Distracting With Pretty

I thought a pandemic would increase my reading, but it has done the opposite. I’ve found myself too distracted, too tired or too pre-occupied with life at home to do much other than collapse onto the couch in the evening. What is slowly drawing me back into the rhythm of regular reading again are audiobooks and rereads.

There’s something comforting and pleasantly familiar about rereading a beloved classic. So I was especially grateful for the free review copy of the Sense and Sensibility edition of a new series by Karen Swallow Prior. In this series of lovely, cloth-bound books, bestselling author and literature professor, guides readers through classics with insightful introductions and vast footnotes. What a good study Bible will do for you as you read Scripture – cultural context, definitions, and thematic clues – Prior’s guide does for reading and reflecting classics.

Even though I’ve read all of Austen’s work multiple times, I appreciated Prior’s educated insights and I especially loved the reflection questions after each volume. What a wonderful addition to my Austen shelf. It would also make a stellar gift for any Austen fan.

Another thing that has helped me stay sane during these surreal times is to surround myself with as much beauty as possible. I especially love each of these editions of Sense and Sensibility.

*These are affiliate links*

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I have now read and thoroughly enjoyed another in Karen’s series of classics – Heart of Darkness by Jospeh Conrad. I’m the type of person who enjoyed much of their high school required reading. But Heart of Darkness was among the titles I didn’t appreciate when I read it as a teen. I found it a bit confusing and just too, well, dark. Prior’s insights were so helpful when coming back to this title as an adult. It’s been 16 years since I last read it and I appreciated the background on Conrad’s life, both personal and professional. Prior’s notes and reflection questions were a good guide as I navigated this novel for a second time. It’s still not my favorite classic, but I feel like I at least redeemed my first reading with Prior’s help. It also didn’t hurt that the book was lovely.

The Wondering Years by Knox McCoy

One of the biggest benefits I’ve gotten out of deep-diving into personality frameworks is the reminder that we all approach the world differently.  Looking through the lens of say, the Enneagram, has helped me to better understand these diverse perspectives and increased my ability to extend grace and compassion to myself and others as differences come in contact and often cause friction.

For the same reason, I love reading spiritual memoirs. They remind me that everyone’s journey toward Jesus is different. They remind me to extend grace to myself and others as we work out our faith. They remind me that God created us uniquely, for a purpose.

One such book just released – The Wondering Years: How Pop Culture Helped Me Answer Life’s Biggest Questions by Knox McCoy.

In a voice that is humorous and perceptive, Knox shares pop culture anecdotes and analogies that have helped him make sense of life and faith. His ability to transition from funny story to personal reflection is seamless. Though I’ve never been punched in the face (unless you count my visceral reaction to Chapter 18: The Cancer) and don’t consider myself any sort of pop culture maven*, Knox’s stories and insights were infinitely relatable. Also, his footnotes are perfection.

The Wondering Years forever inducted into my cannon of re-readable spiritual memoirs and is easily one of my favorite books of 2018.

*The Popcast with Knox and Jamie is the only reason I ever kind of know what I’m talking about in regards to pop culture. And a lot of times, I don’t always know what they’re talking about. But I still tune in every Wednesday – it’s that good. Same goes with this book. I didn’t always catch the references, but it didn’t diminish my enjoyment one bit.

The lovely folks at W Publishing gave me permission to print an excerpt (which you’ll find below) and you can listen to Knox read the first chapter here. I’m also giving away two copies of The Wondering Years over on Instagram!

In case you were wondering… Some other favorite spiritual memoirs are

Without further ado, a snippet from Chapter Three: High Stakes.

Even though I’m a card-carrying evangelical Christian*, trust me when I say that this book isn’t a low-key effort to be like To Catch a Predator, wherein I burst into the consciousness of your soul and, over the course of these pages, make you accept your salvation from Jesus Christ**. At points in my youth, I was very much that person – and with the benefit of hindsight, I’ve developed some, uh, complicated feelings about that behavior and history. Instead, my goal here is to perform something of a spiritual audit of my own faith experience. (Or at leas that’s what my editor tells me. I’m really just here to make a ton of references to Saved By The Bell and hope for the best.)

I realize that makes us strange bookfellows. I mean, why should you care about me putting my faith under a microscope? That feels kind of intimate, no? Well, I guess what I’m hoping for is that you get from this what I get from watching The Profit.

For context, The Profit is a reality show starring Actual Rich Guy Marcus Lemonis. In each episode, he decides whether to invest in businesses that are in operational or financial trouble. To make his decision, he considers three principles: people, product, and process. In other words, are the people at the company hardworking, is the product viable and profitable, and are the processes in place for success? Once he identifies which of these things are broken, he takes steps to right the company, and there is much entrepreneurial rejoicing.

