Monday, February 28, 2011

Polar Bear, Polar Bear What Do You Hear by Eric Carle and Bill Martin Jr.

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

Another best-seller from Eric Carle, this book will keep your child enthralled. From it's simple rhythmic text to the vilbrant illustrations this is one you will read over and over and over again!

Positives: My children and I have enjoyed every Eric Carle book we can get our hands on and this one is no different! Your child will soon be "reading" this book to himself - no matter what age they are. The text is easy to memorize and kids love repetition - this allows them to play an active part in the story. It also exposes them to different words for the animal sounds, expanding their vocabulary and imagination. If they don't know what an animal sounds like they will make up a noise! You may be amazed by what they come up with!

Negatives: None

Talking Points: Once again we turn to Genesis 1 and the account of creation. Understanding God as the Almighty Creator is foundational to a young child's spiritual growth. Help them explore and understand how God not only made all the animals look differently, He made them all with unique sounds! You can also talk about our own ears and what we are to listen to: the Word of God (Rom. 10:17), and to parents (Prov. 5:1, 23:22) and James 1:19 speaks of being slow to speak and quick to hear, a lesson all of us need to be reminded of often!

Age Level: 0-5

Friday, February 25, 2011

Among The Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Recommendation: Recommended

The first in the Shadow Children series this book introduces us to Luke and his family. Luke is a shadow child, a third child in a time when the government allows only two children per family. Luke has spent his 12 years of life in hiding and now that the woods behind his house are being removed and a housing development is going up he is confined to the upstairs attic all day by himself. One day, after everyone in the new neighborhood has left he sees something in the window of one of the houses, just a quick flash of what appeared to be the face of a child. Taking a huge risk he goes over to the house and meets Jen, another shadow child. They develop a friendship and Luke learns about sacrifice and freedom.

Positives: I liked the way the author handled a difficult subject. When I first heard about this series I thought it might be a bit too intense for my 11 year old, but he has enjoyed the entire series.

Negatives: There is a lot of negative talk about “the government”. It is always spoken of generically, however they are frequently referred to as incompetent and stupid. There is also the fact that Luke disobeys his parents.

Talking Points: I would use the items mentioned above as talking points. What does the Bible say about how we are to respond to authority? Ephesians 6 talks about authority structure in the family and workplace specifically and Romans 13 tells us to submit to the governing authorities (because all authority comes from God). Specifically Romans 13:7 tells us to give respect to whom respect is due. Depending on the maturity of your child, you could also discuss the ideas in the book regarding population control. Make them aware that in other countries the government does make laws regarding family size. How do Christians there respond? In the Bible we have the story of baby Moses (Ex. 2) and how Pharaoh had decreed all baby boys to be killed, yet Moses was hidden and kept alive. Of course there is a difference in that story where the children were to be killed after they were born, unlike the unlawful children in this novel. Again, discuss the role of government as God-given authority.

Age Level: 10 and up

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Velveteen Bible

Recommendation: Recommended

This is a new children's Bible being published and when I came across it I thought I'd take a look at it. It is an actual Bible (NKJV), not a Bible story book or a picture Bible, but there were some things I liked about it and some things I disliked.

Positives: A great big thumbs up for the size of this Bible. My 5 year old immediately claimed this as her new Bible for 2 main reasons: The small, easy to carry size and the coverbox it comes in. The size makes it easy for her to bring to church and carry around. Secondly, the box cover helps keep it protected and gives it a nice "home". I also liked that it came with a plan for reading through the Bible in a year at the back of the book. What a great reminder to parents to fill their child's mind with God's Word on a daily basis. Even if you don't follow that plan, have a plan of your own for regular Bible reading with your children.

Negatives: Can I really say anything negative about a Bible?! Well, this particular Bible comes with a soft rabbit on the front (velveteen) and 12 colorful illustrations inside. I do not care for either of these elements. The picture of a bunny on the front of a Bible does not thrill me and I don't particularly care for the similar illustrations inside. The pictures do not give a Bible story scene, they are simply meant to be colorful illustrations with a Bible verse next to them.

