Saturday, November 29, 2014

Learn about Saudi Arabia through the Eyes of a South African Girl

Girl of the Book by Princila Murrell is an interesting and engaging story about a South African family that moves to Saudi Arabia for the father’s two-year work assignment.  I was concerned that this would be a preachy book for kids about how all Muslims are wonderful and all Christians are intolerant and arrogant, but I was pleasantly surprised by a balanced story line with realistic characters that struggle with real life situations.

The new-girl-in-school problems found in many tween and teen books are magnified in this book.  Despite her parents’ careful instructions, Courtney still manages to violate cultural rules regularly, even though she tries not to cause trouble.  Many of her classmates at school don’t help--and even work to get her into more trouble.  Two young people, a girl and a boy, are the only ones kind to her. Unfortunately, their kindness to Courtney causes them problems with some family members and classmates, too.

This was a wonderful book that respected both religious traditions while showing how difficult it can be for the two cultures to understand one another.  There are no objectionable elements, so parents can confidently hand this excellent story to young readers, even very young children who read well above grade level. 

I received a free copy of Girl of the Book  for my honest review.  It will be available on December 1, so you won't have to wait long to read it for yourselves!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Recommended Blog for Moms: Mommy Edition

Mommy Edition is a blog that offers information on education of young children as well as nutrition, shopping tips, and health articles.  You will also find tips for children's parties and family celebrations/traditions.  This blog features high-quality articles that can make your life a little easier.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Self-Publishing Help from a Seasoned Publisher

Deborah S. Nelson teaches anyone how to publish a book with her own book: Publish Your Book Blueprint in 3 Days.  This book walks the user step by step through the publishing process on Createspace.  Part 1 explains in detail the digital publishing process.  Part 2 is a guided workbook in which you just fill in the blanks on pages from title and preface through the back matter (appendices, glossary, about the author, etc.)  She provides the skeleton and you add the flesh.

As one who has only published e-books, I found this book encouraging.  Having heard that formatting a print book is much more difficult,  I have been reluctant to consider hardback or paperback publishing.  If/when I do, however, I plan to refer to Nelson’s website and her wealth of resources, including courses on self-publishing.

I received a free review copy of Publish Your Book Blueprint in 3 Days in exchange for my honest review.

Children's Book Review

The Boy Who Spoke to God
This is another fine children’s story by Randa Handler.   In an imaginary kingdom, four cultures live in harmony and work well together--except when a holiday rolls around!  Niko gets tired of all the arguing and prays about it.

In answer to his prayers, Niko sees and hears from God in a dream.  God looks like all the people groups together and tells Niko that the four groups can live together.  Niko gives this message to the kingdom, but it takes a while for people to work things out and respect one another.  Wonderfully detailed illustrations help tell the story.

As an evangelical Christian, I might read and discuss this with children as a lesson in being friends despite differences.  It is not a theological text, so it does not teach children to reject their own faith--although old people like me will have some concerns about postmodernism (there is no objective truth) and universalism (there are many ways to God and all gods are the same.)

I received a free copy of this book from the author for review.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A Fantasy Story with Moral Lessons

Cubbie Blue and his Dog Dot

This children’s story by Randa Handler involves a boy from a species of tiny people living in Antarctica and having special powers. Cubbie Blue disobeys his father and uses a transport device before he is taught to use it safely.  Fortunately, his dog is with him and can help him when they land in a city full of humans.

Three boys become friends to Cubbie and Dot and help them survive while they look for a way back to their own people.  This story can be used as a launching pad for discussions with children about being friends with those who are different--in size, color, or culture.  The boys have to solve lots of problems, too, offering even more lessons for young readers.

Color illustrations help the reader visualize the story.

I received a free copy of this book from the author for review.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Philosophy and Fantasy for Tween Readers

Shieldwolf Dawning by Selena Nemorin was written as a fantasy novel for tweens.  Nemorin also created the story as a philosophical text.  As children follow the journey of Samarra and her brother Cassian, they encounter questions basic to all humans:
  •        How do I know what or whom to believe?
  •        How do I make wise choices?
  •        Can I know what is right or wrong?

Samarra learns she and her brother came from another planet and, when offered a one-way trip to that planet, accepts the offer for herself and her brother.  Some things on the new planet are better, some are worse.  Samarra is happier, but her brother is not.  When they get caught in a battle between two kinds of magic and two ways of believing, choices must be made.

