your favorite love-themed book for Valentine’s Day for kids? Let me know in the comments!

– Diane

Start Here: Reading to Babies? Yes! Here’s How

CindiSPDid you know that a book is a great investment in the spiritual development of a baby? It’s true.

It’s never too early to read to a child, even a child still in utero. Babies learn to recognize the voices they hear repeatedly in the womb.

Then, during babies’ first year, introducing them to books is the first step to creating life-long readers. (And children comfortable with books are more likely to feel at home exploring God’s book, the Bible!)

I gleaned these tips for reading with babies from the post “Weaving Reading into Baby’s Day” at GrowingBookByBook.com. (It’s a good site to bookmark!)

1. Babies are easiest to engage when they first wake up in the morning or from a nap.

2. Include books among babies’ toys.

3. Keep books in your diaper bag to pull out during waiting times.

4. Sing songs and rhymes from babies’ books during bath time.

5. End the day with a book at bedtime.

You might already be doing these things. If so, you’re not only helping baby develop a love of reading but also impacting your baby’s love of God’s Word as he grows.

And if you haven’t started reading to your little one yet … well, today is the best day to start!

baby-baby-cover-768x768Need a new book for your baby? My Baby, Baby! board book celebrates all the things babies can do and just how much God loves every one!


– Diane

8 Kids Devotionals to Start a New Year

The right children’s devotional book helps you as a parent or grandparent involve kids you love in forming the joyful habit of spending time with God’s Word each day.

Here’s a list of 8 newer devotionals for you to check out.

lovelyWhatever Is Lovely: 90-Day Devotional Journal, by Allia Zobel-Nolan (Zonderkidz) for tween girls.

forceMay the Faith Be with You: 180 Devotions That Are Out of This World (Zonderkidz), for ages 6-10.

hopeHope for Each Day: 365 Devotions for Kids, by Billy Graham (Tommy Nelson), for ages 6-10. I was privileged to get to work on this book with the teams at Nelson and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

all-of-meJesus Wants All of Me, by Phil Smouse (Discovery House). Based on Oswald Chambers’s My Utmost for His Highest, for ages 6-8.

happyDuck Commander Happy, Happy, Happy Stories for Kids: Fun and Faith-Filled Stories, by Korie Robertson and Chrys Howard (Tommy Nelson), for ages 4-8.

bedtimeBedtime Devotions with Jesus, compiled by Johnny Hunt (Tommy Nelson), for ages 4-8.

snuggleSnuggle Time Prayers, by Glenys Nellist (Zonderkidz), for ages 2-4.

51xal4gqil-_sx361_bo1204203200_My own Say & Pray Devotions (Tommy Nelson), for ages 1-3. It’s never too early to start connecting your child’s daily experiences with our heavenly Father!

Of course, there are many other tried-and-true devotional classics for kids too. Does your family have a favorite? Let me know in the comments.


– Diane

An Advent Idea for Long-Distance Grandparents

img_0208Like all children do, our grandboys are growing fast. This year we won’t be seeing the Berg boys (ages 9, 4, and nearly 2) during the holidays, but I came up with a fun way to stay connected anyway!

Tomorrow I’ll mail off the first of 25 envelopes for them to open each day. Inside they’ll find activity pages, decorations and simple crafts, small gifts and treats, and even some dollar bills.

To get them thinking about others, there are also Christmas note cards they can draw or write in and then send! (I’ve included Christmas stamps too.)

I’ve included both Christian and general aspects of the holiday in my selections, as well as taking into account the boys’ ages, interests, and abilities. Most days there’s something for each one individually, but some days they’ll need to work together.

I don’t know where this idea came from, but I’ve had fun with it so far, and I hope the boys have fun with it too. I’ll let you know. And maybe it’s an idea you can use or adapt, to stay in touch with your faraway family. If you try it, I’d love to hear from you!

– Diane

What Does Thanksgiving Day Truly Celebrate?

First grandson’s first Thanksgiving celebration, 2007

Scroll through social media in November and you’ll find an abundance of thankfulness posts. So appropriate, you might think, since we’re gearing up to celebrate Thanksgiving Day here in America.

But I wonder.

Most of these posts express gratitude for personal blessings. Mine have too. Here’s one of my favorite Thanksgiving photos. Since 2007, I’ve been especially grateful for my grandboys!

However, the American Thanksgiving holiday began as a day of thanks throughout our nation for national blessings. (Officially, anyway. The Pilgrims and native Americans had kicked things off a number of years earlier.)

