Episode 152: Best Books of 2022 with Kristin Wynalda

Find out which books Kristin and Terrie think are the best of 2022. Are your favorites on their list?

Our Guest: Kristin Wynalda

Kristin Wynalda likes Agatha Christie mysteries, chai, and her job as a mom of four. She reviews children’s books at bigbookslittleears.com. She is known for reviews of secular books through a Christian lens, theology deep-dives of Christian picture books, and curated lists of the best books on the faith market. Kristin believes that YOU are the best person to choose books for your family, and she will equip you to do that!

Show Notes:

(00:00): Welcome
(00:57): Kristin’s favorite general market picture book from 2022: Knight Owl
(02:01): Terrie’s other general market pick: I’m Not Scared, You’re Scared
(03:55): Kristin’s pick from the Christian market: The Sower
(04:52): Terrie’s pick from the Christian market: His Grace is Enough: How God Makes It Right When We’ve Got It Wrong
(06:41): The Good Book Company
(06:50): The Fat Cat Series
(08:14): Book from 2019: The Panda Problem
(08:57): Parenting Books: Raising Emotionally Strong Boys
(10:14): Faithfully Different: Regaining Biblical Clarity in Secular Culture
11:38): Talking with Your Kids about God, Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side
(12:39): Putting your own spiritual oxygen mask first
(16:09): Closing and Upcoming Events
               Terriehellardbrown.com
               Bigbookslittleears.com
               GreatHomschoolConventions: Texas
               MOMCON

Books Discussed in This Episode:

Transcript:

Terrie:

‘Welcome to “Books That Spark,” a podcast for parents and caregivers, celebrating books that help us with everyday discipleship every day, sparking important conversations with our children. Well, today we have Kristin Wynalda back with us. I’m excited for her to share with us today. We are going to share with you our favorite books from 2022, and we haven’t told each other what we’ve chosen, so we’re excited to find out what each other has chosen as well. So how are you? Welcome, Kristin.

Kristin:

Yeah, I’m doing well. I’m nervous because if I say a book and you’re like, oh no, I hated that one, like-

Terrie:

Well, you know, it takes all kinds of people, right? Alright, so we decided to choose one book for the general market and one book from the Christian market, and so let’s start with our general market picks. What was your favorite picture book from 2022?

Kristin:

Okay, so my favorite picture book from 2022 for the general market was Knight Owl by Cristopher Denise.

Terrie:

Oh my gosh!

Kristin:

Is that yours?

Terrie:

Yes,

Kristin:

Is it really??

Terrie:

I have it right here, I just love this book! Okay, go ahead and tell us about the book.

Kristin:

I can’t believe that happened, that’s so funny! Well that should just let people know that it is excellent.

Terrie:

It is fabulous, yes. Okay, tell ’em about the book.

Kristin:

So, Knight Owl is about a little owl who dreams about being a knight. So when we say Knight Owl, it’s with a K, right? It’s Knight with a K as in Knight in Shining Armor, and yeah, the illustrations are beautiful and he dreams of being a knight and he gets the chance cause he goes to knight school at night and yeah, it’s just darling.

Terrie:

And I love that he’s the night knight, what is it? Night Knight Watchmen, or Knight Night… whatever. It’s just so cute. Oh my goodness, that’s hysterical. Okay.

Kristin:

And it won the Caldecott Honor this year, and well deserved, so yeah.

Terrie:

Very much, yes. Okay, well I did choose an alternate just in case that happened because this was a surprising book to me because as a children’s book writer, I’m a bit of a snob, we all are when we write, and then somebody who’s famous writes a children’s book and you’re like, “haagh…” They immediately get a lot of sales and everything, and sometimes they’re not so good. So I bought one, I’ve bought several actually, cause I wanted to see how they were, and this one surprised me, it’s really good. It’s by Seth Meyers, it’s called, I’m Not Scared, You’re Scared, and it cracks me up because my kids do that all the time and they’re just joking with each other. They’ll do the same thing all the time and say, I’m not, you’re that, but this is about a bear and a bunny, and the bear is a scaredy bear and he’s afraid of everything, and the bunny, he’s adventurous, he has no fear, so he’s always doing things that would make his mother want to cringe, and they’re gonna go on an adventure, and it deals with fear in a way that you could really open up some great conversations with your kids about what they’re afraid of. And you see how bear stops worrying about himself and has to help his crazy rabbit friend, and he faces his fears because he hears more about his friend than letting his fears stop him, and it’s a really good book. I was very surprised by it.

