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Are you trying to keep up with a voracious reader? and losing?  Are you feeling left out–in the dark–about the books your kid’s carpool buds are talking about? Do you need more info about the books your child will be reading and discussing in school this coming year?

Plugged In, on the Focus on the Family website, is not just about films and TV. Info on the site says they have more than 6,000 reviews of entertainment media– books, films and TV programs. I was told that the number of reviews/reports on the books grows by three books a week.

The books are listed alphabetically by title. Click on the title and it will take you to the report/review.

The info in the report/review is different from the usual info found in a review. Reviewers of books for Plugged In don’t give an approval or disapproval rating. A report/review offers a plot summary and then goes on to cover Christian beliefs (if there are any), other belief systems, authority figures, profanity, violence, kissing, sex and homosexuality. A link on the page will take you to discussion topics and questions especially created for that particular book. (I like this last feature a lot. Talking through a book with a child develops a child’s critical thinking skills.)

Here at Books 4 Christian Kids we love recommending books. We love imagining a young person discovering a terrific, uplifting book and being blessed by reading it, all because we let you know about it. We love being part of that chain. We strive to find and point you to worthy books; we recognize that a young person’s time and your money are limited. But we also recognize that there are a vast number of books available for children/young adults/new adults. I can imagine that you want more info. I think the Plugged In site will help.

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.

This can be that time in the summer when your kids are saying they’re bored, bored, bored. They want something new, something to happen. They want to go someplace, have an adventure, make new friends.

So why not send them to Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe? or 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. Check out and scroll through Book Lists on the menu at the top of this page. Titles are linked to the reviews.

And while you are at it, maybe you would like to go someplace too–this is, after the kids are in bed. Take a look at the list for College Age/Working Person. Ah, England! Ah, the American West! Ah, Hawaii!

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.

 

Nick Newton Is Not A Genius is a steampunk (science fiction set in Victorian times which emphasizes historical or imagined steam-powered technology) chapter book for middle grade readers. It is written by S.E.M. Ishida with illustrations by Dana Thompson. Published by JourneyForth (2016), it is 160 pages. Boys will especially enjoy its exploration into the world of robots and technology.

Nick Newton is the only one in his family who is not a genius. Upon learning that he will have to go to a new school, Nick decides to explore the attic filled with his grandfather’s belongings. His grandfather was a hero and general in the Last War and defeated his enemy, Draicot, with his military inventions. Nick discovers schematics and parts for one of his grandfather’s inventions, a clockwork bird. He names it Plink. Nick tries to put the clockwork bird together, but he is hindered by some of his wacky family’s escapades.

At Nick’s new school rumors abound about Mr. Volk, whose parents were founders of the school. Mr. Volk lives alone with his family of robots. Nick and his family visit Mr. Volk. While there Erma, Nick’s older sister, gets into dangerous trouble. Erma is saved but at great expense to Mr. Volk. When Mr. Volk is interested in buying Plink, Nick refuses even though he is grateful to him. Mr. Volk asks if Nick has found a clockwork heart.

Nick with his new friends, Elliot and Solomon, search for the clockwork heart. Nick believes the heart may be in his grandfather’s locked trunk. They think clockwork birds are the key to unlocking it and they must find all three birds. In the end, they discover what happened to the clockwork heart as well as what happened to Draicot, his grandfather’s enemy.

Stocked with quirky characters and creative inventions, Nick Newton Is Not A Genius is a fun book to read with your children. I can’t wait to read about Nick’s next adventure. You can see pictures of Plink, the clockwork bird, on the author’s Facebook page.

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. 


The watermelon’s eaten and fireworks are over, but perhaps the celebrations just whet the appetites of you and the kids to know more about America’s beginnings.  Here are a few books that we liked and you might like too. — Nancy

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 go looking 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 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. 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.

I just came in from a walk. Some of the neighbor kids were also out walking. Today is the first day of their summer vacation. It’s exciting for them; an adventure is about to begin. But I also got the impression they are little bit at loose ends. They’re missing their friends. And this might sound weird and totally improbable, but I think they miss being at school. School can be fun. (Yes, it can and sometimes they will even tell you that it is.) At school they learn new things and kids like to learn. They are all about growing.

