Dare U 2 Open This Book by Carol McAdams Moore, interior design by David Conn, and published by Zonderkidz (2014) describes itself as a devotional. And for boys. I don’t think it works as a devotional, but I do think it is a good resource. I think parents, Sunday school teachers, and teachers in Christian schools should seriously consider using this book.

Each of the devotions is interactive. The child is asked to respond with doodling or filling in blanks or circling words, etc. Each devotion has scripture and many of the devotions suggest other Biblical passages for the child to read. The questions the reader is asked to respond to are worthwhile, direct, and often penetrating.

For example:”What if . . . you prayed to God? Just you and God. What would you say?” And, “What if . . . you are way more worried about what people say than what the Bible teaches? How can you award God first place?” And, “What if . . . you are telling your bud about God. How would you describe him?” And, “What if . . . someone did wrong to you—big time (or even small time)?”

There aren’t a lot of words on the two-page spreads. This can be good. Kids can get lost in words, be overwhelmed by the number of them on a page, and so just not respond. (I think they figure why should they respond. Everything’s been said.)

But the amount of space on the pages of Dare U 2 Open This Book invites a child in. The child can fill it in. And being asked often to draw (doodle) his responses gives the reader an opportunity to discover and express attitudes, beliefs, and feelings that he might not yet have found words for.

Now a problem–I don’t think a boy (or girl) will want to do this every day. And devotionals are usually touted as a daily activity. I think they will get bored with the format and then just rush through a devotion to get it done. That would be a waste! These exercises are too rich, too worthwhile for that. But if used in a homeschooling situation a couple of times a week, I think such a devotion would be welcomed and become meaningful.

The book could also be used by Sunday school teachers and teachers in Christian schools. The ideas and questions presented in Dare U 2 Open This Book could supplement an existing lesson on a particular topic or help build an original lesson. This book would be a good resource for that.

Another problem–The publisher recommends the book for 8- to 12-year-olds. I think it is more appropriate for boys 10 to 14 years old. Many of the questions, if dealt with honestly, are quite revealing. Very young boys, younger than eight years old, do not have a strongly developed sense of self and so they won’t mind answering the questions. But boys 8 to10 years old are beginning to develop an identity. Asking probing questions on a daily basis may be just too much probing. Older boys won’t want it on a daily basis either. However, in small doses they will find the questions intriguing and useful as they begin to look around at the world and begin searching for their place in it. 

Dare U 2 Open This Book—worth checking out. 

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.    

The Children of Willesden Lane, Young Readers Edition, written by Mona Golabek and Lee Cohen, adapted by Emil Sher, published by Little, Brown and Company (2017) is a biography of a Jewish teen in World War II. The story is told by Mona Golabek, the daughter of the young woman.

As the book opens, we meet Lisa Jura, a fourteen-year-old girl on her way across Vienna to her piano lesson. Lisa loves music and she loves playing the piano. Her teacher says she has a remarkable gift. Lisa is stunned and tearful when at the end of her lesson he tells her that he can no longer teach her. “‘There is a new ordinance,’ he said slowly. ‘It is now a crime to teach a Jewish child.'”

It is November 1938. The Anschluss that had taken place months before is making life for the Jewish citizens of Vienna precarious. On November 9, Kristallnacht, Lisa and her younger sister, Sonia, see from their window the sky “red with the flames of burning buildings” and hear the breaking of glass. Moments later, Lisa watches her father mistreated by the Nazi storm troopers as he tries to put out the bonfires of burning possessions and books of his neighbors.

Lisa’s father obtains a ticket, only one ticket, for the Kindertransport, the Children’s Train. British citizens have pressured their government to bring thousands of children from Europe to safety in England. It is decided that Lisa will go immediately. They will send her sisters when they have enough money. Lisa’s mother makes Lisa promise, as she is boarding the train, that she will not give up on her music. 

Lisa is sent to live with a distant family member in London, but when she arrives that cousin is unable to take her into his home. This is the first of many difficulties that Lisa faces and overcomes.

After some months working as a chambermaid in the south of England, Lisa decides she must make something more of her life, and she must make more money so that she can bring Sonia to England. She goes to London. After listening to her, Mr. Hardesty, who works with the organization that helps the refugee children, places her in a hostel on Willesden Lane. Other Jewish refugee young people and children live in the hostel.

The hostel has a piano. On the day that Lisa gets a job in a garment factory she bravely sits down at the piano and plays. Mrs. Cohen, the matron, recognizing her skill, gives her permission to practice for an hour each day.

At the hostel Lisa makes friends with Aaron, Paul, Gina, and Gunther. They all become very important to each other—family. They help Lisa search for a sponsor for Sonia and watch out for each other. When Lisa later on decides to try to audition for admittance to the Royal Academy of Music, they help her prepare and cheer her on.

