Hanukkah begins next Tuesday, December 12, 2017 at sundown and runs to Wednesday, December 20, 2017, at sundown. The name comes from a Hebrew verb that means “to dedicate.”  The book of John (John 10:22) tells us that Jesus was in Jerusalem during this Jewish winter festival which John calls the Feast of Dedication. I think it is interesting to consider why does John give us this detail.

There is a terrific book for kids that talks about this Jewish holiday. The book is Maccabees! The Story of Hanukkah

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.)  Her latest works for children are I Get a Clue and We All Get a Clue, mystery novels 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.


Growing Up with Aloha: Nanea, Classic 1 was written by Kirby Larson, illustrated by Juliana Kolesova and published by American Girl (2017). This novel is a fictional account of a young girl growing up in Hawaii during World War II. It is recommended for children ages 8 to 12.

Nine-year-old Nanea is the youngest in her family. The story begins at breakfast on a morning late in 1941 and introduces the reader to Nanea’s older sister, brother, mother and father. The family live in Honolulu, Hawaii. Nanea’s father, who is from Oregon, works as a welder at the Pearl Harbor shipyards. Nanea’s mother is a native Hawaiian born on the island of Oahu. Her parents, Nanea’s grandparents, own a grocery store in town.

Nanea, eager to help her family and show them that she is responsible, works at the market. She is has two close friends, Lily and Donna. The girls are active in school activities. They are learning to hula dance and planning to perform for the upcoming USO Christmas show.

The story picks up with a Thanksgiving–Hawaiian style. Nanea is happy about school and helping with activities for the Christmas shows. On December 6, 1941, she and her friends note that the Christmas ship will be arriving in a week with trees and Christmas decorations from the mainland. Nanea decides to make a breakfast for her family the following morning to show them she is getting older and can take on more responsibilities. The next morning is December 7, 1941.

Nanea, up to prepare breakfast, goes outside and hears planes. Hearing planes is nothing unusual, until she sees the symbol of a red circle which the children of Hawaii call “meatballs” and instantly she knows that the plane is Japanese.

Her brother pulls her from the yard and into the house. She asks what is happening just as her father switches on the radio which announces that all military personnel must report to duty stations. Her father, though a civilian, receives a phone call that he is to be ready to leave for the base in five minutes. David, Nanea’s older brother, who is a boy scout, says he also must go. Nanea does not know it then but she will not see her father or brother for a few days.

Grandma and Grandpa come over to stay with the family. Later it is discovered that Lily’s father has been taken in for questioning because he is of Japanese descent. (He would later be released but many others remained for questioning and internment.)

Nanea reads the Newspaper Bulletin: “War Declared on Japan by US.” She soon understands the scope of the attack. She feels helpless. What can she do? Over the next few days she decides to make lunch for the emergency workers, to help find her dog that went missing during the attack, to work in the grocery store, and to start a re-cycling drive for bottles.

In these early days of the war there is a lot of uncertainty for Nanea. Will her father be all right? What will she do when one of her friends must leave Hawaii?  Will there still be an upcoming performance at the USO? Nanea learns through this that she can be useful, responsible and helpful in the war effort as Hawaii and the United States prepare for war.

This novel is part of the American Girl Beforever series. There are two other novels about Nanea and her family. The book has a Hawaiian language words section which was helpful and a brief history of Hawaii before and during WWII. I liked how it said many people did not know where Hawaii was prior to December 7, 1941, but after that everyone knew. President Franklin D. Roosevelt on December 8, 1941, would say,  “Yesterday, December 7, 1941–a date which will live in infamy–. . .  .” I encourage people to remember this date in history, and if possible to visit Pearl Harbor to learn more about US History.

Kristina O’Brien is a mother, an avid reader and a credentialed teacher. She has taught both middle school and high school history.



I have waited until the dust settled (Black Friday, Cyber Monday) to post this column. I dislike, really dislike, all the hype and I did not want to be part of it. That said, I do suspect that you are gift-hunting or getting ready to gift-hunt like we are at my house. If you are, let me suggest that for kids you consider gift subscriptions to magazines.

There are some terrific magazines available for Christian kids. Focus on the Family currently produces two magazines for kids and one magazine for teen girls. Clubhouse Jr. is targeted for children 4- to-8 years of age, Clubhouse is written for 8- to 12-year-olds and Brio is for teen girls. The Upper Room produces Pockets for kids 6 to 12. Nature Friend is a special interest magazine for kids 8 to 16.

These magazines with their articles, short stories and games will bless a child or young person all year long. They are written with kids in mind and they present topics that interest kids. When the stories or articles wrestle with a life difficulty, the subject is handled in a way that kids can relate to and is appropriate for a child. Oh, and did I forget to mention that the mags are fun?

