Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Chomp by Carl Hiaasen

Recommendation: *** (3 stars)

In this hilarious and wild adventure we meet the Cray family - Mickey, Susan and their son Wahoo. Life with the Cray's is a zoo. They actually own and train wild animals in their own backyard! When money gets tight Mickey takes a job working with a reality TV show and he and Wahoo are in for the adventure of a lifetime. The shows star - Derek Badger is arrogant and demanding, as is Mickey, and the two clash until one day Derek disappears. With adventuresome twists and turns this story will keep you captivated til the end.

Positives: This story is funny and riveting at the same time! Your kids will love the well-developed characters and the engaging storyline. The seemingly ridiculous adventures is what make this a great story!

Negatives: When their son Wahoo was born Mrs. Cray put an end to Mr. Cray's profanity. So instead of swearing he now says "bleep," literally. For example, he might proclaim, "What the bleep are you doing?" While it is creative, it does not take away from the fact that he is using profane language.

Talking Points: Your kids will be able to identify with Wahoo. Talk about his character and how he relates to his parents. Talk about how he cares for his friend Tuna and helps her. As Christians, how should we handle a difficult situation like the one Tuna is in? How about helping Derek Badger? Are we kind even to our "enemies" when they are in trouble? Read Matt. 5:43-48, what do these verses tell us about our enemies? Romans 12:14-21 tell us to be kind to our enemies and to overcome evil with good. How well did Wahoo put biblical principles into practice? How well do we? Ask your kids for the names of their friends, neighbors and classmates that they can show this type of kindness too and talk about practical steps they can take to overcome evil with good.

Age Level: 10 years of age and up

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Anne of Avonlea by Lucy Maud Montgomery (retold by Kathleen Olmstead)

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

Anne from Anne of Green Gables is now sixteen years old. Formerly a student at Avonlea School, she is now the teacher. This condensed version of the original Anne of Avonlea tells of Anne’s adventures with her students, young twins who come to live with her and Marilla, and the various efforts of the Avonlea Village Improvement Society. As she and her peers grow into young adulthood, their interests develop, and romance enters the picture. Anne encounters love as she helps a friend rekindle an old love, her best friend becomes engaged, and an admirer patiently waits for her.

Positives: This beloved classic is retold in a form that younger readers can enjoy without the original length. A wonderful story of life in simpler times, capturing the stage of Anne’s life where she is becoming a woman. There are very good questions at the conclusion of the book to help with discussion and making connections to the characters.

Negatives: none

Talking Points: The story opens with Anne’s encounter with Mr. Harrison, a good example of what can happen when we do the right thing, even if it is difficult. She makes a new friend in an unexpected way, and both parties are blessed. (Matt. 22:39) Marilla also demonstrates this kind of love when her friend’s husband dies. As she and Anne care for the twins, they selflessly welcome the children into their home. (James 1:27) When Anne and Diana meet Miss Lewis, they fully engage this lonely woman in a new friendship and the end result is a wonderful reunion leading to the rediscovery of an old love. This can be viewed in like manner for Christians to live each moment for the Lord, being open to opportunities that He brings. (Col. 3:17)

Age Level: 7 years and up

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Kingdom by Bryan M. Litfin

Recommendation: ***** (5-star)

The final book in the Chiveis Trilogy concludes the adventures of Teofil and Anastasia. The action, adventure and spell-binding storyline that captured you in the first 2 books keeps you until the final page! The mission for Teo and Ana has never changed, to bring the Sacred Writings back to the people of Chiveis, to introduce them to Deu and His Son, Iesus Christus. Whatever the cost, no matter the danger, they are committed to this end. After years in exile, danger around every turn, being kidnapped and tortured their resolve has not dimished. As they uncover the lies that have ensnared the people of their homeland for many years, the lies that have allowed Astebril to enslave these people they must again face the High Priestess who has shamelessly carried out these lies. Will they be able to see their dream come true? Will the Chivesian people embrace the truth found in the Sacred Writings of Deu? Will Teo and Ana commit themselves to Deu and to each other forever?

Positives: Litfin delivers another engaging and action-filled story that keeps the reader on the edge of their seat til the very end. The intricate storyline is perfectly woven together. It provides an excellent example of the many who have suffered greatly for the gospel and died to preserve the truth of the Scripture for those who would come after them. The desire Ana, in particular has, for her people to know Deu should convict us greatly.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: The Scripture passage I kept thinking of while reading this is II Cor. 11:25-28. In this passage Paul recounts the dangers and hardships he encountered during his missions trips - beaten and shipwrecked. But the thing that weighs most heavily on Paul is the churches he has ministered in. Teo and Ana had this same heavy heart for those who had not heard the gospel, they counted all the pain they had suffered as worth the cost if they could only tell others about Deu and his Son, Iesus. Talk to your kids about their conviction. Do they want others to know about Jesus? Are they willing to be ridiculed? Are they willing to boldly proclaim the name of Jesus to their friends? Are they willing to count the cost? Teach them to boldly share their faith with grace and truth.

Age Level: 16 years of age and up. Please note that there is some sexual content in this book. Please be aware of that as you make a decision regarding your child reading this book.

I received a free copy of this book from Crossway Publishing in exchange for this review.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

My Pop-Up Bible Stories by Juliet David

Recommendation: *** (3-stars)

This short book for toddlers offers 5 stories from the Bible. The stories of Moses, Daniel, Jairus' daughter, the Parable of the Lost Sheep and Jesus Calming the Storm are all told very simply and with colorful illustrations in 3-D.

Positives: I liked that the author included the Bible passage that the stories from the book are based on. Even for young children, it is important that they understand the ultimate source of these truthful accounts.

Negatives: I am not usually a fan of Bible story books. While they can be useful, they often don't give the main thrust of the Bible story and they seem to focus on the character in the story and not on what God is doing. I also like kids to understand that these stories come from the Bible, not a pretty picture book.  In this book, the account of Moses never even mentions God.  There are sometimes things added to stories that aren't in the Biblical text as well.  In the story of Daniel that is presented it tells us that Daniel prayed to be saved from the lions. The Bible never tells us that he prayed in the lions den.  I know this seems picky - and he very well may have prayed, but the Bible doesn't tell us that he did so we need to be careful of how we present these stories to our children.

Talking Points: If you use this book, or any Bible storybook, always go back to the actual Bible text that the story is taken from.  Teach your kids from the Word of God! The pictures may help to keep them engaged, but go ahead and read the short Biblical texts that go with the pictures.

Age Level: 0-3 years of age

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