Reading holiday books with a child or children can be such a rich, rich experience for everyone. Children feel important because you are spending time with them; and the simple, beautiful message of a good children’s book may just touch you with its clarity and anchor you with its truth. If you are looking for Christmas books that you and the kids might read and enjoy together, here are some suggestions to get you started. (I have more, but I’m still tweaking my reviews. I promise you will see them soon.):

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
(Carol Green also suggests at the end of this recommendation that you consider Santa’s Favorite Story, The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, The Story of Christmas (Carry Me) and My March to the Manger.)

Sparkle Box

 

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.)  Her latest work for children is We All Get a Clue, a mystery novel for girls 10-13. It is the second book in the series that began with 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.

 

May your day be blessed with the warmth of God’s heart whatever the weather is outside.

A couple of weeks ago I suggested some books you might consider as gifts for middle schoolers. I promised some suggestions for YA. Here they are:

The Boys in the Boat— the true, inspiring story of the young men, who to everyone’s surprise, won Olympic gold in rowing at the 1936 Olympics.

A Christmas Gift for Rose–an uplifting story about God’s provision and care. A young Amish woman discovers the story of her parentage.

First Date–a contemporary novel with small nods to the story of Esther from the Old Testament. Teenage American girls in a  beauty pageant compete for a first date with the President’s son.

Found in Translation–a humorous and heart-warming novel of a young woman’s adventures and misadventures on her first short-term mission trip.

God’s Smuggler–a true and thrilling story of Brother Andrew, who smuggled Bibles into countries closed to Christianity.

In His Steps–the Christian classic that asks the question “What would Jesus do?” and then shows how various people who ask the question.

Oxygen–science fiction, a space crew traveling to Mars suspect that one of them is a saboteur

The Shining Orb of Volney–a deep, fantasy/science fiction novel with a strong story world that is rich in detail and realism. The female characters are strong and resourceful.

Thunder Dog— the story of  Roselle, the guide dog who helped the blind Michael Hingson and those who were with him escape the plane-struck Tower 1 on 9/11.

The above are just a few of the books we have liked and written about. You can find titles of other books by selecting Book Lists on the menu above. Titles link to the reviews. Or you can use the drop down feature to your left. Select YA  and then scroll down through the reviews.

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

 

 

Elizabeth Raum is the author of Crossroads in Galilee, published by JourneyForth (2016).  She has created a “choose your journey” chapter book for elementary-aged children based on the life and times of Jesus in the first century. Raum did research on the time and place to create more realistic story lines, including details about markets, local crops, and fishing.

The reader may choose to follow the story of a boy from a vineyard, a fisherman’s sister, or a tax collector’s brother. After each chapter, the reader again makes a choice about what the character will do, and then turns to the chapter that describes the consequences of that choice.

The choices include such decisions as whether to follow Jesus or John the Baptist, to fight or turn the other cheek, to lie or tell the truth. The author quotes scripture to support the narrative.

The overarching story centers on the day of Jesus’ baptism by John, and moves on from there, following Jesus’ ministry in Galilee. The readers glimpse everyday life in Bible times, and see what a difference one choice can make in a series of events.

The writing is appropriate for elementary aged children. The story lines are gentle, but interesting. The font is large, and there are black-and-white drawings to illustrate the text.

The author begins with an explanation on how to use the book and ends with a short lesson on how important decision-making is. She also includes a glossary of terms, a list of references for the Bible stories in the book, and notes on her research.

Crossroads in Galilee is about 140 pages long, and may be found on Amazon, Christianbook.com, and possibly in your local Christian book store. It is available in paperback and as an e-book.

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. 

 

Thanksgiving is November 24 in the Year of Our Lord 2016 and we have some book suggestions.

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

And Patsy found this one by Louisa May Alcott. — Nancy

An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving, by Louisa May Alcott, with an adapted text by Harper Collins Publishers will get you in the mood for Thanksgiving. It is a short book with beautiful illustrations by James Bernardin. The children who would appreciate this book most would be in the age range of five to twelve. Personally, I think adults will enjoy it very much, as well.

