Engages both the eye and ear as it instills a sense of wonder.



Oakes’ (The Black Coats, 2019, etc.) Christian picture book illustrates God’s diurnal and nocturnal creations.

Little Niko awakes in the middle of the night with the realization that he left his toy train in the woods near his house. He hurriedly dons his coat and boots and runs out into the night to retrieve his favorite toy. Along the way, he notes the differences in his surroundings from when he was playing in the woods the previous morning. Instead of singing goldfinches (“bay-bee”) and drilling woodpeckers (“thump-thump-thump”), there’s a barn owl calling (“hoot-hoot”). Where bees were buzzing, fireflies dance. As Niko passes through the night, he knows that even in the dark, God watches over him. He reaches the end of the woods and finds his prized train on a fence post and, rejoicing, returns home to go back to bed. This charming, simple tale is punctuated with vibrant paint-and-collage illustrations by debut illustrator Chan. Though the narrative mentions God and the author unveils in the afterword that she was inspired by several specific parables from the Bible, the Christian themes aren’t heavy-handed. Oakes ably employs color words and onomatopoeia to engage young audiences.

Engages both the eye and ear as it instills a sense of wonder.

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7586-6208-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Concordia Publishing House

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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A wondrous, historically grounded Christmas story with vivid images.


This picture book offers a retelling of the Three Wise Men’s journey to visit the newborn Jesus.

Over the Arabian city of Petra, a great star appears in the night sky. The elder Melchior recalls a Jewish prophecy that the star is a harbinger of a great king’s birth. Consulting with his younger peers Balthasar and Casper, Melchior takes this news to Nabatea’s ruler. The king, fearful of insulting the cruel monarch Herod, who apparently has welcomed a new prince, sends the three men to Judea with tributes representing their land’s greatest riches: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And so the Magi begin their journey to greet Jesus, following the “moving star blazing overhead” and finding the newborn king in a small, sparse home. Arroyo’s book seeks to strip the Magi story of the “fictional embellishments” the tale has gained over time, returning the classic Christmas story to a more biblical, historical Bethlehem. These men are not majestic kings from Persia but theologians and star readers bound by the period’s politics. Le Feyer’s Magi are a triumph of representation, a far cry from the usual bland Nativity scenes, pulling beautiful, accurate features and diverse skin tones from the cultural melting pot of Nabatea and Judea. The illustrator makes heavy use of shadows, but the pictures never seem cold or dark. Light, be it from a candle, a star, or the divine, brightens and inspires with the awe of the season.

A wondrous, historically grounded Christmas story with vivid images.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2022

ISBN: 9781644136201

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sophia Institute Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2022

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A tender, honest, and beautifully written story about family, faith, and friendship.


Louisa Emerson copes with the sadness and stress of her alcoholic dad, remarried mom, new stepdad, and a move to the suburbs.

Fifth grader Lou loves her small apartment in San Francisco; her mom; her 15-year-old sister, Casey; her BFF, Beth; sad books; and, despite the pain and uncertainty he causes, her usually drunk dad. Lou’s life is being uprooted, however, because Mom is marrying oversolicitous Steve, a man from church who proposed after only three dates. Since Steve lives in his large childhood home in Pacifica—and Lou’s family is barely getting by financially in the city—they are moving in with Steve, and only Mom and Steve seem happy about that. On her 11th birthday, Lou anonymously receives a guitar that she believes is from her dad. After the Emerson girls move, Lou befriends Marcus and Shannon, a charming couple with three young kids who live on Steve’s block. They quickly become the sisters’ trusted adults, and Marcus gives Lou guitar lessons. In her middle-grade debut, noted YA author Zarr writes exactly the sort of kid Lou herself favors: one that thoughtfully tackles tough issues like substance abuse, parental abandonment, the difficulties of change, and blended families. The story also features church and Christian themes in a refreshingly positive and affirming way. Lou’s family is White; supporting characters include Chinese American Beth and Filipino American Marcus.

A tender, honest, and beautifully written story about family, faith, and friendship. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-304492-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2021

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