Talking Points: Deuteronomy 6:4-9 - "Hear,  O Israel, The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates... (ESV)

Age Level: 0-6

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

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Sweetest Fig by Chris Van Allsburg

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

Written by the author of such famous children’s books as The Polar Express and Jumanji this simple story is a delight.

One day Monsieur Bibot, the cold-hearted dentist find an old lady in front of his office who has a toothache. Bibot reluctantly helps her out only to find out that she cannot pay him in francs, but gives him two figs. She claims that they are special figs, with the ability to make your dreams come true. He eats the first fig that night and finds that his dream does come true! Not wanting to waste the second fig he takes some time and learns to dream that he is the richest man in the world. Finally the day arrives to eat the second fig. The problem is, his dog gets to it first and the next morning Monsieur Bibot awakens to find his dog's dream has come true!

Positives: Simple and fun with great illustrations and perhaps a little life-lesson to be learned!

Negatives: None

Talking Points: I think this story lends itself to discussion from Matt. 7:12 and what is often referred to as "the golden rule." Monsieur Bibot certainly did not treat others as he would like to be treated and in the end it got him in a bit of a pickle. Eph. 4:32 tells us that we are to be kind to others and Phil. 2 speaks of always looking out for the interests of others.  Also James 1:27 speaks of taking care of widows which Monsieur Bibot was not too happy to do when the old woman came to him with a toothache.

Age Level: 3-8 years old

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Prince's Poison Cup DVD by R.C. Sproul

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

R.C. Sproul narrates this beautifully done DVD that uses the illustrations from his book along with a musical underscore that draws children into the story. While I still prefer a book to a DVD, this would be an excellent choice for entertaining and educating your child for a few minutes!

In the setting of a grandfather telling a story to his granddaughter, The Prince’s Poison Cup tells the story of a prince who is willing to drink poison from the fountain in order to restore the hearts of the people of the Kingdom to his father, the King. The allegorical language is easy for a child to understand.

Positives: This DVD is of top-notch quality. The narration, illustrations and music are well-balanced to tell this heart-touching story. As a bonus on the DVD, R.C. Sproul also explains the different parts of the allegory and what they stand for from Scripture. This is a great tool for parents to make sure their child grasps the true meaning of the story. I also loved that it was just over 12 minutes long. A great length for young kids.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: Talk about the different parts of the allegory and what they stand for. The Fountain that they were not to drink from is the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil from Gen. 2. The cup is in reference to Christ’s prayer in Luke 22:42 when He asks the Father to “remove this cup from me,” the cup of God’s wrath. There are many more, use the bonus material from the author as well.

Age Level: 3-9

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Izzy's Popstar Plan by Alex Marestaing

Recommendation: Recommended

This book is advertised as "a daily devo that reads like a novel!" Read it as a novel, not a daily devotional.

Young Izzy has always dreamed of being a pop star and she has made a plan of how she will accomplish this goal. This story takes you on her personal journey in pursuing that dream. It's written as a series of blog posts and she shares her ups and downs - spiritual and emotional along the way.

Positives: A cute little story for your tween girl. I enjoyed the honesty with which Izzy shared her trials. Young girls will relate to some of the things she deals with. She is honest in her spiritual struggles as well. I appreciated the use of Scripture throughout.

Negatives: I would never advise anyone to use this as a daily devotional. Most days Izzy includes a verse in her blog post but I don't have any idea how this is supposed to help a young girl study the Word of God and know her God better. Also, Izzy talks often about God, but Jesus is only referenced once or twice in the entire story.

Talking Points: Take the opportunity to talk with your daughter about her own life. Talk about the challenges that being a tween and teen often present. Reassure them that there are things that will never change - like God (Ps. 90:2)  and His Word. (Is. 40:7-8, I Peter 1:24).

Age Level: 11-15 year old girls

 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

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Kirby the Disgruntled Tree by Lori Wick

Recommendation:  Recommended

Although beautiful and admired each autumn, Kirby the maple tree becomes discontent with his location in the grove. He decides to move out, and is somewhat surprised to find that he can actually take steps forward. However, he can only move forward, not sideways or backward, so eventually he is stuck. Kirby is very disappointed with this new location, as he can see what he perceives to be the perfect spot ahead of him, but it is unattainable. He is filled with sadness and regret until he finally looks behind him, realizing the beauty of his position in a busy and happy yard.

