Hanukkah begins tonight, December 16, 2014, at sundown. A couple of years ago I found a terrific book about this holiday at Barnes & Noble. I wrote about the book, but in case you missed that post, I’m repeating it. Before I tell you about the book though, I thought you might like to hear a little about the holiday beyond the gifts and potato latkes. It’s really fascinating.

This Jewish celebration is known as the Festival of Lights because of the candles or oil lamps that are lit in Jewish homes for eight nights beginning on 25th day of Kislev. The festival was a celebration of the rededication, in about 165 BC, of the Temple in Jerusalem after the Temple had been misused. When the Jews rededicated it, they had only enough holy oil for one night, but miraculously that oil burned for eight nights, enough time for new holy oil to be prepared.

The Temple had to be rededicated. A Greek ruler, Antiochus IV, had set up worship to other gods in it and even had pigs sacrificed on the altar. Disgusting! It was part of his plan to Hellenize the Jews–get them to blend in and stop being Jews. He also outlawed circumcision, keeping the Sabbath and adhering to dietary laws.

What he was doing from a Christian perspective–though I’m sure Antiochus didn’t know he was doing it–was trying to put his plans between God and God’s promises to the Jews both to preserve them as a people and to send them a Messiah. Antiochus IV failed. God was faithful. He would not be overruled. The Messiah who would crush the head of the Evil One and who was to come from the seed of Abraham, through Isaac, through Jacob, and from the tribe of Judah, came just as God had promised. Jesus was born.

Christian kids will benefit from knowing the story behind the celebration of Hanukkah. It reminds us that God keeps His promises and that He is stronger than the plans of human beings. It is thought-provoking that Jesus was in the Temple in Jerusalem during the Feast of Dedication. (John 10:22-23)

I’ve read Hanukkah books which emphasize the customs: lighting candles, giving gifts, spinning the dreidel and eating traditional dishes such as latkes, but  Maccabee! The Story of Hanukkah tells the story of those long ago events leading up to the miracle and the rededication of the Temple. Written by Tilda Balsley, illustrated by David Harrington, published by Kar-Ben Publishing (2010), Maccabee! The Story of Hanukkah does a good job of showing in text and pictures why the Jews were fighting, their eventual victory and their awe at the miracle that God gives them. Balsley tells it with passion and in rhyme. A refrain at strategic places in the story: “Sometimes it only takes a few, who know what’s right and do it too,” is good for a child to consider and remember.

This soft cover picture book is suitable for school age children. Balsley tells them plainly that there were battles, but neither she nor the illustrator emphasizes the bloodshed. The illustrator has done film work and has a degree in animation. His illustrations are full of color, action, and emotion. Small touches of humor keep a very serious subject from seeming grim.

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.

We’ve written about some terrific Christmas books for children. Here are their titles. Maybe one of them (or more) is just what you have been looking for. – Nancy

It’s a Wonderful Life for Kids!

Jotham’s Journey

The Legend of the Candy Cane

Lucille Nadine Alexander’s Birthday

Read and Play Christmas

Song of the Stars: A Christmas Story

Sparkle Box

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.

 

 

Everyone has questions about angels, especially children. In the picture book God Gave Us Angels by Lisa Tawn Bergren, illustrated by Laura J. Bryant and published by Waterbrook Press (2014), Little Cub has lots of questions for Papa Bear and Mama.

One of them is “What do angels do?” Papa Bear replies that God made angels in the beginning to worship and help God. Some are messengers, even wearing swords, while others protect us. With a sparkle of humor Papa Bear adds God also made parents to protect children.

Mama tells Little Cub angels are invisible, but Little Cub keeps hoping he will see an angel soon. Laura J. Bryant’s colorful and engaging art work playfully enhances the text by sometimes showing a large bear with wings in the background, but this is never mentioned in words.

Little Cub’s questions are like stepping stones that guide the reader through woodlands filled with geese, bunnies, penguins and other creatures. Each question is asked in a child-like way, so the conversation doesn’t seem like a scientific investigation crowded with facts. Some of the questions are unusual. When asked why angels have halos and can we pray to angels, Papa Bear explains that some artists made angels with halos so they would look as if they were glowing and that the Bible doesn’t say angels have halos. He tells Little Cub that we are to pray to God for we can always trust Him and He loves us very much.

Children will be charmed by Little Cub who seems to ask just the question that they may be thinking of, especially when he wonders if he will be an angel when he goes to heaven. Mama Bear says the Bible doesn’t tell us that, but Little Cub still dreams of a little bear with wings.

God Gave Us Angels would be delightful to read at Christmas time or any other time of the year. I give it high marks for the variety of questions asked and the honesty of its answers taken directly from the Bible.

God Gave Us Angels is one of a series of God Gave Us … books. You may be familiar with God Gave Us You.

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.

