Zap! Nikola Tesla Takes Charge / by Monica Kulling; illustrated by Bill Slavin. (Great Ideas series) 1.31.2017

Tundra Books ISBN 9781770495227

PRI K-Grade 4 Rating: 4

In 1884, Nikola Tesla leaves his native Croatia for New York, bringing a new concept about electricity. Zap! Nikola Tesla Takes Charge is a picture book telling of Tesla’s early ideas, which advanced the use of electric lighting and hydroelectric power in America.

Author Monica Kulling focuses on the bright immigrant’s enthusiasm and innovation, and his model of electricity (alternating current) that challenged Edison’s design (direct current). Her book introduces young readers to Tesla, his competitive relationship with Edison, his role in electrifying the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, and his dream of “harnessing” the power of Niagara Falls.

Handsome digitally-colored pen-and-ink sketches by Bill Slavin complement the tone, time period, and setting, with muted greys and browns evoking the grittiness of early industrial America.

Zap! Nikola Tesla Takes Charge is an interesting biographical sketch, well-suited for both school and home libraries. The author provides a list of book and internet sources. “Electric Cat,” a short poem about young Niko’s fascination with static electricity, and “Tesla’s Robot,” an account of Nikola’s later invention of a radio-controlled toy boat, add additional information and insight.

Nina Ditmar, CLJ

From This Moment / by Elizabeth Camden. 1.30.2017

Bethany House ISBN 9780764217210

Adult Rating: 4

Artist Stella West has given up her dream of artistic success in London to hunt for her sister’s murderer in Boston. While the police and medical examiner swear Gwendolyn’s drowning was an accident, Stella insists on foul play. She goes undercover at City Hall to look for a man that Gwendolyn wrote about in her final letters.

Seeking the help of Romulus White, co-owner of the famous magazine Scientific World, Stella risks sharing her tale. As Stella reveals the tragedy of her sister’s death, confirmed bachelor Romulus sees an opportunity to trade his public influence for her artwork. Romulus is powerful, stylish, ornery–and handsome. Could Stella’s choice of involving him get in the way of finding the true killer?

Clues that indicate a cover-up surface, but the more Romulus gets involved with the whirlwind that is Stella West, the more trouble he encounters. If he pursues her wild story, it could mean the demise of his magazine and reputation. But if he doesn’t, Gwendolyn’s killer could return to finish off her sister.

Elizabeth Camden is a skilled writer who knows how to use her setting as a character. The ideas of the first American subway, snail mail, telegrams, and train travel play major roles in the plot of this novel. Her word choices fit the era, and her point of view changes between Stella and Romulus allow readers to see two unique perspectives as these characters come together to deal with their problems.

While the main characters both have bold and distinct personalities, their character development (apart from their affections toward each other) seems minor compared to the greater character arches found in the supporting characters, notably Romulus’s cousin Evelyn and her ex-husband. Readers will see multiple characters relying on God in their greatest moments of struggle for physical salvation and redemption of broken relationships.

Readers of romance, history, and mystery will enjoy the suspense of this dramatic narrative. As the plot unfolds, readers will love becoming pseudo-detectives with Stella and Romulus as they solve this murder mystery and deduce the killer’s identity.

Rebecca Schriner, CLJ

Storm / by Bonnie S. Calhoun. (Stone Braide Chronicles, 3) 1.24.2017

Revell     ISBN 9780800723781

HS     Grades 8-12     Rating: 4

Bonnie Calhoun continues her young adult dystopian series set in a world where life is very different 150 years from now. Most of the population lives in the ruins of American cities destroyed by a nuclear holocaust.

In Storm, Selah Rishon is the novarium, someone who plays a major role in an unfolding prophecy. She rescues the rest of her family, and they are on the run. Selah must find the Third Protocol within the next nine months or she will die. Not everyone wants the Third Protocol discovered, and Selah is being hunted by others for their own evil purposes. Meanwhile they discover a black market for selling pills that give health (or healing) to the person taking the pill.

One should read the first book before reading this one; otherwise the reader will find it challenging to understand the backstory. Calhoun’s characters are believable and flawed, reinforcing the realism of the story. There is plenty of action and appropriate violence as Selah seeks the Third Protocol (think of the violence in Star Wars). There is no discernible faith element. The book covers for this series are dramatic, and each book in the series gets better in terms of the storyline.

Calhoun creates a credible futuristic world with a strong heroine, which should appeal to fans of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games and Lisa Bergren’s Remnants series.

Recommended for public libraries and school libraries. This book is more appropriate for older teens and adults.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJThunder (Jan/Feb/Mar/Apr 2015); Lightning (Jan/Feb 2016).

Come Rain or Come Shine / by Jan Karon. (A Mitford Novel) 1.23.2017

G.P. Putnam’s Sons ISBN 9780399167454

Adult Rating: 4

Author Jan Karon offers another winning story in Come Rain or Come Shine, the latest in her much-beloved Mitford series. In this touching novel, readers finally experience the long-awaited wedding of Dooley Kavanagh and Lace Harper. As expected, the ceremony is filled with simple beauty and deep emotion, along with a few down-to-earth surprises. Many favorite characters attend the wedding, which is a celebration of all that is good in life.

As always, Father Tim is the central, grounding figure in the story and other beloved characters continue being who they are and doing what they do best as well. As in the other Mitford novels, there is an underlying peace amidst a cast of characters who are simple and real and deal with all the trials and troubles life brings to all. No matter the challenge, Mitford’s characters survive and thrive by engaging their unique mix of humor and faith. And they always love their neighbors.

