Friday, April 18, 2014

Review: Goldtown Adventures #3 & #4

My brand new 7yo has a sweet fascination with chapter books these days.  Often about cute little mice and princesses and other such girly things, but she doesn’t mind a good adventure every now and then.  I love those with a solid Christian worldview, especially if some history tidbits can let me classify them as living history books…. 20140418_172953

And that’s where Susan K. Marlow’s Goldtown Adventures books come in.  We recently had the opportunity to check out books 3 and 4 in the series:  Canyon of Danger and River of Peril.


Canyon of Danger:

Jem Coulter's pa, the sheriff of Goldtown, is away on a trip to deliver a prisoner to Sacramento, and he has left Jem in charge of the ranch-along with Aunt Rose, that is.

No sooner is the sheriff gone then trouble starts-a dead calf, a mysterious stranger, and then Pa's horse, Copper, and his prize rifle are stolen. And Pa's deputies seem unconcerned. Jem and his cousin Nathan find Copper's tracks end at a dark canyon up in the hills.

Jem remembers an old Indian legend Strike-it-rich Sam is fond of retelling about people disappearing and no one ever seeing them again. What is the real story of the canyon of danger? Have thieves found the perfect hideout?

Readers ages 8 to 12 will be entertained by the adventurous spirit and historical lure in this fast-moving series that teaches about life in the post-Gold Rush days of 1860s California. Quick-paced plots and unforgettable characters make these books fun for the whole family.

River of Peril:

Jem Coulter thinks his family is just on a sightseeing trip to the big city of Sacramento. Then armed bandits hold up the stagecoach for the secret stash they're carrying: gold for the Union Army fighting the distant Civil War! Suddenly war isn't so far away; it's right there on the road to Sacramento, with Jem's father, the sheriff of Goldtown, fighting against the rebel army's Knights of the Golden Circle.

When the family finally reaches the city, they think they're safe at last. Setting out to see the sights, Jem, his sister Ellie, and their cousin Nathan make a new friend. But is Henry the pal they think he is? With a father who is a die-hard Confederate, could Henry be in cahoots with the thieves?

River of Peril gives readers ages 8 to 12 the fast-moving, exciting adventure they've come to expect in this series, as well as a glimpse into the history of post--Gold Rush and Civil War life in 1860s California, with stagecoaches, steamboats, stowaways--and lots of gold!

About the Author

The best part about writing historical adventure stories is tramping around the actual sites. I have a gold pan, but it has not seen much action. Panning for gold is a lot of work! I even have trouble panning for gold in the museum troughs, where the staff "salts" the troughs with gold. Nope, I can't seem to find it. I admire the miners who were able to squat for hours and days on end in an icy river far from home. I don't think I have the patience or endurance to imitate those folks.

I do enjoy visiting old gold camps and seeing what life was like for those brave souls. Click this link to see a map of California's Highway 49 sites: Gold Country. If you'd like to see how a gold pan is used, click on this video: Panning for Gold. Looks easy, doesn't it? It is not!

Format:  Paperback, 8.4x5.4 inches, ~160 pages
Age Recommendation: 8 - 12 years old
Publisher: Kregel Publications 
Price:  $7.99 for paperback.  E-book available for $1.99 today! 
To Buy:
For More Information:   

Mom’s Review
I love the adventure!  We’ve been reading as a read-aloud, and every chapter ends with a cliff-hanger, it seems, so Esmé will peek ahead to see what is coming next.  While it is from a boy’s perspective and is “all boy,” there is a little sister in the book who tags along on some adventures.

I also appreciate the wholesome content.  Family is important, church is important, respect for others is important.  Life is not all sunshine and roses – there are criminals and prejudice and saloons and shootings and other such things – but the people are most important.

The icing on the cake for me is the historical content.  We had a lively chat about the Pony Express today – Esmé knew a lot, but there were a lot of holes in her knowledge, and this was the perfect opportunity to fill the gaps.  There are free study guides, and you can even buy lapbooks for these books to make it a complete history unit! 


