Monday, July 20, 2015

Prayers that Changed History

George Muller had no food for the hungry orphans in his care, but he sat them at the table, anyway, and they prayed, thanking God for the food He would provide. When the prayer was over, there was a knock on the door. It was the baker - with enough bread for everyone. Soon after, the milk man delivered fresh milk because his cart had broken down in front of the orphanage. This is just one of my children's favorite stories from Prayers that Changed History by Tricia Goyer, a book showcasing how real prayers were not only answered, but changed the world.

24 people (plus one group of people: the British) are featured in this book; some, you and your children may be familiar with, like Constantine, St. Patrick, Christopher Columbus, Martin Luther, William Bradford, Sojourner Truth, David Livingstone, Florence Nightingale, Helen Keller, Mother Teresa, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Corrie ten Boom. Others may be less familiar, like Polycarp, Oswald (King of Northumbira), John Eliot, Susana Wesley, John Newton, Robert Raikes, Mary Jones, Catherine Booth, George Muller, Billy Sunday, Amy Carmichael, and John Hyde.

Each chapter in Prayers that Changed History focuses on one of these people and their prayer (sometimes prayers), which God answered in a big way. Each chapter also offers a related Bible story, and prompts readers to think about what we can learn from the individual and how we can apply that to our own lives.

What I Like: This is a superb book to add to your family's library, since both parents and kids will enjoy and benefit from it. My children and I learned some bits of history we hadn't known before, and were moved by many stories in the book; some will stick with us for the rest of our lives. I also appreciate the discussion questions; these lead to some deeper thinking on my kids' part. And as an added bonus, my 9 year old now wants to read some primary sources, like Corrie ten Booms' books.

What I Dislike: Overall, this is a wonderful book, but sometimes I wished the author had set aside her commentary because it was a little obvious or repetitive. In addition, the author states that "If you seek him [God] and listen, God will speak to you - not in a voice you can hear with your ears, but in a stirring deep in your heart." Yet in the Bible, people heard God's voice with their ears - including in a story the author cites: Samuel as a boy.

Finally, parents should be aware that "the red light district" and suicide (Hitler's) are mentioned.

Overall Rating: Very Good.

Age Appeal: 8 and up.

Publishing Info: Zonderkidz, 2015; ISBN 978-0310748014; paperback, 240 pgs., $12.99

Buy at Amazon for just $9.67 (or buy the Kindle version for $7.99)

Or buy it from ChristianBook.com for $8.49

Best Party Book Ever! From Invites to Overnights and Everything in Between

Need ideas for your next party? Check out Faithgirlz Best Party Book Ever! From Invites to Overnights and Everything in Between

This book is packed full of helpful tips and creative ideas for your child to plan her next (or first!) big bash. It starts with a short 3-question quiz to figure out what type of hostess you might be... Garden Party, Movie Night, Glamping Gal, or Dancy Party girl. Readers can find a planning checklist to help the hostess get everything ready on time, a list of "no fail food",  and hostess hints on how to help guest feel welcome and comfortable. 

After providing general party tips, the book gives details about themed and holiday party ideas. The magazine-style layout is visually appealing and easy to read. Each party theme is sectioned into small decorative islands of information in the following format: 
  • A one page overview of the party theme/holiday, including location ideas, invitations, color scheme, and decoration style. 
  • A craft or two that fits the theme along with clear and simple directions and a photograph of the craft. Some crafts include helpful tips, including websites where you can buy the materials. 
  • A menu with snapshots of the food. (All recipes are collected at the back of the book for easy access.) 
  • Numerous colorful photographs of girls from a variety of ethnic backgrounds modeling completed crafts or simple sharing a smile. Most of the models in the book wore dresses. (The book itself often encouraged the girls to wear dresses to their parties.)
The overall effect of the picture selection was to give it a clean, magazine-style feel. The crafts are very appropriate for the target audience. They are sophisticated enough to feel trendy but simple enough for anyone to do. For example, there are directions to create an avocado face mask, lip balm (very cool!), stylish sunglasses, origami hearts, collage chalkboards, and more. The recipes are likewise sophisticated in look, but simple to create. They mainly use healthier, made-from-scratch ideas instead of pre-packed fare. The book did not include many game ideas, although there were a few with directions for play. Instead it focused more on social interaction/friendship in the planning and execution of creating crafts, watching movies, baking cookies, or doing other activities as a group.

