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“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.

Elisabeth Elliot: Joyful Surrender (Christian Heroes: Then and Now) is a biography in the series Christian Heroes: Then and Now. The series is written especially for young people. Janet and Geoff Benge authored this biography on Elliot. It was published by YWAM (2010). I’m making a particular point of this because there is an autobiography by Elliot with the similar title, Joyful Surrender. It was written for adults and not for children.

The Benges’ biography of Elisabeth Elliot is an important read for young people. It shows how following God may not take us in a straight line; doubts and setbacks are inevitable. Yet God still loves us and helps us walk through shadows and difficulties and on to see the fulfillment of his plans for us. Elisabeth Elliot is a close up and personal look at a life-long journey of faith.

The writing level of this biography is suitable for middle school and high school students. That said, it is important for adults to caution would-be readers of the facts before giving them the book.

From the news, previous generations knew the story of Jim Elliot’s martyrdom, but today people have not heard that Elisabeth’s husband was speared to death while attempting to bring the gospel to an unreached Ecuadorian tribe. The book also contains descriptions of the death of a woman in childbirth, the murder of a language informant, and the painful illness of Betty’s second husband. These descriptions may upset and frighten some younger readers and not be suitable until they are older, and mentally prepared to process it.

This biography differs from Elisabeth’s famous book Through Gates of Splendor. Instead of telling us about Jim, it outlines Betty’s faith journey. We learn about her family life and how meeting many missionaries in her home influenced her choice of career.

It was her plan to become a translator for people who did not have the Bible in their own language and so she studied linguistics in college. She met Jim Elliot and felt drawn to him, but both were planning to remain single and they were interested in different countries.

Betty taught for a while after completing her training. Then God brought people and events into her life that led her to accept a missionary assignment in Ecuador, where Jim was serving, but at a different location. Betty worked hard and faced many heartbreaking setbacks. Sometime later, Jim and Betty married and began serving together.

After Jim was killed, Betty sought out the same tribe whom he had tried to reach. Slowly, members of the tribe began to open their hearts to Jesus. She wrote many stories about the work Jim, herself, and others were doing in Ecuador, giving readers a window into the adventure and challenges of such a calling.

Betty’s writing and speaking brought her back to the United States, where she inspired many people to serve as missionaries and to support missions. During this time her own life had many ups and downs, but her spirit remained strong and surrendered to God.

Elisabeth Elliot: Joyful Surrender (Christian Heroes: Then and Now) is available at Christian bookstores, on Christianbook.com, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. In paperback, it is approximately 230 pages long.

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.  

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Instead of candy and flowers (well, maybe not instead of candy, but in addition to) why not give one of your valentines a romance novel? We have some suggestions for you.

There are others on the Book Lists page. Scroll down to find more YA fiction and College/Working Adult titles.

And remember you are always God’s valentine and ours.

YA

First Date
The Lost Castle
Love Finds You in Lahaina, Hawaii
The Princess

 

College/Working Adult

Christy
First Impressions, A Contemporary Retelling of Pride and Prejudice
The Maid of Fairbourne Hall
With Every Letter

 

School can be serious business. Maybe a little science fiction reading or fantasy would be just the refreshing break you or your young person needs. Here are some titles that we can recommend.

(MG: Middle Grade;   YA: Young Adult;     CW: College Age/Working Person)

Sci-Fi

Dragon and Thief  – MG
Escape to Witch Mountain  – YA
Nick Newton Is Not a Genius  – MG
9 Slightly Strange Stories with an Uplifting Edge  – YA, CW

 

Fantasy

Babe, the Gallant Pig – Elementary School Age
Brush of Wings – YA, CW
Fairy Realm Series – Early Chapter Books
Forgotten Door – MG
Full Metal Trench Coat – MG
Lightbearer: The Lorica Prophecies – YA, CW
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – MG, YA
Magic Attic Club Series – MG
Prince Warriors – MG
Raiders from the Sea – MG
Tomo: I was an Eighth Grade Ninja – MG
Trumpet of the Swan – MG

Books can be “mirrors, windows, stepping stones,
anchors, escape hatches, quiet corners, spring boards,
warm blankets.”
A Chinese proverb says,
“A book is like a garden, carried in the pocket.”

