Monday, December 27, 2010

Precious Moments Storybook Bible by Jennifer Morgan Gerelds

Recommendation: Recommended

I have never been a Precious Moments fan and I am a skeptic when it comes to Bible Storybooks. This book however I found to be quite good. A number of classic Bible stories are presented in easy to understand language for children. The illustrations are what you would expect from anything with the Precious Moments label on it.

Positives: I enjoyed the introduction to the book which tells parents that the greatest thing they can do is to introduce their children to God and His Word. My favorite section of the book was the "Words of Praise and Wisdom." The Psalms and Wisdom literature are often overlooked in Bible storybooks and this section was not only a wonderful addition to the book but I also thought the text was very nicely done. I also liked that they included the Scripture references at the beginning of each story.

Negatives: As I already said, I am not a big fan of Bible storybooks. Most Bible storybooks are not biblically accurate. There are a few instances in this book as well. The story of creation left out the day of rest that God created. The story of David and Goliath teaches that the stone that hit Goliath in the head is what killed him. My least favorite "story" from the book was the "Sermon on the Hill." I thought the wording in a couple of the Beatitudes did not give a clear picture of what the Bible says. Please read these carefully from Matt. 5 and try to explain as best you can to your young child. For example, "Those who are sad are happy because God will comfort them." This truth talks about those who mourn over their sin, not just people who are sad. God will bring comfort to those who recognize and confess their sin to Him. I know these may seem like small things, but when it is the Word of God, it is important.

Talking Points: As I've already stated, have your Bible next to you when you read this book. Look up the Scripture references given with each story and fill in the details that are missing. Most of these stories are accurate with what they do say, but so much is left out. I know the idea is to make short stories for kids, but don't underestimate your child! Take one story at a time and learn it thoroughly. The important thing to remember in reading these stories is to point your child to what the story tells us about God and his character.

Age Level: 0-5 years old

I received this book free from the publisher through the 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

Friday, December 24, 2010

Sir Quinlan And The Swords Of Valor by Chuck Black

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

I could not have been more pleasantly surprised by this powerful allegory. And while I now plan on reading the series from the beginning, I had no trouble picking up this book, the fifth in the series, and enjoying and understanding the storyline.

The story begins as the "Tale of Two Knights", best friends Tav and Twitch. Both are training to be nights of the King and will soon complete their training and be commissioned. Tav is by far the better soldier, an excellent swordsman and warrior. However it is Twitch, (whose real name is Quinlan) who proves himself a true Knight of the King.

Quinlan commits his life to serve the King while Tav becomes apathetic and enjoys a life of comfort and ease. Quinlan undergoes extensive and intense training, but he knows his life has purpose and he finds fulfillment in knowing and serving the King and His Son.

Positives: This book is filled with wonderful spiritual allegory. The Armor of God in Eph. 6 is referenced as well as the Bible being the Sword and Code of the King. The author also uses creatures to represent different aspects of the Christian life. The rich use of Scripture is evident through the entire book. I also thoroughly enjoyed the discussion questions at the end of the book. They helped to bring an even clearer understanding to the book.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: There are discussion questions for each chapter at the end of the book (and answers for those questions as well). I would use these as a starting point as you talk with your child. Many Scriptures are given in these questions so have your Bible handy and be sure to look up the Scriptures referenced. There is one question for Chapter 11 that I feel needs clarification.  The question is about Tav's apathy that turns to unbelief and they ask how this can happen to a believer. In the answer they use the parable of the sower in Matt. 13. This parable talks about the condition of the different soils (hearts) that the seeds of the gospel fall on. There is only one type of soil that reflects the heart of a believer. Can believers become apathetic? Yes. Can a believer lose their salvation? No. Read John 6:35-40. I would instead turn to Heb. 3:12 to talk about the danger of the hardening of the heart. While I believe it is clear at the end of the story that Tav was not a believer, that particular discussion question needs clarification. I would also be sure to discuss the end of the story when Tav tries to board the ship with the King.  Read the similar account in Matt. 7. Talk with your child about true salvation and the reality of one day standing before the King and giving account for their life.

Age Level: 10 years old and up

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Secret Agent Dingledorf: The Case Of The Chewable Worms by Bill Myers

Recommendation: Recommended

Bernie Dingledorf (aka - Secret Agent Dingledorf) once again encounters an unusual situation and must act to stop it. It seems the whole world is falling under a spell and has begun to eat worms - and enjoying them. He tries to ignore it, but is soon thrown head first into saving the world.

Positives: I thought the theme of helping others was much clearer in this book than in some of the others in this series. Though reluctant at first, Bernie learns that helping others is what God wants us to do.

Negatives: While I may find the storyline a little too silly, that is my adult opinion and I believe the intended audience will thoroughly enjoy these books.

Talking Points: This story uses Gal. 6:9-10 which talks about doing good to others. Read these verses and talk about how your family and your children can put them into practice.

