A new school year is beginning and I’m excited. I always am this time of year. It seems like life is full of promise. As parents, teachers or homeschooling parents you are probably excited too. But you and I know that there are some challenges ahead. There will be some frustrations and there will be setbacks before there are moments of insight and joy. I reviewed a couple of books a few months ago, What Do You Do with an Idea? and The Most Magnificient Thing. I think these “picture” books will help school-age kids emotionally grasp the journey of learning and creating. Take a second look at the books. They might just bless your school year.

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.) You can learn more about her and her books at www.nancyellenhird.com .

For several years she was a freelance reviewer of children’s and teen’s literature for the Focus on the Family website.

Hidden Figures Young Readers’ Edition was written by Margot Lee Shetterly and published by HarperCollins; Reprint edition (2016).

Many of us cheered watching the film Hidden Figures, an amazing story until then largely unknown. Hidden Figures Young Readers’ Edition follows the lives and careers of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden. In a time when few women entered professions in math or science and when African Americans were being actively excluded from many arenas of American life, these four women broke through barriers because of their intelligence, character, fortitude and vision.

Margot Lee Shetterly grew up in the community where these women’s names were familiar to all. Her unique perspective gives readers the inside scoop on an exciting part of American history.

This version is better for younger readers (ages 8 to 12) than the original book that inspired the movie. It condenses the story line, simplifying while explaining events for young readers in a way that might not be needed for adults who lived through that time or are familiar with the history.

The book begins by “setting the scene,” giving a summary of the kind of prejudice and injustice typical in the United States prior to World War II. It then talks about the opportunities open to women and African Americans in the aeronautics industry with the advent of the war.

We follow each of the four women as they make their way into the industry and eventually into that industry’s space race. We see how each woman finds an environment where her excellent skills become valued and rewarded, and how each makes contributions to the improvement of flight and the dream of sending astronauts to the moon.

Dorothy Vaughan was a teacher, a “computer,” and a manager, working first for NACA, then NASA. Mary Jackson was a mathematician for NASA. Katherine Johnson was “the girl” who checked the computations for John Glenn’s space flight. She did hours of analysis as a mathematician in support of the space program. Christine Darden worked in NASA’s wind tunnel.

This book weaves their lives together through the common factor of careers at NASA against the backdrop of a dynamic time in our national history. We see their education, their struggles, their family life, their sacrifices, and their determination. We see rich community life, mentoring, friendships, and love.

We learn to understand the kind of teamwork and stamina required to put a man into space. We see the quiet confidence of these women as they answer their country’s call to serve, using their exceptional gifts in math and science, while blazing trails for many who have followed in their footsteps.

Photographs, a timeline, and a glossary support the text. The book is just over 200 pages. It should be available in your local library. It can be purchased at bookstores as well as online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Also check online at the NASA website and you’ll find stellar biographies of each of the women in this 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. 

Are you trying to keep up with a voracious reader? and losing?  Are you feeling left out–in the dark–about the books your kid’s carpool buds are talking about? Do you need more info about the books your child will be reading and discussing in school this coming year?

Plugged In, on the Focus on the Family website, is not just about films and TV. Info on the site says they have more than 6,000 reviews of entertainment media– books, films and TV programs. I was told that the number of reviews/reports on the books grows by three books a week.

The books are listed alphabetically by title. Click on the title and it will take you to the report/review.

The info in the report/review is different from the usual info found in a review. Reviewers of books for Plugged In don’t give an approval or disapproval rating. A report/review offers a plot summary and then goes on to cover Christian beliefs (if there are any), other belief systems, authority figures, profanity, violence, kissing, sex and homosexuality. A link on the page will take you to discussion topics and questions especially created for that particular book. (I like this last feature a lot. Talking through a book with a child develops a child’s critical thinking skills.)

Here at Books 4 Christian Kids we love recommending books. We love imagining a young person discovering a terrific, uplifting book and being blessed by reading it, all because we let you know about it. We love being part of that chain. We strive to find and point you to worthy books; we recognize that a young person’s time and your money are limited. But we also recognize that there are a vast number of books available for children/young adults/new adults. I can imagine that you want more info. I think the Plugged In site will help.

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.) You can learn more about her and her books at www.nancyellenhird.com .

For several years she was a freelance reviewer of children’s and teen’s literature for the Focus on the Family website.

This can be that time in the summer when your kids are saying they’re bored, bored, bored. They want something new, something to happen. They want to go someplace, have an adventure, make new friends.

So why not send them to Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe? or have them choose their own sea adventure: Journey under the Sea? or visit a small town in the woods of the Sierra Nevada: The City Bear’s Adventures? or solve mysteries with Libby and her friends in Edinburgh, Scotland: I Get a Clue and We All Get a Clue ?

Those are just a few suggestions. We have others. Check out and scroll through Book Lists on the menu at the top of this page. Titles are linked to the reviews.

And while you are at it, maybe you would like to go someplace too–this is, after the kids are in bed. Take a look at the list for College Age/Working Person. Ah, England! Ah, the American West! Ah, Hawaii!

