Friday, November 20, 2015

Review: Ishtar’s Odyssey

The Christmas story. We’ve heard it over and over. If you’re looking for a way to make it fresh and meaningful this season, here’s a story for you.

Synopsis of Book

IshtarA new Advent family devotional from the author of Jotham's Journey! Fourth in a set of Advent adventure books for families, Ishtar's Odyssey follows the ten-year-old son of a Persian wise man as their caravan follows a star across the desert. Ishtar would just as soon stay in the comfort of the palace, but slowly he learns that there's much to see, do, and learn in this world that can't be experienced in school. He eventually meets Jotham, Bartholomew, and Tabitha as he follows his father and uncles in their search for a newborn king.

Arnold Ytreeide's family advent devotionals have become a much-loved Christmas tradition, enjoyed by multiple generations. With over 100,000 in print they include Jotham's Journey, Bartholomew's Passage, and Tabitha's Travels.

About the Author

Arnold Ytreeide is a fine storyteller who cares deeply about spiritual growth in families. Ytreeide is the founder of Storyteller Productions and lives with his wife and two children in Nampa, Idaho.

Genre:  Children’s Christian Story Book 
Physical Description:  Paperback, 176 pages 
List Price:  $15.99
For More Info/To Buy:

Mom’s Review:

We’ve loved all of Ytreeide’s advent books! They are a great way to travel through Christmas season with a regular moment each day to remember Christ.

  • Adventure! Cliffhangers make you excited to continue the story the next day. As a prince, Ishtar has a unique set of adventures that run into some of Ytreeide's other characters’ adventures from time to time. There is mystery, death-defying excitement, scary moments, character transformation, and more.
  • Bible Tie-Ins. Esmé loves how the adventure is tied to Bible scriptures and truths. At the end of each chapter, the author ties the story’s events to a Bible text in a way that makes one think. These go beyond the nativity story to a better understanding of who Christ is and why His coming is so important to each of us even today.
  • Schedule. The chapters are spaced out nicely to fit into an advent schedule, and the story climaxes with Christ’s birth on Christmas day.
  • Persian Food Outline. This book has a neat Making Connections feature – an outline of foods and common kid-friendly substitutes that Ishtar enjoys during each chapter of his odyssey. To make the book come alive, plan your menus around the list.
  • Cultural Experience. The book does a great job of helping the reader understand the culture of the time, with historical tidbits, landmarks, and more. I was particularly intrigued with religious discussions – the concept of multiple gods versus one singular God, etc. in context of the predominant religions of the time.
  • A Child’s Perspective. It’s fun to travel throughout the nativity story from a child’s perspective that your children can relate to. The characters all have flaws; Ishtar is far from perfect. But he grows and becomes transformed through the truths he learns, and ideally your child will make a similar journey in the reading of this book.
  • It’s All About Jesus. The nativity story is beautiful straight from the Bible, but Ytreeide has mastered the art of retelling it from different perspectives to discover new truths each time.

Ytreeide’s advent books have become a staple of our Christmas season, and this one does not disappoint. You don’t need to have read the others in order to appreciate this one, but having that context adds to the enjoyment of reading as you see how the main characters’ stories intersect.

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Kregel Publications for coordinating this book for review. Opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Review: The Ology

God always was and always will be. God is all-powerful. God is in control. God is perfect. Jesus paid it all. The Word of God lives forever.

Truths. The most important things you want your child to hang on to. Everything else in educating your child is secondary.

How do you fit these truths into the busyness of home education? You can live them out each day, but if you want an organized approach with biblical references for sharing these truths, here’s a good resource for you…

Synopsis of Book

Image 1A page-turning storybook of theology for kids

In the cellar of the old stone cathedral, Carla and Timothy uncover a life-changing treasure, a carefully wrapped ancient book known as The Ology. What adults might describe as a beautifully illustrated storybook of systematic theology, the kids discover to be a story of adventure, mystery, and wonder that leads them to the truth about God, themselves, and the world around them.

Truth is for kids, not just for adults! So The Ology gives kids of all ages a beginner’s theology book to help them understand who God is and how we, as his children, relate to him. Arranged within a traditional systematic theological framework, each truth in The Ology is also connected to the larger redemptive story of Scripture. The doctrine of God, for example, is presented in the larger framework of creation, where the attributes of God are more clearly on display. The Ology takes abstract theological concepts and makes them easier to understand with the use of creative examples, illustrations, and analogies. The goal is not to say everything that could be said about a theological topic, but rather to share the key thoughts behind a theological concept. The Ology is a starting point to learning theology and aims to create a hunger and desire in children to learn more as they grow older.

