{Mommy Journal} Our Current Top Five Picture Books

Both our moms taught us to LOVE books, so Andrew and I were determined to make them a big part of our children’s lives. :) We are so thrilled that our little Monkey absolutely adores being read to. I thought I would share some of our current favorites that may be a little more obscure. It’s hard to narrow it down, but here are our current Top Five. These are affiliate links to Amazon. :)

All the Places to Love by Patricia McLachlan

Brought to you by the author of Sarah, Plain and Tall! This was a favorite of mine growing up, and it just so happens that the little boy’s name is Eli, so now it is even more dear to me! The paintings in this book are truly stunning and the nostalgic tone with which it is written might bring a tear to your eye. It does to mine, but I’m not even two months postpartum. ;) Caleb is completely enraptured by the pictures!

 

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton

This author has several cute books, and this is Andrew’s and Caleb’s favorite. The fun plot and quirky illustrations make it a hit, especially for boys!

The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant

This title is just plain cute and heart-warming. Caleb loves to point out silly things in the peculiar illustrations, and I enjoy reading it in exactly the way that the narrator did when we had it on tape growing up. ;)

Lentil by Robert McCloskey

Robert McCloskey is one of my all-time favorite authors, so be sure to check out his many other picture and chapter books! His black-and-white drawings are full of sweet details and great facial expressions. Lentil is Caleb’s favorite of our McCloskey collection: the story of a little boy who can’t pucker his lips to whistle, but can play a harmonica…and how that skill saves the day!

 

Paddington by Michael Bond

I love this picture book version of one of my favorite chapter book characters, and Caleb requests it often. The pictures are darling and it is well-written, so it’s fun for a grownup to read. Sometimes I practice my poor British accent for added interest. ;)

Next on my list to purchase is Nine for California...yet another favorite from my childhood! What’s the current favorite picture book in your home?

{Reading Report} Children’s Christmas Stories

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If you don’t read Christmas picture (or chapter) books as a family, I encourage you to begin the tradition! Many of my fondest memories from December are those of my mom and dad reading Christmas stories aloud to me and my brothers. And now it is one of my favorite things about having a toddler at Christmastime, although we very much need to start building our Christmas book library! =)

I’d like to introduce you to my favorite children’s Christmas books...

When I Celebrate His Birthday

whenicelebrateThis is a simple board book that I grew up on, and my mom was so thoughtful to order one for Caleb this year! It’s been one of his favorites, he brings it to me often. There’s not much to it, but a little girl shares about how her family celebrates Jesus’ birthday every year at Christmas time, and I love the sweet illustrations.

Christmas at Rumpole Mansion

rumpolini-001It appears to be out of print, which is a shame, because I remember this book the most fondly of them all! With a little prompting, I still have it memorized almost word-for-word to this day. It’s the story of a mouse family who learns the valuable lesson, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” at Christmas time. The illustrations of life in a cozy mouse home are absolutely captivating to little ones. Both my parents read it aloud multiple times every year and I can’t wait to do the same for our kiddos one day!

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey

The old widower woodcarver is in no mood for making friends. But when a kind widow and her vivacious young son hire him to recreate their precious Nativity set in time for Christmas, gloomy Mr. Toomey’s heart begins to soften and new relationships are on the brink of forming. The paintings in this book are absolutely gorgeous and the narration of the audio book is excellent!

The Legend of the Candy Cane

9780310730125I’m disappointed that this book comes “newly illustrated”, as it would be impossible to improve on the vibrantly detailed paintings in the original. However, the message still stands. It’s about the meaning behind the candy cane–a classic piece of Christmas that tells the story of Jesus’ birth and sacrifice on the cross. This book would make the perfect gift for an unsaved family or for use as an evangelism tool in your own home.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

Okay, so you’re probably all too familiar with this classic from Dr. Seuss. But I had to include it because the Christmas season was never complete without my dad reading it aloud to us multiple times. It’s a silly story, but I’m forever endeared to it. The rhyming is catchy and the original animated movie is great, too. =)

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

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I love this board book, which was introduced to me this spring by my sister-in-law Shelby. It’s a well-rhymed poem (not all poetic children’s books actually flow the way they should!) and the vibrant pictures catch Caleb’s eye every time. =)

Miracle in a Shoe Box: A Christmas Gift of Wonder

51XjPSeeL7L._SL500_SL160_This fictional account of two children who are blessed by Samaritan Purse’s shoe box ministry brings good perspective to the holiday season. We are so richly blessed in America, while so many people around the world are living in turmoil and have nothing material to enjoy. I loved this story growing up, and it inspired our family to participate in the shoe box project at least one year that I recall. Reading Miracle in a Shoe Box made picturing the children who would receive our gift that much more special.

