What I’m Reading March 2017

Although we did have snow accumulate this week, the weather in general continues mild.

White barns figure prominently in my life lately as I’ve been pondering why I’m severely directionally challenged.  I’m happy to say I’ve made strides in my navigational ability in the past two weeks.

Still reading from the Best of 16 Lists, so lots of good reads and my life is happy.

Linking up with Modern Mrs Darcy’s Quick Lit for March.

(Disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links.  At no extra cost to you, a portion of your purchase will go to support this site.)

The Revenge of Analog by David Sax

Sax looks at the growing interest in vinyl records, board games, paper, printed books, watches with springs and gears and retails stores.

One of the most interesting observations in the digital versus analog debate is the idea that there exists a greater need to engage all of the senses.  Digital captalizes on the visual.  Holding a book in your hand and physically turning pages is a different experience than reading on a screen.

Revenge held a special interest to me since we own a bookstore. We tried to get into ebook sales several years ago, but that didn’t pan out. Some report that ebook sales have plateaued and are possibly now declining.

I think ebooks will settle into a niche.  The great thing about ebooks is they can lower the barrier for readers.  They can be shorter.  They can be cheaper.  There’s no pressure to recoup the cost of printing.

It’s interesting to me to see the way trends develop.  The rise and fall of trains, for instance, and the disappearance of phone booths and eight tracks.

Persuasion by Jane Austen

I abandoned Persuasion after trying over and over again to get into it.  I read at least 100 pages, but  just could not get engaged.  I really wanted to like it.  I love Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility.  Even though I haven’t read Emma, I liked the story in the movie version.

So, I’m still a little puzzled why this Austen didn’t work for me. I felt the plot moved too slowly and I didn’t find the characters relatable.

If you’re a fan of Persuasion, I’d love to hear why.

Wildflowers From Winter by Katie Ganshert

I was surprised that I enjoyed this book, even though it had a somewhat predictable plot.  There was enough mystery to keep the pages turning and enough resolution to feel satisfying.

The story focuses on an architect from Chicago who is forced to confront her past in small town, Iowa.

Simple, sweet story.

Do It Well. Make It Fun. by Ronald P. Culberson

I stumbled on this book randomly at the library.  Wanting to improve the quality of my work has been on my mind for a long time, so naturally, the title caught my attention.  There’s so many things in my life I don’t do well.  There’s so many things I let slide for shear survival.  How do you do it well?

Fun tends to be an illusive element in my life, as well.

I enjoyed Culbertson’s humor and anecdotes.  However, looking back, there wasn’t any advice that was memorable enough to stick with me.

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham 

Good story.  In the tradition of Johnny Tremain, except based on an historical person.

Nat Bowditch was very smart, but he wasn’t able to go to Harvard because he was indentured at age 12 to work as a bookkeeper.  Because his family had fallen on hard times, it was necessary for him to work to earn his keep.

The story is inspires kids to persevere in the face of difficult circumstances.

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus

What a great book!

Every Christian should read this as well as every Muslim.  I learned so much more about the context that Muslims live, learn and think in.  Nabeel made reference to the shame-honor cultures, in contrast to the guilt-innocence culture that we live in.  So much of what he accepted to be true was in the context of the person in authority teaching him the truth.

First, he sought to understand and disprove Christianity.  He had been given a lot of coaching answers for arguments with Christians.  For those of his friends who didn’t know their faith well enough, he was able to counter their arguments.  In college, he finally had a Christian friends who had a deep enough understanding to show him where his arguments were coming up short.

What he eventually found was that the sacred writings of his religion did not match up with what he had been taught his whole life.

It was a painful conversion.  He sacrificed much to finally embrace Christianity.  The chapters on his personal dreams and visions were fascinating.

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place by Maryrose Wood

I listened to the author interview on Read Aloud Revival and was intrigued enough to check out the books.

Lots of fun elements, although the characters of the children aren’t developed, like in the Penderwick series.

But, there’s some mystery.

Lots of great principles for kids to live by.

Penelope is a likable charachter.

The time period and the setting are fun.  What is it about British children’s stories that opens the door to possibilities?

Plus, I just have to say I love the word incorrigible.