Designed for six-year-olds through preteens, this flexible resource includes built-in adaptations for use with younger or older children, so that entire families can enjoy it together. Read The Ology to preschoolers, read it with grade-school kids, and let older kids discover the “hidden” truths by reading the corresponding Scripture passages for each section. However you read it, The Ology will give your children a gift that will last a lifetime—a solid foundation of life-changing biblical truth that will point them to the God who loves them and gave himself for them.

About the Author

Marty Machowski is a Family Life Pastor at Covenant Fellowship Church in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, where he has served on the pastoral staff for over twenty years. He is the author of the Gospel Story for Kids series, which includes The Gospel Story Bible, Long Story Short, Old Story New, and the Gospel Story Curriculum, as well as the Advent devotional and curriculum Prepare Him Room. He and his wife Lois and their six children reside in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

Genre:  Children’s Christian education (ages 6 – preteen)
Physical Description:  Hardcover, 224 pages 
List Price:  $29.99, currently $25.49
For More Info/To Buy:

Mom’s Review:

  • Introduction and Conclusion. This book has a fun little intro and conclusion that kids can relate to and that excites them about what is inside.
  • Organization. The book is neatly organized into 71 chapters that logically walk kids through the major tenets of the Christian faith. The table of contents allows you to easily jump to a topic if needed.
  • Bible References. Each chapter includes scripture supporting scripture quotes, in addition to scripture references if you’d like to read more on the subject.
  • The Relatable Writing. The chapters include object lessons or anecdotes that make it easier for a child to relate to the topic. For instance, in describing the animal sacrifices, it says, “They were a little like cleaning your room by shoving everything under the bed. The bed covers the mess but the mess is still there,” and describes the need for Jesus’ ultimate cleansing sacrifice.
  • Illustrations & Design. The subtle colors of the attractive artwork and graphic design add to the appeal of the book without overwhelming the topics being addressed.
  • The Questions at the End of the Book. Both the scripture references and the questions/answers at the end of the book (one for each chapter) make it easy to use this book as an educational resource or component of a homeschool curriculum.

I would make the suggestion that the book be read by parent and child together. While most of the writing is universal for Christians of all denominations, there may be some doctrinal differences or variances. While I personally found variances on the topics of death and baptism, I see this as an opportunity to explore and discuss the topics more deeply with my child.

Overall, this book is a great resource for Christian parents.

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Litfuse Publicity Group for coordinating this book for review. Opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Review/Giveaway: Christmas Time: It’s All About Jesus!


  Comment on this post for a chance to win!

From the beginning, I’ve been looking for ways to make the Christmas season about Jesus for Esmé. The Jesse Tree, Truth in the Tinsel, Why Do We Call It Christmas?, Melk the Christmas Monkey – we’ve done them all, some several times. And I’ve always been on the lookout for books that tell the classic Nativity story in new and interesting ways.

So I was pleased to find the book, Christmas Time: It’s All About Jesus! This cute, meaningful book is a great addition to a Jesus-focused Christmas collection.

Synopsis of Book

Christmas Time (Web Front)Since Christmas is such a captivating time of year, it’s the perfect setting for telling children about the miracle of the Lord Jesus Christ’s birth. Using selected passages from the first chapters of the gospels of Matthew and Luke, Christmas Time – It’s All About Jesus tells the story of Jesus’ birth in a delightfully poetic and child-like way. The sensational illustrations create an unforgettable image, so a child can always remember the true meaning of Christmas.

As an added bonus, Pastor Russ and Sue have developed devotionals to be used by families to enrich their Christmas celebrations. These are complete with attributes and names of Jesus, questions for discussion, and activities to do as a family to share Christ with those around them. Coupled together, this story and devotionals will enhance your celebration of Christmas during the season and all year long!

About the Author

Sue BarksdaleSue Murray Barksdale has been a pastor’s wife, mom, and educator for over 30 years.  She and her husband Russ live in Arlington, Texas, where Russ pastors the multi-site The Church on Rush Creek, a multi-site church. Sue has a BS in Elementary Education from The University of Houston and enjoys teaching at a public charter school in their neighborhood.

Russ and Sue consider their relationship with their grown children and spouses and their six beautiful grandchildren as one of the greatest blessings in life! Their desire to leave a legacy of Christ-centered lives motivated them to write this book for their own family and all the children in their sphere of influence. This is Sue’s second book, her first being G.I.F.T.S.: A Prayer Book for Kids and Those Who Love Them.

Genre:  Christian children’s book 
Physical Description:  Paperback, 28 pages
List Price:  $12.99, currently on Amazon for $11.69 
To Buy: 
For More Info:

Mom’s Review:

Focus. It’s all about Jesus. The story, the devotions, the activities, all help point a child to Jesus at Christmastime.

