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Hanukkah begins next Tuesday, December 12, 2017 at sundown and runs to Wednesday, December 20, 2017, at sundown. The name comes from a Hebrew verb that means “to dedicate.”  The book of John (John 10:22) tells us that Jesus was in Jerusalem during this Jewish winter festival which John calls the Feast of Dedication. I think it is interesting to consider why does John give us this detail.

There is a terrific book for kids that talks about this Jewish holiday. The book is Maccabees! The Story of Hanukkah

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.

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Sir Maggie the Mighty is a very cute book about obedience for children, ages two to eight. It is written by Michael P. Waite, illustrated by Jill Colbert Trousdale and published by Chariot Family Pub (1988). It is still available at Amazon.com or perhaps you might find it in a church library.

Sir Maggie the Mighty, told in rhyme, is about a bug named Maggie who disobeys her mother while on an errand and experiences the consequences. The story includes a related Bible verse, “Children, obey your parents in everything for this pleases the Lord.” When my children were young, this book was one of their favorites.

Maggie McBuggins lives with her parents in a large yellow squash. One day, her mother sends her on a shopping trip to get bug juice and honey. Maggie puts on her favorite outfit, a baggy knight suit and boots. Her mother tells her the outfit is not practical and asks her to change. Maggie complies, yet she puts her favorite outfit in a backpack, and as soon as she is away from her mother’s sight, she changes into the clothes she loves. That is one area of her disobedience.

Another is when she uses most of the money for candy, instead of the bug juice and honey. On the way home, she feels sick from eating too much candy. She also has no  money for what her mother had asked for.  An ugly Drogg threatens her. While trying to get away, Maggie trips and falls in the mud because her boots are too big.

Mrs. McBuggins is shocked to find her sad, muddy little girl walking into the house. Maggie apologizes, and her mother forgives her, giving  her a nice bath. Mrs. McBuggins explains that the rules she wanted Maggie to follow are for her own good, and not meant to spoil her fun. All is forgiven, and Maggie is given another chance to obey her mother. She has learned a lesson, and follows her mother’s instructions to the letter.

This is a book that will explain obedience in a way that young children will understand. The illustrations are darling, and the rhymes are fun to read. I have loved this book for many years.

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.”

People can sometimes be foolish and sometimes they can even be mean. They can put labels on us. And we wear those labels, allowing  them to define us. School, sadly, can be one place where children acquire labels–sticky, icky labels that can last even into adulthood. School can also be a place where children become skilled at labeling others. Max Lucado in You Are Special, illustrated by Sergio Martinez and published by Crossway Books (1997), tells a simple, but profound fable about the Wemmicks, who are very good at labeling.

The Wemmicks are small wooden people. They were all carved by the same woodworker and each Wemmick is unique. But the Wemmicks have a poor understanding of the value of being unique. They spend their days giving gold stars to those they think are beautiful or talented or both and giving gray dots to those they think defective or inadequate.

Punchinello has been given many gray dots and it makes him afraid and sad. His life begins to change when he meets Lucia who surprisingly has no marks at all. She tells him that her daily visits to the wood carver enable her to stay free of marks. That Punchinello will eventually make a visit to the master carver seems inevitable for such a forlorn character, but what Punchinello learns on that visit will delight and soothe a child’s heart. It may even bless your own.

One story element that may surprise the reader/listener, and sets this book apart from other books with a similar theme, is that Lucado includes “stars” in the labels.  Aren’t “stars”  a good thing to receive? But Lucado puts them in the same category as he does gray dots.

It can make you stop and think. When you do, you remember that labels, even “good” ones, can wound or be troublesome. Beautiful children can become obsessed with their looks. Smart kids who want to keep wearing the “brilliant” label can retreat from asking questions and learning. Gifted children, trying desperately to live up to their talent, may lose their joy as they continually try to prove that they are indeed gifted. Lucado wisely offers a way to avoid those traps.

Martinez’s illustrations are subtly humorous, colorful and evocative. They capture the busy life of the village and the sadness that labeling can bring. I particularly like the depiction of the wood carver. He is kind, gentle and yet strong. The golden light present in his workshop and around him invites us into a warm, friendly, safe place.

This picture book for children, ages four to eight,  flows nicely, making it easy to read aloud. That should be good news because your children, I think, will ask you to read this wise, encouraging book again and again.

Older children also experience some “serious” labeling and some are even bullied. In an earlier post, Mean Girl Makeover, I talked about three novels for upper elementary and middle school girls that explore this topic. Written by Nancy Rue, one novel looks at the problem from the point of view of an onlooker. A second book tells the story of the girl being bullied and how she begins to overcome her labels. The third takes a deeper look at the bully. I thought all three were great reads.

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 mystery novels for pre-teens, I  Get a Clue and We All Get a Clue, 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.