Interesting movie for book lovers.  Great cast. Follows the life of Thomas Wolfe.

It’s a slow moving story, but a fascinating behind the scenes look at historical book publishing.

I conclude that editors are the unsung heroes of the industry.

What have you read this month?



3 Things I Learned, Winter 2017


Winter has been screwy this year.

Three years ago, the view from my kitchen window looked like Winter.

This year, not so much.

It’s been a great season for learning new things, though.  I love learning!

  1. Routine can be an idol

“Don’t make an idol of routine” has been echoing in my head since I read it in Jesus Calling a couple of days ago.  Boy, has that been a problem lately.

Today we had a breakfast meeting.  That throws all my morning routines into chaos, unless I am able to get up earlier than normal and get them all in.  Today I wasn’t able to.  So, I skipped most of them.

Even though habits help me so much, I  have a problem being consistent.  I fall off the bandwagon over and over and over.  Right now, I’m not exercising.  I’m hit and miss doing my 3 minute mail purge every morning, even though those two things are good for me.

We haven’t had family night for the past three weeks.  This sends me into a tail spin.  I didn’t realize how much I depended on having one relaxing night every week.

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So, have I made an idol of routine?  Even when I’m not good at keeping up with habits that are good for me?  When I’m trying to accept and deal with unforeseen circumstances? Or unavoidable scheduling issues that prevent me from following through on routines?  I don’t know.  It’s hard to let go.  It’s also hard to push myself to be consistent.  So, I don’t really know where I stand on this.  But, I do know it’s a struggle for me and one that causes me stress.

Also, just like money can be an idol, whether you have it or not, routine can be an idol whether you have it or not.  Brand new thought for me.

2. Writing 500 words a day is good for my emotional health

Last Fall, I took on the challenge to write 500 words a day.  This method of writing intersperses all my random thoughts, pre-writing and self-talk along with some deeper, more profound thoughts. You have to sort through the fluff to get to the nuggets.

Focused writing is good for blog posts.  But, getting down all the random thoughts is good for my emotional health.

Another thing I learned was the importance of separating  my writing (drafting) time from my blogging (editing, formatting, pictures and promoting) time.  I need time for both every day.

Even more of a breakdown than that.  Journaling is a different activity than drafting blog posts, though they do tend to overlap and influence each other.

Also, brainstorming is a completely different activity. I need time for that, too, but it’s not necessarily something I need every day.  It could happen once a week.

3. The definition of grit

Grit= passion + perseverance

This definition comes from Angela Duckworth’s book Grit: the Power of Passion and Perseverence .

I checked this book out as an ebook from the library.  I was maybe a third of the way through when the book came due and disappeared from my Kindle.  But, the definition of grit stay with me.

The author proposes that grit is a better predictor of success than IQ.  I see her point.  I need to check it out again and finish the book.

There’s scads of things I’m learning right now, but I’m having a harder than usual time synthesizing and articulating them.

So, I’ll leave it there for now.

Linking up with Emily Freeman and other bloggers sharing what we’ve learned.

What have you learned? 

(Disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links.  At no extra cost to you, a percentage of your purchase goes to support this site.)


3 Great Podcasts for Book Lovers

Read Aloud Revival with Sarah Mackensie

Read Aloud Revival features great children’s literature, young adult lit as well as author interviews.  Their mission is to help you build your family culture around books.  Everything connected with the Read Aloud Revival is a high quality production.

The podcast often lasts about an hour and is ad free.  There is also a membership site with access to more shows and events.  It’s a great resource for homeschoolers, teachers, librarians and anyone who loves children’s lit.

What Should I Read Next? with Anne Bogel

Novels for adults is the forte of What Should I Read Next?  But, there is also a smattering of memoir, young adult, children’s lit,  and non-fiction.  Anne typically interviews one guest and asks them for three books they love, one book they hate and what they’re reading now.  Then she gives them recommendations about books she thinks will match their tastes.

The strength of the show is hearing not only the basic premise for good books, but also emotional reactions and reading experiences as well.  That gives readers a lot more to judge a book on rather than just other readers’ reviews.

Getting to know guests a little during the interview also helps listeners decide how similar their reading tastes are to the guest on the hot seat.

