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From Nancy–My apologies. Something went amiss when we posted the following review. It was fine when we previewed it. It was only this morning that we noticed that the left edge of the post was being cut off. Ugh! (I like a mystery and maybe you do too, but not when I’m reading a book review.) I hope the post is fixed now, but if not please bear with me. I will climb this hill and reach the top.

From Nancy– Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 14, and I thought it appropriate to re-run Patsy’s review of this book that celebrates motherhood.

21 Days of Joy, compiled by Kathy Ide and published by Broadstreet Publishing Group, LLC (2016), is the fourth book in the Fiction Lover’s Devotional series. This one is all about mothers. The most wonderful aspect of this book is that you don’t have to be a birth mother to find great joy in its pages. It is a wonderful read for those wishing they were mothers, those who have fostered or adopted children, or those who have lost children. It gives women hope that they can be used as a mother in a child’s life.

I loved reading the book and seeing how each one of the twenty-one stories was so varied and touching. The main thread that winds through this incredible little book is that God loves and honors mothers of all kinds. He loves our children and hears our prayers for them.

There were two stories in particular that stood out, and I would like to share about them. “Here With Us” by Nancy Ellen Hird is about an adoptive mother. I love the idea of adoption because my daughter has a desire to adopt someday. Kristie, an adoptive mother, has rushed home from a business trip after learning that she and her husband have been given a baby. She is overjoyed, but more than a little nervous as she reaches for the newborn in her husband’s arms.

She and Matt love their new little bundle of joy, a sweet baby girl. In a private moment with her sister Lisa, Kristie expresses fear that the birth mother might change her mind and want her baby back. Lisa reassures her, but also offers that all children go away someday, and that we are just borrowing them from the Lord. Kristie relaxes and rejoices at the amazing gift she and her husband have received. As our children grow, we need to learn to let go, and place them into God’s loving care.

Another story I particularly enjoyed is “Haiti’s Song,” by Deborah Raney. It is about a young woman, Valerie Austin, whose fiancé, Will, has just called off their wedding after most of the arrangements have been made. He comes to realize he never wants children, and yet Valerie does.

From a young age, Valerie had dreamed of having children. She had sewn many children’s clothes as a young teen, placing them in her hope chest for the future. Heartbroken when her wedding is called off, Valerie donates the clothes to charity.

In Haiti and working at an orphanage, she begins to love the children around her, and finds herself at peace with God’s calling. All of a sudden, she starts to recognize the clothes she had made years ago, worn by the children she works with. She knows that God is giving her a message. She believes He is pleased with her sacrifice and will use her in a mighty way, even if she never has children of her own. I found this story to be particularly heartwarming.

This little book is filled with all kinds of stories about mothers. It is sure to inspire you to do your best wherever God has called you.

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.”

This year, 2017, Passover begins at sundown on Monday, April 10, and ends at sundown on Tuesday, April 18, two days after Easter. There’s a deep connection between Passover and Easter. Learning something about Passover will enrich your faith in God and His jaw-dropping awesomeness.

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 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.”

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.)  Her latest work for children is We All Get a Clue, a mystery novel for girls 10-13. It is the second book in the series that began with I Get a Clue. For several years she was a freelance reviewer of children’s and teen’s literature for the Focus on the Family website.

 

 

 

 

Carol has discovered several Easter books that will tell the story and delight your children in the telling. — Nancy

 

Young children, ages 2 to 4, love learning their colors. They will be delighted with My Easter Basket: The True Story of Easter by Mary Manz Simon, illustrated by Angelika Scudamore and published by B&H Kids (2016). This board book uses the colors that could be found in an Easter basket to tell the Easter story. The author begins with green for the palm branches and follows with red, brown, blue, purple, orange and yellow. Dr. Simon ends with yellow, relating it to sunshine and Jesus, God’s son.

My Easter Basket: The True Story of Easter has a gentle rhyme which guides the reader from page to page and adds to the flow of the story. Watercolor illustrations with sparkles capture the joy of Easter in a unique way. My Easter Basket will help young children look at Easter and their Easter baskets with different eyes and understand the true story of Easter.

Another book for young children not to be missed is My Very First Easter Playtime by Lois Rock, illustrated by Alex Ayliffe and published by Lion Hudson (2014). For children ages 3 to 5, My Very First Easter Playtime is an activity and sticker book. Children will hurry to put each sticker in its right place.

