Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Impatient Turtle by Janette Oke

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

Pogo is not particularly happy that he is a turtle, it seems that everyone else has more fun than turtles.

Throughout the story we find Pogo leading the way in trying to make life as a turtle more exciting. He gets himself and his friends into some funny situations. After many attempts of trying to imitate the boys they watch play, Pogo is convinced his shell is what's holding him back. He is determined to get rid of it. It only takes a short encounter with a big dog to change his mind and his perspective.

Positives: A wonderful and simple story with a great lesson! Young readers will enjoy the illustrations as well. I was thankful that this story included a short prayer and mention of God - even though it was at the very end.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: While Pogo may learn some patience in this story, I think the greater lesson is on thankfulness. Sure Pogo must learn that it's alright for a turtle to be slow and limited in what he does, more importantly he learns to be thankful for the way God created him. Talk with your child about the way they are perfectly created - no matter what flaw they may think they have (Ps. 139). And certainly teach them to be thankful in all  things.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Adventures in Boogabooga Land DVD

Recommendation: Not Recommended

This DVD takes you to an imaginary island where Marty (the monkey) and Gerard (the giraffe) are best friends. In three short stories they portray stories from some of Jesus' well known parables - The Workers in the Vineyard, The Wise and Foolish Builders and The Lamp under the Bowl.

Positives:

Negatives: My unfavorable recommendation is not based on bad content, but rather lack of content. I watched this DVD with my 5 year old daughter and 10 year old son. My daughter laughed at one or two things, however when I asked her if she wanted to watch it again she said "no thanks". My son watched it for awhile then asked if he could go read a book. The 2-dimensional drawings were ineffective. The humor that was portrayed fell short and the Bible content was very questionable. My kids could tell that the stories came from the Bible, but as my son pointed out, they didn't accurately tell you the meaning of the parable. There was no mention of anything spiritual, no connection was made for the children that this was a Biblical story and should impact their everyday life. No Biblical principles were mentioned. Overall, it was very confusing and I wasn't sure what the purpose of these stories and characters were.

Talking Points: Open your Bible and take your child to the three passage that these parables are taken from. Read and discuss the meaning of the stories. Matt. 20:1-16 tells the story of the workers in the vineyard - talk with your child about Jesus' generosity in allowing us to be a part of His Kingdom. Talk about fairness and how God is perfectly just and fair in all He does.  Matt. 7:24-27 is the story of the wise and foolish builders - talk to your child about listening. As you look at the bible story note that there was only one difference between the two builders- one who listened and obeyed. Matt. 5:14-16 is the parable of the lamp under the bowl. Talk with your child about what it means to "let our light shine before men", and the purpose of glorifying our Father.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Crash at Cannibal Valley by Jerry Jenkins

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

Book #1 In the AirQuest Adventure series does not disappoint! In his masterful way, Jerry Jenkins again delivers an adventure that will keep your kids engaged and asking for the next book.

Chad and Kate Michaels are anxious for their dad, a fighter pilot, to come home. He has been gone for six weeks - and today is the day they will get to see him again. As they wait for their mom to pick them up at school they receive some devastating news, their mom has been in a car accident and she is dead. As a result of this tragic and life-changing event, Chad & Kate's father decides to sell his business and retire from being a fighter pilot so they can be together as a family. He then tells the kids he has a new venture for them - he wants to use his piloting skills and knowledge to help missionaries around the world, and he wants Chad and Kate to come with him when he travels.

Chad is less than thrilled when dad announces that they will be spending their summer in Indonesia - helping a mission agency there. One day they were to fly Dr. Howlett, the president of the Inter-Indonesia Mission, to a remote area to visit some missionaries and then on to another small city. During the second leg of the flight, as Dr. Howlett points out that they are flying over an area where he once met some cannibals, they encounter serious problems and end up crashing the plane. Dr. Howlett is killed during the crash. Kate and Mr. Michaels are seriously injured, Chad is the only one able to save them. In spite of his intense dislike for everything outdoors, Chad faces these challenges head on as he knows it is the only way to save his family.

Positives: An excellent adventure that will appeal to both boys and girls. Jenkins again addresses difficult issues and allows his characters to realistically struggle through. Though these kids have heard about God and profess Christ, they, like all of us, at times question what God is doing.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: This story provides great opportunity to talk about God's sovereignty (Ps. 115:3). Help your child think through and understand what it means to trust God in all circumstances (Prov. 3:5-6). Use Rom. 8:28 to explain how we don't always see the "good" in what God is doing in our lives, but He promises that it is good.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Superhero Swamp by John Trent, Ph.D.