I like The Profit because it’s a good show, but also because I find Marcus’ thoughtful approach to business applicable to many areas of my life, especially my faith. When our faith isn’t as strong as it could be, where have we gone wrong? Is it the people, the product, the process? How do we right what’s broken if we don’t examine it?

And I realize I’m very casually tossing around the word faith as though we all distinctly understand what it means. To clarify, my use of faith is a generalized shorthand for everything encompassing my religious beliefs. In other words, faith is a lot like Mary Poppins’ purse: very simple idea, deeply complicated contents.

* Just kidding – we don’t carry cards. Too mark-of-the-beasty.

** What would this show be called? To Convert a Heathen? To Catch A Convert? Also I can’t believe this isn’t already a show on a Christian TV network.

Knox McCoy – The Wondering Years

 

My Favorite Bunny (picture) Books

Best bunny

Bunny books are my kryptonite. I’ve had an ever growing collection of bunny books since I was a little girl, thanks to my mom who has faithfully given them as gifts over the years. One of the best parts of having a children’s book collection of any sort is sharing them with your own children. It’s been a joy to see my two little ones delight in these stories as much as I did/do.

Several of these recommendations are no longer in print but are worth searching out at the library or getting a used copy from an online seller like Thrift Books or Discover Books (I try to avoid previous library books when ordering from these sites so we don’t get the plasticy cover).

Whether you’re looking for a book to slip in to an Easter basket or you have a bunny loving kiddo, these bunny books are some of my favorite! I’m always looking for more bunny books, though, so please share any I missed in the comments!

Please note that the links are affiliate. 

 Too Many Hopkins by Tomie de Paola

I’m sad this isn’t in print any more (an absolute classic in our household), but it’s available used. Tomie de Paola is an iconic children’s book author and illustrator. Too Many Hopkins subtly teaches the basics of gardening, how to work together and all the Hopkins have fun alliterative names.

I am a Bunny by Ole Risom, illustrated by Richard Scarry

This classic IS still in print! Little Nicholas in his cute red overalls talks about the things he does each season. The unique size of this board book is fun but it also comes in regular Golden Book size.

The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld

Doerrfeld so perfectly captures the essence of empathy and kindness in her minimalist text and sweet illustrations. A very poignant reminder for me as a parent what speaks louder than words is a listening ear.


 Pat The Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt

Every child’s library should include this book. I can smell the flowers even now…

Bunnies Are For Kissing by Allia Zobel Nola, Illustrated by Jacqueline East

“Bunnies are for kissing. They’re meant for hugging too. Sure as we have floppy ears, sweet Bunny, we love you!” Quoted from memory because this book is a favorite of my kids and has a catchy rhyme scheme.

Bunny Trouble & More Bunny Trouble by Hans Wilhelm 

Naturally, I liked the characters in the Bunny Trouble stories because the little sister is named Emily. Even if you don’t share a name with one of the characters, these are fun and especially good for Easter because this troupe of bunnies paint Easter eggs for a living.

Fuzzy Rabbit by Rosemary Billam, Illustrated by Vanessa Julian-Ottie

Even though the Fuzzy Rabbit books aren’t in print, I can’t leave them off the list. Used copies abound.  Fuzzy has adventures in the park and with his owner’s little brother. The illustrations are charmingly old-fashioned.

This Little Bunny Can Bake by Janet Stein

If you’re child enjoys cooking, this little bunny will be a welcome addition to your collection. Bunny and several other students go to Chef George’s School of Dessertology and learn the basics of baking. There isn’t much of a storyline but the illustrations are packed with silliness (Dog making a shoe-fly pie…) that is fun to talk about with kiddos.

The Wonderful Habits of Rabbits by Douglas Florian, Illustrated by Sonia Sánchez

What do rabbits do all day? This family of rabbits will show you all the fun things they do – smelling flowers in Spring, lazing for hours in Summer, and digging holes, to name a few. The text is poetic and the illustrations are unique and charming.The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams, Illustrated by Sarah Massini

There are plenty of versions of this classic, but I’m quite partial to the illustrations by Sarah Massini in this beautiful edition.

Bunny’s First Spring by Sally Lloyd-Jones, Illustrated by David McPhail

Sally Lloyd-Jones, author of The Jesus Storybook Bible, is a treasure. She writes books that have depth of sentiment but still connect with little readers. In Bunny’s First Spring, Bunny experiences the changing seasons for the first time and fears “the beautiful earth must be dying.” Lloyd-Jones perfectly captures the wonder and beauty to be found in the signs of passing time.

Too Many Carrots by Katy Hudson

Barnes and Noble pushed this book last Spring for good reason. Hudson’s illustrations are vibrant and engaging. She also doesn’t skimp on the end sheets and front matter, all of which are boldly illustrated with fun extras. Ultimately about sharing, Too Many Carrots follows rabbit as he tries to find a home suitable for himself and his carrots.

