Brooke is the perfect older sister. For that reason, Kari and Ashley work hard to make their parents just as proud of them as they are of Brooke. Each girl has her own talents. Brooke is an excellent student. Kari is a great soccer player. Ashley, a talented artist. And they are always there for each other. But when the news comes that Dr. Baxter is moving the family from Ann Arbor to Bloomington, Indiana, and the Baxters need to leave the only home and friends they’ve ever known, no one is happy. Saying goodbye is hard but the family still has what’s most important—their faith and their love for each other.
The first book in the Baxter Family Children series, #1 New York Times bestselling author Karen Kingsbury and Tyler Russell tell the story of what it was like to grow up in the Baxter family, the best family ever.
About the Author
Tyler Russell has been telling stories his whole life. In elementary school, he won a national award for a children’s book he wrote, and he has been writing ever since. In 2015 he graduated college with a BFA from Lipscomb University. Soon after, he sold his first screenplay, Karen Kingsbury’s Maggie’s Christmas Miracle, which premiered in December of 2017 on Hallmark. Along with screenplays and novels, Tyler is a songwriter, singer, actor, and creative who lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where he enjoys serving his church, adventuring around the city, and spending time with his family.
Read an Excerpt
Best Family Ever
Fourth grade at Johnson Elementary School was turning out to be Ashley Baxter’s best year ever. This week in Miss Wilson’s class they were studying snowflakes. Beautiful creative snowflakes, of all things!
And it was even supposed to snow today.
Ashley twirled off the school bus and danced on her tiptoes, eyes fixed on the gray sky, her arms stretched wide. This was how a snowflake might feel. Ashley was pretty sure, because a snowflake spent its entire life dancing through space.
Her goal was to twirl all the way to her classroom. But Ashley must have lost track of where she was going, or which way she was turning, because all the sudden she heard a yelling voice.
“Watch out, Baxter!” The words were from a boy and they sounded mean.
Before Ashley could figure out who they were coming from, someone crashed into her.
A strange sound came from her lips, like the air was leaving her lungs all at once.
She couldn’t even get a deep breath before she and the boy fell to the ground. From the corner of her eye, Ashley saw a football roll a few feet from her. That’s when she figured out who had hit her.
It was Eric Powers. Rudest boy in her class.
“Why were you spinning?” Eric made a face at her. Four other kids walked by, headed to class. Every one of them was watching.
Great, Ashley thought.
She stood and crossed her arms. “Um. It’s homework. Just so you know.” She stared at him, her eyes squinty. “And it’s Ashley . . . not Baxter!”
Why did he have to run into her? Of all people?
“Homework? Twirling?” Eric picked up the football and stood right in front of her, the ball under his arm. Suddenly his angry face relaxed. A slow sort of smile came over him. Like they were friends. “What sort of homework?”
“If I have to explain it to you, Eric, then you really just don’t get it.” Ashley huffed. Eric didn’t understand. The bell rang and students all over the school yard rushed inside. Ashley took one last look up at the sky and closed her eyes. Who cares what Eric thinks. She could pretend to be a snowflake. At least for now.
“Ashley! Time to come in.” Miss Wilson peeked out from the classroom door. “It’s freezing out here.”
“Yes, ma’am!” Ashley ran toward the door, out of the cold and into the toasty classroom. She hung up her jacket and took a seat next to her best school friend in all the world. Lydia Christina.
“Why were you dancing out there?” Lydia didn’t look away from the book she was reading. But she raised her eyebrows high above the rim of her glasses.
“I was being a snowflake.” Ashley folded her hands nice and neat on her desk.
“Naturally.” Lydia looked at her and laughed a little. “You’re the silliest girl in fourth grade. That’s why I like you.”
“It wasn’t that silly.” Ashley glanced over at Miss Wilson. The teacher was walking up and down the aisles handing out papers. Which meant Ashley and Lydia could still talk for a few minutes.
“You stepped off the bus and started spinning.” Lydia kept her voice quiet. “You’re the only one I know who would do that.”
Lydia’s words felt like a compliment. Ashley smiled, more relaxed. “Aren’t you going to ask me what it was like?” She leaned back in her chair. “Being a snowflake?”
“Okay. What was it like?” Lydia set her book down and looked at Ashley. “Didn’t seem like it ended very well.”
“It didn’t.” Ashley made a face. “Eric Powers bumped into me and we both crashed to the ground.”
“Well . . .” Lydia angled her head. “That is sort of how it ends for snowflakes. They all pretty much float to the ground.”
Ashley hadn’t thought about that. “True.” She looked over at Eric, who was laughing with the other boys. Probably about her.
