Melissa Sweet poster_1

Click to enter for your chance to win!

As part of the the ALA Annual Conference last month, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers hosted a dinner with Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet, the dynamic duo behind both the Caldecott Honor-winning A River of Words and — coming this September — The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus.

The dinner went fabulously, not only because librarians are awesome people to hang out with, but also (perhaps especially) because Melissa helped make super cute swag bags for each of the guests. One of the goodies she included in those bags was a custom poster featuring some of her meticulously hand-printed word lists from the end sheets of The Right Word.

Those posters look fantastic. In fact, they look so fantastic that, when we found we had three extras left over after the party, we also found ourselves faced with a major dilemma about what to do with them (because, let’s be honest, the entire staff wants one, and things could get Battle Royale ugly pretty quickly over here). Thankfully, just as we were rolling up our sleeves to arm wrestle for them, someone helpfully suggested that we give them away!

Read on for full contest rules or to learn more about the book behind our prize, or enter now for your chance to be one of three lucky readers to win one of our gorgeous Melissa Sweet posters for yourself.

(Sorry, fellow Eerdfolks: you are not eligible to win, so don’t even think about trying to enter.)


The Right Word

The Right Word

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus
Written by Jen Bryant
Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

For shy young Peter Mark Roget, books were the best companions — and it wasn’t long before Peter began writing his own book. But he didn’t write stories; he wrote lists. Peter took his love for words and used it to organize his ideas and find exactly the right word to express just what he thought. His lists grew and grew, eventually turning into one of the most important reference books of all time.This book is an inviting, visually engrossing portrayal of Peter Mark Roget and the creation of the thesaurus.

Readers of all ages will marvel at Roget’s life, depicted through lyrical text and brilliantly detailed illustrations. This elegant book celebrates the joy of learning and the power of words.

“Sweet envisions Roget’s work as a shadow box crammed with the wonders of the natural world, adorned with exuberant hand-lettered typography. Together with Bryant’s sympathetic account, Sweet’s gentle riot of images and words humanizes the man behind this ubiquitous reference work and demystifies the thesaurus itself.”
— Publishers Weekly (STARRED Review)

“Bryant’s prose is bright and well-tuned for young readers. . . . Sweet tops herself — again! — visually reflecting Roget’s wide range as a thinker and product of the Enlightenment. Injecting her watercolor palette with shots of teal, scarlet and fuchsia, Sweet embeds vintage bits (ledger paper, type drawers, botanical illustrations and more), creating a teeming, contemplative, playfully celebratory opus. In a word: marvelous!”
— Kirkus Reviews (STARRED Review)

This could be you.

This could be you.

Contest Details

To enter, click through to our Rafflecopter giveaway page. You’ll have the option of logging in with Facebook or email; you can then choose from several possible methods of entry. You may use multiple entry methods to increase your odds of winning, and Twitter users may earn additional entries by tweeting about the giveaway each day between now and July 17. 

You must be 18 years or older and a legal resident of the United States to enter. 

The entry period for the giveaway begins at 10:00 a.m. Tuesday, July 15, 2014, and ends at 11:59 p.m. Thursday, July 17. Three winners will be selected at random and notified by email by the end of business Friday, July 18.



Laura is a typical fifteen-year-old growing up in the 1960s, navigating her way through classes, friendships, and even a new romance.

But she’s carrying around a secret: her mother is suffering from mental illness. No one in Laura’s family will talk about her mother’s past hospitalizations or her increasingly erratic behavior, and Laura is confused and frightened. Laura finds some refuge in art, but when her mother suffers a breakdown after taking up painting again herself, even art ceases to provide much comfort.

This powerful young adult novel-in-verse tackles complex themes in a way that will have readers rooting for Laura as she struggles to find her courage and dig for the answers she needs.

Check out our wonderful — and wonderfully evocative — new trailer for Linda Vigen Phillips’s debut novel Crazy below.

Click to order Crazy or to visit Linda Vigen Phillips’s author website and blog

Welcome once again to Eerdmans All Over, a Friday roundup of all the Eerdmans-related news, reviews, interviews, and other interesting online content we can gather in a given week.

