Children’s Corner: The Berenstain Bears Bless Our Pets

17 Apr

In the newest Berenstain Bear Living Lights title, The Berenstain Bears Bless Our Pets, Brother, Sister, and Honey Bear love their pets Little Lady, Gracie, Swish, and Cutsie … they are just like part of the Bear family. So when Preacher Brown holds a special Blessing of the Pets service on Sunday, the Bear family joins in. But what starts as a peaceful gathering of Bear Country neighbors and their animal friends on the lawn of the Chapel — including dogs, cats, rats, goats, and even a snake or two — ends up needing a little heavenly intervention.

 

To purchase, click HERE.

 

My Impressions:

The Bear family is just like us! They work, they play, and they have pets! In the latest book in the Living Lights series, The Berenstain Bears Bless Our Pets, everyone in Bear Country comes to church to ask for God’s blessing on very special members of their family, their pets. Large and small, common and unusual, the pets are present. I especially liked the scripture verse at the beginning of the book — The righteous care for the needs of their animals (Proverbs 12:10). It is a wonderful reminder to children about God’s creation and mankind’s directive to care for it. The book is filled with fun illustrations and there is plenty to cause a chuckle — pandemonium breaks out at one point. This book, targeted at children ages 4-8, is also a great way to get kids reading. If you have a pet-loving child in your life, definitely check out Bless Our Pets.

Recommended.

Audience: children ages 4-8.

(Thanks to Zonderkidz for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway

14 Apr

Thanks to Mary at BookHounds for hosting the Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway! For all the bloggers giving away books and bookish stuff, click HERE.

I am giving away a Surprise Box of Children’s Books. Just leave me a comment letting me know who you intend to share the books with. The giveaway runs through April 30. (US only please!)

Book Spotlight — Adult Coloring Books Devotionals

14 Apr

Adult coloring books are all the rage. But what can be better than combining a relaxing and creative pastime with truths from God’s word? If you want to go a bit deeper with God, consider these two from Bethany House.

The Glory of The Messiah 

An Immersive, Creative Journey with the Messiah

While we may know what the Bible says about the Messiah, do we truly know him? In the rush of life, it can be hard to quiet ourselves enough to see and experience his glory. But now you can.

In this one-of-a-kind coloring experience, you will go on a journey through the Bible. Each beautiful, hand-drawn picture illustrates a pivotal prophecy and its fulfillment in the Messiah. Every spread features Old and New Testament Scripture passages from the Tree of Life Bible translation as well as a key Hebrew word, and its English translation, from the text.

As you color and create, open your heart to meditate on these prophecies — and their fulfillment in Jesus — and discover the glory of the Messiah anew.

To purchase, click HERE.

Words of Grace

Let Creativity and Color Reinvigorate Your Time in God’s Word!

God’s Word wasn’t meant to be dry and stale, but sometimes we rush through devotions on our way to something else. Bring new energy to your time in God’s Word by incorporating beauty and creativity! This coloring book devotional will help you focus your attention and calm your soul.

The theme of grace is front and center in this exciting new travel-sized coloring book from Jacqui Grace. Each page includes Scripture, brief devotional thoughts, and images to color.

As a gentle tonic for the busyness and complexity of your life, let this book inspire you creatively while it reconnects you with the God who created you and knows your every need.

To purchase, click HERE.

(Thanks to Bethany House for complimentary copies.)

Book Review: A Trail of Crumbs

13 Apr

“I believed it would have been a sin to stay inside when God had sent us such fine weather. According to Pastor Ezra Anderson, sin was the reason we’d got in the dusty mess we were in. The way I saw it, that day was God’s way of letting us know He wasn’t mad at us anymore. Just maybe He’d seen fit to forgive us.”

Pearl Spence has been through more in her young life than most folks could handle. But through it all, her family has been by her side. They may not be perfect, but they love her and they all love each other, come what may. That’s one thing Pearl no longer questions.

But the end of her beautiful day signals the beginning of the end of her secure life.

Now her family is fleeing their Oklahoma wasteland. Pearl isn’t sure she’ll ever see home or happiness again. Are there any crumbs powerful enough to guide her back to the dependable life she once knew?

The strong narrative voice of Finkbeiner’s young protagonist from A Cup of Dust returns in this gritty yet hopeful sequel, sure to please her many fans.

Susie Finkbeiner is a story junkie. Always has been and always will be. It seems it’s a congenital condition, one she’s quite fond of.

After decades of reading everything she could get her hands on (except for See the Eel, a book assigned to her while in first grade, a book she declared was unfit for her book-snob eyes), Susie realized that she wanted to write stories of her own. She began with epics about horses and kittens (but never, ever eels).

It takes years to grow a writer and after decades of work, Susie realized (with much gnashing of teeth and tears) that she was a novelist. In order to learn how to write novels, she read eclectically and adventurously (she may never swim with sharks, but the lady will jump into nearly any story). After reading the work of Lisa Samson, Patti Hill, and Bonnie Grove she realized that there was room for a writer like her in Christian fiction.