These are turbulent, demanding times. The children at Willesden Lane hear very little, if at all, from their parents in Europe. Sonia arrives on the last transport, but she goes to live with a family in Norwich. War breaks out. Rationing begins. London is bombed over and over again. At one point while Lisa is playing the piano and refusing to go into the shelter, the house is hit. The children must move temporarily to other houses. Paul and Aaron are mistaken for German spies and sent to the Isle of Man. Lisa and her friends meet these adversities and others and persevere.

I think the story of the children of Willensden Lane and especially Lisa’s story will encourage young people. They will like the grit of Lisa and her friends.

I think they may be impressed to learn that from December 1938 to September 1939, the Kindertransport brought nearly 10,000 children, of which 7,500 were Jewish, to Britain. Jewish and Christian citizens in Britain promised the British government that care for the children would be paid for by private citizens and organizations. Though some people may argue that it was too little, it was still something. It is important that we human beings recognize and value even seemingly small efforts.

I think teen readers will be touched too that many people, strangers sometimes, helped Lisa and her friends. The author points out in Lisa’s story that there were many people who showed kindness when it would have been easier and/or less risky to ignore the need. The owner of a bicycle shop sold Lisa the bicycle that she needed at less than half the initial asking price. Lisa’s Quaker neighbor, hearing Lisa’s fears about Sonia, obtained a sponsor for Sonia. Gunther’s employer went to the police station and vouched for Gunther’s loyalty when he was mistakenly picked up as a German spy.

After doing a little work on my own, I found the book’s readability to be more accurately placed in middle school than in the elementary school. Reviewers write that it is being read in middle school. However, despite its readability, I think the subject matter places it more in high school. It will be better understood by that age group and will have a greater positive influence on them.

These teen readers will more keenly identify with the experience of separating from family and will take courage and wisdom from Lisa’s journey toward adulthood. There is a friendship that becomes a romance between Aaron and Lisa which burns warmly but then dies. The telling of this aspect of her life is more appropriate and useful to older teens who are also learning about relationships. Also, because teen readers are beginning to have specific goals for their lives, they will relate more to Lisa’s goals, her doubts, her determination, and her hard work.

The Children of Willesden Lane is a good read, an important read for high schoolers.

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.

Psalms of Praise, A Movement Primer, written by Danielle Hitchen, art by Jessica Blanchard and published by Harvest House Publishers (2018), is a board book that will help teach your children “The central tenets of the Christian faith that they may never know a day apart from the Lord.”

For children, ages six months to five years, this book is colorful and something children would naturally be drawn to. It includes scriptures and shows pictures of children moving and being still. It emphasizes various descriptive movement words such as kneel, walk, run, jump along with others.

It includes bible verses with some of those words in them. For example, one of the pages shows children dancing and clapping. The scriptures are “Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy! Psalm 47:1, and “Let them praise his name with dancing.” Psalm 149:3. 

Our eleven-month-old grandson lives with us at the moment and I read this book to him every day. It is so important to read God’s word to children, no matter how young.

My grandson loves the bright colorful pictures and the sound of the words. I know that repetition is important for young children, and eventually helps them to memorize God’s word. I especially love the page that features this verse, “I run in the path of your commandments, for you have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32.

On the back of the book, you will find references to the different Bible versions used in this little story. I believe your children and grandchildren will love Psalms of Praise.

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. They recently 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.

Wow! The Good News in Four Words, written by Dandi Daley Mackall, illustrated by Annabel Tempest and published by Tyndale Kids (2017) is a picture book. It is not, however, a book that contains only four words. Mackall uses four words: wow, uh-oh, yes, and ahh to help children give voice to their feelings about concepts in the gospel story.

For example, the book starts at the very Beginning with a “Wow” reaction to God’s creation. It moves to “Uh-oh” and the disobedience of the first man and woman. Mackall uses “Yes” to encapsulate our feelings to God’s plan for our rescue from sin, and she uses “Ahh” to express the wonderfulness of our life in Jesus.

The book is written for children ages 4 to 7 and presents the gospel in a succinct and clear way that children can understand and cling to. It says about our sin and His redemption: “We have to say, ‘Uh-oh.’ We’re in a bad place. We can’t earn God’s favor or talk face-to-face. . . Yes. But God had a wonderful, masterful plan: “I’ll pay for their sin, because only I can. I’ll save the whole world. . . by becoming a man.”

Mackall in her note to parents encourages them to have children shout out the four words as the parent reads them. I think this will be fun for the kids. It makes the story a little interactive and like music, it will make the story more memorable.

The illustrations are fun, colorful, engaging and full of energy. They are definitely kid-friendly.

