A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest / A Bird, a Girl, and a Rescue / by J.A. Myhre. 1.18.2017

A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest / by J.A. Myhre.
New Leaf Press     ISBN 9781942572084
INT     Grades 3-7     Rating: 4

A Bird, a Girl, and a Rescue / by J.A. Myhre.
New Leaf Press     ISBN 9781942572695
INT     Grades 3-7     Rating: 3

A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest tells the story of Mu, an orphaned school boy who is the laughingstock of his village because his uncle makes him do “girl’s work.” On his way to do a morning chore, he meets a talking chameleon. This creature tells Mu that his quest soon will begin and he will be free. When Mu is sold by his guardians, he must rely on his animal guide to lead him away from the dangers of the forest, animals, rebels, and himself. When the chameleon whispers truth in Mu’s ear, he must relinquish his plan to find the life he’s always dreamed about.

Kiisa grew up hearing the fantastic tale of her brother’s return to their family. In A Bird, a Girl, and a Rescue, Kiisa has her own animal-guided adventure. When she is sent to boarding school at a young age, her father hides a talking bird in her suitcase. The bird flies out of her suitcase and makes Kiisa the joke of the school. Kiisa tries to blend into the crowd, but when rebels come to the compound and kidnap a classmate, Kiisa believes she must charge into danger to save the girl who bullied her. Can she set aside her animosity, survive the jungle, and make it home to her family?

J. A. Myhre’s chapter books hold wonderful folklore-like adventures. Detailed plot sketches and descriptions of the landscapes allow elementary readers’ imaginations to run wild through the African forests and plains. With natural and supernatural danger leaving cliff hangers at the end of every chapter, children will be flipping pages until the end.

Delve into African (Luwendigo) dialect, culture, and legends with these tales. Throughout these stories, readers also will see reflections of biblical stories, such as the prodigal son, Joseph’s coat of many colors, and Jesus’ sacrifice. Dark presences of violence, death, and sin weave into these stories, but the animal guides help characters and readers learn biblical and moral lessons in spite of the evil forces.

Rebecca Schriner, CLJ

Abraham Lincoln, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the Thirteenth Amendment / by B. J. Best. 1.16.2017

Cavendish Square ISBN 9781502605306

MS Grades 4-7 Rating: 5

This discussion book, for grades 4 to 7, uses primary source documents to highlight the issues integral to the place of slavery in the United States. Though Abraham Lincoln, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the Thirteenth Amendment looks at the process of officially ending slavery with the issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation, students get a feel for who Lincoln was as a leader and his role in ending slavery. Chapter Four, highlighting Lincoln’s legacy, gives positive momentum to consider how the nation needed to heal and rebuild after the Civil War and how this was accomplished through the Reconstruction.

A Chronology, Glossary, Further Information and Bibliography, and an Index provide outlines to help the reader grasp the significance of the fight for emancipation and the reaction of various parties relating to the meaning and progress of the abolition of slavery.

Leroy Hommerding, CLJ




The Ology: Ancient Truths, Ever New / by Marty Machowski, illustrated by Andy McGuire. 1.3.2017

New Growth Press ISBN 9781942572282

INT Grades 1-6 Rating: 5

Though geared toward and intended to be used by and with children grades 1 to 6, The Ology: Ancient Truths, Ever New is a beginner’s theology book that will likely be treasured and used by parents, family members, and friends. Parts may also appeal to teens. The 8.5”x8.5,” inch-thick picture book uses story and art to make scriptural truth understandable and digestible to children. A glossary highlights important Bible words, and each of the 71 topics is listed as a question with a brief scriptural reference to offer a quick setting.

The many beautiful drawings cover basic points of the Christian faith. With 71 topics covered, there is much to savor in multiple settings and to come back to again and again. One plus in the discussion is that the Christian faith comes across as one gift, not as something subject to division among the different Protestant denominations. When pages such as those concentrating on baptism mention that different denominations have different views on when baptism should occur, it notes that all agree that salvation is through Jesus. Each of the topics appears on two to four pages of text and illustrations. Another plus is that, incorporated within the illustration pages are multiple Scripture references as evidence and clarification for each point. The range of discussion covers the theology of God, of People, of Sin, of the Promise and the Law, of Christ, of the Holy Spirit, of Adoption into God’s Family, of Change, of the Church, of the End Times and of God’s Word.

There is also a companion music CD to The Ology by SovereignGraceKids that offers worship music for the family. A helpful resource for older children would be Big Truths for Young Hearts by Bruce A. Ware.

