Friday, February 27, 2015

In Search Of: Managing Editor

When I began this blog in 2007, I was the mom of one todder, and wrote reviews all by myself. Now, a couple of thousand reviews later, I have two children, I homeschool, and I work from home. I'm thankful to have other ladies reviewing books along with me...but the time has come for me to step back a bit from this blog. And so, we are seeking a new Managing Editor.

The ideal candidate for this position loves kids and probably has some of his or her own (even if they are grown). If not, he or she works with children regularly. He or she loves children's books, too, and has a passion for Jesus. Professional writing or editing skills are a plus, but not at all necessary.

The job of Managing Editor entails seeking out review copies of books (via publishers) and distributing them among the reviewers. The Managing Editor also has other, light jobs, including keeping the blog functional, updating bios, and the like. The Managing Editor may also review books, if he or she desires, but it's not absolutely necessary.

There is a very small stipend involved in this position, but applicants should look at the role of Managing Editor of Christian Children's Book Review more as volunteering for a ministry.

To apply, send an email with a sample of your writing (in the body of the email, or include a link to work published online; please do not send attachments) and a cover letter explaining why you'd like to be Managing Editor at CCBR.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Copper Map: A Skye Belle Adventure

The Copper Map, by H.A. Jones, is a well-written, fast-paced adventure story. This second book in the Skye Belle series brings twelve-year-old Skye and her ten-year-old brother Brandon right into the heart of Egypt on a treasure hunt. Together with Doctor Peter Niven, the trio follows the scantest of clues on a copper map discovered with the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The only problem is, Skye and her crew aren’t the only ones looking for the treasure… and Peter, being somewhat out of his comfort zone, unwittingly leads them into danger. Only through sharp thinking and determination can Skye hope to escape not only with the treasure, but with her life.

In the story, Peter is an agnostic, interested only in fortune and glory. This fact gives Skye opportunity to point out the historical accuracy of the Bible. It also gives the tale a gentle Christian perspective.

Jones’ descriptions of this area of the world paints a clear image of the landscape for readers, which adds depth and credibility to the story. Through Skye’s eyes, readers see and hear the modern day culture and experience a few important holy land sites.

What I Like:I reviewed the first book in the series too. I gave it an excellent rating… and I like this story even better than the first. I felt the author made the adventure more believable by having Peter along to supervise the youngsters while they explored while at the same time giving the power and creative thinking to the children to solve the problems that ensued.

And, this is neither a like or dislike, but a note. I felt like the vocabulary was a step up from book one. For instance, I thought The Lost Treasure of Persia ($2.99 Kindle link) ($4.49 Paperback link) would be well suited for a first and second grade audience. However, I feel like this book would appeal best to a second through fourth grade audience because to me it had more depth in story, plot, vocabulary, and description. Click here to read the CCBR review of The Lost Treasure of Persia.

What I Dislike: Nothing. 
I found the idea of the Copper Map fascinating though, and immediately looked up information about it on the internet. I would have loved if Jones had included some of the reference material he used when researching for this book. He could probably publish a non-fiction companion book with such information included.

Overall Rating: Excellent

Age Appeal: None is listed. I recommend second grade on up.

Publisher Info: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2015; ISBN: 978-1508468080; Paperback or Kindle, 160 pgs., $6.99

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Friday, February 13, 2015

The Cottage in the Woods

Before I started reading The Cottage in the Woods, I thought it would just be a fluffed up story about what happened to Goldilocks after she was found in Baby Bear’s bed. Of course, that topic was covered, but according to author Katherine Coville, there was more to the story. It is the back story for a fairy tale, but it’s so much more than that, much more than you would expect.

Not only does the reader learn the “real” story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears (in this version they are called the Vaughns and Goldilocks is not the little blond-headed girl’s name), the reader is taught lessons about love, jealousy, prejudice, justice and faith. I was quite surprised by this story as though I believe it was written for a mainstream audience, there is a definite Christian storyline as well.

Every once in a while you read a book that leaves a lasting impression on you for one reason or another. This is one such book. Coville tells a familiar tale with a lot of unexpected twists. She includes characters from other well-known fairy tales and nursery rhymes, all who live in the Enchanted Forest with the Vaughns. She writes with witty humor and a healthy dose of truth. As the blurb on the book says, “Filled with bold twists and turns, this is a beautiful coming-of-age story wrapped in a tale both well-loved and wholly unexpected.”

What I Like: Everything.

What I Dislike: Nothing.

Overall Rating: Excellent.

Age Appeal: 8-12, although I think almost everyone would enjoy it.

Publisher Info: Knopf Books for Young Readers; ISBN: 9780385755733; Hardcover, 400 pages, $12.74.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Lost Treasure of Persia

In Australian author Heath Jones’ book The Lost Treasure of Persia: A Skye Belle Adventure, twelve-year old Skye Bell and her younger brother Brandon go on an adventure in Paris that turns into a danger-fraught mystery.

