Books that Spark podcast cover. A topic on Books for Lent and Easter with Kristin Wynalda

Episode 177: Books for Lent and Easter with Kristin Wynalda

Kristin from Big Books Little Ears is back to chat with us this week. With Lent starting Wednesday, we thought we’d talk about books for Lent and Easter that will bless your children and your entire family. Find out which ones we both love.

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 with Links:

00:10 – Introduction and Welcome

00:30 – Big Books Little Ears

00:35 – Lent

02:00 – No Ordinary Home

03:00 – Jesus Rose for Me

04:20 – Baby Believers, Holy Week

04:50 – Danielle Hitchen episode

05:10 – Glenys Nellist episode

05:20 – Laura Sassi episode

Bunny Finds Easter

05:35 – The Garden, the Curtain, and the Cross

05:50 – Howie’s Broken Hee-Haw

07:00 – The Friends and the Traveller

07:45 – I See Jesus

08:55 – The Promise: The Amazing Story of Our Long Awaited Savior

10:10 – Journey with Jesus: An Easter Story

11:20 – Bare Tree and Little Wind

11:30 – The Tale of the Three Trees

13:10 – Twas the Season of Lent

Twas the Morning of Easter

14:40 – Are We Nearly There Yet?

16:10 – Bitter and Sweet: A Journey into Easter

17:30 – A Jesus Easter

19:10 – An Easter Bunny’s Tale

21:50 – Sunrise Hill

23:15 – Closing

BigBooksLittleEars.com

TerrieHellardBrown.com

Books Discussed in This Episode:

Show 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 with us again to talk about Lent and Easter books and I’m so glad you’re here. Kristin, thank you for joining us.

Kristin:

Yeah, thanks for having me. I’m happy to represent Big Books, Little Ears.

Terrie:

Yes. Wonderful blog. I often encourage people to go to it, so I think you do such a great job. What do you call it? The “picky moms reviews” or something like that? It’s just so perfect. Definitely, we want people to check out your blog. Okay, so we’re talking about all things Lent and Easter. Does your church observe Lent?

Kristin:

We do, not technically, but it’s sort of in vogue right now to make sure that it’s a season where your family’s focusing on what Christ did for us, so I would say we do that. We’re sort of loose Lent followers.

Terrie:

Yeah. We never did either when I was growing up, but when we were serving as missionaries overseas, we had so many different denominations represented in our church that we started thinking, well, we need to do a little bit more ecumenical observances so that more people feel welcomed, because one day my husband asked from the pulpit, we had like 300 people in the congregation at the time. “How many of you were raised in Southern Baptist?” cause that’s what my husband is, Southern Baptist, and five of us raised our hands out of the whole 300 and something. We’re like, “Okay.” So we started doing Advent and Lent and all those things that we didn’t do before, that’s when I first really got into it. But what really triggered my interest in it was a book that’s no longer in print, but if you can find it, it is an amazing book.

Terrie:

It’s called No Ordinary Home by Carol Brazo. It is one of my all time favorite books for understanding liturgy, understanding just personal worship and having a real meaningful time with God. It just really triggered that for me, and she covers Lent and Advent and all those things in her book because she also was raised in a tradition that didn’t observe it and she had friends who did and she wanted to understand what it was all about. It’s a fabulous book and gives you lots of good suggestions, so I recommend that. Okay, let’s start with, what do you think, board books for Easter? Or do you wanna start with a Lent devotional? What would you like to talk about first?

Kristin:

Oh man, I trust you. It sounds like you have more books than I might have gathered, so…

Terrie:

I gathered a whole stack here. I was just looking, I technically don’t have a board book. I have a small picture book that is kind of like a board book cause of the size. It reminds me of a board book, but it actually isn’t. It actually is a picture book.

Kristin:

So I have a board book then so I can talk about that.

Terrie:

Okay. Yeah, so you tell us about the board book.

Kristin:

Sure. I’ll talk about my board book. So my favorite Easter board book is ‘Jesus Rose For Me’ by Jared Kennedy. It’s all about the resurrection and it focuses on what Jesus did for us, but even though it’s a board book, there is quite a bit of text, so I think you could push the age up a little bit, and it’s also the type of book that if you know of kids who are maybe not attending church regularly or they’re coming from a background that doesn’t talk about the gospel at home, this is like an excellent book for that type of child. Like very intro level, clear, “this is what happened, Jesus Rose.” I really like that.