Recommendation: Recommended

Superhero Swamp takes us "way down south to the best swamp ever" to learn some valuable lessons.

In this muddy, slimy, smelly swamp all the animals live in harmony. They take great care for each other and are very selfless...until one day...when the hippo-hogging began. The hippo's decided they wanted to hog the shallow end of the pool and not let the smaller animals play there. Then the alligators started snapping and the parrots got annoying and the crabs became very crabby and bossy. Soon the best swamp ever was a horrible place to live, and no one was happy. Until our Superhero steps in to save the day! One little rabbit knew he needed to do something to save the swamp so he became the Super Hero Maker. He turned all the animals into Super Sharers, Super Carers and Super Listeners. Eventually the animals learn their lesson that God has given each of us "super powers" to help us love and respect others, and the swamp was once again the "slimiest, stinkiest, best swamp ever."

Positives: A delightful story that your children will surely enjoy and learn from. The themes of care and respect are not hidden in the story, children will easily understand and relate to how they are to treat others. The illustrations are excellent as well.

Negatives: The end of the story asks "which super strength has God given you?" Be careful with this question, as God has called each of us to care, help, share and listen. These "one-anothers", as they are often called, are commands given in Scripture for all believers to practice and grow in. While some may be better at sharing, that doesn't mean they don't need to worry about listening.

Talking Points: Look up and discuss some of the "one anothers" in Scripture. Talk about how you and your child can practice these in everyday situations with family and friends. Here are a few to start with. Mark 9:50; John 13:34, John 15:17; Rom. 12:10,16, Rom. 14:13,19, Rom. 15:7; Gal. 5:13; Eph. 4:2,32, Eph. 5:19,21; Phil. 2:3; Col. 3:9,13,16; I Thess. 5:11,13; Heb. 3:13, Heb. 10:24; James 5:16; I Pet. 4:8-9.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Dance Me Daddy by Cindy Morgan

Recommendation: Recommended

A precious book for every father and his princess daughter. The story is based on the song "King of the World" by Point of Grace and tells the story of a young girl and her relationship with her father as she grows.

As a young girl she loves to dance with her daddy and while she grows and many changes occur, she knows that she will always be his princess and he will be the king of her world.

Positives: My 5 year old daughter loves this book because she can relate to it perfectly. She is her daddy's little princess and he is the king of her world. She loves to dance with him, but more importantly she loves and adores him because he takes special care and interest in her. This book reflects a relationship that any father/daughter would love to have.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: Continue to remind your daughter that you love her very much and nothing will ever change that, and more importantly God loves her very much and His love is greater still (Rom. 8:35-39).

Monday, October 18, 2010

Jamberry by Bruce Degen

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

One berry, two berry, pick me a blueberry...begins this delightful board book by Bruce Degen. A boy and bear take us on a delightful, rhyming journey into the world of berries.

Inspired by the author's own experiences of berry-picking as a young boy, this simple little book will make your little ones giggle and allow their imagination to soar.

Positives: The illustrations are vibrant and eye-catching, and the rhyming exceptional. You will find yourself (and your children) reciting it often.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: Another opportunity to talk with your children about the splendor of God's creation. He created so much and it was all good (Gen. 1)!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Guns of Thunder by Douglas Bond

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

The Faith and Freedom Trilogy (a sequel to the Crown and Covenant Series) is set in pre-Revolutionary War Connecticut, with Old World oppression and New World liberties clashing. The M’Kethe family of Scotland finds itself in 18th century surroundings and living amidst this conflict of forces of the French and Indian War, as fictional characters come alongside historical figures from both Scottish and American history.
Having lost his father, Ian M’Kethe receives godly wisdom from his grandfather that shapes his growth into a man. The threat of the French looms as Ian’s family toils to make a living on their land in the upper Connecticut Valley. Ian dreams of attending college, and yet there is the call of duty that beckons him to join the battle to protect the freedoms of the New World. The strong bond he has with his cousin Roland is a factor that cannot be dismissed, as Roland is eager to enlist. An unusual tie to the legacy of Ian’s father is Watookoog, a mysterious Algonquin Indian who stays with the M’Kethe’s, and proves to be a teacher, protector, guide, and father figure over time. Ian finds his own faith and it grows as he matures throughout the book. The Christian beliefs of the M’Kethe family are strong and clear, serving as a guide for their lives as well as a comforting factor in the midst of hardship.
Positives:  The story line includes descriptions of the land and what life was like in that time and setting, as well as insights into the character’s impressions and internal thought processes. Preacher Jonathan Edwards was very naturally woven into the story, giving a wonderful opportunity for direct, convicting, biblical teaching. Ian wrestles with the reality of hell and his own need for a personal Savior. Ian and Roland’s interactions are appropriately boyish yet spiritually mature, display a yearning for righteousness, and the conviction of sin that is evident of real faith in God through Jesus Christ.