Illustrations. The gender-neutral colorful illustrations are cute! Perfect for about the 3-6yo range.

The Writing. The story is the classic nativity one. You won’t find any surprises in it, but the poetry is easy and fun to read aloud. It’s great for the Dr. Seuss-age crowd.

The Devotions with Family Activities. These are my favorite part of the book – what makes it stand out from others. There are five – one topic for each letter of the word GLORY.There is a short devotion and prayer on the topic, followed by a typical Christmas activity that correlates with the devotion. It’s a great way to tie some of the fun things of Christmas to the center of it all – it’s all about Him!

If you’re looking for a simple way to make Christ the center of your child’s Christmas, or would like to add a fun Nativity story to your Christmas collection, this book is for you.


Yes, I can offer one blessed reader a copy of the Christmas Time: It’s All About Jesus! We’re going simple with giveaway entries here: just enter a comment of any kind on this post, along with your email address or other way for me to contact you. A winner will be randomly selected on November 21. You must have a US mailing address to win.

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Aneko Press for coordinating this book for review and providing the giveaway prize. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Don’t forget to leave a comment for your chance to win this giveaway!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Review: A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest

Africa. The sights: children running, run-down buildings, animals, orderly plantations, wild jungle. The smells: Overwhelming florals, sweat mixed with fire, markets with overripe tomatoes and dried fish. The sounds: horns blaring, dogs barking, a language you don’t understand, laughter. The tastes: juicy mango, maize from a pot. The feeling: jarring roads, crowds, awe.

Water. A precious commodity transported on the heads, or in other creative ways, of many a child, many a woman. Not too many years ago, when Esmé was a baby, it was our privilege to experience Africa. To play a small supporting role in the creation of more water sources, wells, for various communities.

So here’s a book that grabbed us from the first page…P1130641

Synopsis of Book

A Chameleon, a Boy, and a QuestA Boy Named Mu, an African Journey, and You

Mu, a ten-year-old orphan, has lived his entire life in the heart of Africa. For as long as he can remember he has served in the household of a great-uncle where he is unloved and ignored. In his drudgery-filled life, Mu has little hope of happiness, and little hope that anything will ever change.

But one day, everything does change. On his way to draw water one morning, Mu is astonished when a chameleon greets him by name and announces that they will embark on a quest together. And what a quest it turns out to be! Mu faces danger and finds unexpected allies as they journey through a fascinating and ever-changing landscape.

A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest blends magical realism with a compelling story. The exciting story line combines an orphan's journey to find a home with the plight of child soldiers and the dangers of the Ebola virus and, along the way, highlights universal themes of integrity, loyalty, faith, and love. Written by long-time medical missionary J. A. Myrhe, the artful story is laced with subtle gospel themes and handles cross-cultural issues with grace and sensitivity. Kids will encounter good and evil and learn the truth about hope, happiness, and what it means to be human in this page-turning first book in a new series.

What you'll find in A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest:

  • A page-turning children's action and adventure story set in a fictional African land
  • Blends magical realism and compelling storytelling with gospel themes to draw kids gently into the truth
  • Deals with real-life but (seemingly) faraway themes like the plight of orphans, the duties of child soldiers, and the reality of the Ebola virus
  • Written by a long-time medical missionary to Africa who handles cross-cultural issues with grace, sensitivity, and love

About the Authors

J. A. Myhre serves as a doctor with Serge in East Africa where she has worked for over two decades. She is passionate about health care for the poor, training local doctors and nurses, promoting childhood nutrition and development, and being the hands of Jesus in the hardest places. She is married to her best friend and colleague Scott, and together they have raised four children for whom many of her stories were written as Christmas presents.
Find Jennifer online:

Genre:  8-14 year olds, Christian adventure 
Physical Description:  Paperback, 128 pages 
List Price:  $15.99, currently $13.59
To Buy:
For More Information:

Mom’s Review:

Africa. This book had me at Africa. The chameleon (we had one in our yard), the jerry can of water, the poinsettia bush, the description of clothing, the outdoor school, the hospital wards, the jarring roads, the dog, the family relationships. I could just visualize it all. It’s fun to remind Esmé of her past there, to share the experience with her through the vividly described setting of this book.

The talking animals. Miss Esmé has been a fan of talking animals ever since I’ve been reading to her. A talking chameleon? Right up her ally. Great for imaginative kids.

The adventure. This is a fun read! There is mystery. Every chapter ends with a desire to find out what happens next. With lots of animal action as well, this is an adventure for both boys and girls.

The allegory. Betrayal. Courage. Redemption. You can find the story of Good and Evil subtly woven throughout this book.

Overall, this is an exciting read-aloud (though of course your child may want to read on her own) adventure with great cultural and redemptive qualities. I highly recommend it.