What I Like: This book is well put together. It’s easy to use, the craft and food ideas are outstanding (I want to make my own lip-balm, party or not!) and the photographs to an outstanding job of highlighting the finished product. Suggestions on how to reach out to guests also pleasantly surprised me. In today’s technology influenced world, the art of conversation can sometimes be overlooked, so I appreciated that aspect. I think young teens and preteens who love planning parties will simply adore this book.

What I Dislike: There is nothing major I dislike, just a few minor notes that may pertain to some readers. First, the editors use some slang (like “fave” instead of “favorite”) in the text. To me, slang feels dated and patronizing. I think the book would be stronger without it. Another note is that the book has a very feminine feel to it. Since I raised a tomboy, the cover and many of the photographs probably wouldn’t appeal to her. She would still enjoy the party ideas… but she’d probably take a more casual approach. And finally, although it is wonderful to have all these great ideas in a book at your fingertips (with top-rate photographs to help the reader visualize final products), you could likewise easily find ideas and many more just like this on the internet.

Overall Rating: Excellent
Age Appeal: 8-12
Publisher Info: Zonderkidz, 2014; ISBN:9780310746003; Paperback, 128 pgs., $12.99
Buy it Now at Christianbook.com for $9.99
OR Buy it at Amazon.com for $11.09.

Special Info: Party planning girls might enjoy having another book in the Faithgirlz series on hand: Big Book of Quizzes: Fun, Quirky Questions for You and Your Friends (Faithgirlz).

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Weird and Gross Bible Stuff

Weird and Gross Bible Stuff by Rick Osborne and Quentin Guy is a completely different take on what most people think of when they think of a Bible based book for late elementary through middle school aged boys.

Let's face it. Boys like things that are gross and generally unappealing to most others. Rick Osborne and Quentin Guy have taken the time to go through the Bible to find all of the gross and weird things that would completely interest a boy.

So many times we try to explain to our children that the Bible is relevant to them and where they are in life right now, but this book goes even farther to show boys from 4th grade- 8th grade that the Bible does hold all types of adventures that will hold their interest. As a mom, that is exactly what I want! I want my son (who is almost 4) to look forward to what new weird little tidbit he will learn. The more he reads, the more he will be interested to follow the Bible reference added to give the completed background to each account he is being exposed to.

I read this book with both of my children (girl: 7 and boy: 3.5). I was fascinated with all of the stories, some of which I had forgotten because as we "grow up" we steer away from those accounts to more character building passages. I loved being reminded of stories like Ehud and the "fall" of Jezebel. My daughter found this book to be gross- which is exactly what the title says it will be. My son thought it was cool- total boy!

The book is put together in chapters and puts accounts with similarities together. As you read each subsection within each chapter, Scripture is given to correspond with the weird or gross part that was pulled out (which would make for a great devotional for boys to make their way through the Bible). At the end of each chapter is a two page focus on a Bible hero and something amazing that was done for the glory of God.

What I Like: I love Rick Osborne's writing. This is my second Rick Osborne book, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Rick Osborne takes one right to Scripture to show what God's Word says about any subject.

What I Dislike: You definitely have to have a stomach for the gross part of the book.

Overall Rating: Excellent

Age Appeal: Late elementary through middle school aged, 8-14 years old

Publisher Info: Zonderkidz, 2002; ISBN: 0310704847; paperback, 128 pgs., $7.99
Buy it Now at Christianbook.com for $6.29
OR Buy it at Amazon.com for $4.20

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Beauty of Believing

The Faithgirlz series has a new devotional called The Beauty of Believing. Geared for girls ages 8-12, this 365-day devotional is a collection of stand-out entries pulled from several devotional books. Contributing Faithgirlz authors include Tasha K. Douglas, Mona Hodgson, Kristi Holl, Lois Walfred Johnson, Allia Zobel Nolan, and Nancy Rue.

