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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Monday, June 15, 2015

Sir Christian de Galis and the Fish Gravy

(Westbow Press, 2014), pb., 242 pp.
Ages 10-15

This is a comical take on the stories of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. The author obviously knows the Arthurian legends well as he uses aspects of the traditional stories and plays off of them en route to make a moral or spiritual point. However, the humor and its nuance was often beyond the reach of my 7 and 9 year old to whom I was reading. The story reads like slapstick and in that genre there is a fine line between being hilarious and just too odd to follow. It didn’t work for us, but in another setting with a slightly older audience it might work very well.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Key to the Treasure, by Peggy Parish

Key to the Treasure, by Peggy Parish
(Yearling, 1960), pb., 154 pp.
Ages 6-10

We have long enjoyed Peggy Parish’s Amelia Bedelia series, so we finally dipped into this book which is the first in the Liza, Bill, & Jed Mysteries. We loved this story! In fact, my 7 year old son (my youngest) had struggled to engage with our reading until this one. This story captivated him.

Liza, Bill, and Jed are siblings who are spending the summer with their grandparents as they typically do. A favorite story that Grandpa tells the kids concerns a riddle with hidden treasures Grandpa’s grandfather left for his children years ago before he left for the Civil War. The first clue had been lost and for generations no one has been able to figure it out and find the treasure. When the kids accidentally discover another clue they set off to find the generations-old treasure.

Riddles, clues and treasure are just fun! The kids have to think, work and dig. Then the transgenerational aspect added another special element as this mystery is something the kids’ father, grandfather and great-grandfather had searched for. The strong family ties, respect and care portrayed in the story were encouraging. Furthermore, I liked the example of the kids playing outside, coming up with their own ideas, preparing to build a tree house on their own- just generally being creative and taking initiative.

The book is simply written, positive and fun. We look forward to reading the second one.


Sunday, May 17, 2015

National Geographic Kids Almanac 2016

(National Geographic, 2015)
pb. 352 pp
8-12 years old

My Kids love the National Geographic almanacs and were excited to see this one. It is filled with nice color photos and information on nature, animals, history and culture. Tons of information is presented in bite size portions in an engaging manner.

Of course, this is an entirely secular publications. A two-page spread covers the five main world religions with a brief description without advocating any one of them. Evolution is assumed in some key discussions. So, this is not an authoritative guide, but if you have discussed these issue with your children, then they can engage this and use it as a learning opportunity.

Even with our fundamental disagreements we enjoy this for what it is- a fun tool to stimulate interest in a wide variety of areas with parental guidance.