Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

This story opens with a tiny flower seed, amongst a group of seeds, which is blown along by autumn wind. The journey on which these seeds embark includes many dangers, and seeds are lost along the way. These challenges naturally present themselves as various seasons, landscapes, and creatures come along as the wind and other natural elements carry the seeds to different locations. In the end, the tiny seed, having endured and escaped all the dangers, is the only one that develops into a large and beautiful plant that bears a gigantic flower. Many enjoy this flower throughout the summer, people and creatures alike. Then autumn comes again with its strong wind, and the tiny seeds of this flower are blown and carried away.

Positives: In classic Eric Carle style, nature’s beauty and variety are well-captured in words and illustrations. This is a story of endurance as well as the natural consequences of the world in which we live. My 7-year-old recently commented on how much she enjoys Carle’s books, even after not having looked at them for a long time.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: Endurance, perseverance, reward, and God’s creation are so wonderfully captured in this book. I could not help but think of the Christian life and our need to endure and persevere throughout the trials and hardships of life, as well as the way God promises that we will be rewarded (Heb. 10:35-36, 1 Pet. 1:3-9). The tiny seed, in part due to its size, seems to be a lesser “player”, so to speak, in the group of seeds as a whole. It had no distinguishing characteristics spoken of, except that it just continued to stay the course. And when it completed the journey, its “death” produced a beautiful flower. Is this not like a Christian dying to oneself in order for the beauty and glory of Christ to be shown in his or her life? (John 12:24, Phil. 1:21) This is a great tool for encouraging a child to lead a peaceful and quiet life (1 Tim. 2:2) before the Lord, knowing that a faithfulness will be rewarded.
Additionally, the glory of God’s creation is clearly displayed in the landscapes, seasons, and creatures involved in this story. All the works of His hands point to Him! (Gen. 1, Psalm 24:1) 

Age Level: (reading to self with help around) 6 years

Friday, November 18, 2011

Flickering Hope by Naomi Kinsman

Recommendation: Recommended

Young Sadie is settling into her new life. She has made some new friends and is learning much about herself as well. However distress and drama are never too far out of reach. It seems her enemy Frankie wants to be friends, but why? Who can she trust and how does she know what the "right" thing to do is?

Positives: Sadie is growing up and trying to navigate these difficult years in life, I think the author has done a great job of portraying her character. She continues to ask questions about who God is and pursues involvement with the local youth group. This story continued right where the first book "Shades of Truth" left off.

Negatives: Sadie is still seeking answers to her questions about God and I feel like she is receiving "religious" answers, but not "gospel" answers. The youth group she is involved in takes on a Christmas service project. While this is great, there is still no Jesus and no gospel presented to Sadie and her unsaved family and friends. I hope it's coming in future books!

Talking Points: There is a boy/girl relationship developing between Sadie and Andrew and at the end of the story they have a picnic in the woods together. Talk to your daughter about your expectations for her relationships with boys as she grows older. Hopefully you have already prayerfully considered how you will handle these relationships, but communicate lovingly and clearly to her your Scriptural viewpoint and tell her you want to always be available to talk about boys, or anything for that matter! Sadie also seems to have difficulties with friendships. A good place to start is the book of Proverbs to see what a good friend is or isn't. Talk about what it means to be a good friend and help her cultivate godly friendships. Here are some good verses to start with - Prov. 17:17, Prov. 27:6, Prov. 27:9, Prov. 16:28, Prov. 17:9.

Agel Level: Girls 10-14 years of age

I  received a free copy of this book from Zonderkidz in exchange for this review.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Shades Of Truth by Naomi Kinsman

Recommendation: Recommended

A new series in the FaithGirlz library, Shades of Truth is the first book from Sadie's Sketchbook. In this book we are introduced to Sadie and her parents. They have just moved from California to Owl Creek, Michigan and this story is wrapped around the struggles of a 7th grade girl who has just moved to a new community and is faced with new pressures - and she desperately misses her girlfriends! As she faces the challenges of new friendships she also has to deal with a mom who is chronically ill and a father whose job has made him very unpopular within the community. Sadie learns the importance of honesty as she questions who God is and if He plays a role in her life.

Positives: A great storyline and wonderful characters will make this book very appealing to its target audience. Pre-teen girls will identify with Sadie and the many challenges she faces. I enjoyed the honest and realistic storyline.

Negatives: In the description of the book we are told that Sadie must learn to have faith even when she doesn't have all the answers. This is not portrayed in the book at all, Sadie does not learn to have faith in God. She certainly has questions about prayer and about God, but she never receives truthful answers to these questions. When she attends Youth Group with her friend Ruth she asks questions and she is never given the gospel, in fact no one mentions Jesus in the entire book. At the end of the book, after she has run out of her home she finds refuge in a Catholic church where she spends the night. While there she tries praying is overcome with a warm feeling and knows that she must tell the truth. I'm guessing this is what the author refers to as her "faith." Based on the story, Sadie does not have a saving faith.

Talking Points: As I believe young girls will like this book it, it presents a perfect opportunity to introduce or hopefully, reinforce the basic truths of the gospel.  Start with understanding that God, the Creator is holy (Is. 6:1-3, Rev. 4:8, Matt. 5:48) and we (man) are utterly sinful (Eph. 2:1-3, Rom. 3:23, Rom. 3:10-18, Rom. 5:12). Because of our sin we are separated from God and there is a penalty that must be paid for our sin (Rom. 6:23, I Cor. 6:9-11, Rev. 20:14-15, II Thess. 1:5-9). Since we are dead and incapable of doing anything about our sin problem, God sent his only Son, Jesus Christ to this earth to live a perfect, sinless life (Is. 7:14, Matt. 1:23, John 1:1-5, Phil. 2:5-11). Christ shed his blood and died on a cross to pay the penalty for our sin (Is. 53, Heb. 9:22, Matt. 27:33-54, Mark 15: 22-39, John 19:16-42, II Cor. 5:21) and rose again on the 3rd day to show He had once and for all defeated sin and death (Matt. 28:1-15, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20:1-18, I Cor. 15). Because of all that Christ has done on our behalf we are given the gift of faith through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:8-9, John 20:30-31, Acts 4:12). It is essential that our children understand the true gospel laid out for us so clearly in Scripture. Do not them be mislead to think that faith is a "warm feeling" they may experience when they decide to do something right. Jesus says in John 14:6 - "I am THE Way and THE Truth and THE Life, no one comes to the Father except through me." Carefully and prayerfully share the gospel with them every opportunity you get! There are many other conversations you can have from this story also, ask your child what they thought or learned about in the book.