Here’s President Washington’s 1789 proclamation, with a few lines highlighted in bold because they seem especially important in these times of division, disagreement, and disrespect.

Thanksgiving Proclamation

Issued by President George Washington, at the request of Congress,
on October 3, 1789

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and—Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Go. Washington

You can find President Lincoln’s 1863 proclamation here and President Roosevelt’s, in 1938, here.

Thanking God for His goodness to us personally is always appropriate. Hearing our children thank Him is always wonderful.

But this year, this Thanksgiving, could we all thank God for his blessings on America, and pray that we, our nation, and our leaders will turn to Him and live each day aware of the responsibilities and actions our national blessings require?

– Diane

Hurricane Matthew, Haiti, My Family, and Me

Photo: Raycom Media

Photo: Raycom Media

I kept the TV on and my phone close last Friday. Hurricane Matthew was moving up the Florida coast and aiming at Savannah, Georgia, where my oldest daughter, her husband, and their three young children live.

They’ve been in their house—their very first house—less than a year. With tall oaks all around—the type with wide but shallow roots—and a river just streets away.

One tree fell when Hermine visited in September. Aware of the danger, they had already moved in with friends in another town.

For Matthew, Savannah and Chatham County evacuated.

On Thursday, my daughter and her husband tied down the trampoline in the backyard. They rolled up rugs and got as much furniture as they could off the floors and the flat TV off the wall. Then they packed food and clothes, locked the doors, and drove away, and moved in with their friends again.

Matthew kept coming. Warnings got louder. No one felt safe, and with their friends my daughter and her husband decided to move further inland on Friday. God provided a place three hours outside Savannah, where everyone arrived late Friday afternoon.

They would be OK. But the house? Their friends’ house? No one knew.

I went to bed Friday night at 11:30 and set an alarm for 1:30 a.m. High tide and Hurricane Matthew would hit Savannah at the same time, around 2. The Weather Channel kept me company as I waited.

It was bad. Everyone knew it would be. But how bad? That would have to wait until morning.

A neighbor who didn’t evacuate sent word to my daughter: No flooding on their street! Then, pictures. A giant water oak had smashed the trampoline and missed the house by inches. Later in the day, video. Savannah was battered and shaken, but still a beautiful city.

Glad and grateful our family was OK and their house hadn’t flooded, I still felt uneasy. And I knew why.



Photo: Mission Aviation Fellowship


Photo: Global Empowerment Mission

Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti earlier in the week. No place to escape. Thousands of homes and nearly a thousand lives gone.  Crops and livestock devastated and dead. No big media and complex to document moment by moment happenings and get warnings out. Not much news at all, really, about the horrible, extreme need.

And other than a few quick prayers, I hadn’t done a thing to help,

Life seems so unfair. It is unfair. I don’t understand it. But I can help. We can help.

Here are links to two ministries I know you can trust to handle the resources you share responsibly and well:

International Disaster Relief Services

Heartline Ministries

I’m giving right now. I hope you will too.

And next time, let’s not wait.



– Diane

Book Review—The Young Reader’s Bible

The Young Reader's Bible cover

6.8 x 1.3 x 7.8 inches, 448 pages

Do you have a new or beginning reader at your house? Do you know a child who wants to “read it myself” but isn’t ready to tackle the amount of text in the Bible storybooks you’ve been reading to him or her?

The Young Reader’s Bible is the best book you could possibly give that child! (B&H Kids, 6.8 x 1.3 x 7.8 inches, 448 pages)

Yes, I’m biased. I helped to develop this book nearly 25 years ago as an editor at Standard Publishing. Now the publishing rights belong to B&H Kids, and they just released the book in a new size with a new cover design.

I’m biased, but I’m also right. Why?

• True easy-reader format. Large type, serif font, and short lines. Each line is a complete unit of thought.

• Simple yet artful story texts. The 70 stories, which move from Genesis through Revelation, capture the important basic essence of each biblical account. They read aloud well; you won’t tire of hearing these stories.

Writing easy-reader stories (remember the Frog & Toad books?) is a special skill. Authors Carol Reinsma and Bonnie Bruno were pioneers as they wrote these easy-reader-style Bible stories, and they did a masterful job.

• Special features like those found in school textbooks (and grownup Bibles): introductions to the Old and New Testaments, maps, timelines, a glossary, and an article, “How Did We Get the Bible?”

• Expressive, noncartoony illustrations by Jenifer Schneider.

I’m so thankful for all the talents poured into this book when it was first developed, and just as thankful to those who grasped its value and made it available again to a new generation of readers.