This is a well written story whether or not one uses it to teach philosophy.  This is recommended for teachers or parents to read and discuss with tweens and young teens.  Nemorin wrote Shieldwolf Dawning as part of her work on her Master of Arts thesis and it was obviously written with attention to detail.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Review: Murder at the Mikado by Julianna Deering

Happily engaged Drew Farthering is looking forward to a nice, normal wedding and married life with his Madeline.  Unfortunately, life has other plans.

Can Drew’s relationship with Madeline survive while he helps an old girlfriend? A beautiful former actress accused of murdering a member of her theatre troupe?

This title is recommended for lovers of mystery, the theatre, and a little romance. 

I received a free review copy of Murder at the Mikado from Bethany House publishers.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Abraham by Chuck Swindoll

Pastor Chuck Swindoll offers his insights as he explores the Biblical account of the life of Abraham.  From God’s first words to Abram to Abraham’s death after a long, eventful life, there are lessons for all of us who want to know how to really follow God.

This biography of Abram/Abraham, like the Bible, shows us the good and the bad.  This man of God was, after all, a man.  In each chapter, Swindoll showcases one event and how that event developed character or revealed character flaws.  By the end, anyone can see that Abraham’s life was a journey of faith--a journey with detours, disappointments, and delights.

I recommend this book to Sunday School teachers and church libraries.  It is also useful as a supplement for individual Bible study of Genesis.

I received a free copy of Abraham from the publisher for my honest review.

From Dreamer to Planner

 The Newest Secret by Deborah S. Nelson is not just another motivational book.  The subtitle,  Part 1: Introduction to Dream Planning indicates a big difference.  Nelson teaches the power of truthful thinking rather than merely positive thinking.  Truth is fundamental to achieving any dream and Nelson offers tools to help the reader identify and speak the truth in his/her life.  Each chapter includes a “power study” with links to helpful resources, making this book an inspirational title and a reference book.

The culmination of the process of dream planning is to actually write and publish your dream.  Your pen bridges the gap between imagination and creation.  Creation is an important theme in the book, as Nelson embraces a creative worldview (one of abundance) rather than a competitive worldview (one of scarcity.)

Important features I found especially notable included her discussion of overcoming entropy and gaining momentum (engineers like physics metaphors) and her coverage of what to do when the dream arrives.  Gratitude is an important attitude to have!   Nelson also offers useful tips for dealing with “dream deniers” who can’t or won’t see your dream.

The Newest Secret would make a fine gift for a graduating senior or a helpful study for a person experiencing “midlife crisis.” 

Note: I received a free review copy from the author for my honest review.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Unit Study Resources for Elementary Grades

Randa Handler has written several books for children that can launch excellent class discussions.  The books also make great material for family reading time.

The Thanksgiving Dinner Platter is set in 1941, the year Franklin Delano Roosevelt made Thanksgiving Day a national holiday in the United States.  Takari is part of a Japanese-American family and is excited to celebrate with her family--until she breaks an heirloom platter that belonged to her grandmother.  Takari’s mother is upset, so Takari seeks consolation from her friend, Little Sparrow, a Native American.

As Little Sparrow’s family prepares cornbread in the tradition of the Wampanoag, Takari learns about the pilgrims and begins to understand how much she has to be thankful for.  She tags along when Little Sparrow and his father go to spend time at a veterans’ hospital and learns that Thanksgiving Day is about more than food and heirloom platters.  She returns home wiser and more thankful than ever.

Use this book in a unit study on Thanksgiving, veterans, or multicultural customs.
Handler has also written Cubbie Blue and His Dog Dot and What’s Up with Mike? which feature multiracial boys, a fantasy world, and tiny creatures.  The lesson is that being different is not a bad thing.  If I Were King features a zebra that learns important lessons about friendship, boundaries, and safety while playing with a variety of animals.  The Boy Who Spoke to God is a lesson on tolerance among different religions.
Find Randa Handler’s books on her Amazon Author Page and check them out.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Book Giveaway: Their Name is Today

Johann Christoph Arnold offers the why and the how of "reclaiming childhood in a hostile world."  The modern world needs some common sense reminders about the age-appropriate pursuits of childhood, as our institutions become increasingly hostile toward normal child development.  

I believe Maria Montessori and a host of sensible great-great-grandparents would say to us what Arnold does in this much-needed book.  Play is the proper work of a child.  Screen time is no substitute for hands-on activities.  There is no substitute for active adult involvement in the lives of children.

Comment on this post below and get a chance to win a free copy of Their Name is Today: Reclaiming Childhood in a Hostile World.  Winner will be chosen November 8.

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”