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Today I am remembering 9/11. I remember the horror and the fear. But more than that, I remember the grace of God and the bravery and the self-sacrifice of the men and women who became involved, challenged despair and overcame evil.

At Books 4 Christian Kids we’ve looked at two books that speak to the bravery of one individual and his dog that day–Thunder Dog (for teens and adults) and Running with Roselle (for children).

None of us face the challenges of a 9/11 each day, but every day we all face small and big challenges. We need to do the right thing and we need to be brave even when we are scared. We think these books will be encouraging.

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.) I Get a Clue and We All Get a Clue are her most recent works. These novels are mysteries for kids, ages 10 to 13.

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Bullying is currently a concern of many kids and parents. Whether there is more of it occurring than in previous generations or whether more of it is being reported, it is hard to say. But I think what can be said is that kids and often even adults don’t know what to do when it happens or how to overcome the damage. Mean Girl Makeover, a series of three novels, takes up the topic of bullying. The author is Nancy Rue and the publisher Thomas Nelson (2014, 2015).

Each novel is told in first person and from a different character’s point of view. The first novel, So Not Okay, is told from the perspective of a bystander. Tori initially watches as Kylie and her friends, a group of popular girls at their middle school, make Ginger, a new girl, the object of rejection and public ridicule. Tori surprises herself and horrifies her friends when she offers that Ginger can be a member of their science group. The girls stumble into their science project question: why are some people mean?

With the help of Lydia, an adult, the girls research bullying and eventually create an anti-bullying code. As the bullying escalates and spreads to them, Tori and her friends put into practice some of the strategies Lydia has taught them. The book honestly shows the fears, risks and missteps, as well as successes, that may occur when a bystander decides to not just stand by.

In the next book, You Can’t Sit with Us, the story continues but from Ginger’s point of view. Ginger unwisely reveals some sensitive information about herself to Kylie and Kylie’s posse. The posse threaten to make the information public if Ginger maintains her friendship with Tori and the other girls, and if she tells anyone about their threat.

Because Ginger’s test scores show that she is outstanding in reading, she is selected for a special English project. Ginger gets along with her study partner, Colin. After some time he reveals that he was bullied when he was younger. This subplot gives the reader some insight into how bullying may affect boys. The posse take their bullying outside of school to the Internet and even to Ginger’s home. Lydia meets with Ginger on a regular basis helping her to overcome her false self-image and to develop some resistance to being bullied.

The third book, Sorry, I’m Not Sorry, is told from the point of view of the main bully. The novel picks up the story as Kylie, two of her crew and their parents meet with the school principal. These girls were expelled for their bullying. To get back into school in the fall, they must do community service. Kylie is told that she will be permanently expelled if she cannot demonstrate an attitude change. Regular meetings with Lydia are set up to determine whether Kylie will change. Kylie experiences Internet bullying herself.

Working with Lydia, Kylie recognizes that she does have a problem. Volunteering as an assistant in the dance section of a summer arts program helps Kylie see herself and others differently.

The novels are good stories that will engage pre-teens and middle schoolers. Readers will keep reading to find out how the kids will handle the bullying, if it will stop and whether a bully can change. I think they will see themselves in the characters and be fascinated and encouraged with the anti-bullying strategies. These strategies are well woven into the stories and do not come off as preachy.

According to Amazon.com the age range is 9-12, but I have some reservations about that. I think the intensity of some of the bullying (school work ruined, cyber bullying, being locked in a locker) may be too much information for a nine-year-old. Instead parents might consider reading the novels and teaching their younger children how to apply the anti-bullying strategies. Also I think girls older than twelve could still relate to the characters and gain practical helps from the suggested strategies.

Though a middle school is the setting for two of the books, bullying can take place in a variety of settings, so I think home-schoolers would also benefit from reading the novels.