Books make super wonderful stocking stuffers. I chose a few titles that we have liked from Book Lists to get you started, but there are many more titles on Book Lists.

For Young Independent Readers:
The Great Cake Mystery
West Meadows Detectives
A Windy Spring Day

For Middle Graders:
Anne of Green Gables
Dragon and Thief
Full Metal Trench Coat
Hello Stars
I Get a Clue
Nick Newton Is Not a Genius
Raiders from the Sea

For YA:
The Boys in the Boat
Dawn at Emberwilde
First Date
God’s Smuggler
The Maid of Fairbourne Hall
A Whisper and a Wish
Young Pioneers

For College Person/Working Person:
Christy
The Lost Castle
Love Finds You in Lahaina, Hawaii
Oxygen
7 Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness
7 Women: And the Secret of Their Greatness
Sushi for One?
With Every Letter

 

How to Stay Christian in High School was written by Steve Gerali and published by NavPress (2014). The title is straightforward but while parents might be attracted to the book because of it, I’m not sure about teens. And that’s too bad. (If you’re a teen reading this, call the title an error, come up with a better one if you must, but stay for the game.) Gerali has some thoughtful, helpful things to say about “walking the walk” and not just “talking the talk” in the exciting, challenging and often confusing days of being a teen.

The author begins with questions that trouble teens (and adults as well). How can I can be a Christian and not become worldly?  How can I witness to friends about Jesus, if I should not have close friends who are not Christians? How do I deal with the expectations of others that I be perfect just because I’m a Christian?

The author tackles these questions head on, using the lives of some famous teens from the Bible–Mary, Daniel, Joseph, the brothers James and John, and Timothy. Giving them a little bit of a contemporary setting, Gerali makes them surprisingly relatable. Teens (and adults) will see just how similar these biblical people’s experiences are to their own.

In the first one about Mary he poses a problem whose answer will be the foundation of the book. He asks teens to consider where does their identity lie. Is it in their talents, skills, intelligence, friends, family? Mary upon hearing that she has been chosen to be the mother of the Savior must put all these aside and determine that her identity is first and foremost as a child of God. Every other part of her life pales before that position and must, if God and life require, be relinquished.

As the author looks at other biblical teens, he zeroes in on problems all too familiar in the teen world of today—who’s influencing you and how much, sexual temptations, competition and selfish ambition, and just how do you be an authentic Christian. I found Gerali’s thoughts on these difficulties honest, insightful and helpful. Each chapter ends with a group questions that will help the reader personalize the topic in the chapter and take the problem deeper into the teen’s everyday world.

I like How to Stay Christian in High School. It challenged me on a couple of the issues. (Do we ever get totally free of some of the issues we faced as teens?) And once your teen gets past the title, I think your teen will discover that time reading the book and thinking about it, is time well-spent.

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.

 

Indescribable: 100 Devotions About God and Science is, I think, one of my year’s best discoveries—book-wise. I can’t say enough good things about it. Written by Louie Giglio with Tama Fortner and illustrated by Nicola Anderson, it’s published by Thomas Nelson (2017). The most appropriate age group for this book is, I think, fourth grade through eighth. Younger children would have a lot of difficulty reading it on their own. The scientific facts that each devotion contains would intrigue high schoolers, but the cartoonish illustrations would dampen their enthusiasm for the material.

Each devotion has interesting and sometimes jaw-droppingly fun things to say about the world that God has created, including us. For example, you may have heard that your fingerprints are unique, but did you know that other parts of your body also declare that you are one of a kind? And what is the tallest mountain? If you say Mount Everest, it’s a good guess. It reaches the highest point on earth. But the inactive volcano, Mauna Kea, is actually the tallest when you consider it from its base on the ocean floor to its top. Do you know how seahorses use their tails? What causes the aurora borealis? Is a camel born with a hump and what is a camel’s hump made of? The most energy-efficient light in the world is . . .?