Terrie:

That’s so funny because I did have that board book on my list. I can’t find my list is the problem because I wrote down some and then I have some here physically that I’m looking at and I didn’t have a board book in my stack, but I did have it on my list. That’s so funny. I don’t know where my list went.

Kristin:

Well I’m glad that I also like that one. It’s just so great, but yeah, I do warn people even though it is physically a board book theologically and message wise, I think you could go definitely through age 7 no problem reading it.

Terrie:

His books are really rich with theology. He has quite a few out that are just really good for talking about theology. Most of them are board books, but then you can also talk with your little bit older kids more deeply about it. I did remember another one from my list, even though I can’t find my list right now. I’ve talked about this series quite a bit, but I do like the way they discuss theology and different concepts that we want our children to learn. That is the Baby Believers series and they have one on the Holy Week.

Kristin:

That is a good one.

Terrie:

I found it.

Kristin:

By Danielle Hitchen?

Terrie:

Yes. She’s been on the podcast once before too. Yeah, that one I really like and it’s an emotions primer in that book as well. Okay, do you have any other board books that you like for Easter?

Kristin:

I mean, of course I have ones that I like, but I think those are the standouts, right?

Terrie:

Yeah, I think so too.

Kristin:

It’s so hard to narrow ’em down.

Terrie:

Yeah, I mean Glenys Nellist has several and there’s several other people I’ve interviewed that have quite a few board books out, but yeah, I think those are standout ones.

Kristin:

Yeah, I think Laura Sassi too, cause Glenys Nellist has some, and then Laura Sassi, she’s got Bunny Finds Easter, right? That’s a board book.

Terrie:

Yeah. So cute.

Kristin:

That’s a good one.

Terrie:

Alright, so now let’s jump up to picture books. What would you recommend for picture books for Easter?

Kristin:

So I think the gold standard of Easter picture books is The Garden, The Curtain, and The Cross by Carl Laferton.

Terrie:

Amen. Yes, for sure. My favorite.

Kristin:

Me too. It connects the whole Bible to Christ’s resurrection and I just think it’s the best.

Terrie:

Yeah, I agree 100%. It handles the stories so well, makes it so accessible for young kids and it beautifully shares the gospel. So yeah, that’s my all time favorite. I have another one I like that’s just a fun picture book about Easter by Josie Siler and it’s ‘Howie’s Broken Hee-Haw’ and it’s just a sweet story. It’s total fiction as far as the backstory of the little donkey, but it’s about the donkey that Jesus writes into Jerusalem on and he’s got a broken hee-haw, he can’t hee-haw right, so he thinks basically that God could never use him cause he’s defective, kind of concept. But she does such a good job in this story and it’s just beautifully written. It’s kind of almost her story because she lives with chronic illness and pain, yet God is using her life. When we were interviewing her, I said, this book is your testimony, and she said, “I’d never thought of it that way, but you’re right, it really is.” It’s a beautiful story. A little different from just a straightforward Easter story, but it has the Easter theme. I really like that one.

Kristin:

Yeah, that sounds beautiful. Love the concept.

Terrie:

Okay, I have some more that are new to me this year. One of them did come out just recently in 2023 and it’s actually for right after Easter. It’s about the road to Emmaus when the travelers are going and they run into Jesus and don’t realize it’s Jesus. It’s called The Friends and The Traveller by Sam Brewster and illustrated by Hannah Green. It’s just a great story. It’s in rhyme. It’s just wonderful. I love this book and it would even be a good book for your middle schoolers to read up through that age. So it’s a picture book, but it really is more sophisticated. I think your older kids would enjoy it just as much as your younger kids. I just love that story where they realize, “Oh my goodness, we’ve been talking to Jesus, He is alive.” and all of that. So it’s kind of cool.

Kristin:

Yeah, I love it when they take more obscure Bible stories that our kids might be missing and make them in picture book form. I love that.

Terrie:

Then I have another one that came out 2022. This is called I See Jesus written by Nancy Guthrie, illustrated by Jenny Brake.

Kristin:

That was my other one.

Terrie:

Oh, yay. Isn’t it great? It’s also covering the whole Bible and all the stories leading up to understanding who Jesus is and the whole Easter story. So tell me your take on it, what you wanna share about that book.

Kristin:

Oh, I was like obsessed with the fact that the illustrations show the shadow of Jesus in objects and people throughout the entire Bible. Oh my goodness, what a, just, great concept. It is longer. So FYI, for those who have like preschoolers or toddlers, they might not sit through the whole thing in one sitting. Don’t be distressed. You could definitely stretch it out over the week before Easter and just do a couple pages and take your time to talk about the stories. So I mean, the concept is so great and to have it executed so well that Jesus is throughout the whole Bible was just great.