Positives: Kirby’s emotions, thoughts and journey provide many opportunities for us to relate real-life situations and the issue of being content. Like Kirby, we often see what we’re missing instead of being grateful for what we do have.

Negatives: For a younger child or one with a shorter attention span, the detailed description of Kirby’s inner turmoil may result in a loss of interest, as it slows down the story. However, for an older child or one who is more capable of giving attention to details, this may be very helpful. The way that Kirby’s emotions are described is very realistic.

Talking Points: At the conclusion of the book, Phil. 4:12-13 is quoted, as well as a note to parents from the author about thankfulness and contentment. Although the reason for Kirby’s discontentment is his location, there are numerous other situations that could benefit from this type of discussion. Some that come to mind are the way that God has made each one of us (our appearance, gifts/talents, personality, etc.), participation in various activities (sports, music, even school), and even a person’s role in their God-given family. Each of these areas has the potential for one to be discontent with it and to desire that things are different than they are. Psalm 119:73 speaks to the sovereignty of God as our Maker.  Ultimately, our discontent with anything in life goes back to our relationship with God. If we trust Him to be who He says He is, than we know that He alone can and does determine how He makes us and what He gives or allows in our lives. His ways and thoughts are higher than ours (Isa. 55:8-9). So when we are tempted to be discontent and grumble about anything (Phil. 2:14), it is an opportunity to recognize that there is a heart issue that needs to be dealt with – sin to be confessed, repentance made, and forgiveness received (1 John 1:9). “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Tim. 6:6) God’s purposes are greater than ours, and He chooses how He will accomplish His will through and in us (Eph. 2:10).

Age Level: 6 and up

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Moo, Baa, La La La by Sandra Boynton

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

Another delightful board book from Sandra Boynton! Children learn the sounds animals make in a clever little rhyme.

Positives: Simple language and fun illustrations make this book attractive to toddlers. I love the ending where she gives her young readers the opportunity to respond! I also love the interaction this book invites between parent and child.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: What an amazing Creator God is! So imaginative! Talk to your child about the wonders of creation. How did God come up with so many different animals? And how did he decide what sounds they would make? Use Genesis 1 as a basis for continued conversation.

Age Level: 0-4

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Anne Of Green Gables adapted by M.C. Helldorfer

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

I found this little treasure at my local library and couldn’t wait to read it to my 5 year old daughter. This adaptation is a great introduction to the literary world of Anne of Green Gables which has delighted girls young and old for years.

Positives: The simplified and shortened storyline introduced us to the delightful character of Anne and gave us a glimpse of some of the escapades and trouble that always seem to find Anne. The illustrations are beautiful and enhance the story well.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: You could easily talk about adoption with your child. The beginning of the book talks about Anne’s adoption and the end speaks of the great love this unusual little family had for each other. Use this opportunity to talk about how believers are to care for widows and orphans (James 1:27). Also discuss how we as believers are adopted into God’s family as his sons and daughters. Some lessons we can learn from Anne – self-control (Gal. 5:22-23) and forgiveness (Eph. 4:32).

Age Level: 3-8

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Does A Kangaroo Have A Mother Too? By Eric Carle

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

By one of my favorite authors, Eric Carle, this delightful picture book will please the young audience it is intended for.

Positives: Eric Carle is the master of the simple question and answer books he has made popular. Once again, we learn about animals and families through the simple text and the colorful and unique illustrations.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: In your Bible turn to Genesis 1 and learn about the creation of animals. Just like humans, they are to be fruitful and multiply according to their kind. Just like humans, most animals care for their young and teach them how to survive in their natural habitat. Also talk about the differences between humans and animals. Genesis 2 tells us that God gave man dominion over the animals. Also, humans are the only creation to be made in God’s image.

Age Level: 0-5

Friday, February 4, 2011

Flight of Shadows by Sigmund Brouwer

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

I would not consider this novel children’s literature. I would recommend it for a mature high school age student though. Since my oldest is only 11, I haven’t taken the opportunity to review much literature above his level, so I thought I would give this book a try as several friends have recommended this author.

