Christmas already?

Book Review: Yuletide Ice Cube Fair (VeggieTales) by Karen Poth

I know, it is almost 80 degrees here and we’re talking about Christmas? Yep. We love Christmas around our house and we have developed a few traditions. If it were up to our son, we would celebrate Christmas all year long. . .but that’s a whole different story.

Yulet_225_350_Book.1351.coveride Ice Cube Fair is a brightly colored paperbook that would make a great addition to your holiday book collection for your children. VeggieTales tend to be utterly silly and sometimes the message is pretty vague, but this one is very clear. The reason we celebrate Christmas is because of Jesus, and we can’t lose sight of that amidst all the other things that attempt to distract us. I think our children are especially susceptible to the distractions at Christmastime, so having a fun book like this on hand will be a great way to start a conversation about Jesus’ birth.

The back of the book designates this story as appropriate for ages 4 through 8. And if your children are already familiar with the VeggieTales characters, then they will probably enjoy this short Christmas story with a great message.

5 out of 5 stars

I received a free copy of this book from Zonderkidz as part of the Booklook blogging program in exchange for a fair and honest review.

A lesson in loving your enemies

Book Review: Conrad and the Cowgirl Next Door by Denette Fretz and illustrated by Gene Barretta.

723493I read another book in The Next Door Series and loved the way the author uses humor and fun characters to teach important biblical truths to kids. I was excited to check out this book and I was not disappointed. Conrad and the Cowgirl Next Door is about a boy named Conrad who goes to his Uncle Conrad’s ranch to learn to be a cowboy. Unfortunately things aren’t going so well, but to make things worse a know-it-all neighbor, Imogene, enjoys pointing out where he is failing.

And in the midst of the silliness, your child will be learning a valuable lesson in loving your enemies. It seemed a bit subtle to me, so you will probably have to explain it to your younger children. But the author also includes some great Bible verses and questions to guide the discussion. Also, don’t miss the couple of pages at the end of cowboy poetry.

This book is recommended for children ages 4 to 8. The illustrations are worth looking at several times as I am sure you will see things you didn’t notice the first time through. I am looking forward to more books in this series.

5 out of 5 stars

I received a free copy of the book from Zonderkidz as part of the BookLook program in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Teaching children about angels

Book Review: God Gave Us Angels by Lisa Tawn Bergren and illustrated by Laura J. Bryant

 

426611_1_ftcAngels can be quite a difficult topic to teach to our young children. They are usually very curious about angels, but the Bible does not give us a lot of information about them. To make things more difficult, many children’s books are loaded with a bunch of misinformation about angels.

 

I love how the author emphasizes that “angels live to serve God.” Much of what is explained in the book is taken straight from Scripture. I especially appreciate that Bergren attempts to dispel the myth that somehow we become angels when we die. It seems that adults like to tell children that as some kind of way to help explain death and dying. But it is simply untrue.

 

If you have read any of the other books in this “God Gave Us. . .” series of books, then you will be familiar with the tender way that Little Cub’s questions are answered by Mama and Papa bear. As always, the illustrations are sweet and endearing with the occasional bear with angel wings in the background. The back of the book recommends this book for children ages 3 to 8.

 

5 out of 5 stars

 

I received a free copy of this book from Waterbrook Press as part of the Blogging for Books Program in exchange for a fair and honest review.

A Great Help for Pastors Who are Working Through Psalms

Book Review: A Commentary on The Psalms (Vol. 2) by Allen P. Ross
Often, “expositional” or “applicational” commentary is just another way of saying “lightweight commentary that doesn’t deal with original language issues.” I find myself struggling with this in sermon prep. As a seminary trained pastor, I love the heart of the pastor in some commentaries- men who have preached the text and applied it to their congregations. I draw great insight from these men and their messages. But my heart cries for a text that works in the original. I want to see the Hebrew and Greek worked through and for exegetes to “show their work.” This is the strength of the latest commentary in Allen Ross’s series on Psalms.
This volume, which covers Psalms 42-89, follows a set pattern for each psalm. The text begins with an introduction, giving the text and textual variants. Ross works through textual issues in footnotes that are very helpful for the pastor working in the Hebrew, but they are placed so as not to be intimidating to the pastor with little or no knowledge of the original. After the introduction, there is a section on Composition and Context. This section is helpful in that it gives the background of the psalm, or at least as much as can be known about it. This is followed by a brief Exegetical Analysis composed of a summary and outline of the passage. This is helpful because it shows the steps of the exegetical process. Ross uses a strictly exegetical outline here, and will develop it into a expository outline in the next section.
The final and most lengthy and meaty portion of the commentary is the “Commentary in Expository form.” It is in this section that the text is developed, explained, and put into sermon form. Each Psalm closes with a brief paragraph on application.
Overall, Psalms can be a tough book to preach. It doesn’t flow like some, and poetry can be hard to accurately exegete and explain. Ross makes a hugely positive contribution to pastors and their work in this precious text. I would recommend using Ross’s work on any series through the Psalms.