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Litfuse Publicity Group for coordinating this book for review. Opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Melk the Christmas Monkey

So it’s November. That means we can start planning for Christmas, right?

Melk Collage

I asked Esmé if she wanted to have Melk come back this year, and she was adamant that he should, so Melk and I are planning some new (and repeating) adventures. He’s got a surprise sidekick this year – a critter who will be focused on spreading the love to others…

So who is Melk? Short for Melchior, Melk the Christmas Monkey is kind of like the Christian version of Elf on the Shelf. Each day of the Advent season, he’s got something new going on – always with a note that points his friend to Jesus. Some of you followed his adventures on Facebook last year, and I decided to put them all here in one place for handy dandy reference.

First things first – credit where credit is due. The inspiration for Melk comes from Paradise Praises. If you want a nicely packaged ebook with Bible lessons & activities for 30 days, printable notes, supply lists, etc., here’s where to get it: Many of Melk’s activity ideas came straight from this ebook.

Our Melk took on a life (and voice) of his own – so consider this as a supplement to the original ebook. Because I don’t want to infringe on copyright, I’m summarizing our activities very briefly here without a lot of direction on printables and devotions. If you have questions on anything, feel free to comment or message me, and I’ll do my best to answer offline.

To note: There was no special order to Our Melk’s adventures. It really depended on what I had available at the time and how much time we could spend on activities. It bothers my OCD a bit that it wasn’t more sequential or organized, but the main thing was a focus on Jesus each day. And, on more than one occasion, it was amazing how things came together beautifully and more perfect than I could have possibly planned.

So here we go:

Day 1: Introducing Melk

Melk made his debut by getting involved in a snowflake ballerina craft Esmé and I had already been working on. We had been waiting for the coffee filters to dry, but he couldn’t wait until morning so got right into making those snowflakes. Just his way of letting us know (along with his note) that he was taking over the season’s festivities.


Here is the finished result:


Day 2: Music (Isaiah 51:11)

Esmé’s favorite group, 1 Girl Nation, had just put out a Christmas CD. Melk got first listening rights to this gift… We pulled out all the other Christmas CDs, too.


Day 3: Angels (Psalm 91:11)

Melk got himself into a glittery mess. Later on, Esmé was a bit more proficient with her angel.



Day 4 (December 1st): Advent Promise (James 5:8)

Melk started in on an Advent chain.


Day 5: Light (John 8:12)

Melk needed some help getting untangled so we could put the new lights in the windows. This was also the day that Esmé decided to become nocturnal so she could assist Melk with his adventures. Couldn’t get her to sleep for anything.


Day 6: Pleasure (Revelation 4:11)

Melk was all ready to enjoy a nice cup of hot cocoa, but first he was creating some “happy” artwork with his extra marshmallows.


Day 7: Star of Bethlehem (Matthew 2:2)

Melk was supposed to be making a star with beads, but he got beads confused with Froot Loops and decided it was snack time.


Day 8: The Nativity (Luke 2:10-12)

Melk started in on a sculpey clay nativity scene (using a new pack of clay).


Esmé helped him out and made a pretty awesome lamb!Day8a

Day 9: Refiner’s Fire (Zechariah 13:9)

Never let a good flame go to waste! It’s marshmallow roasting time, which means, of course, s’mores.

"There burns a fire with sacred heat
White hot with holy flame
And all who dare pass through its blaze
Will not emerge the same
Some as bronze, and some as silver
Some as gold, then with great skill
All are hammered by their sufferings
On the anvil of His will"
~Steve Green lyrics


Day 10: The Bible Story (2 Timothy 3:16)

This was the day Melk pulled out all of our Christmas books for Esmé to enjoy the rest of the season.


Day 11: Gift of Sight (Matthew 12:22-23)

Melk rocked a pair of new sunglasses and checked out a spider in his new bug magnifying glass, while looking forward to using his gift of sight to watch all our Christmas movies.


Day 12: Miracles (Luke 18:27)

Melk planted a candy cane “seed” in hopes of growing an award-winning candy cane – but paperwhites work much better.


The paperwhites just happened to open their blooms on New Year’s Day.


Day 13: Gifts of Gold (Matthew 2:11)

Time for a gold color box!


Day 14: Creator (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Melk celebrated being a unique creation by making his own unique creation – a gingerbread man craft.

"Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You." ~Dr. Seuss


Day 15: Sweetness (Psalm 34:8)

He got his hand stuck…


Day 16: Merry Heart (Proverbs 17:22)

Melk had a bunch of photo props to try out for funny selfies. Though he looks rather distinguished in this one…


Day 17: Healer (Isaiah 53:5)

A gift of a brand new first aid kit for budding medics in the house.