In this fast-paced futuristic novel Sigmund Brouwer gives us a glimpse of a society left to its extremes. Moral questions abound as we learn of Caitlyn, a young woman whose DNA was manipulated and she is now being pursued by government and scientists alike for the unique qualities her genetic code possesses. As she unravels the secrets of her past she must decide who she can and cannot trust and she must choose between freedom and sacrifice.

Positives: I enjoyed the character development in this novel. I felt like I knew the main characters very well and yet was always a little surprised by some aspects. The storyline was very intriguing and captivated my imagination and attention. This book was like a puzzle – piece by piece it came together.

Negatives: I think it would have been beneficial for me to have read the prequel Broken Angel to understand a few parts of the story better.

Talking Points: While there are many topics to address from this novel, I will only take the time to write about one of them today. As I said earlier, this is not children’s literature. The issues to be discussed from this book are difficult topics and parents should be sure their child is mature enough to handle these issues. That being said, our young adults should be equipped to find biblical answers to the moral dilemmas they will face. The issue of the sanctity of human life is addressed. This includes things such as abortion, murder, stem cell research, genetic engineering and invitro fertilization (to name a few).  I would use Genesis 1-3 and Psalm 139 in these discussions. For excellent online resources check HERE, HERE and HERE

Age Level: 16 and up

I received a copy of this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing group for this review.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Of Thee I Sing by Barack Obama

Recommendation: Recommended

In this book, written as a letter to his daughters, Obama uses the lives of some famous Americans as examples we are to follow. He urges his daughters, and all children, to be brave like Jackie Robinson, to be strong like Helen Keller, to be kind like Jane Addams, and to be inspiring like Cesar Chavez.

Positives: I enjoyed the short biographical information given for each person, particularly at the end of the book, and that some of the people chosen were new to me.

Negatives: The format of the letter confused me. On some pages he was telling his daughters they already possessed the different qualities he was writing of rather than encouraging them grow in these areas.

Talking Points: Find Biblical characters that reflect these and other character traits that you want to instill in your child. The bravery of Esther, Joseph and Joshua, the wisdom of Solomon, the kindness of Ruth, the faith of Abraham and Moses. Read Hebrews 11 with your child. One of the questions asked is “Have I told you that you are part of a family?” Teach your child about the importance of the body of Christ – the church. As believers we are part of the family of God – his adopted sons and daughters.  Read I Cor. 12 and Eph. 4

Age Level: 3-7

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Charlatan's Boy by Jonathan Rogers

Recommendation: Recommended

For as long as he can remember Grady has been traveling with Floyd and participating in his act as the "Wild Man of the Feechiefen Swamp." While Floyd isn't his father, and has never acted particularly fatherly, it is the closest thing to family Grady has ever known. And his greatest joy has always been performing as a feechie. But no one believes in feechies anymore...So Floyd and Grady must make them believe. They create their own feechie scare and  Floyd is sure they will make it rich.

Positives: I enjoyed the emotions this book evoked. There were parts that made me laugh out loud and there were times when I was truly saddened by the predicament the boy found himself in. The ending of the story was great! Don't give up - keep reading til the end!

Negatives: The middle part of the book got a little long. While Floyd and Grady were trying to find new acts the storyline dragged a little.

Talking Points: Throughout the book Grady often violates his own conscience. He knows that what they are doing is dishonest and he feels badly about it. Talk to your children about their own conscience. God has given us the ability to know right from wrong (Rom. 2:14-15). We violate our conscience by doing something we believe to be wrong, by sinning. Talk about the importance of having a clear conscience (Acts 23:1, 24:16, 2 Cor. 4:2). Then talk about confession and how even when we sin, confession gives us a clean conscience once again( I John 1:9). I would also talk with your child about longing for heaven. Grady always longed for one thing, to once again play the part of the He-feechie. His greatest joy came from this time in his life and with a singular focus he did whatever necessary to get himself back to that role. In the same way, as believers we should long for heaven. Remember Phil. 3:20 - "Our citizenship is in heaven..." and remind them to "Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth." (Col. 3:2).

Age Level: 10 and up

I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multonomah Publishing Group for this review.