“God is our shelter and strength,
always ready to help in times of trouble.
So we will not be afraid, even if the earth is shaken
and the mountains fall into the ocean depths;
even if the seas roar and rage,
and the hills are shaken by violence.” Psalm 46:1-3

Don’t you just love it that these verses say that God is always ready to help in times of trouble? He wants to walk beside us and help us. It doesn’t say that there aren’t going to be troubles. It says there can be horrendous troubles–life happenings way beyond our control, but even then we need not dwell in fear. Even then. He is with us.

I don’t think it says that we will not have moments of fear. We just don’t have to live there. Like Psalm 91 says, we can dwell in His fortress.

I think some of the ways we dwell in His fortress are to fill our minds with His loving word and live in obedience to His laws; rely on His strength and the certainty of His power to protect and provide; and, to enjoy media and other activities that speak of His presence and His care.

The last is the reason for this blog. We want you to hear about books that will uplift you and and the kids. We want to help you tell your beloved children that God is, that He is good, and that He can and does save.

Book Lists in the menu at the top will take you to titles we recommend. Books are divided by the age of the expected reader and whether the books are non-fiction or fiction.

You will notice that I have not started with our long list of picture books recommendations. You might wonder what I did with it. It’s still there. I moved it to below the list of books we recommend for college/working people. I thought, at this time, you might need recommendations for elementary, middle school, high school, college and young working people more. Also books for those age groups are more often available as e-books.

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.

On This Foundation, by Lynn Austin and published by Bethany House Publishers (2015), is the third book in The Restoration Chronicles series. It is a fictional account of the Bible story of Nehemiah. Many of the details and side plots are fictional, but the Bible verses and basic story are true. The novel contains drama, mystery, spiritual depth, growth and joy in the Lord.

The story begins by delving into the past and present of the main character, Nehemiah, who appears to be in his thirties. He is the cup bearer for King Artaxerxes, in the citadel of Susa, one of the capitals of the Persian Empire. Nehemiah’s job is to oversee the food and wine brought into the Citadel. He is responsible to see that the king’s food and wine are safe to eat, often tasting them himself. He also secures the Citadel from vendors who themselves might pose a threat to the king.

Nehemiah takes his job very seriously. He knows that living within the walls of the Citadel provides only a measure of safety for its occupants. The king’s father, Xerxes, had been murdered in his own bed chamber by one of his own courtiers.

Nehemiah’s parents had also been murdered though living in the Citadel. Twenty-eight years before, when Nehemiah was only eight, his father had opened the door of the family’s sleeping quarters to an acquaintance. He and his wife had been killed. Nehemiah and his younger brothers had hidden behind furniture and survived.

As this novel begins, his brothers, who have been living in Jerusalem and whom he has not seen in nearly thirteen years, arrive in Susa to speak with him. Hananiah, or Hanani, works as a scribe as their father had. He and Ephraim have come with a delegation from Judah. The delegation is seeking a reduction in the taxes they are paying to King Artaxerxes. Many of the Jews in Judah are destitute. There is a drought that has lasted two growing seasons.

In addition, the walls of the city of Jerusalem are still broken down though it has been more than a hundred years since the Babylonians captured the city, demolishing its fortifications and burning its gates. The city’s inhabitants are vulnerable to attacks and robberies. The Temple is unprotected. The Levite guards have been unable to protect the temple treasury.

The Jews are also hated by their surrounding neighbors, the Samaritans, Edomites, Ammonites and Arabs. Nehemiah is told that some years previously the Jewish community had attempted to rebuild the wall, but the enemy nations had gotten an edict from the Persian king, forcing them to stop. If they were to attempt to fortify the city and rebuild the walls now without the permission of King Artaxerxes, it would be seen as an act of rebellion. They are hoping their brother Nehemiah can help them with all these issues.

Nehemiah’s brothers leave after four months even though their petition has not yet reached the king. The Lord begins speaking to Nehemiah’s heart. He knows that if he speaks about anything to the king without his permission, he could lose his life. In time, Artaxerxes asks him why he appears so sad, and he explains the entire story. The king grants permission for Nehemiah to go and rebuild the city walls and gates.

