Happy Easter.

Jesus Calling Bible Storybook was written by Sarah Young with Jean Fischer, illustrated by Carolina Farias and published by Thomas Nelson in 2012.

Sarah Young wants children to learn the stories of the Bible, but more importantly she wants them to listen in their hearts to what Jesus is saying about those stories. She asks readers to discover what Jesus is saying to them.  She offers insights into each story which come out in a faith-nurturing and child-like way.  She has a most refreshing way of explaining difficult concepts. From the first story of Genesis to the last in Revelation, Young gives a complete look into the Old and New Testaments. Some examples of chapter titles are: Adam and Eve’s Big Mistake; Jacob, a Man with Two Names; Mary Meets an Angel; and, He is Here.

The art work is colorful, uncomplicated and true to each story. Its warmth matches the loving tone of the writing. Written for 3- to 7-year-olds, Jesus Calling Bible Storybook is a must for family devotions. They will find a heartwarming look into God’s Word and His grand plan to send Jesus, His Son.

Carol Green, a graduate of Northwestern, is the mother of three adult children. Her five grandchildren affectionately call her “Grams cracker.” She is the published author of many poems for both adults and children; three coloring books: God Gave Me Five, ABC Fun Book, and Color God’s World Bright; and the picture book: My Mom Loves Me.

Running with Roselle, by Michael Hingson with Jeanette Hanscome, was written to retell the New York Times bestselling book, Thunder Dog,  for children. It begins from the puppy’s point of view, and then goes to the boy’s point of view, alternating between Roselle and Michael as they grow up, meet and become a team. Michael and Roselle walked down 78 flights of stairs to escape the burning World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

This book helps educate readers on how guide dogs are raised and trained. As a puppy, Roselle liked to hide slippers, but when she put on her training vest, her focus shifted from play to work. Readers gain perspective on the challenges of growing up blind in a sighted world. As a boy, Mike rode his bike around town, shocking neighbors.

Together, with humor, perseverance and hope, the team of Mike and Roselle braved the dangers of a dark day in American history. There is a beautiful picture of the two of them on the book’s back cover.

Running with Roselle (Roselle’s Dream Foundation, 2013) is recommended for ages eight and up. For independent reading, I would consider it a middle-grade book, because of the length and complexity of the story and two sad events: the terrorist attack involving four airplanes, and, in the “Extras” section, the death of Roselle. If parents or grandparents wish to share this story with younger children, it might be a good idea to read the book to them. That way the adult can answer any questions that come up, and summarize or skip sections that could be confusing or frightening to a young child.

The book is 264 pages long, and is available online through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and the Michael Hingson Group.

Donna Fujimoto is a graduate of Alliance Theological Seminary. She has published both devotionals for adults and short stories for teens. Her children love to read.

Mrs. Fujimoto has a collection of short stories, 9 Slightly Strange Stories with an Uplifting Edge, available as an e-reader at Amazon. Find our review under “N” in the alphabetical listing: Titles We’ve Reviewed.

Easter Surprise was written by Vicki Howie and illustrated by Moira MacLean. It was published by Concordia Publishing House in 2006.

This lift-the-flap book begins with two strangers coming to a farm house door. They ask to use a donkey. The child lifts the flap of a door. The strangers promise to bring the donkey home. Next the child travels to Jerusalem where palm branches are waving for Jesus, the King. Each page has an interesting reason for the child to lift a flap and see the surprise. The story progresses until Easter morning when Jesus is risen. The author handles the betrayal of Judas in a unique way.

The colorful illustrations realistically depict people of Middle-Eastern ethnicity, adding to the sense of accuracy in this telling of Jesus’ days from Palm Sunday until Easter Sunday.

Though a board book, Easter Surprise could be used nicely for family devotions during Easter week. Younger children will be excited to lift the flap while an older child or parent reads the page.

Note: Carol also likes three other board books about Easter–My Easter Basket: And the True Story of Easter, An Easter Gift for Me and The Easter Story. You can find her comments at Easter Books for Little Ones.

Carol Green, a graduate of Northwestern, is the mother of three adult children. Her five grandchildren affectionately call her “Grams cracker.” She is the published author of many poems for both adults and children; three coloring books: God Gave Me Five, ABC Fun Book, and Color God’s World Bright; and the picture book: My Mom Loves Me.

The Maid of Fairbourne Hall by Julie Klassen and published by Bethany House Publishers (2012) is an enchanting and suspenseful page-turner that may just keep you up at night–finishing chapters. The story takes place in London in 1815 and revolves around Margaret Elinor Macy who flees her home and finds employment as a common maid.

Margaret’s mother has recently married a greedy, controlling man, Sterling Benton. He has his heart set on Margaret marrying his nephew, Marcus Benton, to keep her fortune in his family. But in a few months, Margaret will be twenty-five, inherit a fortune, and be free of Sterling’s control. Marcus Benton tries to force his affections upon her.

