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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.

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.

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.”

Raiders from the Sea, (Viking Quest series, book 1) was written by Lois Walfrid Johnson and published by Moody Publishers: New Edition (2003). It is advertised for children 10 and above.

Brianna, an Irish girl turning thirteen, is out for a walk in the green hills when she sees a young man fall into a stream. Thinking it’s a friend, Bree jumps in to save him. But he turns out to be a stranger named Mikkel, who will soon change her life forever.

Viking Quest Series follows the adventures of a sister and brother, Brianna and Devin during a time when Vikings raided the shores of Ireland.

We meet their parents, grandmother, and younger siblings, and then see Bree and Devin wrenched from the safety of home, thrown into a longboat and taken far away. The family are Christians, and close friends with Brother Cronan at the nearby monastery. Both children have learned to read the scriptures there. When Mikkel and his Viking crew steal them away as slaves, the only thing that sustains the sister and brother is their faith in God and their concern for one another.

Lois Walfrid Johnson did extensive research on the time period and culture, making the setting seem real. Her historical depictions of Vikings lean toward the gentler side.

She integrates internal faith with external actions and dialogue in a realistic way. I love how she weaves scripture and prayer into her characters’ thoughts as they seek to cope with this terrible upheaval, as they grapple with anger, fear, and loss.

Johnson’s writing is easy to read, with believable voices for the characters’ ages. Each chapter begins with a beautiful shaded line drawing of a scene from that part of the story.

I have read only the first in the series of five books, but if the other four follow along the lines of the first, they will be entertaining and intriguing. Raiders from the Sea is 208 pages long and available at Christianbook.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and in bookstores.

 

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. 

No Woman So Fair by Gilbert Morris, and published by Bethany House (2003) is the fictional story of Abraham and Sarah. It is based on the Bible story. Many facts in the story are correct while some elements are imagined based on what might have happened. It is a wonderful and exciting tale of the biblical characters we all know and love.

Before their names were changed by God, Abraham and Sarah were known as Abram and Sarai. He came from a wealthy household. His father, Terah, was a shepherd and so was Abram. Abram’s grandfather, Nahor, was a follower of the Eternal One, but Terah and two of his sons, Haran and Nahor, gave tithes to the other gods who were worshiped at the time. One was An, the ruler of the universe and his wife Ishtar, the queen of the universe and goddess of fertility. Abram had always had a hunger in his heart for the one and only true God. He didn’t like going into the temple to sacrifice to the other gods. He also despised the practice of temple prostitution.

Terah had heard of Sarai and her family and sent Abram to meet them. Abram was overwhelmed with Sarai’s beauty; she also admired him. The two were married and lived in Ur of the Chaldees on the Euphrates River for a long time. Sarai discovered after several years that she was not able to bear children and she was saddened. Yet she and Abram had a wonderful relationship that met many of her needs. She also helped Abram’s brother’s wife with Lot. Later, when Lot’s mother died, Abram and Sarai adopted him.

Abram’s desire to know the one true God deepened. He spent many hours with his grandfather, discussing what God was like. Nahor had always felt God’s call on his life, and he explained to Abram that the Eternal One was interested in leading Abram as well. Abram’s grandfather died. Abram was grieved yet thankful for all the time they had spent together, discussing God.

Soon, God asked Abram to leave Ur. Together with his mother and father, Sarai, the shepherds and the maids, Abram left and found a wonderful place called Haran. They stayed there for many years, and then Terah, Abram’s father, died. Soon, his mother passed away as well. Abram knew God was calling him to another land, so he gathered up his household and they found themselves at Sichem on the plains of Moreh.

Many more things happened to Abram and Sarai, because they both lived many years. Near the end of their lives, their faith grew stronger and deeper. They experienced many trials, but God was always there to deliver them out of each one. Even though Sarai was barren, God promised Abram that he would be the father of many nations and that his descendants would be too numerous to count. Abram and Sarai’s names were changed at this time to Abraham and Sarah. Sarah gave birth to Isaac when she was ninety and Abraham was one hundred!  The story continues, but that is for you to find out when you read the book.

This book helped me so much. I had always wondered why Abraham and Sarah made certain decisions, and this story got me to thinking about what their motives might have been. It explains the culture at the time, and what was most important to Abraham and Sarah. I found it a fascinating read. The novel encouraged me to grow in my faith as well as the Biblical characters had grown in theirs. This novel would be best enjoyed by readers, eighteen 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.”