“Which means I will probably never play the snowflake game.” Lydia pointed at the dirt on Ashley’s knees. “Not before school, anyway.”
“Snowflake game . . . ?” Ashley brushed her knees clean and then did the same to her elbows. She rolled her eyes. Lydia didn’t understand, either. For everything she had in common with her friend, there were some things where they were complete and total opposites.
Be patient, Ashley reminded herself. Not out loud, but inside her head. Her mom said she should work on patience. So this was her chance to practice. “Lydia.” Ashley used her kindest voice. “It wasn’t a snowflake game. It was homework.”
“Homework?” Lydia scrunched up her face, like she was confused.
“Miss Wilson said, remember? She asked us to think what it might be like being a snowflake.”
“Right. Okay.” Lydia picked up her book and found her page. “You’re a funny one, Ashley Baxter.”
Ashley blinked a few times. Whatever. Lydia thought she was silly, but Ashley didn’t mind. They would always be friends. Forever and ever. “How about we both pretend to be snowflakes at recess?”
Lydia looked up from her book, her eyes sparkly. “It did sort of look fun.”
They were both giggling when Miss Wilson walked to the front of the classroom. “All right. Settle down.” She waited for everyone to sit. Then she smiled at them. “Good news, boys and girls. Next week is a special day. Who knows what it is?”
Lydia’s hand went up first. “Valentine’s Day. A day where we celebrate St. Valentine and friendship.”
“And get lots of candy,” Eric blurted out from the back of the classroom. A few of the boys around him laughed again.
There he goes. Ashley shook her head. That boy thinks he’s so funny.
Miss Wilson took a step closer. “You are both right. So later today we are going to discuss St. Valentine and the history of Valentine’s Day!” Miss Wilson pointed to the nearest desk. “I just gave you an activity sheet, so we can talk about this holiday together.”
Ashley looked out the window. She wasn’t the biggest fan of Valentine’s Day. She never got the most valentine cards. Everyone was supposed to give one to every boy and girl. But she always felt like the other kids got more. She’d rather study snowflakes.
Then, while she was still looking outside, the most amazing thing happened! The smallest, softest, most delicate snowflakes began to fall to the ground. Just like the ones she was pretending to be when she climbed off the bus.
How would that feel, being a real snowflake? Dancing and twirling and drifting down from heaven? Out of nowhere she felt Lydia give her a jab in her side. “Ouch.” Ashley turned to her friend. “That hurt!”
“Ashley!” Lydia pointed to the front of the class. “Miss Wilson asked you a question.”
In a rush, Ashley looked at their teacher, whose eyes were definitely watching her. Ashley let out a little laugh and smiled. “Sorry.”
“Ashley. Please stay with us.” Miss Wilson put her hands on her hips. “I asked the class to find a reason to use the word effervescent today. Do you know what that means?”
The whole class was watching her. The word was on her spelling list. She tapped her desk. “Bubbly?”
Miss Wilson nodded. “Yes. Bubbly and enthusiastic.” She smiled. “And even though you, yourself, are effervescent, I still need you to focus.”
“Try harder.” Miss Wilson’s look was serious.
Suddenly Ashley thought of something to explain herself. “Well, the truth is . . .” A quick bunch of words filled Ashley’s head. They were out before she could stop them. “I was so focused on your snowflake teaching from yesterday . . . and then I looked outside and saw the beautiful snow. And I thought, Wouldn’t it be great if we could all learn our spelling words outside?”
“In the snow?” Miss Wilson leaned against her desk. She blew at a piece of her hair and shook her head.
“It hasn’t snowed since last week.” Ashley blinked. “Outside would be perfect. Don’t you guys think so?” She looked around the room. But she was met with absolute silence. Clearly no one was with her on this.
Eric Powers whispered loud enough for Ashley to hear. “Crazy Baxter.”
Their teacher didn’t hear him. She was still standing in front of Ashley. She didn’t look too thrilled.
Lydia shook her head and stared down at her desk.
“I appreciate your creativity, Ashley. But I think everyone else would like to have the lesson inside.” Miss Wilson turned to the blackboard.
Ashley slouched in her chair and tried to pay attention. She’d already been in trouble twice this month for not paying attention. But sometimes she couldn’t help it. All day long the edges of her mind spilled over with extra thoughts.
This wasn’t turning out to be a very good day. Miss Wilson reprimanding her in front of the whole class, and the fact that no one else wanted to go outside.
Recess wasn’t much better. Lydia tried to be a snowflake, but she got dizzy and fell in the snow. Only it was actually not very much snow. More like mud. So Lydia’s hair got streaked with wet dirt.