The Legend of the Sand Dollar, written by Chris Auer, illustrated by Rick Johnson and published by Zonderkidz (2013) will enrich and bless older children, ages 4 to 8.

In this story children will discover more than the delights of nature. They will learn how nature tells of the wonders of God. It begins with Kerry and her older sister going to visit their cousin, Jack. On the beach they find a sand dollar. On one side Kerry sees the impression of an Easter lily. Jack tells her the legend of Jesus being alive. She wonders about the sand dollar’s five holes and he explains they are for the four nails and spear that pierced Jesus’ side. Jack continues to use the sand dollar to tell the story of God’s love.

Kerry begins to look at the sand dollar with different eyes, with eyes that see the true meaning of Easter. Who would have guessed that God would use the sand dollar to tell of His greatest gift, Jesus, God’s Son? The book ends with a poem, whose author is unknown, about the legend of the sand dollar.

With their soft look, Johnson’s excellent watercolors bring the story of the sand dollar to life.

(Zonderkidz reissued this lovely story by Chris Auer in 2017 with new illustrations by Richard Cowdrey.)

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

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.)  Her latest work for children is We All Get a Clue, a mystery novel for girls 10-13. It is the second book in the series that began with I Get a Clue. For several years she was a freelance reviewer of children’s and teen’s literature for the Focus on the Family website.

Hanukkah begins at sundown Saturday, December 24, 2016, and ends at sundown on January 1, 2017. John 10:22 mentions Jesus celebrating this Jewish holiday where it is called the Feast of Dedication.

Walking with Y’shua Through the Jewish Year offers a bit of history, a bit of reflection on how we might respond to the holiday and some suggestions for family fun. Maccabee! The Story of Hanukkah, another resource, is a picture book for school-age children that tells the story in an exciting, inspiring way.

But before I tell you about the book, I thought you might like to hear a little about the holiday beyond candles and potato latkes. It’s really fascinating.

This Jewish celebration is known as the Festival of Lights because of the candles or oil lamps that are lit in Jewish homes for eight nights beginning on 25th day of Kislev. The festival was a celebration of the rededication, in about 165 BC, of the Temple in Jerusalem after the Temple had been misused. When the Jews rededicated it, they had only enough holy oil for one night, but miraculously that oil burned for eight nights, enough time for new holy oil to be prepared.

The Temple had to be rededicated. A Greek ruler, Antiochus IV, had set up worship to other gods in it and even had pigs sacrificed on the altar. Disgusting! It was part of his plan to Hellenize the Jews–get them to blend in and stop being Jews. He also outlawed circumcision, keeping the Sabbath and adhering to dietary laws.

What he was doing from a Christian perspective–though I’m sure Antiochus didn’t know he was doing it–was trying to put his plans between God and God’s promises to the Jews both to preserve them as a people and to send them Messiah. Antiochus IV failed. God was faithful. He would not be overruled. The Messiah who would crush the head of the Evil One and who was to come from the seed of Abraham, through Isaac, through Jacob, and from the tribe of Judah, came just as God had promised. Jesus was born.

Christian kids will benefit from knowing the story behind the celebration of Hanukkah. It reminds us again that God keeps His promises and that He is stronger than the plans of human beings. It is thought-provoking that Jesus was in the Temple in Jerusalem during the Feast of Dedication. (John 10:22-23)

I’ve read Hanukkah books which emphasize the customs: lighting candles, giving gifts, spinning the dreidel and eating traditional dishes such as latkes, but  Maccabee! The Story of Hanukkah tells the story of those long ago events leading up to the miracle and the rededication of the Temple. Written by Tilda Balsley, illustrated by David Harrington, published by Kar-Ben Publishing (2010), Maccabee! The Story of Hanukkah does a good job of showing in text and pictures why the Jews were fighting, their eventual victory and their awe at the miracle that God gives them. Balsley tells it with passion and in rhyme. A refrain at strategic places in the story, “Sometimes it only takes a few, who know what’s right and do it too.” is good for a child to consider and remember.

This soft cover picture book is suitable for school-age children. Balsley tells them plainly that there were battles, but neither she nor the illustrator emphasizes the bloodshed. The illustrator has done film work and has a degree in animation. His illustrations are full of color, action and emotion. Small touches of humor keep a very serious subject from seeming grim.

