Hanukkah began at sundown tonight, November 28, 2021, and runs to sundown Monday, December 6, 2021. The name comes from a Hebrew verb that means “to dedicate.” This Jewish celebration is known as the Festival of Lights because of the candles or oil lamps that are lit in Jewish homes for eight nights beginning on 25th day of Kislev. The festival was a celebration of the rededication, in about 165 BC, of the Temple in Jerusalem after the Temple had been misused. When the Jews rededicated it, they had only enough holy oil for one night, but miraculously that oil burned for eight nights, enough time for new holy oil to be prepared.

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

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

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

Maccabee!: The Story of Hanukkah written by Tilda Balsley and illustrated by David Harrington is an exciting, colorful book for kids that will teach them about the beginnings of this Jewish holiday. Clicking on the book title above will take you to a review of the book.

I also want to point you to Walk with Y’shua Through the Jewish Year by Janie-sue Wertheim and Kathy Shapiro. The book has several pages on Hanukkah and gives info on the traditions. For example, potato latkes, one of the holiday treats (and yum, they are a treat!), are traditionally fried in oil. This is to remind the person who eats them of the miracle that God performed with the oil and the dedication of the Temple.

There are a number of recipes online for potato latkes. I think you and the kids would have fun making and, of course, eating this delicious treat. A few years back I found a recipe for latkes in a magazine and tried it. The latkes were superb! That recipe called for a little lemon zest, a little orange zest and a bit of thyme. I used olive oil. Other recipes that I’ve seen use other kinds of oil. I think you can adapt a recipe to your own family’s tastes. But do try making them. Your mouth will be glad you did. And don’t forget the sour cream (or plain yogurt) and applesauce. OK, enough! I’m getting hungry.

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.

To you from all of us at Books 4 Christian Kids,

Happy Thanksgiving!

Song: The Lord Bless You and Keep You

The Language of Sycamores was written by Lisa Wingate and is presently published by Berkley (2019). This novel is all about family, growth in the Lord, and the realization that the most important things in life are worth fighting for.

The main character, Karen Sommerfield, a woman in her forties, has been running from the big questions of life. She’s tried immersing herself in a high-pressure job and a busy lifestyle. Distance has been building in her marriage. Her relationship with the Lord is wavering. She is trying to avoid the memories of a sudden miscarriage and a bout with cancer that took away her chance of ever having children. 

As the story begins, she finds out that not only is there a chance the uterine cancer has returned, but she is also suddenly laid off from her long-time job as the head of Tech at Lansing Corporation. Her job and her busy lifestyle can no longer help her hide from the personal issues she wants to run away from.

Karen’s husband James is a pilot. They will both be traveling to the Ozarks of Missouri for a family reunion. Karen’s sister Kate and her husband Ben and their children Joshua and Rose live in her Grandma Rose’s farmhouse. Karen and Kate’s mother has passed away. Their father has remarried and will also be attending the family reunion.

Grandma Rose passed away recently, but she has left her mark and faith in God on her granddaughters and a twelve-year-old neighbor girl named Dell. Dell’s family consists of a bedridden grandmother and Uncle Bobby, a questionable character who comes around occasionally. 

Karen is determined not to share her recent news of possible cancer and job loss with her sister Kate. She always felt judged by her younger sister and believed that Kate was the perfect one with all the talent. This is not true. Kate just wants to get closer to her sister.

During the weekend at the farmhouse, Karen rediscovers her love for piano playing. Her parents had always thought it was frivolous to pursue music. 

Gradually, Karen opens up to her husband and to Kate about some of the things going on in her life. As she begins to develop a relationship with Dell and sees the need the young girl has for guidance, Karen believes she can help her. Dell has an amazing talent for singing and playing the piano. She reveals that Grandma Rose taught her many beloved hymns. Dell believes in God and her faith in Him increases as the story continues.

At church on Sunday the family learns that a program called, “Jumpkids,” is being planned for underprivileged children. For two weeks, a team of young counselors will work with about ninety children on an adaptation of The Lion King. At the end of the two weeks, there will be a performance at the church. Through some difficulty, Dell obtains permission from her grandmother to take part in this program. Karen promises to be at Dell’s side for the first few days of the camp. 