The story starts on Thanksgiving Day at the home of Farmer Bassett, his wife and their six children. They live in the New Hampshire hills, and are poor in money, but rich in love. The crops are in and Mrs. Bassett is making pies in preparation for Thanksgiving Dinner. Tillie and Prue, the oldest daughters are mixing spices and chopping ingredients. The twins Roxy and Rhody are slicing apples, while Seth and Solomon are shelling corn for popping.

Before long the family receives a visitor. Old Mr. Chadwick comes to tell Mrs. Bassett that her mother is very ill. Mother and Father have to leave on a long drive to go and be with Grandma, and they leave their two oldest girls in charge. Father says he will be back after he has dropped Mother off.

After bidding their parents goodbye, the slightly nervous older girls tell their sibling to go out sledding while they continue to prepare the feast. The main elements will be roast turkey, stuffing, pudding and apple slump. Unknown to the girls, they make a few mistakes and add some wrong ingredients. They forget the salt and sugar in the pudding, and accidentally add catnip and wormwood to the stuffing.

By early evening, an entire crowd arrives at their home. Their parents return with aunts, uncles, cousins and even Grandma herself! They found out Mr. Chadwick had made a mistake and Grandma was just fine, after all. The relatives will have dinner with the family and spend the evening visiting.

The dinner is delicious, except for the minor mistakes, and everyone has a wonderful time. Mrs. Bassett praises the girls for their hard work, even though she nearly chokes when she tastes the stuffing! Everyone loves the apple slump. (At the end of the book, you will find the recipe for that.)

This was a fun and uplifting read. It is making me look forward to Thanksgiving already.

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.”

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

 

 

The Christmas catalogs are arriving and I haven’t even handed out the trick-or-treat candy! No matter. I do love to look at the catalogs and dream about great gifts to give to my friends and loved ones.

Just in case you are looking and dreaming too, I have some book suggestions for Christmas gifts for middle graders. BTW, I am also thinking of Christmas break. Having a great book adventure put aside (maybe even wrap it) and bringing it out when the kids are home might be just what you and they need. It might be especially welcomed if outside it is raining or snowing a blizzard. (OK, yes, I do live in the California– in the area where if it rains more than four days in a row we go online searching for lumber yards that sell gopher wood.)

Here is my list. I chose books from various genres, from classics and from newer releases. The list is just a sampling of the books we’ve recommended. We have a lot more suggestions. If you want to browse through more suggestions, select the menu to left and drop down to middle grade fiction reviews.

Anne of Green Gables–classic for girls, with a number of books in the series

Callie–a book for emerging independent readers about a finding a home for a cat

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe–the thrilling first book of C. S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia

Full Metal Trench Coat–first novel in a series for elementary school children, especially boys

The Pilgrim’s Progress–Christian classic, an allegory on the Christian life that comes in several versions

The Prince Warriors–a Christian allegory for boys and girls based on using the armor of God

Sarah, Plain and Tall–historical fiction about life on the American prairie of the 19th century

Scout— a boy’s adventures with a lost dog

The Shining Orb of Volney–a science fiction/fantasy for middle school and YA with strong female characters

The Voyage of Patience Goodspeed–historical fiction, a sea adventure for boys and girls set aboard a 19th century whaling ship

We All Get a Clue–a contemporary mystery/adventure, second book in the two-book series about pre-teen detectives in Edinburgh, Scotland

World War II Pilots: An Interactive History Adventure–a choose your own adventure

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

 

 

coverwithcharacters812cropWe All Get a Clue by Nancy Ellen Hird, published by Desert Fires Press (2016), will keep you smiling at the heroine, twelve year-old Libby Carlsen. She has a wonderful personality and is always making the reader laugh. This book is the second in a series, the first being entitled I Get a Clue. Both of these stories are geared toward pre-teens, ages ten to thirteen, but I had a fabulous time reading them, and learned a lot about Scotland as well. Both books are mysteries, and while they are suspenseful, they are not at all frightening.