Recent Releases


Visions of AmenVisions of Amen: The Early Life and Music of Olivier Messiaen
Stephen Schloesser

The Jesus Movement and Its Expansion: Meaning and Mission
Sean Freyne

Exploring our Hebraic Heritage: A Christian Theology of Roots and Renewal
Marvin R. Wilson

Minutes of the Christian Reformed Church: Classical Assembly 1857-1870, General Assembly 1867-1879, and Synodical Assembly 1880
Janet Sjaarda Sheeres

Evangelical versus Liturgical? Defying a Dichotomy
Melanie C. Ross

The Depth of the Human Person: A Multidisciplinary Approach
Michael Welker


News from Eerdmans . . .

  • Our very own EBYR Art Director Gayle Brown was featured on, talking about her own story, her job at Eerdmans, and the beautiful books she has helped bring into print.
  • We attended the ALA Annual Conference — look for our roundup in next week’s EBYR Newsletter.

. . . and elsewhere.

Have we missed any news, reviews, or other online miscellany dealing with Eerdmans or EBYR books or authors from the last week? Please let us know in the comments. You also can post items on our Facebook timeline, mention us on Twitter (@eerdmansbooks or @ebyrbooks), or write to us directly:

Jacob Thielman

Jacob Thielman

Jacob Thielman is Internet marketing assistant at Eerdmans. 

* * *

I want to share a book with you — a beautiful, devastating book that you might not notice otherwise: Receiving the Gift of Friendship: Profound Disability, Theological Anthropology, and Ethics by Hans Reinders.

“Profound disability” is a term I had never encountered before. By it, Reinders means people with intellectual impairments to basic cognitive functions like thought and agency. Reinders’s book could not be gentler in its tone, but this only adds to the monumental force of his argument. He asks a simple question: Is a person with such profound disability created in God’s image?

Nobody in their right theological mind would deny it. But if this is so, can we say that what makes a person human — that is, what reflects God’s image in them — has anything to do with what they can do, or whether they can even think or feel, or really anything about them?

There is a commonly held view that human beings are human and receive the moral benefits of human dignity by virtue of their being rational. As Christians, we clearly cannot affirm this idea, and disturbingly, ethical discussions surrounding people with profound disabilities too often seem to revolve around when and whether we ought to be allowed to kill them. Reinders has no interest in this question at all, first because the answer is never, and second, because the more pressing question to him is how to live with such an image bearer, and every other variety of human being with a disability.

If this question interested me at first from an ethical and theological standpoint, Reinders’s further explorations cut me to the heart. He does not work out tidy ethical responses within the safe bubble of abstract philosophy, then apply them in procrustean fashion to the messy lives of real people. Rather, he begins with real disabled people (including disabled scholars), with their family members and caretakers, and he finds that even in the cases of people who have zero awareness or ability to interact with the outside world, their humanity is a non-issue in the eyes of those close to them — it’s a foregone conclusion.

He relates his visits to the group home of one such person with profound disability whose name was Kelly:

During that afternoon of my first visit, I noticed a nurse coming in for the late afternoon shift. Entering Kelly’s room, she approached her with a spontaneous “you are looking cheerful today.” On my subsequent visits to Kelly’s group home, I noticed that such descriptions of mental states were quite frequent. One day I came for tea, and as soon as I entered the living room, I was approached by Daniel, a young boy with autism; he came to me repeating that Kelly looked “very sad,” and then he would go over to her wheelchair and stroke her beautiful hair. Others might say occasionally that she appeared to be happy, or that she loved to be bathed. Apparently, Kelly was included in the language that we are accustomed to speaking to and about each other. In any event, she was never approached or spoken to as though she were a “vegetable.”

It appears that God’s image in humanity resists reductionism, and the reading list of true stories I’ve gained from the footnotes of this book is on its own enough reason to pick it up.

Receiving the Gift of Friendship

Receiving the Gift of Friendship

Let me try to explain further.