Their mission starts out simple enough: visit the Louvre museum to see some recently uncovered ancient Persian artifacts the kids think might be linked to Queen Esther. They hope that examining these items first-hand will help them discover the secret to the Biblical queen’s courage to come before her husband, the King of Persia. However, on their first meeting with their museum contact, the kids discover the jewelry has been stolen. From there on out, the children try to find clues, capture the thief, and restore the treasure to the museum. As the story unfolds, Skye discovers it’s not just the secret of Queen Esther’s courage she is trying to find; it is her own.

What I Like: The story brings in Christian elements and lessons in a way that feels natural, kids can relate to, and works with the personalities of the characters. Also, in many ways, The Lost Treasure of Persia reminds me of the simplicity of adventure found in the popular Magic Tree House stories, only without the time travel. In both, you have a brother and sister on a mission where they learn history, solve a mystery, and confront danger. In much the same way, the story also moves quickly from plot point to plot point—steady action but without the more complex character development found in books geared toward an older audience. The cover art also appeals to that 1st-2nd grade age group. The main character looks much like Kim in the cartoon Kim Possible. That’s why I believe that if your child likes the Magic Tree House books, he will likely enjoy this series as well.

What I Dislike: Kids might not have an issue with this, but I was bothered by the fact that, all on their own, the young characters simply fly off to Paris, travel around the country, and stay in a hotel. When they need to relocate to another part of Europe, they simply purchase tickets and take off… again, on their own. Nowhere in the story does it indicate the family is wealthy enough to have such a large travel income at their disposal. Neither is it believable kids this age would travel without any adult supervision. A family vacation, a visit to a distant relative, a special international camp, a friend who works at the museum in Paris, rich parents who send kids on a trip with a butler, or even a magic tree house... any of these ideas would solve that issue and make the story feel a little more authentic.

Overall Rating: I debated between excellent and very good, and when that happens, I usually go with the benefit of the doubt. So... EXCELLENT.

Age Appeal: The publisher does not list an age group, but I believe it fits kids in grades 1,2, and 3--- about, as I said, the level of a Magic Tree House adventure.

Publisher Info: Amazon Digital Services, 2014; ISBN: 978-1501061899; kindle or paperback, 116 pgs., $4.99

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Friday, January 9, 2015

On the Scene

On the Scene, written by Robin Caroll, is the second book of the Samantha Sanderson series. Samantha’s (Sam’s) curious nature leads her to search for the truth behind who is bullying her fellow classmate, Nikki. Sam learns from her police officer father that bullying is a serious crime. She suggests writing a series of articles for her middle school newspaper and she gets assigned the job.

Nikki and Sam are not really friends, as Nikki is known as a “mean girl.” But Sam feels bad for Nikki when she finds out Nikki is being bullied. Nikki has a lot on her plate already, as her father has moved out of the house and her parents are threatening to divorce. Sam wouldn’t want her parents to go through a divorce and she doesn’t want to see Nikki’s do that either.

Sam does a lot of digging to get to the bottom of the mystery of who the bully really is. In the process of doing so, she learns a lot about the issue of bullying, discovers the meaning of friendship, and learns how to judge people for herself regardless of popular opinion.

The author has included some discussion questions at the end of the book about events that take place in the text. There is also a blank page for notes for each of the twenty chapters in the book.

What I Like: Bullying is a serious issue. It’s something school administrators no longer take lightly. There is a lot of good information in the story about bullying.

What I Dislike: Nothing.

Overall Rating: Very good.

Age Appeal: Middle school students.

Publisher Info: Zonderkidz, 2014; ISBN: 9780310742470; Paperback, 264 pages, $8.99.

Special Info: This book is part of the publisher’s FaithGirlz series. Read our reviews of other books in the series. Visit the author’s website.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Felix Navidad!

Nope, that's not a typo. Janet Denison's recent Christmas book really is titled !Felix Navidad! not feliz Navidad (Spanish for "Merry Christmas") - because the story revolves around a donkey named Felix.

Felix is the beloved pet to twins Natalia and Hector, who live in Puerto Rico. Natalia's just been cast as Mary in the school Christmas play, which will be filmed and aired live by a local news crew. Hector, the more reserved of the two, is disappointed to "only" be cast as a shepherd, but proud that his prized donkey will also be featured in the play. Felix is a miniature Sicilian donkey - the type with a dark cross on his back. Legend has it that this is the type of donkey Jesus rode on Palm Sunday - and when it couldn't bear to see Christ on the cross, it turned away, the shadow of the cross falling across its back, where it remains to this day. Hector grooms Felix carefully, but doesn't neglect his neighbor, Dona Maria, who's baby will be born any day. He helps her bring her groceries home.

On the day of the play, it storms. Hector must walk Felix to the play, and he's disappointed his beautiful donkey becomes wet and muddy in the blustery rain. When they approach the location of the play, Hector hears a woman shouting to him. It's Dona Maria. She's about to have her baby, but the pouring rain has washed out the bridge that would get her to the hospital. Hector helps her onto Felix and he leads the pair to the school where the play will be performed.