It takes Nehemiah several months to arrive in Jerusalem, but first, he stops in Samaria to present the king’s decree, along with his commission to Governor Sanballat, a Samaritan, Tobiah the Ammonite and Geshem, the Arab leader.

In Jerusalem, Rebbe Ezra, the retired governor, instructs Nehemiah not to listen to these Gentile leaders. He tells him to ignore these men and do what God has called him to do. Nehemiah knows that it is God’s will for the city to be rebuilt, and desires to bring glory to Him through this project.

Many exciting plot twists, intrigues and events happen in the rest of this story. Sanballat and Tobiah are Nehemiah’s constant enemies, doing whatever they can to hinder God’s work. Yet, God is in control and causes the people to unite to finish the walls and improve conditions in the city.

Other characters and side stories are introduced. In the end, all turns out for the best and God is glorified through the work of Nehemiah and other godly leaders. There is much spiritual growth. Nehemiah’s dedicated group of workers finish the wall in two months, and they all have a dedication ceremony. Nehemiah encourages all the people to dedicate their entire lives to God and obey His commands. This is the path to true happiness.

Even though On This Foundation is over four hundred pages, it did not take me long to finish it. It is compelling, exciting and very uplifting. I felt strengthened by the Lord after reading it. There is a beautiful bible verse that expresses the theme of this story, “So this is what the Sovereign Lord says: See, I lay in Zion a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed,” Isaiah 28:16. Nehemiah and all the people learn that the Lord is our Cornerstone and we must all build everything we do on Him. I know you will love this story as I did. It is best for readers eighteen and above.

Patsy Ledbetter says she has many titles, but her favorite is being mom to her six children. Her two daughters, two sons and one son-in-law and one-daughter-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. She and her husband have been married for more than 35 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.”

It is important for young people to think deeply as they encounter the issues of our time. Parents and grandparents want to see these children and young adults develop good character. But how can books help?

Catherine Parks and her publisher, B&H Kids (2019), have taken on this challenge with Empowered: How God Shaped 11 Women’s Lives (And Can Shape Yours, Too). Written for girls and best suited for girls, ages 10-14, the book has an interesting design.

Each chapter begins with a black-and-white drawing (Breezy Brookshire, illustrator) of the person portrayed, captioned with a quote. Then there is a story about the woman’s life, emphasizing one of her character traits. After the story, Parks explains how this trait can show itself in the everyday life of the reader, followed by a list of questions to encourage thought and discussion.

The women come from a variety of ethnicities and nationalities and from different eras of history. Here are the eleven women she includes, each with her outstanding character trait:

Esther Ahn Kim: Strength

Sophie Scholl: Justice

Corrie ten Boom: Loving

Betsie ten Boom: Gratitude

Pandita Ramabai: Fear God, not Man

Elisabeth Elliott: Obedience

Phillis Wheatley: Using Your Talents

Joni Eareckson Tada: Living Abundantly

Fanny Crosby: Kindness

Charlotte Forten Grimké: Godly Ambition

Annie Armstrong: Working Faithfully

These women are good role models as they pray and make decisions to the best of their abilities. The reader can see how each woman looked through the lens of faith to make their choices. Some women experienced tragedy and loss; some lost their lives. If you have a younger, very sensitive child, you may want to read these stories aloud to her and choose the ones you think are best for her to hear.

Since the character trait showcased is only one aspect of a complex life, this kind of presentation could encourage readers to explore longer biographies. Having a godly example can give young women courage to follow God more closely. In this book, ordinary people do extraordinary things because of the power of God in their lives, not because they are superheroes.

These stories, presented in this format, can help girls think through how to turn the truths of their faith into a lifestyle that honors God.

Empowered is 224 pages long and available in both paperback and e-book forms. You can find it on Amazon, Christianbook.com, and Barnes & Noble.

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. 

Cottage by the Sea, written by Robin Jones Gunn and published by Howard Books (2012), is a spiritually insightful look into the care of ailing parents. It is very helpful for someone who is or will be in that season of life. The theme of Cottage by the Sea is based on a verse from Isaiah 45:3,” I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel who calls you by name.” The story contains spiritual depth, humor, drama, joy and struggle.

The novel begins with Erin Bryce, who is married to Mike and has three grown sons, Jordon, Joel and Grant. She has just opened a small bridal business with her best friend, Sharlene.

