Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Lightening Thief by Rick Riordan

Recommendation:  **** (4 stars)

Percy Jackson has not lasted long in any of the “special” schools he has attended, as trouble always finds him. This 6th grader discovers that he is a half-blood, the son of his human mother and a Greek god. There are more of his kind, and he is destined to be a hero. His friends Grover and Annabeth, a satyr (goat-man) and another half-blood, help him to successfully complete his first quest. He even gets to meet his father, Poseidon, god of the sea. Percy’s supernatural ability to manipulate water and survive beneath its surface, along with his courage and determination, make him a force to be reckoned with.

Positives: This book is well written with an attention-keeping pace of one event flowing to the next. The characters are well developed, giving the reader enough insight and background into why they are who they are. It was an enjoyable read that I looked forward to picking up again each time. Although my 5th grader had already read this and the remainder of the series, he and I went through it together as a fun way to spend time together. While the storyline deals with the intertwined human world and the world of the Greek gods and goddesses, there is an acknowledgement that “God” is a completely different matter altogether.

Negatives: Some violence (when Percy fights and prevails over the minotaur); small section with questionable content due to its prophetic nature (consulting the Oracle for Percy’s destiny).

Talking points: Aside from acknowledging that this is fiction, there are worthy character qualities that can be highlighted and encouraged. Percy’s friendships with Grover and Annabeth are good displays of loyalty, dependability, and encouraging personal growth. The three increase in their appreciation for one another, and even challenge each other to be stretched in their strengths and weaknesses. As they face a variety of foes, their consistent concern for one another is admirable. “A friend loves at all times.” (Prov. 17:17) As the half-bloods inherit supernatural powers from their god- or goddess-parents, so do we inherit traits from our biological parents. Discuss the unique ways that God has made each person according to His design and will, and how this is for His glory. But also that He is the ultimately sovereign power who watches over, protects, guides and helps us. (Psalm 139, Hebrews 4:14-16) As Christ put on flesh and walked the earth as a God-man, He understands all of our weaknesses and we can call upon our Father in the name of Christ at any time for any reason and He will hear and answer our prayers according to His will. (Psalm 37:4, Eph. 6:18) As we put on the ‘armor of God’, He equips us with everything we need for life and godliness, and to stand against the enemy (Eph. 6:10-17, 2 Pet. 1:3).

Reviewer’s further note: Our family enjoyed the audio version of another Riordan book while on vacation. This one was The Lost Hero, which is subsequent, but several books removed from, The Lightning Thief. My red flags were popping up all over, as the Oracle takes on a much larger role in The Lost Hero, to the point that she was essentially demon-possessed, in my opinion. Another being “takes over” her essence, and even her appearance is changed, along with other physical elements in the room changing. I could not get past the power and importance of this character’s part in the story. It was very much something I knew I must discuss with my 11- and 8-yr old children later on, and did. Because of this increased element, I strongly encourage parents to preview, discuss, and proceed with caution in the reading of this book series. Riordan’s writing style continued to be very entertaining with excellent character development, but in the aspect mentioned above, discernment is required. (Heb. 5:14)

Age level: 10 years and up

Thursday, June 13, 2013

My Very First Noah's Ark Playtime by Lois Rock

Recommendation: ***

This sticker and activity book bases it's contents on the story of Noah and the Ark. There are a lot of stickers, a short board game, a recipe to try and a counting activity as well as a very abbreviated version of the story.

Positives: This would be a great book to purchase for an upcoming road trip.  The amount of stickers and activities would keep kids occupied for quite awhile.

Negatives: I wasn't thrilled with the Bible story account given. It focuses more on the animals and not on showing us God's character that we learn about through this story.  There was no reference to the grace and mercy shown to Noah or God's faithfulness and goodness. It also fails to mention the reason of the flood and God's judgment of sin. The only other downside is that once the stickers are all used, there aren't a lot of other activities to keep using the book. However, still a nice book to occupy kids for a time.

Talking Points: As your child does the activities and you read to them, be sure and use Scripture (Genesis 6-9) to teach your children about the character of God. This story teaches us so much about our own sinful hearts, God's holiness and judgment of sin, and the riches of his grace that he granted Noah and his family and us today.

Age Level: 4-6 years of age.

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