coverwithcharacters812cropToday we are happy to announce the publication of We All Get a Clue—from My Edinburgh Files. The kids from I Get a Clue are back! Libby, Malcolm, and Roopa are up to their eyeballs in a new mystery/adventure. A valuable antique is stolen during a catered event at Lintwhite. Lord Blackford believes the catering crew, which includes Libby and Malcolm, is involved in the theft. His Lordship is particularly suspicious of Libby. The theft was discovered only minutes after she spilled a tray of pastries on a guest. Solving the crime will take courage, intelligence, humility, perseverance and God. Do the young sleuths have what it takes?

Written by Nancy Ellen Hird, We All Get a Clue—from My Edinburgh Files is the second book in my series set in contemporary Edinburgh.

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.)  She is the author of the mystery novel,  I Get a Clue.   For several years she was a freelance reviewer of children’s and teen’s literature for the Focus on the Family website.

 

 

Dawn at Emberwilde (A Treasures of Surrey Novel) was written by Sarah E. Ladd and published by Thomas Nelson (2016). I have read four of Ladd’s books, and they are all excellent. The spiritual message in this book is much more subtle, but the main character has many admirable qualities. The plot is quite interesting and you will be caught up in its mystery and intrigue.

The story is set in England, not far from London, and begins at Fellsworth School. Isabel Creston is summoned to the superintendent’s study. She has been at school for many years as a student and thinks his summons may mean she has secured a position as a governess. But it does not. Aunt Margaret, the sister of Isabel’s deceased mother, and Uncle Charles are offering to take Isabel and Lizzy, Isabel’s young half-sister, into their home, after just recently discovering their whereabouts. Isabel decides this is a good plan, and within the hour, she and Lizzy leave the school.

The man who has come to accompany them, Mr. Bradford, is a good friend of her Aunt and Uncle. He also runs the foundling home for orphans, located on their property. At first, the reader admires and believes him to be a suitable future match for twenty-year-old Isabel. He is handsome, polished and seems very caring and interested in his work. Later on though, we discover things are not as they seem.

Isabel also meets a handsome and charming young magistrate, Colin. Although a good friend of her uncle’s, Colin has fallen out of favor with her aunt who believes he encouraged their only son, Freddy, to go off to war where he was killed. She will not forgive him. The couple also has several daughters who are married, and one at home, Constance, who is engaged.

When the trio arrives at Emberwilde, Isabel and Lizzy are introduced to their long-lost relatives and the lovely mansion where they will live, but mystery soon abounds as Isabel discovers the window in her room has been nailed shut. She asks the servant, Burns, about this. She is told that the Emberwilde Forest at the rear of the property is called The Black Wood Forest and is believed to be haunted.  Later we discover that Colin believes that smugglers are counting on everyone’s fear, so people won’t discover the contraband hidden in the caverns by Hearne Pond.

As Isabel begins to see her aunt for who she really is, a woman extremely concerned with outward appearances and show, she begins to be homesick for Fellsworth School, the only real home and friends she has ever known. In her packed belongings, she pulls out a letter and a beautiful little sampler from her dearest friend, Mary. Mary was always completely drawn to the Lord and prayer, and sent her with a sampler that contained the Bible verse, “My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up,” This helps Isabel to focus on thankfulness and the responsibility she has to care for her younger sister.

At first, Isabel is drawn to Mr. Bradford, but she only sees one side of him, and suspects that he is not really as he seems. She and Lizzy begin reading to the children at the foundling home and develop some relationships there. Her young sister misses the company of other children and this experience helps her.

Aunt Margaret seems to constantly sing Mr. Bradford’s praises and when special dinners are attended by Isabel, Aunt Margaret encourages the couple to spend time together. Isabel also has several encounters with Colin and finds him to be sincere and very caring. She begins to prefer his company to Mr. Bradford’s. Aunt Margaret is not at all happy about this. Isabel discovers her aunt involved in a quiet argument with Mr. Bradford. This confuses Isabel, but she lets go of her worries.

About three weeks before Isabel turns twenty-one, Mr. Bradford proposes marriage to her. Since she feels she does not know him well and does not love him, she turns him down. She does not reveal to him another reason. She has started to have feelings for the magistrate, Colin.

Aunt Margaret is upset that Isabel turned down such a wonderful man. She accuses Isabel of disrespect and betrayal, sending her and Lizzy swiftly back to Fellsworth School. Isabel is thrilled to be reunited with Mary and thankful to be spared a loveless marriage, but she misses her life at Emberwilde, and Colin.

