The Voyage of Patience Goodspeed by Heather Vogel Frederick (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition, 2004) is a sea adventure that will keep middle school aged boys and girls turning the pages.

At the age of twelve, Patience loses her beloved mother while her father, a whaling ship captain, is at sea. When he returns, he resolves to take Patience and her brother with him to sea, so keeping his family together. But Patience wants to remain in Nantucket and study math, at which she excels. Her little brother Tad, however, is ecstatic over the idea of going on the ship. The captain tries to employ his older sister, who runs a school for girls, to be their governess on the trip, but she refuses. Aunt Anne gives her niece a journal to record her journey and a sextant to help her navigate. Their cousin is the first mate, and he and others in the crew do their best to make the two children feel welcome while their father is busy setting sail.

As the story unfolds we see the ship, its operations, and ports of call through the eyes of a curious girl. Patience tries to do what is right, but often struggles with her temper. She is kind to her brother, and makes herself useful by both helping with navigation and baking biscuits and pies for the crew. Slowly her relationship with her father—who traveled for years at a time during her childhood—grows deeper. Patience as well as the other characters in this story are realistically portrayed with strengths and weaknesses. Children will relate to them.

In a furious storm, a valued crew member is washed overboard and the first mate’s leg is broken. Their cousin stays in port to heal, and a new mate is hired. Patience’s dislike of the new man is merited when he turns mutinous, marooning the captain, her brother, and all the loyal crew. Patience must find a way to retake the ship and navigate back to save her family before it is too late.

Details of whaling are described which may upset some readers, but they are based on historical facts of that era. There are elements of peril, but it feels a lot like the Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys series in both reading level and suspense. Nothing is really terrifying and the reader feels as though all will end well.

The culture of that time and place is Christian, and there are references to scripture, prayer, and poetry that reflect this.

The author descended from New England mariners. She includes recipes baked on the voyage and a glossary of nautical terms.

I think middle school aged children will find this book a nice adventure. It is just over 200 pages in length. I found it at my local library. It is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Christianbook.com.

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.

 

 

 

This nonfiction, healthy lifestyle book is written by Bethany Hamilton, a young woman from Hawaii who became famous after surviving a shark attack while surfing as a teen. Her story was told in both the book and a movie entitled Soul Surfer. Body & Soul is a collaboration with Dustin Dillberg (Bethany Hamilton’s trainer) and Kirby Dillberg (health food consultant).

Body & Soul finds its best audience with the high-energy, athletic high school girl. It outlines a lifestyle that requires perseverance and self-discipline. Bethany encourages a diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, low-fat organic chicken, meats and fish, lots of water, whole grains, nuts, small portions, and no junk food. There is a chapter of delicious healthful recipes, including Bethany’s favorite green smoothie.

In other sections of the book she recommends specific kinds of workouts—complete with step-by-step photographs and instructions. The reader will also find  encouragement both to find a sport she loves and to exercise regularly with friends. There is a sample week-long diet and exercise plan to get girls started. Bethany points out the importance of a balanced life and of having a good relationship with God.

It sounds as if Bethany is speaking directly to the girls from her home or the beach, using surfing terms to emphasize her enthusiasm. The book is colorful and upbeat, full of scripture quotes, tips on healthy eating and exercise, “Soul Secrets” and “Challenges.” Bethany offers further advice through her website.

Body & Soul is 150 pages long, 10 ½ by 7 inches in size, and is published by Zondervan. It is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Christianbook.com.

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.

 

 

On the surface First Date by Kristin McGee and published by Thomas Nelson (2011) might seem just a fun “beach” read for teenage girls. It takes its plot from current reality shows with small nods to the story of Esther in the Old Testament. In First Date a hundred American teenage girls vie for the honor of being the prom date of the president’s son.

The principal of Addy Davidson’s small Christian school selects Addy to represent the school in the competition. Initially, Addy wants no part of it. She agrees after some coaxing. But her first day of shooting is worse than she thought it could be. Hoping to bring a quick end to her participation, at her first meeting with Jonathon, the president’s son, she offers to be the first one he eliminates from the competition. Rather than getting her dropped from the show, her suggestion has the opposite effect. The media takes an interest in her as does Jonathon. TV viewers find her refreshing. Embarrassed at her behavior, Addy decides to do her best, but still hopes and expects that she will soon be eliminated. As the contest continues there are a number of plot twists: unexpected friendships and real, threatening bad guys.

While the fun-loving aspect of competing in and maybe winning a beauty pageant is front and center, First Date also wrestles with some more serious problems and asks Christian girls some important questions. At times Addy likens her experiences in the competition to being Daniel in the lion’s den. Her fellow contestants are sweet and supportive of each other when the cameras are rolling, but when the cameras are turned off, many are quite catty. (I couldn’t resist the pun–sorry.)