The websites below will give you more info.

Clubhouse Jr.http://www.clubhousejr.com/


Pockets http://pockets.upperroom.org/

Nature Friendhttp://www.naturefriendmagazine. com


Shopping savvy: I spoke with Focus on the Family’s subscription line and the agent said that a postcard will be sent to the gift’s recipient  and should arrive at about two weeks after you place the order. (So you still have time.) She also said it would be better to place an order by phone and she gave this number: 1-800-A FAMILY (1-800-232-6459). I looked at the website for Pockets and it looks quite good for ordering online.

If you are going to give a gift subscription to your child, you might also consider giving a gift subscription to the same magazine to  one of your child’s grandparents or a beloved aunt or uncle. This could give that adult and your child some good conversation starters. And if you are the beloved grandparent or aunt or uncle and give a subscription to your special child, why not get a subscription for yourself? The magazines are fun, informative  and interesting even if you grew up a while ago. — Nancy

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.)  Her latest works for children are I Get a Clue and We All Get a Clue, mystery novels 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.

I didn’t forget about you. Honest! I was using my laptop and I guess something glitched and my post didn’t publish. I didn’t discover it until today. (I wonder what else glitched that day.)

Oh, well, I hope your day was lovely. And if not, I hope today is and tomorrow and all the tomorrows after that. God has a good plan for our lives.

Here is the missing post. So go and heat up a bowl of turkey soup and come back and enjoy.

Happy Thanksgiving! The songs are old and traditional, but I enjoy hearing and singing them. I feel like I am in the company of believers from ages past. God was faithful to them and He is faithful to us. (There are a couple of words that are misspelled in the screen text. I’m overlooking these imperfections. I hope you can too. The music and lyrics are such a blessing and I want to share them with you.)

Thanksgiving Medley


I know; Thanksgiving is next week. Somebody–actually a number of somebodies–have told me so. I can’t get my brain wrapped around it. But whether I am ready or not it will happen next Thursday, a week from today. So Happy Thanksgiving to all our friends in the States!

Here at Books 4 Christian Kids we’ve discovered some great books that might just add to your celebration of the day and the days following. – Nancy

What is Thanksgiving?  – a board book that takes the listener to the heart of the holiday

Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving – a picture book about God’s hand in the first Thanksgiving. The whole family will enjoy this one.

Thanksgiving Graces – a picture book about extending ourselves to family, friends and strangers

Molly’s Pilgrim – a first chapter book with illustrations for children in lower elementary grades that may help children consider modern day pilgrims.

An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving – a gentle story about family life at Thanksgiving from 19th century author Louisa May Alcott.  This short book with illustrations would be enjoyed by children ages five to twelve.

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.)  Her latest works for children are I Get a Clue and We All Get a Clue, mystery novels 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.




Louisa May Alcott, who wrote Little Women, also wrote short stories, many of which have been rediscovered in recent years. Some collections were released in the 1990s as small gift books. Kate’s Choice contains three short stories that take place at Christmas time with themes focusing on kindness, generosity, and contentment in one’s circumstances, no matter how humble.

The main characters are girls and young women, who must make choices about how their attitudes and behaviors will make life better for themselves and the people they care about. The stories have that romantic historical feeling of a time long past. The book is charming, definitely G-rated, and geared for upper elementary to middle grade readers.

In Kate’s Choice a wealthy orphan from England must move to America and live with relatives until she grows up. Kate visits the different homes of her relatives, trying to decide where she wants to live. Her choice may surprise you! What Love Can Do tells of Dolly and Grace, sisters who became poor after their father died. Sadly planning a simple Christmas with what little they have, they are overheard by neighbors. Then we see what a little generosity can do to both the giver and receiver! The third story, Gwen’s Adventure in the Snow is about a group of boys and girls on a sleigh ride. Caught in a winter storm, they must work together to get safely home again.

The book contains interesting notes about the life and work of the famous author. Alcott’s stories reflect the values and social roles of her time, which are more traditional in comparison to today’s society.

Currently, it is available in hardback (Riveroak Pub, 2001) with pretty illustrations and a presentation page from Amazon. (It is temporarily out of stock at Barnes and Noble and Powell’s.) New or used, Kate’s Choice is a treasure.

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. 


Suddenly Single Mom, written by Jeanette Hanscome and published by Worthy Inspired (2016), is a power-packed devotional with 52 messages of hope that will encourage single moms in any stage of parenting.

Each devotion begins with a Scripture to remind the reader there is a Heavenly Father who promises to stand beside her through every challenge. Hanscome also includes scenes from her own journey, an encouraging thought for the coming week, a prayer and a “practical survival tip.” As a visually-impaired single parent, Hanscome faced abandonment and an uncertain future armed with very little but her faith in God.  As a result, in each devotion she delivers remarkable depth that will touch hearts, promote healing and awaken faith.