I won’t reveal the happy ending, but all the pieces of the mystery are solved in a clever way and all is well. This book is a very enjoyable read, especially if you like the English countryside, a little mystery, suspense, romance, and drama.

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.”

 

 

Clutter Free: Quick and Easy Steps to Simplifying Your Space by Kathi Lipp and published by Harvest House Publishers (2015) is a book you can’t do without. Since I began reading the book a week ago, I have gotten rid of six bags of clutter and twenty extra dinner plates. I am experiencing a new sense of freedom because I don’t have to deal with so much extra stuff around my house. This book could change your life in an amazing way.

Kathi’s basic idea is that if you have so much extra stuff lying around, it will rob you of your peace and keep you from enjoying the things in your house you really appreciate. She gives three magic questions to help set the reader free from the pressure of having too much. They are: 1) Do I currently use it? 2) Do I really love it? and 3) Would I buy it again? If not, donating it, selling it or giving it away to someone would be helpful.

The book is full of many short, practical how-to suggestions for the clutter-minded individual. There is also a chapter about what to do if you live with someone who has a tendency to keep clutter. She brings up spiritual aspects of living clutter free. There are helpful Bible verses and reasons why people get themselves overwhelmed with clutter in the first place. There are also chapters about how to control your spending.

This book would be very good as a ministry tool. For the unsaved person who won’t read an outwardly spiritual book, this one has Bible verses and spiritual principles throughout. I have a coworker who wants to read it. It is very easy to read and doesn’t make you feel guilty, like other books on the subject.

Overall, I am so thankful I read this book. As Kathi says, it gives us quick and easy steps to simplifying our space. The reason most of us want to do that is to bring us less stress and more peace in our home environments. May this book bless you as it did me.

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.”

 

Dave Dravecky: He Had Made It to the Big leagues, but Then Doctors Gave Him Bad News was written by Dave Dravecky  with Tim Stafford. (It has 122 pages and is the abridged version of Comeback.) It was published by Zondervan Publishing Company (1993).

Dave Dravecky is most well known for “the pitch heard around the world.” In a game against the Montreal Expos, Dravecky, of the San Francisco Giants, was pitching when he threw the fastball that changed his life. Dravecky’s left arm snapped as he let go, sending him tumbling off the mound and screaming in agony. This book is the story of his life leading up to that final pitch.

Dravecky started playing baseball as young boy and dreamed of playing in the major leagues. He began his career as a minor league player. While he was playing in Texas with Byron Ballard, he became a Christian.

Many reports said Christians didn’t play with guts because they were too nice, but Dravecky would redefine “guts.” Pitching for major league teams including the San Francisco Giants, he seemed unstoppable. Until one day after being put on the disabled list, a check-up showed a lump on his arm muscle. It was cancerous and it needed to be removed. The doctors said the surgery would be career-ending since they would need to remove part of his deltoid muscle.

Dravecky had the surgery and it was successful; they removed the cancer. He was determined to come back and play again. But if he couldn’t, he would accept it. He worked out the arm slowly at first, even throwing a football. It seemed to cause some pain but he worked and worked. Eventually he could pitch. He pitched again in the major leagues even after his major arm surgery.

This book is Dave Dravecky’s journey through his baseball career that would end with one final pitch. He said throughout the journey that he was sad, but God gave him a gift twice. He got to play in the major leagues and he got a comeback. Dravecky’s final pitch was in the summer of 1989. That year the Giants would go on to win the National League Championship and play the Oakland Athletics in the World Series.

The players of the Giants awarded Dravecky the Willie Mac Award. He returned home for a final surgery. This time it was to remove his entire arm because the cancer had returned.

This book is good for ages 8-12, especially boys interested in baseball. Dravecky’s is a story of perseverance and hope.

From Nancy: Dave Dravecky has written several inspirational books for adults. On Amazon I read about Called Up: Stories of Life and Faith from the Great Game of Baseball and The Worth of a Man. These books might be good for fathers and their teenage sons to read together. I haven’t read them so I cannot recommend them, but I did want to direct your attention to them.

Kristina O’Brien is the mother of three children, twin girls and a boy. She is an avid reader and a credentialed teacher. She has taught both middle school and high school history.

 

Hudson Taylor: Deep in the Heart of China is a biography by Janet & Geoff Benge and published by YWAM Publishing (1998). Hudson Taylor grew up in a Christian home in the 19th century, but he was not a believer. Through the prayers of his mother and sisters, Hudson became a devoted follower of Christ and felt a calling to go to China as a missionary.