You might be tempted to rush now and google the answers to these questions. But don’t do it.  Because if you only find out the answer to the questions, you will miss reading that God has given the seahorse what it needs and that He will do the same for you.

And while googling might explain aurora borealis, it won’t remind you that God’s wondrous light is not just in the sky. It can also be in us. You and your child don’t want to miss these connections. And you don’t want to miss the 98 other cool scientific topics that the authors have written about and then use to help us grasp God’s greatness and His love.

BTW, have you been wondering what the other unique parts of your body are? Well . . . I’m not going to say. But I will tell you that Giglio (after telling the reader) goes on to write that we may sometimes feel like we are just another person in a crowd and that there’s nothing special about us. But that, he writes, is wrong. We are each unique and what’s more God sees us that way. (I just thought you might need to know that today.)

Each devotion begins with an appropriate Scripture and ends with a short prayer. I typed in what looked like an average length devotion to get a word count—it ran 279 words.

Nicola Anderson has created cute and lively drawings to go along with the text. There are also photographs of all kinds of wonders—stars, close-ups of insects, animals, etc.

I think kids will love reading these fact-filled, meaningful devotions and will love sharing the information with others. You might consider asking your child to choose one of the devotions and read it after dinner. (Don’t be surprised if your child wants to read more than one to you.)

As I read through this book, my sense of awe toward our God grew. The insecurities that often nip at my heels weakened. They were replaced by the thought that I and the universe in which I live are fearfully and wonderfully made, and that the God who made it is wonderfully wise and indescribably loving.

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.) I Get a Clue and We All Get a Clue are her most recent works. These novels are mysteries for kids, ages 10 to 13.

Adventures in Prayer by Catherine Marshall helps readers to learn new ways to speak to God. There is so much more to communication with our Heavenly Father than telling Him our needs. This book offers ways to expand that dialogue.

Catherine Marshall’s life was not an easy one. She encountered joy, loss, frustration, hope, and victory. She pours lessons learned into eight chapters, each one ending in a sample prayer, which you can personalize. She explains the asking prayer, the prayer of helplessness, the prayer that helps your dreams, the waiting prayer, the prayer of relinquishment, the prayer in secret, the prayer of joyful blessing, and prayer that claims God’s promises.

Each example is steeped in scripture, and supported by personal stories from the lives of believers. Her world view is conservative, especially regarding societal roles, reflecting the norms of the 1950s.

We may not get all the results she describes. But the opportunity for stretching our view of God, for enriching our spiritual lives, for finding God’s will, and living in joy, is definitely worth the read.

This slim paperback is just the right size for you to keep with your Bible to read during your quiet time or to slip into a backpack for reflection on the go. It makes a great gift for teens or young adults.

Adventures in Prayer is available on Amazon.com and on Barnes and Noble. Other books with the same title have been written, but this review is specifically for the book written by Catherine Marshall.

I hope it lifts you closer to heaven.

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. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March has been designated as Women’s History Month. Eric Metaxas has written a book about seven very different, but incredible women that will interest and inspire middle school and high school students. 7 Women: And the Secret of Their Greatness is published by Thomas Nelson; Reprint edition (2016) 

The question that Metaxas answers is “what makes a woman great?” Is it leading the French army, having nineteen children of which two will become preachers and hymn writers, helping to abolish slavery, saving Jews during the Holocaust, standing up for civil rights, or working in the poverty neighborhoods of Calcutta? Each woman in the book was not afraid to stand up for God or what was right.

Joan of Arc was a teenager when she led the French army into battle against the English. She faced the challenges both of men not wanting to fight for her because she was a woman and of faction groups not taking her seriously. Despite these trials, her battle victories led to a France free from British rule. The triumph came at a personal cost. It ended her life, but with Mextaxas’ help the reader sees that it is not the end of her story.

