Category Archives: children’s books

If You’re Wondering What to Read Next, Look No Further! (Part 2 of 2)

Friends!  If I didn’t load you up with enough book ideas last week, fear not! I’ve got a few more. These are geared for families…

Our first book is a stand alone, but the second one leads to the third and the author of the third happens to be an endorser for our first selection. (Who’s on first?) Stay tuned…

I confess I bought this first book purely from the cover as I’m obsessed with penguins:

I wanted to jump in the cover, a la Mary Poppins and the chalk drawing in the sidewalk, and follow the Pied Piper, girl, and penguin, also toting a book along.

“Most engagingly conversational” would be my assessment of Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone’s writing.  I love the book because it does two things for the reader:

1 – It shows you why the authors want their book club participants to not just merely read their selections on the surface.  They help you become detectives.

2 – The book also helps you should you be considering starting a book club.   You’ll receive all kinds of ideas and advice. Clearly the Goldstones are experienced and love every single second of their time doing this!

Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook (which we’ll get to in a minute), said of Deconstructing Penguins, “Not just the single best book on leading a book discussion group, it is also about how to dig a tunnel into the heart of a book. In my ideal world, every reading teacher would trash that boring classroom text and adopt this book as a curriculum bible.”

The Gladstones say,

Early into the book, we get to see the Gladstones in action with parents and their children who’ve come to their book club.  Even more fun, the first book they discuss is none other than Mr. Popper’s Penguins. Simply delightful!

Our second book is by a lovely author I learned about from one of Ann Voskamp’s blogposts.  She raved about Sarah Mackenzie who founded the Read-Aloud Revival podcast.  Sarah’s book is called The Read-Aloud Family:  Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections with Your Kids.

Sarah and her husband, Andrew, live in Spokane, Washington with their six kids, so trust me, she knows what she’s talking about in this book!!! We get to learn from her experiments with her own children and see firsthand how reading aloud blessed and hugely benefited their whole family. Her strong, Christian faith overflows in her writing too which is an added bonus.

The book’s divided into three parts.  We watch the experiment unfold, we learn how to ask compelling questions, how to create a book club culture in your own home, etc. and finally we gain huge lists of recommended books, their synopses, all for certain ages.  Invaluable!

Finally, the last two books are by the same author. One happens to be one of a gazillion books my own Mother gave to me.  The author is Jim Trelease and the book Mother gave me is Hey! Listen to This: Stories to Read Aloud. (Notice it says “edited by Jim Trelease.”)

It includes books in categories, sometimes only excerpts from novels, causing you to want to run out and find the entire book.  He introduces authors, many times telling stories of their upbringing or why they began to write, all of which is as interesting as the actual excerpt he includes! Categories include:  Tell Me a Story!, Tales from Long Ago, School Days, Food for Thought, etc. (There are eight more!)

Jim Trelease is best known for his The Read -Aloud Handbook: Includes a Giant Treasury of Great Read-Aloud Books. (I have the 7th edition, which says, “Now completely revised and updated.”)

This book is so thorough. From convincing statistics in the beginning to over a hundred pages of pure lists of books, age appropriated, succinct synopses, it’s easy to see why Sarah Mackenzie flipped over it and adopted Jim’s strategies immediately.

Pulling these four books out again has renewed my enthusiasm for reading to our grandchildren. I’d totally forgotten that the book my Mother gave me is autographed by Jim Trelease and dated 4-23-96, so John Jr. would’ve been ten years old by then. She must’ve gotten to hear him speak somewhere and had him sign it.  I wish I’d paid closer attention back then!

I’ll stop before throwing any more book suggestions at you (this is the end of Part 2!), before you throw some books at me!  Regardless, you cannot go wrong with any of these and your friends and family will thank you for your efforts.

Psalm 127:3 reminds us, “Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from Him.” (NIV)

’Til next time!