At the end of the day, when the bell rang, Lydia gave Ashley a look. “I almost forgot!” She stuffed her notebook into her backpack. “Why did you ask to have class outside? Miss Wilson was never going to say yes to that.”
“Are you serious?” Ashley’s mouth hung open for a few seconds. “That was a great idea! Learning in the snow? Can you imagine?”
“No.” Lydia made her eyes wide. “Now Miss Wilson is going to call your mom and you’re going to be in trouble. Because you don’t pay attention.” Lydia shook her head. “And who wants to study in the snow, anyway? Too cold, if you ask me.”
“Lydia.” Ashley stared at her. “You’re my best school friend. And I would do anything for you. But sometimes I don’t get you.” Ashley grabbed her things. If only Lydia wasn’t so sensible.
So they could be snowflakes together—even in the mud.
On the way out of the classroom, Ashley stopped at Miss Wilson’s desk. Then she turned to Lydia. She gripped the straps of her backpack and used her most quiet voice. “I’ll meet you in the hall.”
“Okay.” Lydia looked worried as she hurried out of the classroom.
Alone with Miss Wilson, Ashley rocked back and forth on her toes. “So . . .” She smiled. “Am I in trouble?”
Miss Wilson looked up from her papers. “No, Ashley. You mean well. I see that.” The teacher’s smile looked tired. “And I’m not going to call your mom. But you need to pay attention in class.” She raised her brow. “Do you understand?”
“Yes!” Ashley’s heart felt light as a snowflake. She wasn’t in trouble! “Yes, I understand.” She ran around to the other side of the desk and gave Miss Wilson a quick hug. “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” She could barely contain herself. “I’ll do better, I promise.”
Miss Wilson’s eyes sparkled. “Now. What would you think about being in charge of our Valentine’s Day party?”
“Me?” Ashley couldn’t believe it. Miss Wilson had never asked her to be in charge of anything this important. “Really?”
“Yes.” A quiet laugh came from Miss Wilson. “Out of the whole class, I figured you’d be the one to make our party just right.” Miss Wilson smiled at her. “No one is more . . . effervescent.”
Ashley glowed under that compliment. She gave Miss Wilson another hug. “Can Lydia help?”
Miss Wilson laughed again. “Of course. Let me know what you girls need.” She pointed to the door. “The bus is waiting. See you tomorrow.”
“This is the best news.” Ashley practically danced to the door. “I already have a thousand ideas. You won’t be disappointed . . . I promise.”
Once she was out of the classroom, Ashley bolted down the hall and caught up to Lydia. She shared the whole story with her, and they talked about how they were going to plan the best party ever. “Party planners extraordinaire.” Ashley danced down the hall. Like she was a model on a runway.
“Look out, here we come.” Lydia giggled as she joined in.
“Can you picture it?” Ashley twirled. “Snowflakes and hearts everywhere. And streamers.”
Lydia gave her a look. “Not snowflakes again, Ashley.”
“Fine. I can give up the snowflakes.” Ashley skipped down the steps of the school. “Do you think we need some pink?”
“Definitely!” Lydia got louder now, more excited. “Everything needs to be pink. And red and white!”
“Exactly.” Ashley’s heart beat faster because of pure joy. This was going to be the best party any fourth-grade class ever had.
When they reached the bus, Lydia headed for her mom’s car. “Talk to you tomorrow.”
“Perfect.” Ashley still couldn’t believe it. She was in charge of the Valentine’s Day party! Ashley practically floated down the sidewalk. A quick turn around the brick building and there they were! Her siblings, already getting on the bus.
Kari and Erin, and Luke. Her other best friends. Her very best friends.
She could hardly wait to tell them the news.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Best Family Ever By Karen Kingsbury and Tyler Russell I was given the opportunity to read an ARC of this book and below is my honest own opinion. Best Family Ever ministers to the hearts of young children everywhere. Karen and Tyler gives us experiences of the Baxter children as they will offer you wisdom and provide childhood stories to help you grow and learn in the ever changing world. Ashely’s story as a youngster will affect hearts across the globe as she struggles with a family move that has put her out of her comfort zone. Looking for guidance, she relies heavily on loved ones that surround her. A beautiful book for your child!
I have read every Baxter book to date. I loved Brook, Kari, Erin, Ashley, and Luke as adults. I was skeptical at first. However, Karen and Tyler have captivated me with the young Baxters. Best Family Ever makes me remember my own childhood days. This is the Baxters on a whole other level. I know it was written with younger readers in mind, But I believe Best Family Ever will please all ages.