Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Soccer - Tails From The Pantry by Patsy Clairmont

Recommended - Highly Recommended

Each Tails From The Pantry book highlights a "Little Life Lesson from Mom and Dad." In this story we meet a mouse family and learn not to believe everything we are told.

Soccer MacKenzie, a young mouse who lives in the pantry, learns there is a new cat at home, and he is wild.  Soccer hears the news from Tipsy the spider, who heard it from the ladybug who heard it from the housefly...

Later Soccer gets to meet the new cat and learns she isn't wild at all, but a baby kitten who wants to be his friend.

Positives: The story is very imaginative and will entertain young children. They will giggle at Soccer's antics and learn a valuable lesson as well.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: The book of Proverbs talks a lot about our words and our listening. Look at some of these verses and talk with your child about who and what they listen to (Prov. 18:8, 26:22). This may also be a chance to talk about God and His Word being the source of all truth (Ps. 119:160, John 17:17).

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Prairie Day - My First Little House Books by Laura Ingalls Wilder (adapted)

Recommendation:  Highly Recommended

When my husband and I found out our daughter Anni was on the way one of the many things I began to look forward to about having a daughter were all the books I could share with her, books that I had read and cherished as a young girl. Near the very top of that list were the Little House on the Prairie Books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. However, I knew I would have to wait some time before she would fully appreciate these books. I was so excited then, when my sister-in-law introduced us to the "My First Little House Books."  Needless to say we have thoroughly enjoyed every one that we can get our hands on!

In Prairie Day, we read the story of the Ingalls family move from Wisconsin to the prairies of Kansas. The stories and illustrations are perfect for young children (4-6 year olds) and a great introduction to the life and writings of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Positives: This is an excellent adaptation of the original series. The author's descriptive language and storyline are well-preserved.  The illustrations are perfect, soft and subtle, colorful and complementary to the storyline.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: Talk with your kids about God's beautiful creation (Ps. 8), or how God has always been God, throughout all of history (Ps. 90:2).

Monday, September 27, 2010

Haunted Waters by Jerry Jenkins & Chris Fabry

Recommendation:  Highly Recommended

Jerry Jenkins is one of my favorite authors so I was anxious to read his children's literature - and I was not disappointed!

In Haunted Waters we are introduced to Bryce and Ashley Timberline, 13 year old twins and their family, their 4 year old brother Dylan, mom, stepdad and 16 year old stepsister Leigh. 

During a weekend get-away with their stepfather, they find themselves right in the middle of some serious danger.  I certainly don't want to give away this storyline, but I will tell you that all the action and suspense will hold your young readers attention!  I can't wait to read the next book as this one leaves you with a big cliffhanger!

The series is written for 9-12 year olds which seems quite appropriate to me.

Positives: As I've already stated the action and suspense keep the reader's attention, my 10 year old son didn't want to put this book, or any of the rest of the series, down! Also Jenkins and Fabry touch on many issues in this book that many kids can relate to which aren't often dealt with.  These include the death of a father, a mother's remarriage, moving to a new state, building a relationship with a stepfather, and a spiritually divided family (mom is a believer, but their stepdad isn't) .  Each issue is presented and dealt with in a very realistic and helpful way.

Negatives:None

Talking Points: As a subplot in the story the twins deal with different situations at school and with friends. Bryce has to deal with the school bully and Ashley goes to a friends house and discovers that not only are her parents not home but she is watching a movie that Ashley would not be allowed to see.  Discuss with your child how they would handle these situations. (I Cor. 10:13, 2 Tim. 2:22). I would also discuss how the growing faith of these young teenagers affects how they handle all the situations thrown at them. Help your kids to see that their faith should affect every area of their life.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Berenstain Bears Go To Sunday School by Stan & Jan Berenstain

Recommendation: Unfavorable

Most parents are very familiar with the Berenstain Bear family. In this book, The Berenstain Bears go to Sunday School Mama Bear decides that it has been far too long since the family has been to church together. They have become busy with so many other activities that they no longer attend. In typical Bear family fashion, Mama calls a family meeting and sets forth her idea and plan, which Papa Bear (somewhat reluctantly)agrees to. So early the next morning they all head off to the early service so they can go to church and still have time for their other activities.

