Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Best Reads with My Kids in 2014

As 2014 comes to a close I thought I’d list the best books I've read with my kids this year (my list of best reads in 2014 for myself can be found here). Here are the top 10 full-length books which I read to them this year. The list is in no particular order, mostly just the order in which we read them this year. This is my second time through this age range so some of these books have been discussed here previously when I read them with my older children.
1.      Rascal, Sterling North- Somehow I missed reading this one with my older kids. It is a wonderful story in so many ways. I wrote a post on the book after we read it.
2.      Pinocchio: The Tale of a Puppet- This is a great story with silliness, adventure and some great lessons. It is significantly different from the Disney movie. My 6 & 7 year olds loved it. (Here is a post from the first time we read it)
3.      Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh, Robert C. O’Brien- My children really got into this one as well. Fun, action-packed and with some good lessons on hard work and the value of learning. Here is my post from when we read it.
4.      The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, C S Lewis
5.      The Horse & His Boy, C S Lewis
6.      Prince Caspian, C S Lewis
7.      The Magician’s Nephew, C S Lewis- It was fun to read these again with my younger ones. I’m always helped, challenged, bettered by reading Lewis and my daughter, who was 7 and then 8 years old as we read them, loved them. My son, 6 and then 7 years old, listened but was slower to really get into them. Prince Caspian we listened to on Focus on the Family’s wonderful Radio Theater. These are some of my favorite stories for myself and for my children. (Here is my previous post on the series)
8.      Hand of Vengeance, Douglas Bond- This was another fun, historical fiction piece from Douglas Bond, one of our family favorites, and I recently discussed it here.
9.      Crow and Weasel, Barry Lopez- This is a profound story of growing up, but my 6 & 8 year olds weren’t quite ready to appreciate it. Here is my post written after reading it with my older boys.
10.  Martin the Warrior, Brian Jacques- This was a favorite of my older boys when we read it so I was excited to read it to my younger ones- I was surprised to find I had not written a post on the book previously (here is a general post on the series). The story has nobility, high adventure, heroism, sacrifice, and a clear clash between good and evil. My daughter (8 at the time) really liked it but it was a bit over the head of my 6 year old son though he got into it in places.


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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Douglas Bond's Hand of Vengeance




Hand of Vengeance, Douglas Bond
Heroes & History Series
(P&R, 2012), pb., 190 pp.
Ages 8 and up

If you have read much on this blog you will know that Douglas Bond is one of our favorite writers. Books of his that we have read come up in conversation often and his visit to our home is a top memory for my older boys. So, we have been anticipating when this more recent book of his would come up in the reading schedule for school for my younger children. It did not disappoint.

As usual Bond sets the story amidst something historically significant. This story occurs in 8th century Lindisfarne in England where the Gospels were being copied and illuminated. The Lindisfarne Gospels are beautiful manuscripts with significant historical importance and are now held at the British Library. Bond weaves the copying of these manuscripts into his story giving a feel for life in this time as monks do their work, a feudal society seeks to maintain order and they live in fear of Viking raids. In this setting Bond weaves a murder mystery with intrigue, romance, a Sherlock Holmes-type monk with keen points on justice and the gospel along the way.


We enjoyed this story with my 8 year old daughter begging us too keep reading. My 7 year old son was not yet ready to follow as well, which is why I’ve given the age suggestion listed above. The place to start with Bond’s books is the Crown and Covenant series or the Mr. Pipes series, but after those we commend this story to you as well. And we continue to anticipate every new book from Mr. Bond!

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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Santa’s (Zany, Wacky, Just not Right!) Night Before Christmas

Santa’s (Zany,Wacky, Just not Right!) Night Before Christmas, by DK Simoneau & David Radman
Illustrated by Brad Cornelius
(AC Publications Group, 2014), hb., 32 pp.
Ages 3-7

This is a fun, lighthearted book with nice illustrations. It is written in rhyme which enhances the experience of reading it aloud, and the fact that the little mouse shows up on each page adds another dimension as you try to find him at each turn.

We have never done Santa in our family, but that does not keep us from enjoying fun stories like this one. This was a fun, light read.

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Advent books



Over the years I have mentioned here a variety of books for Advent and Christmas and these can be found here. As I’ve mentioned before, among all of these books and numerous nice new Advent books we continue to return each year to Christ in Christmas: A Family Advent Celebration (you can see my previous post on the book here). The book is wonderfully simple, giving us key texts to read and then two songs to sing for each week. This allows us to pursue conversation about the songs and texts to whatever degree fits each setting according to ages, time, etc.


