Posts in Category "Children’s Books"

Book Review: The Green Ember by S.D. Smith

One of my favorite reads this year has been S.D. Smith’s The Green Ember, and I had to share my review with you. If you have young children and are looking for your next read-aloud, look no further.

This is a wonderful story full of adventure, friendship, betrayal, and redemption. That the characters are Rabbits only adds to the delight, and the pacing sweeps you into a worthwhile tale not to be soon forgotten.

Picket and Heather, a brother and sister who live in a peaceful wood, are beginning to learn about their family history in their Father’s bedtime tales. But when their home suffers a perilous attack from wolves, their family is separated. Heather and Picket have to fight for their lives, and soon they are guided to a safe warren. Here they gain loyal friends, but also more than a few cold skeptics.

While finding their place in the community, Heather and Picket’s family connections add to the rising tension in the warren. Rumors of a coming attack from the wolves, the unsettled longing for King Jupiter’s heir to rise, and the whole community’s yearning for their true home all collide into a test of loyalty and character.

Some of my favorite characters and imagery included Heather the budding Storyteller, Smalls, the Gardens, Maggie O’Sage, “The Mended Wood,” the stained glass windows(!!), Uncle Wilfred’s faithfulness, Emma’s journey to becoming a doctor, and of course the flaming crown jewel, the Green Ember. I also love the importance placed on craftsmanship, the necessity of art, and everyone’s skill having weight within the community. (And I hope we get better acquainted with Picket and Heather’s parents in a future book!) The whole book is a gem I can’t wait to share with my children someday.

The styling, character arcs, pacing, and imagery are all artful and compelling. Beautiful scenes of home, purpose in one’s work, and loyalty are deepened by the honest depictions of exile, the consequences of treachery, bitterness, and fighting for one’s home. Not only a book of action, it’s a thought-provoking tale that glories in the good, the true, and the beautiful.

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Listening to the audiobook I missed the illustrations, so I loved getting to linger over them when I got my hard copy. Zach Franzen has done a lovely job with this book, and I’ve so enjoyed learning from him, especially in this article.

Directed to middle-grade readers, it’s a book the whole family will enjoy as a read-aloud. Having just finished the audiobook, I’m already starting it again to better savor the details and characters I love.

You can find copies of this delightful book in paperback and softcover at Story Warren Store. Edit: And the Kindle version of the prequel, The Black Star of Kingston, is free today! (I’m in no way compensated for this review; it’s purely for sharing the delight.)

The Green EmberThe Green Ember by S.D. Smith

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

 

 

It’s almost here!

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The last time I wrote about the storybook bible, I was still drawing thumbnails.  Now, after months of hard work, prayer, and waiting,  “For Such a Time as This” is headed to the bookstores and is available for pre-order on Amazon!

“For Such a Time as This” has been a wonderful project to work on.  I have loved exploring ancient Israel and imagining what daily life looked like for women of the Scriptures like Sarah, Abigail, Mary, Priscilla, etc..  All the study behind it gave me a close look into what they might have experienced, much like an adventurous inductive Bible study, if not actual time-travel!

Here’s a book trailer for “For Such a Time as This”!

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October 1st is the big day when it appears in book stores!  LifeWay Christian book stores, Barnes and Noble, Noble Rose Press, and others are where you’ll be able to find it!

I’m so thankful for the opportunity the Lord has given me in being involved with this book.  Our hope is that it will give girls (and their parents!) a greater love and curiosity for the Bible, that they will want to dig deeper, grow more in love with Christ, and to be transformed into His likeness.

(Thank you, Emily Rose, for the photography, as well as all the additional work you put into the book!)

A Book Contest and Storytelling

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From The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
Images courtesy of Project Gutenberg

Have you heard? Generations With Vision is hosting Nurture Little Hearts Book Contest!  It was announced in January; the deadline is July 1st.  Their desire for launching it is one I hear frequently, and you’ve probably thought yourself:

Christian families want more nurturing, helpful picture books for children. . . something besides Curious George, Dr. Seuss, Meatballs Raining from the Sky, Wild Kids Doing Wild Things Where the Wild Things Are, and Cookies for Ungrateful Mice. Christian parents tell us they have the hardest time finding nutritious, nurturing, fun books for their little tots and totettes. There are not enough solid, biblically-based, family-oriented picture books for children. That is why Generations with Vision is launching a Christian Children’s Picture Book Contest for 2014.

What a great opportunity for Christian aspiring authors and illustrators!  While it might be a bit late to get started on this year’s contest, it’s never too early to start learning, writing and re-writing, and experimenting with illustration and design.  I hope they do this again next year!

Excellence is a skill, and art is really a just craft that can be learned — of course you must love it to want to pursue it; but natural inclination requires hard work for it to grow.  Don’t be intimidated by the elites who make art look like you need a secret password to get into their world.  (Actually, you don’t want into that world.  The answer is to start rebuilding culture now — Christians have the answer: beauty and truth according to God’s standard.)

When you think about it, this is God’s world, and the art of storytelling began with Him.  He weaves stories and truth and beauty all throughout His divine and natural revelation (that is, in the Bible, and in the natural world).  The Bible is full of rich imagery that symbolize deeper truths; this is a tremendous key in Christian art that we can recover.

I’d love to introduce you to one of my favorite resources on how picture books work” Writing with Pictures by Uri Shulevitz.  I recommend it to everyone interested in children’s books.  He presents an overview of picture books’ uniqueness from other book forms, their strengths and variety, and most of all how they work and communicate.

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 Images courtesy of Project Gutenberg

He starts off defining the picture book as different from a story book which “consists mostly of narrating what is seen and heard. . . . Take, for example, Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit:”

Mr. McGregor was on his hands and knees planting out young cabbages, but he jumped up and ran after Peter, waving a rake and calling out, “Stop thief!”

These words are accompanied by an illustration of Mr. McGregor planting cabbages.  Although Beatrix Potter’s images add a visual dimension to the story, The Tale of Peter Rabbit can be fully understood without them.  In addition to telling the story, the words themselves contain images.  The picture simply underlines the description: “Mr. McGregor was on his hands and knees.” (p. 16)

He then goes on to distinguish between the story book and the picture book:

Picture books are “written” with pictures as much as they are written with words.  A picture book is read to the very young child who doesn’t know how to read yet . . . By telling a story visually, instead of through verbal description, a picture book becomes a dramatic experience: immediate, vivid, moving.  A picture book is closer to theater and film . . . . (p. 16)

Further elaborating on Mr. McGregor’s example and the relationship between pictures and words, he says on p. 53,

A picture book favors a direct approach.  A description such as “Mr. McGregor was on his hands and knees” would be either shown by a picture or avoided altogether.  When an image such as this is clearly described, with the visual details presented through words, to show it again through a picture would be redundant and possibly boring.  In a picture book there should be no such repetition; the visual representation takes precedence.  Repetition in a picture book only lengthens and complicates a form that is best kept simple, brief, and clear as possible.

It’s just fascinating, isn’t it?  This is a major element in children’s literature.  I’m far from getting the swing of it, but when you’re really able to wed words and pictures together like that, it’s a very rewarding experience.

There are many other books that are more technical and psychological about the creating process, but for those who are beginning a journey into the world of creating books for children, Writing with Pictures is a guide you’ll keep coming back to.

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Images courtesy of Project Gutenberg