Monday, May 30, 2011

Five Alive Christian Heroes by Peggy Wilbur and Marianne Hering

Recommendation: Recommended

This set of 5 Rocket Readers are great for your early reader. They give a brief glimpse into the lives of five Christian Heroes - Gladys Aylward, David Livingstone, Samuel Morris, George Mueller and Corrie ten Boom.

Positives: A short glimpse into the lives of these believers for your early reader. Each book gives a short introduction to the characters for the parent. There is also a brief lesson at the end of the book - a Spiritual Building Block with a Scripture reference to build on the story.

Negatives: Because these stories are written for early readers a lot of explanation is needed to help your child understand who these people are and what they have done to be considered Christian heroes.

Talking Points: Each of these books focuses on one aspect of our spiritual lives - peace, trust, faith and thankfulness. Shortened Scriptures are given at the end of the book. I would also take the time and do some extra research on each of these people and tell your child more of their story.

Age Level: 4-5 years old

Friday, May 27, 2011

Augustine of Hippo by Simonetta Carr

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

Another excellent book in the Christian Biographies for Young Readers Series, this book traces the life of Augustine of Hippo, considered by many to be one of the greatest Christian thinkers to ever live.

Positives: I really enjoyed learning of Augustine's early years and his conversion at the age of 33. Although I was familiar with the name, I did not know much of his life story. I also enjoyed reading about is tireless efforts to refute false teachers in his day.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: Augustine always had an acute awareness and sorrow over his sin. He was ashamed of how he had sinned against God, but also learned to be thankful for God's forgiveness and mercy. Teach your children that when they sin it offends a holy God (Ps. 41:4, Ps. 51). Demonstrate to them the joy of forgiveness (I Jn. 1:9, Ps. 51:10-11).

Age Level: 7-12 years old

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco

Recommendation: Recommended

Do you have a child who's afraid of thunderstorms?  In this book a young girl overcomes her fear of thunderstorms with a little help from her Grandmother - and a family recipe for Thunder Cake. Hurry, we must gather the ingredients and get the cake in the oven before the storm is over or it won't be a real Thunder Cake!

Positives: I enjoyed the fact that her Grandmother took the time to help her overcome her fear. There is a recipe for Thunder Cake at the end of the book that my daughter and I will be trying out soon, just for fun! I also loved the Russian look of the illustrations.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: Remind your child of God's omnipotence - that He is the all-powerful God.  Job 38 is a reminder to us of His great power and might - He is in control of every single drop of rain that falls on the earth, and the thunder, lightning, hail and snow that fall as well. God is also our Protector and the one we must trust. Psalm 56:3 has been quoted during many thunderstorms in our home.

Age Level: 2-8 years old

Monday, May 23, 2011

February Friend by Ron Roy

Recommendation: Highly  Recommended

A anonymous valentine at their class Valentine's Day party gives Mr. Vooray's class an unexpected surprise - a bunny! But who gave it to them? While taking care of it for the weekend, Bradley, Brian, Nate and Lucy notice that the rabbit seems ill and the vet says the only way to save the bunny is to find its owner. Following the clues they find, these four young sleuths race against the clock to save the bunny.

Positives: I liked the care, kindness and respect exhibited by these children, not only toward the bunny but the other people in the story as well.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: Talk to your children about kindness and respect. Genesis 1:26-31 tells us that man has dominion over the animals on the earth, we are to properly take care of them, but more importantly we are to be kind and respectful toward people (Rom. 13:9, Eph. 4:31-32, Luke 10:25-37).

Age Level: 4-8 years old (Reading Level 2.3)

Friday, May 20, 2011

In The Tall, Tall Grass by Denise Fleming

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

Who lives in the tall, tall grass? All kinds of wonderful creatures do and if you watch and listen closely you will see and hear them too!

Positives: Kids will love the rhyme and rhythm in this book as well as the very unique, bold and colorful illustrations. It could also encourage kids to explore their own backyard and see what they find in their own tall, tall grass. This book reminds me a little of one of my favorite authors, Eric Carle, but is also very unique and original in its own right.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: Once again we able to show our children the wonders of the Creator through his magnificent creation. God's creative powers are so evident through the different creatures he created, the different sounds they make, and the different ways they move. We can never tire of the creation story from Genesis 1 and we can learn of God's character through his creation (Rom. 1:19-20).