Read to Lead Podcast with Jeff Brown

The Read to Lead Podcast is aimed at business leaders.   It’s a high quality podcast.  Every episode that I’ve listened to has interesting guests and Jeff does a good job with interviews.  I’d recommend it to anyone with an interest in good books related to productivity, business and leadership.

If you’re new to podcasts . . . 

they can take a little getting used to.  (Warning: They can get addictive! ) You can listen to them on your computer, which is what I usually do.  You can also download them onto a device.  That makes them perfect for exercise time, going for a walk or commuting.


The Invention of Wings Book Review

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

I was pleasantly surprised with The Invention of Wings.  It is masterfully written.  It reminded me Harriet Beecher Stowe and Eugenia Price.  The story follows two girls throughout their lives– one a slave girl, one the daughter of a judge.

It’s good to stop and think about what our country was like in the 1800s.  How slavery embedded itself into the very fabric of society, how the evil grew and the power that was necessary to break it’s stranglehold on large portions of the country.

One thing I appreciated about the book was the role of faith.  So many novels leave it out entirely.  Missiologists even have a term for it, the law of the excluded middle.  American culture tends to attribute everything to science and ignores the supernatural completely.  I think this is just as dangerous as the cultures who see devils behind every bush.

I was shocked to find out at the end of the book that the novel was based on the lives of real people.  Fiction was weaved in with the facts, and the author lays out what was true and what was invented at the end of the book.


One in a Million Boy by Monica Wood

This novel is brilliantly written.  The quirky characters are so relatable. The story is the unlikely friendship between an eleven year old boy and a 104 year old woman.  And, yet, it’s so much more than that.  It’s about human connection.

What makes a marriage work?  How does a parent relate to an unusual child?  How do you grieve an incomprehensible loss? What makes life worth living?

It makes you ponder the meaning of life:  what is the value of a life? Why do some people live lots of years and others not so many?  What matters most in life?

High and lofty themes, yet this novel wrestles with them well.

Any book that does that makes an A+ in my book.  It doesn’t glorify immorality, though it doesn’t take much of a stand for moral living, either.  That issue, plus a little bit of language makes me hesitant to recommend it to young people, but I highly recommend it for the discerning adult.

There is also a touch of sadness and mystery woven throughout the story. I’m coming to believe that every great story is a mystery.  That is what keeps you turning pages.

There’s a cross-cultural element as well, which I love.



What I’m Reading, February 2017

The view from my kitchen doesn’t look like winter without snow, but I’ll take it.

This is the warmest winter I can remember in Indiana.  I’m not complaining.  Cold is not my friend.

Here’s the pic before editing;  which just goes to show what perspective and spin can do.

Five star books this month!  I think February is my new favorite month for reading great books.

Appreciation due to bloggers who post “Best of” Lists.  Read my favorite lists here.

(Disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links. At no extra cost to you, a percentage of your purchase goes to support this site.)

  Buy now from Amazon

One in a Million Boy by Monica Wood

This novel is brilliantly written.  The quirky characters are relatable. The story is the unlikely friendship between an eleven year old boy and a 104 year old woman.  And, yet, it’s so much more than that.

It’s about human connection.

What makes a marriage work?  How does a parent relate read more

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The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

I was pleasantly surprised with The Invention of Wings.  It is masterfully written.  It reminded me Harriet Beecher Stowe and Eugenia Price.  The story follows two girls throughout their lives– one a slave girl, the other a daughter of a judge.

It’s good to stop and think about what our country was like in the 1800s.  How slavery embedded itself into the very fabric of society, how the evil grew and the power that was necessary to break it’s stranglehold on large portions of the country.

One thing I appreciated about the book read more

  Buy now from Amazon


What a great book!  I highly recommend it for all ages.

I like the literary device of telling the story from different points of view.

I love the way it tackles head on: embarrassment, shame, discouragement, rising above difficult circumstances, the elements of a true friendship.

It strikes at the very heart of what it means to be a person.  Where do you fit into society.  How does society react to you?

It’s not just an overcomer story.  It’s a family systems story.  Our family of origin matters so much when it comes to what we believe about ourselves.