Terrie:

It’s wonderful. I just love it. I was even thinking as I read it, this would be fun to do for adult Bible study and just take like a survey of the Bible. Just go through the book and say, “Okay, now we’re gonna dig into this story and take it deeper with the adults.” They could even use the book with their kids, but then have that Bible study for them. I thought that would be fun to do, cause it is like a survey of the Bible. Okay, and I have to share one of my all time favorite books that also talks about the whole Bible. 2021, so it hasn’t been that long. It’s called The Promise: The Amazing Story of Our Long awaited Savior by Jason Helopoulos and illustrated by Rommel Ruiz. Have you read this book?

Kristin:

The one I’m picturing by that title I think is a Christmas book, so I must not have.

Terrie:

Oh, okay. Well this one just tells the whole story of the gospel. What I love about this is it shows the need for Jesus to come that the prophets couldn’t save us, our works can’t save us. We needed a savior. It’s just handled so beautifully. What I love about it too is the illustrations are very boxy, they would appeal to young boys.

Kristin:

Oh yes, I do know which one you’re talking about. It’s a lot of pages, isn’t it?

Terrie:

Yes it is. It is a longer one, but I think he does such a good job of sharing the gospel and why we needed a savior, why Jesus needed to come, yet it tells the whole history of the Bible as well and I think it does a great job. Okay, I have another picture book. It’s kind of like a board book in the way it feels and the pictures in it, but it is an actual picture book and this one is brand new. It’s not even available till the end of January. I’m gonna be interviewing the author Ann Ingalls in a couple weeks on the podcast. It’s called Journey with Jesus: an Easter Story. I would tell you who it’s illustrated by, but I don’t even know how to pronounce her name, oh dear… Steliyana Doneva. I think I got it pretty close to right. The illustrations are absolutely just beautiful and the story is so well done. It talks about the whole Easter story. We journey with Jesus through the story and like I said, this is brand new. It’s not even available yet. I got an advanced copy cause I’m interviewing her and I love it. It’s such a beautiful book. So that would be one that’s brand new for this year. That would be fun to share.

Kristin:

Yeah, I’ll have to be on the lookout for that.

Terrie:

Do you have any others?

Kristin:

There’s always great ones. We liked Bare Tree and Little Wind by Mitali Perkins last year, but that would be not for every family. It’s a little more lyrical. I do have a question though for you.

Terrie:

Okay.

Kristin:

The Tale of Three Trees by Angela Hunt the classic, is it a Christmas book or an Easter book?

Terrie:

Ooh, that’s a good question… It’s both.

Kristin:

It’s both. I disagree. I think it’s an Easter book, but that’s okay.

Terrie:

Well, the reason I say I think it’s both is because this is the first year. I don’t remember what devotional I was reading, but I had never thought of how when we look at the Christmas tree we should realize that that tree did not have to be made into a cross because Jesus paid the price in full. This devotional was saying every Christmas when we look at that evergreen tree, yes it reminds us that we’re growing and new life in Christ is evergreen and ever growing, but it also shows us no more trees had to be made into a cross to save us. Only one tree had to be made into a cross to save us because Jesus paid the penalty in full on the cross, and I had never thought of it that way. So then when I think of the three trees, that makes me think of that then because only one tree had to be the cross for Him to die on because He only had to die once for our sins, so that was why that one hit me that way, but yeah, I think otherwise I would think of it as an Easter story, but that’s the difference.

Kristin:

I feel like most bookish people, like when you get on Pinterest and look for Christmas books about Jesus, The Tale of the Three Trees is everywhere, and I’m always like, “It’s an Easter story, like…”

Terrie:

That’s so funny. I don’t think I ever thought of it as a Christmas story until this year. That’s so funny.

Kristin:

So there’s another good one. That’s a good one for Easter… not for Christmas. I’m just kidding, it’s good all the time.