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.) You can learn more about her and her books at www.nancyellenhird.com .

For several years she was a freelance reviewer of children’s and teen’s literature for the Focus on the Family website.

 

Nick Newton Is Not A Genius is a steampunk (science fiction set in Victorian times which emphasizes historical or imagined steam-powered technology) chapter book for middle grade readers. It is written by S.E.M. Ishida with illustrations by Dana Thompson. Published by JourneyForth (2016), it is 160 pages. Boys will especially enjoy its exploration into the world of robots and technology.

Nick Newton is the only one in his family who is not a genius. Upon learning that he will have to go to a new school, Nick decides to explore the attic filled with his grandfather’s belongings. His grandfather was a hero and general in the Last War and defeated his enemy, Draicot, with his military inventions. Nick discovers schematics and parts for one of his grandfather’s inventions, a clockwork bird. He names it Plink. Nick tries to put the clockwork bird together, but he is hindered by some of his wacky family’s escapades.

At Nick’s new school rumors abound about Mr. Volk, whose parents were founders of the school. Mr. Volk lives alone with his family of robots. Nick and his family visit Mr. Volk. While there Erma, Nick’s older sister, gets into dangerous trouble. Erma is saved but at great expense to Mr. Volk. When Mr. Volk is interested in buying Plink, Nick refuses even though he is grateful to him. Mr. Volk asks if Nick has found a clockwork heart.

Nick with his new friends, Elliot and Solomon, search for the clockwork heart. Nick believes the heart may be in his grandfather’s locked trunk. They think clockwork birds are the key to unlocking it and they must find all three birds. In the end, they discover what happened to the clockwork heart as well as what happened to Draicot, his grandfather’s enemy.

Stocked with quirky characters and creative inventions, Nick Newton Is Not A Genius is a fun book to read with your children. I can’t wait to read about Nick’s next adventure. You can see pictures of Plink, the clockwork bird, on the author’s Facebook page.

J. D.  Rempelhttps://jdrempel.com/ , is a graduate of Simpson College. She is endeavoring to pen a YA science fiction novel and an adult fantasy series. Currently, she is seeking a publisher for her middle grade fiction novel. J. D. loves to read, work with her husband in youth ministry, and play peekaboo with her turtle, Applesauce. 


Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity, written by Nabeel Qureshi and published by Zondervan (expanded version, 2016), recounts Qureshi’s journey to Christianity–his “powerful memories and personal thoughts.”

As a young boy, Nabeel, an American-born Muslim, has the ideas of Islam instilled into his thinking and way of life. The culture of his faith is his identity and understanding of the world. But it becomes evident, that even while still a boy, God is working in his life.

On the school bus one day, Kristen talks with him about Good Friday. According to what Nabeel has been taught, Jesus did not actually die on the cross. Instead he passed out and was taken away where he recovered. Both, agree to disagree. Nabeel feels validated that Islam is the right religion and the final chapter.

In high school he has a conversation with Betsy, who talks about Christianity and invites him to a church play about sin and death. Nabeel and his father attend the play. On the way home they have a conversation about what they’ve seen and how it is wrong. Both discuss how Christians believe in “3” gods not the Trinity–“God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit.” They agree, again, Islam is right and there is only one God—Allah. Jesus is a prophet like Muhammad.

In college Nabeel meets David, a Christian. David encourages Nabeel to expand his literature understanding of Jesus and based on literature decide whether or not Jesus is who he says. David invites Nabeel and his father to a debate with two pastors who have written about the history of Jesus. The arguments are again made that Jesus did not actually die on the cross. The pastors explain that the Romans made sure Jesus was dead. The piercing of his side was an indication that he was dead by suffocation.

When the debate ends Nabeel is confused and looks again to his Muslim literature. David then encourages Nabeel to go to church with him since one of the pastors who debated is preaching. Nabeel says he cannot attend based on what his parents would say. David counters that Nabeel is an adult and can make his own decisions. Both men graduate college and go their separate ways for graduate school. Nabeel begins to pursue a medical degree.

Guided by the loving, faithful hand of God, Nabeel comes to be on his knees before Jesus–accepting the truth. In the Extended Epilogue his journey as a Christian continues. Nabeel must deal with his decision of faith and efforts to restore a relationship with his family.

The side margins of the book have a glossary of Islamic terms. Documents in the back are helpful as well.

This book is a good read for college-age young adults who want to explore both a better understanding of the Muslim faith and how God works in our lives–never giving up on us.

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

The watermelon’s eaten and fireworks are over, but perhaps the celebrations just whet the appetites of you and the kids to know more about America’s beginnings.  Here are a few books that we liked and you might like too. — Nancy

American Dream: The New World, Colonial Times, and Hints of Revolution (about Books 1 & 2)

American Dream: The New World, Colonial Times, and Hints of Revolution (about Books 3 & 4)

 The Children’s Book of America

Sacagawea: Girl of the Shining Mountains

We the People: The Story of Our Constitution

If you go looking for these books on Amazon, be sure to include the author’s name in your search. Titles are not subject to copywrite and so you will often find several books with the same title. Also Amazon, to the dismay of those of us who did graduate work in librarianship, does not always list books with the conventions of alphabetizing in mind.

