The Lion Storyteller Book of Parables / by Bob Hartman; illustrated by Krisztina Kállai Nagy. (Lion Storyteller Series) 4.25.2017

Lion Children’s Books ISBN 9780745964461

PRI K-Grade 5 Rating: 5

The Lion Storyteller Book of Parables presents 26 of Jesus’s parables retold in illustrated storybook format.

Author Bob Hartman prefaces the book with an explanation of what the parables are, how Jesus used them in His teaching, and how one can still listen for their meaning. Hartman invites adults to share these lessons with their children and provides ideas for group discussion at the end of the book.

Each parable is concisely told in one to four pages, with the first paragraph setting the stage and the final few lines summarizing the message. Hartman’s use of descriptive and conversational language keeps the content alive and relatable. Children will be easily engaged, whether as readers or listeners.

Wonderful bright artwork by Krisztina Kállai Nagy invigorates the pages. The gestures and facial expressions of her characters are delightful; even the animals seem to have personality. A final scene shows Jesus surrounded by a group of attentive children—a perfect image of the spirit of the parables.

The book’s table of contents includes the biblical references for each story. The Lion Storyteller Book of Parables would be a treasured gift for a child and a lasting addition to the family bookshelf.

Nina Ditmar, CLJ

Why Am I Here? / by Constance Ørbeck-Nilssen & Akin Duzakin. 4.17.2017

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers ISBN 9780802854773

PRI K-Grade 3 Rating: 4

In Why Am I Here? by Ørbeck-Nilssen & Akin Duzakin, a young girl ponders why and how a person is born in the exact place he or she exists rather than a number of other places that could have been possible in this great big world. The child wonders how she might have been different or the same if born in, for example, a bustling city or a dry desert, or if she had grown up in a country constantly at war. What would life be like and would she still have these same questions? Does anyone have the answers she seeks?

The focus–or rather theme–of this book is as old as time itself and as complex as the most intricate workings of the universe. The meaning of life, and of one’s very existence and purpose, have been reflected upon by some of the greatest philosophers of history. Yet, here the authors put such contemplations into thoughts that elementary children can understand and relate to. Much of the text consists of questions. As the girl reflects upon her questions about life, she never really comes to an absolute answer, though she draws some possible conclusions or suggestions. Ultimately, this allows the book to be a springboard for helping children consider life, purpose, identity, and belonging, without fully influencing their final conclusions, leaving that to the gentle, loving guidance of parents and guardians, as well as the child’s own feelings and convictions.

The text itself appears on a clean white background, drawing the reader’s eyes to the corresponding page’s beautiful illustrations. Overall, this book is a short, contemplative read that will inevitably lead to valuable conversation and reflection for young and old to share in together.

Justina McBride, CLJ

Psalm Book: Prayers and Poems for Kids / edited by Naomi J. Krueger; illustrated by Peter Grosshauser. (Spark Story Bible) 4.3.2017

Spark House Family ISBN 9781506417684

PRI K-Grade 5 Rating: 4

Psalm Book: Prayers and Poems for Kids is an illustrated collection of 50 prayers, worded and compiled for young readers.

Nine authors contributed to this 2017 Junior Library Guild Selection, edited by Naomi J. Krueger and organized into four chapters: Prayers of Morning and Evening, Prayers of Praise, Prayers of Comfort, and Prayers of Creation. Each short prayer is titled, referenced to a psalm, and accompanied by an illustration. The prayers reflect a range of thoughts, emotions, and situations.

Imbedded sparkles on the book’s cover suggest that something really special is inside! Cartoon-style illustrations by Peter Grosshauser add brightness and activity to the pages; a friendly green snake playfully appears throughout. The readability and length of the prayers are right on target for children.

A Message for Kids” explains what the psalms are, where to find them in the Bible, and why they are such an expressive part of prayer. “A Message for Grown-ups” encourages parents to help their children engage with the material. Blank pages at the end of the book are included for readers to write their own notes or prayers.

With an intended grade school audience, Psalm Book: Prayers and Poems for Kids offers simple, succinct prayers that children can share and understand. The book’s well-organized format and small size make it the perfect travel companion or bedside devotional.

Nina Ditmar, CLJ

The Prince Warriors series / by Priscilla Shirer and Gina Detwiler. 3.31.2017

The Prince Warriors / by Priscilla Shirer and Gina Detwiler. (The Prince Warriors, 1)

B&H Kids ISBN 9781433690198

The Prince Warriors and the Unseen Invasion / by Priscilla Shirer and Gina Detwiler. (The Prince Warriors, 2)

B&H Kids ISBN 9781433690204

The Prince Warriors and the Sword of Rhema / by Priscilla Shirer and Gina Detwiler. (The Prince Warriors, 3)

B&H Kids ISBN 9781433690211

INT Grades 3-6 Rating: 4

Priscilla Shirer and Gina Detwiler co-authored this fiction series for children ages 8-12 years old. Xavier and Evan are brothers and used to fighting each other. Now they discover the real battle is in the spiritual realm, and they have been called to fight it using the armor of God.

