Author Archives: Amanda

About Amanda

Amanda Bird is a freelance writer and editor living outside Eugene, Oregon, with her husband, daughter, and a handful of chickens and pigeons. When not tending the assorted birds, she enjoys gardening, painting, puttering about the kitchen, walking the trails near their house, and, of course, reading. Her work has been published in Ekstasis, Fathom, Christianity Today, and Dappled Things and has won multipled Writer's Digest awards. She is a regular contributor to Story Warren website; her work in progress is a historical novel set in 1908 Central Asia.

What History Is Made Of

We all make history every day, whether we are the fundamental elements that make up the swift-flowing stream or the droplets that leap out and sparkle in the sunlight. In reflecting on what the women below possessed in common, one answer that turned up was, Not much. Many (but not all) worked hard to develop an exceptional gift in art, science, or sports. Others pursued a consuming interest. Several campaigned for a vision they believed in. For a few, birth and family situation positioned them for leadership. Early observers of others, by contrast, may have tagged them as unlikely to succeed. At least one of the women here simply rose to meet the need of the moment.

All of these women experienced many ordinary days. Maria Toorpakai spent three years hitting a squash ball against the walls of her bedroom. Lilias Trotter rode camels across the North African desert for days at a time (and relished the quiet).

We may not all be champion athletes or talented artists. Our lives may be full of mundanity. But we can all make a difference. I hope these history makers will challenge us and our daughters and sons to take stock of our gifts and circumstances. How might we be positioned to make a difference in our current situation? And what can we work toward for the future?

Continue reading

Leave a Comment

Filed under book review, children's literature, history, picture books

On Getting Out of Bed: The Burden & Gift of Living, by Alan Noble

On Getting Out of Bed: The Burden and Gift of Living

Intervarsity Press, 2023, 120 pp.

This book is for anyone who–or anyone who knows anyone who–has ever been brought low by the weight of life in a fallen world.

Perhaps you’ve seen books that said:

  • Your depression is your own fault.
  • You just need to get over it.
  • You’ve no excuse to feel down; other people have it worse than you.

This is not that book.

Continue reading

Leave a Comment

Filed under book review

Fantastic Fantasists

In some previous stage of my theological thinking, I conceived of the spiritual realm as an arena essentially separate from the materiality of daily life. More recently, influenced by the writings of N.T. Wright among others, I have come to realize the significance of the existing Creation as part of God’s eternal grand design.

The new creation, Wright stresses, is not something that is “up there” or “out there.” It commenced here on Earth with Christ’s resurrection and will be fulfilled, here on Earth, at his return. The kingdom of heaven is not so much “other” as “more”—an unseen that includes and extends beyond observable reality.

Continue reading

Leave a Comment

Filed under book review, children's literature, history, picture books

Books for Black History Month, pt. 2

You can read Part I of this series on the Story Warren website or the BirdsBooks blog.


Stories of those who have suffered injustice and resolved to reverse it inspire awe and admiration. Likewise worthy of respect are those who create profound art from sorrow and loss. In his treatise Art and Faith, painter Makoto Fujimura references artists who draw upon their own suffering to create works of deep significance.

Some of the historical individuals below were literal artists—painters, potters, musicians. Others created by shaping society, moving us toward a more just world. Still others left behind words from which authors and artists have crafted their own works of beauty and significance.

Continue reading

Leave a Comment

Filed under book review, children's literature, history, picture books

Harriett Tubman’s Beautiful Mind

Moses: When Harriett Tubman Led Her People to Freedom, by Carole Boston Weartherford, ill. Kadir Nelson (Hyperion, 2006, 48pp, ages 4-8)

Weatherford’s picture book bio ranks alongside So Tall Within (Gary D. Schmidt, ill. Daniel Mintner, Roaring Brook, 2018) as one of my favorites for Black History Month. It might even be an all-time pick for outstanding children’s biography.

Weatherford pays tribute not just to the indomitable Tubman (c.1822-1913) but to her unquenchable faith. Tubman’s ongoing dialogue with God punctuates and often provides the vehicle for the narrative. Nelson’s paintings, rich with color and form, pair perfectly with spare poetic text, uniting action and emotion.

Continue reading

Leave a Comment

Filed under book review, children's literature, history, picture books

Architects: Creating Natural Space

Cities, generally characterized by massive buildings and busy streets, are often conceived of as the antithesis of nature. But when I first began reading about architects and their work, I was struck by how frequently the theme of harmony with nature arose. Many if not all of the titles below describe how the featured architects drew inspiration from the natural world and sought to emulate it in their designs.

On reflection, it makes sense that artists whose work is built on the natural laws of physics would be firmly grounded in the study of nature. The Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926) avowed, “Man does not create … he discovers.” He went on to say that creators “collaborate” with the Creator—the one who originated the laws of nature.

Continue reading

Leave a Comment

Filed under children's literature, history, picture books

Windows on Korea: Nature, City, Myth

In recent years, classmates, family friends, and now an international student living with our family have put Korea increasingly on our radar. Friends have introduced us to K-pop rock, K-pop opera, and serialized TV K-dramas. The books below offer another window on recent history and contemporary life in Korea. 

When Spring Comes to the DMZ 
Written and illustrated by: Uk-Bae Lee
Translated from Korean by: Chungyon Won and Aileen Won
Published by: Plough Publishing House, 2019
Target Age: 5–8 years

Continue reading

Leave a Comment

Filed under book review, children's literature, picture books, translation

Art and Pandemic in Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel

Choosing an angle of approach for Emily St. John Mandel’s novels is like saying, “I want to learn to dance.”

What kind of dance? Ballet? Ballroom? Jazz? Hip-hop?

Folk, you say.

Fine. Irish clogging? Korean fan dance? Indian kathakali? American square dance?

One could examine Mandel’s novels with regard to pandemic, apocalypse, motherhood, biblical invocations, ethics, the nature of existence, regret and culpability, not to mention genre. Her three most well-known works, Station Eleven, The Glass Hotel, and Sea of Tranquility, are not sufficiently interrelated to constitute a series. But familiar characters turn up in each, and knowing their back story augments recurring themes.

Continue reading

Leave a Comment

Filed under book review

Mrs. Porter Calling, by A.J. Pearce

This third installment of the Emmy Lake Chronicles is a delightful choice for the long evenings and short, cloudy days of winter.

It’s 1943 London, and Emmy’s new husband is away fighting fascists offstage. The Blitz, fore-fronted in Dear Mrs. Bird, is now in the background. But enough bombings are still taking place to precipitate a tragedy among Emmy’s closest comrades. In its aftermath, Emmy, her neighbors, and we as readers wrestle with the fallout of war.

But as usual, Woman’s Friend has other causes to rally round as well. This time the staff must save save their beloved publication from the devastating “improvements” designed by its new owner, Mrs. Porter.

Continue reading

Leave a Comment

Filed under book review, history

More Gifts for Kids: a new Pilgrim’s Progress and a Christmas picture book

First an acknowledgement: Rousseaux Brasseur, the author of these books, was the much-loved children’s ministry lead at our church when our daughter was in elementary school. Last summer he served for a week as pastor at Camp Harlow, where our daughter volunteers as a teen counselor. Needless to say, I am hardly an unbiased reviewer. But I can attest to the character of the author as a clever, quirky, open-hearted individual with a deep love for Jesus and young people.

Continue reading

Leave a Comment

Filed under book review, children's literature, picture books