Monday, April 30, 2012

The Sword Thief by Peter Lerangis

Recommendation: ***** (5-stars)

The 39 Clues Series keeps getting more interesting and intense! These action packed stories are fun and I am enjoying the adventure as much as my kids I think! In The Sword Thief brother and sister team Dan and Amy Cahill follow the clues from Venice, Italy to Japan. They team up with their Uncle Alistair as they uncover clues together, but it is hard to trust anyone who is a Cahill anymore. Will they be able to complete the clues in time? Will they even survive past today?

Positives: There is one thing that remains constant in this series- you don't know what to expect! The characters continue to develop and surprises are around every corner. Who is going to show up where and when? What scheme do they have up their sleeve? Will Dan and Amy persevere?

Negatives: A couple of instances of kids saying "oh my god."

Talking Points: Trust. Dan and Amy are told to trust no one. And it certainly seems that everytime they do trust someone they get burned. Is this a good way to live life? The Bible tells us to trust in the Lord (Prov. 3:5-6, Ps. 20:7, Ps. 37:3, Ps. 40:4, Ps. 91:2), but what about trusting other people? What about being trustworthy ourselves? As we seek to follow in the footsteps of Christ we must develop trustworthiness as a character trait. We know that can trust God because He cannot lie (Heb. 6:17-20). We know that we are not to be liars as well (Ex. 20: 16). Talk to your kids about what it means to be trustworthy and how to become a person that others trust.

Age Level: 9 years of age and up

Friday, April 27, 2012

One False Note by Gordon Korman

Recommendation: ***** (5-stars)

Book Two in the 39 Clues Series is full of action, adventure, danger, mystery and humor. Brother and sister team, Dan and Amy Cahill are on the treasure hunt of their life as they follow clues that are hundreds of years old with the promise of a treasure beyond their wildest dreams. The siblings, who were orphaned at a young age, are racing against teams who all belong to the Cahill family and who have a lot more money and resources than these two. But they persevere and continue to uncover clues by working hard (and a little luck!).

Positives: As with the first book I love the history that is brought out. This series is written by a number of different authors and I have really enjoyed the differences in writing while maintaining a very fluid story line. I also appreciate the growing relationship  between Amy and Dan. As brother and sister they do argue and call each other "dweeb" and such, but as the story continues to develop they show a mutual respect for each other. They begin to understand their strengths and weaknesses and become better and better at working together.

Negatives:  A few instances of kids saying "oh my god."

Talking Points: As I read this book I thought about family relationships. As I stated above I am enjoying the brother/sister relationship that continues to develop, but I am also saddened by the other family relationships that have been destroyed by greed. It is obvious as you read through this story that these family rivalries go back many many years and all for what? Talk to your kids about the importance of people. People are more important than things! Matt. 6:19 tells us to store up treasures in heaven, not here on earth.  Ecc. 5:10 tells us that money will never satisfy. Talk to your kids about what they treasure and how their treasures reflect their heart.

Age Level: 9 years of age and up

Monday, April 23, 2012

Great Deal on Children's Commentaries

Herein Is Love Commentaries by Nancy E.Ganz are a wonderful resource! For a limited time they are available for $3.99 each as a Kindle ebook. We own the Genesis commentary and have used it many times including for family worship. It's great just to read through with your kids and it is very thorough. The Genesis includes a section at the back with activity and craft suggestions. I believe the others do as well, but am not certain. I would highly recommend you get these while they are available at this price!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Crater by Homer Hickam

Recommendation: *** (3-stars)

I had high hopes, but was disappointed

This Sci-Fi novel is set in the 22nd century when people live on the moon and mine Helium-3 to produce energy for Earth which  has been ravaged by war. The hero, young Crater Trueblood was born on the moon and has never been to earth. Orphaned at birth, his foster parents were killed when he was a young boy. While he has been taken care of by a generous lady in Moontown, Crater is truly alone. He is an impressive young boy though, he works hard and is very good with engineering, building and repairing things. This makes him appealing to the Colonel of Moontown who sends him on a dangerous mission - a convoy along the Dustway to deliver Helium-3, and to retrieve an important but secretive package. The Colonel also sends Maria, his grandaughter, on the trip and tells Crater to take care of her. One the journey they encounter many dangers, surprise attacks and hardships and Crater must learn many lessons along the way as he develops into a young man.

