Monday, April 21, 2014

Natalie Wants a Puppy

Five year old Natalie is about to graduate kindergarten. And she's getting a puppy. Or at least that's what her sleuthing skills have revealed. Unfortunately, though, in Dandi Daley Mackall's read to me chapter book Natalie Wants a Puppy, Nat's detective skills are way off. What she's really getting is an adopted baby brother. That's definitely not as good as a puppy. In fact, Nat's not sure she likes the idea at all

When Natalie's parents hurriedly pack their bags to travel to China, leaving Natalie to stay with her grandma, Nat's throat feels "all chokey." Why do her parents have to leave her behind? Will they really come back? And, most importantly, do they still love her, or are they replacing her? She prays about it, but God's answer isn't immediately forthcoming.

Grandma, trying to soften the blow, does give Natalie a puppy, and just as her parents return home with her new baby brother, Nat reflects on her schoolwork to discover a deep truth. Nat's cat, Percy, doesn't like the new puppy and is missing. Natalie cries and tells her puppy: 
"'Percy ran away, Puppy. He thinks I love you and not him. Only that's a lying thing. I love both of you!' I know this is for true. I know that adding Puppy made me love both of them more. 'Adding means more!' I tell Puppy. 'Not less!"

And just as Natalie's parents are adding another child to the family, Nat realizes they love her more - not less - than ever.

What I Like: Mackall does a great job of getting into the head of a 5 year old. And what child can't relate to worrying about how much their parents love them? Best of all, Natalie comes to the happy conclusion that she is loved in a natural, realistic way.

What I Dislike: Nothing. Although I should note a few things that might bother other parents. The point of view in this book is Natalie's - and the author does a good job of writing similar to how a typical 5 year old speaks. This lead to some minor grammatical errors (like "bestest"), but I found my kids actually found this funny and endearing. If it bothers you, it's easy to edit out as you read aloud.

In addition, there is a section of the book where Natalie talks about not enjoying math (which leads to her realizing "adding means more"), and another where Natalie visits a friend whose older sister is bratty and mean, even saying "I hate you!" and hitting (which makes Natalie wonder if she wants a sibling at all).

Overall Rating: Excellent.

Age Appeal: I'd say 5 - 8.

Publishing Info: Zonderkidz, 2009; ISBN:  978-0310715719; paperback, 96 pgs., $4.49

Buy Now at Amazon for $4.49 Or buy at ChristianBook.com for $4.49

Special Info: Check out our reviews of other books in the Natalie series. For a similar series with a slightly more mature heroine (who speaks with better grammar), see our own Lori Z. Scott's Meghan Rose series.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

You Can Draw Bible Stories for Kids


You Can Draw Bible Stories for Kids, written and illustrated by Sandy Silverthorne, is a great book. Can I just say that I love, love, LOVE this book and be done with it! No? You’re probably wondering why I love it so much, aren’t you?

Well, there are lots of books out there that teach kids how to draw things. Many of them pertain to drawing Bible characters. But, this is the first book I’ve seen that includes a Bible story along with step-by-step directions on how to draw something to illustrate the story.

The author starts the book with an explanation of how to make simple drawings of people, animals and things. The illustrations are so simple, to the point of being almost sloppy and careless, but yet you can easily tell what the finished thing is supposed to be. When you’re done following the directions, you have a complete scene from the story. For instance, for the story of Adam and Eve, the author shows you how to draw both of them both along with a garden backdrop.

Each story is a different chapter. At the end of the chapter, the author includes a section called “What’s the Big Idea?” He explains the main, or “big” idea, of the story. He gives a Bible reference for the story. He also includes a few extra sidebars of two types: One is called “Did you know?” in which he includes a fun fact about the story; and the other is “Fun Idea”, which is an extra idea of how to illustrate the story.

There are 18 stories, some from the Old Testament and some from the New, with step-by-step illustration ideas for each. There is also an extra chapter called Bonus Art with ideas for drawing other Bible-related items.

What I Like: Everything.

What I Dislike: Nothing.

Overall Rating: Excellent.

Age Appeal: 6 and up.

Publisher Info: Harvest House Publishers, 2014; ISBN: 9780736955003; Paperback, 144 pages, $8.99.


The Amazon Kindle Edition is available for $7.39. 
 
Special Info: Read our reviews of other books written and illustrated by Sandy Silverthorne. You can “like” his Facebook page.
 

Friday, April 18, 2014

13 Very Bad Days

13 Very Bad Days and How God Fixed Them, edited by Susan Ling, is a book with a unique title. The 13 “bad days” the author is talking about pertain to 13 different Bible characters (some single and others in groups) and the problems they faced. One of them was Daniel, when he faced the lions. Others include Lazarus, when he dies and was buried; Mary, who gave birth to Jesus in a rude stable; Jonah, who was swallowed by a big fish; and Saul, who became blinded. Most of those chosen are from the New Testament, but a few are from the Old.

The book is intended for use as a Bible study guide. The author starts off with an introduction titled “How to Use These Sessions” with tips and ideas on how to use the given information. He then follows a pattern for each chapter. He starts with a “The Point” of the story, a short sentence about what God is trying to teach us with that story; a “Scripture Connect” with a Bible reference for each story; “The Basics for Leaders” with a short re-telling of the story; two options for an “Opening Activity”; a “Game for a Bad Day” with a suggested game for each topic; a “Bad Day Bible Story” which uses a modern-day story to illustrate the point of the biblical one; a sidebar with “Age Alert Tips” giving the instructor tips for using the stories with different age groups; a “Closing Prayer”; and even options for an “Extra-Time Activity”.

What I Like: This is a great, comprehensive Bible-study guide book that’s packed with great stories and wonderful suggestions on how to make the stories relevant to young kids’ lives.

What I Dislike: Nothing.

Overall Rating: Excellent.

Age Appeal: “adaptable” for 2-12 years

Publisher Info: Standard Publishing, 2009; ISBN: 9780784721223; Paperback, 109 pages, $9.99.



Special Info: Extra resources can be ordered from the publisher to enhance these lessons. This book is one in the publisher’s series of 13 Sessions books.


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.