Positives:  Mama Bear makes one very true statement - "I believe that going to church together is more important than all our other Sunday morning activities combined."

Negatives: I know that the Berenstain Bears are well-loved by kids and families alike. I will admit, however, that I have never been a huge fan (though my kids have been) of these books. The main thing I have never liked is how Papa Bear is portrayed as somewhat of a buffoon. He is never the leader of the family, Mama Bear makes the important decisions and when Papa Bear does try, it never works out well and Mama Bear has to come clean up his mess. This book however, also gives a completely wrong idea of what church is all about. First of all, Mama Bear decides its time to get back into the church-going routine because going to church is "like a kind of glue that [holds] the whole family together." Church is not about family being together, church is about the worship and exaltation of Jesus Christ. It is for the preaching and teaching of His Word. Secondly, church is not a priority for this family. Yes, they take the time out of their busy schedule to go, but they go to the early service so as not to interfere with the rest of the days activities, the things that are really important to them. Lastly, I will mention the verse used at the beginning of the book.  Matthew 5:6 says "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." Unfortunately there was no one portrayed in this story that was hungering or thirsting for righteousness. They did not go to church expecting to be filled with the Word of God, it was simply a nice thing to do together as a family on a Sunday morning.

Talking Points: Discuss with your child the reasons you attend church. Talk about the purposes of the church and how God sees the church. These Scriptures may be helpful. Eph. 4:11-13; Exod. 20:8-11; Acts 2:41-47, Heb. 10:22-26, Isa. 43:3-4, I Tim. 3:15. Ask yourselves, if Christ is the Head of the Body, the church (Col. 1:18) and gave Himself up for her (Eph. 5:25-27), what should we be doing in regards to church?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The King Without A Shadow by R.C. Sproul

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

Children love to ask questions, and this story is based upon the questions of a young boy to a king. Your children will thoroughly enjoy the “once upon a time” storyline as well as the colorful and detailed illustrations.

One day as the king was sitting on his throne, a young boy asked to see him. This young boy had come to seek answers from the king. Answers about shadows, where they come from and where they go to. He wanted to understand the mysteries of shadows. The king too was intrigued by the young boys questions and began his search for answers. His search eventually brought him to the wise Man of the Cave, a prophet who spoke of the great and mighty King Without A Shadow.

R.C. Sproul uses the ideas of shadows, darkness and light to explain the holiness of God to children in a unique and delightful way. The King Without A Shadow is God himself and He has no shadow because He is light and in Him is no darkness at all, a simple, yet profound message for children as they grasp the concept of God’s perfect holiness.

Positives: Sproul does an excellent job of using simple language to describe God's holiness.  He says "...to be holy means two things...holy means to be greater than anything else in the whole world.  It means that God is different from us.  He is higher than high, and deeper than deep...(secondly) He is called holy because He is pure.  There is no evil or wickedness in His heart.  He never does anything wrong.  He has never once committed a sin."  He uses many references to Scripture as well.

Negatives: The story appears to be written for young children however it is quite lengthy for children under the age of 5 to get through in one sitting.  The first time I read it to my 5 year old daughter at bedtime, she fell asleep before we finished.