The presence of Ian’s grandfather and Watookoog show the deep need of a young man for strong models of godly men. Both men provide security, love, instruction (practical as well as God-focused) and dedication to Truth. Ian flourishes through these relationships that are essential in the absence of his father.

Negatives: None
             
Talking Points: One thread that runs through the book is the process of Ian working the family land, selling his crops, and earning a significant amount of wages through. Part of the process involved wisdom and strategic planning on his part (stewardship), as well as humility in accepting advice (Prov. 19:20). Perhaps more important, though, is the subsequent decision of how to then use the earnings that are left over after providing for his family’s needs. His honest struggle is an excellent example of weighing the value of worldly goods and their temporal benefits (and in this case, something that was desirable but not necessary; 1 John 2:15-17) versus something that blesses another person but was costly in more than one way (Acts 20:35). This sacrifice that Ian makes for Roland turns out to be a key factor in their later military victory. Not only was this an act of love toward Roland, but it is a conscious and intentional effort on Ian’s part of generosity, dying to himself (his own desires), and sacrificially loving another person. God blesses this decision later, showing His faithfulness of provision to Ian by granting him the desire of his heart (Psalm 37:4), enabling him to attend college.
Ian has been trained in the ways of the Lord. The reader has the privilege of witnessing his heart-piercing encounter with the truth of the gospel (John 3;16-18), tormenting visions of hell (Luke 16:23-24; Matthew 13:49-50), and his own need for Jesus Christ as Savior (Romans 5:6,8). A sermon preached by Jonathan Edwards and a key conversation with his grandfather afterwards brings him to the point of true repentance.
The intended audience for this book is ages 8-12, but I would also recommend it for family reading (as we did in our family).

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Spy For The Night Riders by Dave & Neta Jackson

Recommendation: Highly Recommended


Another book from the Trailblazer series, Spy For The Night Riders is a historical fiction story centering around Martin Luther.

The story begins by introducing us to young Karl Schumacher who narrates the entire book. We learn that Karl works as a servant for Martin Luther. He wanted to be educated so he left his family and in exchange for his work, Luther allows him to attend classes at the university.

Karl finds a bull, a written notice, on the church door declaring that Martin Luther is a heretic. As a result of this Mr. Luther is required to make a trip to Worms to appear for a hearing where his fate will be determined. Karl is able to accompany him on the trip. A mysterious young lady continues to appear wherever they are and Karl is convinced she is out to harm them. When he is asked to help some strangers, who claim that they support Dr. Luther, Karl has to make a decision of whether to trust these people or not. A decision that could cost Dr. Luther, and himself, their lives.

The hearing, best known as The Diet of Worms, does not go well for Luther, and while he is promised safe passage back to Wittenburg there is grave concern for his life. Luther's secret supporters take the opportunity during his travels home to help him by making it look like he was captured. He is safely taken to a castle and hidden for over a year. It was during this time that he worked on the translation of the Bible into German and many other writing projects.

Positives: A great introduction to the life of Martin Luther that is sure to peak your child's interest in this great Reformer. The action, suspense and intrigue keep readers engaged in the story and the use of a young boy as the narrator works very well. As in other books in this series, the lines between historical fact and fiction work very well together and create a very believable story line. The authors do have a paragraph at the beginning explaining which parts of the story are fictional.

Negatives: While I feel this story is appropriate for 8 year olds and up it does give a description of a man being burned at the stake in the opening chapter. It is not gruesome, but some children may be disturbed by this. Use your own judgment with your child.

Talking Points: This story can raise many questions about martyrs and conversation surrounding persecution, courage and faithfulness.  You might use other Bible characters to talk about these qualities as well. Use Joshua 1 and God's command to Joshua to "be strong and courageous." Use the humble life of Paul (Phil. 1) as a comparison to Luther as well and his willingness to accept whatever the Lord has for him.  Look at Matt. 5:11-12, and 2 Tim. 3:12 to see what God has to say about persecution of believers.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

From Head to Toe by Eric Carle

Recommendation:  Highly Recommended

Now that my youngest is 5, I don't read Eric Carle books as often as I once did, and that saddens me a bit. Every copy in our home of an Eric Carle book is taped together and the wear and tear goes to show how much we have enjoyed these books over the years.

