Ordinary is Extraordinary (children’s book review and giveaway!)

So yesterday a dream came true, did you know? Could you feel it?

Yesterday one of my best friend’s new Children’s book, Extraordinary Jane by Hannah Harrison, hit the shelves (both digital and in real life) and it’s so beautiful.


I saw it take shape in her dining room, I heard about the story as we drove to the children’s museum and went out for trivia at the wine bar.

And now it’s here and we’re reading it on the couch before bed and after lunch and I find myself in tears every read through… because books are miracles guys.

They’re whispers of dreams fanned into reality by hard work and a thousand bootstrap moments.

I still remember the first time I met Hannah, six years ago at our initial lifegroup meeting in Oklahoma. I was sitting on a folding chair, eating tacos, terrified to engage anyone and exhausted by our move into town two days earlier.

Across the room everyone was oohing and ahhing over something, later in the evening they called me over to fill me in. This girl had painted these amazing Alice in Wonderland portraits of one of the group member’s daughters. They were tiny… and beyond amazing.  You can see them here

Christmas crafting after Thanksgiving dinner

Christmas crafting after Thanksgiving dinner

Over time we became good friends, sharing holidays together as families and swapping woes about being writers and moms and OH MY GOD the HEAT in Oklahoma, surely we will die (she’s from New Hampshire.)

She’s one of the most encouraging, hilarious, creative and lovely people I’ve ever met on the planet and I miss our walks and in-person chats deeply.

And now holding her book is like holding a piece of her heart, straight from her home in Oklahoma via Amazon.com.

Let’s talk about the book a bit more, shall we?

Jane is an ordinary dog in an extraordinary circus. She isn’t strong, graceful, or brave like her family. When she tries to be those things, Jane just doesn’t feel like herself, but she also doesn’t feel special. Is she really meant for this kind of life? Her Ringmaster thinks so, but not for the reasons Jane believes.

This is a lesson I want to impart to my children on a regular basis, and certainly one I’m still working through myself. It’s so easy to get caught up in what everyone else is accomplishing and then turn those observations into very real feelings of inadequacy.


The theme is something every child in our accomplishment-driven society needs to have read to them. Through the experiences of a circus dog, maybe we can take one more step toward helping them believe that it’s not your accomplishments that make you loved or acceptable. Your parent’s love, God’s love, the love of true friends isn’t conditional, doesn’t depend on your achievement.

I think my favorite parts of the book are the tender and thoughtful expressions on the Ringmaster’s face and he helps Jane figure out where she belongs. To me they mirror the acceptance and love that I know God has for me I don’t have to perform or fit in a niche to be extraordinary in his eyes.

“When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does” ~Kathleen Kelly of the Little Book Store

This is a lesson I want my children to internalize.

I hope that long into the future, when Noelle and Caedmon are selecting books for their children’s libraries that this book book floats back into their memories, that it has become a classic by that time.

And lucky for you I am giving away a copy of this gorgeous book today!

And all you need to do is leave a comment below that answers this question: What book did you read as a child that wove it’s way into your heart and made an impact?

For me it was Perfect the Pig by Susan Jeschke, I loved the way Perfect was enough for her, beautiful even though he was very different… how she fought for him, loved him.  

But don’t rely on the giveaway, go buy a copy right now. Buy a few and do what I am doing, give them away at every kid’s birthday party for the foreseeable future.

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  • rachael

    My favorite book as a child is still in my possesion. “THE POKEY LITTLE PUPPY” seems like an ordinary book but for me it shows how to slow down, enjoy life, and don’t worry about what others (society) thinks of you or your ways cause in the end slowing down helps you see so much more in life.

    • http://www.leannepenny.com Leanne Penny

      We love Pokey little puppy in this house but I think that we need to get our hands on the original. We have a few of the “newer models”

  • Erica LaGrandeur

    “Stand Back said the Elephant! I’m going to SNEEZE!” One of my favorites….I can still hear my mom reading it to me as I read it to my own kids. :)

    • http://www.leannepenny.com Leanne Penny

      Really? adding this to our list to look into at the library!

