Tuesday, April 8, 2014

My Very First Easter Story

The true story of Easter is one that every child should know - and while very young children may not completely understand it, it's never too early to begin introducing them to the story of Jesus' death and resurrection and what it means for us. That's the concept behind My Very First Easter Story by Lois Rock.

Rock begins the story on Passover, with crowds welcoming Jesus with palm branches. "This must be the beginning of Jesus making the whole world a better place," the author credits the crowd with thinking. Then we see Jesus at the temple, overturning the tables because "Jesus could see they were making people pay too much." Next, we see Jesus at the last supper, instructing his disciples. We learn about his prayer in the garden, which Rock simplifies as: "Father God...I don't want these hard times, but I will do what you want." Then soldiers take Jesus away and crucify him. His friends put him in a tomb.

Those same friends decide they need to hide, or the Romans might come after them, too. But when they go back to Jesus' tomb "to say goodbye," Jesus' body is missing. Shortly after, "a man" bumps into some of Jesus' friends, and they invite him to dinner. Suddenly, when he says a prayer, they see the man is Jesus. And then Jesus disappears.

But Jesus reappears to instruct his friends. "He helped them understand that God is a friend when people face hard times, and that God can make everything good and right again. He gave them a job to do - to tell this news to all the world." Then Jesus goes to Heaven.
"But God gave his friends the help they needed. They suddenly felt brave. They knew what to say. They began to speak to anyone who would listen...'Jesus came to us from God,' they explained. 'He came to tell us how much God loves us. People tried to stop him, but their plan hasn't worked. Jesus is alive, proving that his message is true: God wants everyone to give up bad ways and come home to a place of goodness. God welcomes us all as friends.' ...The news has been spreading ever since."
What I Like: Overall, I think Rock did a decent job of explaining the Easter story. In fact, she covers many aspects of it that other children's Easter books usually leave out - including an attempt at the true significance of Jesus' death and resurrection.

What I Dislike: However, I think this book misses the mark of being a "very first" Easter book. First of all, this book doesn't do a good job of keeping the attention of young children. Some of that is due to the illustrations by Alex Ayliffe, which are pretty lifeless, actionless, and bland. Very good illustrations would make this book far more enjoyable for young children.

But I also find that this book may include too much information for young children. The Easter story is one of drama, excitement, and emotion. But because this is a book for young children, it is highly condensed. That means there is little to hold kids' attention, and the storyline might be a little difficult to follow. Also, some parts are just confusing for little people. For example, when "a man" appears to Jesus' friends, they don't immediately know it is Jesus. Young kids are going to ask why, but the author doesn't attempt to answer this. (Of course, the Bible doesn't answer this question, either.) This whole section is really confusing for young ones.

More importantly, I question how the author sums up the significance of Jesus' resurrection. Why go on and on about giving up "bad ways" and being God's "friend" when you could tell children how Jesus paid the price for our sins so we can someday go to Heaven and be with God?

Overall Rating: Ho-hum.

Age Appeal: According to the publisher, 3 - 5 years.

Publishing Info: Lion, 2012; ISBN:  978-0745962160; hardback, 32 pgs., $6.99

Buy Now at Amazon for $5.9. Or buy at ChristianBook.com for $5.99
Also available is a sticker book version.

Special Info: Looking for a better choice of an Easter book for young children? Check out our reviews for the following books: The Very First Easter, The Story of Easter, What is Easter?, My Easter Basket, An Easter Gift for Me, and The Story of Easter.

Simon and the Easter Miracle

Remember the man who was forced to pick up Jesus' cross and carry it for him? Author Mary Joslin imagines him as the central character for her book Simon and the Easter Miracle, based on Polish folklore.

The book begins by introducing us to Simon, a farmer who just wants to sell his eggs and produce in the market. But when he reaches town, there's an angry crowd crying "Crucify him!" Before Simon knows it, a Roman soldier tells him to put aside his baskets of goods and carry the cross of a beaten prisoner. Having no choice but to do what the soldier tells him to do, Simon carefully sets down his precious goods and picks up the cross. The prisoner thanks him and Simon asks what he's done to deserve crucifixion.
"The man shrugged. 'Preaching a message of peace,' he said."
Simon hurries away as soon as the cross is delivered to its spot on the hill. He doesn't want to hear the shouting and weeping. "All I wished for today was a good market, with fair prices for my produce," he says.

When he reaches the spot where he set aside his baskets, he finds his eggs broken, the wine spilt, and not enough left to bother trying to set up a market stall. He goes home with a sigh, happy that tomorrow is Sabbath, the day of rest.