Reading good books is one way for them to grow well. It is one way for kids to go on an adventure. We have created lists of books (select Book Lists found on the menu at the top of the page) that we think are interesting and fun. More than that we think they will bless a child or a young person. If you select the title, it will take you to the review. We don’t think our lists are the last word, but they might be a good place to start.

Just a thought, consider reading a book together as a family. Sharing a worthwhile story can be an enriching experience. It’s warm, friendly; it can build community, and reading aloud helps you to listen to each other.

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.  You can learn more about her and her books at www.nancyellenhird.com .

For several years Nancy was a freelance reviewer of children’s and teen’s literature for the Focus on the Family website.

 

 

What Do You Do With An Idea?, written by Kobi Yamada, illustrated by Mae Besom, published by Compendium, Inc. (2014) is a picture book, but not one for small children. Its thought-provoking, life-enriching big idea will resonate better with older children and adults. If the YA people in your life can get past that it has illustrations, What Do You Do With An Idea? may find a place in their hearts as well.

The story is told from the point of view of a young boy. He says he had an idea. (The idea looks like an egg wearing a small crown.) The boy doesn’t know what to do with the idea and so, like many of us when we get an idea, he walks away from it. But the idea follows him on its chicken legs.

With the honesty and simplicity of a child, the boy tells us of his fears and his joy as he and the idea spend time together. He realistically tells us of his struggles as they continue their friendship. The story ends happily. The ending is a little over the top, but when we consider that this is a picture book, we can forgive it for its big happily-ever-after moment. (And who knows, some “ideas” do have this kind of ending.)

The illustrations are active and evocative. While full of energy, they also manage to have a thoughtfulness about them that perfectly suits the fable. There is a really interesting use of color. In the beginning it is used sparingly. The world is gray except for the yellow egg. As the boy and the idea become friends, more color enters the boy’s world. Vibrant color erupts and spills out onto the last pages as the story reaches its exciting ending.

Adults will be touched with compassion for the boy and his idea and remember with tenderness their own experiences with new ideas. Elementary school children will find themselves in this story and be encouraged.

What Do You Do With An Idea? is a great book. I think writers, artists, scientists and other dreamers should have it on their book shelves and take it down and read it when necessary. And there will be days when it will be necessary.

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.

 

 

 

 

Elizabeth Raum is the author of Crossroads in Galilee, published by JourneyForth (2016).  She has created a “choose your journey” chapter book for elementary-aged children based on the life and times of Jesus in the first century. Raum did research on the time and place to create more realistic story lines, including details about markets, local crops, and fishing.

The reader may choose to follow the story of a boy from a vineyard, a fisherman’s sister, or a tax collector’s brother. After each chapter, the reader again makes a choice about what the character will do, and then turns to the chapter that describes the consequences of that choice.

The choices include such decisions as whether to follow Jesus or John the Baptist, to fight or turn the other cheek, to lie or tell the truth. The author quotes scripture to support the narrative.

The overarching story centers on the day of Jesus’ baptism by John, and moves on from there, following Jesus’ ministry in Galilee. The readers glimpse everyday life in Bible times, and see what a difference one choice can make in a series of events.

The writing is appropriate for elementary aged children. The story lines are gentle, but interesting. The font is large, and there are black-and-white drawings to illustrate the text.

The author begins with an explanation on how to use the book and ends with a short lesson on how important decision-making is. She also includes a glossary of terms, a list of references for the Bible stories in the book, and notes on her research.

Crossroads in Galilee is about 140 pages long, and may be found on Amazon, Christianbook.com, and possibly in your local Christian book store. It is available in paperback and as an e-book.

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 Shining Orb of Volney, a science-fiction novel, is her latest title. 

 

The Christmas catalogs are arriving and I haven’t even handed out the trick-or-treat candy! No matter. I do love to look at the catalogs and dream about great gifts to give to my friends and loved ones.

