Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Story of Noah by Patricia Pingry

Recommendation: Recommended

This great little board book is an excellent way to introduce your young child to Bible stories.  The text is short and simple and the illustrations are colorful and will appeal to young children.

Positives: While many children's Bible stories stray from the actual Biblical account this one stays quite accurate and is able to simply tell the story of Noah.

Negatives: I don't like the ending where it tells us that the meaning of the rainbow is to tell us that God loves us. It means so much more than that! It means God is faithful and merciful to us. The rainbow is a visible reminder of an everlasting covenant that God made between himself and all people on the earth.  Even if concepts are difficult for children to understand we should begin talking about them and discussing them at a young age.

Talking Points: Bible story books are great tools, but they cannot replace the living, breathing Word of God. Open your Bible to Genesis 6-9 and read the story from your Bible.  Emphasize with your children the importance of the Bible and why we believe what it says, and not other books. Also teach them that Bible stories are about God. The story of Noah is great, not because we get to hear about the animals and the flood but because it shows us the holy character of God. At the end of any Bible story you should ask them, "What does this Bible story teach us about God?"

Age Level: 0-4

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Legend Of The Candy Cane by Lori Walburg

Recommendation: Recommended

The Christmas season is upon us! Throughout December we'll try to review some Christmas stories for you.

In this beautifully illustrated book by Lori Walburg we learn the story behind the traditional Christmas confection - the Candy Cane.

One day a man came into town and stopped in front of an old storefront...and his work began. The townspeople watched and wished from a distance all secretly hoping for something different. Finally little Lucy could wait no longer so one day she wandered over to the store and offered to help the man. It was then that she discovered that her greatest wish had come true - the man was opening a candy store! As she helped him she came across a candy she had never seen, a candy cane. Mr. Sonneman explained to her the significance of the colors and shape of the candy cane and told her the story of Jesus and his offer of forgiveness of sin. Then he asks her to help him spread the story. They travel all over the area sharing the story of Christ's birth, death and resurrection. On Christmas Eve the store opens and all the townspeople gather to share in the legend of the candy cane.

Positives: I love the illustrations and the anticipation that is built through the beginning of the story. The story line is simple yet appeals to a wide variety of ages.

Negatives: I fell like the gospel presentation falls a bit short. It doesn't mention man's utter sinfulness or Christ's resurrection that defeated sin.

Talking Points: Use this story as a wonderful opportunity to share the life story of Jesus. Starting in Matthew 1 and Luke 2 talk about his special virgin birth, walk your child through the gospels and show them Christ's holy, sinless life. Teach them about their desperate need for a Savior, how in their sinful state they can do nothing to earn God's favor. Then take them to the story of the crucifixion - Christ's ultimate sacrifice and show them how the Lamb of God paid the penalty for sin by shedding his blood and dying on the cross. Show them His victory of sin in His resurrection and how they can live a life of obedience because of Christ's resurrection. Isaiah 53 is referenced in the book and would be an excellent passage to take them to as well.

Age Level: 3-7 year olds

Friday, November 26, 2010

Book Moms Top Picks - 8-12 year olds

Hero Tales Series &Trailblazer Series by Dave and Neta Jackson
 Lots of choices with 40 Trailblazer Books and 3 Volumes of the Hero Tales! Pick one - or more- of these up for a great Christmas gift that will feed the mind and heart. 
Red Rock Mysteries and AirQuest Adventures by Jerry Jenkins
An author the entire family can enjoy!  
Little House on the Prairie Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
...And a few other classics that we just couldn't pass up!

 We would love to hear some of your favorites too. Post a comment and let others know as well!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pancakes, Pancakes by Eric Carle

Recommendation: Recommended

Jack wakes up one morning, hungry for a big pancake. When he makes this request of his mother, she informs him that she is busy and that he will have to help her. Jack is ready and willing, so she proceeds to tell him each ingredient that is required and how to go about acquiring each one. In the end, of course, Jack is rewarded for his hard work with the big pancake he desired.