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews, children's books, Family, Grandchildren

If You’re Wondering What to Read Next, Look No Further…(Part 1 of 2)

Friends!  2020 has found me in three lovely locales of our home on a mission to declutter. (Audible groan.) Problem is I don’t spend enough time, thence the improvement isn’t visible yet.

While on one of these missions, I uncovered a pile of “I didn’t know I had these books?”  So, dear reader, it’s your lucky day as I was elated to rediscover these books!

This week and next, I’ll be sharing snippets for you because you will want to have your own copies or at the very least, check them out from the library to help you with your reading—for yourself, for your children, and for your grandchildren.

This week we’ll unpack two excellent resources by Gladys Hunt.  I’m sad to report Gladys died at the age of 83 in 2010.  But, it’s our grand fortune she’s left us such rich, rich books.  (At the end of the post, I’ll tell you about some of her other books. Today we’ll just discuss two of hers.)

The books?

Honey for a Child’s Heart:  The Imaginative Use of Books in Family Life (4th edition with an Annotated List of Books for Ages 0-14) by Gladys Hunt

Honey for a Woman’s Heart:  Growing Your World through Reading Great Books by Gladys Hunt

The title for both books begins with the word, “honey”. This was inspired from Proverbs 16:24 which says,

One of the many things I love about the book for children  is the emphasis Gladys places on family time and how it’s enriched by reading. She offers ways to do this in addition to the incredible age appropriate lists with brief descriptions of the books. She also notes awards the books have won such as the Caldecott Medal, Caldecott Honor, Newberry Award, Honor, and Medal, the Corbetts Scott King aware, and the Boston Globe/Horn Book award.

Regarding her lists, we also learn, “Two chapters list special books considered long-standing classics:  picture book classics and classic children’s novels.”

Gladys says,

Gladys is obviously a wordsmith. She advocates reading not just for our education, but to increase our faith. She adds, “I can’t imagine any pleasure greater than bringing to the uncluttered, supple mind of a child the delight of knowing the many rich things God has given us to enjoy.”

Now watch how she ends this particular paragraph:  “Parents have this wonderful privilege, and books are their keenest tools.”  Yes!

Early into the book, we readers are gifted with a quote from Emily Dickinson from The Poems of Emily Dickinson. It captures the case for reading Gladys is building:

Actual illustrations from various books such as Mary Poppins and Charlotte’s Web, for example, delight our eyes every few pages. They are wonderful windows into these many books!

Gladys’ book for women, “Honey for a Woman’s Heart:  Growing Your World through Reading Great Books,” is equally filled with a wealth of information.  She opens with this from Mark Twain:

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between the lightning and the lightning bug.”

Then we get FOUR reasons we need to dive into this book, the fourth of which is my favorite:

“Fourth, expect books to become ‘ministers’ to your life, to say to you what you need to hear…The books recommended in the chapter on spiritual growth and the ideas for taking the Bible seriously could start a personal revolution!”

Every two to three pages, Gladys has little gray boxes with “extra” interesting topics such as:  “Children’s books I read at adult dinner parties”, “Books that inspire courage in Me” , “Books that touched every sense of my being,” and “Books that propelled me forward on my journey with God,” just for starters.

Don’t miss Chapter 7:  “Honey from the Rock:  Reading the Bible.”  Her love for the Lord is positively contagious and you’ll learn about so many books you probably didn’t know about!  I howled out loud at this recommendation:  The Bible for Blockheads by Douglas Connelly.  Here’s Gladys’ synopsis:  “In the kindest way, Connelly helps increase the reader’s biblical understanding.”

I’m making a list, or two, or ten, of books that sound like must-reads.  I’ll head to the library and see if I can’t look at them first before I jump in and buy them.

When I was corresponding with author Kay Swatkowski about her book, A Grandmother’s Prayers, that I recently wrote about, she told me she used Gladys’ books with her own children and when she was a teacher. She added, “I’m a firm believer that good literature is one of the best teachers for children!”