On the first day of working from home with Sharlene on the new business, The Happiest Day, Erin receives a call from her father’s new wife, Delores, that her father has recently had a stroke. Erin is filled with worry, and is struggling with her dislike of Delores, which began when her father married her.

With encouragement from Sharlene and her husband Mike, she travels to the small coastal Oregon town where Jack and Delores now live. This is the first time Erin has been with her father in eighteen months. When she was growing up, her father was the teacher and coach with whom she never felt fully approved. Her mother was more encouraging, and Erin adored her.

When Erin arrives, she is greeted by a cool but concerned Delores, who is not a friendly person by nature. Erin struggles with resentment toward Delores.

Over the course of several days, the doctor determines that her father is all right and that Erin is free to return home. Jack is very proud of the work he and Delores have done on the cottage by the sea. He introduces her to some of his friends during her visit.

Erin speaks to Delores in private, who informs her that if Jack’s health fails, she will not stay with him. This is a shock to Erin, but only seems to add to her dislike of Delores. Erin is also struggling with the fact that her younger brother, Tony, and her father are estranged and have been for many years.

Erin returns home, and life resumes its normal pace.  Her son Jordan becomes engaged to a delightful young lady named Sierra. Since Erin is in the wedding planning business, she and Sharlene are able to help the young couple. Erin’s father and brother are invited to the wedding, but neither one shows up for the big day.

The day after the wedding, Erin learns that her father has had another stroke, paralyzing half of his body. She speaks to Delores on the phone who insists her father did not want to spoil the wedding by revealing this information. She and Mike decide to drive to from their home in California to Oregon.

When they arrive, they find a distant Delores and an emotional Jack. Erin and Mike help care for him for a week and consider moving him down south with them. Jack can’t speak, but has other ways of communicating with Erin that begin to assure her of his love and acceptance.

After about a week, Mike and Erin discover that Delores has left. They are upset, but not surprised. They communicate this to her father, who is sad, but seems to understand. His daytime caregiver, Marge is very helpful.

Mike needs to return home, but Erin stays with her father. Even though she has been doing some of the work for her business via her computer, she knows that her absence is putting a huge strain on her friend Sharlene. Sharlene suggests that she should buy Erin’s half of the business. Erin agrees, even though it is an added heartbreak.

The Lord is speaking to Erin about many things during this time, one being her resentment towards Delores. She knows that in order to be at peace with the Lord, she is compelled to forgive Delores. Erin is finding treasures in the darkness and riches in secret places as she experiences these trials with the Lord by her side. She knows she can trust him and feels that she is doing His will by staying with her father during his last days.

Several other plot twists occur, but in the end, all is happy and well. The Lord rewards Erin for her faithfulness to Him and to her father.

I think that readers eighteen and above will enjoy this story, and particularly, those who are caregivers. I found it encouraging and helpful. The Lord will help us to do His will, no matter how challenging that may be.

Patsy Ledbetter says she has many titles, but her favorite is being mom to her six children. Her two daughters, two sons and one son-in-law and one-daughter-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 more than 35 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.”

A Lady like Sarah, written by Margaret Brownley, and published by Thomas Nelson (2009), will keep you reading till the last page. Filled with suspense and action, it will entertain you. You will also see how amazing God’s grace is. He will save everyone who comes to Him in humility, regardless of their background or past mistakes.

The story begins with Reverend Justin Wells on his way from Boston to Texas with his mule and his horse. He was forced to leave his pastorate in Boston when a woman accused him of impropriety, all because he rejected her. He did nothing wrong, but the congregation believed her false story, and he was sent to pastor a church in Rocky Creek, Texas.

On his way there, Justin finds two people passed out on a trail in Missouri. He also finds a horse. The man’s name is Marshal Owen, who has a bullet stuck in his shoulder, and the woman is Sarah Prescott, who is being escorted to Texas to hang for murder. Justin tries to remove Marshall Owen’s bullet, but Sarah insists she can do a better job. She removes the bullet, but after a day, he still dies. Sarah has never killed anyone, but she did go along with her brothers, George, Jed, and Robert when they robbed stages. She decides she will run and escape from Justin as soon as she gets a chance.

