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 like TV and films. I really do. I’ve even been known to binge on certain series. But after indulging for a while, I get restless. I need meatier-stuff. TV and film become too passive an experience for me. I need to engage my imagination. I need books.

Maybe that’s what is happening at your house. You and the kids need an adventure. Well, we can suggest some.

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 ? or go to London on a the London Art Chase or go to Hollywood with Hello, Stars.

We have other suggestions. 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! Happy Travels!

If you go to the grocery store here in California, you might be tempted to get caught up in hysteria. Even people I know who are relatively unflappable, have been flapping.

While I think we do need to take precautions, I don’t think–let me say that again–I don’t think we should surrender to fear. (Trust me on this one; I’ve done a lot of surrendering to fears in my life and I’ve watched other people surrendering to fear. It is not a good place to be.) We need to submit to God and resist the devil. We need to do it for ourselves and we can help the kids do it.

A speaker, a pastor, on TV told a story of a mother and a daughter who had experienced a devastating loss. To help her daughter, the mother suggested that she create a blessings jar.

At night the girl was to write on a piece paper something good that had happened to her that day. At the end of the month, they would empty the jar and read out loud all of the good things that had happened.

I think this keeping track helps us to watch for God, to realize that He is active in our lives and that we are completely and truly loved.

A person doesn’t have to use a jar the speaker said. A notebook and a pen will work. Though I think kids might like the jar better, especially if it is clear glass and the paper strips are of different colors.

And remember you don’t have to be a kid to do this. Delight yourself in the Lord and His goodness.

Nancy

Love, Lexi: Letters to God by Sherry Kyle, published by Tyndale (2016) is a story told in the form of a journal with interactive sections for the reader. It is suitable for upper elementary and middle school girls. Lexi (Alexis) tells her story to God with all the passion and angst typical of the seventh grader that she is.

In her first letter, Lexi declares this day the worst day ever. Her reasons include a stolen note involving her “crush” and being partnered for a class assignment with the school’s queen bee. Bianca, the queen bee, has tagged Lexi, “Lexi the Loser.” In her journal Lexi compares herself to Bianca and comes up very much less than.

After Lexi’s letter, God responds with thoughts from Romans 8:38-39 and Jeremiah 31:3. What follows is a paragraph speaking to the problem of comparing ourselves to others and reminding the reader that she is made in God’s image and is designed exactly how He wanted. The reader is then given an opportunity to a write some sentences on why she sometimes feels like a loser. The next prompt is “But when I think about how much You love me, I feel. . .” A short prayer follows these prompts and then a verse from Ephesians reminds the reader again how deeply she is loved.

The next letter to God introduces the plot. A contest at school has been announced. Students who wish to may sell orders for cookie dough to raise money for the school computer lab. The student who sells the most will win a pizza party and a ride in a limo with three friends. Lexi is determined to win.

In later letters the reader learns that Lexi has come up with the idea of a dance team that will perform at the assembly where the winner of the contest is announced. She thinks this will solve her popularity problem or lack thereof. Lexi then holds try-outs. A few girls show up, but they leave quickly, intimidated by the best dancers in the school—Bianca and her crew.

Love, Lexi is girl world. There’s lots of drama–drama with parents, drama with siblings, and drama with friends. Lexi’s problems and obstacles are not world-changing or life threatening. They may even seem superficial to adults, but they will resonate with girls of that age. Lexi’s desire and struggle to find her place and accept herself are very much on a middle school girl’s agenda.

The book is printed in red ink. There are small drawings on the pages of the kind that a young woman might make in her journal. These add to the fun of the book.

What makes this book truly special, and I think very worthy of a middle school girl’s time, is its devotional aspect. Each of Lexi’s entries ends with God’s response to Lexi’s present difficulty, plus a short paragraph that gives insight and perspective to the difficulty, prompts for the reader to share about a similar situation in her life, a simple prayer and a scripture.

If a girl takes advantage of these sections, I believe her relationship with God will grow into a beautiful and vibrant one. She will find that God is her friend and that she can be His.

(I’ve inserted the book cover in case you should go to look at the book on Amazon. If you do, you might be taken aback by some of the company Amazon has it keeping. But do not be misled. This is a good, good book.)

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.  

 

On a Summer Tide (Three Sisters Island Book #1), by Suzanne Woods Fisher and published by Revell (2019) will make you smile. It is full of fun, humor, sorrow at times and much spiritual growth in lives of the main characters.

The story starts when Paul Grayson, a widower in his late 50’s, announces to his three adult daughters that he has just bought an island off the coast of Maine. The island has gone bankrupt! He remembers the camp on the island where he and his late wife met and fell in love. They had always promised each other they would go back there someday. Now she is gone, and Paul is invigorated thinking about getting the camp up and running again. The name of the island is Three Sisters Island, and the name of the camp is Camp Kicking Moose!

His daughters are all distraught, wondering why he has sold their childhood home to buy something dilapidated and in need of so much time and effort. Paul sees it differently. He views this purchase as a new beginning, hoping that he can do good for this island and its residents.

His wife had been a strong Christian, serving the Lord in many ways. She died trying to rescue an elderly neighbor in a house fire. The neighbor’s granddaughter, Libby, also died in the fire. Libby was survived by a young son, Cooper. Paul’s oldest daughter, Camden, became Cooper’s guardian.