Central to this novel, which ties up several loose ends while leaving open the possibility of a continuing storyline, is the theme of love. As Lace Harper prepares for her wedding, she wonders aloud in her diary about the definition of cherish: “Fr Tim says he feels cherish is linked to ~ or perhaps best defined by the admonition in Romans 12:10: Outdo one another in showing honor.” (p. 92) As always in the Mitford series, the characters in Come Rain or Come Shine show what it means to honor both each other and God. And those characters who fall short find their way to some form of redemption. Readers who come to Mitford to find a place where neighbors are what neighbors should be and families overcome challenges to be what families should be, will be more than satisfied.

Valorie Cooper, CLJ

Earlier Series Title Reviewed by CLJSomewhere Safe with Somebody Good (Jan/Feb/Mar/Apr 2015).

Saving My Assassin / by Virginia Prodan. 1.20.2017

Tyndale House Publishers ISBN 9781496411846

Adult Rating: 5

It’s hard to believe that an 87- pound woman, just under five feet tall, could stand up to those intent on murdering her, but with God that is just what happened! As the author herself states, “I should be dead. Buried in an unmarked grave in Romania. Obviously, I am not. God had other plans.”

Saving My Assassin is Prodan’s memoir of her life in Romania from early childhood through her time as an attorney, fighting for truth and defying the “powers that be” in their evil regime. When she became a Christian as a young woman, she felt the calling to defend other believers and churches in direct disobedience to the government. She sought the truth in following her Lord. This was treason in the eyes of this régime under the rule of Ceausescu, and for her disobedience she was kidnapped, tortured, and beaten as well as placed under house arrest with her two young daughters.

Prodan’s writing is very simple yet profound as she shares her life experiences and the many ways that God answered prayer and kept her and her family safe. She also tells of a less-than-ideal childhood and of those who helped her escape and become a lawyer.

American Christians particularly should read this unforgettable account of Virgina Prodan’s life and God’s continued protection.

Ceil Carey, CLJ

Wild Montana Skies / by Susan May Warren. (Montana Rescue, Book 1) 1.19.2017

Revell ISBN 9780800727437

Adult     Rating: 5

Susan May Warren kicks off her new contemporary romance series, set in Montana and featuring park rescue professionals living in a close-knit community.

In Wild Montana Skies, Kacey Fairing moves to Mercy Falls, Montana to rebuild her life after her recent tour in Afghanistan. She is hired as the PEAK Rescue pilot for Glacier National Park. She also wants to spend time with her teenage daughter who has been cared for by her parents while she was deployed.

Country music star Ben King comes home after his father is injured. He is there to manage PEAK Rescue during his father’s recovery. Ben and Kacey were teenage sweethearts until Ben moved to Nashville to pursue his dream. Ben doesn’t know Kacey’s secret: Ben has a daughter he has never met. Now they have to work together to save lives. Will they find a happy ending in spite of old secrets and hurts they uncover?

Warren writes character-driven, contemporary books that are a blend of action and romance, as well as emotional and spiritual challenges. The faith element is evident but not preachy. More than romances, these are stories of flawed individuals with very messy lives and life-changing mistakes. God teaches them about forgiveness of others and themselves. Warren uses these imperfect lives to teach the reader about God’s gift of grace, and the strength it takes to live a life of faith and accept the second chance He offers. Readers can follow the characters introduced in Wild Montana Skies in subsequent books. Rescue Me (Book 2) is due in late January 2017.

Recommended for public libraries and church libraries.

Carol R. Gehringer, CLJ

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

My Little Picture Bible / by Juliet David; illustrated by Elina Ellis. 1.17.2017

Lion Hudson ISBN 9781781281765

PRI PS-K Rating: *5

My Little Picture Bible is a collection of 56 New and Old Testament events retold by Juliet David in a simple format for the very young.

The familiar stories vary in length from one to ten pages and are accompanied by the gentle drawings of Elina Ellis. The book’s small sturdy size and bright illustrations are well suited to preschoolers, yet the content and presentation will appeal to older children as well. A list of contents will help early readers quickly find their favorites.

My Little Picture Bible would be a wonderful spiritual gift (and in fact has a page for inscribing). The stories are satisfyingly complete for such a small book and the sweet quality of the artwork makes the characters and events relatable to children.

Nina Ditmar, 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

 

 

 

Anchor in the Storm / by Sarah Sundin. (Waves of Freedom series, 2) 1.13.2017

Revell ISBN 9780800723439

Adult (HS) Rating: 5

Anchor in the Storm finds the United States involved in WWII. Lillian Avery leaves her Illinois home to accept a job as a pharmacist in Boston, Massachusetts, where her brother and his best friend Arch Vandenberg are stationed. Though Arch has expressed interest in Lillian, Lillian doesn’t seem to return his feelings. However, when both Lillian and Arch need answers about some questionable prescriptions, they find themselves working together to solve a mystery. In the process, danger threatens their lives, and the only way they can survive is by learning the truth of Hebrews 6:18-19, “…We might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast…” (p.66)

Sarah Sundin’s second book in the Waves of Freedom series is just as intriguing as the first. The plot moves quickly, part romance and part mystery. Arch and Lillian are well-developed, three-dimensional characters, learning to grow through their brokenness. Lillian’s determined mindset and plucky spirit set an intense mood as the story unfolds. Sundin’s portrayal of the places Arch and Lillian live and work as well as the activities in which they engage recreate a little slice of Boston during WWII. The theme is best summed up by Lillian’s father, “Jesus is your anchor, your hope in any storm, your sure refuge.” (p. 28)

Kristina Wolcott, CLJ