From Nancy — If you like biblical fiction, you might also think about: Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ; The Bronze Bow; and, Pearl in the Sand

Hello Stars by young actress Alena Pitts and her writer mother Wynter Pitts will intrigue and delight preteen girls. This is the first novel in the Lena in the Spotlight series from Zonderkidz (2017).

Fifth-grader Lena Daniels enters a contest to be in a movie with her favorite Christian singer. And she wins! She wins despite a small problem in her video–she had a gummy goo between her front teeth the whole time. In her excitement to get the video sent, she sent it without first viewing it. Lena is completely mortified when she does see it.

This will not be the last time in novel when Lena feels completely embarrassed or inept. Preteens will cringe (and maybe laugh a little). And with Lena, they will be so relieved when they find out  that her mishap is not the end of the world–life happens. It happens even when you are making a Christian movie in California. God can still take care of it.

Lena’s mishaps become God-opportunities. She practices being thankful to God in less than perfect circumstances. Her family remind her that she is loved no matter what. As the story unfolds Lena learns more about God having a good plan for her life and how He is working it out. And she also gains a bigger understanding of how her choices can impact other people’s lives.

Making a movie is a heady experience, but it is also serious business. The reader gets a behind-the-scenes look at the time, effort and skill that goes into a film. I think preteens will be fascinated.

They will also learn that movie making requires sacrifices. Even though Lena is a kid she has to give up some normal kid activities—like leaving school before the end of term, getting up early during her summer vacation, not going away with her friend on a vacation. Spoiler Alert: Lena does make a selfish choice regarding her time with her friends, but she learns a lot from it. It will give pre-teens some food for thought.

The Daniels family is a Christian family and they talk the talk and walk the walk. The parents and the four daughters read from the Bible and pray each morning before they leave the house. The parents, in particular, pray about decisions. They encourage Lena and her sister to also seek God and His wisdom and comfort. As I wrote, Lena is not mishap-free and her parents counsel and comfort her, often pointing her to God.

I think preteens will enjoy this book. The story is fun and well-told. I think they also will come away from it with a greater respect for and pleasure in their own God-given talents and abilities.

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.

London Art Chase written by Natalie Grant with Naomi Kinsman, illustrated by Cathi Mingus, and published by Zonderkidz (2016) is a fun, sweet mystery/adventure for 8- to 11-year-olds.

Three sisters, 10-year-old twins and a six-year-old, accompany their father and their Christian recording artist mother to London. The plan is that while their parents prepare for a concert, Mia, Maddie and Lulu, the youngest sister, will sightsee under the supervision of their nanny.

In the National Gallery, the girls notice a man removing a painting from the wall. To them, he is behaving suspiciously–looking back over his shoulder. He and the painting disappear behind an employees-only door, but the girls are not daunted and race down the public stairs, hoping to catch him coming out of an employee door on the floor below. At full speed, Maddie rounds a corner and bumps into a cellist, knocking her cello out of her hands. This leads to a meeting in the office of the museum director. Maddie apologizes, but explains she was trying to head off a thief. The director argues that no theft of a painting has taken place. And so the mystery begins.

Spoiler Alert: Paintings are being stolen, but it is not in the way the girls think nor is it the person they first suspect who is the thief. The story twists, turns, encounters closed doors, and twists some more before the real thief is exposed and the mystery successfully solved. For observant, artistic Maddie these twists are a huge challenge. Everybody thinks she’s mistaken or that it is not her place to pursue an answer. What should she do? She’s still believes there was a theft.

The Glimmer Family are a Christian family. Young readers see them honoring God through their decisions to be kind to each other. The girls’ parents and their nanny treat the girls with love and respect. When the girls make mistakes, they are gently and thoughtfully corrected.

The family also talk about and model the value of prayer. Young readers will see them praying when Lulu’s suitcase doesn’t turn up and before meals–even when they are in public. The mother tells Maddie that she prays when she encounters something in the world that is wrong and encourages Maddie to seek God’s guidance when she has concerns.

I’ve been to London a number of times and the book is a good demitasse of this incredible, marvelous city. Through the eyes of the Glimmer Girls, young readers visit and learn about  some of its more well-known sights—Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery, the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace and the London Eye. I thought the choice of these particular sights apt as they are likely to interest young readers.

I do have a problem with one of the illustrations. It’s minor, but as I said, I’ve been to London, so I have to say this. The illustration of London Eye depicts this attraction as having two-person open-to the-air seats like more conventional Ferris wheels. This is not correct. The London Eye, though also a wheel, has large, enclosed capsules that hold up to 25 people each. The text describes the Eye accurately.

