Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Recommendation: Recommended

In this futuristic novel North America no longer exists, the continent (Panem) is now divided into 12 Districts which are all under the rule of an oppressive government. Poverty is widespread and the expanse between rich and poor is ever widening. One method the government has devised to keep control and also provide entertainment for its people is The Hunger Games. Children 12-18 years old are chosen, a boy and a girl  from each district to compete, and the winner is the only one who walks away alive.

Young Katniss Everdeen has provided for her family since her fathers death by illegally hunting beyond the District borders. She has kept her mother and sister alive by using the hunting skills her father taught her. She has also developed a wonderful friendship/hunting partnership with Gale whose father was killed in the same mining accident. Together they take on the role of family provider and enjoy each others company. That all changes the day Katniss' sister is chosen for The Hunger Games and Katniss willingly takes her place. From that moment on her life is forever changed.

Positives: This is an action-packed, suspenseful story. You will not want to put it down. I think the author did a commendable job of not letting the imagery become too graphic for children.

Negatives: The whole idea of young kids killing each other for the entertainment of others is repulsing to me. While there is nothing pornographic, there are several instances where Katniss and Peeta kiss and they do lay down together at night to stay warm. One of the characters is habitually drunk. Katniss does have to stand before her male stylist nude.

Talking Points: While this book is written for 13 years of old and up, only you as the parent can discern whether it is appropriate for them to read. There is a lot of violence. I highly recommend reading it beforehand as it provides many opportunities to discuss ethical and biblical issues. One of the first thoughts that came to mind is the sanctity of human life. The Ten Commandments (Ex. 20) tell us that killing is wrong. Talk to your kids about the dilemmas faced by Katniss and Peeta in particular as they struggled with killing others. How would/should Christians respond in this type of situation? Who are we obedient to? Where do we turn for answers?

 Throughout the story I thought of the many Christians who were martyred for their faith and, beginning with Stephen in Acts 7, many were killed in  front of crowds and for the purpose of entertainment (as well as attempting to deter anyone who was thinking of becoming a believer). While these kids were not being persecuted for any beliefs they held, they knew that they were to provide entertainment for the people, particularly those in the Capitol. What is a Christian view of entertainment? What are we entertained by? Should it be different than what the world is entertained by?

While the world described in this book may seem far-fetched to our children we need to help them understand the depths of human depravity. This is where sin leads us. No, we may never live through a time similar to this, but others have. Ecclesiastes 1 tells us that there is nothing new under the sun. We need to help our kids develop a biblical worldview and know where to turn to for answers to moral and ethical dilemmas they will face in the future.

Age Level: The publisher says 13 and up. As I stated earlier, please be wise. You know your child better than I do!

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Barber Who Wanted To Pray by R.C. Sproul

Recommendation: Highly recommended

In the storyteller fashion that has become his trademark R.C. Sproul once again delivers an engaging story that brings history, theology and practical religious training to life for children. As the story opens Mr. McFarland is leading family devotions. When one of his children wants to learn how to pray better he tells them the story of The Barber Who Wanted to Pray. Master Peter is the town barber and one day an outlaw walks into his shop for a cut and shave. Master Peter feels privileged that this outlaw would come and visit his shop, for the outlaw is none other than Martin Luther. While he is working Master Peter asks Dr. Luther a question that he has been struggling with - how to deepen his prayer life. Dr. Luther is happy to help and promises to return with help. The letter he writes is a book we know today as A Simple Way to Pray. Dr. Luther teaches us to pray through the Lord's Prayer, the Ten Commandments and The Apostle's Creed as a model to deepen our prayer life.

Positives: Children will love the storytelling abilities of R.C. Sproul! He has proven once again that he can weave a masterful tale. I loved the history that was incorporated into this story as well. This is a great introduction to young children of who Martin Luther is and gives them a glimpse of his passion for the gospel. I also enjoyed the end of the book when the father, Mr. McFarland encouraged his children to practice praying. Children should be encouraged that prayer is a discipline and that, while God always hears the prayers of His children, we can become better at prayer as we grow spiritually. The artwork is exquisite as well.

Negatives: Just a word of caution for those with young children, there is a part of the story that may cause concern. As Master Peter is using a razor it speaks of the idea of pressing hard on the razor on the mans neck and killing him. Use your best judgment with your children as to if this is appropriate.

Talking Points: Continue to talk to your children and teach them about the Lord's Prayer (Matt. 6:9-13) and the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:3-17). While the story begins the explanation and gives wonderful examples of how to pray through these Scriptures children may need continued instruction. It is important that you teach them what these Scriptures are teaching. Instruct them on the meaning of these passages so that they can learn to pray in the truth. Take the Apostles' Creed (written in the back of the book) and find Scripture verses that correspond with the truths written in it. HERE is a link that may be helpful. Encourage your children to talk to God often and give them an example to follow by praying with them regularly as well. This is a discipline so many of us want to grow in, why not give your children all the help you can when they are young!

