Category Archives: Children’s Book Reviews

Heavenites by Shauna Collison

HeavenitesTylercoverHeavenitesMocoverCollison, Shauna. Illustrated by Christen Cushing. Mo and the Surfing Competition and Tyler and the Circus Lie. St. Louis: Revelation Products, LLC, 2014. $7.99. Purchase at Heavenites.com.

Introduction/Summary

In these two books, we learn of the importance of truth and the need for mercy. Tyler, a boy who wanted to tell a story finds out how quickly a lie can spread…even when it is supposed to be a secret. Throughout the story, we see how telling one lie leads to telling more and more lies. In the end, the only way to take care of a lie is to tell the truth.

Mo, a young surfer, was excited to enter the surfing contest. He was one of the best young surfers, and everyone knew it. One friend, Mikey, decided to keep Mo from participating so he could win. When Mo gets a friend’s surfboard (hint: it is a girl’s surfboard), Mikey gets upset. As they are competing, Mikey winds up in trouble in the ocean. Will Mo help Mikey or will he win at all costs?

Review

These two children’s stories are very well written and illustrated. They are real to life (except for us land-locked folks!) and help to teach the young reader his or her need to tell the truth or show mercy and help others when in need…even if it might cost you something.

It must be noted that they are moralistic in nature…which is not necessarily a bad thing when teaching young children. What they do allude to is that we learn how to be merciful and truthful from the Bible. While I wish they would have had more gospel in the story, I also can see where they put the impetus on the parents to cross those t’s and dot those i’s.

Recommendation

As with the other Heavenites books I have reviewed, I found these to be fun and engaging and full of biblical truth. They can be of great use to teach a child early in life of the need to be merciful (when was the last time a children’s book actually talked of that?) and to tell the truth. I recommend these to all parents of Christian children with the caveat that you need to be ready to share the gospel with your children as they read these books.

Alphabet and Counting Book by Shauna Collison

HeavenitesABCBookCollison, Shauna. Illustrated by Christen Cushing. Alphabet Book and Counting Book. St. Louis: Revelation Products, LLC, 2014. HeavenitesCountingBook $9.99. Purchase at Heavenites.com.

Introduction

These Heavenites books are designed to teach children how to count and learn their ABC’s in a fun and God-centered manner. The front page of these two particular books state,

We are the Heavenites, God’s children through and through. We want to spread the Word of God and share His love with you.
God sent His one and only Son to die so we could live. If you put your faith in Jesus Christ a brand new life He’ll give.
God gave us the Bible, it’s His Truth for us to know. But you need to read it daily, if you really want to grow.
Our hearts belong to Jesus, our future is on firm ground. A citizen of Heaven, a Heavenite…Heaven born, Heaven bound!

Summary

Each book is simple. The Counting Book counts to number 12 while the alphabet book teaches the ABC’s. The illustrations undoubtedly will keep the attention of the children. The alphabet book offers both capital and lower-case letters to help the children to become familiar with both.

Review

There are a number of children’s books out there that teach the alphabet and counting. From the beginning, the Heavenites series sets itself apart by beginning with the Word of God and centering every page on who He is or what He has done for us.
For example, in the counting book, every page alludes to the fact that God created (or made). Also, this book takes an excursion through the zoo as you count various animals. The number 3 is about dinosaurs. I love that they are included in this zoo and it is made known that God created them, too.

The alphabet book is catchy will be a great aid in teaching your children or children in your church’s nursery how to count and know their ABC’s.

Recommendation

At less than $10, these Heavenites books are excellent for teaching your children to count and learn their alphabet. They are colorfully illustrated and bound in such a way that they will withstand the rigors of toddler use. I highly recommend them to all Christian families seeking to pour an early foundation of the gospel in the lives of their children.

If They Could Talk by Rich Hamlin

If They Could TalkHamlin, Rich. If They Could Talk: Letters from those who were there. 110 pp. $22.00.  Purchase at Amazon for less.

Introduction

Rich is the founding pastor of Evangelical Reformed Church in Tacoma, WA. He and his wife Lynn have been married for over 25 years and have three adult children. His sermons and blog posts can be found at SoliDeoGloria.org. This is his second published book.

Summary

This particular book is a children’s book designed to tell the story of God’s plan of redemption as found in the pages of the Bible. What is more, the author takes a Biblical theological approach to this work. In other words, he begins in Genesis and ends in Revelation. Naturally, he begins with Creation through the eyes of a sparrow and works his way through the Fall (rabbit) to the camel’s observation of the Abrahamic covenant to the horse’s history of the David covenant on to the dog’s diary of Jesus’ public ministry to the cow’s gazing at the resurrected Savior ascending into heaven and concluding with the Seagull soaring over Paradise restored. All in all, there are 24 crucial moments in Scripture detailed from the perspective of various animals.

Review

All I can say is Wow! This is a magnificent way to introduce the glory of God in His creation and redemption of man. The beginning of each story offers where the real story can be found in the Bible. Each animal has its own characteristics and offers its own perspective on the stories being shared.