In his early years, he trained to be a doctor. As he studied, he learned to depend on God with his finances. Sometimes, Hudson had no money to pay for food and his bills, but God was faithful and provided what he needed at just the right time.

On the long and perilous boat ride to China, Hudson and his colleagues witnessed to the crew and later they led them to Christ. When they reached China, the missionaries’ lives were filled with sacrifices, hardship and persecution; but they depended on God and persevered. God was faithful.

These are true and powerful stories of God’s faithfulness when believers put their lives in His hands. It shows what wonderful things He can do when we trust in Him and what it means to truly follow the Lord.

Growing up my parents read missionary stories to my sister and me. It gave us a heart for missions. I recommend reading Hudson Taylor first since his work paved the way for other missionaries. There are over 40 books in this series; Christian Heroes: Then & Now by YWAM Publishing. Hudson Taylor: Deep in the Heart of China is for ages 10 and above and is 208 pages. You can order this book or Books 1-5 as a set, which includes Gladys Aylward, Nate Saint, Amy Carmichael, and Corrie ten Boom.

J. D. Rempel is a graduate of Simpson College. She is working on a middle grade 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. She also enjoys spending time with and taking care of her turtle, Applesauce.

 

John Bunyan was a religious dissenter in 1600’s England. While imprisoned, he passed much of his time writing The Pilgrim’s Progress, one of the first allegories in Christian history. This classic remains relevant even today, though the language of his time is difficult for modern readers, and some of the historical references may not make sense to us. However, this is a story worth reading.

The Pilgrim’s Progress illustrates the walk of faith from seeker, to believer, and on through the trials and victories of life. It describes the journey as a road through places like “the Wicket-gate,” “the Slough of Despond,” “Vanity Fair,” and “the Delectable Mountain.” We follow Christian on his journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. We fear for him and cheer for him  as he meets obstacles and also many companions on the way, including people named Obstinate, Goodwill, Hypocrite, Watchful, and The Shining Ones. We see him put on the armor of God, use the Key of Promise, and see him met by heavenly hosts. He faces temptation and makes mistakes; he repents and moves on. There are moments of great evil—as when his companion, Faithful, is killed at Vanity Fair.

For young readers, I recommend two other versions of the book, written in the mid-1900s. Pictorial Pilgrim’s Progress (by Moody Publishers) updates the language, while maintaining the entire original story line. Each page contains a line illustration of the text, making the action easy to follow. The costumes reflect the fashions of the time the story was written, and the style has the feel of an old-fashioned adventure tale, complete with fighting between good and evil. Some scenes are rather graphic, so you must decide if your reader is ready for that kind of conflict.

My favorite version is Little Pilgrim’s Progress, updated by Helen L. Taylor, which retells the story through the eyes of children. It, too, is illustrated, and the language is simplified and amplified to make the more abstract concepts accessible to young minds. It is a gentler, but still complete telling of the allegory. For example, when Little Christian’s companion, Faithful, dies, we do not see his death described or illustrated. Little Christian only sees that the angels carry his friend away. Another nice quality of this version is the inclusion of Little Christiana’s story, so that girls as well as boys feel that they may take that journey to the Celestial City.

All versions are saturated with scripture references, and might not be comprehended, at least in full, by a person unfamiliar with Christian beliefs and worldview.

These could be fun read-aloud stories for a family.

The Pilgrim’s Progress, Pictorial Pilgrim’s Progress, and Little Pilgrim’s Progress are all available in paperback on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Christianbook.com.

Donna Fujimoto’s children love to read. She is a graduate of Alliance Theological Seminary. Her collection of short stories, 9 Slightly Strange Stories with an Uplifting Edge  is available as an e-book at Amazon.  The Shining Orb of Volney, a science-fiction novel, is her latest title. 

Nancy:  A new movie that bases itself (loosely or not we cannot say yet) on Ben-Hur by Lew Wallace is due in theaters on August 19. I thought some of you might want to read Donna’s review of the book. The novel, it has been reported, has a different emphasis from both the present film and the 1959 version.

Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace, is a much beloved and acclaimed story read by millions. It begins with the retelling of the nativity of Christ and then moves into the life of Judah Ben Hur, a wealthy young man living in first century Jerusalem. Messala, his boyhood friend and a Roman, returns from soldiering, changed in his view of the world. When he cannot convince Ben Hur to embrace his cause, Messala betrays his friend, sending him on a journey through trials and victories. Eventually the two men face each other once more, meeting as opponents in a high-stakes chariot race.