In Finding Father Christmas by Robin Jones Gunn and published by FaithWords (2009), Miranda Carson journeys to England in hopes of finding her father. A photo in her mother’s belongings takes her to the town of Carlton Heath on Christmas Eve. Through the kindness of the residents, Miranda is led on a path of forgiveness and discovery. And, while searching for her earthly father, she develops a relationship with her Heavenly Father and finds a family that she has always longed for.

Miranda returns to England in Engaging Father Christmas to celebrate the holidays with her new family and friends. Miranda hopes that her boyfriend, Ian will ask her to marry him so that they can make a home in Carlton Heath’s Forgotten Rose Cottage. But, complications arise when Ian’s father is taken ill, her beloved cottage has a new owner, and Margaret, her father’s wife doesn’t seem to accept her. Miranda reaches out to share the grace and peace that her Heavenly Father has given her and finds the love she has always wanted.

We are recommending these treasures for women to take a break and enjoy as they prepare for the busy Christmas season. Each chapter can be read in about five minutes. My mom likes reading these novellas  from Robin Jones Gunn and FaithWords  year after year.

J. D. Rempel is a graduate of Simpson College. She is endeavoring to pen a preteen science fiction novel and an adult fantasy series. She loves to read and started a library at her church. She enjoys working with her husband in youth ministry.

 

 

Who is the baby in the manager? It is Jesus, we tell children. But who is Jesus? What is he like? MaryAnn Diorio has written a picture book Who Is Jesus? which may help little ones with these questions. The book is different from many books on Jesus. It does not tell stories about Jesus from the Bible. It gives instances from children’s lives that show the kindness, gentleness, friendliness, love and mercy of Jesus. For example it asks on one page, “Is Jesus someone who laughs at you when you fall down and hurt yourself?” The next page answers, “No. Jesus doesn’t laugh at you when you fall down and hurt yourself. Jesus picks you up, brushes you off, and gives you a big hug.” On the following page is a Bible verse that supports that statement.

The illustrations by Kim Sponaugle are colorful and kid-friendly, though they might be a bit confusing at first. Parents will need to explain to children that the pictures are about what Jesus is like– not pictures of Jesus Himself, but depictions of people acting like Jesus. With that explanation I think children will be able to make the leap of faith. God will help them.

Who Is Jesus? is published by TopNotch Press, 2014.

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.

Hi,

I am sad to let you know that Sisterhood Magazine has stopped publication of its magazine. I received word from them late last week. Their parent company is going out of business. Awful! I thought this Christian-focused magazine was terrific and from what I heard from teen girls they thought so too.

Nancy

As I was reading Thanksgiving Graces, I could smell the turkey cooking, see the doors swing open with arriving guests and hear the cheery “hellos.” This picture book for ages 4 and above put me in the scene. I was welcomed to the Thanksgiving feast of a friendly, gracious family just as much as the invited guests and the surprise guests were.

Thanksgiving Graces by Mark Kimball Moulton, illustrated by David Wenzel and published by Ideals Children’s Books (2011) does have a table grace, but the story is not about a prayer. The story is about extending ourselves to welcome family, friends and strangers. The young boy in the story is excited when the guests start arriving, but he begins to feel afraid as more and more people come. Will there be enough to go around? He learns that sharing is possible and fun; God provides. This emphasis on God’s provision that enables us to share sets this children’s holiday picture book apart from other Thanksgiving stories with a contemporary setting.

David Wenzel’s illustrations are kid-friendly. The home and people are drawn in rich autumn colors. There is a lot of activity in the pictures and they capture the energy and fun of a large, happy gathering. The drawings also zero in on quieter moments of talking heart-to-heart and prayer. The story is told in rhyme and I think it adds to the fun. I did stumble a few times on my first reading, but further readings will no doubt smooth out.

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.

Kristina discovered this heart-warming Thanksgiving book last year and wrote about it. It is worth another mention. Molly’s Pilgrim is an illustrated book for children in grades 1-3 and may help them see the holiday in its historical context and also broaden their perspective.– Nancy

Molly’s Pilgrim written by Barbara Cohen and illustrated by Daniel Mark Duffy (HarperCollins, Revised Edition, 2005)  is only 32 pages long, but a terrific read.

Molly does not fit in at her new school. She is different. Originally from Russia and a Jew, she has come to live in a small town following her family’s arrival in New York City. Molly is teased by the other girls in school because her clothes are different and she does not speak English well.

One day, the girls tease her all the way home. She starts to cry, and her mother says she will talk to the teacher. Molly fears her mother will make things worse because her mother speaks Yiddish and only a little English. Molly agrees that she will talk to her teacher, but she never does.

In November the teacher asks Molly to start reading a story. It is about the Pilgrims. The teacher asks each student to bring in a Pilgrim doll. Molly goes home to start work on the doll and other homework. Her mother creates a doll based on a picture of Molly. Molly thinks it is beautiful, but it is not like the picture in the book that the teacher gave Molly. Her mother explains that Molly is a pilgrim too. She has come to the United States for religious freedom as well.