Age Level: Girls 10-14 years of age

I received a free copy of this book from Zonderkidz in exchange for this review.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Story Shell by Gloria Repp

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

The 2nd book in the Friendship Bog Series is another wonderful tale of adventure and friendship that young children will enjoy. Pibbin is confronted with two different dilemmas and learns to become a leader as well as learning more about friendship. First, Leeper, his best friend has been gone for a long time and Pibbin is worried about him. While trying to find him he discovers that Gaffers story shell is missing - and tonight is Gaffers birthday party and everyone wants to hear a story - what is Pibbin to do? Even though he is small, Pibbin knows he can help, and besides, his friends need him. So off he sets on another adventure through Friendship Bog.

Positives: Great lessons of perseverance, bravery and friendship abound throughout this story. Kids will love the animals they meet and the danger Pibbin encounters when he meets a beaver who "really likes frogs." It appeals to a wide range of ages. It can be read together as a family and young readers will enjoy the independence of reading a chapter book. On her website the author also provides some questions that go along with each chapter. Click HERE to view the questions and answers.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: Friendship Bog is a great place to learn about friendship - these animals truly care for each other and will go out of their way to serve each other. Gal. 5:13 and I Pet. 4:10 tell us to use our gifts and the freedoms we have in Christ to serve one another. I find that my children are more willing to serve their friends than their family  members so we have to focus on serving and loving each other at home. Matt. 20:28 tells us that Christ came to serve and to give His life. Ask your children how they can best reflect Christ to their friends? Talk with your children about ways to serve their friends and family as an act of love to bring glory to God.

Age Level: 2-9 years of age

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for this review.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Dragons Of The Valley by Donita K. Paul

Recommendation: Recommended

In the second book in the series, Dragons of the Valley weaves together a story of love, war, art and Wulder - the Creator God. With war threatening to destory his country, the artist Bealomondore must learn to become a warrior. He must also help his friend Tipper guard and protect the statutes that keep Chiril together before the devastating effects ruin the country from within.

Positives: For those who have followed the series, they will enjoy the continuation of the story and there are some great discussion points to talk about with your child.

Negatives: I found this story lacked some focus and the story line didn't move along as well as many of her previous books. I was often confused as to why a particular event happened, the different parts of the story didn't always fit together for me.

Talking Points: Wulder was worshipped and loved for the beauty He created and this worship was often expressed through their own creativity - a gift of thankfulness for the talent they were given. The Bible is full of passages that speak of creation of God's creativity and the beauty that reflects the glory of God (Ps. 19:1, Ps. 96:1, Ps. 98:1, Rom. 1:20, Gen. 1-3). Teach your children how to express their worship through the talents and gifts God has given them.

Age Level: 10 years old and up

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

Friday, November 4, 2011

Sammy And His Shepherd by Susan Hunt

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

Sammy is a dear little lamb who loves his shepherd. As he grows he continually learns new and wonderful things about his Shepherd. One day he meets another sheep, one who isn't from his flock, one who has another shepherd. He feels sorry for this poor sheep as he sees her struggle. One day his shepherd buys his new friend and now they can live together. This new friend however has many questions, Sammy patiently answers her questions and teaches Precious all about their wonderful Shepherd.

Positives: If you have ever wanted to show your children Jesus in the Old Testament this is a perfect book for it! This portrayal of Psalm 23 clearly illustrates Christ as the Good Shepherd, a wonderful balance of of tenderness and truth. The questions to talk about at the end of the book provide a great resource for parents to continue to expand their child's understanding of Scripture and of who Jesus is. The illustrations are beautiful as well.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: The "Talk About It" section at the end of the book is marvelous, I cannot improve on this excellent resource! Use it as you read through the book. It provides additional Scripture references and excellent questions that will spur on conversation with your child. Take the author's suggestion and memorize this Psalm together as a family.

Age Level: 3-8 year olds

I received a free copy of this book from Reformation Trust Publishing for this review.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Nature of God - Wildernesss Discoveries and Ocean Adventures by Peter Schriemer

Recommendation:  Highly Recommended

This set of 6 DVD's and 2 books are a fantastic and fun resource. In Wilderness Discoveries you are taken to explore the eco-systems around Lake Michigan. With high-quality footage you get to see bugs, plants and animals up close and learn how an eco-system works together, why these particular animals live there and understand how God has specially created and equipped each one to bring Him glory. In Ocean Adventures you explore the coast of Hawaii and see the beautiful things God has created and learn how to be a good steward of His creation. The books compliment the DVD's which are each about 30 minutes in length, but the DVD's provide more information and are highly educational and entertaining. Peter Schreimer (the creator, writer and host of this series) also hosts "Critter Quest" on the Smithsonian Channel.

Positives: The DVD's were very high quality, my kids felt like they were watching something on the Discovery Channel, except that they were hearing about how God created everything. I loved that in each DVD they begin by talking about an attribute of God that we see manifested in creation. Each DVD also contains a Family Viewing Guide with questions to follow-up with. The books were excellent with high  quality photographs. My kids especially loved the "Crazy Cool Facts" on each page. There are Scriptures used throughout the book and a sampler DVD is included which will only wet your appetite to get the DVD's (of course)! I appreciated how the idea of stewardship and caring for God's creation was addressed but not overdone.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: Romans 1:18-20 tells us that God's character, his invisible attributes are clearly seen through creation. Ask your children what they see and learn of God from His creation. Each DVD gives an attribute of God and a short thought on how creation reveals this attribute, expand on it. Use other Scriptures as well that tell us of the glories of God in creation.

Age Level: 3 years old and up

I received a free copy of these materials from Zonderkidz Publishing in exchange for this review.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Heaven: God's Promise For Me by Anne Graham Lotz

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

A girl and her younger brother are missing their grandmother, who has passed away. What follows is a delightful and biblically based description of heaven with wonderful illustrations to stimulate the imagination and satisfy some of the questions we encounter as children and parents.