  • annevermeulen

    One of my favorites as a child – and, let’s be honest, as an adult – is the Anne of Green Gables series. I mostly focused on the first 3-4 books in the series while I was young, but I love them all now because they inspire me to never lose my sense of whimsy and imagination. I loved that Anne was always described as not being traditionally beautiful, but she was charismatic, kind, delightful, eternally optimistic, and uniquely herself, down to her red hair and freckles. I identified with her passionate changes of mood as a child (“I’m in the depths of despair, Marilla!”), and hey, who wouldn’t love a charming protagonist who shares your own name? Every time I reread the books, a couple of decades erase and I’m lost in Anne-world again.

    • http://www.leannepenny.com Leanne Penny

      That’s amazing Anne. The depths of despair is a real and somewhat daily thing!

  • Karrie Flanagan

    Mine was the same as my Moms favorite “The Little Engine that Could”. She bought Keaton his first copy when he was born and our sweet boy has been such a train lover!! He has adored Thomas the train and it makes me so happy!!

    • http://www.leannepenny.com Leanne Penny

      Wow so not only a favorite, a tradition! That’s amazing, a legacy of story and perseverance.

  • Sarah

    Old Turtle, by Douglas Wood, watercolors(I know, right?) by Cheng-Khee Chee. It’s a story of God and God’s intended harmony for the world through the eyes of animals.

    • http://www.leannepenny.com Leanne Penny

      Wow that sounds amazing, watercolors are more than fine by me.

  • http://www.carisadel.com/ Caris Adel

    Leo the Lop, Bailey Goes Camping, Alligator Pie, and The Ox-Cart Man were well-loved favorites. So excited to read this!!

    • http://www.leannepenny.com Leanne Penny

      I’ve heard of exactly none of those but I need to catch up! I’ll look into the library, we are on a reading challenge here anyway that includes new stuff!

  • Janna

    “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis. I know that might not be classified necessarily as a children’s book… it’s a novel… but I loved it then and love it now! I love the parallels between Aslan and Christ. I love the imaginative world of Narnia that came to life in my mind as I read that book… and I love that it ends as all stories should with good winning over evil.

    • http://www.leannepenny.com Leanne Penny

      Absolutely, such a grand adventure with so many rich and stories ties into faith!

  • Mark Allman

    I am surprised how moved I am to remember that one book that impacted me. I need to read it again soon. :) I was a boy growing up on a farm pretty isolated from others outside of school So I read.. everything I could; the Roanoke TImes, the National Enquirer, Reader’s Digest, and I checked books out of the school library. The one book was Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Everyone in that family has responsibilities and worked together to survive. I wanted to be like them; to work hard and succeed. For someone who did see his father much I wanted to know how I should live. As I moved into my teenage years I drew inspiration for the man I wanted to be from of all places the Star Trek universe. I read every book I could and I long to be noble and honorable and heroic like Spock and Kirk but mostly Spock. …… Sorry for the tears on your page Leanne.

    • http://www.leannepenny.com Leanne Penny

      No apologies, I love that. Really and truly!

  • Jennifer Jill Araya

    “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle. I know it’s not a picture book, but I read it the first time as a 3rd grader and fell in love. I’ve read it too many times to count since then, as well as all of L’Engle’s other books. She wrote incredible fiction and nonfiction for adults, too, not just for kids. Her passion for loving people, for finding the story in life, and for celebrating the eternal are values that have shaped the woman I am today.

  • Emery

    I always loved “Leo the Late Bloomer”, it reassured me that we don’t all have to develop, grow or learn at the same time. It still makes me feel good today as our lives are not quite where we had planned them to be by our mid-20’s, but we’ve got time!

  • Elizabeth Harrison

    The Kissing Hand <3 It helped me be apart from my mom at school because I knew she was still with me. :)