Her first novels Paint Chips (2013) and My Mother’s Chamomile (2014) have contemporary settings. While she loved those stories and especially the characters, Susie felt the pull toward historical fiction.

When she read Into the Free by Julie Cantrell she knew she wanted to write historical stories with a side of spunk, grit, and vulnerability. Susie is also greatly inspired by the work of Jocelyn Green, Rachel McMillan, and Tracy Groot.

A Cup of Dust: A Novel of the Dust Bowl (2015), Finkbeiner’s bestselling historical set in 1930s Oklahoma, has been compared to the work of John Steinbeck and Harper Lee (which flatters Susie’s socks off). Pearl’s story continues with A Trail of Crumbs: A Novel of the Great Depression (2017) and A Song of Home: A Novel of the Swing Era (2018).

What does she have planned after that? More stories, of course. She’s a junkie. She couldn’t quit if she wanted to.

My Impressions:

Susie Finkbeiner’s novel, A Cup of Dust, is excellent. It opened my eyes to the forgotten history of the Dust Bowl, but also introduced me to the wonderful character, Pearl Spence. Pearl’s story continues in her second novel, A Trail of Crumbs, another beautifully written novel that grabbed my heart and wouldn’t let go. This book gets a highly recommended rating from me.

Tragedy strikes the Spence family once again, and the only remedy seems to be to relocate from the dry dusty world of Red River, Oklahoma to the color-filled town of Bliss, Michigan. Will the family find a new home filled with hope and possibilities or lose their way?

A Trail of Crumbs is filled with wonderful characters, not the least 10 year old, Pearl. The book is told in her first person voice, allowing the reader a look into her story, but also a different perspective of other members of her family. The result is insightful, yet tinged with innocence. This is a coming-of-age novel, and it broke my heart to read Pearl’s transformation from a hope-filled child to one who knew the cynicism of adults. Her observations of the other characters give an almost complete sketch of their motivations and struggles. I say almost, because one can never know just what goes on in the heart and mind of another person. This did not frustrate me as a reader; rather it made me examine my own assumptions about others. The setting of Bliss is like another character. The wonder Pearl expresses at the depth of color each season brings is in stark contrast to the gray/brown world of her early life. It is no surprise that Pearl is drawn to the story of Dorothy Gale and her adventures in Oz.

The importance of story runs throughout A Trail of Crumbs, and Finkbeiner deftly includes the ridiculously fun stories Daddy relates, the books that Pearl immerses herself in, and the stories Pearl makes up to help her cope with the many changes in her life. All add to the story that becomes Pearl’s life. Home is a major theme — what makes it and how to find it. Pearl’s family is not conventional, not one are related by blood. But as she states: “Blood didn’t mean anything when it came to making a home.” (page 136). As Pearl settles into her new home, Mama seems to lose her sense of it. The book ends with questions that I hope will be resolved in the third installment due out next year, A Song of Home.

I apologize if my review seems to be rambling. I really loved A Trail of Crumbs, and Pearl found a place in my heart. But with many great books, I often find it hard to express just what they mean to me. Another blogger has coined the term SWOOF — squeezing words out of feelings. This is how I feel about A Trail of Crumbs, a novel that elicits feelings that mere words cannot express. All I can say is get copies of A Cup of Dust (if you haven’t read it yet) and A Trail of Crumbs and settle in for stories that will sweep you up and away.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

(Thanks to Kregel for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Book Review: The Sacred Scarred

12 Apr

“Beauty can indeed come from ashes.” Calysta Daniels met Brendan Keefe at a time when she was embracing the true meaning of beauty and he was becoming the embodiment of a beast. Several years later, their paths crossed once again, and she agreed to a strange request to save her father from imprisonment: to live under the beast’s roof for four years. It didn’t take long for him to realize that there was something about her that a part of him hated – something sacred threatening to expose all his scars. Scarred as they both were, she was holding on to a secret that kept her sacred, while he was holding on to a past that kept him scarred. Thus, the battle of wills raged within the beauty and the beast over what price had to be paid to make a person truly beautiful.

 

 

 

Joanna Alonzo is a walking paradox. She is a beautiful, albeit messy, mixture of thought and emotion, expressed in the form of hopefully readable – and relatable – stories. She is a kingdom kid, who looks forward to being a writer and storyteller even when she reaches heaven. She is passionate about the unreached, about those who have yet to know the Love she found in the arms of the Almighty. She is intrigued by the world and its people, who day by day, continue to convince her that God is the greatest Storyteller of all.

 

My Impressions:

With all the buzz surrounding the release of Disney’s newest imagining of The Beauty And The Beast (my favorite childhood fairy tale) comes the advent of various retellings of the story in novel form. Joanna Alonzo, author of The Sacred Scarred, has written a contemporary version with a Christian twist. She takes very messy lives and weaves them into a modern-day fairy tale with the power of God at the center. The result is an edgy YA novel.