I usually think it is unnecessary to read a series of novels. It can be fun, but not necessary. In the case of these novels though, I think it is necessary. Written from the different viewpoints, the three novels together give a more complete picture of the subject. At first I didn’t like being in Kylie’s point of view in the third, but as I was taken deeper into her life, I developed compassion for her. As I experienced her change, my hopes rose for all bullies.

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.) I Get a Clue and We All Get a Clue are her most recent works. These novels are mysteries for kids, ages 10 to 13.

I can’t believe it!!! I received a catalog in the mail that was hawking Halloween stuff. Outrageous! Don’t give in to it. Live in the now! Summer is still here. There’s still time to go camping (if only in your backyard), sip lemonade, ride bikes and daydream summer dreams. And there is still time for summer adventures.

Think of it. You and the kids could go to Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe? or you could 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. Here’s a some more. (Titles are linked to our reviews.) Enjoy now! And take THAT, all of those who would steal today!

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
In Grandma’s Attic
The Incredible Journey
Jungle Doctor Meets a Lion
Little Lord Fauntleroy

McKenna
Meet Josephina
Meet Kaya
Mustang, Wild Spirit of the West 
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

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase

And while you are at it, maybe you would like an adventure–that is, after the kids are in bed. (Or maybe you could read your book sitting next to them while they are reading theirs. It’s a good thing for them to see you reading–so say some studies.) Take a look at the list for College Age/Working Person. Ah, an adventure in England! Ah, the American West! Hawaii, anyone?

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.

 

To help you and the kids celebrate the Fourth of July and all year, we offer these suggestions for your home library.

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 look 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 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 .

 

Looking for a beach read, a plane read or a commuter train on- your-way-to-work read? Looking for a read that will invite you to an adventure or a romance? A read that will take you to a new world? or a different time? and with interesting people? One of the following books may be just what you want. The titles come from the books we have recommended for the College Age/Working Adult. They represent a variety of genres: historical fiction, contemporary romance, nonfiction, science fiction, fantasy, biblical fiction. And we have more titles to suggest. Use the Select Category drop down menu at your left to see other books we recommend.

Boys in the Boat, The

Christy

The City of Tranquil Light

God’s Smuggler

Longing

Lost Castle, The

Love Finds You in Lahaina, Hawaii

The Maid of Fairbourne Hall

9 Slightly Strange Stories with an Uplifting Edge

Oxygen

Pearl in the Sand

Peculiar Treasures

Shaken

Sophie’s Heart

Sushi for One?

With Every Letter

Zookeeper’s Wife, The

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, the second book in the–from My Edinburgh Files series, 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.

 

Donna: What first inspired you to write?

Camy: I’ve always loved reading, and my parents really encouraged me in my reading because both of them read a lot–my mom likes contemporary romance, women’s fiction, and suspense, and my dad likes science fiction and urban fantasy. One day, after reading a fantasy novel, I suddenly felt a burning desire to write my own fantasy book and I started work on it. I haven’t stopped creating stories in my head since.

Donna: How many novels have you written and in what genres?

Camy: I’ve written 27 novels in contemporary romance, romantic suspense, cozy mystery, and Regency romance.

Donna: What do you draw on to create such realistic settings and characters?

Camy: Honestly, I think God gives me my story ideas. He definitely has His own opinion about what issues He wants me to write about.

Sometimes He speaks by an idea that forms in my head, other times He speaks through friends who mention things to me. Sometimes I feel like He wants me to write from my own experience, sometimes I feel like He’s asking me to write about someone else’s experience.

I also try to keep things in prayer as I’m in the formulating-my-characters-and-storyline phase, so that He has His finger in everything.

Donna: Sushi for One? is the first in a series of books. How do the stories interconnect?

Camy: My Sushi Series is humorous contemporary romance about four cousins, and each book is about the love story of one of the cousins. Here’s the series blurb:

Four cousins commiserate about their single status—Lex the Jock, Trish the Flirt, Venus the Cactus, and Jennifer the Oddball. The only Christians in their large extended family, they vow to fight the stigma of the infamous family title, Oldest Single Female Cousin. But they have very different ideas about not acting as desperate as they feel about their bleak love lives. Who knew God would have His own plans of true love for each of them?

