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From Kristina–Summer reading is important as well as fun. Students engaging in this activity practice and improve their reading skills. It is the opportunity to have an unlikely adventure or read a teacher’s recommendation. Teachers often put together a reading list for their students based on certain types of literature. It is also a great opportunity for parents to rediscover reading and literature with their children.

I encourage children of all ages and parents to check out their local library. Many local libraries offer summer reading programs. Such programs give students a reading goal for the summer. Children are often asked to write a report about a book. Younger children draw a picture. Reading provides an alternative to the digital media realm, and an opportunity for children to learn from some great literature.

From Nancy– We’ve put together several lists–one for middle grade readers, one for YA and parents, and one especially for boys.

Reading a non-fiction book or a novel together can be great family fun and a terrific summertime activity. So why not choose a couple of books and give the TV and the video games a rest. Take your family on an armchair holiday/adventure. Listen to your own voices as you take turns reading to each other. It could be a very special time for all of you.

I asked Books 4 Christian Kids reviewers to recommend some books for such an activity. Here is the list. (The titles are linked to the review. Other titles for middle graders or YA may be found by selecting Book Lists on the Menu at top. For road trips check into audio books. Our review of Little Women will surely whet your appetite for such material.)

Anna’s Fight for Hope
The Avion My Uncle Flew
Chancey of Maury River
Cheaper by the Dozen
Escape from Warsaw
Hidden Figures Young Readers’ Edition
Horse to Love, A
I Get a Clue
In Grandma’s Attic
The Incredible Journey
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Jungle Doctor Meets a Lion
Little Lord Fauntleroy

McKenna
Meet Josephina
Meet Kaya
Mustang, Wild Spirit of the West 
Nanea: Growing Up with Aloha
Nick Newton Is Not a Genius
Pollyanna
Running with Roselle
Sarah, Plain and Tall
Scout
Secret Garden, The
The Tarantula in My Purse and 172 Other Wild Pets
The Trumpet of the Swan

We All Get a Clue
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase

You and your older teen might enjoy reading the same book and then talking about it. Here are a few suggestions:

9 Slightly Strange Stories with an Uplifting Edge
Emma
Found in Translation
God’s Smuggler
Mere Christianity
Night Flight
Night of the Cossack
Oxygen
Scarlet Pimpernel, The
Sophie’s Heart
Soul Surfer
Through Rushing Waters
Zookeeper’s Wife, The

You can find other titles by selecting the Book Lists on the Menu at the top.

Boys do read and here are 2 lists of books we’ve recommended that boys might enjoy. (The lists do overlap with a number of titles from the lists above.) Girls might like these books as well. We are suggesting these particular books for boys because most of them have male protagonists. (Some books appear on two lists. We thought they were appropriate for both age groups.) FYI: Some of the books such as The City Bear’s Adventures, Jungle Doctor Meets A Lion, Full Metal Trench Coat, etc. are part of a series.

Middle Grade Books

Adventures of Pearley Monroe
Avion My Uncle Flew
Babe the Gallant Pig
The Children’s Book of America
The City Bear’s Adventures
Danger on Panther Peak
Dragon and Thief
Escape from Warsaw
The Forgotten Door
Full Metal Trench Coat
Hatchet
Hero Tales
Incredible Journey, The
Journey Under the Sea
Jungle Doctor Meets a Lion
Operation Rawhide
Nick Newton Is Not a Genius
Night of the Cossack
Running with Roselle
Spam Alert
The Tarantula in My Purse and 172 Other Wild Pets
Tim Tebow: A Promise Kept
Trumpet of the Swan, The
Two Mighty Rivers: Son Of Pocahontas
World War II Pilots

Young Adult Books

Ben Hur
Boys, in the Boat, The
The Bronze Bow
The City of Tranquil Light
Escape from Warsaw
Escape to Witch Mountain
God’s Smuggler
Journey Under the Sea
Les Miserables
Night Flight
Night of the Cossack
9 Slightly Strange Stories with an Uplifting Edge
Robinson Crusoe
7 Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness
Tim Tebow: A Promise Kept
Thunder Dog

If you are wondering about books that you have heard about, don’t know about and don’t find on this blog, take a look at Focus on the Family’s online book reviews. The reviews will give you useful information and discussion topics for specific titles. Notice that the reviews are for information purposes and not necessarily recommendations.