Kristin:

So what ages do you think it’s appropriate for?

Terrie:

They say three to six years old? I think if you’re really gonna open up conversations, I think you could go a little older than that, but yeah, for talking about fears and talking about helping others and facing your fears, it’s not as cute as Knight Owl, but it is really well done.

Kristin:

Well it sounds darling, we have not read that one, so I’m gonna have to request it from the library.

Terrie:

Yeah, it’s really cute. Okay, so then, what did you choose for your Christian market book?

Kristin:

So I chose The Sower by Scott James Illustrated by Stephen Crotts.

Terrie:

Okay, I have not read that one. Tell me about that one.

Kristin:

So it is beautiful, it’s like woodcut style illustrations, so they look like woodcuts and it images God and Jesus as a sower, so there’s like a theme throughout of growing and planting, and hearts growing, and spreading the good news and the seed, it’s just lovely. It is of course very symbolic, but my 10 year old totally got it, he understood exactly what’s going on. I’d be like, “Okay, what did that page mean?” And he’d kind of explain it to the littler kids. So it is fairly symbolic, it wasn’t, it isn’t one that I’d be like four year old, read this on your own, but it is just lovely.

Terrie:

Nice, okay, and who wrote that one? Tell me again.

Kristin:

It’s by Scott James, illustrated by Stephen Crotts.

Terrie:

I know they need to give us a guide to know how to say all these things. Especially the illustrators, oh my goodness, I feel so bad, I’m sure I’m totally messing up their names. Speaking of that situation, I have the same situation with my book, the one I chose and it was hard for me. I had a whole bunch and I narrowed it down to this one and it’s called His Grace is Enough: How God Makes It Right When We’ve Got It Wrong, and this is written by Melissa Kruger and the illustrator is Isabel Lundie. Normally, I don’t prefer books where an adult is teaching the child everything. They always want books where the child is figuring things out for themselves today, that’s the popular thing, but this one is done so beautifully and it deals with the topic of grace and how it covers our sin. Whether we’re just being lazy or we’ve really done something we regret, we’ve written on the wall with our crayon, whatever, and it deals with that whole issue for even a really young child. This one is geared toward, I would say, a three to six year old and deals with the topic of grace and forgiveness, and the fact that we all need it, and I love the way they’ve handled this. It’s a rhyming book and it’s really beautifully done, and the illustrations are fun. They’re not very serious, they’re all very cute and cartoony and very colorful, but I just love the way that they deal with the grace topic. In fact, at the end of each section of the rhyme, it says “His grace is enough. It’s so big and so free. His grace is enough for both you and for me.” So it’s like the adult is also saying, I need grace just as much as you do, and I just love that. I think that’s an important lesson for children to learn, and the sooner they can learn it, the better. So that was one of my favorites from that year for the Christian market.

Kristin:

Yeah, that’s a good one. I feel like the Good Book company, they killed it last year. So yeah, they did awesome with that one and a lot of their titles last year were really good.

Terrie:

Yeah. Another group that did really well is the Fat Cat series. Have you read those?

Kristin:

I have, yeah.

Terrie:

Yeah, and I think they had like four books come out in 2022.

Kristin:

Yeah, they churned them out.

Terrie:

Yes they did. I interviewed most of their people on this podcast and I love the illustrator, Natasha Kennedy, I love her illustrations, they’re really interesting, and Todd Hains, who is the editor overseer of the whole project, he wanted her to illustrate and have each person in the story added to the illustration, so by the end of the books, like with the Christmas story and the Easter story, you have a whole crowd of people and she’s like, “Do you know how hard it is to get everybody into the picture?” But she had a great time, so it’s kind of fun, and she put a lot of little things for the kids to look for on each page, and I love it when illustrators do that. So yeah, I have almost that whole set. I love that set of books. Like I said, most of those came out in 2022 as well.

Kristin:

Yeah, they had a good year. Lots of good books came out last year.

Terrie:

They really did, and it was hard to narrow it down, but that was fun. I can’t believe we chose the same number one book, that’s just too good, and I just love that book.

Kristin:

Yeah, so everyone listening should know Knight Owl by Christopher Dennis. It’s wonderful.

Terrie:

It is.

Kristin:

Did you read a really good parenting book?

New Speaker:

Oh, my very favorite book that I just recently read. I wanted to share it and it came out in 2019 and I’m like, oh man, <laugh>, I’m gonna have to find a way to bring it into one of the episodes. And it’s called Panda Has a Problem or something like that. It’s so funny.

