You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Picture Book Reviews’ category.

“God is our shelter and strength,
always ready to help in times of trouble.
So we will not be afraid, even if the earth is shaken
and the mountains fall into the ocean depths;
even if the seas roar and rage,
and the hills are shaken by violence.” Psalm 46:1-3

Don’t you just love it that these verses say that God is always ready to help in times of trouble? He wants to walk beside us and help us. It doesn’t say that there aren’t going to be troubles. It says there can be horrendous troubles–life happenings way beyond our control, but even then we need not dwell in fear. Even then. He is with us.

I don’t think it says that we will not have moments of fear. We just don’t have to live there. Like Psalm 91 says, we can dwell in His fortress.

I think some of the ways we dwell in His fortress are to fill our minds with His loving word and live in obedience to His laws; rely on His strength and the certainty of His power to protect and provide; and, to enjoy media and other activities that speak of His presence and His care.

The last is the reason for this blog. We want you to hear about books that will uplift you and and the kids. We want to help you tell your beloved children that God is, that He is good, and that He can and does save.

Book Lists in the menu at the top will take you to titles we recommend. Books are divided by the age of the expected reader and whether the books are non-fiction or fiction.

You will notice that I have not started with our long list of picture books recommendations. You might wonder what I did with it. It’s still there. I moved it to below the list of books we recommend for college/working people. I thought, at this time, you might need recommendations for elementary, middle school, high school, college and young working people more. Also books for those age groups are more often available as e-books.

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.

Do You Want a Friend? by Noel Piper, illustrated Gail Schoonmaker and published by Crossway Books (2009) will touch a child’s heart.

A little boy has moved to a new place and he is lonely. He wants to have friends. And he finds some.

“Some of them were young. Some of them were old. And some were in between.” Piper asks the child if he/she wants a friend and then identifies on each spread a quality that a person might want in a friend such as, “Do you want a friend who loves You?” On the opposite page there is the quote from Romans 8: 38-39 which speaks to God’s love for us.

Pages that follow ask if you want a friend that comforts, helps you be strong, is with you, prays for you, forgives you, etc. Also on each spread is an accompanying Bible verse that tells us that God has that specific capability–to love, to comfort, etc.

After telling us (and Schoonmaker showing us) good friend behavior, Piper changes direction. She asks a different kind of question. “Can any of them [friends] do all these things all the time?” Important question, right? Even adults bump up against that one. And even small children have learned that a friend can’t and sometimes won’t meet these needs.

Piper does not leave the child in disappointment. She points them to Jesus, to the one who can. Jesus is our best friend–always and in all ways.

I woke up this morning and realized that this is an important book for children (and even for adults), especially at this time when we are so much at home.

When our lives are normal, we often (some of us more often than others) depend on our friends to provide love, comfort, presence, acceptance. Maybe we think, after a while, that these friends are THE source and THE only way that we will have these necessary heart needs met.  But God says No. I have given you me. You have Jesus.

Schoonmaker’s illustrations are lively, colorful and sweet. The scenes she has chosen to depict the quality are well chosen. They match the qualities being talked about and these activities are ones that children can relate to.

Do You Want a Friend? by Noel Piper would appeal to children ages 3 to 6. If you look for it on Amazon, your search will be helped if you put in the author’s name.

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.

I don’t want to put you on overload as far as suggestions of books to read, but we’re celebrating Black History Month here in the States and I think you’ll want to know about these books. We heartily recommend each of them.

The Adventures of Pearley Monroe–Middle Grade Fiction

Didn’t We have Fun! — Picture book for young children and for those in the lower grades of elementary school

George Washington Carver: From Slave to Scientist–biography for YA

Hidden Figures, Young Readers’ Edition–elementary school age

Why We Can’t Wait–YA, College Age/Working Person

 

Today and Always, This is True, God Loves You, written by Holley Gerth, illustrated by Alisa Hipp and published by DaySpring (2019) is a charming book for young children.

Each two-page spread of this board book tells the child the many ways God’s love embraces all of us. Some pages have an interactive flap that the child can look under to see more. On the very last page the moon is actually a mirror in which the child can see the face of the one God loves!

Holley Gerth’s words are joyfully accented by the sweet, softly painted pictures on each page. Her easy-to-listen-to poetry is brought to life by Alisa Hipp’s pictures of a mama bear and her small cub.

This little book would be a great parent and child read before bed, or an afternoon snuggle-up story to read to a grandchild.

Today and Always, This is True, God Loves You, is available at Christian book stores and Amazon.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. 

