Friday, March 25, 2011

Children's Stories by J.C. Ryle

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

A wonderful resource for families, Sunday School teachers or anyone who works with children. The title may be a bit misleading as these are not stories but actual sermons for children. Ryle does a tremendous job of explaining the Scriptures to children. He earnestly pleads with them to love Jesus and live a life of obedience.

Positives: This book provides an excellent example of teaching children the whole of Scripture - not just parts of it. Ryle does not back down from what some would consider "hard truths" for children to grasp. He patiently provides illustration combined with true concern for their souls.

Negatives: Due to the fact that the stories are over 100 years old some of the language may need explaining.

Talking Points: Use the Scripture references given at the beginning of each story then just follow up with questions the author asks and application points he gives.

Age Level: Best suited for ages 7 and up, however if you want to use it as a family devotional with younger children it would work as well, just may need more explanation.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Panda And Polar Bear by Matthew J. Baek

Recommendation: Recommended

This is a sweet story about two different kinds of bears from different homes who find each other and become friends. Their physical differences are not apparent to both upon their first meeting, and when they are finally revealed, the friendship is not weakened.

Positives: The interaction between the polar bear and panda bear is very characteristic of children who begin as strangers on the playground, and are quickly friends who enjoy each other’s company. The polar bear is even willing to try eating bamboo, something the panda bear enjoys, of course. There is compassion and teamwork involved in this story.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: Although there is no mention of God in this book, the values are pure and loving, and can easily be used to point a child to how God wants us to likewise “love our neighbor.” (Matthew 19:19) This is especially demonstrated when the panda bear tries to think of a way to help his homesick friend. Also, the principle of caring more about who a person is inside rather than judging one’s outward appearance can be discussed as the polar bear’s mud is washed off and it is apparent that he is not like the panda bear. (1 Samuel 16:7)

Age Level: 4-7

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Dragon And The Turtle by Donita Paul & Evangeline Denmark

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

In this colorful story we are introduced to Padraig the dragon and Roger the turtle and an unusual friendship is formed. Poor Roger has been playing and his wild imagination got the better of him and he is lost. Fortunately he comes across Padraig who turns out to be a terrific friend and helper. Padraig patiently and relentlessly helps Roger find his home. In the end he is reward with some delicious Chocolate Chip Snappers and a wonderful new friend.

Positives: The kindness and patience Padraig displayed to Roger was great. I also liked the way their friendship was formed - over common interests and differences. The use of the 5 senses also added a nice touch. I was glad to see a mini Bible lesson on friendship at the end of the book with a verse and questions to follow up with for my kids.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: This story made me think of several different Bible passages. Certainly the passages in Proverbs that deal with friendship such  as the one the authors use in Proverbs 17:17, but also the story of the Good Samaritan from Luke 10.  Padraig helped a complete stranger and what a blessing he received - a new friend! He didn't care that this stranger was a turtle, he was simply willing to help him.  Finally, Padraig also exhibited Christ-like behavior found in Philippians 2:3 - "Do nothing from selfishishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves." Padraig did not consider his own hunger, only the need of Roger to find his home. For younger children in particular, you could also talk about the 5 senses used in the story and how God has magnificently created us.

Age Level: 3-7 years of age

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

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Curse Of The Spider King by Wayne Thomas Batson & Christopher Hopper

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

These Christian authors paint a vivid and imaginative picture of the two worlds of Earth and Allyra existing simultaneously, with a connection that can and has changed the condition of the Elven world. Seven teenagers who have been raised as humans are actually Elf lords, who are approaching the Age of Reckoning, when their special powers will manifest themselves. Each of the seven lords is retrieved and returned to Allyra by Elf Sentinels, disguised as teachers and other community members, with the mission of identifying and delivering the lords.

Each of the Elf lords is a unique seventh grader who discovers his or her true identity in a dramatic way. From a musical prodigy to an average student, a girl with blue skin and a football star, this diverse group finds their commonality in an ancient world that desperately needs their help in order to preserve the Elf race. Their special powers have surfaced and they face the task ahead with many uncertainties.

