Great Childrens Stories You May Have Never Heard Of


As my oldest is getting to the age of learning to read and write, I am gleefully anticipating introducing different stories from my own childhood. Many of my friends had never heard of my favorites, so I decided to list a few here. One can always use a new title for the personal library, right? Most of them are older titles, so it might take some searching to find them. I’ve included a brief synopsis of each book along with my own memories and experiences with them. Enjoy!

Mistress Masham’s Repose by T.H. White

Maria lives on the aging English manor of Malplaquet with a wicked governess who is plotting to steal her fortune. One day she notices a walnut shell with a baby inside. Yes, a baby small enough to fit into a walnut! She finds herself befriending a colony of exiled Lilliputians, the tiny people mentioned in Gulliver’s Travels, and that’s only the beginning of her adventures.

I loved this book as a little girl. I promptly forgot the name after I returned it to the library, and years later it took me hours of googling to find it. But find it I did, along with the discovery that Terry Pratchett loves it, too. I think that proves I have good taste when the creator of Disc World agrees with me! I still want my own spider-silk handkerchief, and I have a feeling my kids will, too.

The Sea Fairies by L. Frank Baum

A little girl named Trot wishes she could meet a mermaid, and the queen of the sea fairies grants that wish, giving her and her old sea mariner friend, Cap’n Bill, tails! They travel to the kingdom of Queen Aquarine and King Anko for a tour under the sea. When they are taken captive by sea devils, they must find a way to escape the clutches of a mysterious enemy.

I’ve never met a girl who didn’t want to be a mermaid at some point. This story was more than a little wish fulfillment for elementary-aged me. It’s an exciting adventure that I think even boys will enjoy, especially since Cap’n Bill is such fun. And in case you’re wondering, yes, the author is famous for The Wizard of Oz.

The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden

Chester Cricket falls asleep inside a picnic basket in Connecticut and ends up in the subway station under Times Square. After befriending a cat, a rat, and Milo, a little boy running his parents’ newspaper stand, Chester turns out to be quite the musician, copying the beautiful music he hears on the radio. That’s just the beginning of his new life in New York City.

My favorite image in this story is Chester bedding down in a cricket cage shaped like a miniature pagoda, stuffed to bursting with a dinner of mulberry leaves. I think any child will fall in love with Chester and his friends. I plan to look up some songs Chester plays so my children can better imagine the story.

The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson

A tramp finds three children hiding under a bridge and discovers they and their mother are homeless. Normally very independent and loving his freedom, he feels compelled to help the little family, and they change his life drastically.

I remember loving the adventure of the story and how the tramp was friends with gypsies and other unusual people. It also made me want to go to France as the story is set in Paris. One other thing to note is the book I read growing up was illustrated by the same person who illustrated Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series. I’m excited to see what my kids think of it.

The Grandma’s Attic Storybook by Arleta Richardson

A grandmother tells her granddaughter stories of her childhood growing up on a farm in Michigan. This book a series of vignettes rather than a continuous story, so each chapter was totally different. The book is a compilation of a larger library of Grandma’s Attic stories by Richardson, but I’ve only read this book.

I’ll never forget the story about the facial mask made with beeswax. It made me wary of DIY facials well into adulthood! I also never plotted revenge pranks on my sisters after reading how that backfired in one of the stories. My husband was raised on a farm, so I think he’ll like it, too. You may not be able to find this book (amazon had a few used ones, but that was it), so I’d recommend the Grandma’s Attic Treasury, especially if you have girls.

The Little Lame Prince by Miss Mulock

Young Prince Dolor, lamed shortly after birth from being dropped by a vain chambermaid, spends his days in an isolated tower while his evil uncle runs his kingdom into ruin. A fairy godmother gives him a magic traveling cloak that acts like a magic carpet, giving the prince the ability to see his kingdom and observe the people he should rightfully rule.