Talking Points: I would begin my discussion and questions with sin and holiness. Use Scriptures like Rom. 3:23 and Eph. 2:1-3, tell your child that the "shadow" of sin on their own heart is very serious. Explain their utter sinfulness, their inability to know a holy God because of their sin. Help them understand that we are all born with sinful hearts. Then explain how because we are sinful and God is most holy, we cannot know him or have a relationship with him. Point them to the many Scriptures that talk of God's holiness (Ps. 77:13, Ps. 99, Luke 1:49, I Pet. 1:16, Rev. 4:8). Ultimately this should lead to a discussion of the gospel and how we can know God because of the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross on our behalf (2 Cor. 5:21, Col. 1:13-23). Other points to discuss would include God's rule over the whole earth, that His kingdom has no boundaries; that He is Light, and that He is Spirit.  Here is a list of other Scriptures that you could use as well.  Isa. 45: 5, 46:9, 66:1; Acts 7:49; Deut. 4:24; Heb. 12:29; I John 1:5, Rev. 22:5. I love the final words of the king to the children, “Since I talked to the Man of the Cave my eyes have been opened to things I never understood before. Now I am hungry and thirsty to know more about the King without a shadow…But now I charge you all. Seek the Great King.”

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The King's Christmas List by Eldon Johnson

Recommendation: Favorable

Emma and her little dog Shu-Shu are invited to the King's Birthday party, what an honor!  They are very excited to attend. But first they must certainly find a gift to bring. After deciding to bring the King a special cake, they depart for the party on a carriage sent by the King himself. Along the way they meet several different people.  Each set of people has a different need that Emma can meet if she is willing to give up some of her favorite things, including the cake she was bringing for the King.

Upon arriving at the party Emma and Shu-Shu notice that no one is giving gifts to the King for his birthday. Instead they are giving each other gifts. The King notices Emma's confusions and explains to her that over the years people have forgotten that He too would like a gift, a gift given from the heart.  He then explains that He sent all those needy people along the way to the party and He was so glad that Emma showed the true spirit of Christmas in giving.

Positives: A delightful story and a wonderful message for children and adults to remember. This story clearly communicates the importance of giving to others and the joy we can experience.  I did like at the end where the author invites kids to log onto the website for ideas on how they can give.  The website was not up yet, but I do hope it provides ideas for kids to be active in and not just links for places they can give money.

Negatives: While it is implied, it is never stated that the King is Jesus.  I think it is important, especially for young children, to understand this. The author uses Matthew 25: 37-40 as the basis for his ideas and motivation on giving.  This passage is specifically speaking of taking care of other believers, and I don't believe that is expressed in the story.  There are many passages however, that do tell us to love and care for all people.

Talking Points: This story is a wonderful springboard for question and discussion, especially around the holidays. I think children need to understand that the greatest gift they can ever give someone is the gospel message. This may be accompanied by food, water, clothing or other necessities, but the greatest need any person has is for their soul to be right with God. We can also talk about our attitude toward giving.  We should have the attitude that Jesus did that is expressed in Phil. 2:5-8. I would also take my kids to the book of James.  Chapter 1 talks about caring for orphans and widows and subsequent chapters deal with how we treat brothers and sister in need. As you consider where you might give a monetary gift or volunteer your time I would highly encourage you to teach your children the importance of spreading the gospel.  Invest your time and money where the gospel is being proclaimed.

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.”

How God Sent A Dog To Save A Family by Joel Beeke & Diana Kleyn

RecommendationHighly recommended

This collection of short stories is an excellent resource for anyone who works in Children's Ministry as well as for families. Each story contains a lesson based upon a real-life account and is accompanied with Scripture reading and questions to discuss with your child. At the back of the book there are also corresponding prayer points for each story.  This is the 5th book in The Building On The Rock Series and its stories are based on the themes of God's care and childhood faith.

Postives: An excellent resource to use for personal illustration and application for any occasion including Sunday School, family devotions or any occasion to teach children.  There is a brief introduction given on how to use the book as well as an index given of longer and shorter length stories, depending on the amount of time you have.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: As I mentioned above, each lesson already gives you a Scripture passage, questions and prayer points to use in conjunction with the story. Just a note to make, this book is not written to be read through all at once, but used periodically to supplement a Bible lesson or devotion time. Almost all the stories have a happy ending and reading them one after another can be misleading to children.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Secret Agent Dingledorf: The Case of the Giggling Geeks by Bill Myers

Recommendation: Favorable

The Case of the Giggling Geeks is the first book in a series that tells of the adventures of 10 year old Bernie (Secret Agent) Dingledorf and his trusty dog Splat. If you have a 7 year old boy that is not interested in reading, this book just might be your ticket. It is filled with sound effect words and silly boy humor as well as cool secret agent gadgets (like cell phone underwear).