August Pullman is a likable fellow.  If he were a jerk, this story wouldn’t have worked.

I love the middle school principal in this story.  I love the way he has a deep understanding of kids.  I love how he can see past the surface level to what is happening beneath the surface.  So good for teachers, administrators, youth pastors–everyone who deals with kids, as well as kids themselves.

  Buy now from Amazon

Published. by Chandler Bolt.

This book is for anyone who has thought about writing a book.  Much has changed in the publishing landscape in the last ten years.  Bolt faces those changes head on. Drafting your book is only a small part of the equation.  He explains how to self-publish and market your book, and which tasks should be farmed out.

Amy Lynn Andrews’ ebook, Tell Your Time and the back story behind it got me thinking.

I think, in general, our culture doesn’t value books, so they don’t budget for them and they don’t spend money on them.  People don’t mind dropping a lot of money going out to eat.  There are so many restaurants in Warsaw, yet only one bookstore.  It just isn’t part of the culture, it’s  part of the mindset. I’d love to see that change.  I think 50 page ebooks that only cost $3 could be a gateway drug.

In the same way that blogs and podcasts are gaining popularity, I think buying ebooks could become more popular.  Although, reading The Revenge of Analog is challenging that as well.

We have trained ourselves to be scanners.  To scroll through lots of information with lots of pictures.  To not read deeply, to not think deeply, to not write at all.  All this can change.  Here I am on my soapbox instead of doing a book review.

Just in case you’re wondering. . . Yes, I am in the beginning stages of writing an ebook.  Stay tuned.



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The Golem and the Jinni

If you read this blog much you know I’m always on the prowl for wholesome, brilliantly written novels.  This isn’t one that I’d recommend to my nieces and nephews.  Non-humans sleeping with humans made me feel uncomfortable.

That being said, there’s a lot to recommend for adult readers.  It is brilliantly written.  New York in the 1890s is fascinating. I’m intrigued by the Jewish community, the challenge of coming to the New World, even the myths and legends that are interwoven into the story.

That’s it for this month.

Linking up with Modern Mrs Darcy for February’s Quick Lit.



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Go Ahead, Rouse that Mama Bear


I saw it in my sister this week.  She had to go up against the experts on behalf of her child.  It wasn’t a fight she was looking for or one that she relished.  She got all “Mama Bear” because her daughter needed an advocate.

(Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.  At no extra cost to you, a percentage of your purchase will go to support this site.)

I’ve had to play the role occasionally myself.  It’s the needs of kids that propels moms into the unnatural state of fighter.

Before we had kids, my husband thought he would be up with the babies at night because I slept like a rock.  He had to drag me out of bed during a five point something earthquake aftershock because I slept through it.

But, after the birth of our first baby, the slight sound of an infant in distress was enough to wake me.  Of course, we all sleep on alert when listening for an alarm clock for fear of sleeping through it.  But, I believe it goes deeper than that.  That miraculous maternal instinct.  That sleeping mama bear that is roused in time of need.

We watched the movie, Miracles from Heaven last weekend.  I was so intrigued by the story I had to read the book to find out what was true and what was Hollywood.  (Read my book review here.)  Christy Wilson Beam, the mother in the story had to go up against the doctors on behalf of her daughter when they weren’t taking her symptoms seriously.  She referred to herself as Mama Bear when she had to fight to get the medical help her daughter needed.

What is it that turns mild-mannered mamas into to fighters?  I guess if you look at nature, it’s anything that threatens the well-being of the off-spring.  In our lives today, sometimes it’s the experts. They may know their field, but mamas know their kids.


What’s Saving My Life Right Now

Mindful gratitude gives me perspective.

It’s easy and natural for me to focus on the negative.

I’m thankful for the practice of pausing to be grateful.

Joining other bloggers on Modern Mrs Darcy who are sharing their life-savers.

What’s Saving My Life 2016 

500 Words a Day

I got the idea from Jeff Goins.  He says to be a writer you have to write.  The man has a keen sense of the the obvious.  His point is: be consistent.  Five hundred words a day.  Every day.  So I took the challenge.  I determined at that pace, plus a little more, I could write 50,000 words in three months.  Amazingly, I hit that goal.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the coliseum.  I was writing more and blogging less.  How is that possible?  I used up my time and energy getting my 500 words down and spent very little time editing, polishing, choosing photos, posting and promoting.  So, this quarter, I’m spending another 20 minutes a day doing those things while still drafting 500 words a day.