Camden is a career woman. She has had to learn to be a mother to Cooper, who struggles with a degree of autism. Madison, Paul’s second daughter, is studying to be a therapist. She is engaged to a young man named Tre, whom the family is not fond of. Blaine, the youngest daughter, has been attending college. Yet she is still unsure what path she wants to follow.

Soon, Paul is on his way to the island where he meets some very colorful characters. Peg Legg is friendly to all. She runs the diner and general store on the Three Sisters Island. Captain Ed runs the Never Late Ferry, between Mount Desert and Three Sisters Island. Seth Walker, in his late twenties, is a free spirit, the schoolteacher and leader of worship at the only church in town. Baxtor Phinney, is the self-appointed mayor, and his sons, Peter and Porter, are lazy and annoying.

As the story unfolds, Camden, Madison and Blaine come to the island to help their father fix up Camp Kicking Moose. These young women are not following the Lord, but as time progresses, they seek Him more. They become closer, more understanding and sympathetic with one another. On the island they all also end up finding friends and a purpose. They are surprised by the joy they find in helping others and they grow to appreciate the beauty the island has to offer.

The characters grow, develop a stronger bond with each other and seek more meaning in their lives through their relationship with the Lord. Paul feels blessed to see his family united in a way that is fresh and new. Some funny events, mystery and romance are thrown in to complete the story.

I really enjoyed On a Summer Tide. The characters came to life, and I was sad to leave them when the book ended. The author did an excellent job. This book is best suited to readers age 18 and above.

Patsy Ledbetter says she has many titles, but her favorite is being mom to her six children. Her two daughters, two sons and one son-in-law and one-daughter-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 more than 35 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.”

The book, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, by Eric Metaxas and published by Thomas Nelson (Repeat edition, 2011) is a deep, riveting analysis of the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It is very extensive, containing over 500 pages of interesting information about Dietrich, a man who submitted to nothing and no one except God and his Word.

As Adolph Hitler and the Nazis fooled a nation and attempted to exterminate the Jews of Europe, a small number of scholars attempted to destroy the Third Reich from the inside. Bonhoeffer was one of these. It is convicting to read of his bravery in the face of evil.

In 1898, Dietrich’s parents, Karl and Paula Bonhoeffer were married, and within a decade, brought eight children into the world. All of the children were born in Breslau, Germany, where Karl held the chair in psychiatry and neurology at the university. He was also the director at the hospital for nervous diseases. Their large house at 7 Birkenwaldchen was near the clinic.

On February 4, 1906, the Bonhoeffer’s youngest son Dietrich was born just before his twin sister, Sabine. Their mother, Paula taught the children herself until they were eight, then she sent them to public schools where they excelled. Although their father, Karl, was not a Christian he allowed their mother to teach them the Bible and hymns. In this strong and loving family, the children were taught to live by biblical principles and to think for themselves.

Dietrich’s father was appointed to the chair of psychiatry and neurology in Berlin in 1912. He retained this position until his death in 1948. Even though his wife Paula was a Christian and they had an excellent marriage, Karl was wary of anything beyond what one might observe with his senses. He could be termed an agnostic. However, he never stood in the way of his wife instructing the children in the Bible and prayer.

The Bonhoeffers were a very musical family. They would conduct musical evenings every Saturday night. Dietrich’s sister Sabine wrote, “Usually the boys began with a trio. Karl-Friedrich played the piano, Walter the violin and Klaus the cello. Then Dietrich accompanied my mother as she sang. The big sisters sang duets, as well as Lieder by Shubert, Brahms, and Beethoven.”

In August 1914, Britain declared war on Germany. The two oldest sons, Karl-Friedrich and Walter were called to war. In April of 1917, Walter died. This was a spiritual turning point for Dietrich. He began to think more seriously about God and his faith. In 1918, Germany lost the war. The monarch, Kaiser Wilhelm, admitted defeat.

In 1920, when Dietrich was 14, he determined he wanted to become a theologian. From this point on, he focused on his education, attending schools and seminaries. At the age of 18, He began speaking to others. He traveled throughout Europe and America. Here is a quote from the book that shares the beginning of the change in Germany,

“On January 30, 1933 at noon, Adolph Hitler became the democratically elected chancellor of Germany. The land of Goethe, Schiller and Bach would now be led by someone who consorted with crazies and criminals, who was often seen carrying a dog whip in public. The Third Reich had begun.”

Many issues and problems arose, but Dietrich went against Hitler, and fought for God’s truth to prevail. He preached sermons, wrote books and instructed others in the Lord. The last book he wrote was called Discipleship, known generally in English as The Cost of Discipleship, is certainly worth reading.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer died in a German prison at the age of 45.

Here is one of his quotes that has inspired me:

“If we want to be Christians, we must have some share in Christ’s large-heartedness by acting with responsibility and in freedom when the hour of danger comes, and by showing a real sympathy that springs, not from fear, but from the liberating and redeeming love of Christ for all who suffer. Mere waiting and looking on is not Christian behavior. The Christian is called to sympathy and action, not in the first place by his own sufferings, but by the sufferings of his brethren, for whose sake Christ suffered.”

Archbishop Charles Chaput states, “Metaxas has created a biography of uncommon power–intelligent, moving, well researched, vividly written and rich in implication for our own lives.”

I know that your will find this story as life-changing as I did.

Patsy Ledbetter says she has many titles, but her favorite is being mom to her six children. Her two daughters, two sons and one son-in-law and one-daughter-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 more than 35 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.”

 

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

Book Reviews

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