Leroy Hommerding, CLJ

Seven and a Half Tons of Steel / by Janet Nolan, illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez. 1.2.2017

Peachtree ISBN 9781561459124

PRI Grades 1-5 Rating: 4

Seven and a Half Tons of Steel refers to a special navy ship, the USS New York. Following the events of September 11, 2001, the governor of New York gave the Navy a steel beam, weighing seven and a half tons, that was once inside one of the World Trade Towers. The beam was driven to a foundry in Louisiana where chippers, grinders, painters, and polishers worked on the beam. The construction metal workers toiled throughout Hurricane Katrina to turn it into the bow of the ship with the motto “Strength forged through sacrifice. Never forget.” Thus, the USS New York’s story reveals how something remarkable can emerge from devastating events like September 11 and the Hurricane. Facts and figures are presented after the main narrative.

Thomas Gonzalez’s full-page illustrations are powerful, with every page arrayed in bold palette colors. The tones convey moods and action–as for example, reds and yellows and orange move across the metalworking furnace, and black and gray clouds billow from the towers and streams of morning light radiate the hull of the ship.

The images of destruction are shown respectfully but with flair. Author Janet Nolan’s narrative offers only a few sentences about September 11 and Hurricane Katrina so children may need more detail on both of these events to truly grasp the significance of the story.

Leroy Hommerding, CLJ

Heroes of History series / by Janet & Geoff Benge. 12.30.2016

William Bradford: Plymouth’s Rock / by Janet & Geoff Benge. (Heroes of History)

YWAM Publishing ISBN 9781624860928

John Flynn: Into the Never Never / by Janet & Geoff Benge. (Heroes of History)

YWAM Publishing ISBN 9781576588987

MS Grades 5-9 Rating: 5

Readers in grades 5 to 9 have a great opportunity in these titles, by husband and wife writing team Janet & Geoff Benge, to gain a close up-front introduction to William Bradford and John Flynn as real people who responded to the situation they found themselves in and what God was calling them to do. These touching chronicles are written as narratives so that youth will be able to understand the atmosphere and consequences of the situations and decisions that both William Bradford and John Flynn found themselves in and in which they grew by accepting the challenge of perseverance and leadership.

In William Bradford: Plymouth’s Rock, one explores 17th century America, what the New World colonization involved, and who the Pilgrims at Plymouth were, gaining an overview of Puritan history, all of which contributed to the cornerstone of a great nation. Through William Bradford’s steady leadership, the people of Plymouth Colony endured with their descendants, forming the boundaries of a great country.

In John Flynn: Into the Never Never, the reader gets a glimpse into the early decades of the 20th century and the settings of Australia and Oceania, and learns what the Gilded Age entailed and the role of missionaries and evangelists. While studying to be a minister, John Flynn wanted to use his training to help people in practical ways. In this search he discovered that his mission was to serve inside his own country–the vast outback or Never Never, where life-and-death decisions were a constant experience.

Leroy Hommerding, CLJ

Lilliput / by Sam Gayton; illustrated by Alice Ratterree. 11.1.2016

Peachtree Publishers ISBN 9781561458066

INT Grades 3-6 Rating: 5

Lily desperately desires to return home to the island of Lilliput after being kidnapped by Lemuel Gulliver in Sam Gayton’s book, Lilliput. Lily’s tiny size makes it nearly impossible to flee. She fits in a bird cage, can dangle from a spider’s web, and drinks from a thimble. However, her diminutive size doesn’t prevent her from attempting the impossible. Unfortunately, after 33 failed escape attempts, Lily starts to wonder if she’ll ever see her homeland again.

Sam Gayton’s delightful use of language alone makes this book a pleasure to read. He dips into the language of Lilliputian when Lily hurls insults at Gulliver, a “flustian mungle boff.” (p. 43) Other nonsense words as well as brief rhymes add humor and delight to the story. Alice Ratterree’s occasional illustrations enhance the story, giving faces to the characters and perfectly depicting the tale. In addition to entertaining language and wonderful illustrations, the characters are fun to get to know–each having something that drives them and pushes them forward in their cause. As Lily pushes forward in her quest to go home, she stretches and grows from a little girl afraid of pinchers on the beach to a young lady ready to soar. She prays to the Ender – hoping that the Ender will offer protection from the “giant,” and later on she tells Finn about how the Ender created the world and showed kindness to the first people. When sought, Lily finds it in her heart to forgive.

The simple plot marches along, building in intensity as Lily’s quest becomes increasingly dangerous. Thankfully, her friend Finn offers her the help she needs at just the right time. When Lily thinks returning home is impossible, Finn says, “You have to hope. Hope is how I found you.” (p. 115)

Kristina Wolcott, CLJ

Prayers that Changed History / by Tricia Goyer. 10.18.2016

Zonderkidz ISBN 9780310748014

INT Grades 3-7 Rating: 5

In Prayers that Changed History, Tricia Goyer introduces 25 historical figures and the significant role of prayer in their lives.

Each concise chapter presents a notable individual whose prayers for strength and guidance had far-reaching consequences. Arranged chronologically, the characters span a wide swath of history from the first century (Polycarp) to the twentieth (Dietrich Bonhoeffer) and include the familiar (Christopher Columbus, Florence Nightingale, Helen Keller) as well as the lesser-known (Robert Raikes, George Müller, Billy Sunday). The British people of WWII are recognized collectively.