Our children now look forward to this during the year, and in the evenings it is not uncommon to hear my younger ones say, “Let’s hurry and get things done so we can do Advent!” The picture here is of Timothy, my youngest (7 yrs old) on the big night when he had his first reading this year.  I had not thought much of it, but it was all he could talk about the day leading up to it (for some reason he also wanted to wear his Thanksgiving puppet as a hat!). This simple little book has been a great help to us in establishing this tradition in our family, and we commend it to you.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Augustine on a Father's Duty


"those who are true fathers of their households desire and endeavour that all the members of their household, equally with their own children, should worship and win God, and should come to that heavenly home"
-City of God, Book 19, Chapter 16

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

The Lamb and the Fuhrer, Ravi Zacharias & Jeff Slemons
KingstoneComics, 2014 (pb., 96 pp)
Ages 12+

This graphic novel begins with an American college student visiting a friend in Germany and learning about World War II, moving to Hitler’s persecution of Christians and then his suicide. The book then becomes an imaginary conversation that Hitler, immediately after his death has with Jesus with Dietrich Bonhoeffer joining in. The art work is nicely done, but in the end the book was disappointing.


For a graphic novel this book was very text intensive. It may really have worked better as a regular book. It seems that there is so much crammed in that it becomes disjointed. Perhaps it tries to do too much in one book. I appreciate the apologetic and evangelistic intention, but I don’t think this is likely to be compelling to anyone who is skeptical. Imaginary conversations are too easy to arrange in your favor and this one felt “set up.”

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Vladimir: Prince of Russia

(Kingstone Comics, 2011), 64 pp, pb
Ages 12+

This graphic novel tells the story of Vladimir who became Grand Prince of Kiev and led the Christianization of his people. I was particularly interested in this book because on a mission trip to the Ukraine years ago I picked up a medallion which bore the image of Vladimir.

However, the story does not come through real clearly. If someone already knows the basic story, they would probably follow it well, but with little background I don’t think the book will work well. It also plays up his pre-conversion immorality. I do not doubt the historicity of this, but I envisioned a younger audience for the graphic novel. It is not terribly explicit, but it is not something I would give to my younger children. It appears to have been written with Russian or Ukranian people in mind (who might presumably know the basic story) to call them back to Christianity.


So, if you have older children who are already studying this period of Russian history, this might work as an extra resource. I would not recommend it on its own or for general reading for enjoyment.

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, by Robert C. O’Brien
Ages 6 & up

I loved this book when an elementary teacher of mine read it to me, and I recently had the joy of reading it to my younger two children. It is a wonderful story with adventure, suspense, nobility, courage and a strong family portrait. If you are not familiar with it, Mrs. Frisby is a widowed mouse who needs help moving her house before the plowing comes and destroys it with her sick son inside. She eventually obtains help from a group of rats who have attained high intelligence because they were experimented on by the National Institute of Mental Health. The story is greatly enhanced by the fact that as the story unfolds various interconnections are revealed producing “aha!” moments. It is a very clever story.

The book does presume evolution which shows up in a place or two, but it is not aggressive (I take such places as opportunity to discuss again what we believe). In addition to courage and caring for one another, one of the strong points of the book is the hearty affirmation of learning. After the rats have gained intelligence and are on their own the come to a house and discover its library.

“But the greatest treasure of all, for us, was in the study. This was a large rectangular room, with walnut paneling, a walnut desk, leather chairs, and walls lined to the ceiling with books. Thousands of books, about every subject you could think of. There were shelves of paperbacks; there were encyclopedias, histories, novels, philosophies, and textbooks of physics, chemistry, electrical engineering, and others, more than I can name. Luckily, there was even one of those small ladders-on-wheels they use in some libraries to get to the top shelves.

Well, we fell on those books with even more appetite than on the food. …

And all winter, far into the night, we read books and we practiced writing.”

Obviously Mr. O’Brien had seen nice libraries and had been taken with them. This is picture in my mind of a grand study. I want to give this passion for reading to my children and what better way than in the midst of a fun story with such a compelling portrait of the enjoyment of reading.


We enjoyed this book and commend it to you.

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