Here are two more books by Gladys and Barbara Hampton:

Read for Your Life:  Turning Teens into Readers

Honey for a Teen’s Heart

Now you know what I’m about to say, “Run, don’t walk, to your nearest library or bookstore and grab these books!  They’re worth telling all your friends about!”

‘Til next time!

 

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the page above are “affiliate links.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews, children's books, Family, Grandchildren

Christmas Gift Ideas – Gift Idea #2 of 4: This is for your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews…

Friends!  Please allow me to share another Christmas gift idea. This one is for your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, or neighbors and especially if you hail from Kentucky…

I met a lovely author at the Kentucky Book Festival last month thanks to our daughter-in-love, Lauren, who discovered her.  Her name is Evelyn B. Christensen.  One of many books she’s written is called The Twelve Days of Christmas in Kentucky. (It was chosen to represent Kentucky at the 2017 National Book Festival in Washington, D.C.)

Much to my delight, not only does this fun book offer loads of information about our state, children and adults will learn a LOT about the Commonwealth of Kentucky.  Literally the wealth of information you’ll gain will astonish you.

Many of you know our family has exploded this year with three wee bairns arriving:  Ford in March, Henry in April and Charlotte in August.  One of many delightful discoveries in The Twelve Days of Christmas in Kentucky is the interaction between Marybeth and her cousin Martin.

Naturally, reading about the cousins with our now four grand angels, who are all cousins, got Lauren and me so excited.  Evelyn’s book comes in two types of editions:  a board book (which I scooped up for all the cousins, shhhh, don’t tell) and a regular slick paper edition for older ones.

We readers get to travel all over the state, learning as we go about the state bird, the cardinal, and the state tree, the tulip poplar, just for starters.  We go to the Louisville Zoo, Mammoth Cave, the National Corvette Museum, Louisville Slugger Museum, a coal mining museum, the Kentucky Horse Park and many more fun stops.

 

Evelyn’s description on the back of her book gives us its plot:  “Marybeth is so excited about cousin Martin coming for a Kentucky visit that she gives him one VERY unusual gift on each of the twelve days of Christmas. As the days pass and the gifts pile up, Martin writes lively letters home to tell his mom and dad all about this trip.”

Illustrations by Kent Culotta are most appealing to the eye and fun to look at on each page.  His details will delight readers of all ages.

Our Lauren suggested we take all the cousins to many of these destinations together as a family.  What a fun goal to have!  Be thinking of your relatives and friends who would enjoy this book…

Finally, don’t miss other books by Evelyn. She’s a master at creating puzzles and she includes new ones each week to try out on her website which is a tremendous resource for us parents and grandparents:  www.evelynchristensen.com

This book, Mensa for Kids:  Fun Puzzle Challenges, was also available at the Kentucky Book Festival. Mensa actually asked Evelyn to create this book!

Finally, I love how Evelyn shares her faith with us on her website, telling us she learned over the years God had gifted her with a mind to create these puzzles to teach children fun ways to learn math skills.  She teaches us learning can be fun and not a chore.

She credits a study her small group was doing by John Ortberg called If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat.  She said that was the turning point for her with her writing, realizing God had given her these gifts to share.

Run, don’t walk, to your nearest bookstore and GRAB The Twelve Days of Christmas in Kentucky!  Your family and friends will love it!

‘Til next time!

5 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews, children's books, Grandchildren

When You Get a Handle on Handel: Discover Telltale Facts About Trees, Thanks to Dr. Matthew Sleeth

Friends! May I ask you a couple of questions?  When was the last time you sat under a tree simply to rest and reflect or, perhaps to take a nap?

Have you ever bought a tree purely because of a favorite memory?

Have you ever bought a tree to commemorate or celebrate a life?

In a group of almost 20 friends yesterday, they answered these questions in the affirmative on all levels.  I was right there with them.

There was a huge weeping willow on UK’s Campus when John and I were students there.  We loved sitting under it in between classes.  Time stood still while hearts hovered over our heads.

