Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko

Recommendation: *** (3-stars)

Wondering what Jr. High kids are reading in school these days? This is one of the books my 7th grade son recently read for his English class. It was pretty entertaining and had some thought provoking moments as well.

It's 1935 and Moose Flanagan and his family have just moved to Alcatraz. His father has taken a job working in the prison and Moose is less than happy about the situation. The reason for the move is to help Moose's sister Natalie get into a school that will help her. Today,  Natalie would be diagnosed as autistic, but in 1935 all kinds of schools and treatments were being tested on children like her. The story is given from Moose's perspective - a 12 year old, baseball loving boy, who has just left behind his friends and now lives next to a prison. The group of kids who also live on the island are an unlikely bunch, but they manage to get each other in and out of trouble regularly. With plenty of humor and emotional appeal this is a well-told story with a fantastic, unpredictable ending.

Positives: The family relationships were real and intact. This family wasn't without its faults, but they were fierce in their love and care for each other. They were willing to work through the difficulties life dealt them together and fight for and with each other.

Negatives: The kids who live on Alcatraz regularly lie to their schoolmates about life on Alcatraz and break the rules they are supposed to follow on the island. They are punished for their schemes at one point, but it doesn't stop them for long.

Talking Points: Moose, like all kids (and adults), struggled with what he knew to be right, and his own selfish desires. He had a heavy conscience when he behaved wrongly. We all have the law of God written on our heart. Whether we acknowledge wrongdoing as sin or not, we know when we have broken God's law. Talk with your kids about their conscience and the role of the Holy Spirit in conviction. Every person has been given a conscience, but only believer's have the Holy Spirit. We all know when we have broken a law, but we do not all have the ability to repent and change our actions.  Talk through the gospel and help  your kids see that acknowledging their sin (conscience) is the first step, but repentance can only come through the Holy Spirit working in their heart and helping them to change. Romans 2:14-15 talk about our knowledge of the law and our conscience. Eph. 2 tells us that apart from the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives we cannot change. Impress on the hearts of your kids the importance of a changed heart, a changed life - through the power of the Holy Spirit and the work of Christ on the cross, and not just being a moral person.
Age Level: 10 years of age and up

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Battle For Cannibal Island by Marianne Hering and Wayne Thomas Batson

Recommendation: *** (3-stars)

Beth and her cousin Patrick are once again sent on an adventure in the Imagination Station. This time they find themselves on a ship sailing through an area that is known for its cannibals. After being labeled as stowaways they find themselves in danger around every turn. During a storm and in the midst of a prison break the cousins are separated and become desperate to find each other again. Through this adventure the cousins learn about bravery and the importance of relationships - caring for others more than themselves, as Mr. Calvert demonstrates to them.

Positives: This book kept me guessing! Just when you think Beth and Patrick are safe, more trouble seems to find them. I enjoyed the character of Mr. Calvert who willingly sacrificed and put himself in harms way so that the cannibals could hear the gospel. He showed little concern for self, and much concern for the souls of the lost.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: At the end of the story the kids talk about Mr. Calvert and how he continued to pursue Toki and the other cannibals no matter how they treated him. He was so concerned that they understand the gospel. Talk to your kids their level of concern for unsaved friends and family members. Do you regularly pray for the unsaved? Do you encourage your child to share the gospel with others? Are they equipped to do so? Are they more concerned about what others think of them than about their eternal destiny? We must help shape our self-centered hearts to be burdened for the souls of those who do not know Jesus Christ. Can we and our children like Paul in Romans 1:16 say that we "are not ashamed of the Gospel..."? In Philippans 1:23-24 Paul shows his heart for the Philippan people when he states that while it would be far better to be with Christ, He chooses to "remain...for [their] progress and joy in the faith." What sacrifices do we make to obey Christ's call in Matt. 28 to "go into all the world and make disciples..."?

Age Level: 5-10 years of age (7 year old reading level)

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

Friday, October 12, 2012

Beginner's Bible App for FREE!

Right now you can download the Beginner's Bible App for free! It contains 6 stories and 6 activites. An additional pack of 6 stories is $1.99. More packs will be released in the coming months.

Beginner's Bible IPad App

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

From time to time I have reviewed book related products that I have found and enjoyed. While I am mostly  a fan of books and reading, there is nothing wrong with a little technology that enhances a child's interaction with a book - especially if it is the Bible! I hope you find this review helpful as you seek to find the proper place for technology in your home and family.