"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 providing these books for review. Opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Friday Fragment: Blog Keepers

Originally posted June 25, 2008

When I first figured out Google Reader back in March, I started subscribing to feeds at a crazy rate. I knew I was in trouble when I went on vacation for a month and had limited internet access. Within the first week, my inbox had 1000+ items in it. Now that I’ve been home a bit and started working through it, I’ve been unsubscribing from a few blogs. Not as many as I should, but a woman’s gotta start somewhere.

And it’s a TERRIBLE process. I feel like I’m saying goodbye to good friends, just so I can have a real life. Selfish, isn’t it?

I’m no SheSpeaks seminar speaker, but I’ve been analyzing what makes a blog a keeper and what annoys me, and thought my very amateur perspective might be interesting to some.
Trying to see the glass half full, I’ll start with the keepers. Next week we’ll do the (more exciting) pet peeves.

  1. People I Know. This trumps all. If I know you personally, I’ll read your blog. Period. It makes my life more interesting if you’ve got the other things going for you, of course, and thankfully all my personal friends do!
  2. Similarities. I like people who have common interests. In most cases, that means kids. I love mommy blogs! Ones with a spiritual emphasis and wholesome lifestyle are even better. And Africa-related blogs are awesome, too.
  3. Human Tragedy. I find myself drawn to others’ stories of personal tragedy. I’m sure there’s a happy ending somewhere, so I keep coming back to read more.

    [Click here to continue reading]

    Friday, April 4, 2014

    Friday Fragment: Party Time!

    Originally posted April 6, 2008

    Here it is as promised - the exciting story of my very first birthday party, right here in Mozambique. It started out with the delivery of 35 live chickens for a BBQ here at Daddy's shop in Machava.

    I am going to break all blogging rules and post LOTS of photos, though we've made them small so hopefully they will load okay on your computer. I left out the chicken guts ones in case I have any sensitive viewers . . .


    Including Ouma and Oupa and my cousins and the expat Maranatha team, all the Maranatha shop workers were there, so there were about 80 people total. Here I am making the rounds.

    [Click here to continue reading]

    Monday, March 31, 2014

    Review/Giveaway: The Sparkle Egg

    Since my sparkly little 6yo Esmé enjoyed The Sparkle Box last Christmas, I wasn’t surprised that she jumped all over the opportunity to check out The Sparkle Egg

    And I, being overwhelmed with busyiness and nowhere near ready to pay this season the respect due, was thrilled with a sparkly new tool to share the message of God’s gift with her.  Frankly, the gift of grace, the focus of this book, is a message I need myself every once in a while – or every moment…


    Easter is coming, and Sam loves Easter! But this year, he is upset about a lie he told his parents. Even though he apologized and they forgave him, Sam can’t shake the feeling that he is a bad kid for what he did. Meanwhile, his parents help him make a special Easter craft called a Sparkle Egg. His mom tells him to write anything he feels sorry about or ashamed of on a piece of paper and put it inside his Sparkle Egg.

    On Easter morning, when he opens his Sparkle Egg expecting a surprise, Sam finds that it is empty! His parents explain that because Jesus died and rose again, we are forgiven. Like the tomb that first Easter Day, Sam's egg is empty—and Sam’s wrongdoing is completely forgiven. Once he accepts this forgiveness fully, Sam realizes a truth: we can sparkle and shine with God’s light when we let God’s gift of grace into our hearts. This touching story will strike a deep chord with readers of all ages, and the Sparkle Egg tradition will help readers and their families grasp the totality of God’s perfect grace.