Positives: A fair amount of action and suspense, along with mutant creatures and the fact that it takes place on the moon will make this story appeal to young boys.

Negatives: I must admit I am not a science fiction fan and maybe that is why I didn't enjoy the story that much. I chose this book as I thought it might be something my boys would enjoy, but I found it lacking. I could not get engaged in the story line. At times events were choppy and disconnected, it felt like the author didn't know how to develop the story or characters at a particular point so he killed them off. There were also many questions left unanswered. I know that this is the 1st installment in a trilogy, and maybe some of the questions will be resolved, but I still felt I needed more answers to continue to feed my interest. The whole plot of Crater being sent to retrieve a secret passage took a backseat until nearly the end of the story and then it became the focal point.

Talking Points: Crater Trueblood was a good, moral boy. He worked hard and tried to always do what he thought was right. Ask your children if this is them? Do they try to do what is right? Do they live by following their conscience? Do they think that this will get them to heaven? Although there is very little mention of anything religious or spiritual in this story I could not help but think about all the kids who grow up believing that if they try to do what is good they will go to heaven. Scripture tells us just the opposite! Please share the gospel with your children! Here are some basic points with Scriptures that they need to understand:

  1. God is Holy (Is. 6:1-3, Rev. 4:8, Matt. 5:48)
  2. People are Sinful (Eph. 2:1-3, Rom. 3:23, Rom. 5:12)
  3. There is a penalty for sin (Rom. 6:23, I Cor. 6:9-11, Rev. 20: 14-15)
  4. Jesus came to the earth, was crucified and rose again (Matt. 1:23, John 1:1-5, Phil. 2:5-11, Col. 1:15, Is. 53, Heb. 9:22, Mt. 27-28, Mark 15-16, Luke 23-24, John 19-20, I Cor. 15)
  5. We place our faith in Christ alone (John 20:30-31, Acts 4:12, Acts 16:30-33, Eph. 2:8-9, I Tim. 2:5)
Do not let your children have a false sense of security. Allow the Holy Spirit to work in their hearts that the truths of God's Word may pierce their soul and bring about new life (Heb. 4:12-16, II Cor. 5:17-21)!

Age Level: 9-13 years of age

 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, April 12, 2012

William Carey: Obliged To Go by Geoff & Janet Benge

Recommendation: ***** (5-stars)

William Carey, born in 1761 to weavers in the town of Paulerspury, England, finds himself as a young man attending  a nonconformist prayer meeting, to pray for the American revolutionaries to win. After joining this group of dissenters who read Scripture with the certainty of believing it, William married his first wife, Dolly, and soon after became a part-time preacher. At the age of 26, he spoke the unpopular view of supporting foreign missions, as well as stuyding and writing a manuscript about it. He overcame numerous obstacles, but eventually made it to India with his family, after helping the first English missionary society to be formed and volunteering to be its first missionary. Among the fruit of his labor and influence was sharing the gospel with any Indian people he met, Bible translation into many Indian and Asian languages, the opening of schools and churches, and outlawing the inhuman practices of infanticide and sati (the live burning of a widow along with her deceased husband) in India. He always persevered and kept a strong faith through the deaths of four children and two wives, continuing to serve in the ways God led him.

Positives: All the books in the Christian Heroes series we have read are very well written, with a style that draws our children in  as we read aloud together. This family reading time is often requested and eargerly anticipated, as the missionaries and their lives are painted in a descriptive manner that also teaches histsory and sets the scenes in a way that the reader (and listeners) can better understand what they faced in their day. These true stories are very enjoyable, and more importantly, faith-building, as they display God's unmistakable power in the lives of ordinary people who trusted and obeyed Him. Our children celebrate along with us the victories of souls saved and battles won as they hear of the work of the Holy Spirit through faithful servants.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: There is so much evidence of God's faithfulness in William Carey's life (Psalm 118:1). The Lord's sovereign hand of guidance, provision and timing is clearly shown within details such as when ships sailed, when laws were made, as well as people coming in and out of his life, all directing and affirming William Carey's decisions and actions. As this missionary  faced extremely difficult and heatbreaking situations, such as the deaths of loved ones and the destruction of valuable equipment and papers, we can remind ourselves and our children of the faithfulness and comfort of God in the midst of and despite trials (Hebrews 4:16, 10:35-36). William's heart for the Indian people was a clear display of his compassionate love for these fellow human beings created in the image of God (Matthew 22:37-39). He was an excellent example of one who  persevered and was faithful to the Lord all the way to the end (Hebrews 12:1-2), even ecouraging another missionary from his deathbed in starting another Christian college in India. As this man was leaving, William told him not to speak of William Carey after his death, but only of his Savior (Col. 3:3). This Christian Heroes series is a valuable resource in  providing concrete examples of true heroes of the faith after which we and our children may follow in seeking God's will for our own lives.

