Saturday, May 28, 2016

Beyond the Attic Door

Beyond the Attic Doorby Tracy Del Campo, is set in the year 1925, the year of "the Scopes' Trial." John Scopes, a school teacher, is on trial for teaching about evolution in the classroom. The topics of God and the Bible, and of course evolution, are being hotly debated throughout the land. Many people think the outcome of the trial will be the death of religion.

But for Lulu and her 7-year-old brother, Buddy, who were raised in a family with a firm belief in God, their beliefs are not being shaken by the trial. Actually, their faith is still very strong. They do believe in science but they don't believe in evolution; their beliefs are based on Bible truths.

When the children visit their grandmother for the summer, they come across a machine their uncle made. He has it hidden in Grandma's attic. Not knowing what it does, they accidentally trip the device and end up in the past, all the way back to Biblical times. Their uncle invented the machine so he could go back in time to witness a major Biblical event. With his camera in hand, he could then take pictures and bring them back with him to the present, so he could prove the Bible is true. Of course, his plans don't work out so well.

What I Like: I like how the author combines the ideas of evolution, the Scopes trial, and a time machine in one story.

What I Dislike: However, although the premise is a good one, the storytelling part falls short. It feels like the author is trying to do too much in the story in such a short format. Perhaps, if the book were longer, the ideas would have worked better. The way it is written, the story is a choppy and not quite believable.

Overall Rating: Good.

Age Appeal: 8-12.

Publisher Info: Westbow Press, 2014; ISBN: 9781490837079; Paperback, 90 pages, $11.95.


 


Friday, May 27, 2016

Snuggle Time Prayers

Snuggle Time Prayers by Glenys Nellist is a beautiful board book with simple scripture based prayers for young children.

Glenys Nellist is one of my favorite children's authors. Her writing speaks in a voice that children can hear and understand. Based on her writings, I can picture her having a very safe voice, perfect for the ears of little ones.

Each prayer features a one line verse with a reference. The prayer then reflects the heart of the verse with personal application in a way that little ones can understand.

These prayers can be read one each night, or as in my 4 year old's case, several in a row because he liked them so much.

What I Like: I am big on finding great illustrations in children's books because little ones can see and be pulled in by the pictures before they can read the words. Cee Biscoe's illustrations perfectly match the voice of Glenys in this sweet book. The cover photo is a great example of the illustrations found throughout the book.

What I Dislike: I loved everything about this book.

Overall Rating: Excellent

Age Appeal: 2-4 years old

Publisher Info: ZonderKidz, 2016; ISBN: 978-0310749325; boardbook, 30 pgs., $9.99

Buy it Now at Christianbook.com for $8.19
OR Buy it at Amazon.com for $9.99

Saturday, May 21, 2016

My Big Book of Bible Heroes for Kids: Stories of 50 Weird, Wild, Wonderful People from God's Word

My Big Book of Bible Heroes for Kids: Stories of 50 Weird, Wild, Wonderful People from God’s Word by Glenn Hascall is filled with, as the title says, stories of 50 "weird, wild, wonderful people" from the Bible. Hascall writes about well-known Bible heroes such as Noah, Abraham, Joshua and John the Baptist. He also includes stories about lesser-known characters like Shiphrah and Jochebed (Yes, those are real Bible names!).

The author relates an incident that illustrates a special heroic trait of each Biblical character mentioned. Each story is followed by a set of questions called "Learning from a hero." The questions are designed to create discussion about each story so the reader can learn from what the hero did.

Full-color Illustrations by Amit Tayal highlight every story title page, providing life-like representations of the people mentioned.

What I Like: This is a great selection of stories. I especially appreciated that the author included some stories about women from the Bible.

Each story includes a page with the person's name and a Bible reference for the story. It also includes the person's "Heroic Quality." Some of these qualities are endurance, compassion, and respect. I like the idea that being a hero doesn't mean you have to have a "super" power, you just need an "Heroic Quality."

What I Dislike: Unfortunately, the writing style is rather boring. While the author chose good Bible characters to write about, he writes too much with the passive tense, instead of using action verbs. For instance, consider these two sentences: "Samson was the strongest man anyone had ever seen. When he was born, he was dedicated to God." The word "was" is used three times in just these two short sentences. That's okay, but I think it would have been better written like this: "Samson was the strongest man anyone had ever seen. After his birth, his mother dedicated his life to God." What do you think?

Overall Rating: Very good.

Age Appeal: 7-10.

Publisher Info: Shiloh Kidz, 2015; ISBN: 9781634093156; Paperback, 158 pages, $14.99.


Special Info: Read our reviews of other books by Glenn Hascall.



  

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Ten Things I Must Know: Bible Stories

Ten Things I Must Know: Bible Stories, by Elizabeth Akinteye, is a book of 10 Bible stories based on the 10 Commandments. The stories are preceded by an explanation of each commandment.

Colorful illustrations by Kate Solenova, that each make up a two-page spread, are scattered throughout the book.  Each chapter includes a head-shot of a child, which alternates between a boy and a girl.

What I Like: Sometimes it doesn't make a lot of sense to a child when you just give them a rule, like "honor thy father and thy mother." What does that really mean? The author does a good job of presenting the concepts of the commandments, with not only an explanation, but also a story that illustrates the point further.

What I Dislike: The illustrations of the children, both on the cover and in the book, appear to be computer-generated and are not very realistic.

Overall Rating: Very good.

Age Appeal: Ages 7 and up.

Publisher Info: Grosvenor House Publishing, 2015; ISBN: 9781781489802; Paperback, 80, $13.99.


