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

Friday, July 8, 2011

Give Them Grace - Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

Today I am departing from my normal format and reviewing a book for parents, not children. I am a big fan of Elyse Fitzpatrick and when I was given the opportunity to review this book I was very excited. I also thought the subject would be of interest to many of our readers. Hope you find this helpful!

From the Introduction to the final page of this book you are confronted with the gospel of grace. The authors use stories, anecdotes, probing questions and lots of Scripture as they point you away from the constraints of the law and toward grace. While they offer advice, they careful to point out that there is no formula for raising kids.
 "Giving grace to our children is not another formula that guarantees their salvation or obedience...Our children will be saved only through the faithfulness of the Holy Spirit, who works at the direction of our faithful heavenly Father. He's the faithful, powerful, soul-transforming One."

Positives: There are so many things I liked about this book, I will try to focus on a couple of the highlights here. One of the aspects I most appreciated was how the authors teach that no parent can change the heart of their child. All of our efforts to be good parents do not produce salvation, only Jesus can save them and transform their heart. To drive this home the authors wrote:

"Spanking doesn't transform the soul, only Jesus Christ does."

This truth should drive us to pray. It should also cause us to teach our children (and ourselves) to cry out to God for mercy, forgiveness and the strength to fight the stronghold of sin. While I believe that spanking is a tool that parents should use as they raise their children, we need to understand that spanking alone will not save them.

Another aspect I really enjoyed was toward the end of the book when the authors were talking about a "successful" family and how we define if we have been good parents. Here is what they say:

"But what if we're measuring success in the wrong way? Could it be that our perception of success isn't God's plan for us or for our family? What if he's going to use our failure and our children's rebellion to make us humble comforters of other sufferers for his glory?...[D]on't we have to be willing to say that the chief end of our parenting is not our own glorification as great parents but rather that we glorify God and enjoy him forever, whatever that means?"

This book is a tremendous resource for parents as they seek to raise children who love Jesus and live under the power of His grace.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: There are questions at the end of each chapter which would be great to use if you wanted to read this book with a friend or Bible Study group. If you are reading it on your own, I would still recommend you take the time to answer the questions too!!

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

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

When God Created My Toes by Dandi Daley Mackall

Recommendation: Not Recommended

This book is supposed to be based on Psalm 139 and speaks of the creation of an individual. It goes through the creation of several different body parts and asks questions of what God was doing or thinking when He created people.

Positives: The illustrations were great. I enjoyed the varied styles of stick figure drawings and full color pictures.

Negatives: This book was very confusing. Several times the author seemed to be inferring that the child was present at their own creation. By continually asking questions like, "Did we sing my ABC's when God created my knees?" she confuses the reader as to what she means. The rhymes seemed a bit forced in a couple of instances and some of the questions were just ridiculous.

Talking Points: If you choose to read this book with your child there would a couple of things to discuss with them. Yes, you are wonderfully created by God as a unique individual and you are perfect just the way you are. When the author asks questions about the creation of the heart you must be careful to articulate a clear gospel to them. The author asks..."When God created my heart...Did he make it beat? Did he make it sweet? Did I love him from the start when God created my heart?" While the questions are not explicity answered, you need to be clear with your child about the sinfulness of their own heart. Ephesians 2 tells us that prior to salvation we are "children of wrath", Titus 3 tells us that we are hateful. Our desperately wicked hearts could not love God until He changed them. I John 4:10 says that we can only love God because He showed us His love first.

Age Level: 2-6 years old

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

Saturday, July 2, 2011

New Post Coming Soon!

Sorry  for my extended absence. Summer is here and the kids are home so, while we are still doing lots of reading, I have less time to write about it. I'll try to be a little more regular during the rest of the summer. Look for a couple of new posts starting next week.

Enjoy your summer!