Now also a man, Christ re-enters the narrative. His gentle influence has a profound effect on Ben Hur. Wallace illustrates how choices for good or evil, when fully embraced, mark a person’s life.

The author tells a compelling tale, particularly in his ability to define the inner journey, not only of the hero, but also of a large cast of supporting characters. Vivid scenes stay with the reader after the book is closed. However, the style of writing reflects the tastes of Wallace’s time (1880s). By current standards it may seem wordy and slow. The point of view is omniscient, which is rarely employed in contemporary books. Although historical and political details are meticulously researched, personal and cultural descriptions seem more imaginative than realistic.

Another feature distinguishing Ben Hur from modern novels is the explanation, once conflicts are past, of what happens to characters followed faithfully through its pages. Ben Hur, rather than leaving the reader wanting more, offers satisfaction that the story is complete.

Donna Fujimoto’s children love to read. She is a graduate of Alliance Theological Seminary. Her collection of short stories, 9 Slightly Strange Stories with an Uplifting Edge  is available as an e-book at Amazon.  The Shining Orb of Volney, a science-fiction novel, is her latest title. 

 

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown is the true story of nine young men who electrify the rowing sports world by winning Olympic gold. (Brown’s book has been adapted for young readers by Gregory Mone and is published by Puffin, 2016.) The story focuses on the number two man in the boat, Joe Rantz

Joe grew up trusting no one. When he was about four years old, his mother died of cancer, and his father abandoned him. Joe’s older brother, a college student, was unable to care for his younger sibling. Joe took the train across the country to live with an aunt for about a year. Then his father came back to the eastern Washington area, with a new Canadian wife.

She did not like Joe from day one and this would put a wedge in Joe’s relationship with his father. She would demand that Joe’s father abandon Joe two more times, once when he was age 10 and again at age 15. Joe learned not to trust anyone, and to make his own way. He did meet one very important person. In Idaho he met Joyce, an understanding young woman who would become his wife.

At age 17, Joe left Idaho to live with his brother, a teacher at Roosevelt High School in the state of Washington. Joe was accepted to the University of Washington during the Great Depression. He would need to find a job to pay for his education. If he could make the freshmen crew team, he would get a job with the university helping him to pay for college. After months of hard practice on the icy lake near the university, he and seven others made the freshmen crew team.

The freshmen managed to win the races that counted, even against the formidable University of California. The boys in the boat struggled during practice and the coaches were perplexed. Joe seemed to struggle the most. He needed to figure something out that would take him to the top. He needed to trust the other members of the team, but he still trusted no one. In the middle of Joe’s sophomore year, his stepmother died and his father mended his relationship with Joe. His father even watched the races near his house where there was a race course.

During their junior year, the Washington crew was becoming established as the one which would make the 1936 Olympic trials.  But the team would have to beat the University of California crew. The two battled it out with Washington coming out on top. The junior crew won the national championship, earning them a spot at the Olympic trials.

The east coast teams were supposed to be the best, but Washington once again came out on top, securing the opportunity to represent the United States in Berlin. However, the U. S. Olympic Committee was not going to send them unless they could raise the funds to pay for their transportation. The east coast teams had members who could and would pay. When the University of Washington heard about this, the school was outraged. The school agreed to raise the money and in a few days they had enough to send their boys to the Olympics.

The University of Washington team was not expected to medal. Great Britain and Italy were tough competitors. Then there was the feared German team, claiming they were the best in the world. When the boys got to the games it seemed the German team was the best. The United States won a spot in the finals, but they were still considered the underdogs. The climactic moment in the book is the race.

The Boys in the Boat: The True Story of An American Team’s Epic Journey to Win Gold at the 1936 Olympics, is a great read for middle school and high school boys. (A version of this same story is also available for adults: The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown, Penguin Books, 2014.)

The book shows the power of forgiveness and trust. It shows that teamwork and dedication are key to winning. There are some themes in the book that talk about the Great Depression and the pre-World War II era which may be  need to be discussed with younger children who are not familiar with this period of history. There is a glossary of rowing terms in the back of the book that I found very helpful. Also I encourage people to remember that 2016 is the 80th anniversary of the Berlin Games.

From Nancy–There are a several youtubes of the race that your reader might want to check out. The following is a link to one of them. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zk3JzMVGe00

Kristina O’Brien is the mother of three children, twin girls and a boy. She is an avid reader and a credentialed teacher. She has taught both middle school and high school history.