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.)  Her latest work for children is We All Get a Clue, a mystery novel for girls 10-13. It is the second book in the series that began with I Get a Clue. For several years she was a freelance reviewer of children’s and teen’s literature for the Focus on the Family website.

 

Some days–some hours for me–Christmas becomes a lot about trees, lights, gifts and food. Not that these things aren’t fun, but then sometimes in the midst of it all I begin to sense that something is off. God Gave Us Christmas written by Lisa Tawn Bergren, illustrated by David Hohn and published by Waterbrook Press (2006) shifts the emphasis from Santa, etc. and points little ones (and the adult reader) to the reason for the season—Jesus.

In this warm, I hesitate to say fuzzy book because the main characters are polar bears, Mama and Little Cub go on a journey. Mama wants to show God to Little Cub and help her know that Christmas was given to us by God and not invented by Santa. (Don’t worry; Bergren doesn’t bad-mouth Santa. Mama explains that Santa reminds us about being generous and caring.)

Taking Little Cub to see the dancing Northern Lights, Mama explains that the lights are God’s work and that God sent Jesus so that “we would know light from dark.” Jesus is the light of the world. Using other natural wonders, Mama continues to teach Little Cub about God’s greatest gift—Jesus.

While Mama’s examples do not nail down Jesus in the way one might nail boards, they remind me of mini-parables. Mama’s examples help children and adults relate with their imaginations and their hearts to what is essentially a mystery—God’s Son born as a baby who will grow into the man who will save us.

The text reads well. Mama’s examples of the Northern Lights, a glacier, a bright star, a flower poking up through the snow are appropriate to a snowy environment. The exchanges between Mama and Little Cub are full of affection and there is a sense of wonder and play in the telling of their adventure. David Hohn’s colorful paintings are active and kid-friendly.

God Gave us Christmas is for ages 3 to 7. (But don’t be surprised if it touches the 3 to 7-years-old in you.) This book is part of a series. Carol wrote about and suggested God Gave Us Easter, God Gave Us Angels, and God Gave Us the World.

I also want to suggest A Night of Great Joy. Written and illustrated by the well-known illustrator Mary Engelbreit and published by Zonderkidz (2016), this book will delight you and the kids with its presentation of a Christmas pageant. The book is suggested for children ages 4 to 8.

The story is the Christmas story, but it’s told from a kid’s perspective and in kid-language (for example, “’Hello, Jesus,’ Mary whispered.”). Children will see themselves and their friends reflected in the different races of the children in the pageant. The colorful and often humorous illustrations (one of the lambs is a pull toy, etc.) help children put themselves on stage and from there in the story. (And it’s good for all of us to put ourselves in the story. What would it have been like to have been a shepherd in the fields? Would we have left our daily work and play to go and seek the gift from God? We would. How happy we are when we do!)

I’ve had an idea too that I want to share with you. At this time of year we often give donations to Christian charitable groups. If an organization is asking for donations of toys, why not ask if they would consider receiving children’s books about the child born in Bethlehem?

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.)  Her latest work for children is We All Get a Clue, a mystery novel for girls 10-13. It is the second book in the series that began with I Get a Clue. For several years she was a freelance reviewer of children’s and teen’s literature for the Focus on the Family website.

 

 

 

 

Reading holiday books with a child or children can be such a rich, rich experience for everyone. Children feel important because you are spending time with them; and the simple, beautiful message of a good children’s book may just touch you with its clarity and anchor you with its truth. If you are looking for Christmas books that you and the kids might read and enjoy together, here are some suggestions to get you started. (I have more, but I’m still tweaking my reviews. I promise you will see them soon.):

It’s a Wonderful Life for Kids!

Jotham’s Journey

The Legend of the Candy Cane

Lucille Nadine Alexander’s Birthday

Read and Play Christmas

Song of the Stars: A Christmas Story
(Carol Green also suggests at the end of this recommendation that you consider Santa’s Favorite Story, The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, The Story of Christmas (Carry Me) and My March to the Manger.)

Sparkle Box

 

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.)  Her latest work for children is We All Get a Clue, a mystery novel for girls 10-13. It is the second book in the series that began with I Get a Clue. For several years she was a freelance reviewer of children’s and teen’s literature for the Focus on the Family website.

 

Thanksgiving is November 24 in the Year of Our Lord 2016 and we have some book suggestions.

