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John Knox by Simonetta Carr

March 28th, 2014 No comments

John KnoxCarr, Simonetta. John Knox. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2014. 64pp. $18.00. Purchase at Westminster books for less.

Introduction

Simonetta Carr is no stranger to readers here at Christian Book Notes.  I have been blessed to review most everything she has written as well as interview her.  You can find all of our interactions together here.

Matt Abraxas, the illustrator for a number of the books in this series, is renown for his work on display at the SmithKlein Gallery in Boulder, Colorado.  He has traveled from California to France, studying different approaches to art.  You can watch many of his videos on his YouTube channel.

Summary

From the back of the book:

From armed bodyguard to galley slave, from loving husband and father to fiery preacher, John Knox was moved by a relentless passion for the honor of God and the purity of His truth and worship. Yet when he was a schoolboy growing up in the small Scottish town of Haddington, he could never have imagined that he would become a major leader of the powerful movement that transformed Scotland into one of the most committed Protestant countries in the world. Simonetta Carr tells the story of how this great Reformer, whose life began humbly, in a faraway, mysterious part of the world, influenced the church and its beliefs far beyond the borders of Scotland, shaping our thinking still today.

Review

What child knows about John Knox? For that matter, how many adults know about John Knox? After reading this biography, they will not only know the pertinent information about one of the more fiery men of church history, but it is almost certain they will want to know more about the man.  Furthermore, this particular edition in the Christian Biographies for Young Readers will reinforce the reality of the bloodiness that was the Reformation.

If the reader would take the timelines from the various biographies previously published in this series, they will begin to see just how much overlap there was in the many lives that constituted and directed the Protestant Reformation.  For example, Lady Jane Grey, was born, rose to become Queen, and was executed all within the lifetime of John Knox.

Recommendation

Here is yet another winner in this very important series.  Given the wide swath of men and women included in this series of biographies, a child will have an excellent understanding of the giants in the faith who have gone before them.  Also, these biographies are quickly becoming a clarion call to a new generation to stand fast in the faith and fight for salvation of lost souls through the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Every Christian home should have these biographies available to read.

Lady Jane Grey by Simonetta Carr

March 24th, 2014 No comments

Lady Jane GreyCarr, Simonetta. Lady Jane Grey. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012. 64pp. $18.00. Purchase at Westminster books for less.

Introduction

Simonetta Carr is no stranger to readers here at Christian Book Notes.  I have been blessed to review most everything she has written as well as interview her.  You can find all of our interactions together here.

Note: I am reviewing this book now instead of nearly two years ago because I lost it while working as a retail manager and then packing as I took a call to pastor a church in Mexico, MO.  We just found it!  Sorry.

Summary

For a great summary and introduction to the book itself, check out this video:

Review

I am excited about this volume of the Christian Biographies for Young Readers because it introduces a revolutionary young woman to both boys and girls.  More importantly, Simonetta was able to capture the magnitude and greatness of what genuine faith in the Lord may cost a believer.  In this case, Lady Jane Grey had it all yet gave it up because of her faith in Someone greater.  Truly, she embodied the importance of not storing up wealth on earth where moth and rust destroy.  As the story unfolds, the reader will be hooked by the intrigue and the infighting (all in the name of Christ).  In the end, there is not a worldly happy ending, but there is a happy ending–Lady Jane Grey stood by her convictions and faith.

The illustrations by Matt Abraxas are colorful and enjoyable and certainly keep the attention of the young reader.  You can see many of the illustrations in the above video.

Recommendation

This entire series is worthy of your attention especially if you have children.  This particular biography of Lady Jane Grey stands above the rest in the series, however, because it looks at a female who had a major role during the Reformation political battle between the Catholic and Protestant churches.  Read this to your children.  Read it to your daughters. In so doing, you will teach them what it means to genuinely die to self for the sake of the Kingdom of Christ.

The Potter by Cindy Starr Stewart

November 6th, 2013 No comments

The PotterStewart, Cindy Starr.  The Potter.  Illustrated by Dan Drewes.  Carpenter’s Son Publishing, 2013.  30 pp. $13.95.  Purchase at Amazon for less.

Introduction

Cindy is married with five children living in Pennsylvania.  She has taught physics for middle schoolers up through the college level though she enjoys teaching Scripture more than physics.  You can read more about Cindy at her website. Dan Drewes is a professional illustrator whose work is quite amazing.  Check out his website for more.  (Note: it is not all Christian-based.)  You can read the review of Cindy’s other book, The Lamp Maker here.

Summary/Review

In this children’s book, Cindy looks at the Potter who fashions the clay.  She takes the reader on a journey from digging up the clay and then fashioning it in whatever manner the potter wants.  The illustrations are fun and will keep the young eyes attentive as the pages are read and reread.