Happy Summer Reading!!!!

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

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

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The Summer Kitchen (Blue Sky Hill Series), by Lisa Wingate and published by New American Library (2009), will open your eyes to the needs around you and teach you many important life lessons.

The story starts out by introducing the main character, Sandra Kaye Darden.  She has just experienced some trauma. Her beloved uncle, nicknamed Poppy, has died. Her treasured, adopted son, Jake, has left and she hasn’t heard from him in six months. He had been attending Southern Methodist University in Texas. All she knows is that he abandoned his car at the airport and bought a ticket to Guatemala, the land of his birth.  Sandra has another son, Christopher, who is a junior in high school. Her husband, Rob, a doctor, wanted both boys to be pre-Med.

Sandra Kaye lives in Plano, but each day she crosses town to work on her uncle’s house in Dallas. She isn’t quite ready to let it go, so she has told the real estate agent she will paint it and do some other minor repairs. Her mother, who has been a great disappointment to Sandra due to her abuse of various medications, owns Poppy’s house.

On one of Sandra’s trips to a nearby store, she notices a tall young girl, who looks about junior high age. The girl, Cass Sally Blue, is twelve and she has a brother, Rusty, who is seventeen. When their mother passed away last year, they ran away from their stepfather, believing him to be dangerous and unstable. They are trying to make it on their own, with Rusty working full time. Rusty has just brought into the house, Kiki, a young adult, and her daughter, Opal, who were living in an unsafe situation.

In the weeks to come, Cass becomes attached to Opal and they meet up with Sandra Kay. Sandra sees they are in need. She also sees the needs of the other neighbor children. She makes up a bag of sandwiches to bring them each day. Eventually, Cass comes to spend time at Poppy’s house with Sandra and help with the chores.

Sandra eventually tells her son, Christopher and best friend, Holly, that she is involved in feeding the neighborhood children. They too become involved and begin to serve daily lunches to many of the neighbors. So far, Sandra’s husband does not know about her ministry. She finally gets the nerve to tell him, and although skeptical, he does not forbid her to continue.

When the need of Cass Sally Blue becomes overwhelming, Sandra’s husband gets on board with his wife. Their relationship is strengthened, moving to a whole new level.  Christopher, who was always silent about his true feelings, becomes bold and shares them with his father. He also sheds light on why Jake may have left.

In the end, all is well and a wonderful new ministry begins in Poppy’s neighborhood. Hope replaces hurt and heartbreak; lives are redeemed.

I loved reading this book. It was rich with spiritual truth and gave me many tools for growth. The author, Lisa Wingate, has a wonderful way of driving points home in a very subtle way. She makes you get outside your comfort zone and think about how you can find purpose by helping others in need.

She also points out the reality of family living. It is not always perfect, and sometimes, just plain agonizing. She makes you think about growing out of your fears and failures and moving on to all that God has planned for you. I would recommend this book for women, ages 18 and above.

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.”

Wonderland Creek, was written by the amazingly talented Lynn Austin and published by Bethany House Publishers (2011). This novel will delight your heart and it will also get it pounding. I read the suspenseful scenes, hoping for a peaceful outcome, but I read the book as slowly as possible because I didn’t want to finish it. Every sentence is packed with either fun, hilarity or suspense. The novel centers around twenty-two-year-old Alice Grace Ripley of Blue Island, Illinois, and takes place in 1936, during the Great Depression.

Alice loves books and is always reading some dramatic story.  She is the daughter of Reverend Horace Ripley, who encourages her to help others as much as she can. She is also dating Gordon T. Walters, the son of a funeral director. Her best friend, Freddy, is a school teacher. Within the first few pages of the story, Alice’s boyfriend Gordon breaks up with her, believing she is not grounded enough in reality.  She also looses her job at the library, due to cutbacks because of the Depression.

She thinks her life is over, until she finds out her very rich Aunt Lydia and Uncle Cecil will be traveling through Kentucky to a spa and hot springs in the Appalachian Mountains for two weeks. This gives Alice an idea. She has been collecting books for the poor folks in the backwoods of Kentucky. She has also been corresponding with a librarian there, Leslie MacDougal.  Alice thinks this would be a perfect way to escape her town for a while, and forget her problems. Her aunt and uncle agree to drop her off on their way to the spa, and return for her in two weeks.