Just in case you are looking and dreaming too, I have some book suggestions for Christmas gifts for middle graders. BTW, I am also thinking of Christmas break. Having a great book adventure put aside (maybe even wrap it) and bringing it out when the kids are home might be just what you and they need. It might be especially welcomed if outside it is raining or snowing a blizzard. (OK, yes, I do live in the California– in the area where if it rains more than four days in a row we go online searching for lumber yards that sell gopher wood.)

Here is my list. I chose books from various genres, from classics and from newer releases. The list is just a sampling of the books we’ve recommended. We have a lot more suggestions. If you want to browse through more suggestions, select the menu to left and drop down to middle grade fiction reviews.

Anne of Green Gables–classic for girls, with a number of books in the series

Callie–a book for emerging independent readers about a finding a home for a cat

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe–the thrilling first book of C. S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia

Full Metal Trench Coat–first novel in a series for elementary school children, especially boys

The Pilgrim’s Progress–Christian classic, an allegory on the Christian life that comes in several versions

The Prince Warriors–a Christian allegory for boys and girls based on using the armor of God

Sarah, Plain and Tall–historical fiction about life on the American prairie of the 19th century

Scout— a boy’s adventures with a lost dog

The Shining Orb of Volney–a science fiction/fantasy for middle school and YA with strong female characters

The Voyage of Patience Goodspeed–historical fiction, a sea adventure for boys and girls set aboard a 19th century whaling ship

We All Get a Clue–a contemporary mystery/adventure, second book in the two-book series about pre-teen detectives in Edinburgh, Scotland

World War II Pilots: An Interactive History Adventure–a choose your own adventure

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.

 

 

coverwithcharacters812cropWe All Get a Clue by Nancy Ellen Hird, published by Desert Fires Press (2016), will keep you smiling at the heroine, twelve year-old Libby Carlsen. She has a wonderful personality and is always making the reader laugh. This book is the second in a series, the first being entitled I Get a Clue. Both of these stories are geared toward pre-teens, ages ten to thirteen, but I had a fabulous time reading them, and learned a lot about Scotland as well. Both books are mysteries, and while they are suspenseful, they are not at all frightening.

Libby, an American, is staying with her Scottish grandmother and aunt at Shepherd House, Gran’s bed-and-breakfast, in Edinburgh, Scotland, while her parents are working as missionaries in South America. The book begins with Libby emailing her brother, Tom, who is a computer genius in the US. He is very supportive of his younger sister, encouraging her in the Lord. She is a Christian, but is growing and learning more about placing her trust in Him.

She tells Tom that she and her best friend, Roopa Kumar, have entered a city-wide writing contest, with their book on women scientists. They are hoping to win. If they do, their book will be published.

Libby is also excited about accompanying her friends, Malcolm, his brother Jamie, and their father, Mr. MacLeod, owner of a bakery, on a catering job. Mr. MacLeod has been hired to cater an event at the country manor mansion of Viscount Blackford. This event will be a tea for those who financially support the Museum of Scotland. They know Libby has had experience since she helps serve at Shepherd House.

After being a short time at the mansion, Libby and Malcolm are called upon to help Isobel Martindale. They will unload books from the museum shop that she has brought to sell. Libby, who plans to be an astronomer someday, knows Isobel from church and has gone stargazing with her several times. While Libby is helping Isobel set up the book table, Isobel suggests that she and Libby take turns looking at the Viscount’s collection of antique scientific instruments in the library. Libby goes there first.

She meets Viscount Blackford and his friend, Professor Walkingshaw. Lord Blackford thinks Libby is a friend of his granddaughter, Kate, who is staying with him while her parents are abroad, but Libby says she has not yet met Kate. Libby admires an old letter on display in the library. The letter was written in French in 1794 by Marie Lavoisier, thanking scientist Joseph Black for his letter of condolence on the death of her husband, Antonin Lavoisier. Professor Walkingshaw insists that this famous letter should be under glass, but the Viscount does not agree.