Terrie:

Well, and we have to mention another one that’s new this year is Glenys Nellist’s ‘Twas The Season of Lent, and I don’t know if you like her ‘Twas The Night of Christmas or ‘Twas The Morning of Easter, those are both really cute books and they follow kind of the poem like ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement Seymour. They follow that pattern, but this is actually a devotional for the whole season of Lent and I like it better than I do her other ones, because it doesn’t just stick with that whole poem thing, it really has a lot of depth to it. There is some poetry in it and it is the same illustrator that I just love Elena Selivanova, her artwork is so beautiful. There is poetry throughout it, but it doesn’t stick with that same story, that same rhyme I guess I should say, of The Night Before Christmas, it has a little more variety in it. It is longer because it is a devotional for the whole 40 days of Lent, but I just love it. I think it’s just very well done. It has a little short devotional for each day that is appropriate for children with a prayer, a scripture, and then a short devotional. Some of the devotionals have poems, some do not. The poems that are in here are kind of in between. You’ll have a page of pictures with a poem and then the devotionals are not a poem, they’re actually a devotional, so I really like that. I think it’s more what I was looking for for Easter than just a sing song-y rhyme-y type of story, so I just really appreciate the time she spent creating this devotional.

Terrie:

And then I have one more silly story that I found. It’s silly in the sense of the way it’s written, but the meaning and the message is very powerful. This one I think was from 2019, but it’s new to me; I had never seen it before. It’s called Are We Nearly There Yet? Have you heard of this one?

Kristin:

Is it green? I’m trying to picture it. Is the cover green?

Terrie:

It’s blue with green. Yeah, it has blue ‘and’ green, written by Alison Brewis and illustrated by Jenny Brake. These kids are saying, “Are we nearly there yet?” They’re going to grandma’s house for Easter. It tells the whole story and it’s like in the story of Easter, the disciples are like, “Are we nearly there yet?” They keep waiting for Jesus to take over as a political king instead of the king of our hearts. So it tells that whole story, that whole misunderstanding, and the children then also are beginning to understand what Easter’s all about instead of just thinking of candy and eggs and stuff. So are we nearly there yet? It’s just kind of cute concept that we’re not quite there yet, we gotta understand what’s really going on and the real meaning of Easter, so I thought it was cute, and it’s a very short little paperback book. I don’t even know if it comes in hardback. I have it in paperback, but it’s a tiny little book so it fits right in your hand almost. Then I wanted to share a devotional for families or for adults too, but did you have any other children’s books you wanted to talk about?

Kristin:

I don’t. The only other one I have is the devotional, so I feel like I should wait until you share yours because if it’s the same then like everyone will know it is the best.

Terrie:

Well, mine is not new. This is an older one that I just appreciate so much that I had to share it again, and it’s called Bitter and Sweet by Tsh Oxenreider. Oh man. Someone needs to tell me how to pronounce everybody’s name. Okay, her first name is T-S-H, so I’m assuming that’s (Tish) and then it’s Oxenreider, I think is how you would say her last name, and it’s A Journey into Easter, but what I love about this, again, not coming from a tradition of Lent, the first section of the book is an invitation and it tells you all about Lent and all about the passion week. All those things that if you weren’t raised in that tradition that you might not know, it explains it in a very cool devotional way. I mean I just really felt blessed reading that. Then you go into the Lent section of the book where you have a daily devotional talking about the sorrow and the bitterness of the story, but how it is also our hope and it’s sweet because it gives us new life, of course. It’s just such a well done devotional. It was written a while back… Really? I’ve only had it a year? I thought I had it longer cause it meant so much to me. How funny. It was 2022.

Kristin:

Oh that’s great.

Terrie:

Yeah, I thought I had it longer than that. That’s how much it meant to me, but I didn’t realize it was so short. How funny. Okay, how about you?

Kristin:

So I really like the devotionals from Barbara Reaoch, I think that’s how you say her last name, but she has one called A Jesus Easter. It’s meant for families and the reason I like the ones that she does is because they are very family oriented, but then she breaks the questions down into like there’s a younger kid question and a little-bit-older kid question, and then there’s like a tween question, which is good for us, cause our kids range from, I’ve got a fifth grader all the way down to one still in diapers, so we’re kind of all over the place, so those are really great. It’s only 30 days, so it wouldn’t be, if you like want something for every day of Lent, it wouldn’t cover all of it, but 30 days, and the other thing I like about her devotionals, they’re from the Good Book Company, which is super generous with their online resources.

Kristin:

So in the family devotionals that Barbara writes, there are pages that are supposed to be for like family journaling where you write your answer, but if you have a bunch of kids like we do, we’re not gonna fight over the book and whose day is it to write in the Family journal? So online for free, you don’t have to put in your email address or anything, you can download copies of the family journaling pages, only then you just print one off for every child and be like, here’s your family journaling page for the day. Nobody has to fight over the book.

