Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Mystery of the Indian Carvings by Gloria Repp

Recommendation: **** (4-star)

Julie Fletcher has problems, a stepmom who doesn't like her, a temper she can't seem to control...but maybe this change is exactly what she needs. Her father has decided to send her to live with her aunt, uncle and cousin Karin, for a couple of weeks this summer. Although nervous, Julie is hopeful that she will be able to enjoy her time this summer. As she meets her extended  family however, her hopes begin to fade as it becomes evident that Karin clearly doesn't want her there and her aunt and uncle are too distracted with their own problems to pay much attention to her. How could her father send her here? And how could he speak of the great memories he had of spending his summers here? Will this summer be the start of a change in her life?

Positives: A nice story that young girls, in particular, will enjoy as they will be able to relate to Julie's character. I enjoyed how the story brought together so many facets of a young girls life and wove them together. Family and friendships in particular were addressed and it was great to see how these played out in Julie's mind throughout the story.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: One of the biggest struggles Julie faced was controlling her temper. Obviously this had been a problem at home with her stepmother and continued to be a problem at her aunt and uncle's. It wasn't until Julie was confronted with the idea of asking the Holy Spirit to help  her that she began to see change and experience victory. Talk about the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer with your kids. John 14:16-17 tell us that the believer receives the Holy Spirit as a helper. How can we say "no" to sin? How can resist temptation? Only  by the power of the Holy Spirit. Our flesh is weak! Don't be afraid to teach your child that believers cannot live a life of holiness on their own. Teach them to cry out for a Helper to come and rescue them in the moment of temptation. Only through the power of the Holy Spirit will we experience victory over sin.

Age Level: 10 years of age and up

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

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Last Superhero by Stephen Altrogge

Recommendation: *** (3 stars)

John Utticus Wagner II appears to be an average 8th grader. His days are filled with school and homework and occasionally ripping a tree out of the ground for a neighbor.  Junior, as he is known to his parents, possesses superhuman strength and descends from a long line of superhero's.  In this story, Coreopolis is being terrorized by Boom. This villain is blowing up bombs all over the city and it is time for the Wagner family to take action! After sitting on the sidelines for years, John's father, Orville is ready to take on Boom and save the city. With the help of John Utticus Wagner Sr., Orville and his son Junior secretly plan a middle of the night raid. It soon becomes obvious that Boom is actually after the Wagner family. He knows all about them and has planned for months to destroy them. Who is this super villian and will he succeed? You'll have to read the story to find out!

Positives: A fun storyline. Kids will laugh and enjoy the action scenes. I enjoyed the family dynamic, so great to see a a multi-generational family that worked as a unit and wasn't "dysfunctional." In spite of the disappointment John Sr. felt that his son couldn't be the next great Wagner superhero, he didn't give up on him, still treated him as a son.

Negatives:  Orville (dad) did deceive Eleanor (mom). He made her believe that he would not go after Boom when he had every intention of doing just that.

Talking Points: Talk with your kids about their reputation. Every action, every word, every thought is a reflection of our character. As they spend time with friends, what do they want to be known for? What kind of legacy do they want to leave? While the Wagner family certainly wanted to be known as a great superhero family, I think there were things more important to them than that. Grandfather, John Sr. was ultimately more concerned about his son (Orville) than he was about the Wagner name and Orville left a legacy to his son of never giving up, in spite of failures and disappointments. He also taught him that family, and people are of great value. Proverbs 22:1 tells us that our reputation is valuable, but Christ's reputation is of even greater value and as believers our words and actions should reflect Christ to the world. (Matt. 5:14, Gal. 5:23, Eph. 2:10, John 15).

Age Level: 10 years of age and up

I was given a free copy of this book for this review.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Orphan King by Sigmund Brouwer

Recommendation: **** (4-stars)

In book one of his new Merlin's Immortals Series, Brouwer introduces us to an ancient world where trust is not easy to come by. Secrets lie around every bend and friends can become enemies in the blink of an eye, if you can figure out they are your enemy. Thomas was raised in an abbey for most of his life, raised in secret by a woman who pretended to be his nursemaid, raised as a slave to the monks who mistreated him and taught him to despise the God they claimed to serve. Most importantly, he was raised with a secret he must guard with his life and a destiny bigger than he can ever imagine. His quest to conquer Magnus, the ancient castle, turns out to be only the beginning.

Positives: Kids will enjoy the medieval setting and the high level of intrigue. The well-developed characters are clever, sinister and thought provoking.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: Raised in an abbey and surrounded by religious practices and people for many years Thomas was calloused toward God. He questioned his goodness, his love and even his existence. Talk to your kids about their thoughts and feelings toward religion. Let your kids be open and honest and carefully listen to their answers. Use this conversation to continually point your child to the gospel. I Corinthians 1:18 tells us that the cross is foolishness to unbelievers, they cannot understand it. Pray for the Spirit of God to work in your child's heart and continue to teach them of the great Creator God who sent his Son to rescue us from our greatest danger - our own sinful hearts. Romans 8 is a wonderful passage that I kept thinking of while reading this story.

Age Level: 10 years of age and up

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

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer by John Grisham

Recommendation: **** (4-star)

I was fascinated to find out that best-selling author John Grisham had started a kids series and when I found it at the local library I couldn't wait to start! Young Theodore Boone is the only child of two lawyer-parents. So naturally, he is curious about all things law- related. At 13 years old Theo already knows every judge and court clerk in town and everyone at his middle school knows who to take their problems to. While being able to help his friends is great, Theo also loves to sit and watch trials, and the biggest trial in recent history is about to take place - a murder trial. Theo becomes involved in the case when a witness comes to him for help, but refuses to come forward. What is Theo to do? Will he pursue truth and justice at any cost?

Positives: A great story filled with integrity! Kids will love the storyline and will learn about the legal system as well. Most importantly they will learn the freedom that comes from truth and trusting in the God-given authority we are placed under.

Negatives: I was a bit disappointed in the ending. I was hoping there would be a better conclusion to the story, but I may have to read the sequel for that!

Talking Points: Theodore Boone, like all of us, has a conscience. Talk to your children about the importance of their conscience. God created us to know the difference between right and wrong. His law is written on our hearts. But what happens when we ignore our conscience?  Read Romans 2, particularly verses 14 -16. What do these verses say about our conscience? Talk about how Theo handled the difficult situation he was in. He learned to trust in those God had placed in authority over him. While he did not right away want to go and speak with his parents, he finally realized the wisdom and experience his parents could bring to the situation. God has placed many forms of authority in all of our lives. Teach your children the wisdom of recognizing authority and trusting in God's plan for them as they obey their parents, and as they grow older and are placed under many different authorities (Eph. 6:1-8, Rom. 13:1-7).

Age Level: 8 years of age and up