Age Level: 2-7 years old

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Kingdom's Dawn by Chuck Black

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

In the first book of the Kingdom Series we are introduced to Peyton and his son  Leinad. Peyton has faithfully trained Leinad for many years to be a skillful swordsman. Leinad has learned the skill well, but has often questioned in his own heart and mind the reasons for this training. As the story unfolds the reasons become clear. Leinad has been chosen by the King to helpl save his Kingdom or die trying.

Positives: Action and adventure are found with every turn of the page. The biblical allegories are very apparent to young readers with some knowledge of the Bible. The story helps bring Scriptural truths alive. As always, Mr. Black has included a very helpful discussion guide complete with Biblical references to aid you in your discussion with your children.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: Test their knowledge of the Old Testament stories and characters represented throughout the book. Use the discussion guide to help your children see all the Biblical details woven into the story and use the Scriptures that accompany each question to further train them in the mastery of the Sword.

Age Level: 8 years old and up

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Two Bad Ants by Chris Van Allsburg

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

An ant discovers a marvelous  and tasty crystal and brings it to the queen. She is delighted and must have more. So, the ants head out on a long and treacherous journey to bring back more of the crystals. Upon getting to their destination, two of the ants decide not to return to the ant colony. However after a day of harrowing adventure they decide there is no place like home.

Positives: A very imaginative story. Your kids will love how the ants see and describe our world. I also liked the lesson on choices and consequences.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: What happens when we decide what is best? Talk to your kids about making wise choices and the consequences we face with any decision we make. You can also talk about second chances. Just like the ants were given a second chance and made the right decisions we too can make amends for wrong decisions we have made. Use the story of David and Bathsheba from II Sam. 11-12 to teach your children that God forgives them for sin, for wrong choices they have made and gives them another chance.

Age Level: 2-7 years of age

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

January Joker by Ron Roy

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

My middle son was a big fan of Ron Roy's A to Z Mysteries so I was excited to see this new series that he came out with. So far my 5 year old and I have read 2.5 of these books in 2 days - so I'd say she's hooked!

Roy uses the younger siblings of the characters from his A to Z Mysteries for these books and they are quite fun to read. In  this story, twins Bradley and Brian and their friends Nate and Lucy find clues that seem to lead them to believe that aliens have landed in their neighborhood.  Through a lot of humor they are able to solve the mystery together.

Positives: Short and simple chapters helped keep the story going. Kids love a good and funny mystery and this story didn't disappoint.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: These kids had fun with a good joke! Does your family enjoy a good laugh from time to time? I sure hope so! If your child wonders about aliens, take them to Scripture and show them that God created our universe (Gen. 1) and humans with a very specific purpose in mind - to reveal his glory to and through us. God had a plan for the redemption of mankind. There is no biblical evidence to support any other life forms! Here is an excellent online resource as well

Age Level: 4-8 years old (Reading Level 1.8)

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Lightlings by R.C. Sproul

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

Once again, grandfather R.C. Sproul has written an amazing story of redemption that children will ask to read again and again.

The Lightlings are fairy-like creatures who must learn the lessons of light and darkness once they disobey their King. The allegory is rich with Biblical themes delicately woven with fantasy to create a beautiful and timeless story.

Positives: I loved how a child's question about being afraid of the dark was answered in a Biblical way. We must always seek to answer questions as the Bible would. The parents and grandparents of young Charlie recognized a teaching moment and took full advantage of it. The illustrations or beautiful and enhance the story tremendously.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: As usual, Sproul provides an excellent "study guide" to the story complete with questions and Scripture passages to look up and talk about with your children. This resource will help your child understand the deeper truths behind the story. As an introduction to the story I might read I John 1:5 and talk about how light represents holiness and darkness sin and see what conclusions your child can draw from the story as you read it together.

Age Level: 2 years old and up

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

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Pitch Black - Color Me Lost by Melody Carlson

Recommendation: Recommended

 Pitch Black is a fitting title for this book. It is a very sad and depressing glimpse into the life of a teenage girl. Morgan's life has not been a bed of roses. Her parents were divorced when she was a young girl, her brother is a drug addict and now her mother is about to get married to a man that Morgan doesn't care for. Then she learns that her close friend Jason has committed suicide.

As we ride an emotional roller coaster with Morgan we hear the voices of thousands of other young men and women who struggle with the very same thoughts and feelings each day.

Positives: I appreciated the honesty and vulnerability with which the author approached the subject of teen suicide.