In order to get 500 words a day recorded in as short as time as possible, I was just “brain dumping”— stream of consciousness writing, without  focus or a plan.  I’m shifting this strategy a little to be more productive to write something that’s worth editing, polishing and posting.

Here’s the thing:  writing 500 words a day on whatever comes into my head has been good for my emotional health.  I don’t want to lose that.  It’s been a slow realization over that past few years that I NEED to write.  I don’t even necessarily need to be read.  It’s the way I process.  The way I make sense of things.  Once in a while I churn out something that helps someone besides myself.

There you go.

500 words a day is saving my life.

Ah, the therapy of fingers on the keyboard, thoughts untangled, conclusions that bring peace. 


Best of 2016 Book Lists

I admit it.

I’m a fiction snob.

It’s hard for me to find novels I love.  So, I scour the book lists, always on the prowl for wholesome novels, brilliantly written.  Sometimes I strike gold.

I did another round up this year of my favorite Best of 16 Book Lists.  This is a survival strategy for me.  I need great books like I need air, so I’m highly motivated to find them.

Crash Course in Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis by Dr. Wentz

Izabella Wentz, PharmD., the Thyroid Pharmacist.

Last year I discovered I have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.  I searched the web for advice, hoping to avoid medication.

Izabella’s website has been the most helpful.

I cut out gluten from my diet.  I added some supplements— vitamin D, vitamin B12, selenium, zinc plus a daily multi-vitamin.  My migraines have all but disappeared.  I think my energy levels are up, but it’s hard to gage.  My face doesn’t break out as long as I’m taking zinc supplements.

I know one thing:  It feels good to be feeling better.  I’m thankful for Izabella.

The bottom line is bloggers are saving my life.

I am grateful.

What’s Saving Your Life?

What’s Saving My Life, 2016 edition

My Favorite Best of 16 Book Lists

Last year, I loved doing a round up of the best of lists because it gave me such great picks for my To Be Read list.  So, I’m doing another round up this year, purely for selfish reasons.

(Disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links. At no extra cost to you, a percentage of your purchase goes to support this site.)

Interestingly, Deep Work by Cal Newport hit three of these lists.  I’d have to agree. It is one of the best books of the year.

Read my full review here.

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I’m a big fan of Michael Hyatt’s work.  From this list I’ve read Deep Work and The Four Disciplines.  I’d really like to read Mindset and Revenge of the Analog, especially in light of the bookstore.  Sleep Smarter doesn’t seem as intriguing, since sleep usually isn’t a problem for me.

Michael Hyatt’s Top 5 Business Books from 2016

The Best Business Books I Read in 2016

Crystal Paine’s Top Eight Books of 2016 

I loved Finding Spiritual Whitespace, Only read parts of Present over Perfect.   Johnny Tremain and Unbroken have been long time favorites.  Might try Carry On, Mr Bowditch, Good News for Weary WomenThe Happiness Dare and Presence.


My Favorite Books of 2016

Unbroken is one of my all-time favorites.  Boys in the Boat was one my top books of the year, as well.  The others look good.  I’ll have to check them out. I did not like The Girl on the Train.  I found the lives of the characters to be too depressing.

Sarah is a middle school English teacher, so I take her recommendations for YA books seriously. I read The One and Only Ivan on her recommendation. I haven’t read any of these, but I will be checking them out.

My Favorite Young Adult Books of 2016


Anne Bogel from Modern Mrs. Darcy

I liked Everyone Brave is Forgiven, didn’t love Before We Visit the Goddess, am about to start One in  Million Boy.   The Course of Love sounds intriguing and I’d like to give it a whirl.

Deep Work is a great book.  I haven’t read Untangled–not sure if I will since my only daughter is 22.  You’ll Grow Out of It sounds interesting.

