Tag Archives: christian

If We Survive by Andrew Klavan

This was definitely one of his best for teens. Quick on the action and full of positive elements in a world of discouragement. Klavan is able to write a intriguing thriller, while giving a message of hope. I was encouraged by the whole. I would strongly recommend this book to teens that I come into contact with.

The story centers around a missions group that travels to Mexico to help build a school. Things build crazily from there as the team finds themselves caught in a revolution.

Be warned, there is murder in this book and other more mature situations. Still, it is tame compared to other novels available.

Klavan also writes from a conservative worldview… His characters wrestle with faith and real issues, not just whether or not to date the attractive vampire boy. Teens who read this will be confronted with revolutions and evil regimes, good vs. evil, and doing the best for someone even if it’s hard and costs you something.

The strongest character is a young woman named Meredith. The main character continually notices the fearlessness in this young woman and wonders at her ability to persevere in the trials. The boys in the book notice the beauty in Meredith’s resolve and character, not just in her looks.

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What Did You Expect by Paul Tripp

This is one of the better marriage books that I have read. Tripp quickly gets to the heart of the matter, and I was convicted many times as I read through his book on how to change your marriage for the better.

Tripp focuses on the fact that in a marriage, two sinful people, made with God given differences and personalities, come together to live one life.

The book is ordered around six different commitments that lead to a better, god-honoring marriage:

#1 We will give ourselves to a regular lifestyle of confession and forgiveness.
#2 We will make growth and change our daily agenda.
#3 We will work together to build a sturdy bond of trust.
#4 We will commit to building a relationship of love.
#5 We will deal with our differences with appreciation and grace.
#6 We will work to protect our marriage.

With each of these various points, Tripp provides real life examples, I assume, from his counseling experience.

I appreciated the author’s candor and realism in this book. Marriage is hard work, but it is the most satisfying work to be done. I know that I went into my marriage thinking that work wasn’t really required. Boy, was I wrong. Read this book and than read it together with your spouse. Often the procedures are painful, but the cure is worth it.

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The Dragon’s Tooth by N.D. Wilson – Ashtown Burials Series

The story starts off fast and it took me a little while to get my bearings, but I am now hooked. The action starts right off the bat as we meet the Smith children, Cyrus, Antigone, and Dan. They are living in a run down hotel without their father and with a mother in the hospital. Wilson drew me right into the scene and I could see the old rural hotel and smell the waffle maker just as he describes it. I will have to buy the second book in the series soon. It reminds me a little of the Percy Jackson books, but the writing is much more literary and stylish. Wilson spends some good time developing his characters, and the brother/sister dynamic comes off well. I think that it adds greatly to the whole of the book to see the two Smith kids interact while battling evil or just trying to get a meal in.

One of my concerns in children’s literature is the portrayal of parental figures. Wilson again does a good job of not making adults the totally stupid ones, while the kids just save the world. Through their journey, Cyrus and Antigone must take advice from adults and rely on them. This is done in a positive way that adds to the worth of the whole book.

The book can be graphic at times, as the struggle to survive and find meaning envelop the characters. I think it is in good taste, and it is mild compared to other offerings out there. N.D. Wilson created quite a complex world of bad guys and  big places, serving up a playground for the imagination.

Great story for Upper Elementary or Middle School age boys, especially. The themes and situations are truly redemptive in nature, and N.D.’s world reflects the truth of God’s world and how good and evil work. There is no false praise of evil or it’s devices. As a  Christian parent of two little boys, I will not be reading this one to them in the near future, but I think it will be fun to point them to the words that are spirit and life, as we enjoy this adventure.

UPDATE: Not as amazed with the second book, The Drowned Vault. Too much action and craziness all fit together. I am anxious to see how the whole series will work in concert.

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Bible Books for Little People

I have some recommendations for children’s books that promote the Gospel in a unique and effective way. My two year old son does not regularly go for the many Bibley books we have around. I usually have to pick them out for him; his favorites these days are the Seuss books and the Fly Guy books. So these recommendations are more from me and not from his three-year-old mind.

My Big Book of Bible Stories, by Phil A. Smouse – Got this one from Truth for Life. Try to find the audio online of Alistair Begg reading the Ruth story. The book contains 17 stories from both the Old and New Testament. They are rhymed to the tune or style of Dr. Seuss. We would read them at dinner times with our two little boys.

The Jesus Storybook Bible, by Sally Lloyd Jones – I have this one on my e-reader. The way she works Jesus into all of the familiar stories is great. Our fave story is the one about the little girl that Jesus raises from the dead. Sally clearly shows the kindness and compassion of Jesus. She also fits in a reference to Lord of the Rings, by stating that Jesus is in the business of making the sad things come untrue. Amen!

More to come…

Just a side note… Be sure to have a hymnal or other songbook in your home in order to sing some songs together as a family. My son is so excited to pick songs from the hymnal and then end with Luther’s “Mighty Fortress” as he affectionately calls it. He has all the first verse memorized. The fun part for me is trying to sight read some obscure hymn that I’ve never heard before, just because my son picked it. All the while my wife sits nearby and laughs.

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Review of Shelter by Harlan Coben

This book did not meet my expectations at all. I probably went in with too many of them, but I was disappointed with the story as a whole. It was quite a chore to keep reading. As a Christ follower, I would not recommend this to any of the youth I work with. As I read, I like to try and notice truth and redemptive themes in a book, and there just wasn’t much here. I’m not too familiar with the Bolitar series by Coben, but I guess this YA book connects with his adult fiction in some way.