{Reading Report} What I Read in 2014

My five favorite books I read in 2014 were:

The Hole in Our Holiness
The Gospel at Work
Glimpses of Grace: Treasuring the Gospel in Your Home
Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus 
Creative Counterpart

I didn’t exactly meet my goal of reading 48 books. I read 33, and that was only thanks to the book review job I started in the spring. Below is what I read. The books in bold are what I read independently, the others I was paid to read and review. For those I read on my own, you can find some of my reviews here.

Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem 
A Quest for More: Living for Something Bigger than You 
I Will Carry You: The Sacred Dance of Grief and Joy 
When God Weeps: Why Our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty 
Creative Counterpart : Becoming the Woman, Wife, and Mother You Have Longed To Be
Glimpses of Grace: Treasuring the Gospel in Your Home 

Unbroken (audiobook)
For Women Only 

First We Have Coffee
Reckless Abandon 

A Cup of Cold Water: The Compassion of Nurse Edith Cavell
Five Things Every Christian Needs to Grow
Passion: How Christ’s final day changes your every day 

The Hole in Our Holiness
A Loving Life: In a World of Broken Relationships 
The Intolerance of Tolerance
Captivated: Beholding the Mystery of Jesus Death and Resurrection

Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full
Jesus or Nothing
What Every Woman Wishes Her Father Had Told Her
Everyone’s A Theologian
Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus 
The Doctrines of Grace: Student Edition
Suffering Well
The Witch of Blackbird Pond (audiobook)
The Gospel at Work
Now That I’m a Christian: What It Means to Follow Jesus
Stepping Heavenward: One Woman’s Journey to Godliness
Al Capone Does My Shirts 
Al Capone Shines My Shoes (audiobook) 
On Becoming Baby Wise: Giving Your Infant the GIFT of Nighttime Sleep

            

{Book Update} Mid-Way Through March

My new-found love for reading hasn’t dwindled yet! I’m discovering that reading simply doesn’t get old. I’ve made a few changes to the initial list I posted in January, which I’d formed before I decided before I set my 48 book goal. I’ve read a few books that weren’t on the list, and I’ve scratched Crossed (Matched Series) off my list. I really enjoyed the first audio book of the trilogy, but I got partway into listening to the second and disliked it, so I ditched it. I’m currently listening to The Book Thief.

I picked up Stepping Heavenward and I can hardly set it back down. More on that later. I’m about 140 pages into Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, which is over 600 pages total. (A good stepping stone to Les Mis, perhaps?) That should make up for Crazy Busy and For Women Only, two short books I read earlier this year. I’m nearing the end of Trusting God and have fully loved it all.

There’s so much I can’t wait to dive into soon, which is excellent motivation to keep traversing what I’ve started! One classic I decided to return to this year is Jane Eyre. I cannot wait to relive the drama within those old pages, and I hope it is as gripping as I recall.

Do you tend to reread books, or is once through good enough for you? What “classic” do you return to time and again? Do tell! For me, growing up, one of those books that never got old was Snow Treasure.

  

{Reading Report} For Women Only

for-women-onlyFor Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn promises to take its reader “beneath the surface into the inner lives of men”. Its information is based on a “national survey and personal interviews with over one thousand men.” This book has its helpful qualities but also its flaws. Let me try to explain.

For Women Only is primarily based on secular information and psychology, not on the Word of God. I do not mean to imply that it is unbiblical, but rather that its starting point is not one that would lend itself to changing a marriage from the inside out. One of the endorsements on the inside cover claims that the book has “the power to change you and your relationship”. I strongly disagree with that statement. The power to revolutionize you and your marriage in a lasting and God-glorifying way lies within the gospel. I would encourage anyone reading this book to put it in its rightful place: that of one that may help you to understand your husband in a new way. To read it apart from the Bible and other gospel-grounded resources could result in a list of “dos and don’ts” with little perspective or help for the root of our marriage problems. Understanding that your husband desires respect may help you to bite your tongue when you feel harsh words coming on, but does nothing to change your heart.