Libby, an American, is staying with her Scottish grandmother and aunt at Shepherd House, Gran’s bed-and-breakfast, in Edinburgh, Scotland, while her parents are working as missionaries in South America. The book begins with Libby emailing her brother, Tom, who is a computer genius in the US. He is very supportive of his younger sister, encouraging her in the Lord. She is a Christian, but is growing and learning more about placing her trust in Him.

She tells Tom that she and her best friend, Roopa Kumar, have entered a city-wide writing contest, with their book on women scientists. They are hoping to win. If they do, their book will be published.

Libby is also excited about accompanying her friends, Malcolm, his brother Jamie, and their father, Mr. MacLeod, owner of a bakery, on a catering job. Mr. MacLeod has been hired to cater an event at the country manor mansion of Viscount Blackford. This event will be a tea for those who financially support the Museum of Scotland. They know Libby has had experience since she helps serve at Shepherd House.

After being a short time at the mansion, Libby and Malcolm are called upon to help Isobel Martindale. They will unload books from the museum shop that she has brought to sell. Libby, who plans to be an astronomer someday, knows Isobel from church and has gone stargazing with her several times. While Libby is helping Isobel set up the book table, Isobel suggests that she and Libby take turns looking at the Viscount’s collection of antique scientific instruments in the library. Libby goes there first.

She meets Viscount Blackford and his friend, Professor Walkingshaw. Lord Blackford thinks Libby is a friend of his granddaughter, Kate, who is staying with him while her parents are abroad, but Libby says she has not yet met Kate. Libby admires an old letter on display in the library. The letter was written in French in 1794 by Marie Lavoisier, thanking scientist Joseph Black for his letter of condolence on the death of her husband, Antonin Lavoisier. Professor Walkingshaw insists that this famous letter should be under glass, but the Viscount does not agree.

A famous countess is in attendance at the tea, and Libby is told to serve her some pastries. Unfortunately, Libby gets nervous, trips and lands flat on the floor. Pastries go flying and someone snaps Libby’s picture, which later appears in the paper. Libby is horrified by what has transpired and flees to the loo. When she returns, she learns there’s been a theft and the police have been called. The police inform her that it is the Lavoisier letter that is missing.

A suspicious man from the event stays the night at Gran’s B&B. The next day, Libby receives an anonymous note stating she has the letter!! More accusations follow. With the help of her friends and using her detective skills, Libby works to prove her innocence and solve the mystery of the letter.

Libby feels she is always doing things wrong, and can’t compete with her talented brother, Tom, and amazing cello-playing sister, Mags. Her life seems to go from bad to worse when another girl in her class, Philippa, wins the manuscript-writing contest! But when Libby meets Tiffany Taylor Bradstreet of the Women in Science Museum, she is encouraged. She is further encouraged when Professor Walkingshaw later offers to help her and Roopa get their book published.

However, more mystery, adventures and close calls are in store for Libby and her friends. All turns out well and happy in the end. The most important thing for Libby, is that she feels the Lord has heard her prayers and has used her to make sure truth prevails and justice is done. Everyone is very proud of Libby, and she feels strengthened.

This book is not only enlightening and interesting, but encouraging to young people who are discovering that they have gifts to share.  Libby is honest about her feelings of failure and frustration, making the novel real and helpful. Other young people can relate to this and learn to grow in their faith in the good times and the bad. They can also find that God’s Word is alive in their lives, lighting their way. I was encouraged in the Lord through this book, to keep doing good, even when others don’t always agree or understand. When I pray and follow Him, things are not perfect, but turn out according to His will, which is always right.

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.”

Ellen Miles writes children’s books about pets. Callie is the first book in a series and is published by Scholastic Paperbacks (2011). The series is called Kitty Corner and subtitled Where kitties get the love they need.

