Books

Little Book, Big Story – An Interview

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{Photo by Felicia Marie Photography}

About four years ago, my dear friend, Thea, and her family came to visit us in the desert valley of central Washington. Our children enjoyed the reunion of friendship and fun, playing in their toddler ways, enjoying the nearby old city park and playground, and, us parents, enjoyed the familiarity of good and true conversation about all sorts of things. And whether they were deep theological thoughts, recollections of days gone by, or the tantalizing sharing of book titles and wine, we were content and happy. On a visit to the nearby Franklin Park, sitting on the grass, my friend shared with me something that had been on her heart. “Hey Jen, so… I started a new blog!” Now, to rewind the cassette tape just a few years, my friend and I both love to write, we’ve both had several blogs already, trying our hand at social media, the ups and downs of what we are really after in our writing, and the constant submission to the Lord as He develops our respective writing habits. Little did we know, we would one day share space in Deeply Rooted Magazine together, and that has been one of the sweetest fruits of our labors together, thus far.

Visiting her new blog, a children’s book review website, I saw the familiar favorites listed in her beginning posts, the likes of Winnie-the-Pooh and The Chronicles of Narnia! Delightful, engaging, and inspiring. Over the years, I have shared her blog with many others. Isn’t it great when you can trust someone’s recommendation of a certain book, and because they say its wonderful, it gives you the confidence to try it out for yourself?

Below is a brief interview with my friend, Thea, because I would love to introduce you to her. So sit back with your cup of tea or coffee and see what beautiful things may come!

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{Photo: Ten Books About God for Toddlers}

Thea, thank you for being willing to join in this interview! I know you have had several interviews in the past, mostly for your years in music, so this might be a blast from the past! But this time, it is about books, stories, and the One big story it all points to.

To start out, what is the background story behind the title of your blog, Little Book, Big Story and what inspired you to begin this work?

Thank you, Jen! I am so grateful for our cross-country, almost decade-long(!) friendship, and I love reading your beautiful blog posts. It’s a treat to have the chance to visit with your readers (who are, I suspect, kindred spirits).

I have always loved reading children’s books and started building a library for our family when our oldest daughter was a baby. I wanted beautiful books—well-written and creatively illustrated by artists striving to glorify God—but what I found, instead, was that many Christian books had a lukewarm quality to them: too-cute rhymes, bland illustrations, and no Gospel. Reading those books to my daughter was like trying to drink tepid lemonade: I could do it, but it didn’t satisfy.

Around that same time, a friend introduced us to The Jesus Storybook Bible, thereby restoring my hope for our home library and for the Christian publishing industry in general. If there were books like that available, I needed to find them! I did find them—many of them—and I began urging my favorites on close friends at playdates, Bible studies, dinners. (It could have been awkward, but I have really patient friends.)

By the time I started my blog, we had two more daughters and a library that spilled into every room of our house. The blog became a sort of vent for my enthusiasm—a way to share our favorite books with everyone, all at once. The name Little Book, Big Story came from the idea that these “little,” underestimated picture books written for “little,” sometimes overlooked people often convey the big story of the Gospel with a simplicity and clarity that can be hard to find in books written for grown-ups.

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{Photo: Ten Chapter Books to Read Aloud with your Daughter}

When did you become a reader, or book lover, and which books whetted your appetite in those early years as a child and young reader?

I read a lot as a child, but I remember only a handful of books that shaped me in a favorable way: A Wrinkle in Time. Matilda. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. I’m sure there were others that I’ve since forgotten.

But when I was in college, I started collecting books to read after graduation (when I would be a free woman, able to assign my own reading list!). I found myself accumulating lots and lots of classics, because—despite majoring in creative writing—I just wasn’t being assigned them in school. David Sedaris: yes. Dostoevsky: alas! No.

After graduation, I submerged myself in Russian novels—and classic children’s books. That is when my appetite for reading really awoke. (It hasn’t slumbered since.)

What are you looking for when setting out to find new titles to review?

I love this question! Because I only review books that I absolutely love on my blog, my criteria for what gets a review and what doesn’t is pretty subjective. I look for moments of truth in a story, moments that hit the string in my heart that rings with the Gospel. I look for beauty and for originality, too, in the way a book was written, illustrated, and constructed.

I look for books by Christian authors, because I want to save families the work of reading those “tepid lemonade” books and guide them, like a trusty librarian, to true and beautiful Christian books. But many of the books I review are not explicitly Christian in content. These books may present a clear picture of a character loving the outcast at a great cost, or of a character reaching the end of his own strength and appealing for outside help. Or they may just be so delightful that I must share them.

When I choose titles to feature on my blog, my hope is that each one will help families build the sort of library that nurtures, in children and parents alike, a love of the Great Author.

Which children’s book author has become your favorite and why?

Sally Lloyd-Jones. There are many truly gifted authors out there, but I say Sally Lloyd-Jones without hesitation because she writes to kids with humor (but no cuteness), grace (but no mush), and honesty (but no cynicism). She clearly respects the kids she writes for, and she writes wonderful, Gospel-rich stories.

You list various age categories for books on your website, if you could pick, which is your favorite age-related book category and why?

I love middle-grade novels (typically for readers ages 8-11). I read them on my own for years before I had kids, so many of my own favorite books fall in this window (A Wrinkle in Time, Anne of Green Gables, The Chronicles of Narnia). When my oldest daughter reached this age and we were able to start reading these books together, it was a big moment for me.

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{Photo: Ten Chapter Books to Read Aloud with your Son}

What is currently on your “night stand”, literally or figuratively?

Middlemarch. I am a bit compulsive about finishing books, but I put this one down last year when it hit a particularly dry stretch—I was sleep-deprived and just couldn’t do it. When I picked it up again this summer, I still came perilously close to stopping (right around that same dry stretch), but this time I pressed on and I’m so glad I did! I’m only about halfway through the book, but so far, I love the story, the characters, and that bit of sass that comes through in George Eliot’s writing. (I may never leave a book unfinished again.)

I remember in one of your blog posts, you wrote about the need to find time to read. At times, you read while cooking, or out in the yard while the kids are playing or early in the morning. As a mother of four children too, I know how intentional one has to be to carve out time to pursue habits such as reading, music, crafts, or even exercise. How has your reading time developed over the years and how do you fit that into your daily life?

Even before having kids, I read at bus stops and in waiting rooms—I’ve always been an opportunistic reader. These days, it is harder for me to find time to get lost in a story or follow a book’s complex argument, but we have instituted a whole-family quiet time in the afternoons while our youngest daughters nap. That is often (but not always!) my chance to sit out on the front porch and read, underline, and mark passages in my notebook.

When can we expect to see one of your own stories in print? I fully expect to be purchasing children’s books by Thea Rosenburg one day! 🙂

Ha! I would love to write books for children. As I’m sure you can imagine, I’m not in a stage to pursue that right now, but I do scribble on scraps of paper and paint tiny paintings and read a lot of great books in the hope that, if that’s something God calls me to as my children grow older, I’ll be ready!

You can follow Thea and Little Book, Big Story on Instagram: @thearosenburg and at her blog www.littlebookbigstory.com

2015-05-20-047-1024x683{Click here for the Little Book, Big Story Book List!!!}

(All photography featured here is from Little Book, Big Story.)

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2 thoughts on “Little Book, Big Story – An Interview

  1. Love reading anything by Thea. I’m patiently waiting for her children’s books as well. I’m also happy to have found your blog!

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