Fast forward to our current home. A few years ago, we purchased and planted a lovely weeping willow for our front yard. It greets us every time we pull in the driveway.  It, accompanied by now blooming dogwoods, are quite the tranquil sight to see.

I’m blessed to call author Dr. Matthew Sleeth and his lovely wife, Nancy, dear friends and mentors.  They popped into our lives thanks to my friend, Sherry Leavell’s daughter, Laura, who used to work for them.  God was beyond gracious when He crossed our paths.

Matthew has just birthed a fascinating book that’s already a best-seller on Amazon, he’s being interviewed on places like NPR, Fox News,  has written an article for Christianity Today  and The Washington Post, just to name a few. News of his book is spreading FAST.

One of Matthew’s many endorsers, Karen Swallow Prior, author of On Reading Well:  Finding the Good Life Through Great Books and Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah Moore:  Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist, says of Matthew’s book, “I never knew until reading Reforesting Faith how bountiful and significant trees are in God’s story of the creation, the Fall, and redemption. This book has deepened my love for God’s Word and His world even more.”

Matthew begins by sharing his early love of trees with us.  I suspect many of us resonate with him.

He poses an interesting question:  “What can trees teach us?  Specifically, what can trees teach us about the nature of God and His love for us?”

We learn:

Matthew takes us on a journey via thirteen chapters of his book, showing us how “every important character in the Bible and every major event in the Bible has a tree marking the spot.”  I’d never made this connection before.  You will drop your jaw as you see time and time again where God meets your favorite characters by a tree of sorts.

You will also laugh your head off in every chapter.  Matthew’s transparency and wit bless you on this journey.

His medical background enhances our understanding of the Gospel as revealed in the Bible, giving us visuals we can understand.  Same can be said for his background in carpentry.  Don’t miss chapter twelve.  Funniest story I can recall.

It’s not just a book of humor, however.  The fascinating facts about trees and how they correlate to the Gospel, and ultimately to us as believers, are nothing short of beautiful.  To see our God in action, in minute details, will blow you away.

Let me give you a couple of the numerous examples we readers receive:

“In the Old Testament,

Noah received the olive leaf (Genesis 8:11)
Abraham sat under ‘the Oaks of Mamre’ (Genesis 18:1)
Moses stood barefoot in front of the burning bush (Exodus 3:2-5)
Joseph simply is a tree! (Genesis 49:22)”

Now let’s look at the New Testament:

“Think of Zacheus climbing the sycamore fig (Luke 19:1-4)
The blind man seeing people as if they were trees walking (Mark 8:24),
The disciples gathering on the Mount of Olives (Luke 22:39).
Paul asserted if we have gone for a walk in the woods, we are without excuse for knowing God.” (Romans 1:20),

And, my absolute favorite illustration from Scripture:

Yes, Lord, may it be so.

Something happened in Matthew’s life which also happened in one of my dear friend’s life, which I suspect if you reflect back over your own life, you can pinpoint the same.

Let me explain. Before you came to faith, if you’re a believer, you may have heard Scripture, or a song, or read something about the Lord but it went in one ear and out the other.  You had “spiritual blinders” on.  And yet you can pinpoint the exact moment when you had an “aha” moment, when the light bulb blasted on and your eyes were opened. Think of Saul-turned-Paul on the Road to Damascus in the Bible. (See Acts 9,)

This happened to Matthew the summer before he started med school. He was doing some carpentry work in the home of a psychiatrist who had a fabulous stereo system.  The doctor played an album for him which stopped Matthew in his tracks.

Matthew said, “I heard trees and people singing together, and it was perfect. Maples were prominent among the trees represented. But spruce, ebony, willow, boxwood, and rosewood trees sang along too, and none tried to eclipse the others.”

Asking the doctor why it sounded so good, the doctor answered, “I think, among other things, it’s because they are using a dozen Stradivarius, Guarneri, and Amati instruments and they’re performing it the way it was originally played.”