Each animal asks questions meant to engage the children (and adults). Not only will they need to look up Scripture, but they will begin to realize that they are now accountable for the information they are learning. The illustrations are fascinating and the story is provoking.
In the end, reading through this children’s book will give the reader (or listener) a bird’s-eye view of the whole story of the Bible. It could also become an excellent foundation from which to build a child’s theology going forward.

Recommendation

I thoroughly enjoyed this children’s book. I believe it will be used of the Lord to develop deep theologies in children everywhere. I can recommend this for any parent or grandparent, church nurseries or daycares, or even veterinarian offices. Rich Hamlin’s creativity is a blessing to all of Christendom. Get a copy for yourself and one to give to a friend with children.

The Warden and The Wolf King by Andrew Peterson

The Warden and the Wolf KIngPeterson, Andrew.  The Warden and the Wolf King – The Wingfeather Saga Book 4. Nashville: Rabbit Room Press, 2014.  524 pp.  $22.99.  Purchase at Amazon and on Kindle for less.

Introduction

Andrew Peterson needs no introduction to most.  He is most known for his songs though I believe that is changing with the publication of this fourth (and final?) book in the Wingfeather Saga series.  You can read reviews of the first three books here.  It must be noted that the publication of this book was part of perhaps the most successful kickstarter campaign in the history of kickstarter campaigns.  His goal was $14,000 and he raised well over $110,000!

Summary

At over 500 pages and over 90 chapters, this book is actually a very quick read.  The story picks up right where it left off in The Monster and the Hollows.  We once again join Janner, Kalmar, and Leeli as they fight against Gnag the Nameless and bring peace to Anniera.

From the book synopsis:

All winter long, people in the Green Hollows have prepared for a final battle with Gnag the Nameless and the Fangs of Dang.  Janner, Kalmar, and Leeli – Throne Warden, Wolf King, and Song Maiden of Anniera – are ready and willing to fight alongside the Hollowsfolk, but when the Fangs make the first move and invade Ban Rona, the children are sparated.  Janner is alone and lost in the hills; Leeli is fighting the Fangs from the rooftops of the city; and Kalmar, who carries a terrible secret, is on a course for the Deeps of Throg.  Meanwhile in Skree, Sara Cobbler and Maraly Weaver care for the broken Artham Wingfeather as Fangs muster for battle across the Mighty River Blap.

Sea dragons lurk in the waters.  Stranders crawl through the burrows.  Ridgerunners and trolls prowl the land.  Cloven haunt the forest. Monsters and Fangs and villains lie between the children and their only hope of victory – in the epic conclusion of The Wingfeather Saga.

Review

I could not put this book down.  The problem with that is late nights and anxiety of what is going on in a fictional world.  Andrew writes with such passion in both his music and his fiction that the reader cannot help but get caught up in the action and the lives of the characters.  His ability to tell a complete story while changing everything at the same time is a gift to fantasy genre.

The only negative I discovered in reading this work is that I forgot to read the first three books again and was therefore a bit lost in the story. Nonetheless, Andrew dropped enough hints throughout the book that I was quickly up to speed on the lives of the characters.

As you progress from page one to page five hundred nineteen, you will not know what to expect.  Even the ending of the story is not really an ending.  He leaves open the possibility of yet another book in the series but in a way that is unexpected.  You will find yourself cheering for the Wingfeathers, crying for the Hollowsfolk, and, in the end grateful to the reality of life this Christian-based work of fantasy depicts.

Recommendation

If you have not read the first three books in the series, you will want to do that.  If you have and are eagerly awaiting this fourth book, you will not be disappointed.  We are indebted to Andrew Peterson for sharing his gift of story telling with us.  This series, now complete, will eventually, as it has already, find its way into the conversation with Lewis’ Narnia, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress (a comparison I rarely make), and even the controversial Harry Potter series.

When a Family Starts by Eric Young

When a Family StartsYoung, Eric.  Illustrated by Katriina DeMoreta. When a Family Starts. Mulberry: SunPowered Publications, 2012.  25 pp.  $10.95.  Purchase for at Amazon and on Kindle for much less.

Summary/Review

When a Family Starts is a children’s book written for young kids to begin to explain the intended purposes of God in the family unit.

From the back of the book:

Families were created by God, and He loves every person in every family!  Just like God created families, He created a perfect way for them to start. In His perfect way God starts a family with one man and one woman.  In God’s perfect plan, a family starts with marriage.  Through history, many families have stared in many different ways, and though God loves them all, the desire of His heart is for all people to lean again to start each family His perfect way.

I am grateful for this book in the current cultural context we all find ourselves.  Young takes the story of marriage back to the Creation of man and woman and even explains how sin has destroyed God’s wonderful plan for man.  The beauty is that while the book is written for children, it explains that the family starts with marriage…a misconception today that a couple is not a family until they have children.  In only 25 pages, only 12 pages with words, Eric Young lays a solid, biblical foundation of family, marriage, and God’s created order in one fell swoop.

Recommendation

If you are in a church or have an office setting or a daycare, you can purchase a copy to be read by many.  Again, given our current cultural family crisis, this resource will be an ally in laying the foundation with children (and adults!) to look at God’s Word to understand the importance of marriage, family, and children, according to God’s Word.  I highly recommend this resource to all.

 

John Knox by Simonetta Carr

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

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

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

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

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.