It doesn’t take Sarah long to escape, but the next day, Justin finds her stuck in a muddy pit from which she can’t escape on her own. He rescues her and puts handcuffs on her. Sarah tells him her story. As children, she and her brothers lost their parents and have been on the run ever since. She never actually robbed any stages, but went along with her brothers, knowing they were her only family. None of them ever killed anyone, but they were falsely accused, and there is a warrant for their arrest.

In a few days of traveling together, Sarah and Justin become very drawn to one another. He tells her the story of Jesus dying for her sins, and she feels completely unworthy. Soon they come upon a small wagon train that has been attacked by an Indian who lays dead close by. The only living person is a very young mother who is dying. She insists that after she is gone, Justin should baptize her two-month-old baby, Elizabeth. Justin prays for the young mother, and when she dies, he enlists Sarah’s help with the baby.

There is no milk anywhere in sight, so they both pray for some provision. Sarah is out washing clothes and finds a goat. She sees this as a miracle from God to keep Elizabeth alive. She is beginning to believe He answers prayer. She still insists she will not stay and go back to Texas with Justin.

Sarah, Justin and Elizabeth all become very close and Sarah’s attitude is beginning to change. Justin realizes he has feelings for Sarah and prays for her diligently.

The story continues and many exciting adventures ensue. You find yourself wondering what will happen and how it will all work out. Everything ends happily, and you feel blessed and relieved that God will help anyone who calls upon Him, regardless of a spurious past.

I really enjoyed the adventure of this story. I fell in love with all the characters.  I think you will enjoy it as much as I did. This story is recommended for readers 18 and above.

Patsy Ledbetter says she has many titles, but her favorite is being mom to her six children. Her two daughters, two sons and one son-in-law and one-daughter-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 more than 35 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.”

 

 Voyage with the Vikings by Marianne Hering and Paul McCusker is the first in The Adventures in Odyssey Imagination Station Series. These chapter books were created by a partnership of Tyndale House Publishers and Focus on the Family and intended for elementary aged readers, 7 and up.

Cousins Beth and Patrick ask Mr. Whittaker if they can go inside his Imagination Station, which is a kind of time machine that looks a little like a helicopter. First, he sends them to the costume closet, to dress up like Vikings.

A mysterious note appears in the machine, giving them a quest to fulfill. It is signed, Albert. After some instructions from Mr. Whittaker on how to operate the machine and how to get home, the children are off on an adventure!

Arriving on a Viking boat, the two of them sail toward a village. They see a polar bear and many reindeer. They meet Erik the Red, his wife Hilda, and their son Leif Erikson.

The author weaves in interesting historical detail into each scene. Patrick sees the contrast between the gods of war and the God of Peace. He shows kindness to his enemy. Beth uses her skill at chess to pursue their quest. All the time, the Vikings are watching their behavior, learning about Christians.

When they return home, they talk over their trip and what they have learned with Mr. Whittaker. Then another note mysteriously appears, and they are promised a trip to Rome!

These books will teach young readers about geography, history, and faith, all wrapped up in fun adventures. There are black and white drawings throughout each book. This story is about 100 pages long, with a secret word puzzle at the end.

You can find The Imagination Station Series at Christian bookstores, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Christianbook.com. The books are  available in print and as e-books. They are reasonably priced. I think the kids who read these books will have fun and learn something as well. Happy reading!

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. 

 

OK, I’m being brash, overstating. It happens sometimes. Nevertheless, please don’t delete. Thriving Kids Connection, a ministry of National Center for Biblical Parenting, has run five articles on helping parents help their kids with anxious feelings. Below is the link to Part 1. The articles are good reading. They might even help you deal with your own anxious feelings. (And who doesn’t have one or two of those moments these days?!) I know the articles helped me. https://thrivingkidsconnection.com/two-quick-fix-anxiety-solutions-that-usually-dont-work/

 

One of the values of reading biography and autobiography is that you see that real world people have real world adversities that they struggle with and overcome. Their success is not magic.

One of the values of reading about a Christian who overcomes is that you see that God is working in and alongside that person. They are not alone in their difficulties and obstacles. Adverse situations do not stop God’s plan. In adversity God helps that person discover again the bigness of God.