Addy struggles with whether to tell anyone that she is a Christian and with how to act in a loving manner when some of the girls are so mean. I think these issues will resonate with many Christian teenage girls who also struggle with these questions in the high school world of their everyday lives. Addy, with the help of her mother’s diaries, learns to take some risks about who she is as a Christian and has some success. I think readers will learn from Addy to consider more deeply how they might be God’s representative in the lion’s dens of their own worlds.

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.) Two of her published works for children are Marty’s Monster and Jessica Jacobs Did What?  Her latest work is I Get a Clue, a mystery novel for girls 10-13. For several years she was a freelance reviewer of children’s and teen’s literature for the Focus on the Family website.

Operation Rawhide by Paul Thomsen, published  by Master Books (2nd edition, 1990) is part of the Creation Adventure Series.

In the early 1980’s the lives of three men: an assassin, a president and a surgeon, would intersect. The surgeon had just come out of an all night surgery. The president was exiting a hotel when gunfire erupted leaving the Secret Service scrambling. The decision of one man would now be a matter of life or death.

The first call was to return to the White House. “Rawhide,”  the name for the president, did not seem to have been hit. But something was off. He was hurt and they rushed him to George Washington Hospital. Here the president was immediately taken into surgery under the direction of Dr. Ben Aaron. Dr. Aaron would save the president’s life. Who am I speaking about? This is the story of the day President Ronald Reagan was shot by John Hinckley, Jr.

The story is told from different points of view, and explains the medical procedures that were undertaken to save the life of the president. The president would live and win a second term and Dr. Ben Aaron would eventually retire from practice. Both men believed in God, and at a moment when the nation was at it’s knees a man of faith was performing surgery to save a man’s life.

This story is great, particularly for boys in upper elementary and middle school. It is an action packed adventure leaving you on the edge of your seat wondering whether the president will be okay.

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.

 

Love at Any Cost, by Julie Lessman and published by Revell (2013) is a read that will keep you smiling. Cassidy McClare will win your heart with her spunky, endearing expressions. A cowgirl at heart,  as a little girl she snuggled with a lariat at night instead of a blanket or bear. She preferred tying knots and doing rope tricks to baby dolls and tea parties. Now at age twenty-two, she is on her way to San Francisco from her hometown of Humble, Texas, to visit her aunt and cousins after being jilted by a fortune-hunting cowboy named Mark. She is hoping to forget him and all men, focusing her attention instead on fun, work, cousin-bonding and personal growth.

Right away she encounters Jamie McKenna, a handsome young man seeking to marry well. He accidentally bumps into her, sending her hat and possessions flying. After his gracious apology, she dismisses him, hoping never to see him again. When she arrives at her Aunt Cait’s and cousin Alli’s house, she soon finds out, that not only is Jamie their family friend, but he has been invited for dinner.  When she sees him again at the dinner table, the ever present desire to hogtie all men for their foolishness enters her mind.

Jamie is determined to marry a rich woman. He lives in the poor section of San Francisco with his mother and his sister. His sister is disabled and he hopes by marrying to pay for his sister to have a surgery that could greatly improve her quality of life. He is attracted immediately to Cassidy. Throughout the first part of the story, she insists that she just wants to be friends.

Cassidy realizes why Jamie has an interest in marrying someone with money. She sees how concerned he his for improving his family’s quality of life and getting the medical care his sister needs. Jamie pursues Cassidy, not for money, but because he finds he is falling in love with her. She decides to give him a chance. She tries to center their relationship on the Lord and suggests they attend church together and engage in daily Bible Study. This works for awhile.

Then the plot turns. Patricia Hamilton, a previous girlfriend of Jamie’s, is jealous of Cassidy. She reveals that Cassidy’s parents are in financial trouble. Jamie feels God has let him down and he thinks that he can’t keep seeking God when he has lost faith in Him. He begins to pursue Patricia again. She makes a bargain with him. If he will continue his relationship with her, she will ask her father, who is a senator, to use his influence to help Jamie secure an operation for his sister.

There are more plot twists and turns, but it does end happily. Through the course of his friendship with Cassidy, Jamie grows up and is influenced by her relationship with the Lord and her determination to follow Him.

Perhaps the most essential element in this book is the way Cassidy learns to put the Lord first in all her relationships, refusing to enter into a serious relationship with someone who does not yet know the Lord. This is underscored by her Aunt Cait, a widow who seeks the Lord’s will in her own life.

Love at Any Cost is definitely a delight that will also teach young women many valuable lessons about life and relationships.

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.”