Positives: This is a wonderful book that shows not only the aspects of the work that is required in making a recipe, but also reaches back to the very foundations of where each ingredient actually comes from. For example, the first ingredient is flour, and Jack does not simply go to the panty for it or even to the store to purchase it. He cuts down wheat from the field, takes it to the miller on a donkey’s back, and has it ground into flour. He also collects an egg from the black hen and milks the spotted cow.
            Jack portrays a helpful and obedient son who was very willing to do the work and follow each of his mother’s instructions. Also, the reality that sometimes a mother is just too busy to take on one more task is shown. I appreciated the educational aspect of showing where our food comes from, and not just the grocer’s shelf. In our age of processed food and quick fixes, there’s value in remembering that what we have does have a natural origin and that there was a method involved in making something into what it is when we purchase it, even if it is simply the work required to transport something like a carton of eggs from the chicken farm to the supermarket.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: There are many opportunities in this book that is appropriate for a slightly older age group than most of Eric Carle’s well-known books, due to it being a bit longer and involved. When my daughter was five, she really enjoyed it and of course we can all relate to enjoying food! Some godly characteristics that are seen in this book and can likewise be encouraged in our children are responsibility and valuing work (Galatians 6:5, Colossians 3:23), receiving a blessing/reward due to work (Proverbs 12:14) and time invested in something worthwhile, and the wonder of creation as well as God’s provision through it.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Books Moms Top Picks - 5-7 Year Olds

Here is another post on some of our favorite books. We would love to hear what you enjoy too!

5-7 Year Olds

The Beginners Bible - Karyn Henly
ESV Children's Bible
There are two Bibles we really like for this age group. The Beginners Bible, because early readers can easily read it. For a "regular" Bible we really like the ESV Children's Bible

The King Without A Shadow and The Priest With Dirty Clothes by R.C. Sproul
In each book Sproul tackles the task of explaining to children God's character. Children will enjoy the illustrations and storylines of kings and nobility. Both books provide excellent opportunities to further discuss Scripture and the character of God with your child.

ABC Bible Verses by Susan Hunt
A great tool to start your child on a lifetime habit of memorizing God's Word.

My First Little House Books by Laura Ingalls Wilder
If you love the classic Laura Ingalls Wilder books you will want to share these special books with your young ones. Each book tells a simple story of the Ingalls Family and is beautifully illustrated. A great way to introduce them to pioneer life and whet their appetite to read these stories when they get older!

 A to Z Mystery Series by Ron Roy
This series offers young readers the opportunity to read chapter books and it also gives your pre-reader a longer story line than a traditional storybook. Your pre-readers will enjoy these being read to them, by you - or an older sibling! Simple and fun story lines, your kids will enjoy the three main characters Josh, Dink and Ruth Rose. You can also now purchase these in volumes. Volume 1 would contain A-C stories.

Books by Dr. Suess
Who doesn't love a good Dr. Suess book? These are classics that all children enjoy! Many are good early readers as well. Get lost with your child in the fanciful and imaginative world Dr. Suess! 

 Henry & Mudge Series and High Rise Private Eyes Series by Cynthia Rylant
Both of these series are part of the "I Can Read" books and are great for your young readers. 

Boxcar Children Series by Gertrude Chandler Warner
With dozens of books in the series these stories will keep your child reading for hours! They will love the characters and the different mysteries they get involved in. Even children older than 7 will enjoy these and they are great books to read as a family as well.

Let us know what your children and family enjoy reading. We love to hear from you!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Panda Puzzle by Ron Roy

Recommendation: Recommended

The Panda Puzzle is a part of the A to Z Mystery series by Ron Roy. Our young sleuths Josh, Dink and Ruth Rose are once again caught in the middle of a mystery. The local zoo has just gotten some panda bears and someone has stolen the baby panda and demanded  one million dollars for her to be returned.  Who could it be? The three friends get caught in the middle of the mystery and uncover the unlikely kidnapper and save Winnie the baby panda too.

Postives: I love these books as early chapter books for young readers. They are not too long, have simple yet effective illustrations and are entertaining.

Negatives: I felt this story line was a little lacking. The kids did not solve the mystery by following clues as much as in other books.