Margaret runs away with her maid, Jane, who has been dismissed for stealing some coins from Sterling. Margaret took the money, thinking she would need some to survive. Her maid was blamed for it and sent away, but not until she found a maid’s outfit and a black wig for Margaret to use as a disguise.  They flee to Jane’s sister’s home, in another section of London. After a short stay, Jane’s sister thinks it best they leave. The young women travel to Maidstone. At Maidstone there is a hiring fair for maids, and Margaret, as “Nora Garret,” obtains employment.

Margaret finds herself at Fairbourne Hall where she goes about learning the duties of a housemaid. This country estate is  the home of a former suitor, Nathaniel Upchurch, and his sister and brother, Luis and Helen Upchurch. Nathaniel had once proposed to Margaret, but she turned him down. In time, Helen Upchurch recognizes the disguised Margaret, who explains she fled her home because of Marcus Benton. Helen understands, and appears to be willing to keep her secret.

Over time, Margaret prays and seeks help from the Lord. She notices that Nathaniel has changed, and has grown in his faith and character. She experiences the hardship of service and realizes she has always taken servants for granted. She also comes to see that Luis Upchurch, whom she had admired, is immature and never had any real affection for her.

At one point in the story, Sterling Benton comes to the estate, looking for her and passing her picture among all who reside in the house. She is not discovered, and is greatly relieved. Helen persuades her to write to her mother, brother and sister to let them know she is safe, and in good hands.

Sterling Benton, determined to find Margaret, circulates a story in the newspaper that Margaret’s sister is set to marry Marcus Benton. But Klassen ends the novel happily.

In this story, we see the true godly character of Nathaniel and how he has loved Margaret for the past several years. He comes to guess her identity, but does not reveal this to her. She finds herself falling in love with him. At times he seeks her company.  They both share their love of Jesus and the Bible.

Reading The Maid of Fairbourne Hall I learned so much about the duties of housemaids in English households. I also thought a lot about how to appreciate the people who show us kindness and who perform services for us every day.

Patsy Ledbetter says she has many titles, but her favorite is being mom to her five children. Her two daughters, two sons and one son-in-law are her joy. A teacher with forty years experience Patsy has taught children of all ages and also special needs children and adults. She writes occasionally for a local newspaper and performs in church theater productions on a regular basis. Her husband is the church choir and orchestra director. They have been married for 32 years. She says, “It is my desire to bring honor and glory to my Lord Jesus in every area where He has allowed me to minister.”

Nora’s Ark was written by Eileen Spinelli and illustrated by Nora Hilb. It was published by Zonderkidz (2013).

Spinelli gives an unusual twist to the traditional Noah’s ark story. She begins with a little girl, Nora, building her own ark out of planks, chairs and boxes because the weather man has predicted rain. The catchy phrase, “…just like Noah. Well…not just like Noah,” is threaded throughout the story. Nora does call the animals two by two, but they are two spiders, two stuffed monkeys, two goldfish and the two family cats who soon hurry off. The next page pictures Nora in her imagination, waiting under her umbrella with real animals like they would have been on the real ark.  Another of  the story’s humorous touches shows us Nora eating a bag of pretzels and painting her toe nails, again reminding us that Nora’s story is not quite like the Noah story. When it is dinner time a big rainbow appears.

Children will delight in the imagination of Nora’s Ark but it will be up to the parent to share the true Bible story of God calling Noah to build an ark and God’s promise of a rainbow. What fun it would be to make this a family night acting out Noah’s story with chairs, animals, the pounding of rain, and finally God’s rainbow.

Carol Green, a graduate of Northwestern, is the mother of three adult children. Her five grandchildren affectionately call her “Grams cracker.” She is the published author of many poems for both adults and children; three coloring books: God Gave Me Five, ABC Fun Book, and Color God’s World Bright; and the picture book: My Mom Loves Me.

Land of the Pilgrims’ Pride (Regnery Kids, 2012) is the second book in the Ellis the Elephant series written by Callista Gingrich and illustrated by Susan Arciero. Told in rhyme, this children’s picture book takes Ellis on a journey through history. He visits the 13 original colonies as now represented on the American Flag by the 13 stripes.

His journey begins in Virginia, the site of the first permanent settlement at Jamestown. Then Ellis travels to Massachusetts, meeting the pilgrims on the Mayflower and learning that they established the first democratic roots in the New World. He learns that Roman Catholics came to the New World, settling in Maryland, and that the Dutch originally settled in New York. Ellis discovers cranberries, that were used for food and dye, grew in New Jersey. The colony of Connecticut was known for dairy farming. In New Hampshire Ellis learns that each village had a school. In Rhode Island Roger Williams established freedom of religion and treated the Native Americans as neighbors.