Day 18: Lost Sheep (Luke 15:1-7)

So Melk scattered 50 or so printed Christmas jokes all throughout the house while shepherding his marshmallow sheep. Surely, Goodness, and Mercy tend to stick with him pretty well, but Seek is a different sort of sheep... We are still finding the jokes (and “rejoicing” every time).


Day 19: Clothing the Naked (Matthew 25:36)

It was all about things to wear. Melk was sporting the gift of a new pair of slippers while working on princess paper dolls.


Day 20: Snow (and a Comforter) (Isaiah 1:18)

Since we didn’t have any real snow to play in, Melk got things ready for a Borax snowflake. Because the thought of snow makes him cold, he wrapped up in the gift of a new comfy blankie.


Day 21: Fragrance (& Frankincense) (2 Corinthians 2:15)

So Melk wasn’t impressed with new girlie perfume, but he was happy to help make cinnamon ornaments.


The finished fragrant cinnamon ornaments.


Day 22: Foundation (Psalm 118:22)

Melk had the icing ready to go on a gingerbread house kit. I won’t say whether he ate any of the décor before Esmé to up.


Foundation or not, this house isn’t going to last long with these two around.


Day 23: Legend of the Candy Cane

Look at the Candy Cane
What do you see?
Stripes that are red
Like the blood shed for me
White is for my Savior
Who's sinless and pure!
"J" is for Jesus,
My Lord, that's for sure!
Turn it around
And a staff you will see
Jesus my Shepherd
Was born for me!


Esmé helped Melk make a sweet wreath.


Day 24: The WORD (John 1:1, 14)

A gift of fine new art pens, along with writing pages.


Day 25: Lion of Judah (Revelation 5:5)

Sonny the Lion helped Melk with this gift of the Chronicles of Narnia audiobooks, as well as a paper craft lion.


Day 26: Breakfast in Bethlehem

Melk made breakfast. We kept it simple because he doesn’t have opposable thumbs.


Day 27: Love (1 Corinthians 13:1-8)

A “gifts for Jesus” box, a sapphire necklace, and a valentine’s note from Melk.

What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
if I were a wise man, I would do my part.
Yet what I can I give him--give my heart.


Day 28 (December 25): Happy Birthday!


Happy Birthday, Jesus,
I'm so glad it's Christmas.
All the carols and bells make
The holidays swell
And it's all about You.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Review/Giveaway: NIV Bible for Teen Girls: Growing in Faith.Hope.Love

Comment on this post for a chance to win!

I was recently leading out in 8yo Miss Esmé’s class at church. After a game of fruit basket upset, the topic of discussion: how leaving your Bible on your bedstand doesn’t help you, just like a bowl of fruit on the counter doesn’t help you. You have to eat it, get it inside of you regularly, to get the benefit.

So I showed the kids copies of various Bibles we’ve used over the years. Picture Bible. Toddler Bible. Preschool Bible. Early Reader Bible. We’ve graduated to a full-text Bible with pictures.

Every age – every stage – so different. While the truths remain the same, the needs are different. How can I encourage my daughter to keep internalizing these truths at each stage? To realize how they apply to her life right here and now?

I know this: at each stage, I want something in her hand that she can personalize and make her own; something that compels her to pick it up each day. And I’ve found the perfect option for her teen years.

Synopsis of Book

Teen Bible

The NIV Bible for Teen Girls, designed specifically for girls ages 13 to 18, is for real teenage girls with real lives. Packed with daily readings, highlighted promises of God, challenging insights, smart advice, and open discussion about the realities of life, this Bible is designed to help teen girls grow in faith, hope, and love. The NIV Bible for Teen Girls is as sincere about your walk with God as you are, helping you discover his will for all areas of your life, including relating to your family, dealing with friends, work, sports, guys, and so much more.

Features include:

  • Daily readings for teen girls by popular Christian female authors (Annie Downs, Bekah Hamrick Martin, Christine Caine, Crystal Kirgiss, Bethany Hamilton, Nicole Weider, Elsa Kok Colopy, Denise Van Eck and more)
  • Character profiles of women in the Bible
  • Book introductions for each book of the Bible
  • Highlighted promises of God: verses worth remembering
  • A concordance for help in finding verses
  • The complete text of the bestselling New International Version (NIV) of the Bible

Genre:  Christian teen
Physical Description:  Hardcover, 1728 
List Price:  $29.99
To Buy:

Mom’s Review:

Appearance. This is the first thing we looked at. Esmé’s been a bit critical of appearance on other Bibles in the past; they look boring or masculine. Right away we both fell in love with this one. It is feminine without being too little girly. A teal and pink cover, with pink highlights and headings throughout the text, the graphic design gives it an “older girl” feel.

