Wednesday, November 19, 2014

At the Movies

Sam is an ambitious reporter on her middle school newspaper, hoping to someday become the editor. She then wants to go on to become a journalist for her career, like her mom. Her dad is a cop.

One night, when she is At the Movies with her dad, she accidentally finds a bomb hidden in the movie theater. She stumbles upon it when she makes a trip to the ladies’ room.

Now she has the inside scoop on a story, one that looks to be really big and really important. Her school newspaper publishes news not only about the school and the students in it, but also about things that happen in the community. Sam wants to write a lead story about the bomb for the school newspaper. She gets assigned the story, but the school editor doesn’t like her and looks for ways to take the story away from her. Her dad doesn’t want her working on the story since he is assigned to the case and he thinks it’s a conflict of interest. Her mother stays neutral on the subject, but she always encourages her daughter to pursue her dreams and do the right thing.

Sam can’t resist the temptation of writing a really juicy story. Although she tries to stay within the parameters of both the legal and moral issues, she finds herself in a tough spot when she crosses over the line.

What I Like: Author Robin Caroll has written a compelling story that illustrates the close ties between what’s legal and what’s moral. That’s an issue many people deal with on a daily basis. I think she does a good job of making the story believable for middle school kids.

What I Dislike: Nothing.

Overall Rating: Very good.

Age Appeal: Middle school readers.

Publisher Info: Zonderkidz, 2014; ISBN: 9780310742456; Paperback, 272 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.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Thank You, God

Thankfulness is something we all need to nourish in our hearts, and J. Bradley Wigger's Thank You, God is a pleasant way to do that with children. Illustrated by The Jesus' Storyboook Bible's artist, Jago, and written by a professor of religious education, this attractive picture book is simple and joyous.

The first pages reveal a rising sun, then a family waking in their house, then a young girl greeting the new day. When the text begins, it begins at the beginning:

"Thank you, God,
for the sun smiling on our earth
to wake up the day,
for the light opening my eyes
to see all you have made."

Other pages thank God for family and friends, home, food, the outdoors, rain, animals...then:
"Bless you, God,
for this day,
for life,
for your love holding us together.

The last page shows a setting sun.

What I Like: The illustrators are pure Jago. They are beautiful, but not exactly traditional. (You can see some Jago's work at his website.) The text is very simple, but it's also appealing to young children. But what I love best about this book is how it shows children how to be thankful from sun up to sun set.

What I Dislike: Nothing.

Overall Rating: Excellent.

Age Appeal: about 2 - 8

Publishing Info: Eerdmans , 2014; ISBN 978-0802854247; hardback, 26 pgs.,$12.84

Buy at Amazon for $12.84

Thursday, October 23, 2014

NIV Teen Study Bible

This NIV version of the Bible is more than just Scripture. The NIV Teen Study Bible includes features meant to aid teens in understanding and applying Biblical truth. Those features and/or sections, edited by Lawrence O. and Sue W. Richards, include the following:

  • A copy of the Apostles' Creed, plus a follow up page that explains the history of this creed.
  • We Believe- a verse-by-verse breakdown of the meaning of the Apostles' Creed.
  • A table of Contents
  • A two page spread explaining how to use the bible
  • Panorama- short sidebars included in each book of the Bible designed to remind readers of the main theme of that book
  • To the Point- snippets that deal with a key idea (such as, God Keeps His Promises) and its proof  (list of ways God kept his promise to Abraham). 
  • Dear Jordan- full page "letter" from an everyday Joe teen asking advice on a certain topic with the aim to make lessons Biblical characters learned relevant for today.
  • Instant Access- short sidebars included throughout the Bible which describe a potential teen problem scenario and highlights Scripture that helps the reader see what God has to say about that issue
  • Bible Promises- green circle-shaped images with text; they focus on verses with a promise
  • Q & A- shaped like game cards, these show a trivia question (and bonus question) usually on the left hand pages and a similar-looking answer on the right hand side
  • Book Introductions- each book of the Bible provides a short (about half page) summary/overview of the book, a preview list of key events, and an outline with big ideas for headings and verses. For example: God Creates Something Really Special (big idea) Story in Genesis 2:3-4 (verses).
  • Following Revelations, this Bible provides a section called Study Helps. Those include a page with a list of weights and measures from Biblical times and today's equivalent, "What Do I Read Today?" which lists every book and chapter of the Bible with boxes that can be check off upon completion, a Bible Truth Index, and a Teen Life Index. There are also 8 pages of full color maps.