The car ride is long and tedious, and when they reach the town of Acorn, it is so small, they don’t even know they are there. They do however find the library and leave Alice at the door with her boxes of books and a suitcase. Alice knocks and a very grumpy man answers, not knowing who she is. When she explains she wrote to the librarian, Leslie MacDougal, saying she had books to donate and time to offer in the library, the man says . . . “Yes, you did, and I told you not to come!”

The man is the librarian and tells her he has no room for her. He also informs her the town has no hotel, no restaurant, no train station, no telephone, no electricity and no running water!  But because her aunt and uncle have already driven off, Leslie has no choice but to take Alice in and offer his room, sparse though it is. Her first dinner consists of pork and beans slathered between two slices of bread. He informs her there is an outhouse in the backyard.

Alice is distraught. This is not at all what she imagined. She is not sure how she will “survive” until her aunt and uncle return.

Soon Alice discovers there is an elderly lady, Miss Lilly, living on the top floor of the library. Alice thinks Lilly, who is 100 years old,  is weak and frail, but then she finds out more about her and how much of a fighter this little person really is. Lilly is the resident prayer warrior and herb healer. She is also like a mother to Leslie. Leslie, who calls himself Mack, lost his parents when he was quite young.

On Alice’s second day in town, Mack is shot. The bullet goes right through him!  There is no doctor for miles around, so Alice and Lilly must care for him and try to stop the bleeding.

As if this isn’t enough for Alice, Lilly and Mack try to get Alice to agree to make it look like an accident, have him die, and stage a mock funeral. Mack believes he was shot because someone is upset with him. He thinks if he doesn’t fake his own death, the person will return and attempt to  harm him again, putting Alice and Lilly at risk.  Alice thinks they are absolutely crazy, but she agrees to remain silent.

In the next few days, the things these folks ask Alice to do are absolutely unbelievable and outrageous. She finds herself wrapped up in a real life drama, not just imagining the drama in the lives of the characters of whatever book she is reading. Her trip ends up to be a little longer than she had originally planned. I don’t want to give away any of the ending, but I will say it all ends perfectly. Alice finally knows why the Lord wanted her to take this trip.

At the beginning of the book, Alice’s faith is weak, but by the end, she has learned to lean on the Lord in many ways. She spends time helping and encouraging many in the area. She comes to care for them and enjoy being with them. She even learns to ride a horse and takes books up steep hills to those who are living far from the library.

I enjoyed the deeper parts of this story as Miss Lilly shared with Alice a lifetime of trusting in God.  I’m sure you will enjoy this book as much as I did.

However, there is one aspect of the book, I had trouble with. Alice begins a relationship with a young man. He is charming and cheerful and Alice enjoys kissing him. But I thought she didn’t take the relationship seriously. Her reaction when it is over it is rather flippant. She doesn’t question whether she should kiss him or not. She just thought she would have an adventure, go home and that would be the end of it. If that is how she felt, I don’t think she had any business kissing him to begin with. Her attitude is immature and not grounded in reality. For this reason, this romance novel  would probably be best read by women 21 and above.

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.”

 

In Peculiar Treasures by Robin Jones Gunn and published by Zondervan (2008), quirky, red-headed Katie Weldon is finishing up her junior year of college at Rancho Corona. Her best friend, Christy Miller, is recently married. Katie is in a dating relationship with Rick Doyle, the boy she has had a crush on since high school. As she works to define her relationship with Rick, another guy whom she nicknames “goatee guy” arrives on the scene and challenges Katie’s perceptions.

Struggling with finances, Katie is given a new job as a resident advisor in the dorm, but it takes her away from Rick. Their efforts to draw closer seem to push them further apart. As Katie juggles her responsibilities of work and school, her relationship with Rick becomes a roller coaster.

Other troubles arise as she adjusts to her new job and the conflicts it brings. Katie realizes she must learn to forgive others in order to receive into her heart the peculiar treasures God has given her.

Peculiar Treasures is the first book of four in the Katie Weldon series. I enjoyed this series because it realistically portrays how God works in someone’s life. It showed how God prepares you for the things He wants you to do by weaving the desires of your heart into His plan. And even when things don’t seem to work out, there is a purpose for them in your life which can help you grow. Also, Katie and Rick’s relationship in the stories provides a good, Christian model to follow.