Molly takes the doll to school. The other children share their dolls. But, Molly’s doll is different and she is teased. The teacher asks to see the doll. She says it is beautiful, and Molly explains the story. A few of the students start to think about Molly’s pilgrim as a modern pilgrim. Molly even becomes friends with a girl who teased her.

Molly’s Pilgrim is a modern Thanksgiving story. It reminds us that there are still people coming to the United States to worship God in their own way. It teaches us to think about our special and important right to freedom of religion. This story also reminds us that Thanksgiving originated with Christians who read the Bible. Their feast was similar to the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles, which celebrated the harvest that God gives.

Molly’s Pilgrim is a great story for young readers ages 7-10 and even a great read-aloud for families.

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.

It’s November 2 and many of us here in the States (I say this for our readers in other parts of the world)  are thinking about Thanksgiving Day which this year will be on November 27. For some of us, as for some of you, it has been a roller-coaster year, but we are recounting to ourselves and each other the wonder of God and His gifts to us.

One of the great gifts that God gave to the first thanksgiving celebrants was the Native American Squanto. His story and how God used his adversities to help others truly deserves the word “awesome.” Carol found a book a couple of years ago about Squanto which your family might enjoy.  I posted about it then and I think it is worth posting now in case you didn’t see it. — Nancy

Carol’s Review:

Fall leaves are turning color; winter chill is in the air. Soon Thanksgiving will be here. Unfortunately, most schools will be telling our children the Pilgrims thanked the Indians, not God for seeing them through a bitter winter.

Gary Metaxas’ book, Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving, (Thomas Nelson, 1999) does more than counteract this half truth. Metaxas shows that God’s hand and not coincidence was behind this amazing true story in America’s early history.

In 1608 slave traders captured Squanto, a Native American, and several other young Patuxet braves and took them to Spain. Squanto was sold to a monk, who taught him about God and how he could trust in Him for the good that would come. Five years later Squanto, with the monk’s help, traveled to London–the first leg of realizing his dream to return to America. Here, a London merchant taught him English and about the great chief, King James I. Finally, after another five years Squanto was going home but there was one more interruption–a layover until spring in Newfoundland.

Tears, not joy, were Squanto’s response to his return to America. A terrible illness had wiped out his entire tribe, forcing him to stay with a neighboring tribe. Disappointment and doubt drove him to live in the woods by himself where he made his peace with God.  Samoset, another Native American, told him that Englishmen, called Pilgrims, lived on the site of his family’s former village. Only God could have planned Squanto’s meeting with Governor Bradford and the Pilgrims who were looking for a home of their own. Readers will delight in the Pilgrims’ surprise when Squanto addressed them in English and worshipped the same God they did.

The author’s easy-flowing text contains a background drumbeat of suspense and sadness. The story  ends with a feast of food and faith. Shannon Stirnweis’ warm, colorful and realistic illustrations depict the darkness of the slave ship, the vividness of London and the homecoming to America’s wooded shores. Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving would be great to read as an appetizer to your Thanksgiving dinner when the family gathers to give thanks.

Carol Green, a graduate of Northwestern, is married and 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.

While Donna Fujimoto and I were discussing her recent post, I came across Men of Science, Men of God. The book was written by Henry M. Morris (published by Master Books, 1982) and gives brief biographies of 101 men who have believed in the Bible and pursued or supported scientific discovery. The biographies highlight their work as scientists and their lives as believers.

Dr. Morris begins with Da Vinci and ends with Sir Cecil Wakeley. The survey includes such well-known scientists as Johann Kepler, Robert Boyle, William Herschel, Samuel F.B. Morse, Louis Pasteur and George Washington Carver. Before beginning his biographies, Morris states that his book is not intended to be an exhaustive study. The book is designed more as a reference book that would pique a person’s interest in the subject of faith and science and perhaps being a deeper study of particular scientists.

Morris also states “the inclusion of a particular scientist in this collection does not indicate that we would or would not endorse his personal behavior or particular doctrinal or denominational beliefs. Our only criterion has been that, in addition to being a highly qualified scientist, he believed in the inspiration and authority of the Bible, accepted Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and believed in the one true God of the Bible as the Creator of all things.” It is important to note that Morris was president emeritus of the Institute of Creation Research at the time of the book’s publication. This organization promotes the belief in a 6,000 year-old earth. A few of the scientists he included also promoted such a view.

Whether you and your child subscribe to such a view does not, in my opinion, negate the value of the book. Just reading about the famous and less famous scientists who also believed in Jesus is encouraging. I think upper elementary children and teens will benefit from seeing that science and faith were not incompatible for these men and consider that society’s prevalent thinking, may be worth questioning. It might encourage your child to research and find contemporary scientists who are people of faith in God. We have them among us.

(Note: A few years ago I heard astronomer Dr. Hugh Ross speak. Not only are human beings “fearfully and wonderfully made,” but our planet and the universe declare the magnificence of God.)

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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