The book is divided into six sections, each introduced by one of the contributing authors. They are: 

• Growing Seeds of Faith—(having the right focus) 
• God's Promises—(inner beauty) 
• Finding Strength in Hard Times—(faith during trials) 
• God Speaks to Us—(making Godly choices) 
• The Helping Body of Believers 
• The Beauty of Believing 

Each devotional short; most consist of only one page, although a few spill over into a second page. They are structured with a Bible verse listed at top followed by a short story or narrative addressing issues, questions, and conflicts appropriate for this age level. The bottom of the page has a gray box with an additional Scripture reference to look up, “Girl Talk”—a few personal questions that give the reader something to think about—and “God Talk”—a brief prayer. A byline marks the end of each devotion, letting the reader know the author and from what book the devotion originated. 

 Since several authors contribute to the book, the writing style itself varies a little bit. Some use more slang and a more conversational tone. Others focus on stories first with applications and insights that can be pulled from a situation, while still other devotionals start off with a more direct tone, highlighting a problem faced by pre-teens and going from there. While the overall theme is beauty, within that context readers address how to be a friend, loneliness, strengthening your faith, making good choices, how to deal with anger, self-discipline, and more.

What I Like: For busy teens, the structure of the book makes it easy to establish it as a quiet-time staple; in addition, the lessons are quick and easy to apply. As mentioned above, the topics are age-appropriate, which means most girls will be able to see themselves in the pages.

What I Dislike: If you’ve read other reviews by me, you know I don’t care for slang, which slips into some of the devotions. Slang can make a book feel outdated.  I believe using consistent quality vocabulary would have broadened the target audience by giving it a more mature, timeless feel.

Overall Rating: Excellent

Age Appeal: 8-12

Publisher Info: Zonderkidz, 2014; ISBN: 978-0310736172; Paperback, ebook, Kindle, 432 pgs., $12.99

Buy it Now at Christianbook.com for $9.99
OR Buy the ebook version for $7.99 OR Buy it at Amazon.com for $11.07
OR Buy the Kindle version for $7.99.

Special Info: Devotions are taken from some of the following books:

That Is SO Me: 365 Days of Devotions: Flip-Flops, Faith, and Friends (Or try the Kindle version)
Girlz Rock: Devotions for Girls (Or try the Kindle version)
Girl Talk: 52 Weekly Devotions (Or try the Kindle version)
Chick Chat: 90-Day Devotional (Or try the Kindle version )
Shine On, Girl!: 90-Day Devotional (Or try the Kindle version .)

Monday, July 6, 2015

My Sing Along Bible

Let’s Read! Let’s Sing!

My Sing-Along Bible is the perfect collection of easy-to-understand Bible stories and music for your wiggly, giggly toddler or preschooler! This book and music CD set includes creative retellings of favorite Bible stories. Plus, lively Bible and Scripture songs on the CD (included with the book) will inspire your child to sing and laugh while building a solid faith foundation. Includes 50 favorite Bible stories kids will love to read over and over again, 50 songs (high energy! and some for quiet time too!)―one to go along with each Bible story―plus bonus songs that make memorizing the books of the Bible easy and fun!


What I Like: My Sing - Along Bible, created by Stephen Elkins, is a hardcover book outlined with a short bible story on the top half (Let's Read) of colorfully illustrated pages, followed by the lyrics on the lower half (Let's Sing) of the pages and is in biblical order. Each pairing of bible story and song lyrics are given a themed title making it easier for children to understand what they are learning and singing about and while making it easier for parents to find a particular lesson/song they would like to sing along to. For example, the theme for the story of Creation is titled Who Made Me?

The songs are sung by children and range from hymn-like songs to upbeat songs the children can clap and dance along to. There are fifty songs in total. I believe the vast collection should keep children (and parents) from getting bored with the same song choices. The songs are very short and easy for the children to learn and memorize.