It also feels “practical.” The type of thing one could throw in a backpack or overnight bag without stressing about damaging the pages. Something to personalize with highlighters and notes on the devotionals. It’s not an heirloom Bible, but rather meant for a very specific timespan.

Daily Readings. I want a Bible that compels my daughter to pick it up each day. The daily readings are interspersed at appropriate locations throughout the Bible, so even if the reading was her main focus for picking it up in the morning, she is instantly immersed in all the surrounding text.

The readings are written by Christian female authors and address different topics teens might be dealing with, all in context of a nearby Bible passage. I shared some of these with Esmé for purposes of the review, but she was adamant that this would be a Bible for her to receive on her 12th birthday, and based on the topics, I agree that would be about the right age for her to start.

Topical Index. The index of daily reading topics is one of my favorite features. You can look up a topic like “Fashion,” or “Fakers” or “God’s Call,” or “Dieting,” and go straight to a daily reading with applicable Bible passage. I envision using this myself if I get pulled into teen drama…

Women of the Bible. Another favorite feature is the character profile of women at various points in the Bible. The author does a good job of describing the women, providing Bible passages for further reading, and, my favorite part, sharing lessons from their lives that are applicable to women (including teens) today.

Book Summaries. Each book of the Bible begins with an approximate date of book, list of characters, familiar verse, and summary. I like how the summary ties the old to the modern, for instance, in the summary of Galatians: “Like using ‘ALL CAPS’ to make a point, Paul even took the pen from his scribe and wrote the end of the letter himself in large letters.”

Version. This is the popular New International Version that I personally grew up with. It has its critics and deserved critiques, but as a whole I found it highly readable and beneficial.

Concordance. It has an NIV concordance in the back, and I think this is one of the most important features of a practical Bible. If you’re taking it with you to studies or just wanting to remember where a favorite passage was found, this tool is invaluable.

Highlighted Texts. It’s like a friend has personalized the Bible to grab the reader’s attention to God’s promises throughout.

I’m excited about having this resource for Esmé to use in her teen years, and I pray it will change her life as she internalizes His Word.


Yes, I can offer one blessed reader a copy of the NIV Bible for Teen Girls: Growing in Faith.Hope.Love! We’re going simple with giveaway entries here: just enter a comment of any kind on this post, along with your email address or other way for me to contact you. A winner will be randomly selected on November 6. You must have a US or Canada mailing address to win.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for coordinating this book for review and providing the giveaway prize. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Don’t forget to leave a comment for your chance to win this giveaway!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Review: Pass It On

When I was pregnant with Miss Esmé, I got all the books. What to Expect When You’re Expecting. I had books on baby stages, toddler stages, preschooler stages. This was my first, and I wanted to know everything ahead of time – to have a game plan for all the upcoming occurrences and to know what to do to navigate and facilitate the growth transitions as smoothly as possible.

Now she is eight, and I’ve (sort of) learned to adapt to the way she constantly surprises me by going off script. But I can’t imagine going through those early years without that constant reassurance of knowing, month by month, we were (sort of) on track. Physically. Mentally.

But what about spiritually? Are we on track spiritually? And isn’t that the most important thing?

I never thought about a parenting book to monitor those transitions of spiritual growth. Until now.

Pass It On is a great resource for not only preparing for spiritual growth transitions of your child, but also for steering and celebrating those steps.

Synopsis of Book

Pass It On

Parents often experience a “freak out” moment when they realize their children’s view of God will primarily come from what they learn at home.

Most parents spend more time helping their kids succeed at academics or athletics than infusing shared spiritual experiences into the rhythm of everyday family life.

While the idea of strategically passing down our faith can seem intimidating, the annual Rites of Passage Experiences contained in Pass It On make it easy for your family to celebrate milestones from kindergarten through high school graduation. Forever change the direction of your family’s spiritual legacy . . . starting now!

About the Authors

Jim Burns is president of HomeWord and executive director of the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University. He has more than 1.5 million resources in print and a radio broadcast heard on 800 stations a day. Jim resides in Southern California with his wife Cathy and their three daughters.

Connect with Jim online: website, Twitter, Facebook

Jeremy Lee is the founder of ParentMinistry.Net, a subscription-based service for children and youth ministry workers. He was on the writing team for the Simple Truth Bible from Group Publishing and the Ignite Study Bible from Thomas Nelson Publishers. Jeremy lives in Nashville with his wife and children.

Connect with Jeremy online: website, Twitter, Facebook

Genre:  Christian parenting 
Physical Description:  Paperback, 256 pages 
List Price:  $15.99
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Mom’s Review:

The book starts with an explanation of why parents should pass on a Christian legacy, and how “rites of passage” are a great way to intentionally pass this on. It is then broken up into years – a chapter for each year from Kindergarten through 12th grade.