Special Info: Visit the author’s website.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

That's Not Hay in My Hair

That’s Not Hay in My Hair,  by Juliette Turner, is the story of soon-to-be sixth-grader Juliette (Jules) O'Connor. After her end-of-the-year school party, she and her mother are leaving New York City to live on a cattle ranch in Texas. Her mother was born and raised in Texas, but left the state to live in New York City to work on her career as a writer. She bought a ranch in Texas, but never lived there, only going back to visit. Now, she and Jules will live there full time.

Jule's mother is familiar with life in Texas and life on a 300 acre cattle ranch. But, Jules has no clue what things will be like. She is terrified by stories of snakes and scorpions and coyotes. When the two arrive at the ranch, fully expecting to be looked after by long-time caretaker Beau-Dee, they are surprised to learn he will be leaving the ranch for good the very next day. How will the two survive on the ranch by themselves?

What I Like: I appreciated all this little "factoids" that were thrown into the storyline. The author did a good job of adding useful and interesting tidbits to the narrative, increasing my knowledge of cattle and horses.

What I Dislike: It was difficult for me to get into the story. I thought from the opening chapters, when Jules is preparing to move out of New York City and into a cattle ranch in the heart of Texas, there would be lots of conflicts between the city life and the country life. There wasn't. There was barely any mention of it at all.

I thought there would be a lot of problems that they would have to deal with on their own that they would normally have relied on Beau-Dee's help to figure out. Although there were a lot of problems to deal with, they didn't exactly have to do things by themselves. There was always someone who was just a phone call away. Turns out they really didn't need Beau-Dee, although the opening of the story made it sound like they would.

The author included a lot of things in the text that left me with more questions than answers. Here are just some of them (Unfortunately, there were many more.): How could a dog drag mud into the house when it hadn't rained? If Texas was so hot, why did Jules wait so long to react to the heat? Who actually set off the fireworks at their 4th of July party? What kind of vine has thorns in it?  If Maggie's left foot was so sore, why was that the one that she stamped the ground with? How come Jule's mother was caught totally off guard when Jules mentioned her first day of school was the next day?

There was also overuse of the actions of eye rolling, smirking and shoulder and head patting.

Although the book was published by Zonderkidz, Christianity seemed to be just an after-thought. Jules does superstitious things like crossing her fingers and her toes. Her mom kept using the phrase "Holy Moses." Prayer was offered before only one meal, by Jule's grandmother, at the end of which she crossed herself, even though Jules stated she wasn't Catholic. Early parts of the book mentioned they went to church in NYC, but there is no mention of them going to church in Texas.

Overall Rating: Ho hum.

Age Appeal: 8-12.

Publisher Info: Zonderkidz, 2016; ISBN 9780310732440; Paperback, 240 pages, $8.99.


Special Info: Just for girls.



Wednesday, May 11, 2016

I Want To Be Just Like Jesus: Bible Storybook

I Want to Be Just Like Jesus: Bible Storybook, by Stephen Elkins, is a Bible storybook for children. book contains 40 different short stories about Jesus, each dealing with one of Jesus' characteristics. For instance, some characteristics cited are Jesus Was Responsible, Jesus Was Sincere and Jesus Was Generous.

Each of the short stories is preceded by a Bible verse and followed by a section called "Jesus in Me" that explains what each character trait means and how children can be like Jesus. Each section ends with a "Prayer for Today" and a call to action. One reads: "To be just like Jesus.... I will be sincere."

The illustrations by Simon Taylor-Kielty and Ruth Zeglin are bright and colorful and very kid-friendly.

What I Like: I like the overall design of the book. Although each section is four pages long and is repetitious in terms of what it contains and how it is laid out, the backgrounds, borders and illustrations make each one different and very visually appealing.

What I Dislike: Although I like the illustrations, as the people depicted in them remind me of Precious Moments figurines, I don't like the illustrations of Jesus. He simply looks like a big kid with a beard. He doesn't really look like an adult.

Overall Rating: Very good.

Age Appeal: No no age group is given for the book. It's difficult to determine the exact age group, as the layout and illustrations would suggest a rather young audience, say 4-8-year-olds. However, many of the words used in the stories are way above that age group. I'll say the appropriate age is somewhere between 6 and 10 years.

Publisher Info: Tyndale, 2015; ISBN: 9781496408211; Hardback, 173 pages, $14.99.


Special Info: Read our reviews of other books by Stephen Elkins.


Monday, May 9, 2016

Power Prayers for Boys

Power Prayers for Boys by Glenn Hascall is, as the title implies, a book of prayers for boys. Each chapter deals with a different "type of power." For instance, some chapter headings are "My Attitude: The Power of My Thoughts"; "My Family - The Power of Love"; and "My Respect - The Power of Honor." Each chapter has 15 prayers relating to the chapter subject matter and each prayer is preceded by a corresponding Bible verse.

The writers use several different versions of the Bible for reference: NIV (New International Version); CEV (Contemporary English Version); NCV (New Century Version); NLT (New Living Translation); NLV (New Living Version); and NLT (New Living Translation).

What I Like: This looks like a good book for boys to go use. It gives them guidance and insights about 21 different topics that are relevant to them in their daily lives.

What I Dislike: I don't really like the type size used for the pages. The book is printed in a rather small type face. I think it would feel more user-friendly if the type were just a bit bigger.

Overall Rating: Very good.

Age Appeal: 8-12.

Publisher Info: Shiloh Kidz, 2015; ISBN: 9781630588588; Paperback, 218 pages, $7.99.


Special Info: The title suggests this book is just for boys. Although some of the issues are specifically addressed to boys, many of these are relevant to girls, as well.

Read our reviews of other books by Glenn Hascall.