This is not normally the type of book I would choose to read, but I could not put it down and was so glad that we already had a copy of Book Two!

Positives: The character development of each seventh grader in their earthly home is very interesting and realistic. They are very much kids that can be related to, with their various interests and relationships with peers and parents. There is an aspect of a larger purpose behind all of the events, a sense of destiny, much like being part of the body of Christ.

Negatives: There is no obvious gospel message, either in this book or Book Two (Venom and Song)of the series, although Ellos (God) is certainly viewed as a sovereign being with whom one can have a relationship, and the concept of being healed and changed is somewhat addressed (especially in the latter book of the series). Additionally, there are some violent details due to the struggle between good and evil that require a discerning approach.

Talking Points: There are many excellent opportunities for speaking with your child about the different characters, their strengths and weaknesses, perceptions of themselves and those around them, and how reality does not always match what is in our hearts and minds. There is also the concept of being part of a purpose that extends beyond our own simple lives, the willingness and need at times to sacrifice our own desires for the good of others. Of course, there is the obvious and overarching backdrop of the battle between good and evil, and how the evil side (ruled by the Spider King) seeks to destroy that which is good and right with many tactics and strategies.

These are all great lead-ins to discussing about what it means to be part of the Kingdom of God, how He has gifted each of us in His intentional way and with the purpose of these gifts being used for His glory and the good of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12). Also, the numerous places in Scripture that speak of the fear of the Lord being the beginning of wisdom can be applied to having an eternal and spiritual mindset (Col. 3:2). Seen more dramatically in Venom and Song, the cosmic and spiritual battle we face as believers against the limited but real power that Satan has in this world is another truth that our children need to be aware of (Eph. 2:2). Moreover, teaching them that in Christ we have the power to overcome (1 Cor. 15: 56-58) will give them hope.

One of my favorite facets in these book is the weapon with which one can destroy a Wisp (a shape-shifter): the spoken words of Ellos (the Word of God). This shows that God’s Word is living and active and truly powerful (Hebrews 4: 12-13). There are many poetic ways in which this reveals truth about Truth – just one of which is the fact that when this is done, the Wisp (disguised as someone it has killed) is forced to come out of its disguise (a lie) and is clearly seen for what it really is. What an accurate way to view the power of the Word against the power of sin, and how deceptive sin is.

Age Level: 10-14 years old

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Thank You God, For Mommy by Amy Parker

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

This adorable board book reminds us all to be thankful for our Mommy and all the things she does for us. The short rhymes convey the sweet messages of thanks very nicely.

Positives: The illustrations are wonderful and I was glad that a message of thanks was included regarding Mommy's trust and faith in God, and how she has obviously passed that on to her children.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: Every line of this book is a prayer of thankfulness to God who gives all things - including wonderful Mom's! We often have to work hard at thankfulness in our home and we often look to the Old Testament during times of complaining and selfishness. As we read about the Israelites we often learn that they built altars to remind them of God's goodness. For example, in Joshua 4 after they had crossed the Jordan river, they built an altar as a reminder of what God had done for them - a reminder to be thankful for the goodness of God. What reminders do your children have of God's goodness to your family? Maybe have your child write (with your help if needed) their own prayer of thanksgiving for mom or dad or grandma or grandpa. Remind them that God, in his goodness, has placed loving people in their lives and to Him belongs the praise!

Age Level: 2-6 years old

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.”

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Freckleface Strawberry by Julianne Moore

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

This book was suggested to me months ago (Thanks Angela!) and I was finally able to track it down.

Freckleface Strawberry is just like any other girl- in that she is a unique human being! However she has freckles, lots and lots of freckles, that she despises. When all her efforts to make them go away are fruitless, she decides to cover them up. Eventually she realizes that her friends like her for who she is and that like her freckles, her friends are numerous.

Positives: This book addresses issues deeper than just red-hair and freckles - being content with the way God made you. In our culture where girls in particular are being bombarded with messages regarding their appearance, this book offers a great approach to the topic.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: Using Psalm 139 as a starting point, talk to your child about how they are "fearfully  and wonderfully made." God determined before they were born what they were to look like, and He doesn't make any mistakes! Also teach them to not make fun of others because of any perceived differences. We are all unique creations.