    About the Author
    Jill Hardie’s first book, The Sparkle Box, ignited a new Christmas tradition that helps center Christmas in the true joy of the season. Now Jill is hoping to touch lives with a new Easter tradition with The Sparkle Egg. She lives in North Canton, Ohio.
    About the Illustrator
    Christine Kornacki illustrated the highly acclaimed The Sparkle Box. She has a love for painting and a knack for bringing stories to life. Christine received a BFA in illustration from the University of Hartford and spends most days painting in her studio, which adjoins a charming café in New Haven, Connecticut.
    Format:  Hardcover with jacket, 10 x 10, 32 pages
    Age Recommendation: 4 - 8 years old
    Publisher: Ideals Books
    List Price:  $16.99
    To Buy:
    For More Information:

    Mom’s Review
    To be honest, I felt a hint of trepidation when cracking this book open with Esmé.  We’re not an Easter basket type of family, and I was concerned that Esmé would start to feel like she was missing out on the “chocolate egg” type of stuff many kids associate with Easter.  But I had decided she was old enough to accept that people celebrate differently and we have our reasons for what we do, so we plowed ahead…

    …and thoroughly enjoyed this sweet, relatable story.

    I love how the author – once again – connects some of the “trappings” of the holiday to a very meaningful, tangible message of the gospel – in a way that is easy for kids to relate to.

    It is in much the same vein as The Sparkle Box, and we enjoyed the same aspects of it.  It is an easy read-aloud, with a little sparkle and colorful illustrations that fit the story.  The colors are gender-neutral; the sparkle appeals to this little girl, while the story-line is about a boy.  Being in school herself, taking spelling tests, struggling with honesty issues from time to time, Esmé could easily relate to Sam’s experience. 

    Most importantly, she could relate to that need for forgiveness and grace, and that sense of relief that comes from realizing it is hers.

    And that’s where the story is different from The Sparkle Box.  It is not so much about giving as it is about receiving – and understanding that the Greatest Gift of all is far more than chocolate eggs in a basket.

    The story can easily extend beyond the pages by making your own Sparkle Egg – following Sam’s example and then placing the egg where it can serve as a daily reminder of God’s gift of forgiveness.

    And now, we have a giveaway copy of this sparkly book for you to kick off this season of grace!  US or Canada addresses only on this one.

    a Rafflecopter giveaway


    "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 providing this prize for the giveaway. 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.

    Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.


    Friday, March 28, 2014

    Friday Fragment: Birthday Letter

    Originally posted April 3, 2008

    My Dearest Esmé,

    It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since you splashed into our world! It was two agonizingly long weeks after we expected you to arrive, but though you may have been slow off the mark, you lost no time in catching up and exceeding all our expectations. You continue to amaze us every day!

    It’s been a year to savor. We’ve been applauding each new milestone and accomplishment, but I’ve been secretly wishing time would slow down so I could enjoy each moment longer.

    Happy Girl. When your first smiles popped out at 6 days old, even I was skeptical. All the books said it must be gas, since babies don’t smile until at least 6 weeks . . . But it quickly became evident that you were a smiler from the start, interacting and brightening the lives of everyone around you. You learned very early that when you smile at the world, the world smiles back. Even when you were suffering at your worst with allergies, it didn’t take much to get that smile to come out.

    [Click here to read the rest]

    Friday, March 21, 2014

    Friday Fragment: Lion Sleeps Tonight

    Originally posted June 21, 2008

    I’ve been busy today!

    I started by pulling out all my onesies out of my suitcase and trying to dress my monkeys in them. I convinced Mommy to help me. Then I had her play the Lullaby mobile so they would go to sleep like good monkeys.

    Then we did art with tempera paints. This was my second time – and I was so good the first time that I lulled Mommy into complacency. So this time I got to paint my fingers and toes and mouth and pants and table and walls and floors, plus I rubbed my eyes a lot after I painted my fingers. But we got some cool paintings on paper, too.

    While Mommy was making lunch, I got into the fridge and took bites out of apples and put the apples back in the fridge. I also put some plastic dishes in (they’re better chilled) and some dental floss.

      [Click here to continue reading]

      Friday, March 14, 2014

      Friday Fragment: Bizarre Comments

      Originally posted June 19, 2008

      I made a list of things I’ve said to Esmé recently that I never dreamed I’d say to a 14-month-old:

      1. Please take your foot out of my mouth.
      2. How sweet! You’re feeding your dolly diaper rash cream!
      3. The doggy isn’t going to eat from an empty bowl no matter how much you shove it in his face. He needs food in his bowl before he eats. He doesn’t like to play pretend.