I like this mystery/adventure novel. I think young girls will too. BTW, this is the first book in a series of four. The other cities they visit are San Diego, Nashville and New York.

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.

 

Bullying is currently a concern of many kids and parents. Whether there is more of it occurring than in previous generations or whether more of it is being reported, it is hard to say. But I think what can be said is that kids and often even adults don’t know what to do when it happens or how to overcome the damage. Mean Girl Makeover, a series of three novels, takes up the topic of bullying. The author is Nancy Rue and the publisher Thomas Nelson (2014, 2015).

Each novel is told in first person and from a different character’s point of view. The first novel, So Not Okay, is told from the perspective of a bystander. Tori initially watches as Kylie and her friends, a group of popular girls at their middle school, make Ginger, a new girl, the object of rejection and public ridicule. Tori surprises herself and horrifies her friends when she offers that Ginger can be a member of their science group. The girls stumble into their science project question: why are some people mean?

With the help of Lydia, an adult, the girls research bullying and eventually create an anti-bullying code. As the bullying escalates and spreads to them, Tori and her friends put into practice some of the strategies Lydia has taught them. The book honestly shows the fears, risks and missteps, as well as successes, that may occur when a bystander decides to not just stand by.

In the next book, You Can’t Sit with Us, the story continues but from Ginger’s point of view. Ginger unwisely reveals some sensitive information about herself to Kylie and Kylie’s posse. The posse threaten to make the information public if Ginger maintains her friendship with Tori and the other girls, and if she tells anyone about their threat.

Because Ginger’s test scores show that she is outstanding in reading, she is selected for a special English project. Ginger gets along with her study partner, Colin. After some time he reveals that he was bullied when he was younger. This subplot gives the reader some insight into how bullying may affect boys. The posse take their bullying outside of school to the Internet and even to Ginger’s home. Lydia meets with Ginger on a regular basis helping her to overcome her false self-image and to develop some resistance to being bullied.

The third book, Sorry, I’m Not Sorry, is told from the point of view of the main bully. The novel picks up the story as Kylie, two of her crew and their parents meet with the school principal. These girls were expelled for their bullying. To get back into school in the fall, they must do community service. Kylie is told that she will be permanently expelled if she cannot demonstrate an attitude change. Regular meetings with Lydia are set up to determine whether Kylie will change. Kylie experiences Internet bullying herself.

Working with Lydia, Kylie recognizes that she does have a problem. Volunteering as an assistant in the dance section of a summer arts program helps Kylie see herself and others differently.

The novels are good stories that will engage pre-teens and middle schoolers. Readers will keep reading to find out how the kids will handle the bullying, if it will stop and whether a bully can change. I think they will see themselves in the characters and be fascinated and encouraged with the anti-bullying strategies. These strategies are well woven into the stories and do not come off as preachy.

According to Amazon.com the age range is 9-12, but I have some reservations about that. I think the intensity of some of the bullying (school work ruined, cyber bullying, being locked in a locker) may be too much information for a nine-year-old. Instead parents might consider reading the novels and teaching their younger children how to apply the anti-bullying strategies. Also I think girls older than twelve could still relate to the characters and gain practical helps from the suggested strategies.

Though a middle school is the setting for two of the books, bullying can take place in a variety of settings, so I think home-schoolers would also benefit from reading the novels.

I usually think it is unnecessary to read a series of novels. It can be fun, but not necessary. In the case of these novels though, I think it is necessary. Written from the different viewpoints, the three novels together give a more complete picture of the subject. At first I didn’t like being in Kylie’s point of view in the third, but as I was taken deeper into her life, I developed compassion for her. As I experienced her change, my hopes rose for all bullies.

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.

The Summer Kitchen (Blue Sky Hill Series), by Lisa Wingate and published by New American Library (2009), will open your eyes to the needs around you and teach you many important life lessons.

The story starts out by introducing the main character, Sandra Kaye Darden.  She has just experienced some trauma. Her beloved uncle, nicknamed Poppy, has died. Her treasured, adopted son, Jake, has left and she hasn’t heard from him in six months. He had been attending Southern Methodist University in Texas. All she knows is that he abandoned his car at the airport and bought a ticket to Guatemala, the land of his birth.  Sandra has another son, Christopher, who is a junior in high school. Her husband, Rob, a doctor, wanted both boys to be pre-Med.