 It’s Not Easy Being A Bunny by Marilyn Sadler, Illustrated by Roger Bollen

Poor PJ Funnybunny does not like being a bunny. He tries living with all sorts of other animals only to figure out being a bunny isn’t so bad after all.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve read this since I was a kid. Great repeating text and an opportunity to demonstrate your moose calling abilities.

The Bold, Brave Bunny by Beth Ferry, Illustrated by Chow Hon Lam

This reminded me of a modern It’s Not Easy Being A Bunny. (One of the opening lines reads, “There were so many bunnies. It. Wasn’t. Even. Funny.”) Teetu becomes overwhelmed and frustrated by the abundance of bunnies in his family, so he takes a break from the burrow. He knows that B is for more than bunnies – B is for brave, B is for bold – but he unexpectedly discovers that B is also for belonging. Much like the title, the illustrations are bold and high contrast making it a very striking read. Thank you so much to Harper Kids for our copy.

Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney, Illustrated by Anita Jeram

Anita Jeram is one of my favorite illustrators (think Bunny My Honey, You’re All My Favorites, and Skip To The Loo, My Darling – an amazing potty training book)

 Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems

Another set (this is the first) of books that has a dad-child relationship on display. This one would be dad-daughter-bunny… Willems uses colored drawings over black and white photographs to illustrate these Knuffle Bunny adventures. They are hilarious.

La La Rose by Satomi Ichikawa

Ichikawa’s love of Paris is evident in her gorgeous illustrations of Luxembourg Gardens where poor La La Rose gets separated from her friend Clementine. La La Rose narrates her journey around the Gardens until she is finally reunited with Clementine. I am so sad this award winning book isn’t Prime-able. It’s worth searching out. If you can’t find it, cry your way through You Are My I Love You and get a sense for Ichikawa’s gift for illustrating.

 The Night Before Easter by Natasha Wing, Illustrated by Kathy Couri

For our family, Easter is about celebrating that Jesus died and rose again to give us eternal life with Him. That being said, we aren’t above bunnies and eggs and baskets of goodies. This is a clever riff on The Night Before Christmas.

A Night-Light for Bunny by Geoffery Hayes

Bunny and Papa search for the perfect night light. Bun has a bit of an attitude, but I like that this includes the dad and talks about sources of light. The end has a song that my children enjoy hearing me sing (tunelessly) differently every time we read it.

The Country Bunny And The Little Gold Shoes by Du Bose Heyward, Illustrated by Marjorie Hack 

A strong female protagonist (the country bunny, mom to 21 baby buns) makes this a timely tale despite it’s publication date almost 80 years ago. The Country Bunny proves herself wise, kind, clever, and swift enough to be one of the five Easter Bunnies who deliver eggs all over the world.

 The April Rabbits by David Cleveland, Illustrated by Nurit Karlin

Another book that I must have acquired in elementary school and have vivid reading memories of the illustrations. Robert sees an increasing number of rabbits for every day in April. Lots of humor in the illustrations.

 I’m Big Enough by Amber Stewart, Ilustrated by Layn Marlow

Confession: I still sleep with my childhood blanket. And it has a name. (Insert monkey covering eyes emoji here.) I have a very tolerant husband. Bean can’t find her blanket and learns to cope without it until she realizes she really is big enough to not have one. Apparently Bean is more mature than me.

 Bunny’s Book Club by Annie Silvestro , Illustrated by Tatjana Mai-Wyss

If there were book trump cards, this would be mine. Bunny and books. Need I say more? Love by Emma Dodd

A larger board book that celebrate the everyday joys between a momma and baby bun. Impossibly cute illustrations. My beginning reader can make his way through this on his own.

 Audrey Bunny by Angie Smith, Illustrated by Breezy Brookshire

Another one I can’t make it through without crying. If you know anything about Angie Smith’s story (she’s a Christian author/blogger who lost a daughter, Audrey, in utero), it will make the name of this Bun even more poignant.

 The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown, Illustrated by Clement Hurd

A classic by the author of Goodnight Moon and Little Fur Family (just realized that connection and my mind is a little blown).

Bunnies for Tea by Kate Stone

The book is shaped like a tea cup. Sweet illustrations and rhyming text.

Bunny Slopes by Claudia Rueda

It’s always good for me to have books around that help me (and the kids) celebrate Winter. This one gets readers to interact and help Bunny get skiing. Bunny Overboard and Hungry Bunny are also so fun!

I can’t vouch for these yet, but I did just request ALL the Betty Bunny books by Michael Kaplan from the library…

17 Wintery Children’s Books

All the Christmas books are put away and we’re feeling a little un-festive over here. To combat the cold-weather blues, I pulled out all of our Winter centric books. Sometimes seeing this frosty season portrayed in books helps my attitude. If you’re the same or just need some new reading material, here are some of our favorite Winter themed picture books (and a bonus middle-grade read).