 

Love Finds You in Lahaina, Hawaii, written by Bodie Thoene and published by Summerside Press (2010) is an exciting, adventurous read with a surprise ending. Geared for high school and adult readers, it will capture your imagination. You’ll be swept up on a tropical shore full of beauty, intrigue, romance and suspense.

The story begins with the main character, Sandi Smith traveling from California to Lahaina, Maui, to work on her masters in American History. She is part of a project interviewing eyewitnesses to history. Her husband has been missing in action in Vietnam for four years.

The passenger next to Sandi on the plane hears her story and recommends she speak to Auntie Hannah, “The oldest woman in Hawaii.” Sandi has already contacted this woman about interviewing her.

Auntie Hannah, in her nineties, is sharp as a tack. In a British-tinged accent she begins her story. Born in the Islands, she was educated in British schools and she was eight years in Europe in the company of the Crown Princess Kaiulani. She returned to Hawaii in her twenties. At this point in the novel, Thoene goes back and forth between the story of Princess Victoria Kaiulani Cleghorn’s life with her family and her friend Hannah, and Sandi’s stay in Hawaii.

In 1889, the Princess leaves Hawaii. Her Scottish father wants her to be educated in Europe. Her older sister, Annie, goes along as does the Princess’s close friend, Hannah.

The friends travel to San Francisco as passengers on a cargo ship. The girls who are about eighteen meet a young man, Andrew Adams, who is also about the same age. He is traveling home to Scotland with his father. During the course of their sailing, the girls play tricks on Andrew, changing their identities. Hannah pretends to be Kaiulani and Kaiulani pretends to be Hannah.

He finds out near the end of the sailing about the trick and seems content to end the friendship. Kaiulani’s father warns her, “William Adams is a well-known and respected publisher and journalist. It may be fun to fool a newspaperman’s son, but don’t make a habit of it. They have devious ways of striking back.”

Later, in England, Andrew meets with the girls and spends some time with them. Kaiulani discovers she is beginning to have some feelings for Andrew.

Meanwhile, Sandi meets often with Auntie Hannah who takes her to some of the historical sights in town where she meets young Archie Kalakaua, a volunteer. In the coming weeks, a mutual attraction builds between Sandi and Archie. About three quarters into the book, Sandi learns that her husband has indeed passed away. Although sorrowful, much of her grieving has been completed and she is willing to consider a relationship with Archie, but nothing becomes definite in this story.

Kaiulani’s schooling continues and she soon discovers that she may never become Queen because the US is planning to take over her country. This is quite distressing to her. While in England, she, her sister, best friend, and Andrew, go to hear a well-known evangelist. They all become Christians. This helps them to cope with the coming changes they will soon face.

When the current Queen Liliuokalani is overthrown by the American, Lorrin Thurston and his troops, Kaiulani knows it is time for her to return home despite dangers she might face.

I loved the sacrifice exemplified in this story. Sandi accepted her husband’s death, bravely going on to do important research. Hannah sacrificed her identity for her best friend. She also placed her Lord Jesus first. There are so many interesting historical facts in this novel. I guarantee you will have trouble putting it 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.”

 

 

 

First published in the 19th century, King Solomon’s Mines is a classic, and thrilling, adventure story. The novel which will appeal to a young adult audience was written by H. Rider Haggard. It is basically the story of three men who set out to find the world’s most fabulous treasure. As they search for lost diamonds and lost men, they cross burning deserts and freezing mountains; encounter hostile tribes; and, overcome old superstitions, warring armies and enemies.

Allan Quartermain, who once lived in England with his only son, Harry, now lives in Africa. He meets Sir Henry Curtis and Captain John Good on a ship that sailing along the coast of South Africa. After an introductory conversation, Sir Henry asks Allan if he was in Bamangwato a few years back and came in contact with his estranged brother, George Neville. Allan says that he had heard George and another man had set out to find King Solomon’s mines, but they never succeeded.

Henry asks Allan if he will lead an expedition to find the mines. Allan has an old map that was given to him by someone else who also attempted to find the mines, Jose Silvestre. Jose died of hunger in the cave near the top of the southern peak of the mountains called the White Twins in the year 1590.

Henry and John are intrigued and convince Allan, with the use of the old map, to lead them to the mines. The story continues, full of mystery and close encounters with danger.

In the end, they reach the diamond mines. George Neville is found and the brothers are happily united. The diamonds are shared equally. The men are grateful to have returned alive and in good spirits, but the adventure hasn’t been without a cost. This is a fascinating read that is hard to put down. The ending fits perfectly together and there is a wonderful moral–you shouldn’t wish for what you don’t have, because you may loose what you care about most.

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.”