Practically the whole town has turned out for the Christmas play - including a doctor. The doctor leads Dona Maria into another room. The film crew says they must start the play - it must go on the air right in a few minutes. And so the children - and a rather bedraggled Felix - get into positions and begin the play.

When the play ends, there is great applause - then silence, as the crowd hears a baby's cry coming from another room. The doctor appears and lets everyone know the baby's name: Jesus Hector Gonzales - named for Christ, and the young man who helped Maria. The cameras turn onto Hector and Felix, and the reporters call them heroes. Then one reporter says they should give the donkey a new name: Felix Navidad. Everyone laughs.

That night, Hector confesses to his mother that he wanted to play Joseph so he might be noticed by the crowd. He feels badly now that he was so selfish. His mother replies, "Today God chose you to play the most important part. He wanted you to be a friend to our neighbor and her new baby." Hector replies, "I am glad I was chosen to be a shepherd. God chose the shepherds to see the Baby Jesus before anyone else and I am happy God chose me to help today."

What I Like: This is a sweet, well written story that reminds us of God's great command to love and help others. My children and I enjoyed learning about the legend of the Sicilian donkey, and throughout, Rachel Everett's illustrations brought to life the vibrant Puerto Rican location. 

What I Dislike: For those of us who didn't take Spanish in high school, it would have been nice to have in-text pronunciation guides for the Spanish words sprinkled here and there. (There is, however, such a guide on the last page of the book.)

Overall Rating: Excellent.

Age Appeal: I'd say about 4 - 10.

Publishing Info: Kings Time Printing Press, 2012; ASIN: B00AMNKGZO; digital, 30 pgs., $2.99

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Friday, December 5, 2014

Mia's Night Adventure

I would call Mia’s Night Adventure: An Animals of the Bible Book, written and illustrated by Marilyn Schuler, is a cross between the story of the Good Shepherd and the Nativity.

Mia is a little lamb that has a tendency to get lost. When she wanders away, the Shepherd always comes and finds her.

One night, when the shepherds are in the field tending their sheep, angels appear to them telling them about a miraculous birth in Bethlehem.

The Shepherd wants to travel to Bethlehem to witness the miracle. Mia is told to stay behind, but she tags along anyway (staying back where she can’t be seen). She gets lost and an angel guides her the rest of the way.

The illustrations done in muted tones with lots of expression, truly enhance the story.

What I Like: Just about everything.

What I Dislike: I don’t really have any complaints, just an observation. The King James version of the story says Jesus was born in a stable, with the animals. However, the author depicts Jesus’ birthplace as a cave. I did a little research and discovered there is some debate on whether the birthplace was a stable or a cave.

Overall Rating: Very good.

Age Appeal: 4-8.

Publisher Info: Tate Publishing, 2014; ISBN: 9781629940694; Paperback, $8.99


Special Info: Read our reviews of other books by Marilyn Schuler. Visit the author’s website.

The Christmas Hippo

Does God care about the little things in our lives? The Christmas Hippo, written by Lisa E. Williams and based upon a true story, attempts to answer to this question.

It's time for the school Christmas party. Two grade school-aged girls ask their moms if they can have a sleep over; since one of the girls, Kay, will soon be moving away, the moms readily agree. The girls play together, and the author ("I") digs up some sheet music so they can go caroling that evening.

In the meantime, a bus driver is ending his day and picking up miscellaneous things left behind in his bus. Among them is a stuffed purple hippo, which he recognizes as belonging to Kay's little sister's. He's concerned, because he'd like to get the toy back to the girl before she moves. But when he drives to Kay's house, it's dark and empty, with a "Sold" sign out front. He calls the school, but everyone is away on Christmas break. So he brings the toy home and tells his wife about it. She suggests they pray, asking God to help them reunite the toy with it's young owner.

Later that evening, the driver is surprised to find Kay on his front porch, caroling.

"He quick grabbed the hippo,
embraced her with love,
wished her a blessed Christmas
and looked up above.

'God you care 'bout our hippos.
My mind cannot conceive
how much more you'll provide
if we'd only believe.'"

What I Like: This is a cute story that reminds children God cares about everything in our lives. We should never worry about praying on "the little things." A great message, told in a way that's very kid-friendly.

What I Dislike: This book was self published with help from Thomas Nelson, a well known Christian publisher. Unfortunately, Thomas Nelson did little to ensure this book didn't suffer from the many plights of self published children's books. One of these is the illustrations by Staci B. Desautels. They are cute and fun, but they don't look professional. There are also some punctuation and grammar errors - although none so egregious that it's difficult to read the story. Finally, the book is written in rhyme - and while the author does a better job at this than most newbies, I believe the story would be much stronger if it didn't rhyme.

However, I think The Christmas Hippo is a worthwhile story, despite its flaws.

Overall Rating: Good.

Age Appeal: I'd say about 4 - 8

Publishing Info: Westbow Press, 2012; ISBN 978-1449724740; paperback, 28 pgs., $16.95

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