What are your favorite wintery reads?


Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost, Illustrated by Susan Jeffers

This is a gorgeous book that will delight young and old. Robert Frost’s iconic poem is immortalized with hauntingly lovely illustrations. The book jacket is vellum which adds to the wintery vibe. A great way to introduce poetry to any age.You Can Do It, Sam by Amy Hest, Illustrated by Anita Jeram

Anita Jeram is responsible for the the adorable illustrations in favorites like Guess How Much I Love You and Skip To The Loo, My Darling! A Potty Book. She works her magic one the Sam Books, too. Sam bakes treats for all his neighbors and hand delivers them with his mom.

Katy and The Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton

A classic, originally published in 1943. A big snow strands the city of Geoppolis and Katy saves the day.

 Walking in a Winter Wonderland illustrated by Tim Hopgood

Beautifully illustrated lyrics to the classic song.

Who Likes The Snow? by Etta Kaner, Illustrated by Marie Lafrance

Each page has a reason why “I like the snow..” and a question related to it. When you lift the flap, there are simple, scientific explanations to the question. The more we read this, the more my kids pick up on the science, but even if it goes over their heads, the other text is engaging.

The Little Snowplow by Lora Koehler, Illustrated by Jake Parker

The other construction trucks look down on the little snowplow for his size, but when the dump truck gets buried in snow after an avalanche, the little snowplow’s hard work pays off.

Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner

Dad and daughter go skiing and talk about the secret kingdom of animals under the snow. Has a cool glossary of animals that you meet in the story at the back with info about their winter habits.
Poppleton in Winter by Cynthia Rylant, Illustrated by Mark Teague

Any pig who has a specific library day is a friend of mine (from Poppleton). Poppleton and his friends are delightful and their Winter activities are fun. Each book has three or four simple stories that my 2 and 4 year old both like and will grow with them as they learn to read.

 Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner, Illustrated by Mark Buehner

This talented husband and wife team have created four snowmen books (at Christmas, at Night, at Work, and All Year) with clever rhymes and engaging illustrations that have hidden pictures, keeping everyone involved.

Snow by Joan Clark

It snows for a month and Sammy spends his time post-snow imagining all the things that could be under the mountain of powder. Really neat, fanciful illustrations.

The Hat by Jan Brett

Many of Brett’s books are set in Winter (The Mitten, Gingerbread Friends) and she does it well. She has a distinctive illustration style that feels old fashioned in a good way. In The Hat, Hedgehog uses a runaway stocking as a head covering, much to the amusement of his animal friends. Little does he know they go in search of similar hats. Goodbye Autumn, Hello Winter by Kenard Pak

Pak’s illustrations are graceful and beautifully capture the atmosphere of each season. Brother and sister walk home experiencing the change from Autumn to Winter. Pak also wrote the equally lovely Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn.

Mouse’s First Snow by Lauren Thompson, Illustrated by Buket Erdogan

Lauren Thompson’s Mouse series follows Mouse as he experiences all the firsts (think holidays and seasons). In Mouse’s First Snow, Mouse and his Poppa do all sorts of Wintery activities. Each activity is accompanied by fun onomatopoeias which will delight younger readers.

Winter Story by Jill Barklem

I adore the Brambly Hedge series and this is such a charming addition. All the mice are getting ready for the snow ball.

A Loud Winter’s Nap by Katy Hudson

Katy Hudson is a talented illustrator whose style is playful and nostalgic. Too Many Carrots was an instant hit with my kids and A Loud Winter’s Nap showcases the same characters. Tortoise isn’t a fan of Winter. His plans to hibernate until Spring get interrupted by all his friends until he has a change of heart.

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, Illustrated by John Schoenherr

A daughter goes owling with her father for the first time. Both the text and illustrations are magical and poetic and all around wonderful.

Absolutely Truly by Heather Vogel Frederick

The Lovejoys moves from Texas to Pumpkin Falls, NH to take over the family bookstore. Truly, the middle of the five kids, finds a mysterious note in an autographed copy of Charlotte’s Web, sending her and her new friends on a literary scavenger hunt. Such a charming middle-grade read.

A Bible Literacy Book Flight

My zeal for reading doesn’t always translate to a zeal for reading my Bible. I wake up early, ostensibly to meet with God and have some quite before the kiddos wake up, but it’s a struggle of varying degrees to prioritize reading the Bible instead of my current novel during that precious alone time.

Reading other people’s perspective about the Bible and how it intersects with their own lives has given me a renewed passion for leaning in to God’s word. This may seem counterintuitive since I was just saying reading in general can be distracting to my commitment to reading the Bible, but sometimes you need a prod.

I’m over on Club 31 Women today sharing six books that have given me a fresh heart towards  the Bible. Here’s a sneak peek…

 

The entire post is HERE!