Talking Points: There are not many spiritual lessons to be gleaned from this book. You might simply talk about the Ten Commandments from Ex. 20.

Age Level: 6-8 year olds

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Queen's Smuggler by Dave & Neta Jackson

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

Dave & Neta Jackson once again bring to life one of the great heroes of the faith - William Tyndale. This might be my favorite in their Trailblazers Series.

In this story we are introduced to William Tyndale and several of individuals who were sympathetic to his cause and helped him with the translation and distribution of the English language Bible.

The Poyntz family were good friends of Mr. Tyndale's and not only did they house him for some time they also helped to smuggle English Bibles into England. When Tyndale is captured their young daughter (a fictional character) comes up with a bold plan to rescue him. She will smuggle a copy of Tyndale's New Testament to Queen Anne and maybe the Queen will be able to change the King's mind and spare Tyndale's life. Will she have the courage to go through with it? Will it be successful?

Positives: An excellent introduction to William Tyndale, his work and the danger he faced for his beliefs. As always, the authors state at the beginning of the book which parts of the story are fictional, however the story flows perfectly together. I was glad the authors chose a young lady to be the one to help Tyndale.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: Due to Tyndale's (and others) tireless efforts and his strong belief that the Bible should be read by the common man in his own language, we today have the English Bible. Take some time to thank God for preserving His Word and teach your child the importance of the Scriptures. Psalm 119 is an excellent starting place. I would also use Ps. 19, II Tim. 3:16-17, Is. 40:7-8.

Age Level: 8-12 year olds

Monday, November 15, 2010

My Side Of The Mountain by Jean Craighead George

Recommendation: Recommended

Young Sam Gribley is unhappy living in New York City with his family. He has listened to his dad tell stories of his Great Grandfather Gribley's land in the Catskill Mountains and so he decides to run away and try to find the family land and live on it all by himself.

Sam spends an entire year living off the land in the Catskill Mountains. He learns courage and independence, survival skills and lessons on friendship and family. This book is his journal of that year.

Positives: While it was not a favorite story of mine, the book is well written and entertaining. I think it will appeal to many young boys.

Negatives: If you can dismiss the fact that Sam's family allows him to run away and live in the mountains and doesn't try to go see him for many months, then you will thoroughly enjoy this book.

Talking Points: God is the Creator and Sustainer of all the earth and the Provider of all our needs. These Scriptures may be especially helpful - Gen. 1, Psalm 8, Col. 1:15-17, Matt. 6:25-31, Job 38-39.

Age Level: 10 and up

Friday, November 12, 2010

Book Moms Top Picks - 0-4 year olds

As we head into the holiday season, we have been asked to recommend some of our favorite books that would make great gifts.  So, during November we will do a series of posts on our top picks for different age groups. These will by no means be complete lists, and they will not be in any particular order, just our opinions on what some of our favorites (and our kids) have been through the years. Sometimes we may "cheat" and recommend authors or series instead of just a single book! We would also love to hear what some of your favorites have been!

Here are some of our favorites for what we like to call the "board book" crowd.

The Beginner's Bible - Karyn Henley

This Bible is written at a 2nd grade reading level so it will grow with your child for many years. It is a great "first" Bible to read to your child and one they will enjoy reading in later years. The illustrations are colorful and beautiful.

My Bible ABC's, My Bible Animals, My Bible Colors and My Bible 1-2-3's by Tracy Harrast

I love these books and wish they were a part of our home library. Each page contains Scripture references to direct you to a Bible story or concept. Very well illustrated. These books are hard to find, so if you find one, hang onto it!

Books by Eric Carle

One of our favorite authors!  You can hardly go wrong with some of his classics, including The Hungry Caterpillar, Brown Bear, Brown Bear What do You See? and From Head to Toe. For a complete list of books by Eric Carle click HERE.

Another of our favorite authors is Sandra Boynton.

My kids loved the silly turkey in Blue Hat, Green Hat. We have also enjoyed The Going-To-Bed Book. But there are many many more! These books are sure to keep your kids giggling and begging for more! For more book titles by Sandra Boynton click HERE.

