Thursday, November 29, 2012

So B. It by Sarah Weeks

Recommendation: **** (4-stars)

This is another book that my Jr. Higher is reading in school this year and it's a tearjerker. Ok, maybe not for a 7th grade boy, but for this mom there were a few misty-eyed moments.

Twelve year old Heidi lives in a small apartment with her mentally disabled mother. Her neighbor Bernadette has taken Heidi and her mother under her wing and cares for them. They are an interesting "family" since Bernadette has agoraphobia and refuses to leave her apartment. Nonetheless, they are a loving family unit who cares for and protects each other. As Heidi grows older though, she has questions about who she is, where she came from and does she have any other family? Her Mama doesn't talk so she can't find any answers there and all Bernadette knows is that they showed up at her doorstep one day when Heidi was an infant. As Heidi begins to uncover clues, she grows desperate to know and understand not only about herself, but about who her mother is. Her Mama only knows a few words and one particular word that she repeats often begins to haunt Heidi and she must find the answers. As she sets off on her journey of discovery there are many heartaches along the way, but Heidi does learn that you don't have to be related to be family.

Positives: I really just loved this story. The characters were so interesting and real, they drew me in and made me laugh and cry right along with them.

Negatives: Heidi seems to have a lucky streak in her! When they are running low on money Bernadette sends her to a slot machine and she always wins money to provide for them. Bernadette and Heidi are careful though and don't get greedy, Heidi only wins what they need. Being only 12 years old this is illegal and while Bernadette does acknowledge that, she feels like there is no other way to provide for this family. Heidi also hides her age in order to buy a bus ticket.

Talking Points: Heidi's curiosity about her family history is natural and there is nothing wrong about it, but the thing I will talk to my son about from this book is finding his identity in Christ. When we struggle with loneliness or acceptance we always turn to Psalm 75 to remind ourselves that God is sufficient - He is all we need. When everyone and everything on this earth fails, Christ is enough. He has promised to provide all of our needs (Philp. 4:19), He will always be with us (Matt. 28:20) and Colossians tells us that He is sufficient for salvation!  Matthew 6:19-21 tells us to not treasure the things of the earth. Teach your kids that Christ is enough - He is more than enough! No matter what our life on earth is like we can be a part of the family of Christ, accepted and loved far beyond the love any  human could offer.

Age Level: 11 years of age and up

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Uncle Jesus by Georgia Lee Anderson

Recommendation: *** (3 stars)

In this fictional account we meet young Shem who misses his Uncle Jesus. Shem (fictional character) is the son of Jesus' brother, Jude. After sharing some of his favorite memories of his uncle, Shem hears from his Grandma Mary the story of when Jesus was born and how his father and other uncles came to understand that Jesus was not just their brother, but their Savior as well.

Positives: A clever and beautiful story. I thoroughly enjoyed how the author explored Jesus' family life. While the Bible does not specifically say that Jesus had nephews, we do know that he had brothers and sisters so this is a plausible fiction story.

Negatives: While the author intends for this story to be fictional, she does use biblical elements throughout the story. That being the case, there was an element of the story that bothered me. Twice in the story it is represented that Jesus was not the oldest child of Mary and Joseph. First, Jesus is referred to as "...their little brother..." and secondly when Mary recounts the story of their flight to Egypt she tells Shem that Jesus' brothers were upset because they had to tend the shop for Joseph while they were gone. If any of Jesus' brothers were alive when they fled to Egypt, they certainly weren't old enough to tend a shop. I know these are small details in a fictional story, but when dealing with Scripture, we must be careful to accurately portray what it says even to the smallest detail.

Talking Points: What would it be like to live with a brother who never sinned? Do you think it was hard for Jesus' brothers to live with him? Shem was thankful for his Uncle Jesus, but he also prayed to thank God for the Holy Spirit. In John 14:16 Jesus promises his disciples to send the Holy Spirit and today, all believers have the Holy Spirit living in them. Is this any different than Shem having his Uncle Jesus with him? Talk to your kids about the Holy Spirit and how He is always with Christians. On earth, Jesus could not be everywhere at all times, but we have the Holy Spirit who can teach, help and guide us every moment of the day (John 16:7,13).