A famous countess is in attendance at the tea, and Libby is told to serve her some pastries. Unfortunately, Libby gets nervous, trips and lands flat on the floor. Pastries go flying and someone snaps Libby’s picture, which later appears in the paper. Libby is horrified by what has transpired and flees to the loo. When she returns, she learns there’s been a theft and the police have been called. The police inform her that it is the Lavoisier letter that is missing.

A suspicious man from the event stays the night at Gran’s B&B. The next day, Libby receives an anonymous note stating she has the letter!! More accusations follow. With the help of her friends and using her detective skills, Libby works to prove her innocence and solve the mystery of the letter.

Libby feels she is always doing things wrong, and can’t compete with her talented brother, Tom, and amazing cello-playing sister, Mags. Her life seems to go from bad to worse when another girl in her class, Philippa, wins the manuscript-writing contest! But when Libby meets Tiffany Taylor Bradstreet of the Women in Science Museum, she is encouraged. She is further encouraged when Professor Walkingshaw later offers to help her and Roopa get their book published.

However, more mystery, adventures and close calls are in store for Libby and her friends. All turns out well and happy in the end. The most important thing for Libby, is that she feels the Lord has heard her prayers and has used her to make sure truth prevails and justice is done. Everyone is very proud of Libby, and she feels strengthened.

This book is not only enlightening and interesting, but encouraging to young people who are discovering that they have gifts to share.  Libby is honest about her feelings of failure and frustration, making the novel real and helpful. Other young people can relate to this and learn to grow in their faith in the good times and the bad. They can also find that God’s Word is alive in their lives, lighting their way. I was encouraged in the Lord through this book, to keep doing good, even when others don’t always agree or understand. When I pray and follow Him, things are not perfect, but turn out according to His will, which is always right.

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.”

John Bunyan was a religious dissenter in 1600’s England. While imprisoned, he passed much of his time writing The Pilgrim’s Progress, one of the first allegories in Christian history. This classic remains relevant even today, though the language of his time is difficult for modern readers, and some of the historical references may not make sense to us. However, this is a story worth reading.

The Pilgrim’s Progress illustrates the walk of faith from seeker, to believer, and on through the trials and victories of life. It describes the journey as a road through places like “the Wicket-gate,” “the Slough of Despond,” “Vanity Fair,” and “the Delectable Mountain.” We follow Christian on his journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. We fear for him and cheer for him  as he meets obstacles and also many companions on the way, including people named Obstinate, Goodwill, Hypocrite, Watchful, and The Shining Ones. We see him put on the armor of God, use the Key of Promise, and see him met by heavenly hosts. He faces temptation and makes mistakes; he repents and moves on. There are moments of great evil—as when his companion, Faithful, is killed at Vanity Fair.

For young readers, I recommend two other versions of the book, written in the mid-1900s. Pictorial Pilgrim’s Progress (by Moody Publishers) updates the language, while maintaining the entire original story line. Each page contains a line illustration of the text, making the action easy to follow. The costumes reflect the fashions of the time the story was written, and the style has the feel of an old-fashioned adventure tale, complete with fighting between good and evil. Some scenes are rather graphic, so you must decide if your reader is ready for that kind of conflict.

My favorite version is Little Pilgrim’s Progress, updated by Helen L. Taylor, which retells the story through the eyes of children. It, too, is illustrated, and the language is simplified and amplified to make the more abstract concepts accessible to young minds. It is a gentler, but still complete telling of the allegory. For example, when Little Christian’s companion, Faithful, dies, we do not see his death described or illustrated. Little Christian only sees that the angels carry his friend away. Another nice quality of this version is the inclusion of Little Christiana’s story, so that girls as well as boys feel that they may take that journey to the Celestial City.

All versions are saturated with scripture references, and might not be comprehended, at least in full, by a person unfamiliar with Christian beliefs and worldview.

These could be fun read-aloud stories for a family.

The Pilgrim’s Progress, Pictorial Pilgrim’s Progress, and Little Pilgrim’s Progress are all available in paperback on 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.  The Shining Orb of Volney, a science-fiction novel, is her latest title. 

Book Reviews

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