What Christians Ought to Believe: An introduction to Christian Doctrine Through the Apostles’ Creed / by Michael R. Bird. 6.6.2017

Zondervan ISBN 9780420630935

Adult Rating: 5

Bringing together helpful illustrations, theological discussion, and ways to apply these to one’s life, What Christians Ought to Believe enables readers to see the possibilities of the Apostle’s Creed as a way to probe and understand the basic teachings of the Christian faith. The book provides a syllabus for summarizing what Christians believe about God, Jesus, the church, and the life to come.

Author Michael R. Bird begins by highlighting the importance of creeds for the formation of the Christian faith, with each chapter, following the Creed’s outline, introducing the Trinity and the church of believers. Bird notes that embedding the Apostles’ Creed in our corporate church life is an excellent way to ensure the integrity and orthodoxy of our faith and a great means to infuse some ancient wisdom into our spiritual journey. An appendix includes the Apostles’ Creed in the original Latin and Greek.

Leroy Hommerding, CLJ

The Inn at Ocean’s Edge / by Colleen Coble. (A Sunset Cove Novel) 6.5.2017

Thomas Nelson ISBN 9781401690267

Adult Rating: 4

The Inn at Ocean’s Edge is an engaging story with a mix of mystery, suspense, tension, family secrets, betrayal, courage, assault, kidnapping, and murder. A budding romance hindered by doubts, trusting in God during highly stressful times, and a rescued baby orca are also woven into the storyline. Some interesting facts about orcas and their similarities to humans are included in the story. Readers will be invested in the outcome of the novel as the suspense continues to build until it culminates into a climatic ending.

Claire Dellamare has just arrived at Hotel Tourmaline on the island of Folly Shoals, Maine, to help her father with an important merger for the family-owned business. She begins to feel uneasy and ends up having a panic attack. To calm herself down, she goes for a walk on the beach, which leads to an unexpected encounter with Luke Rocco and his sister Megan. During their conversation, Claire is stunned to learn that she went missing at the age of four and spent one year lost in the island’s forest. Luke is hopeful she remembers seeing a woman on the night she disappeared, but Claire has no memories of the childhood incident. Claire confronts her parents about her past and comes to believe they are hiding important details about what happened. Subsequently, Claire and Luke work together to try and discover the truth. Even when a mysterious person threatens Claire’s life, she refuses to give up. Will Claire be able to unravel the secrets of her past, and will it change her life in any way?

The central theme of the book revolves around the complexity of family relationships. Colleen Coble has done a good job of showing the adverse emotional effects that lies and deceptions can have on family members, while also showing how love, perseverance, and commitment can profoundly impact families. Questions have been included that can be used in group discussions about complex issues faced by characters in the novel.

Dianne Woodman, CLJ

The Drum of Destiny / by Chris Stevenson. 6.2.2017

Stone Arch Books ISBN 9781496526731

YA Grades 5-9 Rating: 4

The American Revolutionary War is an exciting time for a boy, especially for a 12-year-old New Yorker. An avid reader and fluent in French (thanks to his patriot father who owned a book store and his mother’s French roots), Gabe suddenly finds himself orphaned and thrust into the home of a staunch British loyalist. The Reverend Loring, with ten children of his own, treats Gabe more like a servant than a child.

Crisis strikes during dinner one night when Gabe refuses to toast King George III of England and is cast out of the house. He finds himself on the street where the only families that exist are gangs of thieves or pickpockets. Spending a solitary night by a river, Gabe finds a drum that inspires him to travel to Boston in hopes of becoming a drummer boy in George Washington’s army. The only problem is that he doesn’t know how to play the drum. Would they still accept him? Can he make it on foot from New York City to Boston?

Through a series of mishaps on the road, Gabe learns the consequences of indecision and of ignoring good advice. He also painfully realizes that war recognizes no age.

Chris Stevenson leads the reader on a geographic tour and action-packed journey through old Manhattan and across King’s Bridge at the northern tip of the island toward Boston, as Gabe confronts troubles, dangers, and sickness, and finds friends as well as foes. He even meets Benedict Arnold! Significant historical information is conveyed through the characters’ eyes, making the facts meaningful in context and easy to remember.

Although Gabe’s resolve and determination are tested and often waver, he learns courage by staying true to his goals and to himself and grasps the importance of earning the respect of others by being truthful. The Drum of Destiny is an engaging historical adventure filled with life-lessons for young and old alike.

Veronica Jorge, CLJ

At home in Trinity series / by Delia Parr. 5.24.2017

The Midwife’s Tale / by Delia Parr. (At home in Trinity, 1)
Bethany House ISBN9780764217333

The Midwife’s Choice / by Delia Parr. (At home in Trinity, 2)
Bethany House ISBN9780764217340

The Midwife’s Dilemma / by Delia Parr. (At home in Trinity, 3)
Bethany House ISBN9780764217357
Adult Rating: 4

Martha Cade comes from a long line of midwives, proud of this satisfying work and hoping to continue her vocation for many years to come. She loves ushering new life into the world and ministering to the mothers, but a consequence of being in so many homes and at a rather intimate time is that Martha knows all the secrets of her small Pennsylvania town–a blessing yet a burden at times.