      [Click here to continue reading]

      Sunday, March 9, 2014

      Son of God Review

      We went to see Son of God when it opened in theaters last Friday. 

      First of all, a couple of *non*-disclaimers.  We paid full price for tickets and I am getting nothing in exchange for this review.  We don’t have TV reception and have never seen The Bible on the History channel.

      This is one of those movies where you will find something to criticize if that is your purpose.  I’ve read reviews where people complain that it isn’t 100% true to biblical facts, and reviews where people complain that it is “same old same old” with no artistic liberties and nothing new.  I’ve read reviews where the sole purpose was to expose the producers or the actors for frauds or anti-Christians or, God forbid, mere humans.

      I’m thankful I didn’t read those reviews ahead of time.

      I saw Jesus, the Son of God. 

      I was captivated.  It wasn’t about the actors.  It was about the Word.

      I loved the way it began in the beginning, with clips of His story from the Word of Creation all the way up until the Word became flesh.  I loved the way it ended, with the Word of Re-Creation.

      Jesus was submissive and authoritative at the same time.  He spoke - He was the Word.  Yes, I’d heard the words before, but they became more vivid, more real, more meaningful.  He clung to the cross, committed to His calling.

      Sure, it didn’t read in the exact order of John.  But John was never about the specific order, anyway.  He was about revealing the Word in the flesh.  Maybe Jesus didn’t really tell the story of the tax collector’s prayer in Matthew’s presence, but maybe He did, and even if he didn’t, Matthew’s gospel reveals that humbleness, that awe of the Master you see in this movie. I loved the added details, the strong supporting characters, that made the Word come alive.  Yes, they were fictional, but they revealed a screen writer or producer who got it – who got the essence of what the gospel writers conveyed.  The history – the Roman occupation – added a realistic dimension to the familiar words.

      I appreciated how some controversial details were avoided.  For instance, I’ve heard many debates on what day Christ was crucified.  The movie simply captions the resurrection:  three days later.

      We took 6yo Esmé with us.  That’s because of who she is: captivated by truth no matter the form.  All the same, I won’t be showing the movie to her Kindergarten class.  The crucifixion scene, while not ostentatiously gory, was brutally real.


      One transforming message for me was the realization – once again - that Jesus was not a champion of causes, but of people.  His Kingdom is made up of people.  While He never compromised on truth, His compassion extended to Judas, to Caiaphas, to all who played a role in His story.  I get caught up in the drama of causes each day, wondering when to speak up, when I’m only going to be right in the wrong way, when I should take the maxim to heart, “evil triumphs when good men do nothing.”  And this movie leant me some clarity, or at least a measuring stick, on when to speak and how to speak.  “Look at the person’s heart,” I hear in a still small voice.  “See the person through His eyes.  Speak words that will touch the person, not simply convince others of your ‘rightness.’”

      Esmé walked away from the movie singing the words to “Mary, Did You Know?”  Me – I walked away with a quiet tune in my head, one that wasn’t included in the movie score, but rang through loud and clear anyway.

      Turn your eyes upon Jesus.
      Look full in His wonderful face.
      And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
      In the light of His glory and grace.

      Friday, March 7, 2014

      Friday Fragment: The Accident

      Originally posted June 16, 2008

      Ever hear about the hero who just happened to be at the right place at the right time to save a life and wonder what you would do in the same situation? Me too.

      We were rushing to the South African border early yesterday morning before dawn when we came upon the scene.

      You see accidents more often than not when you drive in Mozambique - the roads/drivers here are atrocious. But this was the first "fresh" accident with fatalities that I'd seen. No crowds had gathered around yet to start the cleanup process.

      That sounds so dehumanizing. Someone's father/brother/son wasn't gonna make it home for father's day. Nothing trivial about that.

      [Click here to continue reading]

      Saturday, March 1, 2014

      Sabbath Sites: Spring

      PicMonkey Collage

      Now that it is March, I suppose it’s safe to post the flowery shots we’ve been getting in the past few weeks…  Spring is most definitely on the horizon here in the Roseburg area:Capture

      Looking forward to the adventures the warmer weather brings!