Donna has found a book that will particularly encourage young women to reach for and pursue the dreams that God has placed in them. — Nancy

 

Nerves of Steel (Young Readers Edition) written by Captain Tammie Jo Shults and published by Thomas Nelson (2019) is her autobiography. Tammie Jo Shults is a pilot whose vital signs remained steady after her harrowing emergency landing of flight #1380.

Growing up in the 1960s, Tammie Jo felt drawn to flying at an early age as she watched military pilots practice over her family farm. This was a time when American society had rigid ideas about job choices for men and women.

Rural life instilled in her the value of hard work and self-reliance. Her parents gave her practical, helpful advice. At age twelve, Tammie Jo came to faith and this strong thread weaves through the rest of her story.

Tammie Jo’s life shows how a person’s career may not follow a straight line. Education and work did not take her directly into flying. In fact, she was actively discouraged from that path by both educators and professionals.

After meeting a woman Air Force pilot, Tammie Jo found a way to pursue her dream through the military. The law allowed the military to train women to fly, but even so she dealt with prejudice, delays, and setbacks. It was a challenge to make friends with fellow students as the only woman trainee in her class.

She describes the rigors of training, the types of planes and equipment she used, and the thrill of flight. She had the privilege of working with excellent teachers, but also learned patience, self-advocacy, and self-control with some superiors who did not want to see her fly. Before graduating from flight school, Tammie Jo met fellow pilot, Dean, who would later become her husband.

Once through training and on assignments, she enjoyed new challenges and met a number of amazing women pilots. She developed a great admiration for the leadership style of Commander Rosemary Mariner, who became a life-long mentor.

Years later, as a commercial airline pilot, Tammie Jo and her crew were on a routine flight when an engine exploded, sending shards into the plane, sucking out air and cutting a fuel line. Tammie Jo and her crew regained control of the aircraft, calmed the passengers, and successfully landed the plane, saving 148 lives (one person was lost). Tammie Jo called on God for help, relied on positive habits she had developed in decades of piloting, and the professionalism of her crew.

The book is about 200 pages and is easy to read. It is suitable for children ages eight to twelve. The simplified text prints advanced vocabulary in italics and provides a glossary in the back with definitions. There is a detailed table of contents and a large section of photos. Diagrams and sidebars illustrate dog-fighting positions, women pilots in the military, the ROTC, how to decide on a career, the planes she flew, navy officer rank insignias, women in combat, the Blue Angels, call signs, and the path of flight #1380.

Nerves of Steel is available at Christianbook.com, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, at select retail stores and Christian bookstores. It is sold both in print and as an e-book. The original version, written for an adult audience, is also available. I haven’t read that version, but I assume it is just as good.

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.  

 

 

I’m in awe of what people are doing during these strange days-adapting, creating, re-inventing. Kudos to you!!!

In talking to many people I have also seen how God had already put some things in place to ease our time. These things were quietly waiting for now. Online classes. Phones that take pictures so kids can turn in their homework. Books on Kindle. Social media. Churches that were able to go up online.

One friend told me how she had bought a large amount of flour just before this hit, thinking then she wouldn’t use it up for months. But bread soon was hard to find (though it is better now) and she’s been baking and baking. Loving it! And praising God for His provision. Another friend who gives music lessons had already been teaching one family online for years. When we were told to shelter in place, she put all her students online.

It occurred to me after messaging with a young friend, that I had developed some party games with a mystery bent that families could play. I had forgotten about them. But maybe they’ve been waiting for now. So enjoy. The games are on my website. They are in Party Games and More Games under Mystery Party. https://www.nancyellenhird.com/party

I also created a printable word search and sudoku. They are found in Fun Stuff under The 4-1-1.

https://www.nancyellenhird.com/the-4-1-1

Even though life is a bit strange this year, it will still be Easter. We will celebrate. We’ll do church online. We will thank God for His gift.

There are some great books to help you and the kids celebrate. And great news–I checked and they are available on Kindle. So easy-peasy, right? (Some of the books that we have recommended on the the blog, especially those for very young children, are not available on Kindle, but the following terrific books are.)

God Gave Us Easter

The Legend of the Sand Dollar

The Parable of the Lily

Book Reviews

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