 

I give this text 5 out of 5 stars.

 

I received a free copy of this book from Kregel Academic in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Veggie Tales Book Review

Book Review: Sheerluck Holmes and The Case of the Missing Friend by Karen Poth

 

I am a big fan of the I Can Read books which are great for early readers, but I have especially been happy with the Zonderkidz I Can Read books. As children transition from listening to picture books, to reading on their own, I love that they can pick up books with familiar characters and read it themselves. That’s how I felt with this Veggie Tales book Sheerluck Holmes and The Case of the Missing Friend.

I am not going to tell you anything new regarding the Veggie Tales series itself. If your child enjoys the silliness of Veggie Tales, then he or she will enjoy this book. With just over 30 pages of bright illustrations featuring Bob and Larry as Holmes and Watson, your new reader will learn a lesson about being kind while building reading confidence. The book is identified as level 1 and is further described on the back of the book as containing simple sentences for eager new readers. There are only a few _240_360_Book.1323.coversentences on each page and I think the most difficult words are the names (Sheerluck, Nommy, Percy, etc)

 

While the book contains a moral lesson (be kind), there is nothing else in the story that makes it distinctively Christian. A verse is listed at the front of the book, but I probably would have liked to have seen it actually incorporated into the story.

4 out of 5 stars

I received a free copy of this book from Zonderkidz as part of the Booklook blogging review program in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Book Review: Thief of Glory by Sigmund Brouwer

346497_1_ftcJeremiah Prins is the top dog in his world. Not only does he come from one of the wealthier families in the Dutch East Indies, but he is well-known for his skill at playing marbles and almost savage ability to fight. His father is emotionally distant and his mother is distracted with her own mood struggles, but Jeremiah is well cared for in his large home with servants. He has plenty of time to get into mischief with his siblings and local children, and has even come across the love of his life, Laura. Life could not be better from his vantage point.
And then his father and older siblings are taken away by the Japanese to go to a work camp. Months later, he and the rest of his family are taken away to endure the harsh realities of a Japanese concentration camp. His life of ease becomes a fight for survival.
The story is very fascinating with a well developed plot and characters that are intriguing. Brouwer does a great job of mixing in a bit of humor in an otherwise very dreary story. However, I thought that there would be more of a hopeful aspect to this book. Obviously I don’t want to give away the ending, but I was just disappointed in the end. There is SO much foreshadowing in this book that I was expecting things to end differently than they did. Romantic love is lifted up as more important than even God Himself and the hope He gives. I also had another issue with this book which many will think I am being a bit of a stickler. But, sorry, I feel that Christian books should not have any cursing in them.

 

So in all I really enjoyed the first three quarters of the book, but the ending combined with the instances of bad language forces me to give only 4 stars. Otherwise I thought the book could almost be a classic level book with a lot of different characters to analyze and themes to discuss.

 

4 out of 5 stars
I received a free copy of this book from Waterbrook Press as part of the Blogging for Books program in exchange for a fair and honest review.

 

Fun Book to Teach Children Spiritual Truths

Book Review: The Berenstain Bears Blessed are the Peacemakers by Mike Berenstain

The Berenstain Bears Blessed are the Peacemakers by Mike Berenstain is part of the Living Lights series put out by Zonderkidz. And just in case you were wondering, Mike is the son of Stan and Jan Berenstain who originally created the beloved Bear family. The back of the book describes this story as being appropriate for ages 4 through 8. I would agree with this because even though the pictures are colorful and fun, the story in Berenstain Bear books is often too long to hold the attention of young children.