Many years ago when I taught pre-school aged bible study at my church, I would have utilized this book and I think Pre-school aged Bible School teachers would enjoy this resource.

What I Dislike: While the actual hardcover book is fairly easy to navigate due to being in biblical order and each stoey titled, the CD unfortunately is not. I used my son's XBox to play the CD and the song tracks are not titled but instead numbered (the track numbers are in numerical order). The songs are in the same order of the book and if you allow the CD to play in order, you shouldn't have trouble, but if you wanted to choose a particular lesson out of order, finding the song that matches is a little difficult.

I can imagine that after playing the CD many times, you will get to know which track is which, but I find it very inconvenient that the tracks are untitled and I have to waste time trying to match the lesson with the track number.

A very minor thing that I didn't like was that the cover of a the My Sing-Along Bible has an illsutration of Jonah. If I based this book solely by its cover, I would have neve imagined it to be a bible for children but instead a storybook about Jonah.

I found what I disliked the most was that some of songs do not contain all of the lyrics. The book may only have the lyrics to the chorus as opposed to the entire songs, which is usually quite short. Another minor annoyance, but an annoyance nonetheless.

Overall Rating: Good
Age Appeal: 3-6 years, but my 1 year old likes the songs.
Publisher Info: Tyndale House Publishers, 2015; ISBN: 978-1496405432; FORMAT, 96 pgs., $12.99

Buy it Now at Christianbook.com for $10.99

OR Buy it at Amazon.com for $9.80

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Jacob's New Heart

Jacob’s New Heart, written by Barbara Sims, puts the transforming power of God’s word into a visual, kid-friendly story about an ugly caterpillar changing into a beautiful butterfly.

The story begins right at Jacob’s mountainside birth. He beholds a beautiful world and then is greeted by his pretty butterfly mother. In the midst of such loveliness, Jacob is shamed by his own drabness. His mother encourages him, telling him he can be transformed from the inside out when he gets to know God.

When Jacob asks how he can do that, she replies, “If you want to get to know Him, you’ll need to ask him to come into your heart.”

After Jacob does so, he hungers. Mom tells him that God’s word will make his heart grow. Jacob eats leaves that are full of Scripture verses, such as Psalm 119:103- “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth.”

Once Jacob is full of God’s word, Mom guides him to make a chrysalis and rest, stating, “Now that God’s word is inside you, it will change you.” Sure enough, after some time passes, Jacob emerges a beautiful butterfly too.

Following the story, the book includes enrichment activities. (Although this section is labeled as “Suggestions For a Bible Memory Chart”, numbers 9 and 10 are not part of the memory chart directions.) Black and white drawings are included to be used as templates for creating the memory chart.

Sheila Lenz Prusacki created the watercolor-and-pen illustrations for this book. (The ugly caterpillar is actually very cute!) Most pictures are dominated by bright green and pale blue colors. Action is limited; many illustrations simply show the mother butterfly talking to the caterpillar. Several illustrations are for a two-page spread, but there are several self-contained pages as well. Although it varies, in general there is a large portion of medium-sized text on each page.


What I Like: I think the idea of putting Scripture on a leaf to show how it “feeds” us is very clever, and that once we have that inside us, it changes us. I also like how the author took advantage of her teaching background to provide some ideas for extending the story.

What I Dislike: All the verses on the leaves were related to, in effect, hiding God’s word in your heart. While that’s a GOOD thing, the message was all the same. I would have liked some verses that targeted other areas of getting to know God, such as God’s great love for people, the fruit of the spirit… or what it means to be born again.



Also, I felt like the story very quickly brushed over the idea of salvation. While this does provide a springboard for an adult reader to talk about exactly what it means to ask Jesus into our hearts, it might leave those unfamiliar with Scripture asking questions.

Finally, the paperback is expensive. If you buy this book, consider the more affordable e-book.

Overall Rating: Good

Age Appeal: None listed-- maybe Kindergarten/ First grade crowd

Publisher Info: Westbow Press, 2014; ISBN: 978-1490847290 ; Paperback, e-book, Kindle, 38 pgs., $16.95.