Traveling to Delaware, Ellis learns that Swedish people settled there and created a border with Maryland known as the Mason Dixon line. In North Carolina he learns that pirates pillaged the seas off their coast. He discovers that the trading of rice and indigo allowed the colony of South Carolina to grow its economy. Visiting Georgia, Ellis sees that those who needed a second chance were welcomed. The last colony on his tour, Pennsylvania, was home to William Penn. It was als0 home to Benjamin Franklin who would become a great patriot.

Ellis also journeys to the capital of the United States, Washington, D.C. He notices the flag on the Capitol has fifty stars unlike the first one he saw. Ellis learns the origins of the United States.

Land of the Pilgrims’ Pride is a great opportunity for younger readers, aged 5 to 8 years old, to learn some basic history of the United States and the origins of our country. The things that parents should teach their children from this book are what each stripe and star represents. I would encourage parents to tell their children what number their state is, and learn some interesting facts about it. The back of the book has resources and places to visit in each of the states mentioned to learn more history.

Kristina O’Brien is a mother of twin girls, an avid reader and a credentialed teacher. She has taught both middle school and high school history. She is currently a stay-at-home mom and enjoys raising her two girls.

In Sheltie the Shetland Pony by Peter Clover (Aladdin Paperbacks, 2000) Emma’s dad has a job in the countryside. Emma has to leave her home and friends in town, and she doesn’t like it. They arrive at their new house after dark. Waking in a strange place, she doesn’t feel much better—until she looks out the window and sees a fat cheerful-looking little Shetland pony tossing his head in the back yard!

Emma gets lessons in riding and caring for her pony. Soon they are the best of friends. But Sheltie is mischievous and keeps finding ways to escape the fence. A grumpy neighbor man down the road accuses Sheltie of stealing his prize cabbages. Emma wants to clear her pony’s name and solve the mystery of the missing cabbages, but it’s Sheltie who shows the whole village the answer.

Slightly more than 90 pages in length, this chapter book is written and charmingly illustrated by the author, Peter Clover. Since he is from England, it contains words like “cockerel” instead of rooster, “biscuits” rather than cookies, and “Mum” for Mom. Some children might find this intriguing, while others might need to have the difference explained. It is written for elementary children, ages six to nine. The style is lighthearted and descriptive.

Though no longer in print, you can find Sheltie the Shetland Pony at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Powell’s Books online. The book generally sells for less than $2. There are fifteen more titles in this series. I haven’t read them, but I’m going to look for them at my local used bookstore.

Donna Fujimoto is a graduate of Alliance Theological Seminary. She has published both devotionals for adults and short stories for teens. Her children love to read.

Mrs. Fujimoto has a collection of short stories, 9 Slightly Strange Stories with an Uplifting Edge, available as an e-reader at Amazon. Find our review under “N” in the alphabetical listing: Titles We’ve Reviewed.

In the Fairy Realm Series by Emily Rodda (HarperCollins, 2003-2007) Jessie loves to visit her Granny.The two of them are so much alike. Jessie has inherited red hair, green eyes, and the love of make-believe from her grandmother. Behind her Granny’s big country house is a tiny stretch of lawn enclosed by hedges that Jessie calls “the secret garden” where she goes to think. In the first story she discovers that this place is actually a door to the Fairy Realm.

This series of ten books is crafted to captivate a child’s imagination. Emily Rodda’s prose is elegant in its description of landscapes, moods, and people. The vibrant full-color covers and skillful, black-and-white drawings by artist Raoul Vitale are intriguing. I know one child who daydreamed over the drawings before she could read the stories.

We find out in the first book that Granny Jessica is the rightful Queen of the Realm. Fifty years earlier, a young artist discovered a door and went to visit Fairy Realm. He painted wonderful scenes and became famous—his work hanging in art galleries and printed in books. He also fell in love with Jessica, and brought her back to this world as his wife.

Now their granddaughter Jessie may move between the two worlds at will. In each story, there is some problem in the Realm that she must solve. She usually does it using “good, human common sense”. To reward her after each adventure, Queen Helena (Jessica’s younger sister who rules the realm in her stead) gives Jessie a commemorative gold charm for her bracelet.

The stories are imaginative and fun, inviting children into another world of beautiful magic and friendly people. Children visit a palace; see unicorns, mermaids, gnomes, sprites, fairies, griffins, miniature talking horses, elves, and more!

In books 1 (The Charm Bracelet) and 6 (The Unicorn), there is a strong sense of threat and danger to people in both worlds, brought by the villainous Valda, who wants to gain control of the Realm from her cousins. Book 1 mentions the two recent natural deaths of Jessie’s grandfather and father. In book 6, Valda is touched by the unicorn’s horn and vanishes in a flash, because in the Realm, a unicorn’s touch destroys all evil.