The book has nice rhyme and is quite readable. Grandparents might consider purchasing it and reading it to their “grands” via Skype. It’s another possibility for Easter fun.

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.

Passover this year, 2021, begins at sundown on Saturday, March 27, and ends at sundown on Sunday, April 4. (That’s interesting because April 4 is also Easter Sunday. I will have to ponder that.) I think it’s valuable for Christians to know about Passover. It nourishes our souls to know that God makes promises and keeps them in the most extraordinary ways.

Patsy has found a fun, interactive book for children (you’ll have fun too) that tells about the origin of Passover and how Jews celebrate it.  We also recommend Walk with Y’shua Through the Jewish Year and Exodus. — Nancy

ABC Passover Hunt, written by Tilda Balsley, illustrated by Helen Poole, and published by Kar-Ben Publishing (2016), isn’t your everyday picture book. The first page says, “An alphabet Passover scene. Find all the letters in between!” The last page reads, ” Z’man cheruteinu……We celebrate that we are free! Happy Passover to every family!”

On each page of this book and for each letter of the alphabet, there is a word pertaining to Jewish history, the Bible or the Passover holiday. The book uses questions and colorful, cartoon-like drawings to explain aspects of Passover and its celebration. For example, the question on the “B” page asks what was baby Moses’ boat on the Nile. The drawing on the page shows a box, an inner tube, a leaf, a rowboat, a rubber ducky, and a basket. The child guesses which was Moses’ boat. The answers to all of the questions are at the end of the book.

I found ABC Passover Hunt interesting and fun, with poems that rhyme and that describe what is being conveyed. Pictures depict Bible characters, food used in the Passover meal, maps, families celebrating together, etc. There are some Hebrew letters and words. One of the questions for the letter N is “Nisan…..This is the month that Passover’s in. On which day does it begin?” As I mentioned before, all the answers are on the last page of the book, in addition to a paragraph entitled “About Passover.”

This book describes and illustrates Passover in a very clear way that young children can understand. The best age of readers would be from four to twelve years. I learned a lot from this 32-page book and I hope you will as well.

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. They recently 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.

Who doesn’t want a little candy at Easter? Just a chocolate egg? Or two? OK, maybe three. So, we’re doing the candy thing, right? Because Easter is a sweet time.

But there’s a sweeter gift—God gave us the gift of forgiveness and new life–enabling us to be members of His Kingdom and daughters and sons of His Heart. Children need books that help them know about this sweet gift for their souls.

The Bright Light and the Super Scary Darkness written by Dan Dewitt, illustrated by Rea Zhai and published by B&H Kids (2020) uses a poetic approach, looking at darkness and light and echoing the words of John, Chapter 1. This picture book begins by talking to the child about the fear of darkness. Almost all children will relate. Then, as the Bible does, the author likens sin to a kind of darkness. The story says that this kind of darkness entered the world with Adam and Eve. In the next pages it explains that it grew. “It seemed like the darkness was definitely winning.”

The reader then turns the page and receives hope. “But God had not forgotten His people. When the time was right . . .” And then turning the next page . . . “God sent the child of light! . . .His name was Jesus.”

It seems again that darkness wins when Jesus is killed, but then we are told that the darkness is really a scaredy-cat. More than that the darkness has lost–Jesus is alive.

I think you and the kids are going to love this book. The illustrations are evocative, but kid-friendly. There is enough detail to ground the story in the actual events, but it moves beyond and gives us an overall picture of the battle between light and darkness. The book is comforting and reassuring– the light of Jesus wins for those of us who trust in Him. The book is appropriate for children, ages 4-8.

The Easter story, half of the two-books-in-one, from B&H Kids (2016) is One Big Story Jesus Saves His People. B&H Kids calls the package a Flip Over Book. (Turn to the back cover and change its orientation and you will find and be able to read the Christmas story–One Big Story Birth of a King.)

Another interesting feature of this two-books-in-one is that while most pages have full color illustrations, some pages have elements left uncolored. The child can color those elements in and so, interact in an even bigger way with the story.

The stories are well told and child-friendly. Jesus Saves His People relies heavily on Matthew to talk about Easter morning so you may have to do a little thinking and then talking about why this account varies from the accounts in other gospels. Children will wonder about the variations. (I used to wonder too, but after putting together the pieces I think I know how it went.) This soft-covered book would be appropriate for children ages 4-8.

There are other Easter books that we can recommend. Check out Easter books in the Book Lists.

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.

Jane Kirkpatrick’s exciting story, This Road We Traveled, published by Revell (2016) is based on the life of an actual person. The author writes, “The Oregon State Capitol honors 158 people with their names engraved throughout the rotunda. Only six names honor women. One is Tabitha Moffat Brown, or Tabby.”