Susanna Wesley was the wife of Samuel Wesley and the mother of 19 children. Susanna’s husband was not good with money. He borrowed often until he could not repay. Despite her husband’s debt, Susanna found her joy in raising her children to be strong people. She started educating her children at age five about faith, wrote two textbooks for her children, and she believed her daughters should be educated as well. The family would survive poverty and two house-fires.

Two of her sons would lead the modern Methodist movement: forming churches, starting hospitals and orphanages. Her son Charles wrote many hymns. The reader will recognize the names of some of the songs which are still sung today.

Hannah More was a writer who changed the world. She wrote books and plays. After reading John Newton’s book Cardiphonia, she was inspired to join with Wilberforce in the fight to end slavery. Her role was to help everyday Britons look at the inhumanity of the slave trade. It will prove satisfying to read that just before her death in 1833, Parliament passed a law ending slavery in the British Empire.

Mextaxas also gives the reader glimpses into the fascinating but relatively unknown life of Saint Maria of Paris. Of Ukrainian ancestry, she would, after the Russian Revolution, spend many years in France. She was raised Eastern Orthodox, but after her father’s tragic death she claimed to become an atheist.

As a young woman, she married a Bolshevik and became immersed in revolutionary ideas, but the marriage did not last. She subsequently returned to her Christian faith. In time she married again. Forced to flee Communist Russia, she and her family eventually ended up in Paris. After the tragic death of her third child and the end of her second marriage she began to open up her home to those who needed a place to stay. During the German Occupation of France, she helped with the resistance, actively transporting, hiding, and helping Jews escape France. She was discovered, arrested and . . .

Corrie ten Boom, a Dutch woman and a devout Christian, believed that the Jews were God’s chosen people from the Old Testament. As adults, she and her sister Betsie led boys’ and girls’ clubs, teaching Bible study and leading other activities for teens.

In 1940, Holland was invaded by Nazi Germany. Corrie and her family resisted the Nazis and provided a hiding place for Jews in their home. In time Corrie and her family were arrested for this choice. Corrie and Betsie were transported to Ravensbruck and. . . . There, the two led Bible study with a smuggled Bible. The two women prayed for the women in the camp and the guards as well. Betsie died in Ravensbruck, but Corrie was released. She made her way back to the Netherlands where she once again opened her home–this time to concentration camp survivors.

Rosa Parks is most famous for refusing to give up her seat to a white man during the era of segregation in the American South, but there is more to her story. Parks grew up attending church and learning from her family about her history. In 1932 Rosa married Raymond Parks a barber, church sexton and member of the Montgomery, Alabama chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). During the 1940’s she and her husband became more involved in the civil rights movement.

In 1954 a break came for the movement—the Brown v. the Board of Education decision. Public education was no longer segregated, but buses remained segregated. Many African-Americans began to think about a boycott while the Montgomery NAACP filed a lawsuit against the public transportation. The plan was for a woman to not give up her seat, but who would do it? Little did Rosa Parks know, it would be she.

Mother Teresa was born Gonxha Agnes Bojaxhiu. Her father died when she was young, sending her family into poverty. Despite their own poverty, young Agnes’ mother looked after the poor in the community and helped clean or cook for them. The family lived a life of faith and religion. At age 18 Agnes learned about Society of Jesus in India, who worked with the poor and sick in Calcutta. In 1928, she began her life as a nun and dedicated that life to working with the poorest of the poor in India. Metaxas’ description of that work shows how she lived her life by Jesus’s command in Matthew 25:34-40.

This book is about women who made a difference in their world. All stood up accepting their mission from God. Each teaches us a lesson in faith and inspires us to follow in their footsteps. I would encourage middle school and high school students to read this book. There are some words and details a parent might need to explain, including the context of history and the use of certain language.

Kristina O’Brien is a mother, an avid reader and a credentialed teacher. She has taught both middle school and high school history.

 

Book Reviews

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