Negatives: I was disapointed in the lack of a clear gospel message in the story. As the kids struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts they were encouraged not to go through with their own suicides because "death is permanent." While this is true, I wish that the topics of heaven and hell had been more clearly addressed. Yes, death is permanent, but it is not the end. You will face judgment and end up in heaven with your Lord and Savior, or in hell facing eternal torment and punishment.

Talking Points: Talk to your kids about life and death. Make sure they understand the realities of hell, that it is a very real place and those who are not believers will be punished forever in hell. Look at Scriptures like Matthew 5:25-30, Matt. 10:28, Luke 12:5 and Heb. 9:24-28. Teach your kids to be evangelists as well. Sharing the hope and joy that come only through Jesus will be a great tool in helping others.

Age Level: 14 years old and up

I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review 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 Commision's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Departures: Two Rediscovered Stories by Robin Jones Gunn

Recommendation: Recommended

Two short novellas give us a slice of the life of a teenage girl. In the first story Christy Miller joins her family on a vacation to their former home town in Wisconsin. While there her childhood crush, Matthew Kingsley, starts showing a romantic interest in her. Christy begins to think seriously about what she is looking for in a future mate, and she begins to see some of the things that have kept her grandparents together for 50 years.

In the second story young Sierra Jensen gets to enjoy a weekend with her best friend Jana and Jana's family at their cabin in Montana. As they experience difficulty arriving at their destination Sierra begans to have second thoughts as her and Jana don't seem to be able to get along. Jana seems to be only interested in boys.

Positives: I thought the author did a great job of portraying the mind of a  teenage girl. In the first story I was encouraged that Christy sought wisdom from Scripture and through prayer as to how to handle her emotions. While she certainly lost her temper and became confused, she knew to run to her Savior during these times. In the second story I liked that Sierra became comfortable with who she was and where God had her in life.

Negatives: Both of these stories focused a lot on romance and relationships with boys. It just seemed a bit too much for me. While I know they think about boys a lot (I was a teenage girl once!), there certainly are other important aspects to their lives.

Talking Points: Talk with your daughter about her own thoughts and feelings in regards to relationships with boys. How are her current thoughts and behaviors toward boys preparing her for a future of marriage to one man. Our thoughts are so easy to hide from others, but one of the ways we are to love God is with our mind, our thoughts. Philp. 4:8 tells us how we are to think in a way that honors God. Teach your children to think about things that are true and honorable and just and pure. With Scripture, help them train their minds so they are not forever wandering and wondering "Does he like me?" or "Is this friend mad at me?". Talk with her about her purity. Gal. 5:19-21 talk about the deeds of the flesh. The first three mentioned are sexual immorality, impurity, and sensuality. I Cor. 6:15-20 speaks of sexual sin harming us in many ways. Where are your children getting their information about sex?  From their friends? From their teachers at school? Or are they being taught by you from God's Word what the standard of holiness is?

Age Level: 14 years of age and older

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

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Time For Everything by Susie Poole

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

This charming board book is a fun and creative expression of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, with kid-friendly examples of how there are different times for different activities. It shows that certain events have appropriate settings, and that there is a full scope of life’s comings and goings that we can explore and enjoy in the life God has given us.

Positives: Straightforward, practical application of Scriptures. It showcases fun, colorful drawings to make these different scenarios come alive.

Negatives:  None

Talking Points:  This book makes it very easy to talk with your child about the various seasons and times in life when it’s okay to be loud, or when it’s better to be quiet, for example. It covers a nice diversity of times of play, interactions with others, and resting times. These are great springboards for talking about the specifics of your own family life. To take it a bit further, you could (in addition to discussing Eccles. 3:18) also talk about how we are to live in this world and yet be set apart (Rom. 12:2). We can live amongst all kinds of people and be mindful of social conventions while honoring the Lord with our hearts and minds, and even actions that are grounded in our beliefs.

Age level: 0-5

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Gift by Bryan Litfin

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

The second book in the Chiveis Trilogy, The Gift delivers another powerful and imaginative story. We see pure evil as well as sacrificial love and the truth that God has gifted his chosen children and will use the weak to serve the strong.

Ana and Teo have chosen to leave their home and families rather than deny Deu - the Creator God whom they have come to know and love. They also have a common goal - to find the lost Scriptures of the New Testament. For years the Exterminati have fought to extinguish Christianity, while they have been quite successful, there remains a small following of the Creator God, and once again we see the the eternality of God's Word.