I have been a fan of The Beginner's Bible for many years. In fact, it was the first Bible my husband and I purchased for our children and we all thoroughly enjoyed it. The pictures were vibrant and fun and the text told short Bible stories in simple language. In the new IPad app the style of the Bible is the same as the published version, but there are some fun new additions that your kids will enjoy. The story can be read or listened to and the illustrations are interactive. On one page you can make the butterfly fly or you can add fruit to the tree on another. You can help Noah get the elephant on the ark or turn the morning into night. There are also activities that go with each story. These include puzzles, coloring pages and a version of "Fruit Ninja" in the garden of Eden which was very fun to play!

Positives: A fun way to get your kids to interact with Scripture. I liked that they could email the completed coloring page when they were done. How fun to send a picture to grandma and grandpa or other family member who lives far away!

Negatives: None

Talking Points: I think this App is just a way to extend your Bible conversations with your Pre-Schooler. As they interact with the various stories you continue to talk about what the Bible teaches and point them to their Savior every step along the way.

Age Level: 2-5 years of age

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Escape To The Hiding Place by Marianne Hering and Marshal Younger

Recommendation: **** (4-stars)

This is the 9th book in The Imagination Station Series from Adventures in Odyssey and Focus on the Family. This series takes the reader on a historical adventure and teaches a character trait or truth along  the way. In Escape to the Hiding Place, Beth  and Patrick are taken to Holland during World War II. Here they meet members of the Dutch Resistance who are trying to help Jews and many others stay alive and avoid the war camps. Due to dangerous circumstances, Beth and Patrick are asked to help deliver a young baby to her mother as they have been separated. They are given an address and told they must go quickly and keep the baby hidden as she doesn't have proper papers. With danger following them Beth and Patrick are able to arrive safely and meet Corrie ten Boom and her family. They see the great danger Corrie puts herself in to help others and learn that even kids can do great things for God.

Positives: This series provides a fun way for kids to learn a bit about history, and see how Christian's have played integral parts in history. My 7-year old was thoroughly engaged in the story and has begged me to get more! They are great for her to read by herself, but we also love reading them together. I loved the detail brought out in the story of the backpack, the parachute and the watch. Through these kids can see that God takes care of the smallest details of our lives. We also enjoyed going online and entering our "secret password"  to learn more about Corrie ten Boom.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: There are many conversations you could have with your children surrounding this story. My daughter and I talked about God's sovereignty and our call to trust Him.  Our kids can wonder why such horrible things had to happen and still happen in our world. We must continue to point them to a God who is sovereign - in control of all things. Here are a few Scriptures that talk about God's sovereignty: Job 14:5-6, Job 42:2, Psalm 33:10-15, Psalm 115:3, Psalm 139, Prov. 16:4-9, Prov. 21:1, Is. 55;10-11, Rom. 13:1-2, James 4;13-15. We can only trust a God who is in complete control of all things! Teach your children that God is indeed worthy of their trust because He knows the very number of hairs on their head (Matt. 10:30). Read through the Psalms with your kids and make note of everytime the word trust is used. Talk about how and why we put are to put our trust in the Lord and not in earthly things.

Age Level: 5-10 year olds (7 year old reading level)

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

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Eric Liddell - Are You Ready? by Catherine Mackenzie

Recommendation: **** (4-stars)

This early reader edition tells the story of Eric Liddell. Eric was an excellent athlete who loved to run, but more important to Eric was honoring his God. He became well-known for his refusal to run on a Sunday during the 1924 Olympics in Paris. While Eric enjoyed running and knew that he ran to give God glory, he was more concerned for the souls of lost people. He spent years in China as a missionary where he eventually died during World War II.

Positives: It is clear that Jesus Christ was important to Eric. He sacrificed much to honor and serve his Lord and Savior. The easy language is great for early readers and the illustrations help tell the story well.

Negatives: There were a couple of sentences that were confusing in the book, they didn't seem to express a complete thought. This could be confusing for young readers.

Talking Points: Eric Liddell lived what he proclaimed. He was passionate about telling people about Jesus and his life reflected his belief in the gospel. II Cor. 5:17 tells us that Christians are new creations and that they live in a different way as a result of their heart being changed by the gospel. Talk to your kids about their own hearts, do their actions reflect what they profess? We also see that Eric counted the cost of following Christ. He sacrificed much for the gospel, ultimately dying as a missionary in a prison camp while sharing the gospel with other prisoners. Matt. 16:24-26 and Luke 14:28-33 calls us to count the cost. Don't be afraid to teach your children about the sacrifices Christ calls us to. If you continue to share the gospel as the pearl of great value, they will understand that the cost is worth it.