Positives: Lotz gives a beautiful introduction, inviting readers to join in this consideration of heaven, referencing her own, personal, family relationships as the context in which she has wrestled with the reality of heaven. She concludes with a letter and invitation to children to trust in Christ as their Savior, confessing and repenting of their sins, and so gaining the inheritance of eternal life ultimately embodied in heaven.
Readers are invited to examine several Scriptures, and in so doing to see whether this depiction of heaven is according to God’s Word. Most notably, Jesus is not missing from this book. In fact, the book states that of all the wonderful things that will be in heaven, He is by far the best!
Negatives: None
Talking points: This book is done so well, I’m not sure I have much to add to it as a whole. Of course, each of us as parents ought to seek the Lord for wisdom (James 1:5) and discernment as to how we might individually meet the needs and questions of our own children.  Situations that may arise to prompt questions about heaven give all of us an added responsibility to know the Scriptures ourselves.
Age Level: 4-7 years old
Vicki's Personal Note/Application: In the wake of my father-in-law passing away this summer, I had some good discussions with our children regarding the importance of knowing what the Bible really says, as well as what it doesn’t say. For example, my 7-year-old daughter repeated something a family member said about how Grandpa was watching over us. I gently but very firmly redirected her to God’s Word, which does not support that view in any way of which I am aware. What we do know is that God is omnipresent and always watching over us (Psalm 139:1-18). To attribute to a deceased loved one (and even one you are confident is in the presence of God Himself) a power that the Bible only specifically gives to the Lord is misleading and simply unbiblical. While the thought that our loved one (whom we mourn and miss terribly) is watching over us might be comforting, we must cling to biblical integrity and not compromise the truth laid out for us in Scripture. There are many comforting and popular ideas in our culture regarding death and various other topics, but these qualities alone do not make those ideas true. And if we are to be sincerely comforted, we must seek what is true to give us comfort and peace (Phil 4:8-9), with God’s Word as our highest and only standard. Otherwise, we are allowing an untruth to supply us with the comfort, peace and strength that ought only to come from God Himself. Choosing to believe a thought, principal, or idea which we cannot find in Scripture, I believe, is not only damaging to our own faith, but to that of anyone we influence, namely our children. I personally do not want to fall prey to the schemes of the evil one who seeks to distract me and my family, even in our grief and mourning, from the treasures and extravagant grace that are ours in Christ (Eph. 1:3-8).

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pibbin the Small by Gloria Repp

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

This first book in the The Friendship Bog Series offers a great family read. Pibbin is a tiny tree frog who lives with his many  friends in Friendship Bog. One day, Sheera the box turtle gets hurt quite seriously and no one knows just what to do. Sheera tells Pibbin that he must go find some sweetberry leaves by the Silver Sea. It is a long trip and no one thinks Pibbin should go, except Gaffer. Gaffer is a wise old frog and he tells Pibbin to be courageous and find a traveling buddy. So, Pibbin and his friend Leeper set out on an adventure. There are many dangers out there, but they know they must return quickly with the sweetberry leaves to save their friend Sheera and they are willing to take the risk.

Postives: A fun and simple story that beautifully illustrates courage, friendship and humility. It is a great book to read as a family but also has short chapters and great illustrations that your blossoming reader will enjoy it as well. Friendship Bog is a real place and on her website, the author has beautiful pictures for you to enjoy. She also provides some pictures in the ebook version of the story along with a map of Friendship Bog.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: This book is full of Biblical topics to talk about with your kids, here are just a few ideas: Pibbin was such a selfless little frog. It didn't matter that he was small or that no one thought he should take the trip he was more concerned about Sheera than himself. Philp. 2:3 tells us to consider others as more important than ourselves. Pibbin certainly  did this. Talk about ways you can prefer other people and show them you  love Jesus (and them) more than yourself. The story of David and Goliath also came to mind while reading this (I Samuel 17). David was young and no one thought he should fight Goliath, but he trusted in God to fight the battle for him. I also loved when Pibbin listened to the wisdom of his wise old friend Gaffer. Children need to learn to listen to and obtain wisdom. Proverbs is continually telling us to gain wisdom (Prov 1:1-7). Teach your children to listen to those who are older and learn from them and to soak up knowledge from the Scripture.

Age Level: 5 years old and up

I received a free copy of the book for this review.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Smashwords offers Free Books!

Yes, you read correctly - free children's books. I was recently  introduced to this site and have thoroughly enjoyed browsing as well as downloading several of their free books. They make the books available in many different formats including for the Kindle and for an Apple iPad or you can just download them as a PDF if you like. Here is a link to the site. To get to the free books you first choose a category from the column on the right (for example under the Fiction column choose Children's books) then at the top you  can use the "free ebook" filter. Up will pop literally hundreds of free books to choose from! You  can also do the same under the Non-Fiction column. To "purchase" the book just click on it and you will get a book description. At the bottom of this page will be your download options. It's so simple! And, you just might find some free books for yourself too! Hope you enjoy and let me know if you like it!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

Recommendation: Recommended
I remember loving Pippi Longstocking books as a child so I checked one out from the library and have been reading through it with my 6 year old daughter (the boys aren't interested for some reason!). It's been a lot of fun laughing and talking together as we make our way through.

Pippi Longstocking is a very unique girl. Practically an orphan (her father is a sea captain and her mother has passed away), she lives on her own on the end of a street in a little town, well, not quite alone, she does have Mr. Nilsson her monkey and her horse. Pippi loves adventure and she quickly befriends Tommy and Annika who live next door and together they have many adventures.

Positives: Pippi will make you giggle! Her outrageous behavior is sure to keep you on your toes - and you never know what she will do next. She does not fit into the current day fascination with princesses and all things girly. She is not afraid to be herself. She is also a very caring person.

Negatives: Being that she has practically raised herself, Pippi is a little rough around the edges and her behavior is sometimes rude. This provides great conversation material though!

Talking Points: Romans 1:19 tells us that people know right from wrong, that God has revealed himself to all people through creation and that He has written His law on our hearts. Pippi reveals this truth to us. When Pippi would lie, or behave badly she knew that what she had done was wrong and she often sought to correct her behavior. Even though she had no parents guiding and teaching her, she often knew when her behavior was acceptable and when it wasn't. Talk about the conscience with your child and teach them the importance of this tool that God has graciously  given us. Help them to guard their conscience so that it does not become seared.