The day my daughter was born, I remember walking with her into a nursery for newborns, where she lay in a warm bassinet. I put my index finger in her palm, and through some innate reflex she gripped her daddy’s finger with a strong grip. She didn’t mean to. She will never remember it. But that meant everything to me.

My daughter Severn Katherine was named for her aunt Katherine, my wife Erin’s sister. Katherine is a triplet. She and her two sisters were born prematurely, with some complications for Katherine and her sister Liz. Several months later, my in-laws John and Karen met with the doctors involved in her care and were informed that due to a bleed in her brain, Katherine had cerebral palsy and would be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life. John responded that he and Karen saw their daughter as a gift from God. John learned later that the doctor’s notes from that meeting included the comment, “Parents are in denial.”

In all the years since, John and Karen have never, ever retracted their statement. After twenty-five years of caring for Katherine, they still believe she is a gift from God. Her three sisters also believe she is a gift from God. In fact, everyone who knows her, including myself, believes she is a gift from God. It’s patently obvious to us, written all over her hugely smiling face, audible in her witticisms, clear in the maturity and wisdom beyond her years that she possesses after a lifetime of physical suffering and limitation.

But there’s more to it than that. Katherine would probably still be a hilarious, friendly person (and rabid UNC Tar Heels fan) even if she could shift in her seat or pick up a fork like everybody else. And our hope as believers is that one day she will get to be all of these at once when we are “raised incorruptible” together in Christ (1 Corinthians 15). The Bible insists that Katherine, and every other human, was made in the image of God. Does this include her disability? Was that just accidental to the imago Dei in her? Or, to pose what Reinders would call an “insider” question: Why, then, can we see so much of God reflected not just in who Katherine is, but in the whole situation, including her disability?

Katherine positively shines with the goodness of God — and, knowing her as I do, it is my belief that she would shine just as brightly if her disability were even more profound.

If we sit at our desks and type up philosophies, theological anthropologies, legal briefs, lobbying emails, or legislation presuming to address human beings in general, without ever seeking out the friendship of the disabled, I fail to see how we can know what we are talking about. I cannot grasp how we could claim to understand what a human being is — as if it were simply obvious from the anecdotal evidence of our own privileged interiorities. We can only do violence from such a position. We have done such violence. Reinders’s book does not abuse his academic resources in this way. Instead, it puts them to use (and often to the test) in investigating what he has found in his own life: namely, that human being declares the glory of God without any help from theology. That, incredibly, human being is not found “in” us, but is extrinsically grounded in God Himself — in His love and acceptance and friendship with us — and it is this which sets us on the right course to answering the question, “What is a human being?”

“Imago Dei” by Tim Lowly: a portrait of the artist’s daughter Temma, who is profoundly disabled. Used with permission.

Click to order Hans Reinders’s Receiving the Gift of Friendship: Profound Disability, Theological Anthropology, and Ethics.

You probably know that Eerdmans publishes fantastic Bible commentaries. You’re likely aware of our respected theological monographs, our groundbreaking ethics texts, and our library of ministry resources. You may even have heard about our award-winning line of international children’s books in translation.

But did you know that we also publish regional interest titles? Art books? Film discussion guides? Poetry? Books on Celtic prayer? . . . physics? . . . Fokker airplanes?

Throughout the month of July, we’ll be celebrating some of the eclectic titles at the fringes of the Eerdmans list, as we highlight a different niche collection each Wednesday.

This week we turn our gaze to military history. Read on to discover five great books . . .

The Notorious Isaac Earl and His Scouts

The Notorious Isaac Earl and His Scouts

The Notorious Isaac Earl and His Scouts: Union Soldiers, Prisoners, Spies
Gordon L. Olson

While large armies engaged in epic battles in the eastern theater of the Civil War, a largely unchronicled story was unfolding along the Mississippi River. Thirty “Special Scouts” under the command of Lieutenant Isaac Newton Earl patrolled the river, gathering information about Confederate troop activity, arresting Rebel smugglers and guerillas, and opposing anti-Union insurrection. Gordon Olson gives this special unit full book-length treatment for the first time in The Notorious Isaac Earl and His Scouts.