Age Level: 3-7

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Demon's Bluff by Jerry B. Jenkins

Recommendation: Recommended

This fictitious novel, the second book  in the Renegade Spirit series, paints a picture of what a spiritual battle may look like. Humans, angels and demons are all a part of this picture as we see how easily we can be deceived, how weak our faith can be and the overwhelming power and mercy of God.

Positives: I loved the emphasis on prayer. Throughout most of the book, it is emphasized that prayer is a key component to any believer’s victory in a spiritual battle. I also liked seeing the very real struggle of some of the characters with their faith, their moments of weakness and how God ultimately revealed the true nature of their faith.

Negatives: I had a hard time understanding what was happening at first. A lot of characters were brought into the story and it wasn’t clear how they all fit together. It took me awhile to understand what was going on, and still, not all of my questions were answered. I guess I should have read the first book in the series!

Talking Points: The verses that kept running through my head as I was reading this were from Eph. 6. At the end of this letter Paul writes, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against … the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (v. 12).  Then in verse 18 he writes, “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints…” Teaching our kids to pray is the best weapon we can give them. Don’t teach them independence, but dependence on the Spirit of God, knowing that they can never do anything in their own strength. Dependence is evident through a life of prayer.

Age Level: 14 and up

Friday, March 4, 2011

A is for Adam - The Gospel from Genesis by Ken & Mally Ham

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

Can you believe the entire message of the Gospel can be found in the book of Genesis? This children's book will take you from A to Z all the while explaining to your child God's plan of salvation - starting with creation. You and your child will love the rhymes, the colorful illustrations and the quirky little dodo bird who adds his own comments.

Positives: A tremendous resource for families or anyone who works with young children! The first pages of the book tell you how to use the different sections of the book. There is a mini commentary after the story that further explains the gospel message and gives the Scriptures that the book is based on. It also gives ideas for activities for your child to further reinforce the concepts from Scripture. The end of the book gives black and white replicas of the pictures in the book that can be used for coloring pages.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: This book makes it easy for you by providing Scriptures at the back of the book that correspond with each  letter page. Emphasize that God had a plan from the beginning to send His Son as a sacrifice and we can know that just from the book of Genesis.

Age Level: 2-9

For any readers in the Middlefield, Ohio area I will be reading this book at the Sparrow Christian Bookstore ( 14962 State Street), for a parent/child reading time on Tuesday, March 8 at 10:00am. Please joins us!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Prairie Alphabet by Jo Bannatyne-Cugnet

Recommendation: Recommended

I saw this book at my local library yesterday. I impulsively grabbed it off the shelf and brought it home. I had only one thing in mind when I saw it - Kansas. We recently moved away from Kansas (although I would have to say we didn't live in the prairielands) and just the title of the book made me think of all my friends there.  So, this one is for you dear friends!

An agriculatural journey from A to Z this book was fun and educational. For those familiar with farming and agriculture it will be a fun reminder of life on the prairie. For those unfamiliar, the book does a great job of giving you a glimpse of what life on the prairie may be like.

Positives: I enjoyed the use of alliteration on each page. At the end of the book the author gives a list of items to be found in each illustration that correspond with the letter on that page. A great teaching tool! Also, at the end of the book the author gives a brief, but more in-depth explanation that corresponds with each letter as well. This makes it a great book for the whole family as it can appeal to a wider age group.

Negatives: Some of the words that children are supposed to find on each page will be difficult for young children as they are unfamiliar or big words.

Talking Points: Talk with  your children about farming. How farmers work hard to produce food for all of us. Read Gen. 3 and talk about how sin has affected the world we live in. Gen. 3:17-19 tells us that because of sin we have to toil and labor and sweat to produce food. Before sin entered the world Adam and Eve ate without working for their food. Then read James 5:17 and see what we can learn from the farmer - patience! And what are we to be patient for? The coming of the Lord- the end of the curse! Strenghen your hearts friends and be thankful!

Age Level: 3-9