Age Level: 6-10 year olds

Friday, October 21, 2011

Three Cups by Tony Townsley, Written by Mark St. Germain

Recommendation: Recommended

For his 5th birthday a young boy  received a gift his parents promised would take him on many adventures. He was a little disappointed at first, when he discovered that the gift was 3 old cups from their cupboard. This was very confusing! His parents explained that these special cups were to help him manage his allowance that he was now old enough to get. Each week his money was divided between the three cups - one for giving, one for saving and one for spending. Eventually they opened a savings account at a local bank and the boy found people to help with his giving money. He used his spending money to buy things he needed or wanted. A great way to help your kids learn about money management.

Positives: Money management is something kids need to learn so I am grateful that this topic is addressed on a child's level. The simple technique used helps kids grasp the beginning concepts of stewardship. I also loved the fact that at the end of the book the young boy, now a father himself, is passing on these lessons to his own son.

Negatives: In the Parent's Guide at the end they suggest teaching kids to tithe 10% to their local church. 10% is a great place to start, but I would always encourage my children to give and would aim to cultivate generosity in their hearts. As for the Spending account, they tell parents to have their child make a wish list. I would be careful with this and help your kids determine some upcoming things they may want (the baseball glove in the story was an excellent example). I would just be careful of teaching your kids spend their money  frivolously.

Talking Points: The Bible is full of references to money. Jesus talked about money more than he spoke about heaven. That tells us that how we use our money is a great indicator of the state of our heart. How you spend your money and the conversations you have regarding money will greatly shape your child's money management habits. Talk about giving. As I said above 10% is a great place to start but I would always encourage my children to stretch what they think are the limits of what they can give (Prov. 11:25, 22:9, I Tim. 6:18). Talk to your kids about the love of money. I Tim. 6:10 tells us that the love of money is the root of all evil. These are some very strong words. I Tim. 3:3 is also clear that church leaders are to be free of the love of money. One of our favorite Scriptures is Matt. 6:24, which tells us that we cannot serve God and wealth. As a parent, I would recommend you read The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn. This book, with Scripture, can help you train your child as they grow and mature.

Age Level: 4-8 year olds

I received this book free from the publisher through the 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 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Question Of Yams by Gloria Repp

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

This story is based on the story of a young man from Papua New Guinea who dared to defy the traditions of his tribe and began to trust in God. The people of this tribe depended on their sweet potato crops each year to feed them. They also depended on the spirits of their ancestors to make their gardens grow and produce a bountiful crop. Kuri's father has been learning about God from the missionaries who have come to their tribe and Kuri watches as his father defies the traditions of the Head Men and plants his garden without first praying to the spirits. Through the growing season Kuri and his father learn much about faith and the Word of God as they  cling to their favorite verse - Behold, God is mighty. He is mighty in strength and wisdom (Job 36:5).

Positives: I love missionary stories! This is a great story of a young boy learning to trust in God - a great lesson for children and all of us! I also loved that this is a story that young kids could read on their own and not have to have read to them.

Negatives: None

Talking  Points: Kuri had to learn to trust God for a basic provision - food. This is such a practical example to us! Talk to your child about trusting God for everything - whatever situation they may be facing that day. Teach them to believe the Bible as absolute truth and to trust in the promises and truths in it. Matthew 6:25-34 are excellent verses that tell us that God will provide for us so we do not need to worry. Teach your child to know and trust in the attributes of God. Here are a few to get you started. God is Truth (Deut. 32:4, Ps. 19:9, John 17:17), God is Eternal (Ps. 90:2, I Tim. 1:17, Is. 57:15), God is Holy (I Sam. 2:2, Ps. 98:1, I Jn. 1:5, Rev. 4:8), God is Omniscient (Ps. 147:4-5, Acts 15:18, Is. 46:10).

Age Level: 4-8 year olds (6-7 year old reading level)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

If You Grew Up With Abraham Lincoln by Ann McGovern

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

Sometime during our preparations for a family  trip to Washinton D.C., my then 4 year old daughter, fell in love with all things Abraham Lincoln (or as she called him, Lincoln Abe!). During our trip we picked up this book and she is now enjoying reading it herself after listening to me countless times!

This is a great book that tells a biography of Abe Lincoln's life by answering questions of what life was like in the different places and times that he lived in. It answers questions like "What kind of house would you  live in?" and "Where did you get your food?", as well as addressing questions specific to the towns and cities he lived in. Each question is a different section of the book which makes it easy to read small portions at a time.

Positives: The questions are answered simply but will also expand your child's vocabulary as they learn older words like "arimethic", "tanner" and "blacksmith", and "stagecoach." The illustrations are an excellent compliment to the book. It is a fun tool for teaching history that kids will enjoy.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: While there are not a lot of gospel implications in this book you can discuss a few things with your child. Talk about the great changes that have taken place in our world over the course of history - from Genesis to Abe Lincoln's life to ours. Who is and always has been in control? Has God ever been surprised by anything in history? Who has blessed us with the things in this world that we currently enjoy (modern conveniences)? Do we use these to glorify God? Revelation 1:8 and 22:13 speak of Christ as the Alpha and Omega - the beginning and the end. Psalm 90 tells us that God has always been and always will be.

Age Level: 4-10 years old

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Great Smoky Mountains Storybook Series by Larry Burkett

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

This set of four books are wonderful stories that practically teach some principles of money management. The stories center around two children, Joshua and Sarah and their family. In each book a different aspect of money management is covered. A Different Kind of Party talks about giving to the church and how and why a church needs and uses the money we give. Sarah and the Art Contest covers being a wise spender, researching and buying quality items. Last Chance For Camp and A Home For The Hamsters address different aspects of saving and working for your wages.

Positives: These stories are easy for kids to understand and relate to. They will easily grasp the concepts introduced and enjoy a good story as well. As a parent, I was thankful for the sections at the end of each book that used Scripture and reiterated the main points of the story to review with your child.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: I think money management is one of the more difficult things to teach your child. The value of a dollar is a difficult thing for them to grasp, yet it is important that we teach them good scriptural principles and encourage them to honor God with the money and possessions He has blessed them with. Some of the Scriptures used in these books are Proverbs 6:6-8, Col. 3:23, Prov. 31:16, II Cor. 9:7, Luke 11:42. Help your child understand their heart in relation to their possessions (Matt. 6) and develop an eternal perspective.