Age Level: 3-10 years of age

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

Friday, January 13, 2012

Weight Of A Flame: The Passion Of Olympia Morata by Simonetta Carr

Find out how to win a copy of this book at the end of this post!

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

Since being introduced to her series "Biographies for Young Readers" I have become a huge fan of Simonetta Carr's writing. Her passion to teach children about church history, theology and the Word of God is so evident in her work. The 5th book in The Chosen Daughters Series, Weight of a Flame, tells the story of a girl, Olympia Morata, becoming a women wholly devoted to Christ. Though she lived centuries before us, Olympia's story will spur you on in your faith. While given many privileges in this life she came to a point of truly counting all as loss for the sake of knowing Christ - no matter the cost. I highly recommend this book particularly for young girls (and their moms!) to read.

Positives: There are so many things I enjoyed about this book. I loved the historical accuracy that is expertly woven into a descriptive story that captures the imagination and stirs the heart. I was very moved by the story of her transformed life, to see her as a young girl whole-heartedly pursue her academics and then come to the realization that she could use the mind God had given her to glorify Him. Lastly, her deep conviction to encourage others to study and understand the Scriptures and to live a pious and holy life in the face of persecution and death is a wake-up call to our American culture.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: There are 2 verses that kept continually coming to mind while reading this story. The first verse is I Cor. 10:31. Olympia learned the value of doing all things to the glory of God. Talk to your children about the gifts, talents, abilities and opportunities that God places in their lives and how all things should be done with our utmost effort in order to give God the glory. Not only should we put forth our best effort, but our best attitude as well. The other verse is II Tim. 3:12. This verse tells us that if we desire to live a godly life, we will be persecuted. What this will look like, we do not know, but we can pray for strength to glorify God in and through whatever persecution we may face. Talk about the persecution faced by Olympia and her family, talk about the fears and doubts that they had at times. Talk about the peace that comes from a life surrendered to Christ in obedience, no matter what the cost. Challenge your children to stand firm in their knowledge and belief in Christ that they too can pass on a flame of passion for His glory to others.

The author has provided some insight into which parts of the story are true and which are fictional. HERE is a link to her blog if you would like to read about this. It is a 4 part series.

Age Level: 8 years of age and up. It will appeal mostly to girls.

I received a free copy of this book from P& R Publishing for this review.

The publisher has made it possible for us to give away 3 free copies 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 Saturday, Jan. 21st 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: "Tell of a great woman of faith, famous or known only to you and God, and how she has encouraged you to live with passion for the glory of Christ?"
  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).  

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Song Of The Stars: A Christmas Story by Sally Lloyd-Jones

Recommendation: Recommended with Hesitation

All creation is awaiting the birth of Heaven's Son - God's great gift to man. The leaves and wind whisper "It's time!" to to the trees which in turn tells the birds and woodland creatures. The flowers, skies and ocean waves are all awaiting the appearance of the Christ-child. At last the angels sing and the star shines brightly to proclaim that the Light of the World has come.

Positives: I enjoyed the descriptive words and the meter of this story. The illustrations are unique and beautiful. I also loved the use of some of the names of Christ as they were creatively woven throughout the story (The Mighty King, The Bright and Morning Star, The Light of the World, Our Rescuer, The Good Shepherd to mention a few). The humanity and deity of Christ is simply shown through the carefully chosen language in the story.

Negatives: I am hesitant to recommend this book because of how the idea of creation awaiting Christ's birth is used. While we know that the whole of creation reflects the glory of God it is not biblical to say that creation was awaiting the birth of Jesus and it might confuse children.

Talking Points: I would begin by explaining that creation is a reflection of God's glory and should drive us to worship (Ps. 19:1, Ps. 8, Rom. 1:19-20). Talk about the different ways creation shows us who God is and teaches us about his character.  How do we see God's love and grace and faithfulness?  I would also express that while we do not know that creation awaited the arrival of Jesus on earth, we do know that creation is awaiting his return to earth (Rom.  8: 20-23). What will be different when Christ returns? (Is. 11, Is. 65:17-25). I would also use the names of Jesus given throughout the story to teach about who Jesus is. Use the Scripture passages associated with each name to talk about why these names were given to him.

The Mighty King (Is. 9:6)
The Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6)
The Bright and Morning Star (Rev. 22:16)
The Good Shepherd (John 10:11-18)
The Light of the World (John 8:12, 9:1-5)
The One Who Made Us (Col. 1:15-17)
Our Rescuer (Matt. 1:21, Acts 4:12)

Age Level: 3-7 years of age

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