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Praying with Jane is a lovely, small, hardbound book. Rachel Dodge has taken three beautiful prayers composed by the famous novelist Jane Austen and transformed them into a thirty-one day devotional. It is insightful, uplifting, and engaging.

The author’s introduction reveals fascinating details of Jane Austen’s spiritual and family life which may be unknown to many readers. Then, after presenting each prayer in full, she breaks them into small passages for reflection.

Each devotional gives insights into Jane’s faith, pulls illustrations from her novels, quotes related scripture passages, and suggests personalized prayers on the same theme. We glimpse the gracious life of hope and joy lived by a woman whose strength came from daily conversations with God.

For those who love all-things-Austen, this book will be a valued addition to their collection. Published by Bethany House Publishers (2018), Praying with Jane is about 160 pages long, and can be appreciated by readers from middle school through college, and beyond. The book is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble,, and probably in your local book store.


From Nancy–If you’re like me, you’re probably thinking about Christmas gifts. This book sounds like it would make a terrific one–a gift a beloved would savor throughout the long winter months ahead. And don’t forget, that someone could be you. 🙂

Last year at this time Pamela Walls recommended Suddenly Single Mom by Jeanette Hanscome, and I want to point you to that review and the book again. Single moms can have a really tough time of it during the holidays. Maybe you and this book can befriend one of them, giving them the gift of an understanding heart.


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.

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.

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


The City of Tranquil Light

God’s Smuggler


Lost Castle, The

Love Finds You in Lahaina, Hawaii

The Maid of Fairbourne Hall

9 Slightly Strange Stories with an Uplifting Edge


Pearl in the Sand

Peculiar Treasures


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.


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

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. 


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

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. Rempel , 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. 




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.

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.

Book Reviews

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