Not a Waste of Time {Book Club}

Not a Waste of Time {Book Club}

“By the big red barn in the great green field…” So begins my eldest son’s first favorite book, Big Red Barn. I could probably type out the entire story even though we haven’t read it in about 6 years. He asked for it so often that I would recite it at night in my dreams.

Board books gave way to favorite picture books about Sesame Street characters, Dora the Explorer, and Thomas and Friends. Now we read chapter books about Vikings, knights, good hearted outlaws, superheroes, and a boy with a brother named Fudge.

I grew up with stories from books, too. I also had stories on records – you know those big black discs with grooves in them that are read with a needle? The Three Little Pigs was my favorite. I loved to play it and hear the story over and over again.

Children may not realize why stories are important for development, but they know that stories are good. Fairy tales, folk tales, fiction, or true stories – children can’t get enough of them. And not just because of their entertainment value. A good story stirs something up in us: empathy, courage, confidence, compassion.

My youngest son read several of Aesop’s fables this year. You could tell someone the morals of the stories. You could make them memorize the morals and even give a lecture on them. But, the fables illustrate the morals in a memorable and meaningful way. I don’t think my son can recite any of the morals, but he can tell you how ridiculous it was that some men sat under a tree they called worthless, while they were enjoying the shade of said worthless tree. Now he understands that we often overlook things we should be appreciating. And he would be glad to listen to or read any of these fables again and again. Stories are superior to lectures.

In Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, Minli loved stories. Ba told her stories every night, and Ma argued with him about it.

“You’re always wishing to do impossible things! Stop believing stories and stop wasting your time,” she said.

Ba answered, “Stories are not a waste of time.”

Ma disliked stories even before Minli ran away. Afterwards, she blamed Ba for Minli running away to find the Old Man on the Moon. If Ba had not kept telling Minli stories, she never would have believed them and run away! Minli would have been realistic.

Throughout the first 13 chapters, Ma and Ba had an ongoing debate about the value of stories. Ba eventually agrees that the stories are impossible – they are fiction! But they are not ridiculous. Could you relate to Ma at all? I don’t understand where she’s coming from. I’m with Ba 100% on this one. I wonder if she’ll ever come around.

Starting with the talking goldfish, it began to be clear that the folk tales Minli grew up with are true. The Old Man on the Moon exists and can be found. She will succeed, but how?

At the end of chapter 13, we left Minli with Dragon, standing outside the peach forest, assessing the danger from the monkeys. I loved Dragon’s story. Of all the tales in the book so far, his was my favorite. A sentient painting that comes to life with flesh and blood when the eyes are painted on? Love it. Which tale was your favorite?

Let’s talk in the comments. What kind of stories did you grow up with? Which ones did you want to hear over and over again?

P.S. If you have kids, this is a book you can read together to let them join in book club, too. Our reading schedule for the rest of the book:

June 9 – Chapters 14-23

June 16 – Chapters 24-38

June 23 – Chapters 39-48

Photo by farfar on Unsplash


  1. Sarah Hilkemann June 1, 2020

    Stories were big in my family growing up! I loved reading, being read to, and hearing made-up stories on car rides. I also loved the audio stories of Adventures in Odyssey (my siblings and I can still quote them) and the Land of Make-believe in the Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood TV show. 🙂 Those stories shaped my childhood.

    I love how the stories are woven in to this book so that we get to hear/read them too. I really like Minli’s character. She has that wonderful mix of care, compassion and determination that allows her to start this journey and make friends along the way. I think it would be the best to see the stories I’ve always heard come to life! Her child innocence helps her to take things as they come rather than being doubting and skeptical.

    1. Rachel Kahindi June 4, 2020

      Ah! We listened to Adventures in Odyssey on the radio every Sunday morning. 🙂 And…I’m pretty sure I watched Mr Rogers’ Neighborhood specifically for the Land of Make Believe segment.

  2. Evelyn June 1, 2020

    Thank you for selecting this book.! I listened to it on audio books. There was something about this book that seemed to take me into the story in such a delightfulway. Perfect for this time when the world seems to have turned upside down into a new story.

    While I remember Mother goose stories, BaBar, Dr Seuss, scary stories, The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings; my favorite times were sitting around the campfire hearing and telling stories.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann June 1, 2020

      Stories around a campfire are just the best, aren’t they! 🙂

    2. Rachel Kahindi June 4, 2020

      So glad you enjoyed it! A good atmosphere like a campfire really enlivens the imagination. My kids love for me to read in their room with the lights off.

  3. Bayta Schwarz June 2, 2020

    Everyone in my family loves to read, so stories were always a part of my life! Probably the one I remember most from my childhood is Pippi Longstocking. I still have the books I got when I was 5 or 6 🙂 These days, I love all sorts of stories but the ones I keep going back to on a regular basis are Narnia and LOTR. Though now I’m thinking I might want to re-read Pippi as well 😉

    1. Rachel Kahindi June 4, 2020

      Oh, Pippi Longstocking. I don’t remember if I ever read the books, but there must have been a cartoon at some point in my childhood. I always wanted to make my 2 braids stick out to the sides like hers, just to be unique.

  4. Amanda June 2, 2020

    What a powerful reminder! When I sat down to read this book, I felt a bit anxious because it wasn’t the typical spiritual formation genre I usually choose. In a way, I feel that I have dismissed the art of listening to stories that don’t have an explicit Biblical lesson tied to them. They are valuable, and I am enjoying this book. It is stretching my imagination, and there are always lessons to learn from stories. I don’t know when I lost the magic of getting lost in any and every story, but I am excited to return to that mentality! 🙂

    1. Rachel Kahindi June 4, 2020

      This comment makes me so happy. Though I read a lot more non-fiction than I used to, I’ve always preferred fiction. Often feel like I need to justify it to myself: why don’t I like to read things that are more worthwhile? That’s why I adored Ba’s comment that stories aren’t a waste of time, giving me permission to love my fiction reading freely. 🙂

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