Age Level: 4-12 years old

Monday, October 3, 2011

Everything On It by Shel Silverstein

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

I have been a fan of Shel Silverstein's for a very long time and was so excited to find his newest release at our local library. This collection of poems and drawings is so fun, you and your kids will laugh together as you read these poems and enjoy the wide variety of topics he explores.

Positives: This book will make you laugh! Sometimes you'll giggle or chuckle or let out a groan and other times you will just laugh out loud. He is a master at poetry that children love and it's a great book to read together with your kids.

Negatives: Preview the poems before reading them with your children as you may feel some are inappropriate depending on the ages of your children and your family.

Talking Points: While many of the poems we just enjoyed for a good laugh (Prov. 17:22), there were some that brought out a few good topics to talk about. "The Lovetobutcants" is a poem that addresses laziness (Prov. 6:6-9,13:4, 19:24, 20:4, 21:25,22:13, 26:13)."Unhappy Here" can bring about a discussion on contentment (II Cor. 12:7-10, Phil. 4:11, I Tim. 6:6-8) )and "The Clock Man" and "Biography" can speak to making of the most of the days God has given us and living each moment to glorify Him (Ps. 90:10-12, Matt. 25:14-29). These are just a few of the poems that brought about discussion in our home. As you read be mindful of other things you can teach your child about the gospel through these writings and have fun!

Age Level: 3-12 year olds

Friday, September 30, 2011

Hermie: A Common Caterpillar by Max Lucado

Recommendation: Recommended

Hermie is a caterpillar. A plain, no spots or stripes, nothing out of the ordinary, common caterpillar. Except for one extraordinary thing Hermie does - he talks to God. And when Hermie and his friend Wormie are feeling particularly common and ordinary that is exactly what they do, they talk to God. They ask God why they are not strong like Antonio the Ant, or why they do not have a home on their backs like the snail...why are they just so ordinary? And God patiently answers them and lets them know they he isn't finished with them yet.

Positives: A good story to help teach contentment, thankfulness and patience. Kids (and adults) often wonder why God created them the way He did. Why did God give me freckles? Or why didn't he give me legs that can run faster? This is a good story to help teach us to trust and wait patiently on God.

Negatives: I thought the story was too predictable and  little boring. I know kids often like predictable, in this case, I didn't care for it. I would also exercise caution with this story as it might seem like we just need to be patient and God will make us into or give us exactly what we want. Teach your child that God created them uniquely and while your looks or abilities might never change, you can still become the person God wants you to be.

Talking Points: Psalm 139 teaches us that God created each of us and has intimate knowledge of us from before we were even born. Continue to emphasize to your child that they are one of God's beautiful, unique and special creations - that He created  them exactly as He designed and willed, no mistakes! Ecc. 3:11 tells us that God makes everything beautiful in His time. Teach your child patience and that God sees beauty differently than we do. Psalm 116:15 tells us that God sees the death of a righteous man as precious. Beauty to Christ is when God the Father is glorified. Teach your child to glorify God with their body (I Cor. 6:20) no matter how ordinary they may think they are.

Age Level: 3-7 year olds

I received this book free from the publisher through the 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 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Hunter Brown And The Secret Of The Shadow by The Miller Brothers (Christopher & Allan)

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

What do you get when you combine Pilgrim's Progress, The Chronicles of Narnia, a little Tolkien, throw in a modern day setting and add the imagination of these great author/brothers? You get the Codebearers Series or as my boys call it - Hunter Brown. In this first novel you are introduced to a myriad of carefully constructed characters, taken on the adventure of a lifetime and are introduced to great spiritual truths as well.

Somehow, young Hunter Brown is chosen - chosen to break the curse of the Bloodstone, chosen to learn the truths of skills of the Codebearers and bring them freedom, chosen by the Author for a dangerous mission that could cost him his life. As a teenage boy this is a lot of pressure, much different than the carefree life Hunter has led up to this point. Along the way he learns so much about himself, about the Author, about being a friend and about life. This is a book - a series - you don't want to miss.

Positives: I felt that the spiritual allegories were very biblically based and true to Scripture. The ideas of our sinful nature and the temptations and doubts we struggle with were very real struggles that Hunter worked through. The story was full of action! My two boys (age 11 and 9) devoured these books. You gotta love when your kids are begging you for more time to read!

Negatives: None

Talking Points: As I read this story there were a couple of Scriptures that kept coming to the forefront of my mind. Philippians 2:12-13 tells us that we are to work out our salvation. While I don't believe that Hunter was saved until the end of the book he had to work through so many things in his mind. He searched for truth and had to learn where to go to find truth.  If your child is a believer they will have doubts from time to time. Encourage them and help them to search the Scriptures and pray to find the answers to their questions. Help them work out their salvation.  My favorite part of the book came at the end when Hunter realizes the ultimate sacrifice he must make to be a Codebearer.  Mark 8:34-35 tell us of the sacrifices we must make to be a disciple of Christ.  Talk about what it means to deny self and to live for Christ.  Also, look at Luke 14:26-33 and talk about "counting the cost." No one should come to Christ without attempting to understand the difficulties and glories they will encounter in this life. However, they should also understand the eternal implications of their decisions. "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?" (Mark 8:36).

Age Level: 9-16 year olds

Book Giveaway Winner

Congratulations to:
Heather Clabaugh
Winner of the free copy of Simonetta Carr's Athanasius!
Send me an EMAIL with your address and I will get your new book out to you soon!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Athanasius: A Man Who Stood For The Truth by Simonetta Carr

(I'm giving away a free copy of this book! Be sure to check out how to enter).

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

I feel so privileged to be given the opportunity by the publisher to review this book. I have reviewed other books in this series and have thoroughly enjoyed them. This book was no different.

Athanasius grew up during a time of great Christian persecution. God used the atrocities he may have witnessed during his lifetime to shape and mold Athanasius into a man of conviction. He is most remembered and celebrated for defending the truth that Jesus is the eternal God, one with and co-equal to the Father. He was a part of the council that adopted the first Nicene Creed which upheld the truths of Scripture even though many were abandoning those teachings. He defended these truths of Scripture with his life. Twice he was exiled for his beliefs and he underwent great physical persecution as well. Athanasius died not knowing if the church would believe the things he so passionately defended. Today, we can be thankful for his legacy of standing for the truth and learn much from his writings on the personhood and Godhood of Jesus Christ.