Author Tricia Goyer employs a narrative style with imagined dialogue that is likely to hold the interest and attention of independent readers. Her intent to show “prayer-at-work” is achieved through these compelling biographic profiles, biblical parallels, and referenced sources. “Something to Think About” and “Your Life” headings direct readers to reflect, discuss, and relate personally to the power of prayer.

Though suggested for a grade and middle school audience, Prayers that Changed History would be a compelling and enjoyable book for all ages, particularly history enthusiasts. Some of the chapters include more mature themes such as the suicide of Adolf Hitler, Nazi death camps, the “red light” district of Chicago, and the enslavement of young girls in India.

Small photos, graphics, and text boxes, use of varied font, and an easy-to-follow table of contents adds to the pleasant readability of this enlightening book.

Nina Ditmar, CLJ

Adventure Bible / by Zonderkidz, with features written by Lawrence O. Richards. 10.12.2016

Adventure Bible NIV / by Zonderkidz, with features written by Lawrence O. Richards.

Zonderkidz ISBN 9780310739272

INT Grades 4-7 Rating: 4

Adventure Bible for Early Readers NIrV / by Zonderkidz, with features written by Lawrence O. Richards.

Zonderkidz ISBN 9780310727422

PRI Grades 1-5 Rating: 4

The Adventure Bible NIV and Adventure Bible for Early Readers NIrV are complete Bibles from Zonderkidz, with numerous educational features and illustrations for children.

Both books offer the full text of the Bible (New International Version) along with teaching sidebars such as: “Words to Treasure”, “Did You Know?”, “Life in Bible Times”, “People in Bible Times”, and “Live It!”. A Subject Index, Dictionary/Concordance, and Maps offer added useful tools.

The Adventure Bible NIV is suggested for 9-12 year olds. Indented thumb tabs and a “How to Use This Bible” introduction will help young readers get started on their exploration of God’s word. The Adventure Bible for Early Readers NIrV is the New International Reader’s Version with slight modifications in the reading level to accommodate the intended audience of 6-10 year olds.

These handsome hardcover books are brightly illustrated with eye-catching drawings and graphics, and there are so many features to keep children engaged that either book is likely to be thoroughly perused and revisited. However, the pages are quite thin and will require careful handling by eager fingers.

As with any full Bible, in the context of Scripture there is frank mention of drunkenness, nudity, and sex that parents may not expect to see in a children’s edition, particularly the NIrV.

Nina Ditmar, CLJ

Thomas Jefferson Grows a Nation / by Peggy Thomas; illustrated by Stacy Innerst. 10.10.2016

Calkins Creek ISBN 9781620916285

MS Grades 3-6 Rating: 5

This picture book for grades 3 to 6 has more text than usual, but the careful storyline helps students to delve into the diverse person that was Jefferson. The text in Thomas Jefferson Grows a Nation is thoroughly researched with solid source notes for each quotation. Historical details and illustrations blend well together. Middle schoolers will learn vocabulary since many words are defined within the context of the sentences.

Author Peggy Thomas provides an introduction, chapters with full-page sidebars, historical photos, place to visit (Monticello), a bibliography, and timelines. Illustrator Stacy Innerst used a quill to hand letter the quotes that appear throughout the book and added a touch of Jefferson’s distinctive red hair color in the shades on most pages.

In addition to gaining an appreciation for the accomplishments of Jefferson, the reader will come to see that in his heart, Jefferson was a farmer, a fact not often available in the usual stories about him. Many of the phrases used throughout the story are ones from agriculture–growth, weeds, planting, nurture, uprooted–and confirm Jefferson was more than a president and a patriot.

Leroy Hommerding, CLJ

Freedom’s Price / by Michaela MacColl and Rosemary Nichols. (Hidden Histories) 10.6.2016

Calkins Creek ISBN 9781620916247

MS Grades 5-8 Rating: 4

Freedom’s Price brings history to the fore in this imagining of the life of Eliza Scott, one of the daughters of Dred Scott, the slave at the heart of the landmark case in American history. This story finds the Scott family suing for their freedom. While not much is known of the real-life Eliza, middle-schoolers will find it easy to understand her situation for MackColl and Nichols create an Eliza who is brave, intelligent, and ready for challenges. The authors have Eliza making decisions that–in real life–would jeopardize her, her family, and her community, but serve to heighten drama in the context of this fictionalized account.

This is the second book in the Hidden Histories series, which looks at lesser known moments in American history. Based on actual people and events, the authors have done meticulous research. An author’s note and bibliography makes it easy to understand the context and setting of the story. As historical fiction, this eye-opening perspective enables youth to grasp what it was like to be young, black, and on the road to freedom in the 1840s.

Leroy Hommerding, CLJ

Earlier Series Title Reviewed by CLJ: Rory’s Promise (September/October 2015).