Without giving away the rest of the story, I will say that many of the characters experience growth in their relationship with the Lord. Their trust in Him and His plans increase. Many extended family members are drawn closer together. On the day of the family reunion, hearts are united and old grievances are put aside. The story ends happily, and the reader feels like he or she has grown as well. I would recommend this book for readers ages eighteen and above. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did. 

Patsy Ledbetter has written poetry, short stories, devotionals, and book reviews for many years. She has also been a drama instructor, special needs teacher and substitute teacher. She and Kevin have been married for 41 years. In 2020 they lost their oldest son Craig, age 33. They now have three children, Vanessa, Bethany and David. They also have three grandchildren, Elyse, Aurora, and Hayden. Kevin has been a music pastor most of his life and together they serve the Lord in a local church. Patsy loves to read, pray, and spend time outdoors and with family and friends. Her main desire is to bring glory to God through all the talents He has given her.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.” Psalm 136:1 (NIV)

” . . . give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV)

A sweet board book I reviewed a while ago, The Blessings Jar, has inspired me to create a great activity for this Thanksgiving season. I’ve made a “Thank you, God . . .” jar. (It’s actually, as you can see, a vase.) I’ve put small pieces of paper next to it with a pen. Each day until Thanksgiving my husband and I are writing on the papers things that happened that day that we are grateful to God for. We are then folding the paper (or papers) and putting it (them) in the vase. On Thanksgiving we plan to empty our vase and read the papers. I think it is going to be lovely and meaningful.

Maybe you and your family will want to do one too. The container doesn’t have to be clear and the papers don’t have to be colorful.

We have a number of books that we can recommend to help you and the kids celebrate this beautiful season. Enjoy!

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.

Thank you, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving — a picture book about the nineteenth century woman who through her amazing efforts and tenacity was instrumental in bringing about this national holiday.

An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving – a gentle story about family life at Thanksgiving from nineteenth 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.

Christ in the Carols written by Christopher and Melodie Lane and published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (1999) will feed your soul this Advent season. The authors look into the carols and help you hear them, really hear them. There is something wonderful to hear.

Many of the carols will be familiar like Silent Night, O Little Town of Bethlehem, O Come all Ye Faithful, Joy to the World, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. Other carols such as Come, All Ye Shepherds, O Little One, From Heaven Above may not be known to you. But have no fear, I found renditions of all but two of the thirty-one carols on the internet. And even better, most presentations were choral so you can hear how the music fits with the words. So, no need to feel that you are missing out on the music.

The devotional gives you the text of each song. This is brilliant. If you are like me, you may have, for many years, gotten caught up and swept away with the beauty of the melody and skimmed right over the depth and beauty of the thoughts.

The authors don’t let us miss out any longer. Sometimes they give a little history behind the carol, but only a little. Instead, they focus on the meaning of the words of the carols. These songs are really celebrations. They are calls to worship. They are calls of awe and wonder. They have good news to tell each of us and good news that we won’t be able to keep to ourselves. God loves us. He loves us so much that He has come to live among us and that living among us makes all the difference in our lives. He does this even in the midst of winter. 

The authors lead us beyond the text of the carols, their own thoughts about those carols, and into scriptures. Mostly the Lanes use Tyndale House’s Holy Bible, New Living Translation. I like it that they used this translation (and I think you might too). It is not a translation I read a lot and so, I’m not as familiar with the phrasing and the word choice. Using this translation for these sometimes-familiar scriptures dusted away some of the cobwebs I had acquired, revealing even more of the beauty and truth of the verses.

Each devotion also includes an application (a reflection). Each also concludes with a short prayer.

I think Christ in the Carols would be quite lovely for singles and couples. I don’t recommend it for young families or even families with middle schoolers, but I think families with high schoolers and college students would find it a soul-enriching experience.

Be sure to check out the songs on the internet. Sing a long if you like. Most of these carols are centuries old. Think of all the people who have sung them and how God spoke to them and encouraged them through these carols. Know that He will bless and encourage you.

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 posted a review of these advent devotionals last year, but you may have missed that post. (Life can be on wheels once Halloween looms on the horizon.) Or maybe you did see it, but if you’re like me, you can see a good idea, know it’s a good idea, but then not get around to it because your plate is so full of other good ideas. OK, you said to yourself–next year. But then next year comes and you ask yourself where did I see that good idea. Search no further–here it is.