Positives: This book is a beautiful volume written to clearly explain the necessity of standing for truth, no matter the consequences. I love the way the author has provided an excellent history lesson, given maps and a timeline of his life and still focuses on the spiritual lessons we can learn from this early church father.  The artwork and artifacts displayed throughout the book enhance your understanding and are beautiful. I am so thankful that the author sees the importance of children learning church history and about early church leaders. When asked why should children read Christian biographies the publisher wrote:
"...Church history helps us learn from the examples of many people raised up  by God, even from a young age like Athanasius, how we ought to live for Christ...Through church history we see the hand of God at work, the character of God displayed, and the glorious triumph of the truth of God. The faith of the faithful in the past encourages our faith for the future as we see that the God of yesterday is also the God of today and tomorrow, faithful to His promises, trustworthy to the end, full of grace and mercy for every circumstance we may face."
This entire series would be a great addition to your home or church library. They are heirloom quality books that generations will learn from and enjoy.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: Read and discuss Hebrews 11 with your child. We often use the phrase "faith of our fathers", but does this phrase have meaning for you or your child? Look at the legacy of faith traced in this chapter from Abel all the way through the Old Testament to the early church martyrs. This is the faith that enabled Athanasius to boldly defend the deity and humanity of Christ, no matter the cost. This is the faith that will enable us and our children to do the same. Teach them this faith and pray fervently  for the Holy Spirit to quicken their hearts to embrace this faith.

Age Level: 7-12 year olds

Click HERE to watch a promo trailer for the book. Want to order this book from the publisher? Click HERE. Do you like this author? You can follow her blog HERE.
Book Giveaway
The publisher has made it possible for me to give away a free copy of this book! So here is your chance, follow the steps below and you will be entered for a chance to win this book. You have until 12:00pm on Monday, September 19th to enter.
You must click on the PunchTab link below to be entered. There are several ways in which you can earn entries.
  1. You will be asked to like this post on your Facebook account (don't worry, it is a very non-evasive form and is not a FB app)
  2. Leave a comment on this post, answering the question: "Who is your favorite early church father?"
  3. Like our "BookMoms" Facebook Page
  4. Tweet this post (you will be given a link and every person who comes to the drawing from your specific link will give you an additional entry)


 I received a free copy of this book from Reformation Heritage Books for this review.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Baseball for Breakfast by Bill Myers

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

"Jimmy hated to wait." So begins the story of Jimmy a young boy who hated to wait and the thing he disliked the most was waiting to play baseball. One night as Jimmy gets ready  for bed he is thinking about how much he hates waiting. The next thing he knows he is walking to school and finds a pocket watch. This is no ordinary watch though, Jimmy finds out that he can move the hands of the watch and skip the things he doesn't like to do. Pretty soon all he is doing is playing baseball but he finds there are disadvantages to not eating, sleeping or bathing. Pretty soon all his friends are mad at him and life is miserable. Jimmy learns to live each moment of life and enjoy the life God has given him.

Positives: A very creative story that perfectly illustrates for children the need for patience and living life - every moment of every day - to glorify God. Jimmy also learns that he must make difficult choices in life and live with the consequences good or bad.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: I came across this story at a great time in the life of our family. 8 months ago we packed up and moved across several states. Since that time we have been looking to buy a home. In the meantime we have lived in 2 different homes and most of our belongings are packed up in our garage. We have been learning patience (or least trying to!). There are times when we all wanted to move the clock hands ahead and be in a home of our own, but we need to wait for God to bring us the right home at the right time. Ecclesiastes 3 tells us that there is a time for everything, that God has appointed a time for all events. James 1 tells us to consider it a joy to go through trials. Teach your child that every moment is to be lived to glorify God. God teaches us through the difficult times and even doing the things we don't like to do, have a purpose in God's eyes. Teach them to wait for God's best even when the world says you can have it all right now.

Age Level: 3-9 year olds

For any readers in the Middlefield, Ohio area I will be reading this book at the Sparrow Christian Bookshop ( 14962 State Street), for a parent/child reading time on Tuesday, Sept. 13 at 10:00am. Please joins us!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Back To School Giveaway Winners!

Congratulations to Sara Penner and Amber Bussard the winners of our Back To School Giveaway! Watch for another giveaway coming soon!

Friday, September 9, 2011

June Jam by Ron Roy

Recommendation: Recommended

June Jam, the 6th book in the Calendar Mystery Series is another hit that your young reader will enjoy. Father's Day is approaching and Bradley and Brian want to make their dad some homemade strawberry jam with fresh strawberries from the garden. As they head out to weed and take care of the garden they notice that something is eating the strawberries, but what? They bring in  their friends and fellow detectives Nate and Lucy to help solve the case and save Father's Day.

Positives: I love that these kids are creative and the different traps and snares they develop to help save their strawberries are great. These are not video-playing, TV watching kids who sit around all day! They use their minds and have a lot of fun together as friends!

Negatives: None

Talking Points: One thing I admired about the kids in this story was their perseverance. They were determined to catch the creature that was destroying their garden and no matter how many times they failed, they kept at it. Hebrews 12:1 tells us to "run with perseverance", to live the christian life faithfully. We will encounter trials (James 1:2, I Peter 1:6), but we are to press on toward the prize (Phil. 3) and to work out our salvation (Phil. 2). Talk to your child about perseverance. Teach them to work hard in all things in life to the glory of God.

Age Level: 4-8 year olds (Reading Level 2.1)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Smack Dab in the Middle of God's Love by Brennan Manning & John Blase

Recommendation: Recommended

 This is a touching story of a middle-aged couple who are reflections of Christ's love to their community. The love they show and share with the children around them is a testimony of their love for Jesus. The children enjoy spending evenings with Willie Juan and Ana, and they especially enjoy Ana's warm, sugary sopapillas with a drop of honey! Ana and Willie Juan teach the children about a God of  love and that they are each smack-dab in the middle of Abba's love.

Positives: I loved that this story showed a couple ministering in their community, being a part of the lives of children and showing them God's love in a very practical and tangible way. I loved that Willie Juan was a father figure to these children, an abba who taught them about Abba God. I also enjoyed seeing the love the children had for Ana and Willie Juan and how the conversation was easily centered around God's love.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: I John 4 tells us several times that God is love. God defines what love is, love is at the very center (smack-dab in the middle) of who He is. Children can be told of God's love, but they will understand God's love best by what they experience. The children in this story understood God's love through the love that Willie Juan and Ana showed them. Your children will understand God's love through the love that you and others around them show. Scripture also helps us see God's love. Some of my favorite verses that speak of God's love are Romans 8:38-39 - For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Age Level: 2-7 year olds

I received this book free from the publisher through the 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 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Back To School Giveaway

Labor Day is over and the kids are back in school. Whatever your feelings might be, we thought it would be a great time to do a little giveaway. Actually, we'll be doing a couple of giveaways this month so be watching closely!