Positives: A captivating storyline, this novel provides a graphic portrayal of grace, forgiveness, redemption and a desire to know the truth at any cost. The character development was excellent and added so much to the story, but there were also so many surprises along the way that kept me reading til late into the night!

Negatives: None. The sexual references I warned young readers about are more limited in this novel than the first.

Talking Points: Point out to your kids how the Scriptures work together as whole. Even though the Christians didn't have the New Testament, as they studied the Old Testament they began to understand who Jesus is. Although there knowledge was fragmented, they had some understanding. II Tim. 3:16 tells us that all Scripture is God-breathed, teach your children that each and every word of the Bible is important to God, and therefore important to us. Talk about the sacrificial love that Teo and Ana display and how this is a reflection of Christ's love for us (I John 4:19, John 15:13, John 3:16).

Age Level: 16 years old and up

I received a free copy of this book from Crossway Publishers for this review.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Shattered: A Daughter's Regret by Melody Carlson

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

A heart-wrenching story written by popular teen and pre-teen author Melody Carlson. I was unfamiliar with her writing previous to this story, but she has written many books for children of all ages, including of number of series aimed primarily at teenage girls. This story would fall into that category.

Young Cleo is your typical high school senior, she enjoys a number of hobbies and has a best friend Lola with whom she shares everything. She does have one "small" problem - an overprotective mother. While she knows her parents love her, she wishes her mom would let her grow up and not be so worried and protective.

One the eve of her best friend moving away, Cleo and Lola makes plans to go into the city - against her mother's wishes. The night takes a tragic turn and in the morning Cleo is visited by police officers telling her that her mother has been murdered. In the weeks and months following this tragedy Cleo must learn to deal with her regrets and find forgiveness.

Positives: The author deals with a difficult topic very honestly. The struggles the characters went through and their responses were very believable. The Scriptural truths of repentance and forgiveness were clearly presented and I loved seeing those truths come alive in the characters.

Negatives: None.

Talking Points: To deal with her mother's death, Cleo turns to prescription medications and quickly becomes addicted. Talk with your children about the dangers of addiction to any substance. Teach them to understand that Christ is all they need, He is sufficient to meet every need they may ever have. I Cor. 10:13 talks about temptations we face, tell your child that Christ faced every temptation they did and relied on God his Father for strength. One of the main things Cleo struggled with was guilt. Talk to your child about repentance and forgiveness. Use I John 1:9 to teach them that their sins can be forgiven. Psalm 51 is a great psalm in which David cries out for forgiveness and confesses his sin. Teach your children to cry out and confess in the same way to experience the full forgiveness of their Savior.

Age Level: 14 years old and up

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Sword by Bryan Litfin

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

Civilization as we know it has come to an end and a new ancient-future civilization has been formed. While a few remnants of our society exist, most has been obliterated, including religion. The new gods have worked hard to remove any trace of Christianity and God's Word that once existed. But God will not be silent...

An excellent adventure novel this story has it all - sword fighting, a love story and a classic battle of good vs. evil.

Positives: A gripping story with excellent character development, I did not want to put this book down. Also glad that I just received the sequel in the mail!

Negatives: There was nothing I didn't enjoy about this book, however a warning is necessary if you choose to read this book as a family or let your children read it. There are several sexual references. These include a reference to a young girl being ravaged and of two young people rolling in the bushes during a pagan festival. The most descriptive scene is a direct reference to the Prov. 7 harlot. While there is nothing explicit or inappropriate about these scenes, they would probably not be suitable for young children. You are the best judge or your child's maturity and what you want them to read.

Talking Points: The Bible is filled with promises that God's Word will stand forever (Is. 40:8, I Peter 1:24-25, Matt. 24:35). In spite of man's best efforts throughout this story to suppress and destroy the truth, it cannot be accomplished. Talk about God's faithfulness to preserve His Word. The other Scripture that kept coming to mind as I read this is Romans 1, particularly verses 19-32. Even though the characters in this story had no written Word of God, they knew that a good Creator-God existed. Just like Romans 1 tells us - God can be seen and known through creation and while this knowledge alone is not enough to save, it gives man no excuse. Talk with your children about how we can see God's attributes in creation and then talk with them about how that should spur us on to know and understand the Creator of the Universe on a personal level.

Age Level: 16 years old and up (see note above)