While every single mom’s story is different, certain facets of single parenting are undeniably similar. Hanscome covers such topics as stress, exhaustion, financial hardships and loneliness.

There are lighter moments too, such as when she bands together with other single moms for a ”girls’ night out at Costco.”  One can smile along with her at the kindness of her supportive church family and laugh as she takes advice from her oldest son on how to avoid ‘creepy’ guys who try to hit on her.  Perhaps most importantly readers will relate to the sacrificial love she has for her children as they, too, learn to cope with their changed lives.

I highly recommend Suddenly Single Mom because the author’s transparency takes readers on a journey from shock to acceptance, and from anger to forgiveness. She does not shy away from difficult subjects, such as dealing with her ex-husband, the courts and even future dating. Hanscome’s unflinching self-assessments and course corrections give readers a godly friend with whom to travel.  The poignant vignettes prove single parenting is not an easy path, but her sage encouragements and trust in Christ’s continual grace reveal great gain.

This uplifting book would make a wonderful present for any single mom, especially during the holiday season when an understanding heart is the greatest gift of all.

Pamela Walls is the author of the historical adventure series for girls, “Abby and the South Seas Adventures.”  Abby–Lost at Sea (South Seas Adventures #1)  is the first novel in that series. Pamela has also written over 400 articles, which have appeared in such publications as “Woman’s World,” “Today’s Christian Woman,” “Guideposts,” “Angels on Earth,” and the “San Jose Mercury News.” Originally trained as a science writer, she began writing for God after finding Christ at the age of 28. 

Like Hanscome, Pamela later became a handicapped single mom who found God to be faithful, kind and generous–the best partner for life and all eternity!

From Nancy –

October 31, 2017, Tuesday, is Halloween here in the States. It is also the 500th anniversary of what many people consider the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther, so it has been said, on the eve of All Hallows (All Saints Day) attached a document with 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg church. Everyone had to attend church on All Saints Day, so Luther, a university professor of biblical studies, tacked up his theses expecting people to read them, to consider them and even to debate them. From what I’ve been told, he didn’t expect an upheaval or a radical change in the culture. However, that is what happened.

Luther was an interesting, complex man. His life and times were both exciting and challenging. Donna reviewed a book about him. She thought it a good read. I think she’s right. I’m re-running her review below in case you missed it.


When Lightning Struck: The Story of Martin Luther was written by Danika Cooley and published by Fortress Press (2015). This historical novel on the life of Martin Luther, the German theologian credited with starting the Reformation movement in the 1500s, is impressive. Danika Cooley works hard to combine storytelling with historical fact, weaving period details into narrative and quotes from historical documents into dialog. The book does an excellent job of making history accessible to the reader.

It begins when Luther, on his way to law school, scurries under a large tree for protection during a thunderstorm. Lightning strikes the tree, raining down fiery debris around him, and Luther vows that if he survives he will become a priest.

Martin’s father, a successful businessman, is a strict man whom Martin equally fears and loves. His mother tells him tales of superstition and myth. His father has sent him to school to become a lawyer so the boy will be able to support them in their old age.

When Luther tells his family and friends that he is changing professions, they are stunned and angry. They try to dissuade him, but Martin enters a monastery. He works his way up, through study and self-discipline, to priest, Doctor of Theology, and university professor.

Luther is pursued by a sense of guilt and the fear of an angry God. He fasts himself into gauntness, sleeps on the cold stone floor of his cell, and confesses sins constantly. He is consumed with hopelessness at his inability to shorten the time after death that he expects to spend in purgatory before entering the realm of heaven.

A mentor gives Luther a copy of the Bible. In it, Martin Luther begins to see glimmers of God’s love and grace. He spends hours studying it and teaching from it to his students.

Sent on a trip to Rome, Luther is shocked by the sin and luxury he sees among the priests and nuns there. He also finds little comfort in the holy sites he visits and the holy relics he views.

After this he discovers in scripture that salvation comes by faith alone. He also begins to see God as a source of love. He teaches this “New Theology” in his classes and writes about it.

When the buying of indulgences to shorten one’s time in purgatory or to purchase forgiveness from sins begins to empty the pockets of his poor neighbors, Luther writes a list of objections to their sale and posts it in his town—Wittenberg—for local debate. A printer makes copies and sends them far and wide, creating shock waves across the Roman Catholic Church.

Luther tries to bring change within the Roman Catholic Church, but arguments between him and its leaders become so strident that Luther and the leaders break with one another. The Protestant Reformation begins with sweeping changes to the priesthood, to forms of worship, and to theological teaching across Germany. Luther’s personal life is transformed as he works out what biblical teachings mean for himself and the society in which he lives.