_225_350_Book.1324.coverI love how this book attempts to teach children how the Bible applies to their everyday lives. We teach our children certain truths but sometimes it is hard to show them how they can implement that in their lives. Being a peacemaker is a valuable lesson for children to learn and they can easily relate to the story in this book. The young bears in Bear Country are putting on a play called Romeo and Grizzliet, but trouble comes when Romeo and Juliet are played by bears from two groups that do not get along. Children are taught the importance of pursuing peace and a couple of Bible verses are used to reinforce the truth.

I have not read very many of the Living Lights books, but this book seemed a little different from other Berenstain Bear books that I have read. In this book Brother and Sister Bear were being examples of peacemakers. This was a lesson they had already learned so there aren’t any moments where Mama and Papa Bear step in to give instruction. I thought that was a great positive thing to see.

At the end of the book are some great questions and activities to go over with your children. This is a great resource for parents and I can’t wait to get other books in the series.
5 out of 5 stars

I received a free copy of this book from Zonderkidz as part of the Booklook book review program in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Book Review: The Healing Quilt

Book Review – Return of the Half-Stitched Amish Quilting Club: The Healing Quilt by Wanda E Brunstetter

Has anyone else noticed how much Amish fiction feels more and more un-Amish lately? The main 260870characters in this book are an older Amish couple, Lamar and Emma, who are living in Sarasota, Florida just during the wintertime hoping the warmer weather will be better for Lamar’s health. But their just seems to be very little that makes them distinctly Amish. If their clothing were not mentioned, they could be confused with just a very boring older couple.

Through the quilting classes they host in their home, they develop friendships with people from all kinds of backgrounds. The fact that many of these people show up for a quilting class in the first place is pretty unbelievable, but it is even more unbelievable that so many of them develop close and lasting relationships with this Amish couple. As I read the book, I just found myself having a hard time seeing this story as something that could really happen.

There are other books in the series, but I have not read any others (though reading the others would probably help since students from previous quilting classes are often mentioned). Though their Florida home is smaller than their Indiana home, they advertise their quilting class and soon have six students. I won’t go into the particulars of each student, but they each have their own hardships that they are going through. The hope is that through the kindness and expression of Christ-like love from Emma and Lamar, these individuals will be helped, sort of therapeutically through this quilting class.

Even though the book did make me want to go out and learn how to quilt, the story was just so unrealistic that it didn’t capture my attention.
3 out of 5 stars

I received a free copy of this book from Handlebar in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Book Review: My Happy Pumpkin

Just in time for the fall season is My Happy Pumpkin board book written by Crystal Bowman and illustrated by Claudine Gevry. This children’s book tells the story of a family growing a pumpkin and then carving it into a Jack-o-lantern. But instead of focusing on a Halloween theme like you would expect by looking at the cover, the author explains how we can let our light shine for Jesus just like your pumpkin will glow from the light placed inside of it.

The author has created a fun rhyming story that small children are sure to enjoy. If you are looking for a Christian alternative for Halloween books that will leave out ghosts and scary creatures then this might be the right one for you.

“Cute” is probably the best word I can use for it. The illustrations are well done and the story is sweet but not particularly memorable.

4 out of 5 stars

I received a free copy of this book from Zonderkidz as part of the Booklook program in exchange for a fair and honest review.

 

Fun Children’s Book but What’s the Point?

Book Review: Jonah and the Great Big Fish by Rhonda Gowler Greene and illustrated by Margaret Spengler
_225_350_Book.1286.coverWe have quite a few children’s books that revolve around favorite stories from the Bible, but these are often not the ones that our children want us to read and reread. Why is that? Well, they are usually just not very memorable. Jonah and the Great Big Fish seems to break the mold by exciting illustrations and a fun, rhyming storyline. Since it is a nice hardcover book with big colorful pictures, and few lines to each page, you will be able to read it to children as young as toddlers and up.

However, if you read the book, you may want to add your own thoughts at the end lest your children get the wrong idea. Consider this. The book tells how God told Jonah to do something, he disobeyed, and he was swallowed by a big fish. Jonah prayed, the fish spit him out, and Jonah now decides that he will obey. So what will your children take away from this as the point of the story? Obey God or else something bad will happen to you (e.g. get swallowed by large fish). I wish that the author had not left the story where she did. Jonah went on to preach to Ninevah, they repented, and God forgave them. This is a great chance to teach your children some great truths about God.

In summary, our children enjoyed the book, and with some guidance from the one reading the book it can be a great resource for “training up our children in the way they should go.”

4 out of 5 stars

I received a free copy of this book from Zonderkidz as part of the Booklook program in exchange for a fair and honest review.

 

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