Early Sunday morning, Simon gets up and starts to work. He looks at some eggs. They are cracked - and empty. He works in his olive grove - and notices the sudden sound of wings, as 12 white doves circle his head.
"At once Simon knew a miracle had happened. 'Doves are the birds of peace,' he said. 'And God blesses all those who work for peace.'"
The doves fly off, and Simon returns to his work, noticing "how quickly spring had warmed the new season's crops.'"

What I Like: Anna Luraschi's illustrations are warm and colorful. I think they do a nice job of capturing the attention of children.

What I Dislike: I didn't care for this book. It really is only useful for children who are quite knowledgeable about the true story of Easter - and even then, I think it detracts from the story of Jesus' resurrection. My children even found the story confusing. Were the empty eggs the same eggs from the market? Or were they newly laid? And what, exactly, was the miracle? Was the author referring to Christ's resurrection (which isn't actually mentioned), or the doves? Additionally, I felt the story watered-down the importance of Christ. Somehow, I don't think Jesus would have said he was being crucified because he was preaching peace.

Overall Rating: Ho-hum.

Age Appeal: About 4 - 8.

Publishing Info: Lion Hudson, 2012; ISBN:  978-0745960586; paperback, 32 pgs., $14.99

Buy Now at Amazon for $11.97 - or buy the Kindle version for $3.59
Or buy at ChristianBook.com for $7.19

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Giveaway Winners Announced

The winners of our Warrior Kids! giveaway are Tracy S. and Amanda H. Congratulations, ladies! And thank you to everyone who entered the contest.

Tracy and Debbie, please email me with your snail mail address, and we will see that your books arrive shortly!

Friday, April 4, 2014

I See You There: My Father's Love

I See You There: My Father's Love by Kevin Main was originally written as a poem. Because of the encouragement of his wife, his little poem became a fully illustrated book.

The poem explains, in very beautiful descriptions, the different ways that we can see God- from the moment we open our eyes in the morning to when we close our eyes at night. The poem really caused me to pause and think of the ways God reveals Himself during the course of a normal day.

This book is not long with each page containing a four line part of the poem, yet the illustrations fill up the page and bring the words to life.

I personally loved the illustrations in this book. They appear to be a series of watercolor paintings depicting different aspects of God's beautiful creation. Each picture shows a father interacting with his children, showing them something that God created for them to enjoy.

What I Like: Now that my daughter (6 years old) is a reader, I really like that she was able to pick up this book and read it with minimal help from me. Although this book is written as a poem, she was still able to read it with understanding.

I love how the author did not just write a book and leave it for us to read. He actually gives parents a "guide" and purpose right at the beginning of the book. He wants us to use this book to spend time with our children and to speak of God's love for them. This book is designed to be a catapult to generate conversations with our children of our Heavenly Father's great love for us.

What I Dislike: I loved everything in this book.

Overall Rating: Excellent.

Age Appeal: 3-8 years old

Publisher Info: Lighthouse Christian Publishing, 2013; ISBN: 9781482031102 ; paperback, 38 pgs., $9.95

Buy it at Amazon.com for $8.15

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Bobby's Dove

In Bobby’s Dove, written by Matthew Hamilton, a white dove lands on Bobby’s shoulder. The bird starts to chirp and Bobby doesn’t know what the dove is saying. Then he realizes he can understand the bird’s language and the two are able to converse.

The dove says he was sent from God to let Bobby know that Bobby’s prayers had been heard and that God loves him. And the bird reminds him to always believe.

The illustrations by Cheryl Casey Ramirez are bright, colorful and expressive.

What I Like: I like the idea of a little boy and a dove being able to talk to each other and the idea that God can speak to us in many different ways.

What I Dislike: But the story is written in rhyme. Unfortunately, it isn’t done very well as much of the rhyme and rhythm is forced.

And, this is a very, very short book, with just 12 pages of text. However, the book has 24 pages in all, with six pages at the end that are completely blank. I think this book would have worked better as a short board book.

I also think the price is a bit steep for such a short paperback book.
Overall Rating: Good.

Age Appeal: 4-8.

Publisher Info: Wingfeather Books, 2012; ISBN: 9781479346943; Paperback, $9.99.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Which Way Today?

In Which Way Today?, written by Maryann Ruben, a boy comes to a fork in the road. He doesn’t know which way to turn. A man who is standing there says, “Follow me.” So the boy does just that.

Then the boy turns into a teenager and comes to another fork in the road. Same thing happens. This pattern continues throughout the story until the young boy has grown up into an old man. At the end, the old man is lead into Heaven.

The story is an allegory for our life. When we come to a crossroads, we must choose which way to go. If we choose to follow Jesus, we will be led into Heaven at the “end of the road.”

The illustrations by Jesse Blythe Skidmore are colorful and expressive, but a bit cartoonish.

