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

Innkeeper of Ivy Hill / by Julie Klassen. (Tales from Ivy Hill, 1) 3.8.2017

Bethany House ISBN 9780764218132
Adult Rating: 5
Award-winning author Julie Klassen debuts her first historical fiction series, set in the English village of Ivy Hill “where friendships thrive, romance blossoms, and mysteries await” (back cover).
In Innkeeper of Ivy Hill, genteel Jane Bell becomes a reluctant innkeeper after the death of her husband. She has no clue about managing the business and saving it from bankruptcy. She turns to her mother-in-law Thora for assistance, even though they did not have a close relationship in the past. As she helps Jane, Thora begins to find a new purpose for life and is faced with two suitors for her heart.
Pressure mounts from the bank, even as Jane tries new methods to restore the inn and pay off its debt. Several men seem to have a vested interest in her success or failure, but are any of them trustworthy? Will Jane succeed or lose the inn?
Klassen is known for her excellent plot and character development in her inspirational Regency novels, which are filled with love and redemption and family relationships. The faith elements are not heavy-handed. The historical details that one comes to expect from Ms. Klassen’s works are clearly evident in this new series.
She lays the groundwork for the next few books in this series by introducing the reader to several characters in the village of Ivy Hill and telling parts of their story. Discussion questions are also included. Readers will look forward to the second book, Ladies of Ivy Cottage, which is expected in December 2017.
Recommended for public and high school libraries. Fans of Julie Klassen, Sarah E. Ladd, Carrie Turansky, and other historical fiction fans will be delighted with this new series.
Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

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

The Art of Losing Yourself / by Katie Ganshert. 3.6.2017

WaterBrook Press ISBN 9781601425928

HS (Adult) Grades 10 and up Rating: 4

Katie Ganshert’s The Art of Losing Yourself tells a story of heartache and redemption through the eyes of Carmen and her half-sister Gracie. Carmen, seemingly well-off and settled in an ideal career, struggles to find hope and meaning in the midst of multiple miscarriages and a failing marriage. Into this emotionally confusing and painful context walks Gracie, a high schooler with her own battles and baggage to carry. Through the course of this story, the reader sees how the lives of these women are transformed through their relationships.

Carmen’s relationship with Gracie shifts from something of duty or guilt to that of a proud mother-figure. Through her relationship with Carmen and the steady friendship of one of her classmates, Gracie is transformed from a bitter, closed-off teenager to a trusting and committed friend. Both sisters have deep and heart-felt struggles, yet it is ultimately through their difficult relationship with each other that each turns to God. Some things remain unresolved at the end of the story; one is left with a recognition that life is not supposed to be perfect, that it is sometimes messy. However, Ganshert does not leave it at that. This narrative reminds us that there is beauty in the difficult times, that God works through our trials, that people are worth loving, and that some things are worth fighting for.

The use of first-person throughout the book allows the reader to engage with the thoughts and emotions of the two main characters while frequent flashbacks provide insight into their motivations and responses. Alternating between the perspectives of Carmen and Gracie can sometimes be confusing, but overall provides a richer understanding of the characters’ experiences.

Recommended for older teens and adults. The content is in no way inappropriate, simply more relatable to adults with respect to Carmen and her struggles, and older students with respect to Gracie and the battles she faces. There are references to drugs, alcohol and premarital sex (not graphic) in the context of a character’s troubled past. The Art of Losing Yourself provides a quality Christian narrative without coming across as preachy or cliché.

Elisabeth A. Orr, CLJ

Embassy Row series / by Ally Carter. 3.3.2017

See How They Run / by Ally Carter. (Embassy Row, 2)

Scholastic Press ISBN 9780545654845

Take the Key and Lock Her Up / by Ally Carter. (Embassy Row, 3)

Scholastic Press ISBN 9780545654951

HS Grades 7-10 Rating: 4

Ally Carter, author of The Gallagher Girls and Heist Society series, pens a new series for teens filled with espionage, mystery, and plenty of plot twists.