What I Like:

  • The added features help highlight some really key ideas in the Bible, so that they are more likely to be noticed and digested by the reader.
  • I appreciate the book introductions. They provide some background information and give teens  a preview of what they will find when they read.
  • The short Q & A inserts are fun.
  • I find colored maps very helpful.
  • There are numerous Instant Access points inserted throughout the Bible. Although not every one will be relevant to every teen, there are enough of them with for most to find useful wisdom.

What I Dislike:

  • Sometimes the Dear Jordan letter answers sound a little bit like a Sunday School lesson instead of a conversation with a teen, which may not appeal to all readers.
  • The words of Jesus are not in red letters. I wish they were!
  • I don't care for the green color that dominates this book.
  • Some of the sidebars may lean slightly toward a particular denominational point of view, so the buyer may want to skim through it to see if they are comfortable with them.
  • There are not a lot of footnotes or non-fiction support resources or even a glossary, so to me it's more like a life application Bible than a study Bible.

Overall Rating: Excellent

Age Appeal: Teens

Publisher Info: Zonderkidz, 2014; ISBN:978-0310745686; Paperback, Kindle and Hardback, 1632 pgs., $24.99/ $13.00/$29.99

Buy it Now at for $17.99 and the hardcover for $17.99.
OR Buy it at for paperback $17.99, Kindle edition for $13.00, and hardcover for $19.94.

Special Info: This Bible is also available in Italian Duo-Tone, Black Licorice/Hot Pink for $31.99, Graphite/Mediterranean Blue for $25.99, or Chocolate (brown) for $22.99.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Whatever: A 90-Day Devotional for Livin' the True, Noble, and Totally Excellent Life

Whatever: A 90-Day Devotional for Livin’ the True, Noble,and Totally Excellent Life, written by Allia Zobel Nolan, is as the title implies, a devotional with 90 days worth of readings. Also, you can probably tell by the title that it is written for teens, and in this case, specifically for girls.

The devotions are divided into 10 separate headings: eight of them relate to the eight virtues mentioned in Philippians 4:8 – “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right,” etc. The first one is entitled “You and Your Thoughts” and the last one is called “Perfect Peace.” Each devotion starts with a Bible verse and includes sections called  “Food for Thought,” “Second Thoughts” and “Divine Thoughts”. By the time the reader has gone through all 90 devotions, they will have a clear idea of how to direct their thoughts to make themselves, true, noble, right, etc., and end with a life of “perfect peace”.

What I Like: Just about everything.

What I Dislike: Although the devotions are easy-to-follow and relevant to a teen girls’ life, I thought it was a bit unusual that the author did not include any type of introduction about the book. There is a short blurb on the back cover that says all 90 of the devotionals will show girls how to fill their heads and hearts with “virtues taken straight from Philippians 4:8.” They will then become more “…lovely, praiseworthy and excellent…”

Overall Rating: Very good.

Age Appeal: I didn’t find an age rating, but I’d say ages 12 and up.

Publisher Info: Zonderkidz, 2012; ISBN: 9780310725343; Paperback, 294 pages, $9.99.

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

Thursday, October 16, 2014

David and Goliath Dry-Erase Activity Tablet

Moms know dry erase is better than sliced bread. Kids love dry erase, dry erase products can be used over and over again, and if you use dry erase crayons (as opposed to pens), you don't have to worry about kids getting pen stains all over the house. Knowing these things, Dr. Mary Manz Simon has created David and Goliath, a dry erase booklet (or "tablet," as the publisher calls it), specially designed for pre-K learning.

The 14-page booklet tells the Bible story of David and Goliath, giving children something to draw on every page. For example, when David talks to King Saul, children are asked to draw the king's crown - and when David collects five stones, children are asked to draw them into the picture. After the story, there are several pages of educational activities, including alike and different pages, matching shapes, things that don't belong, and things that start with the letter D. The last page of the book has a short prayer, plus a Bible verse to memorize.

This book also has a go-with item, which, while it's not a book and must be purchased separately, is important to mention: It's a set of 24 double sided dry erase cards that really up the level of learning the booklet offers. The cards include activities for recognizing different sizes, clapping out syllables, counting, recognizing letters, same and different, shapes, and more.

What I Like: My children (including my 9 year old, who is much too old for pre-K learning!) LOVED this set! They literally spent most of the day working with it. And I know that not only did the booklet and cards reinforce their knowledge about a Bible story, but they had educational value beyond that, too. I really can't recommend this set enough for the pre-K crowd.

What I Dislike: Nothing.

Overall Rating: Excellent.

Age Appeal: about 4 - 6.

Publishing Info: Dayspring, 2014; UPC # 081983551550; wire binding, 14 pgs., $5.99 (dry erase cards $4.99)

Buy at for $3.99

Buy the dry erase activity cards for $4.99 

Special Info:  Read our reviews of other books by Dr. Mary Manz Simon.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Candle Bible Handbook

I've often thought it would be nice to have a simple, kid-friendly resource book I could use to give me background information about a particular book of the Bible before I read it.  The Candle Bible Handbook serves that purpose. It covers every book of the Bible, in order of its presentation.

