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The World Is Awake: A Celebration of Everyday Blessings, is written by Linsey Davis with Joseph Bottum, illustrated by Lucy Fleming and published by Zonderkidz (2018). This picture book will bless you and your child. It will lift your spirits as you read it together. It calls us to joy and it helps to open our eyes to the goodness God has provided for us.

This is a happy book. It begins with “This is the day the Lord has made,” and then invites us to awaken to the everyday wonders around us. The book emphasizes the variety in nature: trees, birds, insects, fish in a pond, rainbows, fields of flowers. All these speak of God and His grace. We are invited to notice His creation. We are invited to enjoy, to come out and play.

A trip to the zoo broadens our vision of God’s creation and we encounter a diversity of animals and enjoy their antics. The day continues with a stop at the market and a range of good food that is available–“for God always provides us with wonderful treats.” It ends soothingly with nighttime sounds (“I hear God’s love in the sound of the breeze”) and prayers, making it a terrific bedtime book.

With a naturalness that is refreshing, The World Is Awake goes beyond nature, animals and food in celebrating the diversity of God’s creation. The main characters, a little boy and a little girl, are African-American. The people at the zoo are old, young, and many races. In an interview Ms. Davis said she purposely wanted to create a book in which her son could see himself. (She said when he saw the illustrations he became very excited because he thought they were of him.)

The illustrations by Lucy Fleming are colorful, active and child-friendly. There’s a joyfulness to them that invite us into that world. The text which is rhythmic and in rhyme is easy to read and will be fun to listen to. The World Is Awake will, I think, best appeal to children ages 3 to 7.

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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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 dear ones.

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

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. When they learn in Sunday school or from you that it is linked to the Easter story, their faith in God and His love will also grow.

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.

 

Ten Little Night Stars, written by Deb Gruelle, illustrated by Gabi Murphy and published by Zondervan (2018) is a bedtime book. It is also a counting book. Easy to read aloud, this rhyming book for children two- to five-years-old cleverly keeps you turning the page to complete the rhyme. And guess what? A number (from one to ten) is the word that completes the rhyme. Small children will love anticipating the number, saying it with you and then counting the stars shining in the window on that page.

Murphy’s illustrations are colorful, sweet and child-friendly. Animal mommies and daddies and their young child perform bedtime activities such as brushing teeth, saying prayers, reading a book, wriggling into jammies. The animals shown are friendly, happy monkeys, lions, bears, hippos, elephants, etc. As I mentioned above, the number of stars shining through the window into the animal-child’s room correspond to the number on the page.

Ten Little Night Stars will sweetly help both child and parent unwind from their day. The book has just enough anticipation and surprise to keep it fun and interesting, but not so much that it will excite and stir the child up. The text and the pictures gently lead the child to bed and to rest.

Books 4 Christian Kids has looked at other bedtime books and so I am listing a couple of them. A child often wants more than one story at bedtime, right?

A Night Night Prayer

God Bless You & Good Night

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.

In a gallery I recently saw the work of Hilda Robinson. Her vibrant, impressionistic oil pastels totally captivated me. Her paintings are collected into the picture book, Didn’t We Have Fun!  The book is published by Crickhollow Books (2012) with text written by Jeff Kunkel.

The book invites you into the world of Robinson’s childhood. The place is Philadelphia, probably during the late 1940’s. It is a time before television and computers. Family life, reading, radio, movies, picnics and church are the sources of Robinson’s pleasure and delight.

Her world is that of a large African-American family and a tight-knit urban community. In this world there is love, respect, self-worth, fun, and beauty. There is hard work too and the picture of her mother asleep after a long day is unforgettably touching. At the end, Robinson says of her childhood (by way of Kunkel’s text) that they didn’t have a car or much money, but “we had parents who loved us, a good home, plenty to eat, . . . . Best of all, we had each other.” Her colorful, lively paintings beautifully illustrate and celebrate this life.

Each of the paintings is accompanied by a page or two of text. The text is direct, with short paragraphs, and easy to read aloud. It describes the activity shown in the picture and often expands on it, filling in the reader on such things as the games children played, listening to the radio when Joe Louis boxed, going to the park and church life. Some of the sections are: The Six of Us, Home in Philly, All Dressed Up, Homework, Cuddling, The Park, Church, Rollerskating.

Didn’t We Have Fun! is appropriate for children 4 to 8. I think you and your children will enjoy spending time in this lovely book. Saying that it is educational is an obvious reason for reading the book; it depicts a different time and perhaps a different culture than what your children now experience. But I think it is the energy and joy in the pictures that will keep you and your child wanting to look at and read the story again and again. Who knows, but Didn’t We Have Fun! might provoke a conversation with your child about your childhood and the kind of fun you had.

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.

 

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.

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.

 

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