 

Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah is an inspiring man. Emmanuel’s Dream by Laurie Ann Thompson, illustrated by Sean Qualls and published by Random House Children’s Books (2015) tells the story of his early life. It’s an awesome life, full of challenges, but rich in perseverance and triumph.

Emmanuel was born in Ghana. He was healthy except that he had a deformed leg. Most people where he lived believed that such a child would be useless or a curse. His father left. His mother had faith though and she named her son, Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.”

She was determined that Emmanuel would have a good life. We learn that she encouraged him when he was very young to be self-reliant. We are then told that in Ghana at that time many children with disabilities could not go to school. Emmanuel did go to school. His mother carried him until he became too heavy. However, he did not stay home then; he hopped by himself—two miles there and two miles back.

It’s not surprising that Emmanuel encountered more difficulties at school and in his life. It is surprising and thrilling to hear how he met those obstacles and overcame them. Just before she died, his mother told him he must not quit. And he didn’t.

To honor his mother and her belief in him, he decided to show people “that being disabled does not mean being unable.” He devised a plan. He decided to ride a bicycle throughout Ghana, stopping at times to talk to and encourage people with physical challenges. On his ride he also talked to people without disabilities and encouraged them to re-think their thoughts about disabilities. He became a national hero.

Emmanuel’s Dream is a picture book, simple and direct in its language. Maybe that’s a really good thing because in this format there’s no way that anyone reading or a child listening to this story can miss its powerful message.

The illustrations are simple, yet colorful, lively and emotionally evocative. They support and enhance the narrative beautifully.

Emmanuel’s Dream will help children look at people with disabilities differently. I think it will also inspire young children to consider that they too can overcome obstacles and challenges.

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.

 

Thanksgving is coming. And so . . .

Thank you, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving

Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving

Though these are picture books, the stories will thrill and fascinate people of any age.

Here are some more suggestions of books with a Thanksgiving theme. We think they are lovely as well and will add to your celebration of the day and the days following.

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

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.

An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving – a gentle story about family life at Thanksgiving from 19th century author Louisa May Alcott.  This short book with illustrations would be enjoyed by children ages five to twelve.

 

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.

 

 

 

P is for Pumpkin written by Kathy-Jo Wargin, illustrated by Yawen Ariel Pang and published by Zonderkidz (2008) is subtitled God’s Harvest Alphabet. This alphabet book takes a lively look at the special things and events that occur in autumn such as ripe apples, jack-o-lanterns, barn dances, taking nature walks, jumping in piles of leaves.

The words matched with the letters are quite well chosen and give a child a broader and richer appreciation for the season. Passages such as “M is for Moon,” referring to the harvest moon and “Birds fly in a big letter “V” referring to geese flying south encourage children to watch for the beauty and wonder of the season. “D is for Dress-up” is not a big surprise, but that it is included will delight children. Unexpected but totally welcomed was “K is for for Kindness” which referred to sharing kettles of warm soup with neighbors.

I think some people might be bothered by the word used for “X”–“extra.” It does color outside the lines of traditional alphabet books, but I liked it. I thought it was a clever way to work around that useful but distinctively difficult letter–“Laughing and singing for eXtra big fun.”

God is often mentioned in the explanations that accompany the letters. This is outstanding. It blesses the reader and the listener, helping us all know and remember that our God is in this world and active in this wonderful time of the year.

P is for Pumpkin is easy to read aloud. Children will enjoy its active language, questions to the listener, and rhyme.

The lively illustrations are child-friendly and come dressed in beautiful autumn colors. Children will like looking at and pointing out the many details in the pictures. I think they will particularly like it that the pages often show animals accompanying the child in the activity.

There is a tendency to think that because a child has one alphabet book that another is unnecessary. I’m going to challenge that thought. When children see that a letter and its sound can be at the beginning of more than one word, they begin to discover something important about letters–that they are the building blocks of words.

P is for Pumpkin would find its greatest appeal with three- to six-year-olds.

If you are looking for other books that view autumn and Halloween from a different perspective than witches and ghosts, you might consider The Pumpkin Patch Parable by Liz Curtis Higgs. For upper elementary kids, consider getting a copy of When Lightning Struck!: The Story of Martin Luther by Danika Cooley. It was on Halloween in 1517–All Hallows Eve–that according to the story, Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses on the door of the church at Wittenberg.

Have a blessed autumn!

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.

I Prayed for You by Jean Fischer, illustrated by Frank Endersby and published by Tommy Nelson (2018) is a sweet, sweet picture book for moms and little ones.

The first page states simply, “Children are a gift from the Lord,” Psalm127:3. I like this. It seems like a warm and wise place to begin, settling the reader and child on a big truth and a sure foundation.