The Way to the Manger, a Family Advent Devotional written by Jeff and Abbey Land and published by B&H Kids (2018) is beautiful. Just beautiful!

I love it’s mixed media, impressionistic artwork in jewel tones. The Way to the Manger draws you from a world of hurry and noise and helps you sit in the presence of an eternal and all-loving God.

The scripture verses, which are often part of the artwork, are well-chosen. There are traditional scriptures from Luke and Matthew, but the authors also use scriptures from the Old Testament, the epistles of Paul and the gospel of John. This reminds the hearers that our God is big and He wants us to understand that Christmas is a big, big story.

Each of the four weeks is themed. Hope is the first week, then love, joy and peace in succeeding weeks. Each day uses scripture, a devotion, questions for discussion and a short prayer to expand on the week’s theme. In terms of time, a day’s entry takes about ten minutes. At the end of each of the three weeks, there is a group of suggested family activities which also tie into that week’s theme.

I think The Way to the Manger would work well if your children are of elementary school age and are generally familiar with the story. This book talks about and provokes thought about elements in the Christmas story, but it doesn’t present the story as whole or in chronological order. You may want to supplement this book with readings from the Christmas story as it is found in Matthew and Luke and so refresh your children’s memories of the entire story. This devotional’s focus, it seems to me, is to help you and your children relate to and go deeper into the elements of the story. I think it will. Though you will only spend a few minutes a day in this devotional time, it will deepen and enrich your lives with God long after Advent is over.

25 Days of the Christmas Story written by Dr. Josh and Christi Straub, illustrated by Jane Butler and published  by B&H Kids (2020)  has the feel of Sunday school lessons. I think it will be a hit with young children, ages preschool to third grade.

Each day features a story about a Biblical person like Gabriel or a place like Bethlehem or an object like gold that plays a part in the Christmas story. These short pieces move through the Christmas story mostly chronologically. I say mostly, because while Day 1 begins with Isaiah, the prophet, Day 2 speaks about David and Jesus being from the line of David. Day 25 is about Nazareth and speaks of Jesus’ and his parents’ return after being in Egypt.

Each short, one-page story focuses on a character trait and offers a life lesson. For example, the story about Mary speaks to the character trait “Humble.” The stated Life Lesson is: God Looks at the Heart. There is a family activity for each day and questions for discussion. Activities are easy to do such as baking a cake, singing carols, playing a board game, going on a prayer walk through your neighborhood, etc.

 Young children will learn a lot from this advent experience and they will have a fun time doing it.   

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.

Roots of Wood and Stone, written by Amanda Wen and published by Kregel Publications (2021) is a tale of loss, discovery, and spiritual growth. There are many fun surprises in this story. I really enjoyed reading it. There is also suspense, which makes you eager to find out what is up ahead. There are several main characters who grow immensely in their relationship with the Lord. They discover what is truly important in life, and what matters most as they come to depend more on Him.

The story begins with the main character, Sloan Kelly, who lives in Wichita, Kansas and works at the Sedgwick County Museum of History. She is very interested in historical roots because she never knew hers. When she was a tiny baby, her birth mother abandoned her, leaving her on a bus. She was adopted and her parents are good to her. Still, they were really never close and didn’t understand her. She doesn’t have any siblings, so she is very interested in the family history of others.

For several years, she has been exploring different websites that might enable her to find out who her birth mother is. At the same time, she is afraid to find out why her mother abandoned her. She has felt all of her life as if she was second best and not good enough for her mother to love and keep her. This struggle she is having tends to color her world and affect her other relationships.

Early in the story, she meets Garrett P. Anderson who is a Certified Financial Planner in Kansas City, three hours away. On weekends he has been coming to Wichita to help his sister Lauren who lives with their grandmother, Rosie Spencer. Rosie has Alzheimer’s, and she has recently lost her husband. Rosie lives in Janesville, a small town on Wichita’s western outskirts. Garrett and Lauren are attempting to clean out the house and sell it so they can pay for Rosie’s future care. Garrett takes a satchel of old papers and things to the museum and hands it all to Sloan. He leaves his card and tells her to call him back if she can’t use any of the satchel’s contents.