Martha has been long widowed and raising her headstrong daughter Victoria can be a trial. She had hoped that this daughter would take over her midwifery practice in the future but Victoria has her sights set on a more worldly endeavor. At the onset of the first book in the series, The Midwife’s Tale, Martha has not heard from her daughter in months and is distraught, wondering where she might be. Will there be reconciliation?

The story continues in The Midwife’s Choice and The Midwife’s Dilemma. Throughout the series, other events also weigh heavily on Martha. This is the 1830’s and times are changing. The obstetric methods of a new young doctor in town are threatening her job, causing pregnant women to seek him out for their care instead of the traditional midwife. And there is romance in the air. As a young woman, Martha’s beau was Thomas Dillon, now the town’s mayor. Although each of them married another, now that they are both widowed, Thomas is determined to make Martha his bride.

Martha trusts the Lord and although her faith is often tested, she turns to Him again and again for strength and guidance. All three titles in Delia Parr’s At Home in Trinity series are enjoyable inspirational fiction.

Ceil Carey, CLJ

Our Great Big Backyard/ by Laura Bush and Jenna Bush Hager; illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers. 5.19.2017

HarperCollins Children’s Books ISBN 9780062468352

PRI PS-Grade 3 Rating: 4

Former first lady Laura Bush and her daughter Jenna Bush Hager introduce the wonder of our national parks in Our Great Big Backyard.

Young Jane is planning to spend her summer watching movies and playing video games, until her parents announce “The Great American Road Trip” through some of America’s iconic parks. Initially Jane is too absorbed in her tablet to notice the passing scenery, but a meteor shower in Big Bend, Texas finally gets her attention.

As her family explores the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and Yosemite, Jane comes to appreciate the beauty of the outdoors, swapping electronic games for real hands-on adventure (and even enjoys writing a postcard instead of sending an email to her friends).

Artist Jacqueline Rogers uses pen, ink, watercolor, gouache, and marker to produce lively scenes of the parks as well as busy images of a classic family car trip and a fun-to-study map inside the front and back covers. Rogers cleverly includes details from the children’s imagination, such as wearing moon suits as they traverse the desert and seeing a spaceship blasting out of Old Faithful.

With minimal text, Our Great Big Backyard is quickly paced and suited to early readers. It is hard to overlook Jane’s ill-mannered attitude at the beginning of the story (mom and dad allowing her to use a tablet while canoeing in the Everglades is also questionable!). Parents might use the opportunity to talk with children not only about our national parks and about traveling as a family, but about the distraction of electronics and the many other ways to have fun.

The publishing of Our Great Big Backyard was well-timed with the 2016 centennial of our national park system. The distinguished authors include a list of parks by state and several websites for further information.

Nina Ditmar, CLJ

Core Christianity: Finding Yourself in God’s Story / by Michael Horton. 5.18.2017

Zondervan ISBN 9780310525066

Adult Rating: 5

Westminster Seminary professor and theologian Michael Horton seeks to help the Christian reader to invite others into solid theological truths. Horton’s Core Christianity: Finding Yourself in God’s Story puts together systematic theology, biblical theology, and practical theology into one discussion. The twelve chapters of the book cover four themes: the drama of redemption, the doctrine of Scripture, doxology (praise/worship), and discipleship.

One particular strength of this work is the author’s emphasizing that it’s not so much that God is a part of our stories, but that we are a part of His. Another is the practical approach on what believers should be doing until Jesus returns, with a look at serving in our various callings—a discussion enabling believers to be more direct in handling challenges and doubts. A lingering consistent theme is Horton’s persistent focus on God and His Word. He is clear about enabling believers to know what they believe and why. Those having read Basic Christianity by John Stott will enjoy this clarifying work.

The discussion is well worth the time in reading. The print is somewhat small, with the font in the sidebars somewhat difficult to read. Younger believers can also consult Surprised by Faith by Don Bierle.

Leroy Hommerding, CLJ

12 Children Who Changed the World / by Kenya McCullum. (Change Makers) 5.16.2017

12-Story Library ISBN 9781632351463

YA Grades 5-8 Rating: 4

12 Children Who Changed the World is one of six books in 12-Story Library’s Change Makers series for middle grade readers.

This small format book introduces 12 remarkable youth, some famous (Anne Frank) and some lesser-known (Samantha Smith), from ancient times (King Tut and Joan of Arc) to modern (education advocate Malala Yousafzai). All achieved a place in history by being leaders, challengers, and creators of change.