This week, we are giving away 2 copies of the audio CD of R.C. Sproul reading his own book, The Priest With Dirty Clothes.  If you'd like to see our review of this book click HERE. The book was recently re-released with a new cover but the story is the same, and your kids will love listening to this CD!

Here's how you can win. You must click on the PunchTab link below to be entered. There are several ways in which you can earn entries.

  1. You will be asked to like this post on your Facebook account (don't worry, it is a very non-evasive form and is not a FB app)
  2. Leave a comment on this post, answering the question: "What is one children's book you would like for us to review on this blog?"
  3. Like our "BookMoms" Facebook Page
  4. Tweet this post (you will be given a link and every person who comes to the drawing from your specific link will give you an additional entry)
So there you go. Sign up and win. The contest will run until 12:00 PM on Friday, September 9th.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Book Moms Top Picks 12 years and up...

About 10 months ago we did a series of posts of our Top Picks and somehow this post was never published! Sorry for the extended delay but here are our top picks for kids 12 years and up!

At the top of our list is:

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

It is also time for your child to start reading some classic literature. These are great ones to start with but it's easy to get a list of Classic Literature from your local library. As always, it's important that you know and understand your child and are prepared to have a gospel discussion surrounding the contents of the book. My son received a summer reading list for entering 6th grade and all of these were on the list!

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

The Call of the Wild by Jack London

A couple of other series we like:

Hunter Brown - The CodeBearers Series by the Miller Brothers

The Chiveis Trilogy by Bryan Litfin (may be better suited for 16 and up) The third book in the trilogy is to be published next year.

We also like:
Wayne Batson and Sigmund Brouwer as authors. While we have not read every book by these authors we have read many of their books and have enjoyed their work. As always it is best if you are knowledgeable about what your child is reading, you as the parent can make the wisest choice for you child.

We would love to hear what your kids  enjoy reading as well!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

It Couldn't Just Happen: Knowing the Truth about God's Awesome Creation by Lawrence O. Richards

Recommendation: Not Recommended

I was very excited to be given the opportunity to read this book. I enjoy reading about creation and reflecting on the imaginative nature of God. Looking at and studying creation teaches us so much about God's intimate care for the earth He created. There were a few chapters that I really enjoyed, but overall I was disappointed. The author sets out to help young people see and understand that Evolution (capital E) is not a fact, but a scientific theory that has been sold as fact. The first section of the book was a little confusing and left me with a lot of questions. I thoroughly enjoyed the middle of the book (Parts 2-4). Here the author peeled back some of the intricacies of God's creation and showed how animals and humans could not possibly have evolved from a single cell. I enjoyed reading and learning so much about God's amazing design. Part 5 left me disappointed however as the author told his readers to search out the interpretations of Scripture that they would believe in. Maybe I misunderstood his words, but it seemed to me that he was allowing for different interpretations of the Bible to be true. God's Word has ONE interpretation, His original intent. We are to study to find His interpretation.

Positives: As I stated earlier, I enjoyed the sections where the author scientifically portrayed the truth of creation. He spoke of how many different things in creation depend on each other to live, he told of the specialties of different animals that would not have survived millions of years to evolve to their current day state. He took many of the arguments of Evolutionists and showed how their arguments actually prove creation.

Negatives: The last section of the book is called "The Book that Didn't Just Happen" and he speaks of how we can trust the Bible. In my opinion this section (even though it was poorly written) should be at the beginning of the book. The truth of creation begins with God's Word, not scientific evidence. Yes, science supports what we read in the Bible, but no matter what science may "appear" to prove, we trust and believe in God's Word. The author also presented several views on creation and how long it took God to create the world. However, he didn't adequately dissect these theories and compare and contrast them with Scripture. He simply led our young readers to believe that they could study and come up with their own interpretation.

Talking Points: Your child has undoubtedly come into contact in some way, shape or form with the ideas of Evolution. As parents it is our job to continually point them to the truth of the Scriptures for what we believe. New "scientific evidence" is constantly brought forth to prove Evolution. We must train our kids to think biblically first. God's Word is true because God IS truth, He cannot lie. Therefore, when He says he created the world in 6 days, that is what we believe. This book is written for older children, probably 11-15 year olds and has some interesting and helpful parts. It may be interesting for you to allow your child to read it and see what their reactions are. Then you can have a great discussion on discernment!
I have provided some links to answer questions about an old earth or a young earth, and a worldwide flood that may be helpful. The entire website is a wonderful resource, but first and foremost get out your Bible and read Genesis 1-9 and see what God has to say about HIS creation.

Age Level: 11-15 year olds

I received this book free from the publisher through the 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 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, August 29, 2011

God Gave Us You by Lisa Tawn Bergren

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

Lisa Tawn Bergren has written several "God Gave Us...." books and this is probably my favorite. Our curious young cub once again has questions for her Mama and Mama bear patiently and honestly answers each question, with a singular focus that "God gave us you."

Positives: I just love the simple text of this story. The cub keeps asking questions about herself and Mama keeps directing her back to the Heavenly Father who created her and gave her a family. This book would also be great for a family that is anticipating the addition of a new sibling. The illustrations are quite fun as well.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: This story provides an excellent opportunity for you to reassure your child of your love for them, God's love for them, and His perfect plan for their life. Psalm 115:3 tells us that our God does whatever He pleases. Psalm 135 reiterates this fact of God's sovereign control over the whole earth. With knowledge and understanding of God's sovereignty your child can rejoice in the knowledge that God placed them in this world in the exact time and place that He chose and with the parents, siblings and family members that He chose. What a comfort these Scriptures can give your family.

Age Level: 0-3 years

I received this book for free fromWaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Freckle Juice by Judy Blume

Recommendation: Recommended

Judy Blume has been writing award winning children's books for many years and Freckle Juice has been a favorite of grade school children for over 30 years (Yes, I know from personal experience!).