Donna: What do you hope readers will take away after enjoying one of your books?

Camy: That no matter where you are, who you are, and where you’ve been, Jesus loves you deeply and is with you. You are not alone.

Donna: What plans do you have for the future of your writing career?

Camy: Right now, I’m working on two projects–the second book in my Lady Wynwood series (Regency romance, published under the pen name Camille Elliot) and also a new humorous contemporary romance series set in Hawaii. I’m also working to get my books translated into Japanese. Then the missionaries in Japan who are supported by my church can give them away to nonbelievers. There is hardly any Christian fiction in Japanese, and I’d like God to use my books to introduce Japanese women to Christ.

Thanks!

Donna: Thank you, Camy.

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 Lost Castle, written by Kristy Cambron and published by Thomas Nelson (2018), is a split-time romance—multiple stories in one. It follows the lives of three women: a noblewoman during the French Revolution, a British linguist at the time of WWII, and a contemporary young American. Each woman must define herself against the backdrop of her time, and respond to the claims on her life. Moving between three different eras, Kristy Cambron skillfully weaves the three plots into one overarching story line.

It all begins when Ellie Carver visits her Grandma Vi at the care center. Agitated, but surprisingly lucid, her grandmother gives her an old volume of French fairy tales. Inside, Ellie finds a sepia photograph of her grandmother as a young woman, gazing lovingly at a very handsome young man who is not her grandfather. Grandma Vi—overcoming Alzheimer’s for a brief moment—begs her granddaughter to find the castle in the photo before it is too late.

It is up to Ellie to track down this mystery for her grandmother while there is still time. The novel is intriguing, revealing fascinating details of two explosive time periods and tying them to the present. Ellie, Violet, and Aveline must grapple with how to be loyal, honest, persevering, brave, and caring despite harrowing circumstances. Slowly, the pieces of the puzzle come together and the castle emerges—transforming the lives and loves of those who find it.

Over 300 pages in length, this book is for college or high school readers. Since two of the time periods encompass wars, there is violence and loss. Death is not depicted graphically, but the harshness of war might be an issue for some readers. The Lost Castle is sold at Christian bookstores and online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Christianbook.com.

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. 

 

God Is Always Good by Tama Fortner, illustrated by Veronica Vasylenko and published by Tommy Nelson (2014), is a sweet book with profound truths. In this picture book for four- to seven-year-olds a bunny ask questions about God. It begins with, “Mommy, what is God like?”

A big question, but Fortner handles it nicely and on a child’s level. The answer ends with the mother rabbit’s statement that God is always good. This (of course) leads to another question from the bunny: “But how do you know that He is good?” Mother rabbit answers that God’s goodness can be seen everywhere. But as every parent knows this will not be the end of the questions. Children do see God’s goodness all around them, but they also see things that are not so good.

The little bunny raises questions and concerns that children are sometimes reluctant to speak about such as “Does God make bad things happen?” and “But sometimes I’m scared.” Wisely, it also looks at our response to bad events when little bunny asks if he can help make things better or how he might relate to people who are not-so-nice. Throughout the book, mother rabbit offers the little bunny insight and wisdom that will soothe and encourage children. Her answers may also give guidance and help to parents.

The subtitle of the book is “Comfort for Kids Facing Grief, Worry, or Scary Times.” The book does not hold back from looking into the troubles of children. It takes on accidents, storms, bullies, illness, friends moving away and even the death of a loved one. The questions and the concerns are answered directly but gently. For example, the section on bullies states that God wants us to love even not-so-nice people and gives a couple of suggestions about how a child might do that. However, it also states that sometimes being a friend is not safe and implies that the child should pray and perhaps stay away.