Six girls and six boys are featured for their involvement with issues including apartheid, the holocaust, racism, AIDS, and child labor. Others have made enduring contributions to math (Blaise Pascal) and music (Wolfgang Mozart).

Author Kenya McCullum provides engaging biographical details, along with significant facts and related social and cultural background. Each of the 12 children is presented over two pages highlighted with photographs.Helpful extras include “Think About It” questions, a glossary, and a list of books and internet resources. Readers are invited to “go beyond the book” for additional content on the publisher’s website.

12 Children Who Changed the World would be a compelling volume for a home or classroom library, manageable for younger readers, but with a range of topics that may be more suited to grades 5 and above.

Nina Ditmar, CLJ

Turning Points in History series / by Lois Sepahban and by Angie Smibert. 5.15.2017

12 Incredible Facts about the D-Day Invasion / by Lois Sepahban. (Turning Points in History)

12-Story Library ISBN 9781632351289

12 Incredible Facts about the Moon Landing / by Angie Smibert. (Turning Points in History)

12-Story Library ISBN 9781632351302

YA Grades 5-8 Rating: 5

12 Incredible Facts about the D-Day Invasion and 12 Incredible Facts about the Moon Landing are two of eight books in 12-Story Library’s Turning Points in History series for middle grade readers. These small format books provide historical and political background, along with significant dates, places, people, and details. Each of the 12 “incredible facts” is expanded over two pages of compelling information, highlighted by related sidebars, maps, and photographs.

Lois Sepahban’s 12 Incredible Facts about the D-Day Invasion presents events leading up to the D-Day Invasion, the planning and strategy, the battle itself, and the aftermath. Contemporary photos illustrate wartime conditions including weaponry and the holding of prisoners.

Angie Smibert’s 12 Incredible Facts about the Moon Landing reviews the “space race,” the early U.S. space program, and the Apollo missions. Both triumphs and tragedies are included, along with thoughts about what the moon landing meant for America.

Each volume offers a great synopsis of a significant event in U.S. history, jam-packed with facts and figures, eye-catching page design, and helpful extras including a list of key dates, glossary, and references. The publisher also offers interactive content, videos, and updates on its website.

The Turning Points in History series would be well-suited to home or school reading. These concise books are manageable for younger history buffs, yet there is enough depth to the material to elevate the reading level for older students.

Nina Ditmar, CLJ

Hillary Rodham Clinton: A Woman Living History / by Karen Blumental. 5.8.2017

Feiwel and Friends ISBN 9781250060143

YA Grades 10-12 Rating: 4

Karen Blumental’s Hillary Rodham Clinton: A Woman Living History is in many ways a book about firsts. Clinton was the first student commencement speaker at Wellesley College. She was the first woman to become a full partner at Rose Law Firm. She was the first female U.S. Senator from the state of New York. She was the first woman to be a presidential candidate in every primary held in each state. She was the first former First Lady to seek the presidency. In her life, Clinton has blazed her own path in pursuing the things that are important to her. She has also made some shifts–she began her political activism as a Goldwater girl, but by the time she started coming into the limelight, she had become a staunch Democratic operative.

Blumenthal also attempts to show the side of Clinton that perhaps is not seen so much by the public. This includes her surprise when she discovers that some women do not like or feel insulted by her, and also the information that she carries a Bible with her everywhere she goes. For someone who is wondering where to start to learn about Mrs. Clinton, this book is a great place to start. It is comprehensive without getting bogged down in minutiae. It offers a portrait that shows the complexity of its subject and is at the same time fair. This book would be a welcome addition to a public library.

Michael Wilhelm, CLJ

Broken Ground / by Karen Halvorsen Schreck. 5.5.2017

Howard Books ISBN 9781476794839

Adult (YA)      Rating: 5

Ruth envisions an idyllic life with the man she loves, going to college, and becoming a teacher. When a terrible tragedy shatters her life, Ruth must decide how much she wants to live–and how to escape a domineering father. Her choice propels her on a journey through America’s 1930s western landscape dotted with Hoovervilles and plagued by state-sponsored racism.

After an assault and a false accusation derail her dream of school and uproot her again, she embarks on a new journey into the world of Mexican workers fighting illegal deportations. In the midst of her own grief and struggles, Ruth rises above herself and discovers the redeeming qualities of service to others that transforms her life and that of those around her. Teaching the Mexican children, she learns that every child should feel content, that education is a universal right, and that God is the God of all cultures and languages.

Through thoughtful narrative, engaging dialogue, and descriptive scenes, Karen Halvorsen Schreck portrays a little-known part of American History. In addition, Broken Ground is a powerful reminder of the redemptive quality of suffering that leads to fruitful growth in God, and that proves that all things do work together for good, if you are open to God’s call and willing to go wherever that takes you.

Veronica Jorge, CLJ