Age Level: 6-8 year olds (I think these books will appeal mostly to boys)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Santa’s Favorite Story by Hisako Aoki and Ivan Gantschev

Recommendation: Recommended
This book features an unexpected twist as Santa encounters the animals of the forest. He explains to them that Christmas has nothing to do with him or presents, as they have all believed. Presenting his own favorite story, that of the first Christmas, Santa speaks of how God showed His love to us through the birth of Christ.
Positives: Santa emphasizes the greater value of God’s gift of love shown in the birth of the Christ child in comparison with the presents that the animals are concerned about.
Negatives: Although Santa’s version of the first Christmas is a fair one, it is not exactly quoted from the Bible. This is a good opportunity to get out your Bible and read directly what Scripture says about Christ’s birth and the events surrounding it.
Talking Points: However each family chooses to address Santa Claus at Christmas time, this book does a good job of pointing beyond the surface value of material things to the far greater gift we have been given by our heavenly Father in Jesus Christ. As you read the account of Christ’s birth in Luke 2:1-20, it is apparent that there are a lot of details Santa left out. This is a teaching opportunity to consider that while we may see and hear things at times that sound biblical, we have the responsibility and privilege to search the Word ourselves to see what it really says (and thus following the example of the Berean believers in Acts 17:11). Further, the book states that God’s love is shown in the birth of Christ, but doesn't explain why this is the case. Talk about who Jesus was (“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” -- Luke 2:11; “And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him” -- Luke 2:40)) and is, and what He did when He grew up that embodied the ultimate gift of love to us in the laying down of His life. (John 15:13)
Age Level: 4-8, but a good read for the whole family

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Pashmina the Little Christmas Goat by Geraldine Elschner

Recommendation: Recommended

A family is getting ready to celebrate Christmas, but they have only potatoes and beans to eat. So father goes out hunting to find something special for their Christmas dinner. As he trudges through the deep snow he comes across a little goat, caught in the branches and deep snow. He frees the goat and carries him home. As soon as the children see the goat they fall in love and named the goat Pashmina and of course they could not eat the goat for Christmas. They enjoy their beans and potatoes and the company of their new pet. As the goat grows he produces lots and lots of beautiful soft, white wool. Mother uses the wool to make things and sells it in the market. Soon their is enough money to buy another goat, and many more baby goats follow. However, the beautiful Pashmina continues to give them lots and lots of beautiful white, soft wool, maybe as a way to thank them for rescuing her on that Christmas Eve.

Positives: A touching story that your kids will enjoy.

Negatives: Nothing

Talking Points: There is a great word picture of the goat being caught in the branches and snow that reminds me of the story from Gen. 22 when God tested Abraham and asked him to sacrifice Isaac. At the end of the story God provides a ram - caught in a thicket. Read this story and talk about God's provision for your family, physically and spiritually. There is also an element of sacrifice woven through this story and the fact that Pashmina is a goat immediately draws you to the sacrificial system in the Old Testament when Jews had to offer animals to cover their sin. Read Hebrews 9 and 10 to learn about how Christ fulfilled the requirements of the Law once and for all. When we think of sacrifice at Christmastime we also think of what Christ sacrificed by coming leaving the Father, his home in heaven and coming to the earth as a human baby (Phil. 2). We cannot stop there though, we must recognize the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus made in dying on the cross for sin. Study the Gospel accounts of his crucifixion and also look at II Cor. 5:14-21 and Isa. 53.

Age Level: 3-6

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Mary Did You Know? by Mark Lowry

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

Thy lyrics to this well-known Christmas song by the same title are captured in this book with illustrations and Scripture references.

Mary Did You Know is a series of questions that ultimately point us to the message found throughout Scripture, that Jesus is God in the flesh.

Positives: Kids love to ask questions and the questioning format of this book is appealing to them - and it gives them answers straight from Scripture! The language is simple and I think this would be a great book to read as a family and talk about.

Negatives: They use Scripture quotations from several translations. I prefer to stick with one translation. This is easily rememdied by just getting out your own Bible!

Talking Points: Get your Bible out and look up and discuss each Scripture given throughout the book. Talk about the mystery of the incarnation, how God could become man. Share with your child from the Scriptures given in the book, and others, how we know this to be true, that Jesus was fully God and fully man. You could take several evenings and go through one Scripture at a time during the weeks surrounding Christmas. This book can be a great tool to dig into Scripture with your child and learn together about your precious Savior, Jesus Christ. These Scriptures might be helpful as well, John 1 (particularly the first 34 verses), Phil. 2:1-11, Col. 1:13-22).

Age Level: 0-6 will enjoy reading it, but a great book for the entire family!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Are You My Mother? By P.D. Eastman

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

Many of us remember this book from our own childhood - and it's still a good choice for our own kids today!

A young baby bird hatches while his mother is out finding some food for him.  Very curious and somewhat confused he sets out on a quest to find his mother. Along the way he meets a kitten, dog and cow all of which tell him they are not his mother. Unwilling to give up he wonders if a car, boat or plane are his mother. Eventually he ends up back at his own nest and here comes his mother with a fresh worm for her new baby bird.

Positives: A simply delightful and fun story for kids. They will think the baby bird funny, but will also see the love and care mother bird has for her baby.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: This poor confused baby bird could have saved himself a lot of trouble if he had just understood what God says in Genesis 1.  Talk with your child about God's perfectly ordered creation and how God made each thing to produce its own kind. Plants to yield according to their seed and animals to produce according to their kind.

Age Level: 0-5