In See How They Run, 16-year-old Grace is living in Adria. She is reeling from her recent discovery of the truth behind her mother’s murder. Her brother Jamie comes home from West Point with a buddy, Spence, whose grandmother was born in Adria. Troubles ensue when Grace stumbles upon a secret society, female assassins, Roman tunnels, and ancient secrets tied to her mother’s death. But the truth doesn’t set Grace free – it threatens her life!

In Take the Key and Lock Her Up, Grace knows the terrible secret that has been guarded for over 200 years, a family secret so big that revealing it could start a revolution. Some people will do anything to prevent it from being found out. Now Grace is in a race to save everyone she cares about by cutting through the years of lies and the web of deceit that is hidden in a conspiracy no one will ever believe.

Ally Carter writes books with plenty of action, adventure, and thrills. Carter cleverly uses lines from a nursery rhyme to title her books in this series. The relationships between Grace and her friends are not the usual boy-girl romances; there may be a hint of attraction but that is not the focus. The depth of friendship is more important, making this a clean read even for older middle school readers. The series will grab the reader’s attention from the start and hold it until the end.

Recommended for public and school libraries.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Earlier Series Title Reviewed by CLJAll Fall Down (Sept/Oct 2015).

Super-Incredible Animals series / by Nancy Furstinger, Carol Hand and Tammy Gagne. 2.20.2017

12 Super-Gigantic Animals You Need to Know / by Nancy Furstinger. (Super-Incredible Animals)
12 Story Library ISBN 978162351388
12 Super-Poisonous Animals You Need to Know / by Carol Hand. (Super-Incredible Animals)
12 Story Library ISBN 9781632351401
12 Super-Fast Animals You Need to Know / by Tammy Gagne. (Super-Incredible Animals)
12 Story Library ISBN 9781632351371
INT Grades 3-6 Rating: 5

Each of the titles in the Super-Incredible Animals series presents 12 amazing animals in special categories. Kids can learn about 12 gigantic, poisonous, or fast animals with each title featuring information about the animals’ life cycles, habitats, and traits. Full-color spreads offer fun facts and information that will tend to hold the interest of children in grades 3 to 6. An appealing feature of these spreads is that boxes, photos, illustrations, and varying headings are in color with font in varying colors.

Every 12 Story Library book is enhanced by its website, 12storylibrary.com, featuring regular updates by the editorial educators. Videos, interactive maps, graphics, and live content feeds help youth go beyond the book to research a topic of interest. The glossy photos, inserts, and highlights on the page seek to present lively text to catch and maintain a reader’s interest.

Leroy Hommerding, CLJ

A Time to Rise / by Nadine Brandes. (Out of Time, 3) 2.17.2017

Enclave Publishing     ISBN 9781683700463

HS (Adult)     Grades 10 and up    Rating: 4

Nadine Brandes concludes her award-winning dystopian series in which the government issues a personal clock to individuals, programmed to show their exact time of death. But what happens when those clocks are faulty?

In A Time to Rise, Parvin Blackwater has died–at least that’s what the world thinks–and she wasn’t scheduled to die (not according to her clock). But Parvin awakens in a shallow grave, with the sense that God is not done with her yet. As she climbs out of her buried coffin, she wonders: will she be reunited with Solomon? Will her “resurrection” be the catalyst for the Wall finally being destroyed? Or will the Council be able to stop them once and for all?

As in her earlier books, Brandes creates a future world where new technology and government control are all too real and possible. Her books are imaginative with realistic characters and suspenseful plot twists. The writing gets intense, and the violence is appropriate for the story. Military control and conspiracy are part of the plot twists.

Parvin struggles in her faith, making her journey in each book both a spiritual and physical one. She is not the only one who changes. Other characters are introduced to God–some embrace him, some do not. Parvin has grown quite a bit since the first book (A Time to Die), as have a number of characters. Learning to trust God in the midst of every circumstance is laced throughout the series.

Recommended for fans of dystopian fiction and speculative fiction, especially readers of Krista McGee’s Anomaly series, Lisa Bergren’s Remnant series, Bonnie Calhoun’s Stone Braide Chronicles series, and Jill Williamson’s Safe Lands series. Adults and older teens will like this series.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJA Time to Die (Jan/Feb 2016); A Time to Speak (Mar/Apr/May/Jun 2016).