Sandra Kaye lives in Plano, but each day she crosses town to work on her uncle’s house in Dallas. She isn’t quite ready to let it go, so she has told the real estate agent she will paint it and do some other minor repairs. Her mother, who has been a great disappointment to Sandra due to her abuse of various medications, owns Poppy’s house.

On one of Sandra’s trips to a nearby store, she notices a tall young girl, who looks about junior high age. The girl, Cass Sally Blue, is twelve and she has a brother, Rusty, who is seventeen. When their mother passed away last year, they ran away from their stepfather, believing him to be dangerous and unstable. They are trying to make it on their own, with Rusty working full time. Rusty has just brought into the house, Kiki, a young adult, and her daughter, Opal, who were living in an unsafe situation.

In the weeks to come, Cass becomes attached to Opal and they meet up with Sandra Kay. Sandra sees they are in need. She also sees the needs of the other neighbor children. She makes up a bag of sandwiches to bring them each day. Eventually, Cass comes to spend time at Poppy’s house with Sandra and help with the chores.

Sandra eventually tells her son, Christopher and best friend, Holly, that she is involved in feeding the neighborhood children. They too become involved and begin to serve daily lunches to many of the neighbors. So far, Sandra’s husband does not know about her ministry. She finally gets the nerve to tell him, and although skeptical, he does not forbid her to continue.

When the need of Cass Sally Blue becomes overwhelming, Sandra’s husband gets on board with his wife. Their relationship is strengthened, moving to a whole new level.  Christopher, who was always silent about his true feelings, becomes bold and shares them with his father. He also sheds light on why Jake may have left.

In the end, all is well and a wonderful new ministry begins in Poppy’s neighborhood. Hope replaces hurt and heartbreak; lives are redeemed.

I loved reading this book. It was rich with spiritual truth and gave me many tools for growth. The author, Lisa Wingate, has a wonderful way of driving points home in a very subtle way. She makes you get outside your comfort zone and think about how you can find purpose by helping others in need.

She also points out the reality of family living. It is not always perfect, and sometimes, just plain agonizing. She makes you think about growing out of your fears and failures and moving on to all that God has planned for you. I would recommend this book for women, ages 18 and above.

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.”

A Horse to Love written by Marsha Hubler (Keystone Stables) and published by Zonderkidz (2004, 2009) is a page-turner.

Skye Nicholson is a troubled teen. When the novel opens, her life is at a crossroads. A judge is about to sentence her to a juvenile detention center. Though only thirteen, this is not Skye’s first run in with the law. She already has a criminal record and the attitude to match. But God sees beyond Skye’s past and beneath her anger. He steps into her life in the form of Eileen Chambers, her husband and their special needs dude ranch. The Chambers offer to be Skye’s new foster parents.

At the dude ranch Skye learns to ride and care for a Quarter horse—Champ. Skye’s growing love for Champ and the horse’s affection for her have a positive effect on her. She decides to keep the rules that the Chambers have laid out because it means that she can be with Champ. But it is not only the horse that helps Skye grow and change.

The Chambers, a Christian couple, respect and encourage her while still being clear and firm. Morgan, another foster child living with the Chambers, also helps Skye see the world differently. Despite being in a wheelchair and abandoned a number of years ago by her mother because of her disability, Morgan is determined to make the most of her life, to have dreams and to follow them.

Skye’s changes do not come effortlessly–for anyone. She has been hurt and she is on the defensive. There are strong temptations for her; and there are missteps. Readers (I think it is best suited to readers, 11- to 13-year-olds) will root for Skye, watching her wrestle with her decisions, struggling with her, and hoping that she will find a way to accept and embrace the better life that is being offered to her. (FYI: the novel does end on a high note.)

This is the first novel in a series of eight. I think if your child enjoys this novel, they will want to read more books in the series. Reading the blurbs on the other novels, I see that the child-characters often deal with issues that are quite serious. This type of “realistic” writing is very, very popular in the secular market. This might concern you. You are not alone. It troubles me. Kids, in my opinion, are being inundated with books that portray some of the more extreme elements of teen life. The kids are not prepared emotionally or psychologically to deal with this flood. I think we would be wise to be choosy about how many and which books we promote to the kids.

That said, I am impressed with the way that Marsha Hubler handles the problems of a troubled teen. Letting the reader see God in action was thrilling and uplifting. I expect that other books in the series will also help young readers know something of life’s harsher experiences, but not frighten them. In the stories they will see that He is with us.

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.

Book Reviews

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