Both Calysta and Brendan are the products of very dysfunctional families. Yet the paths they find themselves on are very different. One chooses hope in God; the other the pursuit of perfection. Their self-inflicted scars mar their lives, but God’s healing is there for them if they will just accept it.

The Sacred Scarred, with its characters and situations, definitely has a YA vibe to it. Readers in the targeted audience (older high school to young adult) will identify with the struggles the characters face. The dysfunction of the families was at times difficult to read (there is a lot of abandonment by important women in the main characters’ lives). The book takes a while to come to the familiar Beauty/Beast storyline as it sets the stage for the action. I felt the book dragged at times, and I became impatient for the real story to begin. The real story, to me, is the transformation of Brendan and his beastly attitudes and expectations. There are magical elements for those who love that about fairy tales. The theme of God’s love is very strong and prominent throughout the book. And the happily-ever-after is achieved for most involved.

While The Sacred Scarred wasn’t really a hit for me, it is an interesting spin on the Beauty/Beast story.

Audience: older teens to young adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

(Thanks to the author for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

 

 

Top 10 Tuesday — Unique Books

11 Apr

 

This week bloggers have been challenged by the folks at The Broke And The Bookish to identify books we find unique. Hmmm. This took a bit of thinking on my part, but I came up with some books that are unique in characters, setting, and perspective. The most unique feature of these books is that they are all Christian. I often hear people say they don’t read CF because the books are all alike — well here are some that will challenge that presumption.

 

Top Unique Books

Vikings! Heather Day Gilbert writes books about Vikings. Strong female Vikings! Her Vikings of The New World series is currently 2 books strong, but there are more on the way promising great storytelling. The saga begins with God’s Daughter.

 

Gypsies! Brandy Vallance’s novel, Within The Veil, takes a look at the gypsy culture against the backdrop of Victorian England. There are some other unique elements that make this novel not your run of the mill CF historical romance.

The Circus! I know there have been other books with the circus as their setting, but The Lady And The Lionheart by Joanne Bischof goes much deeper. The two main characters are unique as well.

Judas. Tosca Lee‘s novel, Iscariot, is a powerful look at Jesus through the eyes of the disciple who betrayed him. With Easter around the corner, you cannot go wrong with this book.

LOTS of Jesus. In Imaginary Jesus, Matt Mikalatos looks at the question Jesus asks His disciples: Who do you say I am?

Werewolves, Zombies and Vampires, oh my! Matt Mikalatos is back with another novel looking at the Christian life. Night of the Living Dead Christian is a very unique read.

Witches and a very unique narrator. All of Billy Coffey‘s novels can be categorized as unique, but The Curse of Crow Hollow takes the designation up a notch. There is a witch, but it is the narrator that provides the most unique feature.

Island Destination. Ok, everyone likes a book with an island setting, but Uncharted by Angela Hunt offers a destination most would do anything to avoid.

Travel through space and time. Perhaps the most unique series of books I have read comes from the very talented Stephen Lawhead. The adventure in this 5-book series starts in The Skin Map. This one has it all — unique settings, characters, and mind-bending themes.

What unique books have you read?

Children’s Corner: The Legend of The Sand Dollar

10 Apr

This newly illustrated edition of The Legend of the Sand Dollar renews the wonder and charm of the original and timeless tale written by Chris Auer. With new vibrant artwork from Bad Dog, Marley illustrator, Richard Cowdrey, this holiday classic is brought to life for a new generation. The Legend of the Sand Dollar tells the story of Kerry, as her cousin Jack reveals to her the deeper meaning of Easter hidden within something as small as a sand dollar. This Easter tale reminds everyone everywhere that when Jesus died for us and was resurrected, he promised hope for all.

 

 

Chris Auer, an Emmy nominated screenwriter, is the author Molly & The Good Shepherd, The Littlest Magi, the 2:52 Mysteries of Eckert House series, and he adapted The Legend of The Candy Cane for video. He teaches screenwriting and producing at Savannah College of Art and Design. Chris is passionate about storytelling and hopes to reflect the reality of God in the lives of children through story. He lives in Savannah, Georgia.

 

My Impressions:

Scripture tells us that God reveals Himself through His creation. The Legend of The Sand Dollar by Chris Auer is a good illustration of that. Based on a popular poem of the Southeast, Auer’s book clearly and beautifully tells the story of Easter, the real story of Easter. While the narrative of this children’s book tells of Jesus’ work on the cross, the illustrations confirm the beauty of God’s world. I really liked that the story is passed from one child to the next emphasizing the easy manner of sharing about God. The author includes interesting facts about sand dollars and the original poem — good jumping off points for more exploration. The Legend of The Sand Dollar is perfect for family reading time, easily understood by young children, but with challenging vocabulary and sentence structure for the readers among you. I think this book will soon become a favorite for Easter and throughout the whole year.

Recommended.

Audience: children ages 4-10.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

(Thanks to Zonderkidz of a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)