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. You can learn more about her and her books at www.nancyellenhird.com .

For several years she was a freelance reviewer of children’s and teen’s literature for the Focus on the Family website.

Found based on the 23rd Psalm, was written by Sally Lloyd Jones and illustrated by Jago. It was published by Zonderkidz in 2017. Although a board book, Found is a book that will resonate with all ages.

Children will immediately feel the calm and quiet as Sally Lloyd Jones’ retells the well-known 23rd Psalm in her own words. The author’s simple way of stating things makes this beloved psalm accessible to young children and shows them how much God loves them.

Jago’s bright and colorful illustrations begin with the rising sun, move to the full noontime sun and end with the setting sun as the book progresses. Children will look for the illustration of the little lamb that Jago has placed on each page and feel as though they are being protected as the little lamb is.

To show the valley of the shadow of death, the author uses rain–a downpour. She uses words like dark, scary and lonely and so brings this passage to a child’s level. Jago’s lost look on the lamb will also help children to relate.

A child will enjoy snuggling with a parent or grandparent as they share the 23rd Psalm. Found is a must for a children’s library.

Carol Green, a graduate of Northwestern, is the mother of three adult children. Her five grandchildren affectionately call her “Grams cracker.” She is the published author of many poems for both adults and children; three coloring books: God Gave Me Five, ABC Fun Book, and Color God’s World Bright; and the picture book: My Mom Loves Me.

 

I just came in from a walk. Some of the neighbor kids were also out walking. Today is the first day of their summer vacation. It’s exciting for them; an adventure is about to begin. But I also got the impression they are little bit at loose ends. They’re missing their friends. And this might sound weird and totally improbable, but I think they miss being at school. School can be fun. (Yes, it can and sometimes they will even tell you that it is.) At school they learn new things and kids like to learn. They are all about growing.

Reading good books is one way for them to grow well. It is one way for kids to go on an adventure. We have created lists of books (select Book Lists found on the menu at the top of the page) that we think are interesting and fun. More than that we think they will bless a child or a young person. If you select the title, it will take you to the review. We don’t think our lists are the last word, but they might be a good place to start.

Just a thought, consider reading a book together as a family. Sharing a worthwhile story can be an enriching experience. It’s warm, friendly; it can build community, and reading aloud helps you to listen to each other.

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.  You can learn more about her and her books at www.nancyellenhird.com .

For several years Nancy was a freelance reviewer of children’s and teen’s literature for the Focus on the Family website.

 

 

Accidentally Amish (Valley of Choice) by Olivia Newport and published by Shiloh Run Press (2012) will instruct and delight you. The two main characters, Annalise Friesen and Rufus Beiler couldn’t be more opposite. Annie, as she is called, is from Colorado Springs and owns a software company. Rufus is from the San Luis Valley in Colorado, and he is Amish. Yet, even so, these two are drawn to each other.

Through a series of crazy events, Annie ends up in the San Luis Valley with Rufus Beiler’s family. Rick Stebbins, her intellectual property lawyer/ex-boyfriend, and Barrett, her business partner, are attempting to take over her company. Fleeing from Rick, who is trying to get her to sign papers, she becomes a stowaway in a truck driven by Tom, a friend of Rufus. She decides on an extended stay at a hotel in the small town.

Through her relationship with her new Amish friends, and her desire to lead a more simple life, Annie comes to have a deeper faith in God. In the beginning of the story, she is highly attached to her computer and cell phone. She begins to rethink her lifestyle as she spends time with the Beiler family.

Intertwined in the story of Annie and Rufus is the story of another family. Jakob and Verona Beyeler came to America from Europe on the Charming Nancy in 1737. Many facts in this story are true. The book’s author, Olivia Newport, is a descendant of this family.

Annie begins to research her family history and finds she is related to Jakob Beyeler, through the line of his second wife, Elizabeth Kallen. When Jakob’s first wife, Verona, died, she left him with five children, the youngest still a baby.

Annie’s business stays in tact. She sells it and buys a small house in the San Luis Valley. She is not ready to become Amish, but she wants to learn more about God and about His plans for her life. After pursuing her own dreams of success for many years and coming up empty, without many meaningful connections in her life, she wants to find out what it would be like to live a life directed by God.

Nothing is completely resolved in Accidentally Amish; it is only book 1 in the series. But the novel does end happily, even though there are people in Annie’s life who don’t understand or agree with her decisions.

I really enjoyed reading this novel because the plots of both stories are interesting and a bit mysterious. I loved the fact that one way of living was not declared the one and only way. The book pointed out positives and negatives of the Amish and non-Amish ideas. The main point of this story is that God wants each of us to follow Him in the way He leads. If he leads each one differently, that is OK.  I think this would be a helpful book for young adult women and enjoyable for all adults.

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.”

 

Book Reviews

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