Sloan discovers a diary from 1861, written by a nine-year-old girl named Annabelle Collins who also felt abandoned. Annabelle’s mother passed away and her father went off to war, leaving her in the care of her Uncle Stephen and Aunt Katherine. Her story is so interesting, that Sloan wants to find out more. She asks to come by Garrett’s grandmother’s farmhouse and speak to her. Rosie is not familiar with Annabelle Collins, but later in the story we will find out there is a familial connection. More diaries are found. Sloan and Garrett study them together. As they do, they begin to care for one another.

Lauren and Garret both want what is best for Rosie, but they are concerned that Rosie will have the funds needed for a care home. Garrett is tempted by a large offer he receives from Warren Williams, who wants to turn the property into a resort. There is another real estate agent named Kimberly. She wants to sell the house, but states that many repairs are needed. Both Lauren and Sloan would love to see the house stay intact. Garrett feels that the quick sale to the developer is his only option, and he intends to proceed in that direction. As he heads down that road, he finds his relationships with Sloan and his sister are on shaky ground. 

Sloan has made her own progress in discovering her birth mother and is scheduled to meet her. I don’t want to give away the main surprise in this story, but I will say that after much struggle, prayer and discovery, the characters realize their only true hope lies in Christ and surrendering their wills to Him. He has to be number one in their lives in order for everything to fall into place and to mend the struggles they are having with the other characters.

Things end very well, and the characters rejoice in the newfound freedom of placing the Lord in the driver’s seat of their lives. They start depending on Him to lead them and to direct their paths. I loved this story and I know you will as well. This story would be especially good for readers eighteen and above.

Patsy Ledbetter has written poetry, short stories, devotionals, and book reviews for many years. She has also been a drama instructor, special needs teacher and substitute teacher. She and Kevin have been married for 41 years. In 2020 they lost their oldest son Craig, age 33. They now have three children, Vanessa, Bethany and David. They also have three grandchildren, Elyse, Aurora, and Hayden. Kevin has been a music pastor most of his life and together they serve the Lord in a local church. Patsy loves to read, pray, and spend time outdoors and with family and friends. Her main desire is to bring glory to God through all the talents He has given her.

cover for P is for Pumpkin

Autumn is a season the Lord has made and so we can rejoice and be glad in it.

If you are looking for a book that views autumn and Halloween from a different perspective than witches, vampires and ghosts, you might consider P is for Pumpkin. I recommended this book last year and it is just as good this year. This picture book was written by Kathy-Jo Wargin, illustrated by Yawen Ariel Pang and published by Zonderkidz (2008). It is subtitled God’s Harvest Alphabet. An alphabet book, it takes a lively look at the special things and events that occur in autumn such as ripe apples, jack-o-lanterns, barn dances, taking nature walks, jumping in piles of leaves.

The words matched with the letters are quite well chosen and give a child a broader and richer appreciation for the season. Passages such as “M is for Moon,” referring to the harvest moon and “Birds fly in a big letter “V,” referring to geese flying south, encourage children to watch for the beauty and wonder of the season. “D is for Dress-up” is not a big surprise, but that it is included will delight children. Unexpected but totally welcomed was “K is for for Kindness,” which referred to sharing kettles of warm soup with neighbors.

I think some people might be bothered by the word used for “X”–“extra.” It does color outside the lines of traditional alphabet books, but I liked it. I thought it was a clever way to work around that useful but distinctively difficult letter–“Laughing and singing for eXtra big fun.”

God is often mentioned in the explanations that accompany the letters. This is outstanding. It blesses the reader and the listener, helping us all know and remember that our God is in this world and active in this wonderful time of the year.

P is for Pumpkin is easy to read aloud. Children will enjoy its active language, questions to the listener, and rhyme.

The lively illustrations are child-friendly and come dressed in beautiful autumn colors. Children will like looking at and pointing out the many details in the pictures. I think they will particularly like it that the pages often show animals accompanying the child in the activity.

There is a tendency to think that because a child has one alphabet book that another is unnecessary. I’m going to challenge that thought. When children see that a letter and its sound can be at the beginning of more than one word, they begin to discover something important about letters–that they are the building blocks of words.

P is for Pumpkin would find its greatest appeal with three- to six-year-olds.