From Head to Toe is a great book for active young children as it urges them to participate in the story. Each page uses a different animal and shows an action that they can do and then asks "Can you do it?" To which the child replies "I can do it!"

Positives: I love everything about Eric Carle from the simple and repetitive patterns of speech to the colorful and unique artwork that only Carle produces. Your kids will love reading this book over and over again.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: Use this story to talk about how wonderfully God created our bodies (Ps. 139). You can also talk about the many wonderful animals God created.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

A classic child's story, The Velveteen Rabbit, is one that every child will enjoy. Even in this day of Toy Story movies, this story still holds readers (and listeners) enchanted.

One Christmas a young boy receives a new Rabbit. The Rabbit does not particularly enjoy his new surroundings but, he does becomes fast friends with the Skin Horse, the oldest and wisest toy in the home. The Rabbit is interested in becoming real and the Skin Horse explains that a child must love and cherish you, not just to play with, but truly love you, in order to become real.

One night the Rabbit is taken to the boys room at night and gets to sleep with the boy. He soon becomes the boys constant companion, playing picnic outside and going on adventures as well as sleeping with him every night. He so enjoyed his new life that he didn't even notice how his beautiful fur was getting thin and his tail was falling off. These things no longer mattered to him, because he was loved.

One day the boy became sick, and after a long illness the doctors said all his toys must be burned. The Velveteen Rabbit was gathered up with all the other toys and placed outside to be burned. That night a fairy came to rescue the Rabbit. She turned him into a real rabbit forever.

Positives: Most children have or have had a special toy that was "real" to them. This story allows children to use their imagination and see how it could be if those toys could come to life.

Negatives: I would just offer a small warning that the story might be a bit lengthy for young children. Be prepared to possibly read it in two sittings. It is not a "quick" bedtime story.

Talking Points: This story gives us great opportunity to discuss Christ's love for us and our response. Just like the Rabbit no longer cared about his appearance when the boy loved him, once we are given new life in Christ, once we are loved by Him, nothing else matters.We are now only concerned with pleasing Him. We should no longer care about what others will think. (Pss. 40:8; 73:25-26). Naturally the story also gives us the chance to discuss eternity with our kids. As we read of the Rabbit becoming real and given eternal life we can naturally direct our conversation to our own souls and how can receive the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ and spend eternity with Him in heaven (Acts 16:31, John 14:1-3, Matt. 7:21, Phil. 3:20).

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Priest With Dirty Clothes by R.C. Sproul

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

R.C. Sproul once again tackles a great doctrine of the faith and brilliantly offers us a story that simply explains how we are justified through Christ.

As the story begins we are taken to Scotland and introduced to Darby and Campbell. One day after it had rained they begin making mud pies in the yard. Of course they get themselves completely covered in mud and their mother is not too pleased. As they are getting cleaned up, grandpa shows up and decides to share a story with them.

Grandfather tells the story of a priest long ago who was invited to preach before the King. On his way to the castle it is raining and his horse slips and he falls and gets his priestly garments covered with mud. He tries to clean himself up, but his clothes are too muddy. The King has to ask him to come back another day to preach with clean clothes on. Unable to get his priest robe clean the young priest is desperate and hears that the Great Prince is the only one who can help him. He visits the Great Prince who agrees to help him. He must show up to preach at the appointed time at the castle in his dirty clothes and the Great Prince promises to help him. The priest is a little nervous, but he shows up at the castle nonetheless. Of course the King is not pleased to see him still wearing his dirty clothes. As he gets up to preach the Great Prince walks in wearing the old brown robe. He hands the young priest a gift - his own beautiful and clean clothes. The priest puts them on and preaches his sermon before the King.

Positives: A great story that children will enjoy as well as learn from. Sproul does an excellent job of explaining justification in a simple story that captivates and engages children.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: At the beginning of the book Sproul points us to Zechariah 3:1-5 as the scriptural basis for the book.  He encourages you to read and discuss these verses with your child. I would also use 2 Cor. 5:21 as  a great verse to help children with this doctrine as well.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Berenstain Bears Get the Gimmies by Stan & Jan Berenstain

Recommendation: Recommended

As I've stated before, I'm not a fan of the Berenstain Bears, however I would say this story is worth reading as it covers a topic seldom dealt with for children.

