Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Between Heaven and Earth by Eric Walters

Recommendation: **** (4 stars)

The story unfolds as DJ (the eldest) and his cousins learn about the interesting clause their grandfather has put in his will. All seven grandsons have been given a task to complete, unfinished business that their grandfathers requests of them from beyond the grave. DJ's task is to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and scatter his grandfathers ashes at the top.  As the eldest grandson he is proud his grandfather has chosen this task for him and he is very confident that he will complete it without any problems.  After all, he is young and fit and determined, what could stop him? Fortunately for young DJ his grandfather knew this would be the perfect task to teach him some life lessons, the hard way. This story provides a bit of everything - danger, adventure, relational and personal challenges and connects with the reader on an emotional level as well. I'll admit it, I cried at the end!  But that's just boys just thought it was very cool.

Positives: The characters in this story were fabulous!  I so enjoyed reading it as the relationships developed and intentions were revealed.  I also enjoyed the personal battles that DJ struggled through as his character struggled to complete his grandfather's request and become a man.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: DJ's fierce independence really struck me in this story and made me think about myself and my kids. We often hear in parenting circles that we want our kids to grow up to be independent. While there is some truth to that, I find myself more and more trying to teach my kids to be dependent.  The independent attitude comes much more naturally - who hasn't heard a toddler say "I do it!" And while I don't want my kids to be lazy, I want them to know that they need help. The gospel is all about how badly we need help. Read Titus 3:3-7.  Verse 5 tells us, "He saved us..."  Plain and simple, it was the goodness and lovingkindness of God that brought us salvation - not anything we had or have or could ever do.  We need Christ to help us. And this goes beyond salvation to our everyday walk with Christ - we need help! John 14 and 15 refer to the Holy Spirit as our Helper. We can never exhibit the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) without the help of the Holy Spirit. This lesson also spreads to the church.  The church is called to help one another - to use the spiritual gifts we are given to build up the body of Christ - all to the glory of God (Eph. 4:11-16)! When someone in the body has a need, we are to help fulfill that need! Talk to your kids about how DJ learned that he needed help to climb the mountain and that climbing together was important and teach them to swallow their pride and ask for help!  And teach them to be helpers, willing to fulfill a need when others need help.

Age Level: 10 years of age and up

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Boy And The Ocean by Max Lucado

Recommendation: *** (3 stars)

A young boy views the ocean, the mountains and the nighttime sky and learns from his parents how these elements of creation reflect God's love. He learns that God's love is special, it is always there.

Positives: This story uses a Biblical concept to create a touching story. The Bible tells us that creation teaches us about God and his character and this book focuses on teaching children about God's unending love. Just like we can't see the end of the ocean, we can never experience the end of God's love. The illustrations are simply amazing!

Negatives: I would have liked to see the story use Jesus as an expression of God's love as well. Without Jesus, there is not a complete gospel presentation in this book.

Talking Points: Scripture tells us that creation reflects God's character (Psalm 19:1, Rom. 1:18-20). Talk with your child about what they see in creation that points them to The Creator (i.e. seeing God's faithfulness in the patterns of morning and evening or the seasons). A great resource here is to use hymns. Many hymns express the character of God through creation. A few to start with would be "The Love of God" and "Great Is Thy Faithfulness." Since we never want to miss a gospel opportunity, also talk to your kids about Jesus being the ultimate expression of God's love toward us. John 3:16 tells us the reason God sent His Son! God loves the people He created, but because of our sin He is separated from us. Through Jesus coming to earth and living a sinless life we can now be forgiven and have a relationship with God. God loves us enough to continually move toward us when we are continually running from Him.

Age Level: 2-7 years of age

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

Monday, April 8, 2013

Seven The Series

My boys and I are going to read this new series that came out last fall. It is a unique and fun concept for a series and I am excited to try this new venture with them! The series consists of 7 different books, each written by a different author. Each of the books was released on the same day last fall and there is no particular order to read them in. The series is based around the stories of 7 grandsons who all receive an adventure to complete from their grandfather in his will. Each book is an independent story, but they are all loosely connected through their grandfather as well. HERE is where you can learn more about the series and the authors.

My boys are excited to jump into this series, though my oldest son is not at all comfortable with the concept of not reading them in a particular order (such a firstborn!). My second born could not be more thrilled though as he usually has to wait for his brother to finish the first book in a series before he can start, this way he can read whatever he pleases!

Look for my reviews on each book in the coming weeks. Some of these books are topping the best seller lists in Canada, so I can't wait to get started!