Another book for little ones that celebrates the season in a way that will bless your child is The Pumpkin Patch Parable by Liz Curtis Higgs. For upper elementary kids, consider getting a copy of When Lightning Struck!: The Story of Martin Luther by Danika Cooley. It was on Halloween in 1517–All Hallows Eve–that according to the story, Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses on the door of the church at Wittenberg.

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She is credentialed kindergarten through twelfth grade.) She taught seventh grade and preschool. She has also taught Sunday school to kindergartners and to sixth graders. For several years, she worked as a freelance book reviewer for Focus on the Family. Her latest works for children are I Get a Clue and We All Get a Clue, mystery novels for girls 10-13.

Beat to Quarters is a novel by C. S. Forester from his Horatio Hornblower series, published in paperback by Back Bay Books, 1999. It was first published by Little, Brown and Company, 1938.

In 1807 under secret wartime orders from the Admiralty of His British Majesty, Captain Horatio Hornblower, and his crew sail in a thirty-six-gun frigate, the HMS Lydia, more than halfway around the world entering no port and sighting land but once.  

The story begins in 1808 as stores are running out on the HMS Lydia, and her crew is restless. The coast of Spanish Central America comes into view and Hornblower reviews his orders. He is to aid a revolt against the Spanish enemy, to establish a foothold for British commerce, and to take on a vastly superior, fifty-gun Spanish ship.

He soon defeats the Natividad, nearly without firing a shot. Warily he releases it to the revolutionaries. Later, when Spanish switch sides to the British, the ship becomes his enemy again. In Panama, where there is an outbreak of yellow fever, he is forced to take a woman passenger aboard. The woman, Lady Barbara Wellesley, comes from a family that oozes military success and could ruin his career with a sneer. Eventually the Lydia engages the Natividad in a dreadful sea battle. The battle takes its toll on the Lydia and her crew, but their preparation and courage win the day. They repair their wounded ship on a deserted island in tropical heat with only the tools aboard. After repairs the ship heads home.

This is a sea adventure, but it is also a novel about the character of a man. Horatio provides a useful model for contemporary young men growing into manhood as they face their own blowhard peers and learn to resist such sin, or other temptations.

There is plenty for the reader to learn from Hornblower. He models leadership abilities, training his crew to precision, each man in his assigned duties. He plans and gives orders to hundreds of men who are looking forward to staring down the business ends of fifty cannons that will keep firing as fast as they can reload. He motivates men in danger of falling from a royal-sail yard or sinking in a storm. He leads the ship into battle when it’s already taking on water from three gaping holes below the waterline and all they can do is throw a tarp over the side to cover them.

For many teens, Horatio will prove familiar. Because of his inner monologue, the reader sees that Horatio is one person on the outside and another within. Unsure, but he’s trained himself to a high level of skill. Unsure, but he’s well aware that planning and strategy will win the day and the crew. Unsure, but he’s ready to press the fight. And in the face of an amazing woman, he’s too shy and perturbed—at first—to even carry on a conversation.

And that’s right, C. S. Forester throws in a woman. What young man today won’t wonder whether the married Horatio and Lady Barbara will get together? Well, they do kiss, but who is being seduced? If the girl is chasing you, does that make sinful behavior OK? Horatio comes to his senses before he succumbs to the lure of sin and destruction. Many young people do not accept the one-word answer—don’t. This novel will be a reader’s chance to puzzle out the issues with these much-tempted characters.

The men in this novel face many difficulties that will still resonate with today’s youth. The isolation that teens feel can be like the loneliness of sailors who spend months and months at sea without even sight of land. The captain keeping a sailor busy learning his work can be like the agony of preparation that suddenly pays off when it is your time to act. The character of Horatio provides answers for these issues and more.

Some teenagers will find this book a challenging read because of the sailing terminology and realities of naval life in a sailing ship. The language is contemporary and clear, but the reader might learn the value of keeping a dictionary handy and of willingness to research the curious naval terminology.

Also, the story is set in another time. In many schools today, historians are lauded for exposing every deficiency of the past—when compared to today’s standards. Young people are losing the ability to detect important values that once existed alongside what we cringe at today. Dwell on the negatives of the past if you will, but with Horatio it will be hard to ignore the positives.