Mickey Bolitar, loses his father to a car wreck and his mother to substance abuse. Because of all this tragedy, he basically takes care of himself, and we get to follow him as he survives high school and uncovers a mystery. Coben tells us all about Mickey’s struggle, but never really lets the reader enter in. I just felt like an observer throughout the book. I wish Coben would have shown more of the inner struggle inside Mickey’s heart. He just reacts to stuff that happens.

Also, I am very concerned with how belief in God and respect of adults is portrayed in a children’s novel, and this particular story showed neither of these in a positive light. It’s not that there was anything horrible, but it seems like Mickey is left to his own instincts and feelings, which is a bad place to be. There’s gotta be some outside standard or moral. “Telling us to obey instinct is like telling us to obey “people.” People say different things: so do instincts. Our instincts are at war…. Each instinct, if you listen to it, will claim to be gratified at the expense of the rest….” C.S. Lewis. Mickey seems pretty lost at the outset, and I felt he wasn’t any closer to any truth in the end. Any truth that mattered at least.

For any parents or teens out there that were wondering about this one, I would go elsewhere. Comment if you would like to know more.

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Newbery Author Agenda

It is my goal to read all of the Newbery medal books at some time. I have a few down, many more to go. I will keep track here, as well as offer some recommendations. For now I will order the books according to year.

2012 Honors Book- Breaking Stalin’s Nose – A fast read about a Stalinist era youth and his maturing thoughts and beliefs (recommended)

2012 – Dead End in Norvelt – Wasn’t a totally engaging read… Moon over Manifest seemed to offer a better connection to the historical setting.

2011 – Moon over Manifest – This book about a young girl in Kansas, just trying to make sense of her life. Some people didn’t like the pace, but I thought it was nice and easy, like a slow, hot summer day. (recommended)

2009 – The Graveyard Book – I still don’t know the point of this book, or why it was chosen. I thought it contained to much new-agey gobble-dee-gook. (not recommended)

2009 Honors Book – Savvy – If it was my choice, this would be the award winner. Great developed characters and family interactions, clever writing that educates as it entertains, and just a fun read overall. (recommended)

2004 – The Tale of Despereaux – I started reading this book to my two-year-old. He seemed to stay engaged fairly well. I know I enjoyed it as an adult. That is one true sign of a good book. “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” – C. S. Lewis (recommended)

1994 – The Giver – Read this one around the time I first started teaching. I loved the weight and theological implications. A good tool to introduce children to truth and what is really real. (recommended)

1990 – Number the Stars – A true heroine that does what is right no matter what. Have your daughter read this one first. (recommended)

1977 – Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry – Read this one with my fifth grade class in Colorado. A great historical novel about the dignity of all humans, being made in the image of God. (recommended)

1962 – The Bronze Bow – Highly recommended! I loved the extra-biblical account of Jesus and his influence.

1929 – The Trumpeter of Krakow – An historical fiction book filled with the right amount of history and mystery. (Recommended)

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The “Hunger” for Survival

The other day I was reading a post by Emily Whitten at RedeemedReader.com on the Hunger Games series. I definitely recommend it to those interested in a redeemed, biblical response to all the hype and hullabaloo surrouding the books. In her piece, she writes about the main idea or conflict that the Hunger Games presents to its readers. At it’s heart, she says the books are about survival.

As a volunteer at a K-12 public school, I hear about the Hunger Games every day. It could be a fourth grader showing me the word “breast” in the book, a fifth grader complaining to me about not being able to read it, or a high schooler carrying it all around the school.

I have often wondered why kids are so drawn to the story. A fifth grade girl told me it was well written, and I agreed (See a post by N.D. Wilson @thegospelcoalition.com on why it’s not well written), but I also thought that other well written and imaginative books are available for students to read. What is it that makes Hunger Games fly off the shelves here at school?

I considered greatly this idea about survival, and I think Emily is right on. Janie Cheaney, also on the redeemedreader site talks about the possibility that kids identify with the character’s struggles and the subconcious knowledge that maybe they really aren’t that good. Countless teachers tell the students that they are special and they are good kids, but do they see through the lie? Maybe the students are scared like Katniss to become the monsters that are lurking inside.

The teachers and adults at school always talk about the good kids that we have. I could totally see the craze about the books here being in part because the kids really know that they are not that good. They have struggles and need connection to others that struggle with real issues. I am amazed at the looks I get from students at times when I use words like “evil” and “good.” The students don’t hear these categories from teachers and adults, but they surely know about it in books.

Just before writing this post, I was with a student and we were talking about super heroes. We agreed that they don’t exist, and I wasn’t Batman, and I tried to steer the conversation to the reason we cheer and root for those “good” guys. I wanted the student to see that the basic character qualities we like in super heroes are the ones that could be in her.

I hope to be able to point the youth I work with unto Jesus, who meets them right in their struggle and offers words that are spirit and life. May the kids be able to say, like Peter, that they would go with Jesus because he has the words of eternal life.

Suzanne writes a good book; the marketing for it was without equal, but she can’t hold a candle, or spotlight for that matter, to Jesus and his life-giving words.

Be sure to check out redeemedreader.com for other great biblically minded reviews of Children’s Lit.

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