The Oregon legislature in 1987 named Tabitha Brown the Mother of Oregon. Brown, they wrote represents the distinctive pioneer heritage, and the charitable and compassionate nature of Oregon’s people.”

Tabitha Brown cared for children on the Tualatin Plains following the tragedy of the Whitman Mission in the Oregon Territory in 1847. At that time a large number of emigrants were killed by the Cayuse Indians, leaving many children without parents. Tabitha Brown pushed to establish an orphanage, and then a school and university. This Road We Traveled tells of her experiences traveling from Missouri to Oregon with two of her children and their families and her days of opportunity in Oregon.

Tabby Brown is a widow in her sixties when this historical novel begins. She has also lost one of her sons when he was a young boy. She is full of faith, but she can be blunt and outspoken. She knows the Lord is refining her though the trials of life.

Her remaining children are Orus, Manthano and Pherne. She has over twenty grandchildren, but the one she is closest to is Pherne’s daughter, Virgilia, named after her father Virgil. All of Tabby’s family, except for Manthano and his family, decide to follow Orus on the Oregon Trail. He has just returned after a journey of several years, where he scouted out the area.

At first, he is opposed to his mother Tabby coming along, claiming that at age 65 and with a foot injured since childhood, it would be too dangerous. Tabby is not about to be left behind, so she hires a young oxen driver named Judson Morrow, and convinces her brother-in-law, John, to accompany her. 

Pherne and her mother are very close, and she is happy Tabby will be joining them. If it was up to Pherne, she would stay right where she was. She is happy and comfortable in Missouri, and besides, the grave of her baby, Oliver, who had passed away at nine months, is there. Yet, she complies with her husband Virgil’s wishes and sets off with the rest of them in the spring. 

The trip begins uneventfully. It is hot and boring, but nothing notable happens until later on in their journey. They start to run low on food and supplies. As the months drag on and winter approaches, things become worse. At one point, Tabby and John and their driver, Judson, decide to venture on ahead by themselves, so as not to be a burden to Pherne and her family who have always been just a short distance ahead of them. The story is very suspenseful. You find yourself wondering how they will ever make it though.

After many close calls, Tabby and the group arrive in Salem, Oregon and settle there for a while. Later on, Tabby travels to another area, close to her oldest son Orus, and there she becomes involved in helping others, especially children who have been orphaned.

Tabby is happy there, and her faith increases each day as she seeks to follow the Lord’s will for her. She prays for His guidance. He leads her to start an orphanage and to accomplish many other notable things.

I enjoyed this book so much. It was fun to read about a funny creative and feisty lady my age. This Road We Traveled would be best read by readers eighteen and above. I know you will like 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. They recently 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.

God Thinks You’re Wonderful!, written by Max Lucado with cute illustrations by Chris Shea and published by Thomas Nelson (2003), is a very small but mighty book! It is about half the size of a regular book, but it would make a very special gift for both children and adults. It would be great for readers aged nine and above. I, myself, received the book from a good friend, and it encouraged me.

There is only a sentence or two on each page telling you how wonderful you are in God’s eyes. These thoughts are helpful to all of us. We often forget, or do not take the time to think about how God really feels about us. Some of the pages contain a scripture statement, such as Isaiah 49:16, “I have written your name on my Hand.” Others have simple thoughts like “Our hearts are not large enough to contain the blessings that God wants to give.”

For me, this little reminder helped me to see my cup as half full, rather than half empty. When I start counting my blessings, I realize that they are more and greater than I can number. Even though we all experience pain and suffering, the riches we have in Christ, as His children, are tremendous.

I lost my oldest son four months ago, and when I feel overwhelmed, a very simple thought can encourage me. I found many of those thoughts in this book. One of them is, “You were deliberately planned, specifically gifted and lovingly positioned on this earth.” Another one is, “If there’s a tree in heaven, he’s carved your name in the bark.”  I know the Lord will never leave us or forsake us. This little book is so helpful to keep me reminded of that.

I know you will enjoy God Thinks You’re Wonderful! as I did and, also, find joy in giving it away.

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. They recently 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.

Short stories that enrich, entertain, and nurture children are not always easy to find.

Desert Fires Press hopes you and your kids will find such stories at their site. https://www.desertfirespress.com/

We know some Valentine gifts that you can give or send to your loved ones. Bless them with your love and inspire their souls to receive God’s love.

For young children, consider Today and Always, This is True, God Loves You.

For children in the lower grades of elementary school, You Are Special will delight them.

For the upper elementary school child in your life, I like Notes from Jesus.

For teen girls we recommend Adored 365 Devotions for Young Women.

For young men we like The Boys in the Boat.

For your college age girl/working person we suggest a book of short stories: 21 Days of Love.

Book Reviews

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