The first thing that grabbed my attention – though it was at the end of each chapter – was the section describing typical characteristics of each year – physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual. For someone like me who wants to be (as) prepared (as possible) for each stage, this is perfect.

The primary focus of each chapter is the Rite of Passage that includes a ceremony and a symbol. Something that can be as simple or complex as you choose to make it – that supports your child’s spiritual growth with intentionality – in a memorable way. There is a lot of room for flexibility, but also tools, such as sample letters and conversation starters, as well as a section called Laying the Foundation of Faith that helps you stay focused on what’s important.

I was wishing I’d found this book sooner – at the Kindergarten level – because that first Rite of Passage – an invitation to generosity through a family service project – is one that my 8yo could really use right now. But this book is flexible enough to adapt; we’re just going to start right now with that first Rite of Passage and just squeeze them in a little closer together until we’re caught up.

I’m excited about the years ahead, and I’m thrilled to have this roadmap of sorts to keep us on the right track with the milestones to come.

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Litfuse Publicity Group for coordinating this book for review. Opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Review: My God and My All


As a Protestant, I’ve been a little leery of the word.

As a child, I never learned much about the “saints.” I did hear of Saint Francis of Assisi, particularly in reference to quotes such as his peace prayer:

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, the truth;
Where there is doubt, the faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

So I found it interesting, and all brand new, to hear about Saint Francis’ life in my 8yo daughter’s history curriculum. I could easily see him as a saint in the biblical sense of the word. And I was ready to take on a more in-depth look into his life with this book.

Synopsis of Book

mygodandmyallENPerhaps more than any other figure in Christian history, Saint Francis of Assisi has captured our imagination, for his is a story of extreme self-sacrifice, of love to God and man. How could this wealthy, handsome youth cast away all the advantages that were his by birth and choose instead a career of poverty and humility? How could he attract members of all strata of society to his mission? And how, when his order became established throughout Europe, could he renounce great personal power and humbly continue his life’s work?

Here is Francis, from his twelfth-century boyhood to his life as a missionary roaming the very boundaries of the known world. Here too are the men and women who followed him – Bernard de Quintavalle, the rich businessman; Peter Cathanii, the lawyer; Brother Giles, the farmer’s son; Lady Clare; and so many others – all drawn together by the personal magnetism and humble faith of their leader, all re-created by bestselling novelist Elizabeth Goudge against a rich medieval canvas.

Of Saint Francis, Goudge writes:
It is as a Christian that he matters to us, as a humble, poor man who set himself to tread as closely as he could in the footsteps of Christ, perhaps as closely as any man has ever done, and by so doing he shames us. Looking at him we see what it means to be a Christian and what it costs. His story is not only endearing, it is terrifying. Yet without the fear and shame he would not have so much power over us, for we know in our hearts that what is worth having costs everything. And so his power lives on and we cannot measure it because it is nowhere near its end.

About the Author

Elizabeth de Beauchamp Goudge (1900–1984) was one of the most popular British novelists of the twentieth century. She had two #1 New York Times bestsellers: Green Dolphin Street (1944) and Pilgrim’s Inn (1948); the first was made into an Academy Award–winning film.

Goudge also wrote many acclaimed children’s books. The Little White Horse, whichHarry Potter author J. K. Rowling has said was her favorite book as a child, won the 1946 Carnegie Medal as the most outstanding British children’s book of the year.

Elizabeth Goudge’s Christian spirituality pervades all her work, but nowhere as explicitly as in her books God So Loved the World: The Story of Jesus Christ and My God and My All: The Life of Saint Francis of Assisi. The New York Times wrote of her work, “Elizabeth Goudge’s novels, long or short, have always been distinguished by a quality of lyrical joyousness more usually associated with poetry than with prose and, perhaps, with music than with writing.”

Genre:  Christian classic 
Physical Description:  Paperback, 310 pages, 5.5”x8” 
List Price:  $16.00 paperback; $10 Kindle (currently $12.69/$8.49 on Amazon)
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Mom’s Review:

This is not a quick read. With 310 pages of small print, it can feel a bit overwhelming at first. For someone who does a lot of skim reading, this was a struggle to begin reading. There is little dialogue. I got lost and had to backtrack and re-read over and over, since every word had its place in setting the context and moving the story along.

So I started reading it aloud to my 8yo, and the words just flowed, almost like poetic prose. She didn’t stick around long, to be honest, but oral reading made me start to fall in love with the writing style.