Shadows and Shining Lights (G.T. and Halo Express, No. 1) is a story about guardian angels. It was created by Doug and Debbie Kingsriter and Ann Hibbard. It was illustrated by Ann Neilsen. This thirty-six page book was published by Focus on the Family Publishing (1990).

A cute and beautifully illustrated story, it is about a brother and sister, Michael and Christy, who are having a backyard camp out. At first the children, ages ten and eight, are a little nervous; they are afraid of the dark. When they drop their flashlight, and the light goes out, they imagine scary monsters joining them. Michael and Christy talk and encourage one another in the dark.

All of a sudden, they hear a noise. It turns out to be Good Tidings or G.T. He introduces himself, tells them he is their guardian angel, and that he has been watching over them since they were born.

He opens the tent and shows them a sky full of beautiful angels, then points out the Halo Express, a musical band of child angels. The band plays beautiful, soothing music. He assures the children that whenever they are afraid, they need to remember that God is always with them.

Christy then asks why angels are so bright, and G.T. replies that they get their brightness from Jesus. He is their light, and they shine because they have been with him.

This story is of course fanciful, but it does point out some basic truths about the angels God has sent to watch over children. The concepts are very simple. Children are sometimes afraid. God knows that and has sent angels to watch over them. Jesus is there for us anytime we are afraid or have a need. All we have to do is pray and call out to him.

Near the end of the story, G.T. hovers over the children as they say their prayers and drift off to sleep. The next morning they wake up and remember the wonderful night they had spent with G.T.  On the last page, there is a picture of adorable G.T. sitting on top of the tent with his halo, wings and red tennis shoes.

I often read this story to my children when they were young. It has been in hiding, and now that I have found it again I am excited to read it to my three-year-old granddaughter. It is especially suited for children, ages three to ten.

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.”

 

 

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.

Found based on the 23rd Psalm, was written by Sally Lloyd Jones and illustrated by Jago. It was published by Zonderkidz in 2017. Although a board book, Found is a book that will resonate with all ages.

Children will immediately feel the calm and quiet as Sally Lloyd Jones’ retells the well-known 23rd Psalm in her own words. The author’s simple way of stating things makes this beloved psalm accessible to young children and shows them how much God loves them.

Jago’s bright and colorful illustrations begin with the rising sun, move to the full noontime sun and end with the setting sun as the book progresses. Children will look for the illustration of the little lamb that Jago has placed on each page and feel as though they are being protected as the little lamb is.

To show the valley of the shadow of death, the author uses rain–a downpour. She uses words like dark, scary and lonely and so brings this passage to a child’s level. Jago’s lost look on the lamb will also help children to relate.

A child will enjoy snuggling with a parent or grandparent as they share the 23rd Psalm. Found is a must for a children’s library.

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.

 

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.

 

 

The Most Magnificent Thing written and illustrated by Ashley Spires and published by Kids Can Press (2014) is a picture book. Clever, humorous and truthful, it celebrates creativity. But not the “it’s magic” kind. In this story a little girl makes a magnificent discovery–creating something often involves trial and error.

Children will relate to the little girl. They will see themselves (and we the readers will also find ourselves) in the little girl’s enthusiasm for her project. I think they will know her disappointment when she can’t create what she has imagined, and they will feel sad when she quits. But the story turns and the little girl discovers that she doesn’t have to be done with her “magnificent thing.” Hurray!

Though the book is being marketed to children as young as three, I think the age range is more appropriately five- to eight-years-old. (School age children more often have greater expectations for themselves and for the things they create than younger children.) Upper elementary children could, particularly, benefit from The Most Magnificent Thing, but they often shun picture books. However, if you can get your older kid to read it to a younger child, then . . . .

The line drawings and the colors are a little more sophisticated than those found in many children’s books, but I think they work for this story. The language is expressive with a number of grown-up words that children will be delighted to wrap their tongues around.

The assistant that the little girl hires, her dog, provides a number of humorous touches to the story-telling.

The Most Magnificent Thing is a worthy book to have on your shelf. I’m going to keep my copy handy especially for those days when my characters aren’t talking to me and my plot twists aren’t twisting.

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.

 

Hi, I’m calling it spring cleaning; really it’s more like renovating. But I haven’t been working on my house, I’ve been working on this blog. I want to make it easier for you to find the book or books you are interested in. I’ve added to Book Lists a list of the picture books we have recommended. (A list of books for middle grade and lists for YA were already there.) And thanks to technology the titles are linked to the reviews. (I hope they are. I’ve checked that they are, but if you come across a broken one, please let me know. I’ll fix it.) I’ve also added a list of the books that we have suggested for the college/working person. Those titles are also linked.

I hope this helps you in your search for good books.  –Nancy

P.S. As I worked on the picture book list, it occurred to me again what great baby gifts a number of these books would make. A great story read by a loving parent will live in a child’s heart when that child’s children have children of their own.

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

Book Reviews

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