The fact that this story begins with a tragedy might make it difficult for some to enjoy, but I envied Prince Dolor his magic traveling cloak and other gifts from his fairy godmother. It’s a lovely story with a wonderful moral, and I think that children with disabilities or other limitations might find it encouraging.

Olga da Polga by Michael Bond

Did you know some guinea pigs are tremendously good storytellers with a flair for the dramatic? Olga da Polga the guinea pig comes to live with the Sawdust family, and life for them and for the neighborhood animals is never the same again.

If the author’s name sounds familiar, you’re probably a fan of Paddington Bear. We had some neighbors who had a guinea pig named Olga da Polga after this book, and it quickly became a new favorite in our house. I also had a guinea pig named Velvet, so I loved the silly stories Olga spins about how guinea pigs lost their tails and how the sky is falling. My children already love this book and want me to get the sequels. Once we arrive at our new home, they’ll be on order!

The Wingfeather Saga: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, North! or Be Eaten, The Monster in the Hollows, and The Warden and the Wolf King by A.S. Peterson

Janner, Tink, and Leeli Igiby live in the land of Skree which is ruled by the evil Fangs of Dang, ugly, brutal lizard-like beings with venomous bites and sharp claws. When Leeli kicks one of the Fangs in the shin to save her dog, Nugget, all three children end up in big trouble.

Last but certainly not least, this fabulous series was discovered by my husband. He’s a fan of Andrew Peterson’s music, and Peterson is at least as good a writer as he is a musician. He has been reading this series aloud to our kids each evening, and it’s a hit. “Not my totatoes!” is a regular war cry about the house, and my oldest is fond of recruiting me to shoot Fangs with a laser gun. I particularly like the character Pete the Sock Man.

I hope this list gives you some ideas for your next bookstore trip or Amazon wish list.


True Tales of Unbelievable Social Awkwardness: I Don’t Do Mornings


I am a notorious night owl. I put the night security guards to shame in college, regularly staying up until 3 on school nights and pulling all-nighters at least twice a semester. I felt (and still feel) most awake from about six in the evening until midnight or 1am. But all those late nights meant I was a zombie first thing in the morning.

I know most of you are thinking, “Oh, that’s me before coffee.” Hold that thought.

When I enrolled for my first semester of college, I found myself stuck taking philosophy at 8am because it was the only section that fit my schedule. (Exactly who is a philosopher at 8 in the morning, I’d like to know? Crazy people and academics, that’s who.) I figured it was one semester. I could do it. I totally could! Right?

As I suspected, it was terrible idea. The class is a black hole in my memory. I have legible notes as evidence that I did indeed listen to the lecture, but I don’t remember a single day of class. I wasn’t about to change my night owl ways, so I looked for every possible way to sleep in until the last second. About two weeks in I discovered that if I ran my hardest, I could get from my dorm room to the classroom in less than five minutes. I also discovered that the clock in the classroom was slightly slow, and my clock was slightly fast. This meant that if I left my dorm room at 7:55, I would get to philosophy class with roughly one minute to spare. Even better, the professor kept the lights off most of class so we could see his notes on the projector, so I started coming to class in my pajama pants. Anything to give me ten more seconds with my pillow. I still don’t remember a single moment of class.

What I do remember is braiding my hair while running out the door at 7:56 and nearly wiping out on the stairs and choking myself with my own braid in a desperate frenzy to get to class because while other people would simply skip and get notes from a classmate, I believed perfect attendance was next to godliness. Still think this is you before coffee?

The professor taught two sections of the course, and he gave us a choice of taking our final with either group. The final was later in the day, so I was actually awake when I arrived. I walked into the bright sunlit classroom that I still barely recognized after four months and saw one of the girls from my hall. Behind her was another hallmate. And another. And another. And another. I stopped in front of them, deeply confused.

“Hey, are you taking the final early instead of with your class?” I asked the girl in front.

She stared at me open-mouthed for a moment. “Laura, I’m in this class with you. I’ve sat in front of you all semester!”