As for concerns about this book, you can read my review of her other work here.  In this instance, to better understand the Jeremiah 18 passage, we must look at Romans 9 where Paul explains it more fully concerning matters of salvation.  Specifically, read verses 13-24:

As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

This has admittedly been a difficult passage for theologians through the years, but the reality is, the Potter will do with the clay whatever He wants.

Regardless, what Cindy is striving to accomplish is to be applauded.  In a very real way, she is getting the gospel message of Jesus Christ out to children and parents alike.  That is to be commended.

Recommendation

Despite my concerns about the free-will issue and the use of the Potter/clay analogy found in Scripture, I still recommend this resource to the discerning parent and children’s minister.

The Lamp Maker by Cindy Starr Stewart

November 4th, 2013 1 comment

The Lamp MakerStewart, Cindy Starr.  The Lamp Maker.  Illustrated by Dan Drewes.  Carpenter’s Son Publishing, 2013.  30 pp. $13.95.  Purchase at Amazon for less.

Introduction

Cindy is married with five children living in Pennsylvania.  She has taught physics for middle schoolers up through the college level though she enjoys teaching Scripture more than physics.  You can read more about Cindy at her website. Dan Drewes is a professional illustrator whose work is quite amazing.  Check out his website for more.  (Note: it is not all Christian-based.)

Summary/Review

Cindy writes a children’s book using the metaphor of a lamp, an item that shines forth light into darkness, and a Lamp Maker.  She challenges the readers and listeners to trust in Christ.  The illustrations are well done and vividly portray the words on the page.

The Lamp Maker is a fun sing-songy read for children learning to read but more for adults reading to their young children.  I enjoyed that on every page, Cindy proclaims Christ whether it is through her words or the verses found at the bottom of each page.

I am concerned with her “free-will switch.”  While I agree that we freely choose to obey Christ (this is a deep theological discussion!) I disagree that our choice is sovereign over the will of the Lamp Maker.  To illustrate the issue, she concludes the children’s book with a “prayer” to be read  and that by reading it sincerely and believing it, “Your name is written in the Book of Life.”  I disagree with that mechanism of finding salvation.  Salvation is found in repentance and believing in Christ.  Furthermore, she states that once you have believed (sign the page in the back of the book), “You will know, that you now, that you know, that you know.” In other words, your ability to freely choose is undermined by God’s sovereignty.

Recommendation

That being said, this book is still one of the better children’s books I have come across in recent years with the advent of self-publishing and independent publishers. I can recommend The Lamp Maker to the discerning parent and children’s minister for use in their home or ministry.  Just be prepared to answer questions when reading it.

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving Day by Jill Roman Lord

September 2nd, 2013 No comments

Happy Thanksgiving DayLord, Jill Roman. Illustrated by Jody Wheeler.  Happy Thanksgiving Day: A Touch and Feel Book. Nashville: CandyCane Press, 2013.  16 pp.  $8.99.  Purchase at Amazon for less.

Introduction

Jill has been writing children’s touch and feel books for some time now.  You can find all of her books available on Amazon.  Likewise, Jody Wheeler has contributed to a number of children’s books as well.  This is their first collaboration together.

Summary/Review

In this particular book, a child reflects on all the things he has that makes him thankful and happy.  Typically with a board book, the artistic renderings and the touch and feel textures drive the use of the book.  Thus, the importance of the illustrations by Jody.  Fortunately, Jill has added the words that actually makes this book worth owning.  In our culture where Thanksgiving is celebrated generically, Jill puts the emphasis on the fact that God has created everything and has given us all things.  This is no less than James 1:17, where we read, “Every good and perfect gift comes from above.”  With that as the foundation from page one, Jill offers many reasons our children, and, consequently, all of us, have to be thankful.  The book even ends with “I like to name my blessings and to celebrate and say a special thanks for all God’s gifts on this Thanksgiving Day!  Thank you, God!”

Recommendation

If you have family over for Thanksgiving, this little book will be a perfect addition to redeem some time with young children.  If you have unbelieving family members, what better way can you turn a conversation toward the gospel than by giving a young child full of giving thanks to God to have another read aloud to them.  What an opportunity!  I recommend this book to all families, young and old.

Snuggles’ Japanese Alps Adventures by Tim Ostermeyer

August 12th, 2013 No comments

SnugglesOstermeyer, Tim.  Snuggles’ Japanese Alps Adventures.  Allen: Wildlife Adventure Books, 2011.  45 pp.  Purchase at Amazon.