We are recommending Peculiar Treasures for older teens and college-age students. It is categorized as a romance, but it is not a typical romance.  The series continues with On a Whim, Coming Attractions and Finally & Forever.

Books 4 Christian Kids also reviewed two other books by Robin Jones Gunn Summer Promise and A Whisper and a Wish . These novels follow Katie’s best friend, Christy Miller.

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. 

 

 

 

A Horse to Love written by Marsha Hubler (Keystone Stables) and published by Zonderkidz (2004, 2009) is a page-turner.

Skye Nicholson is a troubled teen. When the novel opens, her life is at a crossroads. A judge is about to sentence her to a juvenile detention center. Though only thirteen, this is not Skye’s first run in with the law. She already has a criminal record and the attitude to match. But God sees beyond Skye’s past and beneath her anger. He steps into her life in the form of Eileen Chambers, her husband and their special needs dude ranch. The Chambers offer to be Skye’s new foster parents.

At the dude ranch Skye learns to ride and care for a Quarter horse—Champ. Skye’s growing love for Champ and the horse’s affection for her have a positive effect on her. She decides to keep the rules that the Chambers have laid out because it means that she can be with Champ. But it is not only the horse that helps Skye grow and change.

The Chambers, a Christian couple, respect and encourage her while still being clear and firm. Morgan, another foster child living with the Chambers, also helps Skye see the world differently. Despite being in a wheelchair and abandoned a number of years ago by her mother because of her disability, Morgan is determined to make the most of her life, to have dreams and to follow them.

Skye’s changes do not come effortlessly–for anyone. She has been hurt and she is on the defensive. There are strong temptations for her; and there are missteps. Readers (I think it is best suited to readers, 11- to 13-year-olds) will root for Skye, watching her wrestle with her decisions, struggling with her, and hoping that she will find a way to accept and embrace the better life that is being offered to her. (FYI: the novel does end on a high note.)

This is the first novel in a series of eight. I think if your child enjoys this novel, they will want to read more books in the series. Reading the blurbs on the other novels, I see that the child-characters often deal with issues that are quite serious. This type of “realistic” writing is very, very popular in the secular market. This might concern you. You are not alone. It troubles me. Kids, in my opinion, are being inundated with books that portray some of the more extreme elements of teen life. The kids are not prepared emotionally or psychologically to deal with this flood. I think we would be wise to be choosy about how many and which books we promote to the kids.

That said, I am impressed with the way that Marsha Hubler handles the problems of a troubled teen. Letting the reader see God in action was thrilling and uplifting. I expect that other books in the series will also help young readers know something of life’s harsher experiences, but not frighten them. In the stories they will see that He is with us.

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.

Happy Easter!!!!

From Nancy —Spring Break is upon us in some parts of the country. I think a good read, an escape from school work, is definitely called for. And for teens and better upper elementary school readers, what could be more inspiring than Ben Hur? Here’s Donna’s review of this great classic.

Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace, is a much beloved and acclaimed story read by millions. It begins with a retelling of the nativity of Christ and then moves into the life of Judah Ben Hur, a wealthy young man living in first century Jerusalem. Messala, his boyhood friend and a Roman, returns from soldiering, changed in his view of the world. When he cannot convince Ben Hur to embrace his cause, Messala betrays his friend, sending him on a journey through trials and victories. Eventually the two men face each other once more, meeting as opponents in a high-stakes chariot race.

Now also a man, Christ re-enters the narrative. His gentle influence has a profound effect on Ben Hur. Wallace illustrates how choices for good or evil, when fully embraced, mark a person’s life.

The author tells a compelling tale, particularly in his ability to define the inner journey, not only of the hero, but also of a large cast of supporting characters. Vivid scenes stay with the reader after the book is closed. However, the style of writing reflects the tastes of Wallace’s time (1880s). By current standards it may seem wordy and slow. The point of view is omniscient, which is rarely employed in contemporary books. Although historical and political details are meticulously researched, personal and cultural descriptions seem more imaginative than realistic.

Another feature distinguishing Ben Hur from modern novels is the explanation, once conflicts are past, of what happens to characters followed faithfully through its pages. Ben Hur, rather than leaving the reader wanting more, offers satisfaction that the story is complete.

