“Books are like old friends,” my friend Théa said, as our little girls toddled around us and warm sun rays streamed through the windows of her cozy home. That was the first time I heard that phrase. It resonated with me as I sat in her living room, surrounded by bookcases full of these many beloved “friends,” perched carefully on the shelves and arranged by a collage of color. I was a book-lover too, and I had my own collection of favorites, but this new idea that books could be like friends set off the truth receptors in my heart. It settled comfortably into the hearth of my soul while the Holy Spirit stoked the fires.
Looking back, I see that I needed a guide, and I needed the humility to accept that I was in need of a guide. My parents were the children of immigrants from another land on another continent, so my ancestral background was not English-speaking. The focus of my grandparents’ lives was Jesus, Scripture, and survival—not finding the best literary offerings of their new land and language! They grew up, married, started families and worked against the thorns and thistles of the cursed ground that yielded their daily bread. Their children became fully assimilated into our English-speaking culture. For me, a grand-daughter of immigrants, the slow journey of discovering great books of English literature has taken many decades. There were clues, crumbs of the feast of classic literature, that God sovereignly placed along my path and that I picked up with curiosity. I kept following the trail and the guides that joined my path along the way, tucking more stories into my backpack as I went along.
Crafted with wisdom and knowledge and utilizing many excellent advisers, Wild Things and Castles in the Sky: A Guide to Choosing the Best Books for Children is one of my new guides, the new “old friend” I’d like to introduce you to.
By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures. The wise prevail through great power, and those who have knowledge muster their strength. Surely you need guidance to wage war, and victory is won through many advisers. Proverbs 24:3-6
Wild Things and Castles in the Sky is more than a summer book bucket list (though it’s already inspired me to start)! Comprised of essays by 40 different contributors united in their common love of Jesus, English literature, and children, this anthology gives readers a framework for what to read and why. The contributors are experienced and knowledgeable, and their years-long learning shows as they winsomely discuss their genres. Each writer is clearly dedicated to enriching children’s hearts and minds through stories.
Gathering knowledge takes time and many long years of labor: many hours of reading aloud, reading while cooking soup on the stovetop, listening to audiobooks on road trips to Grandma’s house, reading poetry aloud over an afternoon tea or falling asleep with a book before bedtime. God calls many to the task of gaining this knowledge to pass down to others. What Leslie Bustard, Carey Bustard, and Théa have worked to produce is Kingdom work.
Each generation of Christians faces a unique global landscape in God’s timeline of redemptive history. Those who have children in our lives are tasked with a call to love and train our children. We also face an onslaught of false ideas and philosophies. The world wants our children, so do we have a plan in place to fight this battle? We need words!
We all need to face the humbling truth that we need guidance to wage the war for our children’s hearts and minds. Wild Things and Castles in the Sky equips us with guidance and “many advisers”. Here sits a community of writers who are experiencing victory in this effort to help children’s minds be formed with imagination, wonder, truth, and beautiful things. A child’s neuropathways are being formed every time he or she pulls out one of those carefully chosen masterpieces and sits down to read the words that bring forth fantastical fairy forests, where seemingly unconquerable giants are quelled and goodness prevails. His mental muscles are strengthening his heart muscles for the battles he may face one day.
Through fourteen years of friendship, one thing I’ve noticed about my kindred friend Théa is that she not only loves to read, but she has an unquenchable passion for English literature that far surpassed my amateur knowledge. Théa became a guide for me, especially through her blog, Little Book, Big Story. I remember the time I mentioned to her that there seemed to be no good chapter books out lately. She looked a little confused as she pondered what to say next! Again, I was in need of some guidance!
If books are considered old friends, you could say that Théaintroduced me to some of the best. Wild Things & Castles in the Skyis one way she, Leslie, and Carey are inviting others to open the doors to their personal libraries, settle into a cozy spot, and meet some of their very best “friends”.
“Good books, like good friends, are few and chosen; the more select, the more enjoyable.”-Louisa May Alcott