The story begins when siblings Mia and Michael are racing home from school on their scooters and stop to look at the kittens and puppies at their neighborhood veterinarian’s office. Michael wants a dog and Mia wants a cat, but because they live with their parents in a small apartment, they can have neither.

As they are rushing into their apartment to greet their mother, Mia thinks she hears a cat meow.  Later—and this is the only part I don’t like—she pretends that the recycling is full so she can go outside and look for the cat near the trash cans.

Mia does catch a fleeting glance of a calico kitten with a hurt paw. She asks her parents if the family can look for the kitten and take her to the vet. After some family discussion, they agree to go to the local market to buy cat food to set out for the kitten. The store’s owner, Mr. Li, congratulates them on getting a cat. He likes cats, and after hearing their story about the stray, agrees to set out food for the kitten, too.

Eventually, they succeed in taking the kitten, whom Mia names “Callie,” to the vet for treatment. They are advised to keep the kitten inside, but she is an escape artist, and shows up at Mr. Li’s store. After further conversations about the cat’s needs and the family’s limitations, Mia realizes that Callie would probably be happier living at the local market, with the compassionate Mr. Li, than cooped up in her apartment. When she proposes the plan, Mr. Li is delighted.

This begins a series of four books about the family fostering and finding homes for kittens, the next three being Otis, Duchess, and Domino. The first book is from Mia’s point of view, the second from Michael’s. Also, the stories have brief imagined thoughts from each cat’s view.

Callie is under 100 pages (ten chapters). The book includes a short section of interesting cat facts and chapter one of the next book in the series. The writing is aimed at upper second grade and lower third grade readers. The characters are realistic, the tone is light, and the problems are solved in a wholesome manner. Callie is a good, safe read for lower elementary that is a lot of fun. It is available at your library, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. (Callie is listed on Amazon as Kitty Corner: Callie.)

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 Story Keeper, written by Lisa Wingate and published by Tyndale House Publishing, Inc. (2014), is told by a master storyteller. Filled with suspense and intrigue, Wingate’s story-within-a-story is an inspiring read about a heroine who survives her past by moving beyond her scars to find treasure of the heart.

Jen Gibbs left Appalachia to to study editing in New York and now has landed her dream job at Vida House Publishing. She is only in her new job a short time when a manuscript shows up mysteriously on her desk. The manuscript, entitled The Story Keeper, captivates her. It is the fascinating tale of Sarra, a mixed-race Melungeon girl trapped by dangerous men in Appalachia at the turn of the twentieth century.

Jen does some research, and comes up with the idea that the manuscript may have been written by Evan Hall, who lives in the Looking Glass Gap area of North Carolina. Jen’s boss decides it would be a good idea for her to travel there and see what she can discover. But this is near Jen’s childhood home—a place to which she thought she would never return. Her family belonged to a very strict Brethren Church where it was not uncommon to be in trouble over very small things. Her mother had left suddenly, leaving a husband to raise his six children alone. Jen had left when she turned eighteen.

As a teenager, Jen had secretly read some of Evan Hall’s books. Hall had become an overnight success at the age of eighteen when he wrote the Time Shifters Book Series. The books were about time travel. They had generated a movie franchise and many followers.

When Jen travels to the Blue Ridge Mountains, she meets Evan Hall and they encounter many mysteries and adventures. She also reconnects with her father and four sisters. (Her only brother passed away twelve years ago.) What happens next is exciting and fun, involving some very close calls.

All ends well, with Jen realizing that her upbringing involved a strict code and set of rules to adhere to, while true faith involves trust in the Lord and His word. The Lord uses Jen in the lives of her family members, and her dream of seeing The Story Keeper in print comes to fruition.

In a very creative way Lisa Wingate weaves a message of the Lord’s love and peace. I feel the most helpful aspect of this story is how Jen accomplishes her goals and dreams, despite a difficult upbringing. The novel is a great read for those 18 and over.

 

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.”

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.

 

 

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