Donna Fujimoto is a graduate of Alliance Theological Seminary. She has published both devotionals for adults and short stories for teens. Her children love to read.

The World Is Awake: A Celebration of Everyday Blessings, is written by Linsey Davis with Joseph Bottum, illustrated by Lucy Fleming and published by Zonderkidz (2018). This picture book will bless you and your child. It will lift your spirits as you read it together. It calls us to joy and it helps to open our eyes to the goodness God has provided for us.

This is a happy book. It begins with “This is the day the Lord has made,” and then invites us to awaken to the everyday wonders around us. The book emphasizes the variety in nature: trees, birds, insects, fish in a pond, rainbows, fields of flowers. All these speak of God and His grace. We are invited to notice His creation. We are invited to enjoy, to come out and play.

A trip to the zoo broadens our vision of God’s creation and we encounter a diversity of animals and enjoy their antics. The day continues with a stop at the market and a range of good food that is available–“for God always provides us with wonderful treats.” It ends soothingly with nighttime sounds (“I hear God’s love in the sound of the breeze”) and prayers, making it a terrific bedtime book.

With a naturalness that is refreshing, The World Is Awake goes beyond nature, animals and food in celebrating the diversity of God’s creation. The main characters, a little boy and a little girl, are African-American. The people at the zoo are old, young, and many races. In an interview Ms. Davis said she purposely wanted to create a book in which her son could see himself. (She said when he saw the illustrations he became very excited because he thought they were of him.)

The illustrations by Lucy Fleming are colorful, active and child-friendly. There’s a joyfulness to them that invite us into that world. The text which is rhythmic and in rhyme is easy to read and will be fun to listen to. The World Is Awake will, I think, best appeal to children ages 3 to 7.

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.

 

The Parable of the Lily by Liz Curtis Higgs, illustrated by Nancy Munger and published by Thomas Nelson Publishers (2007) is a picture book. On the surface it tells a simple story—a child’s rejection of a gift. But The Parable of the Lily  has a deep truth to share. The story may help your child connect on an emotional level with Jesus and the Easter story.

On a cold, snowy day a little girl receives a letter that a gift is being sent to her. Maggie eagerly waits for it. Finally, it arrives. But it surprises and disappoints her. How Maggie discovers the gift’s value and her response to her discovery is the rest of the story.

Bible verses on each page-spread link Maggie’s story with the story of Jesus and His resurrection. This simple story depicts the emotional responses of the people of the first century to the Father’s wonderful gift of Jesus. But the story does not just show the responses of people long ago. People today still reject God’s gift.

The watercolor and pencil illustrations are colorful and gently evocative. Important emotions and actions are vividly portrayed. Munger has also added sweet, humorous touches to her pages by depicting friendly animals that watch the actions of the main characters and sometimes even participate in the unfolding story.

Books 4 Christian Kids has other suggestions of Easter books that you might want to share with your dear ones.

God Gave Us Easter
Easter Surprise
My Easter Basket: And the True Story of Easter
The Easter Story
An Easter Gift for Me
The Legend of the Sand Dollar

I also like the magnificently illustrated Exodus which tells the story of Passover. The drama of God’s deliverance of the Israelites will capture the imaginations of older children. When they learn in Sunday school or from you that it is linked to the Easter story, their faith in God and His love will also grow.

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.

 

7 Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness was written by Eric Metaxas and published by Thomas Nelson (2016). In this book, best-selling author Eric Metaxas tells of seven men who allowed God to use them as a vessel to do great things. Some changed the course of human history; some stood up when no one else would; and, all made a sacrifice for faith. The seven men are George Washington, William Wilberforce, Eric Liddell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jackie Robinson, Pope John Paul II  and Charles W. Colson.

George Washington, refused the temptation to become king of the United States, after the American colonies defeated the British during the Revolutionary War. At the time, the young nation was vulnerable, and most likely would have accepted a king. Instead, Washington retired from military service. He was selected to represent Virginia at the Constitutional Convention, where he was elected as the convention president. Later in 1789, he was voted in as the first president under the Constitution.