The Candle Bible Handbook  starts with a note about how to use the book and a helpful graphic showing how the Bible is organized. Both the Old and the New Testaments are introduced prior to examining the first book in each section. At the end, the book provides pages that define the big ideas in the Bible (such as Beatitudes or Justification), a list of promises made to believers (with references), a list of fifty very important passages (with references), a "Who's Who in the Bible" section (with references), and an index.

Each introduction to a book from the Bible ranges anywhere from 2 to 4 page section provides the following:

  • A half-page summary of the book (This gives the reader a general overview of its contents.)
  • An outline (It's not highly detailed, but has a one or two sentence summary of a portion of Scripture. For example, for Genesis, it says "Abraham and Sarah (12:1-25:18): God chooses Abraham and Sarah to be the ancestors of his own people. God promises to bless the whole earth through this new people of God.")
  • Frequently Asked Questions (With succinct and Scriptural backed answers.)
  • Look out for... (Ideas for readers to look for as they read the book. For example, one of the looking points for Nehemiah: Confessions. When the people read the Law, they are reminded of their sin. Then they confess their sins to God so they can ask him to forgive them.)
  • Study Questions (Usually three questions are presented, along with a section in Scripture where the answer can be found. For example, a question for Philippians is: What are Christians supposed to think about and do? 4:8-9)
Sections also contain some or all of the following:
  • Maps
  • Photographs of places and artifacts (such as inscribed stones in the ruins of the Forum, Rome or replica musical instruments of Biblical times)
  • Time lines
  • Lifelike drawings of characters or places
  • Large scale images of major cities (such as Jerusalem)
  • Sidebars with historical background information
  • Lists and charts (such as the one highlighting the parables in the New Testament)
What I Like: With everything that's packed into this handbook, it could have felt cumbersome. It doesn't! The design is very well thought out, with a mixture of a multitude of bright and interesting graphics and thought-provoking text. The book doesn't get bogged down in every minute detail; instead if gives a snapshot of the book with just enough meat to prepare the reader to dive into the Bible with confidence. I found it pleasant and fascinating, and I learned a few things about history I didn't know before. I know it's created for kids, but I liked it so much, I think I'll keep it handy for me as well.

What I Dislike: There were a few very minor technicalities I noticed that don't detract from the overall usefulness and quality of the book. In describing Esther, the author says that "Mordecai enters [Esther] in the contest for queen..." But Esther 2:8 says that the king sent out an order and young women were brought to the citadel and put under the care of Hegai, who was in charge of the harem.  Later, the book says that Jonah was "rescued" by a large fish, but Jonah 1:17 says the Lord sent a big fish to swallow him....although it's true that it does end up being a rescue operation. In the section on 2 Timothy, the author says that Paul "told Timothy that the Bible was inspired by God". However, at that point in history, the Bible was still being written. In fact, that very letter written to Timothy by Paul ends up being included in the Bible! Instead, it should indicate in 2 Timothy 3:16 that all SCRIPTURE is inspired by God. On the other hand, one could argue that the two are interchangeable, so I understand the author's word choice. It just stood out to me.

Overall Rating: Excellent

Age Appeal: 8-12 years

Publisher Info: Candle Books, 2014; ISBN: 978-1859855867; Paperback, 256 pgs., $17.99

Buy it Now at for $13.99
OR Buy it at for $15.44.

Special Info: You can read CCBR reviews of other Candle products, including a Toddler edition Bible for kids.

Friday, October 10, 2014

You Have Been Invited

You Have Been Invited! by Brian Howell is a beautifully simple book which teaches children what God has invited them to through Scripture.

Each two-page layout features one passage of Scripture and a complementary illustration with and invitation to the child. For example, the page I am opened to right now features Proverbs 3:5-6 and invites the child to trust God's promises.

At the end of the book, the author offers one final invitation- the invitation to accept Jesus as their personal Savior. It is truly the perfect way to end this book!

What I Like: I loved that the author chose so many verses to feature in such a child friendly way.

I am thrilled that this is a book that can go into my daughter's library, and when she pulls it out, I know that she will be reading God's Word.

I was excited as I read this to my children that it reminded me of Scripture songs that I had learned growing up, and I was able to share those songs with my children because of this book.
What I Dislike: I liked everything about this book.

Overall Rating: Excellent

Age Appeal: 4-10 years old

Publisher Info: Wheat State Media LLC, 2013; ISBN: 978-0988289208; hardcover, 38 pgs., $18.99

Buy it at for 5.94