This is just a small sampling of some of our favorites. We would love to hear from you too!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Cuddly Dudley by Jez Alborough

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

Dudley the penguin loved to play - all by himself. The problem was, he was a cuddly, lovable penguin and all his brothers and sisters just wanted to cuddle with him.

One day Dudley runs away and is so happy to be alone - at least for a few moments. After being chased by an eskimo Dudley gets lost and begins to feel lonely. Dudley learns that he really does enjoy being a cuddly penguin and loves his brothers and sisters.

Positives: An all around fun little story that your kids will enjoy - plus, you can't read a book called Cuddlly Dudley without actually cuddling your child! Don't pass up on the opportunity!

Negatives: None

Talking Points: I can't help but think of the story of Joseph in the Old Testament when I read this story. While there are differences (Joseph didn't ask to "be alone" or get sold into slavery), I can imagine the family reunion all those years later being a wonderful time together, similar to Dudley's reunion with his family (Genesis 37-50).

Age Level: 3-6 year olds

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Rhyme-Time Book of Christian Virtues by Michael Waite

Recommendation: Recommended

Join Suzy Swoof, Sylvester the Jester, Maggie the Mighty and many others in some rhyming fun and learn some Christian virtues. This wonderful light-hearted collection of short stories will keep your kids entertained while they are learning! Kids will learn about kindness, forgiveness, thankfulness and obedience - and your tongue will be tied as you share these stories with them.

Positives: Who doesn't like a book that teaches Christian character? These stories are well told and beautifully illustrated to capture your child's attention. Your child will easily be able to relate to the situations the various characters are put in.

Negatives: In a couple of stories there seems to be a lack of consequences for wrong behavior. Also, I do not like how the last story ends. The character who was behaving badly (Sleeter the Cheater) is treated rudely and thrown out of the game. There is no offer of forgiveness or attempt at reconciliation.

Talking Points: At the end of each story is a Bible verse.Use these verses to talk to your child about the particular character trait in each story.

Age Level: 4-7, older kids may enjoy reading this to younger ones as well.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I Love You Through and Through by Bernadette Rossetti-Shustak

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

A charming little book that reaffirms your love for you little one - in every way. You won't be able to read this just one time!

Positives: Any books that tells kids we love them can't be all that bad, right?! The illustrations are adorable and I love how it encourages interaction as you read. We even make up our own things to add to the book!

Negatives: There is one page that I don't like at all.  As it talks about the different emotions you love in your child it says "I love...your mad side." This simply isn't true in our house. I don't love my child's sinful anger and neither does God, but I do still love them when they are angry.

Talking Points: I use the page referring to anger to also teach them about how a holy God hates sin, including anger and yet sent His Son to save sinful people like me. Joshua 23:14-16, John 3:16, I Tim. 1:15

Age Level: 0-5

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Kiss Goodbye by Audrey Penn

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

Fans of The Kissing Hand (as my 5 year old is) will not be disappointed in this touching sequel, another chapter in the young life of Chester Raccoon.

Chester and his family are moving. They must leave their home because their tree has been marked to be cut down. Mrs. Raccoon has already found them a nice new home, but Chester does not want to leave. After some motherly coaxing and encouragement Chester says goodbye to his home and moves to the new tree. Mrs. Raccoon allows him to say goodbye to his old home and tells him he can always remember it in his heart. By the end of the story it looks like Chester has found a friend and will quite happy in his new home.

Positives: A well told story that helps children see and understand that change will always come in life and that we can embrace these changes and enjoy new things. It also allows children to know that it's ok to be sad about change, but that they will always have their memories. The illustrations are bright and beautiful.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: If you are planning a move in the near future this would be an excellent book to read with your young children. As your child expresses their anxieties (as Chester did) you can direct the conversation to God and talk about how He will always be with you no matter where you go and that He is the greatest friend we could ever have. In all our lives, change is inevitable, talk about how God has our days planned from the beginning and that these changes are from Him. Help your child shape their attitude toward change at an early age. These Scriptures may be helpful Matt. 6:25-34, Ps. 139, Ps. 73)

Age Level: 3-6 year olds

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Sugar Snow - My First Little House Books by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Recommendation:  Highly Recommended

Winter is coming to an end the the Big Woods of Wisconsin, but there is one surprise left.