William Wilberforce was partly raised by his Methodist aunt and uncle. They introduced him to the teachings of John Newton, a former slave trade captain. While serving as a member of the House of Commons, Wilberforce experienced a revival of the beliefs and teachings he knew as young boy. He made it his personal mission to get the House of Commons to pass a law banning the slave trade in the British Empire.

Eric Liddell was born to British missionaries serving in China. Though it might mean that he would lose his chance to win an Olympic gold medal, he refused to go against his religious convictions of observing the Sunday sabbath. He also became a missionary to China during the 1930’s and 1940’s. When others left that war-torn country, he did not.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German theologian. He believed the Jews were God’s people. He gave up safety in the United States to go back to Germany, to stand up to the Nazis and to speak out against the their treatment of the Jews. He was arrested, imprisoned for some time and later executed.

Jackie Robinson was born to sharecroppers in Georgia. A few months later his father left. Jackie’s mother saved money to move her family to Southern California where the children grew up. The Robinson boys were active in sports and grew up with the Bible. A Methodist preacher led Jackie Robinson to the Lord.

It was discovered as time passed that Jackie was a great baseball player. If he had been white, he would have been drafted, but at the time there were no African-American players in the major leagues. All of that changed when Robinson met Branch Rickey, who would sign him to the Brooklyn Dodgers. Jackie was selected because Rickey saw him as a Christian and a man who could hold his silence, letting the crowd not get to him.

In spring of 1946, it was official–Robinson would play in the major leagues in the Dodgers organization. He played and remained silent despite the mean words said. Within a few weeks the entire Brooklyn team was on Jackie’s side.

Pope John Paul II (Karol Wojtyla) grew up a Polish Catholic. During the first part of the German occupation of Poland, he worked in the industrial labor field to make a living for himself and his elderly father. One day he came home from work and found his father had died. Devastated, Karol prayed all night. Out of the sad events he realized his true calling and decided to enter the priesthood. This was a great risk during the Nazi occupation. Twice during these years of studying at secret seminaries he almost lost his life.

In the summer of 1978, now a cardinal, Karol Wojtyla voted in conclave for a new pope, but he never thought he would become pope as well. Within 33 days of that election, another conclave was called as the new pope had died. Cardinal Wojtyla had no idea that he would face a decision that would change his life. He was elected pope. He said “It is God’s will, I accept.”

Charles W. Colson, as a young man, worked hard to get Richard Nixon elected. After the election of 1972, it became evident that the White House was involved in a scandal. Colson was charged with obstruction of justice, plead guilty and was sentenced to prison. Prior to entering prison he had an encounter with God leaving him praying for his salvation. In prison he began to lead Bible studies and prayer groups. When he was released, the prisoners said do not forget us. He did not. He founded the ministry Prison Fellowship.

Each of these seven men God used to change the world. Merely ordinary men, all answered the call when God used them to influence history.

I encourage you, high school boys, to read 7 Men, discuss your own interests, and consider how God can use you to do amazing things. Who knows, you might be in a history book one day. Even if you are not, God would like to use you in many good ways.  For me the verse that comes to mind when writing this is Jeremiah 29:11.

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

Ten Little Night Stars, written by Deb Gruelle, illustrated by Gabi Murphy and published by Zondervan (2018) is a bedtime book. It is also a counting book. Easy to read aloud, this rhyming book for children two- to five-years-old cleverly keeps you turning the page to complete the rhyme. And guess what? A number (from one to ten) is the word that completes the rhyme. Small children will love anticipating the number, saying it with you and then counting the stars shining in the window on that page.

Murphy’s illustrations are colorful, sweet and child-friendly. Animal mommies and daddies and their young child perform bedtime activities such as brushing teeth, saying prayers, reading a book, wriggling into jammies. The animals shown are friendly, happy monkeys, lions, bears, hippos, elephants, etc. As I mentioned above, the number of stars shining through the window into the animal-child’s room correspond to the number on the page.

Ten Little Night Stars will sweetly help both child and parent unwind from their day. The book has just enough anticipation and surprise to keep it fun and interesting, but not so much that it will excite and stir the child up. The text and the pictures gently lead the child to bed and to rest.

Books 4 Christian Kids has looked at other bedtime books and so I am listing a couple of them. A child often wants more than one story at bedtime, right?

A Night Night Prayer

God Bless You & Good Night

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.

Book Reviews

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