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 Philipians 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 Philipians 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 ChristianBook.com 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 Christianbook.com for $13.99
OR Buy it at Amazon.com 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 Amazon.com for 5.94


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Counting Praises


Counting Praises by Grady O Williams III (who also illustrated the book) is a simple rhyming poem that teaches counting through repetition.

The best way for me to describe this book is to ask you to think about the children's nursery rhyme "5 Little Monkeys." The entire rhyme is repeated a series of times with the number at the beginning of each stanza changing each time the rhyme is repeated.

What I Like: I like that this is a great way for me to teach my 3 year old numbers and their sequencing through a book that reinforces the desire we should have to praise the Lord.

I think the illustrations for this book are perfect! They are simple just like the rhyme, and there is no visual clutter. As each page is turned, one more child is added to the illustration to match the number mentioned on the page.
 
What I Dislike: I personally am not sure that I would pay $9.50 for this book. Although the idea behind is great, and I know this will be added to our rotation of stories for the 3 year old, $9.50 seems a bit pricey for such a simple book.

Overall Rating: Recommended

Age Appeal: Preschool

Publisher Info: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013; ISBN: 978-1494792763; paperback, 28 pgs., $10.00


Buy it at Amazon.com for $9.50


Monday, October 6, 2014

The Love Story

The story of Jesus is one of love and obedience. This idea is the main focus of Stenetta Anthony's book The Love Story.

The book starts with Jesus standing in heaven. God says to him, "I must show my people on earth how much I love them."
Jesus tells God that he will be the one to show them, and then "off Jesus went on his journey."

The next image is the familiar scene of Bethlehem and three wise men greeting a couple with a baby, followed by a page with a crowd of children and adults. From there, the pages progress through some well known events in Jesus life-- a man riding on a donkey, reaching out to another, praying, and the cross.

The story ends with children looking up at Jesus' pierced feet (the rest of Jesus is not visible, so we know he is hanging on the cross).

One final page provides Scripture references. The same verses are given, but from two different versions of the Bible (NKJV and NIRV).  Each two page spread holds a picture on one side of the page and 3 to 6 lines of text on the other. The illustrations are done by Eric Gonzales. They appear to be ink and watercolor images--- simple yet realistic and done in soft pastel colors.  Also notable is that this book comes with a free audio book download.

What I Like:  You can tell the the author loves Jesus, and that it is her best intention to share that love with others. I always appreciate that in a book. One of the biggest selling points for this book is the free audio book download. Everyone loves a freebie! I also appreciate how the smaller, bite-sized chunks of text make it a fast read for young children. Finally, if you are familiar with the New Testament stories of Jesus' life, it could be used as a review of it.

What I Dislike: Please note the emphasis of my last like--- "If you are familiar with the New Testament stories of Jesus' life..."

The book assumes that the reader has a good familiarity with the events in Jesus' life. Otherwise, when Christ goes from a grown man in the opening pages to a baby in Bethlehem, the reader might mistake Joseph for Jesus.  Not only that, many events are referred to, but the author doesn't provide details on what actually took place, to whom, and why. If the reader doesn't know the Bible stories, there isn't enough substance in the book to clarify what happened. (Also, although every other page pictures Jesus, I don't believe the crowd scene after Bethlehem does. So I found that page somewhat confusing.)

Another place where familiarity with the Bible is crucial is when Jesus is praying in the garden. After showing people God's love on the previous pages through miracles and bringing hope and joy (although what the hope and joy was wasn't mentioned), here God tells Jesus again that he must show everyone how much God loves people.

And the way to do that is to die. There is no explanation for why Jesus had to die though, or why it had to be on a cross. (If it were me, I'd pick a less painful option.) There is also no follow up.  We don't learn the connection between how Jesus' death made atonement for sin and repaired our relationship with God. (Within context of the Bible, we know that, and understand why Jesus' death shows God's love. But in this book, Jesus' sacrificial death is not shown as a sacrifice; death is just presented as a way of showing love. To me, that's a dangerous message for kids who might not know their Bible.)

One final note; the last illustration bothered me. Two of the children that are looking up from under Christ's bloody feet hold big smiles on their faces, which to me... especially without explanation... seems confusing.  (Children don't typically react to death that way.)

Overall Rating: Ho-hum.

Age Appeal: No age is suggested, but I recommend the Kindergarten and first grade crowd.

Publisher Info: Tate Publishing, 2014; ISBN:978-1629025087; Paperback, 28 pgs., $9.99
This book is not available at Christianbook.com.
Buy it at Amazon.com for $8.99.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Moses Leads the People

Moses Leads the People is a level 2 "I Can Read!" book based upon Zondervan's popular Adventure Bible for kids. It offers a condensed version of the most famous parts of Moses' story:

Moses meets God in a burning bush. God tells him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. Moses obeys, taking his brother Aaron with him as spokesman. But when they confront the Pharaoh, he won't release the Israelite slaves. So God sends the plagues. Finally the Pharaoh relents and Moses leads his people away from Egypt, with God at the head - a cloud-pillar during the day and a pillar of fire at night. Soon, the Israelites spot the Pharaoh's army chasing them. God tells Moses to part the Red Sea, and the Israelites escape. As soon as the Israelites pass, the water rushes back and covers Pharaoh's army.

What I Like: This is a nicely condensed version of the Bible story, covering all the basic facts. David Miles' illustrations are engaging and really add to the book.

What I Dislike: Nothing.

Overall Rating: Excellent.

Age Appeal: about 4 - 8.


Publishing Info: Zondervan, 2014; ISBN:  978-0310732365; paperback, 32 pgs., $3.99

Buy at Amazon for $3.59
OR buy it at ChristianBook.com for $3.49