I also have a slight issue with the author’s insistence that men need this and men need that. I realize that she is writing to women, and authors have to shout to be heard. At the same time, if a Christian man’s whole morale system comes crashing down with a disrespectful comment from his wife, as this book implies, he has serious identity issues. My identity should not be wrapped up in whether my husband loves me, neither should his be wrapped up in whether I respect him, see to his physical needs, etc. I am commanded to honor him in many ways, yes, but he is also commanded to delight himself in the Lord, and not in my behavior as a wife.

I know that was a lot of critical nit-picking. But I believe we should be careful when staking philosophies or belief systems on a book–any book other than the Bible. All of that said, I did find For Women Only helpful in understanding more of how many men think about different issues. I specifically appreciated the chapter on romance, which helped me to see how a guy views this part of the relationship and how it can complement my idea of romance. I also found the chapter about his inherent drive to provide useful in understanding the responsibility and pressure husbands feel in taking care of their families. And there were plenty of other helpful tidbits to glean along the way.

I could definitely see myself giving this book to a wife and encouraging her to read a specific chapter that might shed light on an issue in her marriage. I would not recommend it before first promoting What Did You Expect, which is extremely gospel-centered, and The Excellent Wife, which feels like Scripture with a few thoughts thrown in on the side. In balance with books like these, For Women Only is a useful tool in growing into women who love and understand the men in our lives.

{Reading Report} Unbroken

unbroken-cover_custom-0a55df2637ae96369dd0302be5ad4de816c6b0ab-s6-c85I am not going to tell you much about this biography by Laura Hillenbrand, which I enjoyed via audio book, because I would very quickly spoil pieces of the plot. It is well-worth the time, but not for the faint of heart. The terrors of World War II, especially as pertains to POW camps, are not skipped over, and for chapters on end, there is little to smile about. But it really happened, not all that long ago, and it is a story that needs to be heard. The movie comes out on Christmas Day, so you may want to read Unbroken before then. I sincerely hope they do this incredible book justice.

Spoiler Alert! Perhaps this quote will entice you to find out everything that led up to it.

At that moment, something shifted sweetly inside him. It was forgiveness, beautiful and effortless and complete. For Louie Zamperini, the war was over.

{Reading Report} First We Have Coffee

Mama’s young face had a quiet peace, for she had dealt with her grief at the throne of grace. God’s promises would never fail! She had looked unto the hills and found, in God, a very present help in her time of trouble.

Delightful. Peculiar. Old-fashioned. Nostalgic. Simple. Heartwarming.

51SX83DTZML._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_These are some of the words that come to mind when attempting to describe the unique read First We Have Coffee by Margaret Jensen. It is an appreciative daughter’s affectionate tribute to her mother’s full and unselfish life. “Mama” was a lovely Norwegian girl, married to a pastor–a passionate, God-fearing man who loved his family but adored his theology and books even more. Mama’s faith and charitable heart blessed not only the precious children whom she served and trained in righteousness, but also strangers, neighbors, and church members alike.

Just as the landscape of rivers, trees, villages and people, clouds, and sky blended into one moving picture, so the scenes from home blended into one picture–Mama. That must be why Papa needs her so desperately, I thought. She is his home, his roots, his source of life and meaning, for she continually directs his steps back to faith in God.

Life lessons could be found in everything Mama encountered, whether it be the worn shoes received in missionary barrels, the severe illness of a child, or Papa’s impetuous decision to purchase pearls instead of food during a time of financial difficulty.

Mama never allowed sympathy to obscure a deeper lesson.

Like everyone, Mama had her weaknesses. I am not holding this book or her life up as the perfect role model or theological standard; but I would be thrilled if I left a legacy similar to hers in the lives of my children and grandchildren. A large part of why I found First We Have Coffee so heartwarming and inspiring is that Mama’s characteristics and steady presence were much like those of my own mother, who set the tone for our home as my brothers and I grew up (although her marriage is much more harmonious and mutual than the one told of in this book). We came and went, traversed seasons of rebellion or disinterest, experienced highs and lows, and through it all, Mommy was always there for us, ready with Bible truths, a listening ear, and countless hot meals. In fact, she is there, still…not just for those yet in the nest, but for me as well, even though we are states apart.

This story would make a delightful read aloud for the family, or an inspiring break for the tired mom.

Home was Mama! The kitchen was a coffee pot. Security was the rocking chair. We were home!