The story opens with young Bernie Dingledorf trying to change his best friend I.Q. into someone cool. While the boys are at school strange things begin to happen. Many of the teachers start laughing uncontrollably and are hauled away in ambulances. Eventually, I.Q. falls victim to the laughing spells and his friend knows he must help him. Strange men come and capture Bernie, calling him Secret Agent Dingledorf, and he is now responsible to stop the evil Dr. Chuckles. Dr. Chuckles has invented a S.M.I.L.E.S machine.  A contraption that targets smart people and makes them laugh uncontrollably.  His goal is to make people laugh all the time, like he does.

Through all the silliness and fun there is a singular message of respecting and loving others for who God made them to be. Secret Agent Dingledorf learns that we don’t need to change our friends to be like ourselves, but allow them to be who God made them. This is true friendship.

Positives: As the mother of boys I appreciate this book and its appeal to the young males in my home.  

Negatives: None

Talking Points:  This story will allow for wonderful discussion on friendships. Look at biblical friendships like that of David and Jonathan in I Sam. 18 and 20. Discuss from Dan. 1 and 3 how the friendship these 4 young men may have given them courage to go against the kings wishes and follow God. Talk about the Golden Rule in Matt. 7:12, how does this apply to friendships? Help your child examine if they are a good friend to others and how they can be a better friend using these Scriptures.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Who's New At The Zoo by Janette Oke

Recommendation: Favorable

Janette Oke’s Animal Friend Series is written for young readers ages 6-10. Who’s New at the Zoo is the tale of a young gorilla, Barny, and the many changes that come in his life.

Barny was the first gorilla born at The Roxbury Zoo and he feels very comfortable in this place of importance. As in any young ones life though, changes are bound to happen. First, his big brother makes friends with the new girl gorilla that moves in, then a new baby gorilla is born at the zoo. As Barny’s world is turned upside down, his mother, in particular, is there to remind him that he will always be loved by, and very important to her.

Positives: Young readers will love the fact that they can read a “chapter book” and will find the full-color illustrations very inviting. The story line is simple and something every kid can relate to. This would be a great book to read in anticipation of a new family member arriving. I liked at the end when Barny decided that he wanted to make the new baby gorilla feel welcome.

Negatives: Barny is very self-focused and while at the end he does want the new baby to feel welcome, there was never any regret or consequences for his temper tantrums, jealousy and anger.  At times his pouting and bad attitude are rationalized, he believes he has a good reason to be mad.  This wrong thought process is never addressed.

Talking Points:
This story will provide great opportunities to discuss what Jesus desires of our attitudes and how we handle our emotions, like jealousy and anger,when circumstances in life change, or we don’t get our way. We can also learn of the importance of being a caring family member, of being selfless and caring for others, as Christ would have us do.  Scriptures to point your child to would include Phil. 2:3-4; 14-15, Gal. 5:19-23.  I would also use Mark 12:28-31 to discuss our love for God and others.  While our primary love is God, we are called to love others "as ourselves", considering them as more important than ourselves.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Hidden Jewel by Dave & Neta Jackson

Recommendation: Highly recommended

The Trailblazer series are historical fiction written to introduce young readers to Christian heroes of the past. The Hidden Jewel is based on a true story from the life of Amy Carmichael. Fictional and non-fictional characters are seamlessly woven together to give the reader insight into the life and adventures faced by Miss Carmichael while serving as a missionary in India.

