Monday, January 21, 2013

Bible Stories That End With A Hug by Stephen Elkins

Recommendation: * (1-star)

This book is a collection of short stories that are taken from the Bible. Each story includes a verse of Scripture, a couple of questions and answers pertaining to the story and a "hug time" at the end.

Positives: The stories are short and can be used for very young children. The illustrations are well done. I liked that the Scripture passages the story was taken from were included on the page.

Negatives: As most of our readers know, I am always a little leary of Bible Storybooks and unfortunately, this book did not change my mind. Overall, it was a disappointment. The most troubling aspect, was that there was no Bible story that told of Christ's death on the cross. There was a story about Jesus eating the Passover meal with his disciples and the next story was about Jesus' resurrection. No mention of the events surrounding the crucifixion or his death on the cross to bear the penalty for our sin.  How are kids to understand the gospel this way? I know there were a lot of stories that weren't included in this book, however I cannot think of any reason to exclude the story that changed the course of history. I also thought the stories focused too much on man and did not bring out the attributes of God enough. The "hug time" was very self-focused. While I am certainly not opposed to hugging my kids, I found this aspect of the book indulgent and unnecessary. There were also a few stories that I disagreed with what they were teaching. The story on baptism teaches that baptism is saying "I am sorry for my sins." That sounds more like repentance, baptism is a step of obedience that tells others publicly that you are a new creation, living for Christ. In another story it teaches that "To Jesus, 'sin' and 'sickness' mean the same thing." I don't care how young your child is, they need to understand the utter sinfulness of their sin. They can understand that when they sin it is a choice they make. We do not choose a sickness, but we do choose to sin. Sin offends a holy God and it is the reason Christ had to die. It is very different to Jesus than sickness.

Talking Points: You can pick and choose the stories you want to read from this book, and some of them are fine. I do like some of the questions the author asks. I would read the story from the Bible and then use the questions in the book to promote discussion. Be discerning though as sometimes the questions don't focus on the real truths found in the story. Overall, keep reinforcing in your child that the Bible stories teach us about God's character and tell us about who He is. Help your child see the gospel story that is woven through every story.  And feel free to give them a hug!

Age Level: 2-5 years of age

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

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Children's Bible Reading Plan

With a new year upon us (yes, I realize January is almost over, but let's not get technical!) I was looking for a new Bible reading plan for our family.  While we read lots of books, we also emphasize the importance of time spent daily in the Word of God.  Is there a better book for your child to be reading?! We have done lots of different things in the past, but I was recently introduced to a fabulous resource and wanted to share it with you all.  Below you will find a link to a blog post that explains how this Bible Reading Plan works, followed by downloadable PDF files for 10 different books of the Bible. There are different formats you can follow and it is not overbearing in any way.  These will be perfect for our 7 year old and can certainly be adapted for younger children and can be used for family Bible reading as well. Click HERE to find the blog post.

I hope this is a helpful resource to you as you continually  train up your child to love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Theodore Boone: The Accused by John Grisham

Recommendation: *** (3-stars)

In the latest installment of the new kid series by John Grisham, Theo finds himself on the other side of the law. Stolen property is found in Theo's possession, but he claims he is innocent. Nonetheless an investigation ensues and the evidence is quickly stacking up against young Theo. Even his lawyer parents are having a difficult time helping him. Will Theo be able to prove his innocence? To what lengths will he have to go to do so? Is he willing to break rules to do it?

Positives: I really like Theo as a character. As a kid he struggles through issues of honesty, integrity and dealing with friends. Though not a "biblical" role model, I appreciate the tone the author approaches these areas with.

Negatives: Theo's uncle Ike isn't the greatest influence on his life. He is usually the reason Theo goes against his conscience and does something that he believes to be wrong.