I never took an eight o’clock class again.

One more important note: if I had ever actually observed my surroundings in that corner room of Montgomery Hall, I might have noticed a certain handsome blond who occasionally wore camo. Caleb was always several minutes early to philosophy. It’s probably a good thing he doesn’t remember me either. Pajama pants and braids wasn’t my best look.

Tips for Surviving a Military Move


We’ve begun the process for our next big military move, so I thought I would give you a few tips for how to enjoy random strangers handling your underwear and antique china while you eat pizza off of a Frisbee because you accidentally packed the paper plates while wondering when the government is going to patent the cloak of invisibility it loaned your husband. (Hint: they call the cloak “out-processing.”)

The sarcasm is strong, folks.

You’ll be tempted to complain about the fact that a power of attorney is the Holy Grail of paperwork while that fancy marriage certificate might as well be TP in the latrines. Allow me to teach you a mantra: “This is the military. Logic does not apply.” Repeat as necessary or until comatose.

Sort through and organize all your stuff because the packers will appreciate how much easier it will be to find your throw pillows to pack with your Chinese wok and your husband’s old work boots.

Cull your children’s toys to sell at the garage sale because we all know there’s nothing better for a kid whose life is being turned upside-down than getting rid of that “most favorite of all” broken McDonalds toy that said child hasn’t played with in two years.

Yell “Why do we have so much stuff?!?” every half hour throughout the packing process. It’s the military wife version of the primal scream. It also keeps your packers slightly terrified which is a good mental state for packing ceramics and glass.

Expose your children to as many friends and public places as possible as you say goodbye to your home to insure they’ll be good and sick when the move happens, preferably with different illnesses to pass between themselves during leave.

Buy an industrial-sized box of toothbrushes from Sam’s Club with which to clean your garbage can according to the housing management company’s standards. 

Pin every possible restaurant, museum, and recreational facility near your new post on Pinterest because you’ll want to document how many things you never try to do. 

Schedule a haircut, a dental visit, chiropractic adjustment, oil change, date night, and that visit from the Mormons you’ve been putting off all on the same day because you’re moving and you’re not looking for a new stylist, dentist, chiropractor, mechanic, babysitter, or religion for at least two months after you get to the new post.

Eat chocolate and drink coffee. I personally don’t like coffee, but I make an exception for packing household goods. Java chip frappuccinos are my drug of choice until someone invents a portable caffeine IV drip. Get thee to a Starbucks.

And most of all, keep your sense of humor. Preferably dark humor. It’s the best kind.

How a Baptist Does Lent


Some people think really hard about what to fast from for Lent. I’m a Baptist, and we don’t “do” Lent, so my choice to give something up for it was an odd impulse decision. I’d had several long discussions with my sister about social media and my frustrations with it, and rather late in the evening on Ash Wednesday we both decided to fast from social media. My only social media is Facebook, and I don’t have it on my phone, so you might think this was no big deal for me. You’d be right. Lent for me was not about the fasting so much as focus, so giving up social media removed a primary distraction.

I wanted to focus on fellowship with other believers, not an online facsimile of it. I wanted to invite people into my home more often. I wanted to spend the time I usually spend on Facebook on things that make me a better Christian, better mom, and better wife. I wanted to read my bible more consistently. I wanted to get more sleep because the secret to holiness is adequate shut-eye when you’re a mom of three. I wanted to work on my novel.

I was unevenly successful. I spent entirely too much time watching backlist episodes of Good Mythical Morning and Blimey Cow on YouTube. I didn’t get any extra sleep, but my littlest is primarily responsible for that. I didn’t work on my novel much. I did, however, work on lots of blog posts and even finished several! I had a few fun days baking and cooking with friends while my children scribbled all over the back porch with sidewalk chalk. I even read a daily bible study for Lent. It was good to unplug.