Introduction

From the website, Fun Adventure Wild Life Books:

Snuggles is a cute 1 month old snow monkey who decides to plan ahead to make sure that he will be warm for the winter. He plans to travel throughout the jungles of the Japanese alps to get to the Japanese hot springs. He has to go thru many obstacles on the trip, climbing mountains, climbing tree branches, jumping over rivers, etc. Will Snuggle’s get to the hot springs before the big storms of winter arrive? This is a Christian book that has 10 bible verses, a lesson on how to pray, and evidence showing how the 6 forms of evolution are all scientifically incorrect. The lesson from this book is on planning (some people ruin their lives by not planning correctly).

You can see more of Tim’s photography at his website.

Summary/Review

This picture book offers numerous and extremely colorful, vivid photography of a baby Japanese snow monkey.  Tim, an award winning photographer (I can see why!) tells a wonderful story with pictures and words.  Throughout the story, he includes various Scripture references to remind the reader of God’s creation.  At the end of the book, a somewhat forced conversation takes place in which Snuggles asks his mom if man evolved from Monkeys to which she answers no.  Then, Tim offers six explanations of scientific theories that show first, their weakness and second, the implied illogical nature of what is being proclaimed.

In essence, through beautiful photography and a fun little story, Tim Ostermeyer offers an apologetic for creation.  While it can be charged, as I mentioned above, that the creation/evolution facts at the end are forced, the reality remains that the theory of evolution is forced.  Tim does a wonderful job of depicting God’s creation and then explaining quickly how many elements of evolution (spontaneous generation, natural selection, big bang, etc) are quite illogical.

The very last page offers yet another reason why this work is important to Tim, Romans 1:20, “For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”

Recommendation

I appreciate the work of Tim Ostermeyer.  This picture book makes an excellent coffee table book in a home or even a doctor’s office. He has an entire collection of animal photography books based around various themes.  I recommend them all.

 

Anselm of Canterbury by Simonetta Carr

July 19th, 2013 1 comment

AnselmCarr, Simonetta.  Anselm of Canterbury. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2013.  64 pp.  $18.00.  Purchase at Amazon for less.

Introduction

Simonetta Carr is no stranger to the readers of Christian Book Notes. She is the author of the Christian Biographies for Young Readers Series that is doing amazing things to bring the glorious history of the church to life for a new and much younger generation. You can read past reviews on the other books in the series that started back in 2008.   She has also been interviewed here. You can become a fan of Christian Biographies for Young Readers on Facebook.  Continuing her theme of one church leader per era, she has now focused on Anselm of Canterbury.

Summary

Divided into 6 chapters over 60-plus pages, Carr offers a vivid retelling of the life of who many now call St. Anselm.  Anselm lived mostly in the 11th  century and wanted to become a monk living in a monastery more than anything in the world.  Through many world events, Anselm becomes archbishop of Canterbury.  The Crusades and the split with the Church in the East play heavy roles in the life of Anselm and this is duly noted.  Also noted is the life of simplicity and servant-hood Anselm sought to live.  Still, Carr does not give us a sterile Anselm as we see his anger and his fear of being a leader (his appointment as archbishop of Canterbury).

Review

This is now the 6th book in the Christian Biographies for Young Readers series.  With each book, Carr’s ability to tell a condensed though extremely informative biography of a great Christian saint from history gets better and better.  Being a Protestant herself, I appreciate her willingness to tell the story of those who many struggle to call Christian because of their affiliation with the Roman Catholic Church though she does not embrace the ecumenicism that denies essential Christian doctrines.  Also, her willingness to bring forth the person, warts and all, is to be commended.  Often, in children’s works, we want to make the subject of the biography perfect so that the children can emulate someone decent only to discover later that their hero was in fact a sinner.  Simonetta does not do this and that gives credibility to her biographies.

Recommendation

I cannot recommend this children’s series highly enough.  I have become a huge fan of Simonetta Carr and her writings (both adult and children).  There are so many reasons I can think of as to why you should own and read Anselm of Canterbury but perhaps the best reason is that it is one volume in a larger series that will eventually, Lord willing, offer one of the greatest panoramic views of history of the church that we have ever been privy to.  If you have not read any of the other five volumes in this series, then you can begin here and work your way back in time.  You will not regret it.  I promise.

The Moon is Broken by Monique B. Martin

July 17th, 2013 No comments

The Moon is BrokenMartin, Monique B.  Illustrated by Brian Flotte Jr.  The Moon is Broken.  Wilmington: Freret Media Group LLC, 2013.  36 pp.  $17.99.  Purchase at Amazon for less.

Introduction

Monique is came up with the idea to write this children’s book while driving her daughter home from a Girl Scouts Brownie meeting when her daughter looked up at the night sky and proclaimed “The Moon is broken!”  Though you could not tell it from his work in this book, this is illustrator, Brian Flotte Jr.’s first illustrated story.