Buy the paperback Now at Christianbook.com for $16.95 or the e-book for $3.99
OR Buy it at Amazon.com for $15.95 or the Kindle Version for $4.99.

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Nature Girl, A Guide to Going Green: A Guide to Caring for God's Creation


How green are you? Authors Karen Whitling and Rebecca White encourage everyone to go green. Their book, The Nature Girl, A Guide to Going Green: A Guide to Caring for God’s Creation, is packed with information about what it means to be green and how to do the best you can to help save our planet.

The 10 chapters in the book cover such topics as food, recycling, and being good to the earth, among others. Each chapter has applicable Bible verses sprinkled throughout the text, suggested activities and/or recipes relating to the chapter topic, a list of Eco-Careers that relate to the chapter topic, as well as a short quiz about the chapter. The end matter of the books contains an extensive list of resources the authors used when writing the book.

What I Like: Everything.

What I Dislike: Nothing.

Overall Rating: Excellent.

Age Appeal: 8-teens.

Publisher Info: Zonderkidz, 2014; ISBN: 9780310725008; paperback, 170 pages, $7.99.
  


Special Info: Read our reviews of other books illustrated by Rebecca White .


Monday, June 22, 2015

Just Sayin': Write 'Em, Draw 'Em, Hide 'Em in Your Heart

For creative girls who love God and doodling, Carol McAdams Moore’s book Just Sayin': Write 'Em, Draw 'Em, Hide 'Em in Your Heart may be a perfect fit for a devotional tool. Consisting of 90 separate devotions, the book is not an in-depth study of the Bible; it’s more a series of exercises designed to lead a teen to explore her own thoughts and discover truths within Scripture in an engaging, imaginative manner. With that in mind, the book has a consistent set-up throughout: 
• Each devotion is a two-page spread 
• The spread is heavy on the visual and light on text 
• A short portion of Scripture is stated 
• The reader is invited to interact with that Scripture (make a list, doodle a picture, insert a picture, take a fun quiz, rate yourself, design something, respond to a prompt, etc.) 
An occasional prayer is included or an encouragement to read more from a provided Scriptural reference 
 • Readers are encouraged to write directly in the book, making it almost like a journal or a collection of artistic expressions

Though this book is geared toward girls, the author provides a similarly artistic book for boys. It's called Dare U 2 Open This Book: Draw It, Write It, Dare 2 Live It.


What I Like:I am one of those people who love to doodle. Rarely does a piece of paper pass through my hands without some kind of embellishment added. So I was immediately drawn into (pardon the pun) the format of the book. So often, students are offered a left-brain approach to studying Scripture (or doing schoolwork for that matter). This right-brain approach is refreshing. I want to say, “Finally… a devotion geared for people like me… someone who colored the entire surface of her desk in second grade and turned in a cartoon strip for her final project in a college course (with the teacher’s consent).”


What I Dislike: The verses are presented raw, with little or no explanation or context provided. Therefore, I believe it may be best suited for those familiar with and well rooted in the stories of the Bible. Because of that, I think the book has a more limited audience than it might otherwise reach. (It can still work for anyone, but may leave some gaps for those new to the targeted Bible stories.)



Also, I am not one who likes slang, and the book uses a lot of it to make (I suppose) the writing “fun”. However, I think the ideas are creative enough that the slang isn’t necessary (and may go out of style, rendering the book outdated before its time). To me, the book would be just as enjoyable but have a longer shelf life if it used quality vocabulary!

Overall Rating: Excellent.

Age Appeal: 8-12 (although it may appeal to those older than designated age group).

Publisher Info: Zondervan, 2014; ISBN: 9780310742982 ; Paperback, 192 pgs., $9.99.

Buy it Now at Christianbook.com for $8.19
OR Buy the version geared for boys, Dare U 2 Open This Book: Draw It, Write It, Dare 2 Live It, for $8.19
OR Buy it at Amazon.com for $8.92.
OR Buy the version geared for boys, Dare U 2 Open This Book: Draw It, Write It, Dare 2 Live It for $8.82.