Andrew Marcus wants freckles. He thinks that if he had freckles, his mother would not notice if he was dirty and then he wouldn't have to wash. His classmate Sharon takes advantage of this knowledge and sells Andrew the recipe for freckle juice which she says is certain to give him freckles.

Positives: It's a cute, funny story that young boys may enjoy. Has some good opportunities for conversations with your child.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: There are several opportunities to have gospel-centered conversations with your child through this story. First, Andrew is not happy with how God made him. We ALL struggle with this one from time to time, right? Be sure that your child understands that they are perfectly created by God (Psalm 139). I would certainly also address the issue of wisdom and friendships. Andrew didn't trust Sharon, yet he desired freckles so badly that he listened to her. Proverbs 6-8 address seeking wisdom and avoiding deception. Help your child learn which friends to listen to. Help them to learn discernment as they interact with their friends, to carefully listen and evaluate their friends words and actions. Along with this, teach them that deceiving their friends is wrong. Deception is a sin and they need to seek to be truth-tellers in their own words and actions.

Age Level: 6-8 years old. This was assigned summer reading for my son before entering 3rd grade. My 1st grader enjoyed it much more than he did.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Dragonspell by Donita K. Paul

Recommendation: Recommended

I invite you to join a quest, it will be difficult and at times life threatening. This journey will take you through unknown lands with a group of people whom you hardly know, yet you depend upon them for your very life and evil is lurking around every corner. Such is the story of young Kale, a slave girl with a gift who is sent away from her home to serve Paladin, whatever the cost.

In this wonderful allegory you will see the truths of Scripture tightly woven into the story of Kale and her friends. Kale learns about serving Wulder and his son Paladin. She learns to use her gifts in their service and she learns some wonderful truths about the Body of Christ - the need we have for help from those around us.

Positives: A well-written adventure that will  appeal to a wide age range of  kids. I liked that Kale's journey was a difficult one and that she honestly shared her fears, doubts and struggles with the reader. There were times when she wanted to quit, to return to her former life as a slave girl. She was at times ashamed of how little she knew, yet was always hungry to learn more. These things in particular drew me to her character and can be great teaching tools as kids read the story. I loved the word pictures of biblical grace that came through as well.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: I am only going to highlight a few of the things you could talk with your child about as the story is full of conversation starters! As I shared earlier I loved the vulnerability of Kale's character and her earnest desire to grow in wisdom and learn.  II Timothy 2:15 tells us to study, to be a worker, Proverbs is full of instructions to strive after and desire wisdom and to be a hard worker. Kale was a great example of these things and our kids need to learn to "do all for the glory of  God." ( I Cor. 10:31). You could also have a conversation about using the gifts God has given each believer. (Eph. 4, I Cor. 12). I also loved the relationships developed within the questing group and how it reflected the church - the Body of Christ. You really cannot have a conversation about giftedness without talking about the church because gifts are given for the edification of the church. Children need to understand the importance of the church. The relationships there are to be as a family. Eph. 4-5 paint a wonderful picture of how the Body of Christ is to function.

Age Level: 7-10 years old

I received this book for free fromWaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

There's No Place Like Holmes by Jason Lethcoe

Recommendation: Recommended

Young Griffin Sharpe has been sent to live with his uncle in London for the summer  - an uncle he has never met. While he is very nervous, he is hopeful when he discovers his uncle is a detective. Griffin has a very keen eye for detail and enjoys mystery and adventure, he hopes that his uncle will finally be someone who understands him. As it turns out his uncle is not fond of children at all. His uncle is also a bitter and unkind man who directs much of his bitterness towards his neighbor, another detective, the great Sherlock Holmes.
As the story unfolds, a mystery is thrown right into Griffin’s lap. While working together to solve the mystery Griffin and his uncle learn about relationships and forgiveness.
Positives: It was a fun and exciting story. I enjoyed how the author brought out the importance of patience, forgiveness and mercy in relationships.
Negatives: I w as unsure of the nature of Griffin’s relationship with God. Several times during the story he prayed, however it did not seem that he had an ongoing relationship of dependence on God and His Word.
Talking Points: Griffin’s Uncle Rupert struggled with bitterness. You can see the effects this had on his life. You can teach your children how the sin of bitterness can affect so many areas of their life and steal their joy away. Ephesians 4: 31-32 tells us that we are to put away all bitterness (and wrath, anger, clamor and slander), and we are to be kind and forgiving toward others. Teach your children that these heart attitudes are sinful and that only Jesus can change a bitter heart.
Age Level: Ages 7-10
I received this book free from the publisher through the 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 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Jewel of the Sea Cruise by Susan Koman

Recommendation: Recommended

This is one of the Magic Attic Club Series, where a group of friends enjoys various adventures by visiting neighbor Ellie Goodwin’s attic. There, a steamer trunk filled with a variety of outfits from different eras and locations awaits them. They have only to choose an outfit, put it on, and look into the full-length mirror in order to find themselves in another time and place. Each experience helps the girls (collectively or individually) to approach whatever real-life situation they are facing with a fresh perspective.

Megan, Heather, Keisha, Alison, and Rose find themselves on a luxurious cruise liner in the company of their private academy peers close to Jamaica. There are some very friendly girls whom they enjoy, but there is also one who is especially unfriendly and rude. They find out that although Ashley is privileged with royalty, she is lonely and forgotten. The Magic Attic Club plans a surprise birthday party for Ashley, changing the girl’s attitude and giving her the love and acceptance that she craves.

Positives: The way the girls reach out to Ashley despite her unsavory behavior shows forgiveness and compassion.  They work together and get others involved in planning the party, and are truly excited for Ashley to receive a special celebration in her honor. This unselfish act serves as an example of putting another person before oneself.

Negatives: There is no context of God as a guiding factor.

Talking points: There are many opportunities to discuss appropriate ways of interacting with friends (I pointed out an instance of gossip to my daughter while reading the book with her). As mentioned above, the selfless principle of putting someone else’s needs above one’s own (Phil 2:3-4) is clearly shown. There are also times that one of the girls has concern over Ashley’s unkind words to another student, displaying compassion. This can be discussed in regards to loving one another.

Although these books are not Christian in nature, the characters generally make good decisions that are compassionate and kind. The various experiences in this series are fun and adventurous. My daughter has very much enjoyed them and looks forward to starting the next book as soon as one is completed.

Age Level: 7 and up