Summary/Review

A little girl lays down to sleep only to notice that the moon is no longer round.  She begins to fret and worry and seeks to fix the moon only to discover she is unable.  Her mom then explains that the Lord has not made any mistakes and that the moon is meant to change its appearance to us and still proclaims the glory of God.

I enjoyed the story and various lessons learned.  For example, we see that God created everything as she thinks of how the Lord made everything perfect.  We also see an allusion to the Fall of man as “daddy mows” the lawn.  We also see that while it is alright to question God, in the end, we must do so knowing that God is perfect and makes no mistakes.

There is one caution though not a major point given that this is written poetically.  When the mommy says, “So just relax, honey, and don’t be upset.  God knows what He’s doing; He’s made no mistakes yet (emphasis added).”  I highlight this only because of the word “yet” and the reality that it leaves open the possibility for God to make a mistake.  That being said, “yet” was used for rhyming purposes and I get that.  This, too, is a great teachable moment to reinforce the truth that God does not make any mistakes.

Recommendation

I really enjoyed this little book and believe Monique has done a great job introducing deep theological truths to her readers.  I recommend The Moon is Broken to anyone looking for a fun and true book pointing your child(ren) to the Lord in whose image we have been created.

The Donkey That No One Could Ride by Anthony DeStefano

July 15th, 2013 No comments

The Donkey No One Could RideDeStefano, Anthony. Illustrated by Richard Cowdrey. The Donkey that No One Could Ride. Eugene: Harvest House Publishing, 2012. 32 pp.  $14.99.  Purchase at Amazon for less.

Introduction/Summary

Anthony DeStefano is a noted author for both adults and children.  You can find all of his books on Amazon.

Written in poetic form, DeStefano offers a story of a young donkey that was too weak to do anything of any value in the world’s eyes.  The poor donkey was run out of farms and work places and was ashamed at his inability to be useful.  Until one day a gentle man came and said He was going to ride the donkey.  After a bit of arguing by the donkey, the Man touched the donkey and he suddenly became stronger and stronger.  After the donkey worshiped the Lord, Christ, He carried Him on his back into Jerusalem.

Review

While the story is well-written, I must first mention the illustrations.  Richard Cowdrey did a magnificent job on each page.  The drawings seem to be in High-Definition as you can almost feel the rough wood on the cover and the course hair of the donkey on each page.  The emotion seen on the donkey’s face is clear and resonates with the young children intended.

As for the story itself, it is one of hoping in Christ.  It is a gentle reminder that our hope is not in what others think or say, though words do hurt, but in Christ who gives us the strength we need.

Recommendation

I really enjoyed this children’s book as did my younger children.  I would highly recommend having this book available to read to yours.  It is full of biblical truths and a wonderful story that will bring to mind many thoughts in your child’s life around Easter when we read of Jesus riding a colt, the foal of a donkey, into Jerusalem.

 

Witness Men by Rebecca Davis

July 8th, 2013 No comments

Wintess MenDavis, Rebecca.  Witness Men: True Stories of God at Work in Papua, Indonesia.  Ross-shire: Christian Focus Publications, 2013.  144 pp. $8.99.  Purchase at Amazon for less.

Introduction

Rebecca Davis is a teacher and speaker who hosts international students in her home.  She enjoys researching and writing true stories of missionaries for children and their families.  Witness Men is the third book in a series entitled Hidden Heroes.  You can get the first two books here.

Summary

In essence, the author tells a story of a region known today as Papua, Indonesia from the vantage point of the beginning of Christian missions up to the present day.  She begins with a World Team missionary who began the work in the region years ago and moves throughout the history from approximately 1953 until now.  The reader is introduced to pilots flying airplanes to deliver missionaries, medical supplies, Bibles, etc, to the region in what is often overlooked as real sacrifice.  Most of them were with Mission Aviation Fellowship.

While some of the dialogue is not accurate, the author supports all of the main points and historic events with plenty of research and footnotes that can be used to learn more about specific incidents and missionaries.

Review

This is the first book in the series I have read and it was a joy to read.  Rebecca’s use of history and her intricate and detailed study of history.  Her ability to tell a story geared for children is still able to capture the imagination of the adult.  I love that we can pick up a resource and study a history of missions in one particular region of the world.

Recommendation

Witness Men is a great introduction to world missions.  It is resources like this that the Lord will use to raise up another wave of missionaries.  I recommend this book to anyone wanting to teach their children about missions.  It would make a great unit study for homeschoolers or even a great read aloud for families looking for Christ-honoring resources to read with their children.