Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Snoopy Treasures

The Snoopy Treasures: A Celebration of the World Famous Beagle, by Nat Gertler
(Thunder Bay Press, 2015), hb., 175 pp.
Ages 5+

This is a fun, beautifully produced book that will delight any Snoopy fan. Packed with images and memorabilia, this book tells the story of Snoopy's beginning and development over time. I had no idea how the drawing of Snoopy had changed from the beginning. Several envelope pages are also included which contain mini posters, pennants and other items. We all enjoyed this book, from the younger kids all the way up to me!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Christmas Time: It’s All About Jesus,

Illustrated by Alicia Young
(Aneko Press, 2015), pb., 28 pp.
Ages 2-9

You might be tempted to overlook this book as just one more Christmas story with simply a cute story & very little biblical content. But, that would be a real mistake! I was pleasantly surprised by this one.  The author retells the Christmas story following very closely the accounts from Matthew and Luke in poetic form. I was impressed by how careful she was to follow the biblical text, and the nice poetry made the reading even more fun and engaging.

Part of the Christmas tradition in our house is retelling the Christmas story on Christmas morning. The form of the retelling has grown with our children, often involving them acting out, with little figurines, what I read. If we had had this little book when our kids were smaller, I would have used this for our reading. It is that good.

So, as you prepare for Christmas this year, this is a fun, readable book- one which your children might continue to read for themselves, as mine have. We warmly commend it to you as we prepare to celebrate the wonder of the Incarnation.

In fact, I have an extra copy to give away! Pass on word about this review and you will be entered in the drawing to receive a free copy. You can link to this on Twitter (@rvannest), Facebook, or your own site. Provide your link in the comments here to insure I see it and enter you in the contest.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

PROOF Pirates: Finding the Treasure of God's Amazing Grace

PROOF Pirates: Finding the Treasure of God's Amazing Grace, by Lindsay Blair, Timothy Paul Jones, & Jonah Sage
Illustrated by Tessa Janes
New Growth Press, 2015

This is a great new family devotional book which corresponds to a VBS curriculum by the same name. The book is due out next month, but I had a chance to read it earlier. This is the endorsement I wrote for the book:
PROOF Pirates is a fun way to learn profound truths about God’s grace and salvation. My kids loved it! One was even bouncing up and down in anticipation of the next clue. Resources like this which are so engaging and biblically faithful are great gifts for families, and I am grateful for people who produce them.”
The book is simple and engagingly written, explaining the doctrine of salvation in a profoudn way. This is a great resource that I fully commend.

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Monday, September 28, 2015

National Geographic Guide to Photography

Guide to Photography, Nancy Honovich and Annie Griffiths
(National Geographic Kids), pb., 160 pp
Ages 9+

I was excited to check out this new book because my 9 year old daughter is very interested in photography. She has a decent camera and is taking pictures all the time! I think she’s doing quite well, even though she has just been learning on her own, so I thought this book might be a help and encouragement.

She says she loved the book and learned a lot. The discussion on correcting “red eye” was particularly helpful to her. She also liked learning how to change color on pictures- and I’ve noticed her experimenting with this now.

The book is nicely laid out with great photo illustrations. It is easy to use and includes photography assignments to practice things discussed in the book. If your child is interested in photography this will be a great book for you.

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Full Moon at Napping House

Illustrated by Don Wood
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015), hb, 32 pp
Ages 3-7

This is a fun, rhythmic bedtime read. Apparently it is a follow up to TheNapping House, which we have not read. We enjoyed this one even though my kids are a bit older than the target range. The story follows the method of adding a line each page while repeating all the previous lines until the climax. This repetition itself is soothing.

We also enjoyed the art work, particularly looking for the mouse and cricket on each page.

This is a fun, little book, nicely illustrated that works very well for bedtime reading. 


Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Biggest Story

Illustrated by Don Clark
(Crossway, 2015), hb. 129 pp.
Ages 5+

This is a wonderful book! I enjoyed it and my kids enjoyed it, begging for us to read more. I am already committed to the idea of grasping the overall storyline of Scripture, and we’ve read other books that pursue this line. One of the real encouraging things I see is the increase of discussion of this idea and particularly the fact that this is showing up in children’s books (which means more parents might actually read it as well!).

DeYoung does a great job of presenting the unified story of Scripture and how it points to Christ. Reading this reminded me of how I often heard OT stories as a child- holding up the human hero so that we aspired to be like him and regretting those times people failed to live up to such a standard. It wasn’t until seminary that it hit me that Israel never even came close to living up to the Law. That throws a wrench in things when you read the stories as I’d been accustomed. With books like this, our children can understand from their earliest days that the repeated failure of people is not a surprise but points us to our need of a Greater One to come.

We talk a good bit about the big story of Scripture in our home and in the churches our kids have grown up in. However, when we came to the discussion of Gen 3:15, my younger two (to whom I was reading this book) did not know who this “snake crusher” might be- I continually find areas where, having taught things to my older children, I wrongfully assume I’ve taught it to my younger ones as well! But this led to a wonderful moment. The book makes the point that no one knew who this person would be. My children began to discuss the point and to make guesses. My daughter said, “I wonder who that will be?” They ran through a list of possibilities but weren’t satisfied with them. My son then suggested David (that’s his middle name as well!), and they agreed he was a real possibility. I nudged them to notice troubles with David, and then it was beautiful to see the lights come on in their eyes and to hear them almost shout, “Oh! It’s Jesus!” Exactly. That moment was worth it by itself.

I must also mention the artwork by Don Clark. Honestly, I didn’t expect much from the illustrations before opening the book. But I noticed right away that he was nicely using some standard symbolism to tie into the biblical themes. This led to us pausing at the beginning of each new chapter to consider the pictures and think together what they might mean. This added an interactive element which was a lot of fun and enhanced the learning. This is one example where the artwork significantly added to the book.

I guess it is obvious that we really enjoyed this book. In fact, I’m considering requiring it for my college OT Survey class next year (since this year has already started). I use some children’s books along the way- the novelty of it catches their attention. And, this is so well done, I think it might be a simple way of helping them catch the big picture I’m trying to show them throughout the semester.

This is a wonderful book, and I encourage every Christian family to get a copy and read it together. This is one to give away, place in the church library and even use in outreach. I remain convinced that one of the best ways to get sound theology to young parents is by giving them solid things to read with their kids. This is a great tool in that regard. 


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Pirate Island Adventure

Pirate Island Adventure, by Peggy Parish
(Yearling, 1975), pb., 167 pp.
Ages 6-10

This is the third in the “Liza, Bill, & Jed Mysteries” series. I commented on the first in this series, Key to the Treasure, previously. Having enjoyed the first one so much we wanted to read another and since we did not have (or have lost!) the second book we moved on to the third.

This story is very similar to Key to the Treasure with the same strengths: fun, simple story, mystery, adventure and good family interaction. Adults will notice that the author has basically used the template from a previous, successful book to write another one much like it. For adult-level writing that could be a critique, but in this case I have no qualms at all. It is what I often do in making up stories for my children. And, when this results in a fun story which is enjoyed by all, then it is a success.

I will also take this opportunity to comment further on something which is true in both books. The positive interaction of children and grandparents is very nice. In a day where there too often seems to be less interaction between children and older adults, the portrait of this book is encouraging.

Furthermore, the children have to take initiative, work, and think creatively. They have their squabbles with one another but, in the end, resolve them well. These are fun books well worth reading.

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