Olson uses new research in assembling his detailed yet very readable account of Earl, a dynamic leader who rose quickly through Union Army ranks to command this elite group. Earl was himself captured by the Confederates three times and escaped three times, and he developed a strategic — and later romantic — relationship with a Southern woman, Jane O’Neal, who became one of his spies. In keeping the river open for Union Army movement of men and supplies to New Orleans, Earl’s Scouts played an important, heretofore unheralded, role in the Union’s war effort.

Soldier Bear

Soldier Bear

Soldier Bear
Written by Bibi Dumon Tak
Illustrated by Philip Hopman
Translated from the Dutch by Laura Watkinson

Winner of the 2012 Mildred L. Batchelder Award

Based on a real series of events that happened during World War II, Soldier Bear tells the story of an orphaned bear cub adopted by a group of Polish soldiers. The bear, Voytek, is enlisted in the company and travels with the soldiers from Iran to Italy, and then on to Scotland. His mischief gets him into trouble along the way, but he also provides some unexpected encouragement for the soldiers amidst the grim realities of war: Voytek learns to carry bombs for the company, saves the camp from a spy, and keeps them constantly entertained with his antics.

Bibi Dumon Tak’s powerful and surprising story offers readers a glimpse at a fascinating piece of history.

Read more about Voytek in a blog post from translator Laura Watkinson here on EerdWord.

A Michigan Polar Bear Confronts the Bolsheviks

A Michigan Polar Bear Confronts the Bolsheviks

A Michigan Polar Bear Confronts the Bolsheviks: A War Memoir
Godfrey J. Anderson

This rare volume contains the graphic story of a young Michigan soldier’s experiences during President Woodrow Wilson’s ill-fated 1918 military expedition against the Bolsheviks in the frozen reaches of northern Russia — a little-remembered event in U.S. history.

As a member of the U.S. “Polar Bears” medical corps, Godfrey Anderson (1895–1981) tells of his travels by ship and train to Archangel, Russia, where a 5,000-man American contingent joined forces with French, British, Canadian, and local Cossack fighters to hold back the Red Army. Anderson’s unit set up field hospitals in the vast Arctic wilderness, endured the bitter cold of winter and the ravages of the Spanish flu, rubbed shoulders with Russian villagers, rescued scores of wounded from the advancing Bolsheviks in a harrowing nighttime retreat by sleigh — and more.

Anderson’s autobiographical narrative has an irresistible charm and transparency to it; a substantial introduction by Michigan historian Gordon Olson sets the geopolitical stage for this gripping and down-to-earth war memoir.

Read an EerdWord review of the book by Rachel Bomberger.

Attack of the Turtle

Attack of the Turtle

Attack of the Turtle
Written by Drew Carlson
Illustrated by David A. Johnson

It’s 1776, and the Revolutionary War is raging. Fourteen-year-old Nathan Wade is a patriot, but he’s too young to join the fight. Then his cousin David Bushnell comes to town with a secret. David has designed a water machine that can explode bombs underwater. And his mission is to launch it against the British warships in New York harbor.

Nate reluctantly agrees to help David build the weapon of war — dubbed the American Turtle. Although he’s terrified of water and worried about getting caught, when unlikely circumstances put Nate at the center of the action, he must face the murky waters of his fears head-on.

Based on actual historical events, this adventure story captures the drama of the first submarine used in naval warfare and the struggles of a teenager overcoming self-doubt.

Blue Skies, Orange Wings

Blue Skies, Orange Wings

Blue Skies, Orange Wings: The Global Reach of Dutch Aviation in War and Peace, 1914-1945
Ryan Noppen

Through a wealth of photographs and color illustrations and an informed narrative, Blue Skies, Orange Wings documents the surprisingly strong role of Dutch aircraft, airmen, designers, and airlines in world aviation in the first half of the twentieth century.

In this beautiful book Ryan Noppen offers the most thorough study of the early years of Dutch commercial and military aviation published in the English language. He examines the famed Fokker airliners, the development of Dutch national airline KLM, and their impact on the world in the pioneering days of flight, including a number of notable individuals — Charles Lindbergh, Henry Ford, Amelia Earhart, and more.