Talking Points: Theo has a reputation of being a kid of integrity. He is known for his work ethic and his honesty in dealing with friends, teachers and others. Talk to your kids about their reputation. What do their friends and teachers think of them and how does it reflect Christ to them? The Bible talks about our reputation as well. Talk about these verses with your child - Prov. 10:9, Prov. 11:3, Prov. 19:1. I think one of the best things this story illustrates about Theo's integrity was that those who knew him did not believe the charges against him. I Timothy 3 tells us what the qualifications for church leadership are (and these are the character qualities I want my kids to work on now). Several times it is mentioned that they are to be above reproach and to have a good reputation. We call it being a "Teflon person." When you walk in integrity, accusations of wrong doing don't stick. Help teach your child the importance of a "good reputation" for the glory of God (Matt. 5:16).

Age Level: 8 years of age and up

Monday, January 7, 2013

When Mother Was Eleven-Foot Four by Jerry Camery-Hoggatt

Recommendation: **** (4-star)

This short story is the endearing memories of a young boy and how his mother always made Christmas so special. In spite of being only four-foot-eleven, his mother was tall on the inside, where it mattered, and she was always at her tallest during Christmas. With 8 children to care for (including her brothers 3 children), mother took great pains to make sure Christmas was a special time, with a big, beautiful tree and plenty of presents to go around. Then one year everything changed. There wasn't money for a Christmas tree or presents and while they made due, mother said she never felt so small as that year. Along the way, her children learn a valuable lesson - a lesson she has taught them well, how to be a giver of gifts.

Positives: A fun and wonderful story to enjoy together with your kids during the Christmas season. The illustrations are beautiful and it captures the magical feel of Christmas that kids enjoy and remember.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: Teaching our kids to be givers can be difficult! And the way in which we celebrate Christmas can either help or hinder them in this area. Talk about how Jesus modeled giving and serving for us. Here are some Scriptures that can be helpful! Phil. 2:1-8, Matt. 20:25-28, John 13:1-15. What an example! It goes against every part of our natural being to forget about ourselves and prefer others. We must teach our kids (and ourselves!) to ask for the help of the Holy Spirit as they root out these areas of pride and selfishness and learn to walk by the Spirit and be humble servants of Christ as they freely give to others.

Age Level: 4-8 years of age

Friday, January 4, 2013

God Gave Us Christmas by Lisa Tawn Bergren

Recommendation: **** (4-star)

Little Cub is full of questions about Christmas! She and Mama Bear set out on an adventure to see God and discover how God gave Christmas to us. As Little Cub sees the power of God, she learns that Jesus is the best present of all and that Jesus would have come even if she was the only one who needed Him.

Positives: The "God Gave Us" series is so simply and beautifully written. I have loved each and every story and use them often with children. This story once again shows us a great bond between Little Bear and Mama Bear and how Mama Bear so patiently teaches her young Cub about God and the world around her. I love that the idea of Santa is addressed in this book. Santa is dealt with honestly, as a fictional character, but we see that God is far greater than Santa!

Negatives: None

Talking Points: There were so many Scriptures that came to mind as I was reading this book! Mama Bear uses creation to teach Little Bear about God. Continue to show your children the wonders of creation and talk about how they reflect an awesome Creator! (Ps. 19:1, Rom. 1:18-19). Mama Bear spoke of our need for Jesus to come in the flesh because God knew we needed someone we could see and touch and smell (John 1:1-14, 1 John 1:1-3). I loved the imagery the author used of a flower blooming in the winter and how Jesus is like that flower - surprising, unexpected. Talk with your child about how Jesus' birth is surprising. How could an all-powerful King become a helpless baby? How could the sins of many be paid for by the death of a sinless one? Lastly, I would talk about the idea expressed in the book that Jesus came for all of us and came for each of us. We are all sinners (Mean 'ol Maggie Moose and grumpy 'ol Frankie Fox) in need of a Savior. Yet even if we were the only sinner, Jesus would have come on Christmas, to rescue us (1 Tim. 1:15, Romans 6:10, Heb. 9:11-12).

Age Level: 2-7 years of age

I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.