 

The Blessings Jar is a “warm, fuzzy” boardbook. Written by Collen Coble, illustrated by Rebecca Harry and published by Thomas Nelson, Inc. (2013), it helps children think in a concrete way think about being thankful.

Punky Grace begins her day with a case of the grumps. Her good friend is ill and cannot come and play. To help Punky, her grandmother suggests that she and Punky have an adventure. They will look for the ways that God blesses Punky, and then they will place mementos of those blessings in a glass jar. Parents or grandparents will enjoy sharing with young children the story of Punky’s day. They may even begin to think about and talk about items they might collect for a blessing jar of their own.

While the book is quite re-readable, I think it is the prospect of their own blessings jar that will capture the imagination of its readers. I think children will want to try to have an adventure like Punky’s. Readers need not use a glass jar. A clear plastic tub with a lid might also work. It won’t match the attractiveness of the clear glass jar in the illustrations, but it will not hamper the fun of the activity.

Rebecca Harry has created illustrations that are colorful, active and child-friendly.

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.) Two of her published works for children are Marty’s Monster and Jessica Jacobs Did What?  Her latest work is I Get a Clue, a mystery novel for girls 10-13. For several years she was a freelance reviewer of children’s and teen’s literature for the Focus on the Family website.

Little Lord Fauntleroy by Frances Hodgson Burnett is a classic for good reason. It captures the spirit of a time now gone. The characters are interesting and the plot is intriguing. The ending satisfies the reader. And through it all, goodness prevails.

The story opens with Cedric, a boy living in a run-down house in New York City with his mother, whom he calls “Dearest,” because his father called her that before he died. He is great friends with the local children; the grocery store owner, Mr. Hobbs; the bootblack, Dick; and the elderly apple seller.

Then comes a great revelation. Cedric’s grandfather, the Earl of Dorincourt, sends word that since all his sons have passed away without producing heirs, the little American boy must travel to the land of his father’s birth and be trained to take over the family estate.

Although the Earl banished Cedric’s father for marrying an American, his mother cannot refute the fact that the Earl will provide well for her son, nor that her husband loved his old home and would be glad that Cedric should inherit it.

So Cedric and his mother cross an ocean to meet the crotchety, old grandfather. The Earl has a reputation for selfishness and greed. He loved by neither tenants nor neighbors. Due to the care Cedric’s mother takes in preparing him for this meeting, Cedric believes his grandfather to be the best of men. Soon the old man becomes sincerely attached to the boy and begins to reform his character just to please his grandson.

When all seems set for their future happiness, another claimant for the title of Lord Fauntleroy appears. Will Cedric remain at his grandfather’s side or be ousted by this newcomer? From the other side of the Atlantic, Dick and Mr. Hobbs make plans to stop such a disaster.

The book is full of humor, kindness and redemption. There are excellent examples of people working in community and of beautiful intergenerational relationships.

One difficulty for younger readers is that whole paragraphs of dialog are written in dialect. Near the beginning, the dialects are of Irish immigrants and New Yorkers; near the end of the book there are various British dialects. Parents may need to read and ‘translate’ these for children. There is also a running gag about misspelling, with examples. Your child may not pick up on it because it is brief. One character implies that Italians are hot-tempered. Some vocabulary is old-fashioned or may mean something else in current English. Such words might require explanation

The book runs about 240 pages and is intended for elementary school aged children. It has been republished numerous times and formats include print, e-book and audiobook. Little Lord Fauntleroy is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, libraries, and book stores.

If you have seen the black and white movie of this title starring Freddie Bartholomew and Mickey Rooney, you have an excellent representation of the book. I hope your family enjoys it as mine has.

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 days are getting longer. They are also richer with interesting and fun activities for little ones. But long, exciting days also mean that settling down for the night can be harder. God Bless You & Good Night, written by Hannah C. Hall, illustrated by Steve Whitlow and published by Thomas Nelson, Inc. (2013) may help you with family bedtime.

Animals such as the tall giraffe of Africa, the roly-poly polar bears of the Arctic and the bouncy kangaroos of Australia are getting ready for bed. They are cuddling, snacking, saying prayers, taking baths, singing lullabies and more.

The book’s rhyme is sweet and very readable. There is a nice sprinkling of vivid action verbs among the more cozy, sleepytime words. There are lots of references to being loved and cared for, as well as several mentions of God. The friendly illustrations will charm little ones. The baby animals and their parents look like they are enjoying their special bedtime routines. In addition, Whitlow makes a brilliant choice of using a soft, sparkling night sky in every background.

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.) Two of her published works for children are Marty’s Monster and Jessica Jacobs Did What?  Her latest work is I Get a Clue, a mystery novel for girls 10-13. For several years she was a freelance reviewer of children’s and teen’s literature for the Focus on the Family website.

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