Larkspur Cove by Lisa Wingate and published by Bethany House Publishers (2011) is the perfect summer read. It contains romance, suspense, beautiful descriptions of summer on a lake, and spiritual renewal for the main characters. You will enjoy the plot development against the backdrop of Moses Lake, Texas. The novel will also encourage you. Tragedy has entered the characters’ lives, but the story offers that renewal and healing can still take place as we trust in the Lord.

Andrea Henderson and her fourteen-year-old son, Dustin, move back to the home of her childhood summers and into her parent’s lake house. Andrea is disillusioned. Her husband has betrayed her. He was living a double life, involved in cheating his company and his marriage. Now divorced and on her own, Andrea has landed a job with Child Protective Services in the area and wants to make the most of it.

Game warden Mart McClendon is also new to Moses Lake. He is trying to forget the accident that took the lives of his brother and nephew. He feels somewhat responsible for this accident.  He and Andrea are both close to forty years old. He meets Andrea when Dustin and some of Dustin’s new friends disobey the lake boating rules. Mart wants Dustin to take a water safety course and offers to drive him there since his mother works full time.

Dustin’s father has promised a visit to his place this summer, but so far, he isn’t returning Dustin’s calls. Andrea is skeptical that Dustin’s father will fulfill his promise, and tries to encourage Dustin to make new friends and try some new activities. They meet Reverend Hay, who encourages Dustin to help with the sound system for the next theater production at church.

Near the beginning of the story, a mysterious little girl is seen with the town’s recluse, Len. Len is fairly reliable, but slow of speech, and his household is in tremendous disarray. Mart and Andrea come together to figure out the situation and try to help out. They are drawn together and develop an attraction for one another. They both walked in faith at one time, but disappointments and attitude issues have clouded the light of God’s grace.

The plot becomes more involved and there are some close calls, which I will let you discover on your own. Larkspur Cove ends happily, with God once again in the center of the main character’s lives and young Dustin happily settling into his new area.

I enjoyed the descriptions in this story. I could picture the lake, the area and the people. I also learned a lot from the lessons the characters learned. I know you will enjoy this story as much as I did. I would recommend this book for women or men eighteen years old and up.

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.”

 

 

When I opened my email on Saturday morning this was in my Inbox. It’s from National Center for Biblical Parenting. I thought the info was so helpful that I want to share it. I hope it helps you with the children in your life and I hope its thoughts encourage and strengthen you in your own life. BTW: I regularly receive parenting tips from this group. If you would like to get them as well, you may sign up. https://www.biblicalparenting.org/parentingtips.asp  –Nancy

Dealing With Fear After Tragedy

Day to day life provides opportunities to teach children about God. It’s the job of parents to frame the picture of world events, to help children understand life from God’s point of view. Teachable moments become available in times of crisis. That doesn’t mean that you preach or lecture. It means that you ask questions and carefully share information that can guide your children to right thinking.

Keep your child’s developmental stage in mind. Teens need to wrestle with conflicting values and benefit from open honest discussions. Younger children are concrete thinkers and see the world differently than adults. For example, a young child may not understand that the repeated videos on TV are all showing the same scene that is now over – it’s not happening over and over again.

So what do you say? How do you respond to their questions? How can you draw your children into productive discussions? What kinds of things can you do that will help your kids during this time?

Here are some ideas to consider when helping children deal with fear and questions about world events:

•  Explain that the world isn’t out of control and help put these events into perspective. Pray with your kids for those directly involved in the tragedy. Pray for those who are hurt, those who are grieving, those who are frightened, and those who are “the helpers” onsite caring for others.

•  Be careful about lying to your children by saying, “It’s all okay.” Your children can see that things aren’t okay. In fact, this kind of statement can be counterproductive and cause children to feel like they can’t trust you, further increasing feelings of insecurity.

•  God is with us always. We can trust him. His angels protect us. God loves us and cares for us and he is in charge (Psalm 46). God is not surprised or caught off guard. God is very present in times of tragedy and available to touch hearts and bring comfort.

•  Answer your child’s questions. Explain the details briefly in clear terms and then focus on the good that we see in God and in the people who are helping.

•  The solution for fear is to learn to trust. Trust is the ability to release control to another. Children can learn to trust when they take small steps of risk and have positive experiences over a period of time. Gently encourage children to take small risks of separation and then provide the comfort they need. During that process children need a lot of parental love, patience, encouragement, and support. Remember, it’s God’s presence that helps us through difficult times.

For other suggestions about helping children deal with anger, fear, and grief, consider the book Parenting is Heart Work, by Dr Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, RN, BSN. After all, emotions reside in the heart, and learning to connect with kids on a heart level can help them explore emotions in a healthy way.

                                           

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.)  Her latest work for children 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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