Age Level: 2-8 years of age (6-8 year olds can read this independently)

I received a free copy of this book from CF4K Publishing in exchange for this review. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

What Is The Gospel? By Mandy Groce

Recommendation: **** (4-star)

Children have a way of asking questions that are both difficult and easy to answer at the same time! Questions concerning the gospel are some of the most important questions your child will (hopefully) ever ask - and the answer you give is of even greater importance. This book offers a simple look at some of the different aspects of the gospel and shows us the faith of a child we are all called to exhibit.

Positives: There is so  much about this book that I loved! First of all it was great to see a biblical family structure. This boy knew he could ask any family member about the gospel (brother, uncle, mom) and they would be willing to help him. Most importantly however, the story upholds the father as the spiritual head of the home. Although mom could have answered the question, she directed her son to his father. I also enjoyed the emphasis on the different aspects of the gospel. It spoke of sin and grace and being a part of God's Kingdom. I also enjoyed the illustrations!

Negatives: I wish the book had addressed God's holiness to better show the great gap between man and God.

Talking Points: As I said earlier, the gospel should be of utmost importance. Be deliberate and careful what you teach your child on this subject. Use Bible verses and biblical terms when talking about the gospel. Don't water it down  for them! Don't tell them they should "ask Jesus into their heart." Nowhere in Scripture are those words used! Trust the perfect, authoritative, sufficient Word of God! Will your child perfectly understand all aspects of the gospel? Well, do you? As you are given opportunity over and over again to explain the gospel, pray for the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of your child, that they will grow in their understanding of these vital truths. I loved the ending of this book - the boy trusted in God's faithfulness to continue to teach him these truths. That is what we must do as well! Here are some Scriptures to use as you share the gospel: God's holiness - Is. 6:1-3, Deut. 32:3-4, man's sinfulness - Eph. 2:1-3, Rom. 3:23, Rom. 3:10-12, penalty of sin - Rom. 6:23, I Cor. 6:9-11, Jesus Christ - John 1:1-5, Phil. 2:5-11, John 19:16-42, John 20:1-18, I Cor. 15, Faith - John 20:30-31, Acts 4:12, Eph. 2:8-10.

Age Level: 4-9 years of age

I received a free copy of this book from CF4K Publishers in exchange for this review.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Amy Carmichael: Rescuer of Precious Gems by Geoff and Janet Benge

Recommendation:  ***** (5 stars)

We are introduced to Amy Carmichael as a boarding school student with a mischievous bent to her leadership skills. When she must return home to Ireland, she is given God’s heart for service when she and her brothers help a poor woman. As she faces numerous challenges with her father’s death, her heart for serving the poor and rejected grows. This passion later takes her to Japan, where God promises her that although she will not marry, she will never be alone. He is faithful to this promise, as she becomes a mother to hundreds of children in India years later, saving them from a life of slavery in the Hindu temples and other terrible circumstances. Amy never desires attention for herself, but sacrificially cares for and teaches many about the God who loves them.

Positives: This true story shows off God’s faithfulness in numerous ways. As Amy begins her ministry to poor women and girls in Ireland, she believes that He will provide necessary funds. Throughout the course of her life, many structures are built to accommodate ministry as Amy follows God’s conviction. She never asks anyone for money, but the money is always provided. It is clear God’s hand of provision and guidance is upon everything. Her simple and unwavering faith is steadfast, even during difficult times of mourning and personal illness.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: From the very outset of the book, as Amy senses God speaking to her about serving others unashamedly, the concept of the fear of man (Matthew 10:28) can be elaborated upon. There are several instances where others criticize or misunderstand Amy’s work and convictions (wearing a plain sari  as Indian women did, so her English dress would no longer be a distraction), but Amy does not care about these opinions that oppose God’s leading. She is also sensitive to the cultural differences around her. The caste system in India cannot be ignored, so when a hospital is built, there are places for families to prepare meals for their patients so that caste will not be broken. (1 Corinthians 9:22) By accommodating these practices, opportunities for the gospel to go forth are created. Amy must lean heavily on God’s grace, and more apparently so in seasons of grief. It is clear that her strength is from the Lord and He faithfully provides it. (2 Corinthians 12:9; Psalm 121:1)

Age Level:  10 years and up