Kristin:

I don’t think I read that one.

Terrie:

Oh, you have to read it. Especially if you’re talking to your kids about plot development and writing stories because Panda doesn’t have a problem and the narrator is like, you have to have a problem. We’re telling a story and you’re the main character. And he’s like, oh, being the main character sounds important, but I don’t have a problem. And he’s like, yes you do. He says, it sounds to me like you have a problem, <laugh>. And it’s just so funny. Oh my gosh, it cracks me up.

Terrie:

Alright, so now let’s change to what parenting book or book for parents that you found from 2022. What would you recommend?

Kristin:

So I read Raising Emotionally Strong Boys by David Thomas, and it was excellent. It is faith market I would say, but it’s certainly not a Bible study or anything like that. There’s a lot of science and psychology, and God made the brain, and “how did He make it?”, and it was very helpful. I would say both if you’re raising boys and girls, because we have both, and I felt like a lot of the information I could use for both genders, but yeah, so raising emotionally strong boys is just about the conversations and how to talk with your boys and make sure that they are processing things and growing emotionally and spiritually, but it also as a book as a whole felt very doable because I have read books before that are parenting books and are like, “you have to do this massive thing.” Well I can’t do that. I can’t have 300 conversations with one of my many children this week. Like, that’s just not gonna happen. So it was very doable action steps, but things that were like, yes, this will help my child grow spiritually and help our relationship, but in a manageable chunk, not in like, let’s change your family structure overnight.

Terrie:

Oh, I love that, that makes it doable. Well, one I really liked was Faithfully Different: Regaining Biblical Clarity in Secular Culture by Natasha Crain, and I just love Natasha Crain. Anyway, she zeroes in on the theology that’s hitting our culture and influencing our children. I just think we have to be aware that there are people trying to change the Bible and change the theology that we know is true, and our kids are being sucked into some of these ideas, and I call it American Buddhism. A lot of it, it’s New Age thinking and tearing down the gospel, and all of her books are just very straightforward, very easy to understand, and breaks down these big theological issues into manageable pieces where we can really grasp some deep thoughts and some deep understanding without it being too heavy. I mean, that sounds silly, but it’s doable, it’s manageable and it’s clear, and if you’ve ever heard her speak, it’s the same thing when she speaks too, and I love that she has several books that I love, but this one came out in 2022 and I really like that, and it’s really calling us to also be faithful and stand up in a secular society that’s tearing down Christianity and not shrinking back from who we are and who we’re called to be. So I love that, it’s very encouraging.

Kristin:

And do you think that parents with small kids, like would I get stuff from it? Like my kids aren’t going for crystals or…

Terrie:

Well, she has other books that are geared more toward parents with younger kids. This one to me is more for ourselves and for our little bit older kids, cause they’re gonna be the ones dealing with this tearing down their faith sort of thing. She has Talking with Your Kids about Jesus and Talking with Your Kids about God. Those two books are more for a little bit younger child answering their questions when they start asking, I don’t know about you, but most of my kids started asking questions when they were four and five years old, and then Keeping your Kids on God’s Side is another one she wrote, and it’s geared toward your lower elementary, middle elementary age children. So those books definitely would be more along those lines, but for 2022, she came out with Faithfully Different, and like I said, I think it’s almost more of a book for me, being me, stay grounded, and answering any questions I might have in keeping my biblical worldview in a secular world that is trying to tear down my worldview and not shrinking back away from that.

Kristin:

Yeah, I love that. It’s almost like put your own oxygen mask on first.

Terrie:

Yes, that’s a good way to look at it. Yeah.

Kristin:

Putting on your own spiritual oxygen mask first.

Terrie:

Yes. Then I just know my own kids, even though they’re older, are dealing with so many fears and uncertainties and our culture’s changing so rapidly that they have so many questions, and I think that’s where we are as parents today. We gotta let our kids know they can talk to us, they can ask questions, and sometimes through reading a book together that can open the door for us to really dig into what’s going on and not to always be so heavy and so serious, but when those situations arise, those teachable moments that we can recognize it as an opportunity to help our kids process what they’re dealing with. It’s just so crazy right now, I don’t know. Are your kids experiencing any of that kind of stuff?

Kristin:

So my kids are younger, so I have a 10 year old and a four-year-old and a seven-year-old and a one-year-old, and so it is different, I think. Yeah, the world is crazy though, everybody’s seeing things and writing things.