Age Level: 3-8 years of age

I received a free copy of this book through the BookCrash program in exchange for this review.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Taken by Brock Eastman

Recommendation: **** (4-stars)

In this futuristic novel the four Wikk children are on a desperate mission to find their parents and uncover the clues they have left behind that will help them discover the truth about the planet Ursprung and the beginnings of life. As they travel from planet to planet they don't know who to trust and sometime complicate matters by fighting amongst themselves. There are so many secrets to uncover - secrets about themselves, their parents, the Ubel renegades. Will they be in time? Can Oliver protect his brothers and sister? Will they ever see their parents again?

Positives: I loved this fast-paced and riveting story! I really enjoyed the realistic relationships between the siblings. They love each other, but boy can they get mad with each other! The characters were well developed and it was great to see and understand their personalities. The gadgets they use are really fun and it liked the drawings of the Phoenix and the visual glossary in the back. I also thoroughly enjoyed the Blauwe Menson (the Blue People)! They were so cool! I cannot wait to read the rest of the series!

Negatives: None

Talking Points: Actions have consequences. In this story Austin and Mason disobey their brother and leave the Phoenix when they are not supposed to. This action has consequences! In the story, we don't even know or understand all the consequences these actions might have and in life we don't always think clearly about the consequences we or others may face for our actions. God promises that with disobedience comes discipline. The Old Testament is full of stories of people who disobeyed and the consequences they suffered (Achan in Josh. 7, Moses in Num. 20, Lot's wife in Gen. 19, David in 2 Sam. 11-12). Our actions also affect others. We need to carefully consider actions and words, regarding others as more important than ourselves (Philp. 2:1-8). Jesus' actions took us into consideration! Are we, like Jesus, willing to suffer temporarily here on this earth so that others might gain eternal life? Our actions speak loudly about what and who we truly love and value. We may not see the results of our actions today, we may never know or understand the pain or joy we have caused another, but we must carefully consider how our actions affect others and their view of Jesus Christ.

Age Level: 10 years of age and up

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Would You...Read Me To Sleep? By George Edenfield

Recommendation: * (1 star)

The story told is that of a loving father-daughter relationship. Leia and her father spend hours together. They go on walks and pick flowers and make friends with the bunnies, but their favorite part of the day comes right before bedtime. This is when Leia and her dad sit together and read, and their favorite book is the "big storybook" that tells the tales of shepherd boys, valiant kings and men who spent the night with lions. The story tells of the changes that take place as Leia grows. For many years they enjoy story time together but eventually Leia grows up and moves out. One day she comes back to read to her father, who is very ill, from the "Big Storybook."  Her father dies and enters heaven where he awaits the day Leia, his Princess Angel of Love, will join him there.

Positives: I gave this book 1 star because of the lovely illustrations. The pictures are made to look like oil paintings on canvas and the colors are vibrant. The children's faces in  particular are beautiful.

Negatives: As I researched the book I could not find what the author's target audience was. When looking at the cover, my first thought was this was written for kids 6 and younger. That being the case, this book is far too wordy for small children and uses too many unfamiliar (big) words for kids (i.e., foraging, tranquil, serenade, piqued, pondered, tyrant). More importantly though, the gospel message is very unclear. While it does make a veiled reference to Jesus (the Son of the Great King), the message of the book is that Heaven, not Christ, is the greatest treasure - The Great Treasure of Golden Destiny. They also talk about the secret of the  Seven Golden Keys. This part was confusing and difficult for me to understand. I believe the author intended the Seven Golden Keys to be the words "Well done, thou good and faithful servant," that Jesus spoke when they entered heaven. It is unclear what the purpose of these words are in the book though. I also did not like that the Bible was referred to as the "big storybook." This is just a personal preference, but it didn't establish that the Bible is different from any other book, fiction or nonfiction. The Bible is unlike any other book ever written!

Talking Points: Matthew 13 speaks of the kingdom of heaven as a treasure of great value. Certainly talk to your children about heaven and the kingdom that Christ is preparing there for his children. How amazing and merciful that Christ would choose to bring us to the dwelling place of God for eternity and to grant us the privilege of worshiping and living forever in the presence of our great God and King. However make sure that your children understand that Christ is the treasure. Heaven means nothing without Christ. I once heard John Piper ask a question something like this: Would you rather have all the treasure and beauty of heaven without Christ, or would you choose Christ with no promise of heaven? Christ is enough!

Age Level: 2-6 years of age

I received this book through the BookCrash program in exchange for this review.