This dramatized biography describes a man who transformed Christendom by his teaching, writing, Bible translation, song compositions, and the very force of his life. Yet it also paints a picture of personal struggles and flawed character. It shows the life journey of one trying to balance the spiritual and secular powers of his time, as we all do.

Approximately 250 pages, this book is best for Young Adult readers. It is sold on Christianbook.com and Amazon.com in hardcover and e-book formats.


Nancy here again – A few weeks back I caught a docudrama on PBS, Martin Luther: The Idea that Changed the World. I thought it was thoughtful, informative and well-balanced. It was worth my time watching it. There may be a  re-broadcast in your area. A DVD of it will become available through Amazon. com, but not until November 21.


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 Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.)  Her latest works for children are I Get a Clue and We All Get a Clue, mystery novels 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.




A Grief Observed, written by C.S. Lewis*, is most definitely a book that embodies what so many other books can’t–unflinching honesty. And whether that’s due to Lewis’ candid and confessional writing style, or that he did not write it intending for it to be published, is hard to say. What can be said, however, is that the unguarded approach to such a topic breaks down personal borders that other attempts in the genre simply can’t.

A Grief Observed is a chapter by chapter walk-through of the author’s encounter with his wife’s death. I’m not married, nor has my spouse passed away, however I find that this particular book holds value whether you’re in the process of bereavement or not. Told in four parts–each section is more like a journal entry than a chapter–with time passing in between each one. Even among the thick sense of dread that fill such pages, it’s somewhat comforting to see the gradual process of healing in Lewis’ heart. It reminds us that even in times of emptiness, we can always hold tight to the fact that time truly does heal all wounds.

Throughout this short book, Lewis wades through questions of his faith, humanity, and the intense weight of love. As if fading in and out of consciousness, we see Lewis (for the first time in any of his works) truly question the faith and ideals that he had held and defended for so long. We see a man beaten, broken, and on his knees through most of the book. We can feel his weakness in the text, as he relives the nostalgic and bright memories that he shared with his wife, whom he refers to as “H.” These memories are rejoiced and delighted in by Lewis, only to be shot down by the heart-wrenching reality of loss–then denial, then loss again. A painful redundancy that many of us have felt the sting of.

There isn’t much detail given about their relationship, however what we do know is that Lewis and “H.” were passionate, intimate carers for each other. I refer back to chapter one here, as Lewis explains, “… her voice is still vivid. The remembered voice–that can turn me at any moment into a whimpering child.” This childlike tenderness isn’t one generally displayed by grown men–and it’s an example of the firm, overgrown, mossy walls that can shatter in an instant during those few times in life. The antithesis of our greatest moments and memories.

Like most trials in this life, we eventually see healing begin to take place. Even if it takes months, years, or the rapture, God promises that He will leave no stone unturned, which is a point that Lewis himself echoes in the later sections of the book. Overall, the text cannot be looked at in a vacuum, but is best used with larger and much wider perspectives. Scrutiny and analysis of a work like this will only leave you with confused ramblings of a discombobulated spouse–it is when you zoom out that you begin to understand it’s purpose.

Now most people can boil their lives down to their best and worst experiences, and even to specific moments within those greater contexts–but in this particular work Lewis concentrates the healing process of a tragedy to only the most necessary of thoughts and considerations. There isn’t a single word in this book that need not be there. Every sentence is essential to its greater message–one that I find crucial to any self-respecting adult, and one you’ll just have to find out for yourself.

*Note from Nancy: This classic was first published in 1961 under a pseudonym. After Lewis’ death in 1963, it was published under his name. A Grief Observed can often be found in libraries and is available on Amazon.com from several publishers.


Hey there! I’m David. I’m 20 years old but I feel a lot older on the inside because I was raised in a wonderful home, conversing with others older than myself. My parents and three siblings have always supported my interests. I film weddings for my day job, but I love the occasional non-fiction. As a Christian, I enjoy reading books about observations on God – however I can never deny myself a good thriller. English was by far my favorite class in school, and it seems as if three years later the love of essays hasn’t stopped. 


The news has been full of scary stuff–storms, shootings and wildfires–these last months. I dearly hope you have not been directly involved. May God wrap His loving arms around you and comfort you if you have been involved. May you know His care and His provision in the deepest places of your heart.

I write to you from northern California. Wildfires are raging and have been since the early hours of Monday morning. And while we are seeing some good progress in the fight it has been so sad and frightening. I am re-running a post from last year that might help all of us.

July 12, 2016

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 works for children are I Get a Clue and We All Get a Clue, mystery novels 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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