Age Level: 9 years of age and up

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Eye Of The Sword by Karyn Henley

Recommendation: *** (3-stars)

Eye of the Sword is the second book in the Angelaeon Circle Series. In this story, young Main Trevin  is sent on a dangerous mission by his King. Although a new comain, the king trusts him with the task of finding the other missing comains. Trevin also decides to undertake a mission of his own, to find the missing harps for Princess Melaia that she may reunite them and once again open the stairway to Avellan. Trevin faces his fears and his self-doubt over and over as continually encounters hardships and danger on his quest. He must have the courage to not only finish the mission of the King, but discover more about himself as well.

Positives: An interesting storyline. As I have not read the first book in the series I think it took me a little longer to understand the story, but it was entertaining.

Negatives: There are a lot of characters and it was at times difficult to keep track of  them (again, it may have helped to read the first book in the series). There were still some aspects of the fantasy I don't understand like the significance of the different levels of the Angelaeon characters such as those who are half angel, half human (Nephili). I don't know how and why they are different from others and I often got confused as to which characters were what. Mostly, I was disappointed in the fact that this book lacked in teaching any straightforward Christian truths through the story. While there were religious characters in the story (priests), there was no mention of any God character or idea of worshipping any deity. It was difficult to draw much spiritual food for thought out of the story.

Talking Points: While these were not main points in the story, I would certainly talk about the presence of evil in our world (and theirs). Talk about the effects of sin and the curse (Gen. 3:10-24) that are seen in the story and in our world today. I would also address the thoughts and actions of Trevin particularly concerning his struggles with his past. Trevin struggled with the mistakes (sin) he had committed in the past. Talk to your kids about the forgiveness Christ offers when we repent and how we are then free from guilt (1 John 1:9, Acts 3:19-20).

Age Level: 10-15 years of age - this story will appeal to boys in particular and those who enjoy fantasy.

I received a free copy of this book from WaterBrook Multnomah in exchange for this review.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Donkey Who Carried A King by R.C. Sproul

Recommendation:  ***** (5-stars)

Just in time for for Easter, Grandfather and theologian R.C. Sproul writes a children's story that captures the meaning of the cross in a simplistic yet profound manner. Your children will so enjoy this story, and will come away with a better understanding of Jesus, the Suffering Servant.

The grandfather in R.C. Sproul loves to tell stories that teach lessons and this book opens with young Reilly struggling at school with being picked last for games. His grandfather tells him the story of Davey the donkey and Reilly comes away with a valuable lesson. Davey the donkey was never picked for anything either, until one day he was chosen to carry the King. As he carried the King through the city, people were singing and shouting "Hosanna to the King." It made Davey feel special that he was chosen for this task. Davey became proud and was unhappy when his master put him to work carrying unimportant things like olives. Davey became very grumpy, until one day He saw the King that he had carried, carrying a heavy beam of wood.  He was confused about why a king should have to do this until Barnabas, a wiser, older donkey explained to Davey that the King was Jesus and the beam of wood was the cross on which Jesus would be crucified. Davey began to understand what it means to be a servant and if Jesus, a King, could serve others by dying for them, then he could certainly serve his master as well.  The books ends by telling the rest of the Easter story - that Jesus not only died as a servant but that He rose again and is now in heaven with God the Father.

Positives: The story is engaging and pertinent to children. It contains gospel and scripture elements that will help your child connect the Bible with their everyday experiences. As always, Sproul has provided some discussion questions and Scripture passages in the back of the book as a resource for parents to futher discussion and understanding of the story and the Bible. The artwork is exquisite as well.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: Use the questions and Scripture passages given in the back of the book. Be sure to read the Scripture passages with your child and review the Bible stories (Jesus' Triumphal Entry in Mark 11) so that your child understands they are true stories. There are so many truths taught in this book, your child will want to read it over and over and can continue to learn new truths each time as you continue to point him/her to the Scriptures.

Age Level: 3-8 years of age