The author includes an Afterword at the end of the book. There is also a website link, along with a coupon code, where you can download a FREE audio copy of this book.

What I Like: The message is a good one. We are encouraged to follow Christ, no matter where He leads. He will take care of us along the way.

What I Dislike: Nothing.

Overall Rating: Very good.

Age Appeal: 6-12.

Publisher Info: Tate Publishing, 2012; ISBN: 9781621474654; Paperback, $9.99.

Special Info: This title is available in a Kindle edition through Amazon.com for $6.39.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Divine Obsession

Rob Hensser has become one of my favorite authors over the last few weeks. Last Thursday, I introduced you to his book Be the Wave, a great devotional for preteens and teens. Today, I am happy to share with you his book Divine Obsession: God's Illogical Insane Incomprehensible Impassioned Love for You.

We have all heard the phrase "God loves you," but after a while, the phrase loses its depth of meaning. Kids growing up in church hear it said as the catch all phrase that will make everything better. Rob Hensser ventures to have kids realize that God actually likes them- He created them and looks forward to spending time with them.

Through the stories of Mephibosheth, the Prodigal son, Adam, Hosea, Moses, the adulteress, Peter, the leper, and Noah, students are shown the depth of God's genuine love for them. They are reminded through Biblical accounts, modern day twists on parables, and pop culture that God can and does love us beyond what we can imagine and think. He loves us despite our mistakes and short comings.
What I Like: One of my favorite things about Rob Hensser's writing is how real he is. Through his writing, you can "hear" how passionate he is in his effort to reach students with the Gospel of Christ. He is not only entertaining, but engaging.

What I Dislike: This is not necessarily something I dislike, but something of note. The chapters might be considered a bit long depending on the age or attention span of the reader. I read one chapter to my 6 year old daughter just to get a feel for the reception it would get. Halfway through the chapter, I offered to stop. She was so wrapped up in the author's retelling of the story of Mephibosheth that stopping was not an option.

Overall Rating: Excellent

Age Appeal: 8-18 years old

Publisher Info: Standard Publishing, 2006; ISBN: 0-7847-1839-3 ; paperback, 208 pgs., $14.99

Buy Now at Christianbook.com for $11.99
or Buy it at Amazon.com for $6.00 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Giveaway: Hey Warrior Kids!

"Everything [in this book] is written and worded exactly how I speak to my children - with excitement, joy, and in normal everyday language." That's what Christian Children's Book Review's Suzette Ladouceur had to say about Hey Warrior Kids! Put on Your Armor! In fact, there are two Hey Warrior Kids! books available, and they each speak biblical truth to kids in a fun, joyful way.

So we're pleased to announce the author of the Warrior Kids books, Virginia Finnie, has agreed to let us give away three of her books to two CCBR readers: Hey Warrior Kids! Grab Your Slingshot!, Hey Warrior Kids! Put on Your Armor!, and Hey Warrior Kids! Put on Your Armor 3D, which comes with 3D glasses.

Here's a bit about the books:

Hey Warrior Kids! Grab Your Slingshot!: "Every child has experienced it. Lying in bed, in the dark and feeling afraid. Is there a monster in the closet or under the bed? What's a kid to do? Beginning with the retelling of the story of David and Goliath, Hey Warrior Kids! Grab Your Slingshot! gives kids the weapons they need to battle the 'giant of fear.' Their slingshot is God's Word (the Bible), and their smooth stones are God's Truth (scripture). God’s Warrior Kids are encouraged to speak out God's Truth to overcome fear.
'Speaking God's Word makes those scary thoughts go away. Use your slingshot and hit that bully with God's Truth! And then, thank God for being with you when you felt afraid.
    And just like David . . .
       You will be the hero . . .
           With God's help . . .
               That won the battle against the giant of fear!'"

Hey Warrior Kids! Put On Your Armor!: "'Are you ready? Are you sure you're ready?' With those little but powerful words, author, Virginia Finnie embarks on the experience of a lifetime: learning about the armor God has given us all to wear to battle every day. No Christian, child nor adult, need live in bondage. Understanding what God has already provided for us is key to living in victory. This engaging text helps children envision the armor as they put it on every day, preparing them for the challenges the world will throw at them. 

"Based on the Armor of God, Ephesians 6:13:18. 

'Guess what?
I have some fantastic, unbelievable, totally awesome, over-the-top,

out-of-this-world news for you!
          What's the news already?
                   Okay, here it is.
                   Are you ready?
                   Are you sure you're ready?
                             The news is.......'"

On April 4, 2014, two winners will be chosen to win. To enter the giveaway, please visit the Hey Warrior Kids! store then come back to this post and leave a comment to tell us which Hey Warrior Kid! product you like best.