In the pages that follow Mama Bear interacts with her cub as that little one experiences life’s early events—taking first steps, saying prayers for the first time, going fishing for the first time, even saying no when the cub should have said yes. Over each event and even before the cub is born, Mama Bear says a short, loving prayer. The prayer rhymes, which makes it fun for the reader to say and for kids to play with. Mama’s “snapshots” of her cub growing up take the cub to school, to being on a sports team and even reassures the cub that Mama will still be praying even when cub is a grown-up.

Small children will be pleased with the artist’s colorful and active illustrations. Using watercolor and pastel, he creates a gentle world. Mama Bear takes obvious delight in cub’s activities and achievements and the expressions on her face will warm the hearts of little ones. They will also like it that while she is shown helping and playing with the little cub, she is also shown confidently watching nearby as her cub explores the world independently.

I think this book would make an excellent bedtime or mid-afternoon quiet time book. It would help moms to regroup (And there are days when a mom so needs that. Oh, yes!) and remember the most valuable thing. I Prayed for You would also reassure a child that he/she is watched over, supported and delighted in by Mom and by God.

On another note, if you are looking for that special gift for a mom-to-be, this just might be it. It’s such an upbeat, sweet book. It will quietly remind her that as she begins her new adventure, she can journey with Someone who will help her and watch over her.

 

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.

A Windy Spring Day is a gentle, sweet story with a big thought. Written by Wendy Dunham, illustrated by Michael Sparks and published by Harvest House (2018) this little (64 pages) book will charm 4- to 7-year-olds. (You’ll like it too. At least I hope so because I suspect your four-year-old is going to ask you to read it over and over and over again.)

This story which uses only animal characters reminds me of that classic for young readers–the Frog and Toad series.

Skunk, as the story begins, is huddled at the corner of his couch with his blanket wrapped around him, and he is afraid. It’s a windy day and the wind is shaking his house. He decides to phone his friend Raccoon who promises to come over despite the wind. He tells Skunk that he is bringing a surprise. There is a little bit of suspense as Raccoon packs up some items but doesn’t reveal what they are for.

When Raccoon arrives at Skunk’s, he asks if Skunk is still afraid. Skunk says he’s not now because his friend has come. Raccoon says the surprise is a kite. Skunk is intrigued, but he points out a problem. He doesn’t know how to make a kite. Raccoon says he will teach him. And he sets about it. Skunk, however, is not done with seeing difficulties. Raccoon meets the need and with gentle directness.

Kite made, they invite their other animal friends to join them kite flying. It’s a wonderful time for everyone, especially Skunk who declares he is no longer afraid.

The book ends with the scripture “When I am afraid, I will put my trust in you.” Psalm 56:3. It seems that Ms. Dunham has been telling us a parable. And in my opinion, she’s done it beautifully. You may need to help your child make the connection, but once there, I think the story will warm even more your child’s heart and deepen their faith in God.

The illustrations are colorful and child-friendly. I appreciate their simplicity. Most of the illustrations give us a spyglass picture, showing us only the character or the item, and leave out the background. This focusing helps children think about what is important on that particular page.

A Windy Spring Day is part of The Tales of Buttercup Grove series.

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.

 

 

Marigold and the Snoring King was written by J. D. Rempel and published by Halo Publishing International (2019). Put this picture book on your shopping list! It is a new story with a sweet and wholesome feeling. J. D. Rempel’s charming tale has the potential to become a classic.

King Reginald has a snoring problem that is becoming worse and worse. It is so bad that no one in the kingdom except the king is sleeping very well. So a decree goes out calling for cures.

A spunky little orphan girl named Marigold is sure her idea will work, but every day when she goes to the castle, she is turned away by a guard. In the meantime, powerful and smart people in the kingdom present their cures to the king, and he dutifully tries each one, no matter how hilarious. But his problem only gets worse!

Finally, the guard lets Marigold into the great hall to see the king and queen. What happens next leads to a very satisfying conclusion and a new family for Marigold.

Kim Sponaugle’s illustrations bring color and personality to Marigold’s story. The reader is immediately carried off into a land long ago. Our heroine’s sweet face on the cover makes you want to open the book. The lines of ZZZs flowing out of King Reginald’s mouth into the castle and beyond made me smile. One of my favorite bits is an illustrated warning on the title page “These remedies for snoring are fictional and should not be used.”

This picture book for four- to seven-year-olds is 30 pages long. It is available in hardcover, paperback, and ebook and can be ordered on Amazon.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. 

Book Reviews

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 112 other followers

Search Posts by Categories