Brother and Sister Bear have a case of the gimmies, "the worst case of the galloping greedy gimmies" according to Papa Bear. A trip to the mall reveals the severity of their selfishness as they beg for candy, plead for a ride and throw a temper tantrum for a special toy they want. Upon returning home, Papa Bear sits them down and explains how they can't have everything they want and that they should count their blessings. It has no effect on the young cubs as Gramps and Gran show up and the cubs immediately ask if they brought them any gifts.

In the end the family comes up with a plan, one treat can be purchased each time they are at the store and they must not ask for anything else. The plan seems to work and the cubs stop begging and pleading for more and more stuff.

Positives: I believe this story is worth reading for one reason - it deals with selfish, greedy behavior, something every child, and adult too for that matter, struggles with. Although I don't agree with many things in the story, it does give us an opportunity to discuss these behaviors and attitudes with our children. I did appreciate as well, that Mama and Papa Bear recognized how they contributed to the Cubs problem.

Negatives: Papa Bear is not respected. Not only does he give in continually when Brother and Sister Bear whine, he gets angry and yells to no avail and when he speaks with the cubs, they don't really listen and learn. His parenting is ineffective. The cure for the gimmies, given toward the end of the story, is quite ridiculous in my opinion. The cure for selfish behavior is not to get one "treat" every time you go to the store. Lastly at the end when brother and sister seem to be over the "gimmies" they are quite proud of themselves and show disgust for another cub who has the gimmies.

Talking Points: At the beginning of the story they ask the question of how and/or why Brother and Sister Bear got the "gimmies." They come up with all sorts of reasons. This is a good time to discuss sin with your child. Explain that the reason we behave selfishly is because we are born sinners (Rom. 3:23, 5:12). You will also want to talk about the attitudes and behaviors Jesus desires of us. Use passages like Phil. 2 and look at the example of Jesus' unselfish attitudes. Also use Matt. 6:19-24 and discuss our love for worldly goods. I Thess. 5:18 is an excellent verse as it very clearly states that God's will for us is to give thanks in all things! Lastly, I would discuss pride. At the end of this story the Cubs are very proud of themselves for having victory over their problem. I would talk with your child and let them know that any victory they might experience over sin is only by the grace of God (Phil. 1:6)./

Monday, October 4, 2010

Flat Stanley - His Original Adventure by Jeff Brown

Recommendation: Recommended

I have heard of Flat Stanley books for some time and was aware of the Flat Stanley project that many schools take part in. My oldest son did the project several years ago and my middle son read several stories last year and will participate in the school project this year. I thought it would be well worth my time to read at least the original book.

One morning the Lambchop Family awakens to find that young Stanley has been flattened by the bulletin board during the night. Once he gets used to it, he finds that being flat isn't so bad. He can do some great things like slide under closed doors, get mailed to a friends house for a visit and fly like a kite.  He even stops thieves from stealing artwork from the art gallery.

Finally Stanley's brother has an idea. He takes his bicycle pump and is able to inflate Stanley so he is no longer flat! The whole family celebrates.

Positives: A cute little story that is imaginative and will entertain very young children. Young readers may enjoy it, but I believe 4-5 year olds would enjoy listening to it as well.

Negatives: While there wasn't anything in the story I disliked, it wasn't the most captivating story I've ever read and some of it seemed quite silly. That said, most kids will overlook these things and enjoy the story.

Talking Points: I don't want to pretend that there are lots of spiritual implications in this story. You could talk about the jealousy Stanley's brother experienced. You could also use Col. 3 to discuss relationships, particularly those within a family.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Runaway Racehorse by Ron Roy

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

The A to Z Mystery Series follows the adventures of 3 young detectives, Josh, Dink and Ruth Rose. These short chapter books are written for 7-9 year olds and kids love the continual adventures of this threesome.

In Runaway Racehorse the trio visits Dink's uncle and his friend who have just purchased a new racehorse. When they arrive the horse has disappeared, but she returns later that day.  The next day is a big race, but Whirlaway doesn't run well and her jockey says she doesn't seem like herself. By following the clues our young detectives solve the mystery (I won't give it away) and save the day!

Positives: This story is the perfect length for young readers and the mystery will hold their interest. The antics of the characters will keep them laughing as well.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: Talk about God's providence and omniscience, that He knows and sees all we do (Prov. 5:21, 15:3). Help them understand that we cannot hide anything from God. Use Psalm 32 to discuss concealing sin and the joy of forgiveness. You can also use Exodus 20 and discuss the Ten Commandments.