In The Prince Warriors, Xavier and Evan find themselves in a hidden realm (Ahoratos) where some friends join them, and they learn under the tutelage of Ruwach what it means to be Prince Warriors. He directs them in their first danger-filled adventure and warns them not to take anything from Ahoratos back to their world. Will they defeat the enemy in their first battle with him? What happens when one of them forgets Ruwach’s warning?

In The Prince Warriors and the Unseen Invasion, they face new weapons from the enemy, ones they never even imagined. They are given more armor to help them face the deadly Olethron. Have they learned their lessons well? What about the consequence of those seemingly harmless decisions that went against Ruwach’s instructions? Will that cost them the battle?

In The Prince Warriors and the Sword of Rhema, the Prince Warriors finally receive their long-awaited swords, promised to them when they first began their training in Ahoratos. Now they must face the enemy for the final battle to stop him. Will their swords give them victory? Will they recognize the traitor in their midst?

Gina Detwiler and Priscilla Shirer, author of several best-selling adult non-fiction books, do an excellent job of capturing the voice of the children in this new series. They tackle the non-fiction topic of spiritual warfare through the use of fantasy fiction to reach their target audience. More character development than plot development, the series is an easy read for young readers, filled with adventure, choices, consequences of wrong choices, danger, and wisdom gained from experience. Both boys and girls alike will enjoy this series. Loosely based on Ephesians 6:10-18, the series highlights the armor of God and its application in spiritual warfare.

Recommended for school and public libraries. The authors have also created an app for smartphones and a 365-day devotional (Unseen: The Prince Warriors 365 Devotional)

for their young readers, based on the series.

Carol R. Gehringer, CLJ

Robo Tales series / by Jill Williamson and Luke Williamson. 3.29.2017

Tinker / by Jill Williamson and Luke Williamson. (Robo Tales, 1)

Novel Kids Press ISBN 9780996294508

INT Grades 4-5 Rating: 3

Mardok and the Seven Exiles / by Jill Williamson and Luke Williamson. (Robo Tales, 2)

Novel Kids Press ISBN 9780996294522

INT Grades 4-5 Rating: 4

Award-winning author Jill Williamson and her son Luke Williamson co-author this series aimed at young readers, featuring a robotic dog.

In Tinker, 13-year-old Tinker lives with his uncle and two cousins, Grezzer and Ratch, on the planet Kitz. Although his uncle owns the repair shop, Tinker does most of the work. When the Invention Institute holds a Recycle Race, Tinker builds an airbike to compete against his cousins. They sabotage his entry, and a robot dog named Robo helps him fix his entry in time. Who will win the Race and the coveted apprenticeship at the Invention Institute?

In Mardok and the Seven Exiles, Robo flies to the moon Relo on his way to President Cassian. Cadet Riv Mardok is asked by General Gruss to hunt down the Ice Beast. He eagerly accepts the quest but finds himself trapped in a deep pit in the forest. When he calls for help, it is Robo to the rescue. Together with the other exiles, they pursue the Ice Beast, discovering who is behind the strange things happening at the Space Force Military Academy. Can they stop him before Robo flies off to the President?

Ms. Williamson and her son pen convincing stories about Robo and his adventures. It is hard to believe that a robot dog is the main character in these tales, but somehow it works. Williamson used illustrations from a number of young artists, ages 10-15.

Although self-published, these books will appeal to its intended audience. The futuristic spin on a Cinderella story (Tinker) and Snow White (Mardok and the Seven Exiles) will delight readers. In light of the Makerspace movement in libraries, this reviewer recommends Tinker for book clubs.

Recommended for public and school libraries. The third book in the series, The Tiny Cyborg, will be available in 2018.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

The Great Shelby Holmes / by Elizabeth Eulberg. 3.14.2017

Bloomsbury     ISBN 9781681190518

MS     Grades 3-7     Rating: 4

Army brat John Watson thinks writing fiction was more exciting than his life–until he moves to Harlem and meets Shelby Holmes. After Shelby’s science experiment interrupts John’s moving day, his curiosity and desire for friendship get the better of him. After tagging along with Shelby on an errand, John realizes that his scientist neighbor is actually a junior sleuth–and no amateur at that. It seems like all of New York City knows her name!

Because of Shelby’s reputation, it’s no surprise that when Daisy (the award-winning dog) goes missing, Detective Holmes is on the case. Shelby is no people-person, and Daisy’s family’s emotions are running high before the next competition. She needs outside help to solve the case. But Shelby doesn’t have friends; she has contacts. Can Shelby find the pooch on her own before the big show? Or will she need to trust John in order to break the case?

Children of all ages will love Elizabeth Eulberg’s version of Sherlock Holmes. With a new twist on the classic story, Eulberg comedically sends these two characters to middle school. Just like Sherlock, Shelby is socially awkward and likes to work alone. John, like Dr. Watson, follows the detective out of curiosity. Their adventure leads them to the truth of friendship.