Book 8, The Water Sprites, is not as much fun as others because there is constant squabbling and the reader doesn’t get much of a rest.

Book 10, The Rainbow Wand, ties up all the loose strings in the series in surprising ways. It has a sense of tension ending with hope. In between the reader finds all the beautiful elements of story they have come to love.

Jessie has a strong relationship with her mother and grandmother, as well as fond memories of her grandfather. She attends school, has neighbors, and deals with child-sized problems, overcoming them with courage. Sometimes children feel tired after school, sports, lessons, and the struggles of their young lives. These books help them realize they can be brave at any age not only in the world of imagination but also in the real world. This series provides happy escapes that give readers positive and hopeful feelings about life.

Averaging slightly over 100 pages, these chapter books are marketed for children ages 6-10/grades 2-5. The series is out of print, but you can still find them in libraries, at used bookstores and online at Amazon and at Barnes & Noble.

Donna Fujimoto is a graduate of Alliance Theological Seminary. She has published both devotionals for adults and short stories for teens. Her children love to read.

Mrs. Fujimoto has a collection of short stories, 9 Slightly Strange Stories with an Uplifting Edge, available as an e-reader at Amazon. Find our review under “N” in the alphabetical listing: Titles We’ve Reviewed.

The Postcard by Beverly Lewis (Bethany House Publishing, 1999) is the first book in a series of two tremendously insightful and inspiring stories. Beverly Lewis, a master storyteller, intricately weaves together a series of tragic and mysterious happenings that demonstrate the hand of God in the redemption of a family and a community.

The story takes place in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and begins with the plans of an Amish family (Jacob and Rachel Yoder, and their two children, Aaron and Annie) to visit the Farmer’s Market. The family gets a late start and Jacob suggests they take the Crossroad, a dangerous intersection on the way to town. He seems to think it will be fine, just this once. Rachel hesitates, yet goes along with the plan.

When the family approaches the Crossroad, the wind blows from them a letter Rachel intends to mail. She retrieves it, but just as she returns to the horse and wagon, the horse spooks and rears up. A car hits the wagon. Jacob and Aaron are killed; Rachel and Annie end up in the hospital. Annie’s arm is broken. Rachel, who was pregnant, miscarries.

Shortly after that, Rachel begins having trouble with her vision. Her mother, Susanna, suggests Rachel see the local hex doctor. Rachel believes sympathy healers, or hex doctors, are practicing a form of witchcraft. Her parents, however, are part of the Old Order Amish Church and state that this has been happening for generations and believe it is fine. They suggest it is an integral part of their culture. Rachel and Jacob had belonged to the Beachy Amish Church which embraced the salvation message of Christ and His Word. The sermons of that church were in English, instead of German, and the members were encouraged to read the Bible in whole, not just in part.

Rachel and Annie go to live with her parents in a bed and breakfast. Philip Bradley, a writer from New York, arrives to begin work on an article about Amish family traditions. At first, Ben and Susanna are very friendly toward him. Then they find out he is a writer, so they don’t want to encourage him by giving him any information. Philip discovers a forty-year-old postcard hidden in the desk in his room. Susanna denies that she knows who it belongs to and suggests he keep it. Philip seeks to unravel the mystery of the postcard.

The mystery turns out to involve the tragic romance between Susanna’s uncle, who left the traditional Amish church to become an evangelist for Christ, and Adele, a now elderly woman. Continuing his stay at the inn, Philip observes Rachel and Annie, and is fascinated. His prompt action saves six-year-old Annie’s life when he helps her get treatment for an allergic reaction to hornet-sting. Rachel is very grateful. Philip is developing feelings for her and she for him. He returns to New York, but calls Rachel. Susanna grabs the phone away from her and tells Philip to leave them alone.

The second book, The Crossroad, (Bethany House Publishing, Repack edition, 2007) continues the story and brings it to a dramatic and happy ending. Rachel, Philip and Adele have their own spiritual re-awakenings and they all grow in faith and devotion to their Lord and Savior, Jesus. They all realize the plans He has for their lives. Adele encourages Philip to pursue a relationship with Rachel, who he is obviously very fond of. Rachel is also having a hard time putting Philip Bradley out of her mind and they do end up together in a very clever way.

I find these stories to be heartwarming and full of suspense. So many spiritual lessons are woven into these two books. Fifteen year-old readers will enjoy these books as well as older youth and adults. You will definitely have a hard time putting these stories down.

Patsy Ledbetter says she has many titles, but her favorite is being mom to her five children. Her two daughters, two sons and one son-in-law are her joy. A teacher with forty years experience Patsy has taught children of all ages and also special needs children and adults. She writes occasionally for a local newspaper and performs in church theater productions on a regular basis. Her husband is the church choir and orchestra director. They have been married for 32 years. She says, “It is my desire to bring honor and glory to my Lord Jesus in every area where He has allowed me to minister.”

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