But the fundamental thing I learned from saying goodbye to Facebook is this: don’t do it right before a big move without explaining what you’re doing. It makes people think you are mad at them and hiding in your house.

All of you who do not suffer from unbelievable social awkwardness are shaking your heads. You don’t know the half of it. Only I would choose a Lenten fast that accidentally confuses and insults people.

Chalk art by McCary

Between Lakes and Oceans


It’s getting to the end of our time in Georgia. We are checking items off our bucket list such as visiting SeaWorld one last time or eating at our favorite burger joint in Savannah. As a chaplain family, we can expect to move every two to three years, but specific training or “school” can mean as little as six months in a post. This means that about the time a place starts to feel normal, we leave. But moving house is just one piece of the story.

It is wise for military chaplains to experience many different types of battalions early in their career as it prepares them for the duties of higher ranks. This means that my husband went from a cavalry squadron (the soldiers heading into a war zone to do reconnaissance, but they ride helicopters, humvees, or tanks instead of horses) to a support battalion (the soldiers stabilizing the wounded, fixing humvees, hauling water and food, and generally keeping everything and everyone running). Our new adventure that begins this summer is hospital chaplaincy training. My husband will be the chaplain at a soldier’s bedsides when he or she is suffering the aftermath of the ugliest war has to offer. It is, as a mentor put it, “Ranger School for chaplains.”

This life is in stark contrast to my childhood experience. My family lived in the same house and my dad worked at the same job my entire childhood. We practically wore a rut in the road from our house to my maternal grandparents’ home on the other side of the lake. We were as settled as we could be in our neighborhood, church, and homeschool group, and sometimes I miss that feeling of stability and familiarity. I look at pictures of my birthday parties, the faces mostly the same each year, and ponder that my children will never have the same set of friends longer than a few years. I think of that rut in the lake road and mourn that grandparents will always be hours or days away. FaceTime calls only reach so far, and wanderlust suppresses homesickness only so long. It’s why you hear experienced military wives talk about “forever homes” with wistful looks and long sighs.

But as I have pondered how this life has affected me so far, I keep coming back to euryhaline fish. Stay with me through some science talk.

Homeostasis is how an organism regulates its biological processes to maintain optimal functioning in its environment. If you have or know someone who has insulin-dependent diabetes, you know exactly how this works. In a diabetic one of the mechanisms of homeostasis has broken down and the person must consciously monitor and regulate blood sugars and insulin to survive. All organisms adapt to their environments, but there are limits to how far that adaptation stretches. Most fish can survive only in either fresh or salt water. If you take a fish from the ocean and toss it in a lake, its cells will take on water until they burst and the fish becomes an ex-fish. But a euryhaline fish can survive and thrive in both fresh and salt water because they can regulate the amount of water that enters their cells.

Okay, stop nodding off. I have an important point to make!

Everyone experiences change, but with the military it is often sudden and extreme. One of my friends moved from Georgia to Japan with barely a month’s notice. Another came to Georgia from Germany. In cultural, social, and spiritual terms, I’d call that the equivalent of being picked up out of the ocean and thrown into a lake. And as in homeostasis, the work that must be done to survive that type of change is internal. You can hang new curtains, paint a wall, discover new parks for the kids, and expand your palate, but survival depends on your heart.

As my husband begins the next chapter of his job in a brand-new city, we will encounter situations I cannot imagine, and if our marriage and ministry are to thrive, I have to adapt at the heart level. I am a cerebral sort who leads with facts and logic, so I’m reading Grunt by Mary Roach to get my head around what he will see in the hospital from day to day. While I house hunt on Zillow, I pray for a sensitive compassionate spirit that is tender when he is hurting at the end of a long day. While I look for churches, play groups, museums, and hiking trails, I memorize verses on how God binds up wounds and is close to the brokenhearted. This fish intends to survive and thrive no matter where He sends me.

Maybe one of those places I’ll finally figure out how to grill salmon.

Oh look! We found Dory!

Oh look! We found Dory!