Terrie:

Well, and then Covid just, I don’t know about your kids, and again, mine are older, but when it first started, how bad is it? We’re at home all the time, we can’t go to church, we can’t go anywhere, and just everything changed, and my students even, well, a lot of my students are actually in China and they’re locked into their apartment buildings and they’re hungry, they can’t get food, they can’t go to the store. It was terrifying. And so they’ve dealt with a lot of fear and a lot of stuff that they’ve never had to face before, so I think just being aware that maybe our kids are dealing with some stuff that they might want to talk about, and with my older kids, I mean, they’re in college, they’re seeing all kinds of different ideas and having to process what do they really believe and are they going to adopt what we believe? Are they developing their own beliefs? And that’s a hard one for me of course, cause I want them to adopt what I believe and just be happy with that, but they have to make it their own, and so I’m thrilled that they are walking through that. It’s just sometimes a rocky road and hard to stand by and not talk. Not tell them what to think, but I’m really proud of them.

Kristin:

Yeah, that is hard.

Terrie:

It is, but I’m trying to do it gracefully. I hope I’m doing it gracefully, but we do talk a lot about what we believe and what they believe and why they believe what they believe, but my daughter, most of her friends are Buddhist or atheist and well, I didn’t grow up like that. Most of my friends were at least familiar with Christianity, and they may not really be Christians, but they at least respected Christianity. Her friends just think it’s a joke, and she’s standing up in that kind of an atmosphere every single day, and she loves these people, they’re her best friends, she cares about them, and yet they don’t respect her faith and don’t even understand it, and it’s a challenge, so…

Kristin:

Yeah, that is hard.

Terrie:

Yeah. All right, well, anything you want to add to this part of the conversation about books from 2022? Nothing

Kristin:

Specific. 2022 was a good year for books.

Terrie:

Yes, it was, and 2023 is too, I can’t wait for that episode.

Kristin:

If they’re the same again, we’re just gonna be like-

Terrie:

That’s just so good, I love it. I thought, nah, she won’t choose this one, but yes you did. Alright, well thank you so much for joining us today and we will talk some more in the future.

Kristin:

Alright, sounds good. Thanks for having me.

Terrie:

Thank you for joining us for “Books That Spark,” where we encourage each other to live out everyday discipleship, helping to equip our children to follow Christ with their whole hearts. If you enjoyed this episode, please like and share on social media so people know we are here, and leave a review on one of the podcast host sites so that we can move up in the numbers and people will recognize that we exist and they can come learn about great books for their kids. We truly appreciate your help in this, it means a lot. If you would like to connect with Kristin, you can find her at her website, which is Big Books, Little Ears, and she has a great newsletter that recommends books for children, so connect with her there, and if you would like to connect with me, you can find me on my website, which is TerrieHellardBrown.com. You can join either one of our mailing lists and get great ideas for great books to read with your children. Also this summer, remember, I am going to be sharing at several events, and I would love for you to come by the booth if you are at one of these events. I will be in Texas in July at the Homeschool Convention. I’ll be at An Affair of the Heart in Tulsa in July as well, and then in September I will be at MOMcon in Chicago, and I am so excited to be there. I had a great time last year and met some wonderful moms. I look forward to meeting some more this year, and so I would just love for you to come by and say hello, would love to meet you. Well, we pray you feel empowered as a parent or caregiver to walk by faith and to embrace everyday discipleship every day with the children in your life.

Your Host: Terrie Hellard-Brown

Terrie Hellard-Brown writes and speaks to help children and adults find God’s purpose and plan for their lives. She teaches workshops and writes devotional books, children’s stories, and Christian education materials.

Her podcast, Books that Spark, reviews children’s books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids. Her podcast posts each Tuesday morning.

Her blog posts discuss living as a disciple of Christ while parenting our children. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to walk by faith in obedience to Christ and to use the nooks and crannies of our lives to disciple our children.

Terrie uses her experiences as a mother of four (three on “the spectrum”), 37 years in ministry (15 in Taiwan), and 32 years teaching to speak to the hearts of readers.

Her motto is “Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be WONDERFUL” and keeps her childlike joy by writing children’s stories, delighting over pink dolphins, and frequently laughing till it hurts.

My Newest Book: Building Character Through Picture Books

25 devotionals for families to do together. After reading the picture book together, families can read the short devotion, discuss some compelling questions, and end with prayer together as the children prepare to sleep. The book includes questions for older siblings to think about and a section for parents to go further in the discussion with their children as needed.

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