NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Tuesday, September 3rd. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Well, it’s the first Tuesday of the month. That means book reviewer Emily Whitten’s here for our Classic Book of the Month.
Emily, thanks for being with us today!
EMILY WHITTEN, GUEST: Thanks for having me.
REICHARD: Whatcha been reading lately?
WHITTEN: School books mostly! I’m a homeschool mom, and we’re back in the swing of school reading lists. Our book today isn’t a school book per se, but it treasured reading in my home. I’m talking about Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing by Sally Lloyd-Jones.
REICHARD: Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing—that’s a poetic title. Tell us more.
WHITTEN: I could call it a devotional book for kids, but it’s really more than that. For one thing, it’s so well-written readers of many ages can enjoy it. It’s also more substantial theologically than most devotionals. It’s heartfelt without being sentimental. Charles Morris of Haven Today interviewed Lloyd-Jones in 2012 about the book:
LLOYD-JONES: This book came from the fact that my niece was being bullied at school, and of course, as her aunt, that broke my heart. And I thought, I wish I had a book that she could read before she goes to school to hear what God says about her instead of what these bullies were saying about her. And I thought, ‘Oh, I suppose I better write one.’ So that’s what it became, a book of hope for children.
WHITTEN: Folks may be more familiar with an earlier book Lloyd-Jones’ wrote, The Jesus Storybook Bible. It’s sold more than 2 million copies worldwide since 2007.
REICHARD: Yes, my kids came along too soon for that, but I remember WORLD Magazine interviewed her around that time.
WHITTEN: That’s right. The book I’m recommending today, Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing, came out not long after The Jesus Storybook Bible. If you liked that one, there’s a lot here you’re going to like. The illustrator, Jago, and he does go by that one name- illustrates both books and they share a lot of the same themes.
REICHARD: Let’s talk about some of those themes. How do they compare to other Christian devotionals and Bibles for kids?
WHITTEN: Probably the most prominent theme is grace. It’s front and center in both these books. Lloyd-Jones talked about God’s grace in a 2018 episode of the radio broadcast Discover the Word. I grabbed a clip from that discussion in which she talks about her experience as a child in Sunday School:
LLOYD-JONES: I thought I had to be brave like David, I had to be brave like Daniel. As a six year old, I’d imagine myself trying not to mind being thrown to lions. And of course I would mind. And in my six year old heart, I thought, well, you’re supposed to be able to do that. So God must not love me. So, the reason I wrote the book was for that little six year old to know the book isn’t about what you’re supposed to do. God always knew you’d never be brave enough and you’d never be strong enough. God loves you and He won’t ever stop. That’s the first thing you need to know.
REICHARD: “God loves you and He won’t ever stop”…I definitely hear the theme of grace there. What else?
WHITTEN: As I mentioned, they share the same illustration style. I really appreciate how Jago renders Biblical scenes in respectful but very creative, imaginative ways. That’s a difficult balance to strike. But it turns out from an illustrator’s point of view, Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing presented a pretty unusual challenge for him. Jago explains in this Zondervan video feature:
JAGO: It was almost like being commissioned to create 101 editorial illustrations. So if you imagine an article in a newspaper and you have to produce an illustration that accompanies it. And sometimes those illustrations literally illustrate what the article is saying and other times they kind of complement it by showing you a slightly different point of view or showing you a fairly abstract image that hopefully conveys the same message as the article without going into specifics. I could move from almost, say, a traditional kind Biblical illustration on one day and then the next day I’d be researching space suits of astronauts …
WHITTEN: So, from astronauts to Pharaoh’s army, this book provides a visual feast. Along with that, Lloyd-Jones offers words she says invite children to stand on their tip-toes. To stretch just enough to spark their imagination. It’s a great combo.
REICHARD: Going back to the first clip we heard, I’m curious if the book focuses on bullying and other difficult school topics? Or is it broader than that?
WHITTEN: These devotionals don’t usually address issues like bullying directly. Instead, Lloyd-Jones calls readers to think big thoughts with memorable tales from history or striking word pictures, often from the Bible or the natural world. They typically end with a Bible verse that brings God into focus—what He’s done for us and why we can trust Him.
Lloyd-Jones quotes a number of well-loved Christian writers like Corrie Ten Boom, C. S. Lewis, Charles Spurgeon, even Martin Luther. I really value that this book introduces readers—pretty painlessly—to such great Christian thinkers of the past.
REICHARD: That’s definitely a bonus.
WHITTEN: I thought we could close with a short section of the audiobook version read by David Suchet.
REICHARD: Sounds good.
WHITTEN: Ok, this selection comes from page 82 entitled Clouds and Mountains and Stars:
AUDIO: Have you noticed that when it’s cloudy you can’t see the stars? And that sometimes clouds can hide even mountains from you?…[cut here as needed] Feelings can be like clouds—they blow in and hide things from us. Sometimes they tell us that God doesn’t care. Or that God is far away. The writer Amy Carmichael said, “Our feelings do not affect God’s facts.” Our feelings come and go. But God stays the same. His promises still are shining. God is greater than our feelings. 1 John 3:20.
REICHARD: Thanks for this recommendation, Emily.
WHITTEN: You’re very welcome, Mary. Happy reading.
REICHARD: Today, Emily recommended Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing by Sally Lloyd-Jones. If you visit worldandeverything.org and look up this particular segment, you’ll find links to some of the resources we mentioned today.