What is Thanksgiving?  – a board book that takes the listener to the heart of the holiday

Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving – a picture book about God’s hand in the first Thanksgiving. The whole family will enjoy this one.

Thanksgiving Graces – a picture book about extending ourselves to family, friends and strangers

Molly’s Pilgrim – a first chapter book with illustrations for children in lower elementary grades that may help children consider modern day pilgrims

And Patsy found this one by Louisa May Alcott. — Nancy

An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving, by Louisa May Alcott, with an adapted text by Harper Collins Publishers will get you in the mood for Thanksgiving. It is a short book with beautiful illustrations by James Bernardin. The children who would appreciate this book most would be in the age range of five to twelve. Personally, I think adults will enjoy it very much, as well.

The story starts on Thanksgiving Day at the home of Farmer Bassett, his wife and their six children. They live in the New Hampshire hills, and are poor in money, but rich in love. The crops are in and Mrs. Bassett is making pies in preparation for Thanksgiving Dinner. Tillie and Prue, the oldest daughters are mixing spices and chopping ingredients. The twins Roxy and Rhody are slicing apples, while Seth and Solomon are shelling corn for popping.

Before long the family receives a visitor. Old Mr. Chadwick comes to tell Mrs. Bassett that her mother is very ill. Mother and Father have to leave on a long drive to go and be with Grandma, and they leave their two oldest girls in charge. Father says he will be back after he has dropped Mother off.

After bidding their parents goodbye, the slightly nervous older girls tell their sibling to go out sledding while they continue to prepare the feast. The main elements will be roast turkey, stuffing, pudding and apple slump. Unknown to the girls, they make a few mistakes and add some wrong ingredients. They forget the salt and sugar in the pudding, and accidentally add catnip and wormwood to the stuffing.

By early evening, an entire crowd arrives at their home. Their parents return with aunts, uncles, cousins and even Grandma herself! They found out Mr. Chadwick had made a mistake and Grandma was just fine, after all. The relatives will have dinner with the family and spend the evening visiting.

The dinner is delicious, except for the minor mistakes, and everyone has a wonderful time. Mrs. Bassett praises the girls for their hard work, even though she nearly chokes when she tastes the stuffing! Everyone loves the apple slump. (At the end of the book, you will find the recipe for that.)

This was a fun and uplifting read. It is making me look forward to Thanksgiving already.

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.”

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.)  Her latest work for children is We All Get a Clue, a mystery novel for girls 10-13. 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 little ones.

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

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, and when they learn in Sunday school or from you that it is linked to the Easter story, I think their relationship with God will grow.

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.) Two of her published works for children are Marty’s Monster and Jessica Jacobs Did What?  Her latest work 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.

 

Hanukkah begins on Sunday, December 6, 2015. (Sorry for the late reminder.) It ends at sundown on December 14.  John 10:22 mentions Jesus celebrating this Jewish holiday where it is called the Feast of Dedication.  Walking with Y’shua Through the Jewish Year offers a bit of history, a bit of reflection on how we might respond to the holiday and some suggestions for family fun. Maccabee! The Story of Hanukkah is a picture book for school-age children that tells the story in an exciting, inspiring way.

Reading holiday books with a child or children can be such a rich experience for everyone. If you are looking for Christmas books that you and the kids might read and enjoy together, here are some suggestions:

It’s a Wonderful Life for Kids!

Jotham’s Journey

The Legend of the Candy Cane

Lucille Nadine Alexander’s Birthday

Read and Play Christmas

Song of the Stars: A Christmas Story

Sparkle Box

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.) Two of her published works for children are Marty’s Monster and Jessica Jacobs Did What?  Her latest work 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.

What Is Thanksgiving? by Michelle Medlock Adams, illustrated by Amy Wummer and published by Candy Cane Press (2009) is a charmer. This board book for preschoolers takes a lively look at the holiday with all its excitement and pleasures. It begins with the more obvious experiences of delicious food, parades, football and family, but moves beyond to the most important part of the day–giving thanks to God.

What Is Thanksgiving? is written in rhyme that, for the most part, works. The phrases often seem to bubble and bounce, capturing the joy of the holiday. The illustrations are colorful, full of activity and kid-friendly. The scenes depicted are warm and at times gently humorous.

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.) Two of her published works for children are Marty’s Monster and Jessica Jacobs Did What?  Her latest work 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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