A short story of Laura and the Ingalls family during their years living in Wisconsin. Laura has been watching the weather get warmer and the snow melt. When she sees a bare spot of earth she asks Ma is she can go out to play. "You may tomorrow" Ma promised her. The next morning Pa comes in covered with soft thick snow and announces "It's a sugar snow!"

Later that evening by the warm fire Pa explains how he and Grandpa worked to tap the maple trees and catch the sap running out of them to make maple syrup. They call an early spring snow a sugar snow because it helps the trees produce more sap.

Positives: Another delightfully simple story to share with your young children and introduce them to the Ingalls family. Beautifully illustrated!

Negatives: None

Talking Points: This story provides an excellent way to talk about God's control over all creation and His care for people. By providing the "sugar snow" God was taking care of the Ingalls' family. Job 38 gives some excellent examples of God's control over creation in the form of questions, "Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, or have you seen the storehouses of the hail...Can you lift up your voice to the clouds so an abundance of water will fall on you?" (vs. 22, 34). Also Psalm 147 talks about his care.

Age Level: 3-6 year olds. Early readers may enoy them, but could struggle with many of the words. They are not written to be an "early reader."

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Book of the King (The Wormling Book #1) by Jerry Jenkins & Chris Fabry

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

Owen Reeder lives an ordinary life. Aside from his ability to devour books, he is just another boy. Until one day...

This fantastical story begins with a lot of intrigue and mystery and as it unfolds you gradually come to understand what is happening. As Owen learns that his father has secrets, and has his eyes opened by "The Book of the King" he is transported into a whole new world that he never knew existed. A new world that is mysterious and dangerous, and yet as he continues on his journey he suddenly feels a purpose and understanding to his life like never before.

Positives: Another well-written beginning to a series that is sure to be a hit among young readers. I thoroughly enjoyed the mysterious side, and it kept me reading, but also loved  the obvious Scripture references and Christian themes throughout. My 10 year old was reluctant to begin reading it, but we have since ordered the next several books in the series! This book is comparable to a modern day Chronicles of Narnia. The recommended reading age of 10-14 is about perfect. Children much younger than 10 may not be able to grasp the spiritual implications behind the story. There are also descriptions of some hideous beasts (dragons and such) that may not be appropriate for younger readers.

Negatives: While the ending does leave you with questions, I didn't feel an intense desire to read the next book in the series immediately.

Talking Points: I would be sure to have a discussion with my child about this book. As I spoke with my 10-year old about the book there were spiritual implications, important lessons, he had missed. Discuss who the different characters in the story may represent (The King, The Dragon). Take the time to look up the Scriptures referenced in The Book of the King to show your child the connection. Talk about how Owen felt when he read The Book and what that means for us. Also, talk about God's sovereignty in our life - how He has placed us exactly where and when and with whom he wants us and about His desires for us to live a life that honors him.

Age Level:  9-12 year olds


Monday, November 1, 2010

Olivia by Ian Falconer

Recommendation: Recommended

A delightful little story about a young girl (pig actually) and her family. A book full of personality! A simple yet very entertaining book, especially for young girls.

Positives: The illustrations are supberb! While the story line is simple, it really captivates and holds the attention of young children.

Negatives: Olivia's "big" personality may come across as selfish and unkind.  Some of her behavior would not be acceptable in our home. Towards the end of the story Olivia bargains with her mother about the number of bedtime books they will read. Mom goes along and gives in to her bargaining.

Talking Points: I have talked mainly about 2 things from this book with my daughter. First, the punishment Olivia receives for painting on the wall would look different at our house. We simply talk about what happens in our home when we disobey and secondly the idea of bargaining. In our home there is a proper way to make an appeal to mom or dad so we talk about how we do that and reinforce this concept.

Age Level: 2-4 year olds