This can be that time in the summer when your kids are saying they’re bored, bored, bored. They want something new, something to happen. They want to go someplace, have an adventure, make new friends.

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 ?

Those are just a few suggestions. We have others. 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!

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.

 

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Nick Newton Is Not A Genius is a steampunk (science fiction set in Victorian times which emphasizes historical or imagined steam-powered technology) chapter book for middle grade readers. It is written by S.E.M. Ishida with illustrations by Dana Thompson. Published by JourneyForth (2016), it is 160 pages. Boys will especially enjoy its exploration into the world of robots and technology.

Nick Newton is the only one in his family who is not a genius. Upon learning that he will have to go to a new school, Nick decides to explore the attic filled with his grandfather’s belongings. His grandfather was a hero and general in the Last War and defeated his enemy, Draicot, with his military inventions. Nick discovers schematics and parts for one of his grandfather’s inventions, a clockwork bird. He names it Plink. Nick tries to put the clockwork bird together, but he is hindered by some of his wacky family’s escapades.

At Nick’s new school rumors abound about Mr. Volk, whose parents were founders of the school. Mr. Volk lives alone with his family of robots. Nick and his family visit Mr. Volk. While there Erma, Nick’s older sister, gets into dangerous trouble. Erma is saved but at great expense to Mr. Volk. When Mr. Volk is interested in buying Plink, Nick refuses even though he is grateful to him. Mr. Volk asks if Nick has found a clockwork heart.

Nick with his new friends, Elliot and Solomon, search for the clockwork heart. Nick believes the heart may be in his grandfather’s locked trunk. They think clockwork birds are the key to unlocking it and they must find all three birds. In the end, they discover what happened to the clockwork heart as well as what happened to Draicot, his grandfather’s enemy.

Stocked with quirky characters and creative inventions, Nick Newton Is Not A Genius is a fun book to read with your children. I can’t wait to read about Nick’s next adventure. You can see pictures of Plink, the clockwork bird, on the author’s Facebook page.

J. D.  Rempelhttps://jdrempel.com/ , is a graduate of Simpson College. She is endeavoring to pen a YA science fiction novel and an adult fantasy series. Currently, she is seeking a publisher for her middle grade fiction novel. J. D. loves to read, work with her husband in youth ministry, and play peekaboo with her turtle, Applesauce. 


Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity, written by Nabeel Qureshi and published by Zondervan (expanded version, 2016), recounts Qureshi’s journey to Christianity–his “powerful memories and personal thoughts.”

As a young boy, Nabeel, an American-born Muslim, has the ideas of Islam instilled into his thinking and way of life. The culture of his faith is his identity and understanding of the world. But it becomes evident, that even while still a boy, God is working in his life.

On the school bus one day, Kristen talks with him about Good Friday. According to what Nabeel has been taught, Jesus did not actually die on the cross. Instead he passed out and was taken away where he recovered. Both, agree to disagree. Nabeel feels validated that Islam is the right religion and the final chapter.

In high school he has a conversation with Betsy, who talks about Christianity and invites him to a church play about sin and death. Nabeel and his father attend the play. On the way home they have a conversation about what they’ve seen and how it is wrong. Both discuss how Christians believe in “3” gods not the Trinity–“God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit.” They agree, again, Islam is right and there is only one God—Allah. Jesus is a prophet like Muhammad.

In college Nabeel meets David, a Christian. David encourages Nabeel to expand his literature understanding of Jesus and based on literature decide whether or not Jesus is who he says. David invites Nabeel and his father to a debate with two pastors who have written about the history of Jesus. The arguments are again made that Jesus did not actually die on the cross. The pastors explain that the Romans made sure Jesus was dead. The piercing of his side was an indication that he was dead by suffocation.

When the debate ends Nabeel is confused and looks again to his Muslim literature. David then encourages Nabeel to go to church with him since one of the pastors who debated is preaching. Nabeel says he cannot attend based on what his parents would say. David counters that Nabeel is an adult and can make his own decisions. Both men graduate college and go their separate ways for graduate school. Nabeel begins to pursue a medical degree.

Guided by the loving, faithful hand of God, Nabeel comes to be on his knees before Jesus–accepting the truth. In the Extended Epilogue his journey as a Christian continues. Nabeel must deal with his decision of faith and efforts to restore a relationship with his family.

The side margins of the book have a glossary of Islamic terms. Documents in the back are helpful as well.