Next Generation Energy series / by Nancy Dickmann and Megan Kopp. 2.15.2017

Energy from Water: Hydroelectric, Tidal, and Wave Power / by Nancy Dickmann. (Next Generation Energy)
Crabtree Publishing ISBN 9780778723806

MS Grades 5-8 Rating: 5

Energy from Wind: Wind Farming / by Megan Kopp. (Next Generation Energy)

Crabtree Publishing ISBN 9780778719830

MS Grades 5-8 Rating: 4

Both of these interesting and well-presented volumes from the juvenile environmental education series, Next Generation Energy, are written at guided reading level S. Both titles in the series present action choices and preferred green options for middle grade students age 10 and up.

For centuries, falling water has been used in parts of the world to create energy to run grinding stones at mills and irrigation systems for crops. Nancy Dickmann’s Energy from Water shows how the use of this clean form of energy, called hydroelectricity, is being expanded to help us build a more sustainable future. Readers focus on how other forms of water-based energy, such as energy from ocean waves and tides, are being harnessed and used to help create electricity to power our homes, offices and factories.

Megan Kopp’s Energy from Wind discusses wind power as a clean, sustainable, and renewable form of energy. The chapter “Power Up” invites its readers to think it through, ask and answer questions, and design wind turbines, testing location distances from the wind source and using different blade sizes to see which one works best. A handy Glossary and Learning More section lists books and website resources for inquiring readers.

Both titles are filled with informational graphs, maps, and charts, as well as color-shaded sidebar features such as Fast Forward (where, Energy From Water notes, hydroelectric power is dependent on a consistent supply of running water) and Rewind (promotes comparative, critical thinking about the early hydroelectric plants compared to the most recent). The student is asked to make convincing arguments for their created answer to questions about difficult choices, with regard to environmental impact. There are positive messages regarding what students and young people can do to promote earth protection, such as living and eating green, and redirecting choices towards sustainable changes.

Leroy Hommerding, CLJ

 

 

 

A Peculiar Glory / by John Piper. 2.14.2017

Crossway ISBN 9781433552632

Adult Rating: 5

My argument,” says John Piper as he sums up A Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Complete Truthfulness, “has been that the glory of God, in and through the Scriptures, is a real, objective, self-authenticating reality. Christian faith is not a leap in the dark. It is not a guess or a wager. God is not honored if he is chosen by the flip of a coin. A leap into the unknown is no honor to one who has made himself known.” (pg. 283)

Piper praises, values, but ultimately sets aside the most common evangelical apologetic strategies for promoting the truth of Scripture—the detailed historical investigations into the truth of the resurrection, for example. He instead focuses on the power of the Bible through the Spirit to defend itself. He applies to bibliology (the doctrine of Scripture) his common practice of careful exegetical analysis, copious Bible quotation, penetrating illustration, doctrinal rigor, and warmly personal, even passionate writing.

And, as always with Piper, Jonathan Edwards lies only just beneath the surface, breaking out at key points to deliver special insight. Piper insightfully points out that the detailed historical reasoning of an N.T. Wright (in the magisterial and massive The Resurrection of the Son of God) is simply inaccessible to most lay people today—just like the profundities of Jonathan Edwards’ theology, though wonderfully edifying for the church then and now, were not suited to Edwards’ missionary work among the Mohicans. Edwards realized that if these unlettered people were to be among “all the families of the earth” that God intended to bless through Abraham’s seed, Jesus, the gospel would have to be accessible to them. They would have to grasp its truth without the intermediation of detailed historical, theological, or other reasoning. They would have to come to the sweetness of the gospel the way they came to understand the sweetness of honey: by direct experience (in this case, enabled by the Holy Spirit through His own words).

If this sounds esoteric, it really isn’t: Piper is handling a very basic question every Christian must face: how can I know that the Bible is true? Piper shows that the Bible claims complete truthfulness for itself; it claims repeatedly to be the speech of God. But how can we know that these claims are accurate? The answer is that God, in order to glorify Himself, has to show the truth of His words. This is a richly biblical book about the Bible; it stands squarely in the Reformation tradition while applying a Reformed bibliology to modern times.

Mark L. Ward, Jr., CLJ