Terrie:

That’s wonderful. Then you could even keep that for each year and have it to look back at too. That would be so much fun. Yeah. Oh, I love that.

Kristin:

Yeah. So that’s the one that has been good for our family is A Jesus Easter.

Terrie:

Ours too. We don’t do the Easter Bunny, but I do have a book if people do have the tradition of the Easter Bunny or they’re from the background where that’s a part of the culture. Do you know Valerie Fentress? Maybe?

Kristin:

What does she do?

Terrie:

She’s a writer and she has a new podcast where she interviews writers and I’ll be on her podcast in April. She interviewed me for her podcast not long ago and it was one of my first times to do a video interview. So I was very nervous, but she interviews a lot of writers, but she’s written two books and I love her books. One of them, it’s called an Easter Bunny’s Tale, and in this story this little bunny observes all that’s going on with Jesus and the trial and the crucifixion and resurrection. He’s hiding from people and he runs into the tomb, and so he is actually in the tomb when Jesus is resurrected, so of course it’s a fiction story about this little bunny. I love it because it has the bunny. So if you do have the Easter bunny you can say, “Yeah, there’s the Easter Bunny, but this is the real story that we wanna talk about.”

Terrie:

So it’s a different take on Easter. The one thing that I would say is awkward is that the bunny becomes an evangelist to other bunnies, but I think we can talk about that with kids, cause we talk about fairytales and fantasy and all that with our kids already, and we can talk about how “Yes, the bunnies really don’t talk to each other about Jesus,” but we should; we should be talking to each other about Jesus, and when we understand who Jesus is, we have a responsibility to share His story, so I think we can do it that way, but it is such an unusual little book that she wrote and tells that story of Easter and the real story of Easter from a Bunny’s perspective. So it’s just a different kind of book.

Kristin:

Yeah, that sounds great for those families who do both.

Terrie:

Yeah. So we never did, we never talked about the Easter Bunny. I don’t think ever in our family it was always the Bible story and trying to cover an understanding of how the whole Bible is leading to this resurrection to the story of Jesus, and what I found since we’ve been observing Lent is that Easter Sunday morning is such a celebration. We really do build that anticipation for that morning and I just love that. I love the sense of gratitude and celebration and the meaning it has brought to our family to observe Lent. So I think if someone is not from that tradition and has never done it, they should look into it and see if it does the same for them, cause it sure did for our family. Yeah. Okay, anything else you wanna add?

Kristin:

I don’t think so. I’m looking forward to reading some of the new stuff that’s coming out this year. It’s still pretty early in first quarter, so hopefully by the time Lent rolls around there’s some really good new releases that we’ll be able to check out also.

Terrie:

Yeah, that’s true. Like I said, that one is coming out this month, The Journey to Easter, and I don’t know what else is coming out. It should be fun. Oh wait, I have one more. I totally forgot I have to share this one. This is a chapter book. It is one of the most beautiful pioneer days story, but it shows such a strong meaning of Easter community and all of that in it. It’s by Kathleen Long Bostrom and it’s called Sunrise Hill. It’s a very short book, but it’s a chapter book. Have you read it?

Kristin:

No I haven’t.

Terrie:

I think it’s out of print, but I think you can download it on Amazon for free or very cheap. I think it’s free on unlimited or whatever, but I bought it and I have it on my Kindle. It is such a touching, moving story and really shows what our attitude should be about Easter and I don’t know, it’s just a moving story and I really love it. So that’s called Sunrise Hill by Kathleen Long Bostrom. This is wonderful for your middle schoolers and up or to read as a family together. Such a good story. So I forgot I did have that one I wanted to share as well. Alright, well thank you so much for joining us today and I love the books you shared. I can’t wait to check out that family devotional. I think that’ll be fantastic. So again, thank you for joining us and we look forward to talking to you again about something new.

Kristin:

Alright, thanks for having me.

Terrie:

Thank you for joining us for “Books That Spark,” where we encourage each other to grasp those teachable moments sparked by great books and 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 or leave comments on one of the podcast host sites. We truly appreciate you. If you would like to connect with Kristin, you can find her on her website, which is Big Books, Little Ears, and it’s wonderful. She has all kinds of reviews on the website. If you haven’t checked it out yet or joined her mailing list, I highly encourage you to do that. If you would like to connect with me, you can join my mailing list or comment on TerrieHellardBrown.com. We love to hear from you and we respond to every comment and question. 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.

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