800ceoread’s book awards shortlist for 2016

The only book I’ve read on this list is Deep Work.  It’s interesting to me that this book hit three best of 16 lists.  Quite the endorsement. Their number one book of the year is about gender equality. I probably won’t read that one.

Victoria of SnailPaceTransformations

I haven’t read any of the fiction on Victoria’s list, so I definitely need to make note of those.  On her non-fiction list, I’ve only read Hands Free Mama (which was a good read).

This is making me think I need to get a little more organized about my reading list.  Many books that I’ve been interested in don’t get read because the library doesn’t have them.

Once again, loads of great books and the reason I love the “best of” lists so much.

Elena at Beautiful Hope has a massive list (36 titles!)  Scads of great ones.  I think maybe Elena has the most similar reading tastes to me of anyone I’ve bumped into in the blogosphere.

Many books on her list I’ve already read and enjoyed. Some I will add to my list.

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi is one of her top picks.  Qureshi gave the commencement address at my daughter’s graduation in December.  I wanted to read it before then, but it didn’t happen.  I will get to it, eventually.

Happy Reading!





What I’m Reading, January 2017



This is the view from my kitchen window, looking at the barn Pete and the kids built.  The picture was taken in January three years ago.  Now the barn is red.  At the moment, we have no snow.

This wasn’t a good month for reading.  But, my daughter graduated from college, we had a good family Christmas and the bookstore’s doing better than last year. So, who can complain?

Linking up again with Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Quick Lit.

(Disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links. At no extra cost to you, a percentage of your purchase goes to support this site.)

What I’m Reading, plus What I Gave for Christmas:

   Buy now from Amazon

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

Newport first builds the case for the importance of deep work, then he expounds on practical steps to accomplish it.  Simply put, what is needed is focus and discipline.

I agree with Newport’s main premise:  we are doing worse work because we’re distracted.  I see it all the time in the low quality of books that are published and the huge vacuums that exist in many genres for high quality work.

Newport is a college professor.  Publishing in scholarly journals is the deep work he needs to accomplish.  I think the principles apply to all writers, and probably all knowledge workers in general.

I think the most profound books are ones that are simple common sense:  ones that people agree with and see the wisdom of, but didn’t take the time to articulate themselves.  It seems so simple.  So obvious.  And, yet, it wasn’t done before.  I would put The Purpose Driven Life in that category as well as Deep Work.

It is the path of least resistance to fritter away our time.  When we are careful about every working minute and rest well away from work, we accomplish so much more.

I was intrigued by the end of the day ritual.  For sure, it is the lingering worries of work that sap your peace and relaxation when you’re away from work.  Learning to wrap things up at the end of the day and be at peace with where you’re leaving them is critical for resting well.

His chapter, “Quit Social Media” is a little misleading, because he doesn’t really advocate that you quit social media.  Some would argue that if you want to write, you have to leverage social media.  But, the irony is that social media is keeping you from doing your best work, because you become a consumer instead of a producer.

The instant gratification is a problem, as well.  The instant distraction, the problem of never being bored.  If you’re never bored, then you never think.  You don’t create to fill the hole of that boredom.  You don’t wonder, daydream, imagine.  That vacuum is filled.

What I Gave For Christmas

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I gave The Dangerous Book for Boys to my nephew, a fifth grader.  I’ve been in love with this book for several years, just waiting for one of my nephews to get old enough to appreciate it.

It looks like it’s an old-fashioned book, but it’s a fairly recent publication.  It’s got a little bit of everything that boys love.  Stories of extra-ordinary people.  Morse code, stars, tying knots, fishing, building a tree house and famous battles.  All the things that interest males and curiosities that are usually thrown over for video games, computers and all things screens. Little snippets and pieces of scads of interesting things.

  Buy now from Amazon

I gave a niece and a nephew Press Here.  Every page has instructions to the child that result in changes on the next page. I love it because it taps into the imagination of a little person.  Just like Harold and the Purple Crayon.  Just like Frindle.

  Buy now from Amazon

I gave some of my nieces (I have a lot of nieces) the Inspire Bible. It’s a New Living Translation Bible with artwork in the margins to color.  Some pages have blank margins to create your own artwork.

I gave the paperback edition, but there’s several different cover options as well as a large print edition.

What are you reading this month?