Vasylenko’s illustrations reflect a young child’s world and interests. Created with pastels and pencils, the illustrations support the text and expand on it. The scenes depicted are friendly and active. Overall, the look of God Is Always Good is one of respect for the young child. I think children need to see and hear difficult truths but in a way that builds them up rather than frightens and tears them down.

This is one of those books that could be read often. It might be a good read at bedtime (along with other stories). Children enounter difficulties during a day. Some the child talks about and some are left unsaid. Reading this book, which addresses a child’s concerns but puts them in the context of God’s love, care and power, may just help a child sleep more peacefully. It might just help you as a parent sleep better as well.

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.

Sushi for One? (The Sushi Series, Book 1) written by Camy Tang and published by Zondervan (2007) will definitely give you a laugh. Much of it is lighthearted, with the cousins bantering back and forth and questioning the sanity of their various relatives at the many family functions they all attend.

The leading lady of this novel is Lex Sakai, a 30-year-old Japanese-American women. She and many of her relatives live in the San Jose area of California. Lex is about to become the oldest unmarried cousin at her upcoming cousin Mariko’s wedding. Her grandmother believes this is not good at all, and she has threatened to pull funding for Lex’s junior high volleyball team if Lex does not produce a boyfriend by the time of the wedding.

Lex has had some difficulties with her love life in the past. Eight years ago she was raped by one of her dates. (Very few details are given in the books.) She is now very cautious with men. She neither appreciates her grandmother’s attitude nor how her older brother and aunts are always trying to set her up with unacceptable young men. Lex’s outlook is skeptical and sarcastic. Furthermore, she refuses to consider dating men if they are not Christians and do not measure up to an “Ephesians List” she has created. Her grandmother doesn’t understand the importance of the men being Christians.

Lex is definitely the one in control in her life. She has not yet released the reigns to the Lord. She loves Him and wishes to follow Him, but she has much room for growth.

Another key character of this story is a young man named Aiden, who has been introduced to Lex by her brother. Although she treats him somewhat cautiously, she does like him. He is not a Christian though, and therefore, she will not date him. Aiden is a physical therapist who finds many admirable qualities in Lex. He decides to take up volleyball. He is interested in the game but also because she plays. Lex and Aiden become friends and, as time goes on, her feelings for him deepen.

Aiden decides to check out his co-worker’s church and gradually becomes more and more interested in the Lord. At one of Lex’s family parties, she is uncomfortable with a guy who persists in flirting with her. Aiden intervenes, asking Lex if she wants the man to go away. She definitely does. In what follows, the man shoves Aiden. Aiden’s shoulder bumps into Lex and she falls, tearing her ACL.

This is a huge disappoint to her, as she has just been accepted onto a semi-professional volleyball team and she has also landed a job at the Sports Website Mecca of North America in Silicon Valley. She is distraught, yet Aiden is there along with some of her cousins to help her out. Aiden becomes her physical therapist.

Mariko’s wedding is getting closer. Lex becomes increasingly concerned about her junior high volleyball team and their funding. She is afraid her grandmother will pull their funds when Lex doesn’t show up with a boyfriend at the wedding. She likes Aiden a lot, but he is not a Christian, so that door is closed to her.

Lex gives up on the hope of funding for the junior high team. But she decides to take Aiden to the wedding as a friend. While they are there, he talks to her grandma and Lex finds out that he has recently become a Christian. Her grandmother tries to question Lex and give her a hard time, but all the cousins and Lex’s father surround her, pressuring grandma to keep her promise to Lex. She agrees.

Lex is beyond thrilled that Aiden is now a Christian and they finally begin dating. She realizes that she has been foolish by not allowing the Lord to have total control of her life. She sees that He had the very best plan for her all along.

I would recommend this book to young women ages 21 and above. It is very funny and keeps your interest. Most of the deeper spiritual truths are found near the end of the story.

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.”

BTW: Donna Fujimoto interviewed Camy. Interesting lady. Interview with Camy Tang

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 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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