This book is a good read for college-age young adults who want to explore both a better understanding of the Muslim faith and how God works in our lives–never giving up on us.

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

The watermelon’s eaten and fireworks are over, but perhaps the celebrations just whet the appetites of you and the kids to know more about America’s beginnings.  Here are a few books that we liked and you might like too. — Nancy

American Dream: The New World, Colonial Times, and Hints of Revolution (about Books 1 & 2)

American Dream: The New World, Colonial Times, and Hints of Revolution (about Books 3 & 4)

 The Children’s Book of America

Sacagawea: Girl of the Shining Mountains

We the People: The Story of Our Constitution

If you go looking for these books on Amazon, be sure to include the author’s name in your search. Titles are not subject to copywrite and so you will often find several books with the same title. Also Amazon, to the dismay of those of us who did graduate work in librarianship, does not always list books with the conventions of alphabetizing in mind.

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 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.

 

 

Accidentally Amish (Valley of Choice) by Olivia Newport and published by Shiloh Run Press (2012) will instruct and delight you. The two main characters, Annalise Friesen and Rufus Beiler couldn’t be more opposite. Annie, as she is called, is from Colorado Springs and owns a software company. Rufus is from the San Luis Valley in Colorado, and he is Amish. Yet, even so, these two are drawn to each other.

Through a series of crazy events, Annie ends up in the San Luis Valley with Rufus Beiler’s family. Rick Stebbins, her intellectual property lawyer/ex-boyfriend, and Barrett, her business partner, are attempting to take over her company. Fleeing from Rick, who is trying to get her to sign papers, she becomes a stowaway in a truck driven by Tom, a friend of Rufus. She decides on an extended stay at a hotel in the small town.

Through her relationship with her new Amish friends, and her desire to lead a more simple life, Annie comes to have a deeper faith in God. In the beginning of the story, she is highly attached to her computer and cell phone. She begins to rethink her lifestyle as she spends time with the Beiler family.

Intertwined in the story of Annie and Rufus is the story of another family. Jakob and Verona Beyeler came to America from Europe on the Charming Nancy in 1737. Many facts in this story are true. The book’s author, Olivia Newport, is a descendant of this family.

Annie begins to research her family history and finds she is related to Jakob Beyeler, through the line of his second wife, Elizabeth Kallen. When Jakob’s first wife, Verona, died, she left him with five children, the youngest still a baby.

Annie’s business stays in tact. She sells it and buys a small house in the San Luis Valley. She is not ready to become Amish, but she wants to learn more about God and about His plans for her life. After pursuing her own dreams of success for many years and coming up empty, without many meaningful connections in her life, she wants to find out what it would be like to live a life directed by God.

Nothing is completely resolved in Accidentally Amish; it is only book 1 in the series. But the novel does end happily, even though there are people in Annie’s life who don’t understand or agree with her decisions.

I really enjoyed reading this novel because the plots of both stories are interesting and a bit mysterious. I loved the fact that one way of living was not declared the one and only way. The book pointed out positives and negatives of the Amish and non-Amish ideas. The main point of this story is that God wants each of us to follow Him in the way He leads. If he leads each one differently, that is OK.  I think this would be a helpful book for young adult women and enjoyable for all adults.

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.”

 

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.

 

From Nancy–My apologies. Something went amiss when we posted the following review. It was fine when we previewed it. It was only this morning that we noticed that the left edge of the post was being cut off. Ugh! (I like a mystery and maybe you do too, but not when I’m reading a book review.) I hope the post is fixed now, but if not please bear with me. I will climb this hill and reach the top.

From Nancy– Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 14, and I thought it appropriate to re-run Patsy’s review of this book that celebrates motherhood.

21 Days of Joy, compiled by Kathy Ide and published by Broadstreet Publishing Group, LLC (2016), is the fourth book in the Fiction Lover’s Devotional series. This one is all about mothers. The most wonderful aspect of this book is that you don’t have to be a birth mother to find great joy in its pages. It is a wonderful read for those wishing they were mothers, those who have fostered or adopted children, or those who have lost children. It gives women hope that they can be used as a mother in a child’s life.

I loved reading the book and seeing how each one of the twenty-one stories was so varied and touching. The main thread that winds through this incredible little book is that God loves and honors mothers of all kinds. He loves our children and hears our prayers for them.