For example, there is flogging aboard Horatio’s ship. While he abhors flogging, he lives in the time of British Articles of War for naval sailing ships. He recognizes a need at the same time as he considers the character of those who accuse. His only resort is to modify the behavior of his officers and mates as they lead common sailors.

Also, while his appreciation for Lady Barbara would lead Horatio astray, she presents many good, and for him, surprising qualities of womanhood. However, she doesn’t enter this story until well on in a book about men and their extended life at sea. Then come the pages of action, her nursing the injured and some cordiality with the captain. I’m saying that young women might consider reading this book to probe the qualities to be emulated or rejected.

Maybe the teen reader will want the fuller picture of Horatio. What made the man and where did his makings take him? If so, Forester has supplied it all. Horatio’s life continues in the series to new levels of Navy rank, including Lord and Admiral. Forester also takes his readers back to Horatio’s baptism into naval life as a Midshipman. This early rank, that often began at age twelve, was much like an internship, but with people shooting at you.

So, have I described problems facing young men wavering at critical forks in the road of life? As a captain, Horatio is admittedly past many such a forks, but his weaknesses and fears still manifest themselves inwardly—where he can work them out. Outwardly he lives his plan for overcoming them on a daily basis. Beat To Quarters reminds us that limitations and fears are a constant feature of life. You don’t graduate from them; you learn how to incorporate answers to them throughout life.

Tom Hird is a university professor, retired. For more than ten years he has been a member of a men’s book club, reading and discussing both great fiction and an eclectic range of non-fiction. He believes that regular readers prove to be better students, because reading widely helps one soak up usage, style and knowledge for a variety of situations in life. He is the copy editor for Books 4 Christian Kids.

Penelope Pumpernickel: Dynamic Detective by MaryAnn Diorio, illustrated by Ken Raney, published MaryAnn Diorio Books (2021)

Parents, grandparents, teachers–we all want children to learn to read and to read well. Children even want to learn to read well. (For a child there’s a lot of shame around not knowing how to read. Shaming does not help. It’s not productive and actually inhibits learning.)

What a child reads is important to their success. Material should be on their level which means that most of the vocabulary should be accessible to them. Sentence length and complexity should also be appropriate to the child’s reading level.

At Books 4 Christian Kids, we think subject matter should be appropriate to the child’s age and social development. I’ve written more about this in other posts: The Green People. The Classics.

Penelope Pumpernickel: Dynamic Detective is a good choice for emerging independent readers. It is Book 2 in the Penelope Pumpernickel Series.

There are two short mysteries in this book. In the first story, eight-year-old Penelope and her friends look for and find a “treasure chest” in the church basement. Grandy believes there is pirate treasure in the elaborately decorated chest. There isn’t, but the children and their adult helpers do find something worthwhile that has been missing. (I’m not telling you what.)

In the second story, Penelope solves the mystery of a missing map. After searching in a couple of places, she notices a book sticking out on a bookshelf. Pulling out the book, she finds paper stuffed behind. It’s the map and it has a stain on it. The rest of the story involves confession, forgiveness, and restoration.

The stories are appropriate for young readers. The small mysteries are the kind that surround them. Young readers will enjoy the idea that they too can become everyday detectives. They can be observant, ask questions, respect adults, tell the truth, allow adults to help and still solve the mysteries.

The stories are short and very readable. One thing parents and kids will especially like is that Diorio introduces her readers to some grown-up words like alliteration, discerning, paraphernalia, etc. She always includes a sentence or two giving the meaning. Kids will like learning these new words, though I think an adult will need to be close by to pronounce the words.

We’ve liked some other books for emerging independent readers. I recommend that you have your child read the first pages so as to check a book’s readability.

Callie

The Great Cake Mystery

Molly’s Pilgrim

Sheltie: the Shetland Pony

Voyage with the Vikings

West Meadows Detectives

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She is credentialed kindergarten through twelfth grade.) She taught seventh grade and preschool. She has also taught Sunday school to kindergartners and to sixth graders. For several years, she worked as a freelance book reviewer for Focus on the Family. Her latest works for children are I Get a Clue and We All Get a Clue, mystery novels for girls 10-13.

Book Reviews

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 134 other followers

Search Posts by Categories