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 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.



– Diane

For a New Fall Routine: A Woman’s Guide to Reading the Bible in a Year

small WomansGuideBibleMy oldest grandson started fourth grade today. I guess the back-to-school season is more than officially here, and that means fall is just around the corner.

The fall season has always signaled anew start for me, a time for new routines. For you too?

Maybe you’ll be joining a new Bible study group as fall begins where you live, or starting a brand-new group. Maybe you’re looking for a new study guide for yourself or your small group. May I make a recommendation?

I was blessed in 2000 to join a women’s Bible study group formed to read through the Bible in a year. Although I’d been a Christian for many years and had read many parts of the Bible and used the Bible in my work as an editor, I had never actually read the entire Bible. I joined the group, and it changed my life in so many ways.

Out of that read-through-the-Bible experience, which I’ve repeated in various forms most years since then, I wrote A Woman’s Guide to Reading the Bible in a Year: A Life-Changing Journey into the Heart of God (Bethany House). There’s also a popular e-book version.

Three Chapters

The reading plan in the book—just three chapters a day—alternates Old Testament and New Testament books. With this reading plan, you’ll never feel “stuck” in the Old Testament, and you’ll make Old Testament and New Testament connections more quickly than if you read straight through from Genesis to Revelation.

One Question

With each week’s readings, you’ll find just a few short paragraphs of background information and one question to answer each week: How did you experience God’s heart in this week’s reading?

One Focus

The focus all year is simply on getting to know God better though His Word. You can start at any time of year and use any Bible version.

Use the book on your own, or join with some others to read and get together to talk about what you’ve read. We can’t lead our children into a relationship with God that we don’t have. But getting to know God through His wonderful Word is a forever gift we can give our children and ourselves.


– Diane

Book Review—Faith Footprints With My Grandchild

With my grandchildren in two states, 750 miles apart, I don’t get to enjoy them together more than once or twice a year. But whenever they are together—even if I’m not present—the order of the day is “Get a picture of all four boys!”

Well, at first there were only three.

TheBoysResizedThen there were four. Here they are last summer, all recovering from a stomach bug at the beach.

TheBoys (2)ResizedAnd recently the cousins wowed Savannah—they were even color coordinated!

4 boysResizedYes, I love being a grandmother! [UPDATE: Now there are FIVE grandboys!!! Quite an adventure for this mom of two girls!]

Each Sunday afternoon I make certain I’ve got enticing lunch choices and “special treats” for the Reed, who comes here on Mondays. And in between trips to Savannah, I stash surprises to mail the other three.

We’ve got a stockpile of toys and books in several places around the house, and a little chest of drawers and a toddler bed in the back room.

And a trampoline in the backyard.

And a sandbox. And a water table.

And a climbing/sliding playset with a swing.

And yesterday we picked up a second-hand train table.

I could go on.

But here’s the thing: the best part of being a grandmother is the opportunity to leave a legacy. A faith legacy. An example of hope and trust in Jesus, set among a thousand memories of unconditional love.

It’s the parents’ responsibility and privilege to nurture faith in their children first, of course. But how wonderful of God to allow grandparents to have our children’s backs, to support and pray and love our children’s children! It’s an opportunity for our faith to grow and we help to grow faith in our grandchildren.

That’s why Mary Manz Simon’s new book appealed to me as soon as I saw it.FaithFootprintsFaith Footprints with My Grandchild: 52 Devotions, Activities, and Reflections would make a great Mother’s Day gift for any grandmother who wants to leave a faith legacy. It’s a year of short weekly messages based on Scripture and Mary’s own grandmothering experiences, faith-building activities to do with your grandchild (even faraway ones), and prayers.

There’s also generous space for journaling to respond to prompts like “When I think about my grandchild’s future, I . . .”  and “Knowing that my grandchild is a gift from God to our family means . . . .”

Grandmothering can be challenging at times. Mary acknowledges rocky family relationships, resistant grandkids, and every grandmother’s own personal imperfections, and she encourages us all to persevere with faith and grace.

A grandchild is a gift from God, and the time we give a grandchild is a gift we give ourselves, Mary says. God gives us another opportunity to view life through the eyes of a child, and each day becomes new again. We move further along our own faith journey with Jesus as we seek to leave a legacy of faith for our grandchildren.

You can see a sample from the book here.

Faith Footprints with My Grandchild
Broadstreet Publishing

5 x 0.4 x 7 inches, 160 pages


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 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.

– Diane