Wow. What a story. Anecdote after anecdote, each one as inspiring as the last. Like the one about his “son” Ruffino, who struggled with public speech. After refusing a command to preach at Assisi, Francis, in a temper, ordered Ruffino to go speak without his clothing. And he did, much to the mirth of the townsmen. Francis, feeling remorse, listened patiently to Ruffino stumble through his sermon. And then, taking off his own clothing, he joined Ruffino at the pulpit, quieting the crowd’s laughter with a sermon on Christ’s poverty and nakedness.

The author gives an underlying desperation to Francis’ story – a fear and determination not be be lost. However, the overwhelming joy, of the privilege of taking up the cross with Christ, is by far the dominant theme of his life. I love that blend of humility and joy – and the story makes me want to model that!

Francis’ story of humility and service is set in the historical context of a gluttonous church – full of power and wealth – and the details of history the author gives makes the story that much more meaningful. It is clear in my mind that, in spite of the flaws Francis was quick to admit to, God used him in a miraculous way to shift the course of Christianity upward from its downward spiral.

If you’re a history lover, if you want a story that will inspire you to greater faith, this book is for you.

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Handlebar Central for coordinating this book for review. Opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Review: The Prince Who Was Just Himself

Fist bumps. High fives. Handshakes.

Doors held open for me.

Comments on what I’m wearing.

Talk about the weather.

Uncontrollable giggles.

Undeterred focus on a task.

Impromptu concerts with guitar and keyboard.

Costumes worn every day throughout the month of October.

Showing off Special Olympics medals.

I work with people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities. It has got to be one of the most inspiring, friendliest fields of work available. I seem to have a smile on my face a lot – when I’m not holed up in my office tracking pennies…

So along comes Miss Esmé. “What’s wrong with these people?” she asks, not as quietly as I’d  wish. “Why are they so different?” 

I tell her how one lady brought her some favorite stuffed animals shortly after she was born, and every time I see her, she asks, “How’s Es-a-mé? She’s growing up, huh?”

I give Esmé the Wikipedia version of what I/DD is, what Down syndrome is. But it doesn’t paint the full picture, in her mind, of why I’m inspired every day at work.

So along comes this sweet book – perfect for all royalty-loving kids – that explains not only what is different, but what is right.


Synopsis of Book

Cover thumbnail of the book, The Prince Who Was Just Himself.The royal couple is looking forward to their third child. “He looks a little different,” muses the king at Prince Noah’s arrival. “He is not like the others,” agrees the queen. Soon they notice what a very special person he is, even though he can’t do everything his brothers can.

When the youngest prince disarms the cruel knight Scarface, the nation’s most dreaded enemy, with an act of compassion, everyone finally realizes how good it is that each person is unique.

This delightfully illustrated fairy tale for children three years and older instills appreciation for children with Down syndrome and other developmental challenges, making it a valuable aid for teaching tolerance in the home or classroom.

About the Author

Silke Schnee is a journalist and works as a television producer for a public broadcaster in Cologne, Germany. She is married and has three sons. Her youngest son Noah was born in July 2008 with Trisomy 21 (Down syndrome). She writes: “At first when Noah was born, we were shocked and sad. The catalyst for this book was witnessing the effect he had on many people, despite being categorized as disabled. In fact, our little prince brings much love, joy, and sunshine not only to us, but to all around him. Children are a wonder, and we must see them with the eyes of our heart: each child just the way he or she is.”

Age Recommendation: 3-9yo
Genre:  Children’s book 
Physical Description:  Hardcover, 32 pages, 8.5”x11” 
List Price:  $16.00 (currently $14.25 on Amazon)
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Mom’s Review:

  • The Topic. With 1 in 691 babies in the US being born with Down syndrome, chances are pretty good that your child will know someone who has it. This book is the perfect launching spot for a discussion on what it is, how we are more alike than different, and how we can appreciate the differences.
  • The Storyline. This fairytale storyline is perfect for grabbing kids’ attention! It’s got the royalty appeal for kids like Esmé. It’s got the adventure appeal with an impending battle. It brings up the differences in a way kids can relate to – after all, it’s important for all of us to be ourselves, and we are all unique. And the boy with Down syndrome becomes the hero because of, not in spite of, his differences.
  • The Illustrations. Sweet, whimsical, gender-neutral illustrations add to the appeal of the book.
  • The Personal Story. The author was inspired by her own family in writing this story. She has a son named Noah with Down syndrome, and it was observing his impact on others that led to this book. Her familiarity and appreciation of her son is evident in this book.
  • The Details at the End of the Book. For the kid who wants to know more specifics, there is a “What is Down syndrome” section at the back of the book.

I highly recommend this book! For parents, libraries, doctors’ offices, schools – this story is the perfect segue into acknowledging, understanding, and appreciating each others’ differences.

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Handlebar Central for coordinating this book for review. Opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.