Thanks to John’s personal and journal-like tone in narrating the story, kids will get to experience the case and the peculiar Shelby Holmes up close. Kids can follow John’s thoughts and guess who was the pup-snatcher. The only problem is that Shelby is way more perceptive than John, so readers won’t get all the clues. But it’s still fun for them to guess who the culprit is based on the clues available.

Rebecca Schriner, CLJ

At Night / by Helga Bansch. 3.13.2017

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers ISBN 9780802854711

PRI PS-Grade 1 Rating: 4

Late at night, animals and little boys and girls alike are asleep in their own special beds. The bats are hanging upside down in their caves, the birds are hunkered down in their nests, and the leopards are stretched out in the trees, while boys and girls are tucked snuggly under the covers of their beds. All seems to be in order, but what would happen if the night were suddenly turned upside down? Would rabbits hang in caves, while dogs snore in trees?

At Night by Helga Bansch is an amusing tale of a normal night turned upside down with wild imaginings, a perfect bedtime read. The book is divided in half, portraying two alternative nights; the first with everyone in their rightful beds and the second with silly mix-ups, like an elephant in a bird nest and a polar bear in a dog house. To read the second half, the book must be flipped over to the back cover and turned upside down, providing a clever and literal mirroring of the chaotic mix-ups in the alternative night scene. Children will enjoy the absurdity in this book, as well as the charming illustrations of animals wearing pajamas. Overall, this book is a lighthearted bedtime story that will help chase away nightmares, and hopefully encourage sweet and wildly imaginative dreaming.

Justina McBride, CLJ

Lucy & Company / written and illustrated by Marianne Dubuc. 3.10.2017

Kids Can Press ISBN 9781771386623

PRI PS-K Rating: 4

Lucy & Company presents a young girl and four animal friends enjoying the outdoors in three short stories. Marianne Dubuc is both author and illustrator of this primary-level picture book.

The Shack”, “The Treasure Hunt,” and “The Hatchlings” feature themes about friendship, sharing, and adventure, as carefree Lucy picnics and explores with Marcel (a mouse), Henry (a rabbit), Dot (a turtle), and Adrian (a snail) in a charming woodsy setting. Brown bear Anton has a brief surprising role.

On every page, the smiling characters show that friends come in all sizes and that it is important to care for one another. The simple dialog and brevity of each kindly tale are well-suited to preschoolers, but the most endearing feature of Lucy & Company is Dubuc’s sweet and cleverly humorous watercolor and pencil artwork. The details in the softly-hued scenes are unique (a rosy-cheeked rabbit sitting cross-legged and playing cards), silly (Lucy carrying the snail on her head), and heartwarming (a surprise birthday treasure).

Lucy & Company is a fun picture book for young children, with a soothing conclusion that makes it perfect for a last read before bedtime. A two-page map shows the setting of the stories and furthers the imaginative appeal.

Nina Ditmar, CLJ

America’s Tea Parties: Not One but Four! :  Boston, Charleston, New York, Philadelphia / by Marisa Moss. 3.9.2017

Abrams Books     ISBN 9781419718748

INT     Grades 4-7     Rating: 4

Marisa Moss’s America’s Tea Parties: Not One but Four is a book that will certainly provide new and illuminating information to the reader. The text not only covers how the issue of taxation led to the American Revolution, but it also discusses three lesser known demonstrations involving tea in addition to the famous Boston Tea Party. The reader will encounter names with which they are probably familiar but also a few names that they may have never heard of before. For example, while John and Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, and King George III all make appearances, the reader will also learn about Christopher Gadsden and other lesser known historical figures.

The book discusses the tactics used by the colonists to fight what they perceived as an oppressive tax on tea. Without representation in Parliament, the colonists believed a tax–no matter how small–to be an act of tyranny, thus establishing a belief in the right to demonstrate.

A timeline at the end of the book helps keep events in their chronological order. The illustrations and sidebars add to the artistry of the book as well as provide more information. The sidebars, while certainly informative, sometimes take up a whole page or more and somewhat interrupt the flow of the main text.

This book would likely be a very excellent title for a parent and child to share together, and is recommended.  

Michael E. Wilhelm, CLJ

12 Incredible Facts about the Cuban Missile Crisis / by Sue Bradford Edwards. (Turning Points in US History) 3.7.2017

12-Story Library ISBN 9781632351272

INT Grades 3-6 Rating: 4

Part of the Turning Points in US History Series, 12 Incredible Facts about the Cuban Missile Crisis looks at central figures involved in this critical moment in history and includes a timeline that enables students to grasp its significance. Included also are sidebars and questions that highlight what the Cuban Missile Crisis was and to what extent it affected the world. Third to fifth graders will find the discussion understandable.

As with all 12-Story Library books, the publisher’s website features updates on this subject, along with videos, interactive maps, graphics, and live content to research the Crisis. The title references 12 facts but, literally, this is misleading as it is really 12 chapters offering a multitude of facts. Most of the illustrations in this title are black and white and sidebars are shaded in green and orange. Content and discussion is of high quality.

Leroy Hommerding, CLJ