A young English boy and his mother, John and Leslie Knight find themselves irresistibly drawn to the ministry of Amy Carmichael at Dohnavur Fellowship near where Mr. Knight has been sent as junior magistrate in Palamcottah India. Against the wishes of Mr. Knight, young John and his mother began to assist Miss Carmichael in her ministry and find themselves right in the middle of a legal battle. A young girl has come to Dohnavur Fellowship to escape a marriage pre-arranged by her uncle. She is being forced to wed at a young age so that her uncle can claim her father’s inheritance. Leslie and John help care for this girl and eventually take part in her escape after Mr. Knight, as the judge, rules she must return to her uncle. As the adventure unfolds you see the faith of Amy Carmichael as she expectantly waits for God to answer her prayers.

Positives: This book is a wonderful introduction to Amy Carmichael. The factual and fictional elements combine to create a captivating story and give us a glimpse into the strong faith that drove and upheld Miss Carmichael through her years of ministry. The tension created between family members creates excellent opportunity for discussion. I also enjoyed the descriptive language and the historical research that drew me in and helped me understand the Indian culture of the day.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: There are many spiritual issues brought up through the course of the book that provide wonderful grounds for starting conversations with your child. Both the English boy and his mother question their Christianity as they see the difference between what they have been taught and how Amy Carmichael lives her life. By the end of the story, it seems clear that both are believers, however there is no distinct moment of life-change given in the story. Talk with your child about true salvation through Jesus Christ alone (Acts 4:12, Eph. 2:8-9, Matt. 7:21-23). The book talks of Hindu and Muslim practices of selling children to the temple and also gives an instance of a young converted Hindu boy being threatened by his family for his new faith (Matt. 5:11-12). The question of obeying governing authorities and obeying God can also be discussed from this book (Rom 13:1-7).

The intended audience is 8-12 year olds. I think it would also make a great family reading book even where younger children are involved.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Welcome to our blog. We are glad you found your way here and we hope the information you find here will be helpful and encouraging! We wanted our first blog post to be a description of our purpose. What exactly is the Book Moms blog and what do we hope to accomplish?

As our byline states, our purpose is to review Christian and secular children’s literature through the lens of the gospel. There are several reasons why we want to do this.

First, We Desire To Promote Awareness Of Good Christian Children’s Literature. Most public libraries or school libraries do not have many Christian titles for kids to read. We have been surprised at the volume of literature available for children from a Christian point of view.  But often times, finding these titles can be difficult for parents. We want to provide a place where parents and children can find these resources quickly and easily. 

Second, We Desire To Challenge Parents To Become Aware Of And Involved In What Their Kids Read. The statistics are overwhelming of the integral part that reading plays in the development of children. We all know that it is important to read to kids, and, as they get older, that they read regularly themselves. However, what they read should be of great importance. What are they filling their mind with? What are they being influenced by? We hope that we can raise the level of involvement that parents play in what their children are reading by providing these reviews.

Third, We Desire To Create Opportunities For Parents To Shepherd The Gospel In Their Kids Lives Through Literature And Reading. This is the very heart of what we desire to accomplish. The salvation of our children should be the most important thing. We live in a world where there are many opportunities to converse with our children about spiritual matters. We hope to help parents by assisting them as they select and dialogue with their children about the books they are reading. This can be done with both Christian and secular literature. Kids need to be taught discernment. By actively being involved in what your child is reading you create opportunities for discussion that can help them grow and develop discernment. When you are aware of what they are reading and filling their mind with, it provides opportunities to continually point them to the Bible and ultimately to Jesus.

To begin with, we hope to review four to five books a week, but eventually will post book reviews daily. All the reviews will be archived for you to reference at any time.

We would love to hear your suggestions! Have a book you would like us to review? Let us know. In addition, we would love to hear your comments and suggestions. Feel free to contact us HERE. From time to time we may also post a review from one of our kids.

Will you help us by spreading the word about our blog? Will you pray for us as we read and write reviews on books? Will you give us feedback on how we can better serve you? It is our prayer that God would use this blog to His glory.

Monique Bergmeier & Vicki Bailey