There were two stories in particular that stood out, and I would like to share about them. “Here With Us” by Nancy Ellen Hird is about an adoptive mother. I love the idea of adoption because my daughter has a desire to adopt someday. Kristie, an adoptive mother, has rushed home from a business trip after learning that she and her husband have been given a baby. She is overjoyed, but more than a little nervous as she reaches for the newborn in her husband’s arms.

She and Matt love their new little bundle of joy, a sweet baby girl. In a private moment with her sister Lisa, Kristie expresses fear that the birth mother might change her mind and want her baby back. Lisa reassures her, but also offers that all children go away someday, and that we are just borrowing them from the Lord. Kristie relaxes and rejoices at the amazing gift she and her husband have received. As our children grow, we need to learn to let go, and place them into God’s loving care.

Another story I particularly enjoyed is “Haiti’s Song,” by Deborah Raney. It is about a young woman, Valerie Austin, whose fiancé, Will, has just called off their wedding after most of the arrangements have been made. He comes to realize he never wants children, and yet Valerie does.

From a young age, Valerie had dreamed of having children. She had sewn many children’s clothes as a young teen, placing them in her hope chest for the future. Heartbroken when her wedding is called off, Valerie donates the clothes to charity.

In Haiti and working at an orphanage, she begins to love the children around her, and finds herself at peace with God’s calling. All of a sudden, she starts to recognize the clothes she had made years ago, worn by the children she works with. She knows that God is giving her a message. She believes He is pleased with her sacrifice and will use her in a mighty way, even if she never has children of her own. I found this story to be particularly heartwarming.

This little book is filled with all kinds of stories about mothers. It is sure to inspire you to do your best wherever God has called you.

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.”

The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow is the second book in the Avenue of Dreams series by Olivia Newport. It is published by Revell (2013). This book examines the class and gender barriers in nineteenth-century Chicago. Set during the time of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, Charlotte’s life changes while taking a ride on George Ferris’ wheel. At that moment, she decides to put her past behind and move forward with her life.

Charlotte is a maid at the home of Lucy Banning, who has just left on her honeymoon trip. The two met shortly after Charlotte had just given birth and left an unsafe husband, Lathan Landers. Wanting to help, Lucy found a woman to care for Henry, the baby, so Charlotte could be in service at the Banning home. Archie Shepard, the Banning Family coachman, is enchanted with the lovely, twenty year-old Charlotte. She cares for him as well, yet she knows it could never be, as she believes she is still legally married to Lathan.

As the story begins, the woman who has been caring for Henry has to leave the area and brings the baby back to Charlotte. Since her supporter, Lucy, is gone for the time being, Charlotte is afraid to reveal that the baby belongs to her. She makes up a story about some unknown person having left the baby in the backyard.

The family is very surprised, but they know their daughter Lucy. She has been involved with the local orphanage, so they don’t want to make any decisions about Henry until they hear from her. Also, another young servant girl, Sarah, recently came to the Banning home from the orphanage. Mr. Panard, head of the servants, appoints Sarah to be a nanny for the young child.

Meanwhile, Miss Emmaline Brewster, a distant relative of the Banning’s, comes from New Hampshire for an extended stay. She adores Henry and makes secret plans with Charlotte to take him back to New Hampshire. Since Charlotte is fearful Lathan will come looking for Henry, she helps Emmaline to escape with the baby. Emmaline has the means to provide for Henry and clearly loves him as if he were her own son.

When the family finds out Emmaline has left with the baby, they feel betrayed and are very upset. Charlotte is heartbroken. Archie encourages her to trust in the Lord and to believe that she can eventually get her baby back.

On her day off, she wanders to the World’s Fair, where on a previous outing with the family, she had spied her husband working. She hopes she can somehow be free of  him, since she was forced into the marriage by her parents in the first place. She finds Lathan Landers, who demands to know what she did with his jar of money before she left. He has no interest in the baby, and is with another woman he says he is engaged to.

Lathan insists Charlotte go up in the Ferris Wheel with him to discuss the matter. Against her better judgment, she complies, and tells him she never took the money. She suggests the woman he hired to clean must have taken it. He appears to be fine with her answer and makes it known he wants nothing more to do with her.

Charlotte realizes she needs God’s help if she is to become free of the fears of her past and honestly admit the truth about her son. She is encouraged to do what is right by her best friend Archie. He does some research and discovers that Charlotte’s marriage was never recorded. It is not legal, after all. They are both thrilled to discover this.  In the end, all turns out happily. Charlotte realizes that the Lord has turned things around and has given her a new found joy and hope in Him.

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.”

 

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