We readers discover they were listening to Handel’s Messiah.  The version they were listening to was one “by the late Christopher Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music.”  Matthew adds, “and if you think the trees can’t sing, give it a listen.”

Matthew listened to this over and over, never considering the lyrics for thirty years, “until the hour I believed. Then I cried. I sobbed. I wailed. I grinned in delight. And I cried again.”

When I read this, I about fell out of my chair.  You see, my dear friend, Nancy Aguiar, had an identical experience.  I can’t remember milk at the grocery store these days, but stories rarely leave me.  Check this out:

When Nancy was in the 12th grade, she attended Frankfurt International School in Oberursel, Germany. (1970) In choir, she and her fellow students had months of preparation for this magnificent piece known as Handel’s Messiah.

Every day, day after day, they sang the glorious lyrics of Handel’s masterpiece, making certain they were all singing in their correct parts of harmony.

Nancy said, “It is a beautifully written score, it was a beautiful experience with a passionate doctor leading us (Dr. Morgenstern), with hands flailing, voices reaching way past the highest rafters, hearts beating rapidly…and yet I had no capacity to embrace what it was we were singing!  Just words to me!  No concept!”

She continued, “And NOW? Every single time I hear that amazing work, I sing my part (quietly) and  cry! How deeply I love that song after I met Jesus in 1979.  Makes all the difference in the world! What an anointed piece of work!” Nancy also grasped a handle on Handel.

Might you have a story like this?

Sidebar:  A children’s book comes to mind that was given to us by our cousin Russ, when our boys were little.  It would be a fun way to educate your children or grandchildren on George Frederic Handel.  Check out Handel:  Who Knew What He Liked by M.T. Anderson and Kevin Hawkes.  Beautiful illustrations! Don’t miss the details from the book of Isaiah and Handel’s lyrics for The Messiah coming straight from it. (See chapter 10 in Matthew’s book.)

Let’s return to Reforesting Faith. So as not to spoil the many discoveries awaiting you, allow me to share just one more pearl.  Speaking of pearls, did you know Jesus only referred to one gem in the Bible and it is a pearl?

Matthew teaches, “It’s no accident this gem is made naturally of both inorganic and organic material..we’re told the gates to heaven are made of this hybrid material.”

We then learn that in the same way, a fig “is the only fruit that’s made of both plant and animal.” It, too, is an “odd hybrid.”

When we see in Scripture the lion and the lamb lying down together (Isaiah 11:6 and Revelation 21:1-6)  or Moses’ burning bush, there’s yet one more combo’ Matthew reminds us of, that of “dead wood and lamb’s blood.”

He says, “In the hybrid world, nothing is as powerful as this combination. When the two were combined on a doorway at Passover, the lambs’ blood sealed the door shut. The angel of death could not get through such a door, and the people inside were ‘passed over’ and saved.”   This, in chapter twelve, is the beginning of yet another crescendo of facts and explanations that keep building until you finish the last page in chapter thirteen.  I can hardly wait to fill our family in on this!

Matthew also shares about a wonderful ministry called Plant with Purpose.  (Website:  www.plantwithpurpose.org) It aims to equip farming families around the to world to increase farm yields, heal damaged ecosystems, improve nutrition, and. Increase household savings and opportunities.  This integrated approach solves two major issues facing the world today:  environmental degradation and rural poverty.

Reforesting Faith is an eye-opening read.  Whether you’re a tree lover or not, you’ll become one and further your appreciation for God’s Word, His details and why He wants us to be like a fruitful tree.  Matthew ends with, “Grow, make the world better, and bear fruit.”  May it be so.

And now you know what I’m going to say:  Run, don’t walk to your nearest bookstore and buy this book!

‘Til next time!

 

Comments Off on When You Get a Handle on Handel: Discover Telltale Facts About Trees, Thanks to Dr. Matthew Sleeth

Filed under Book Reviews, children's books, Friends

Humans Go on Summer Vacation, Can Goldfish??? (Check out this new book by Sally Lloyd Jones!)

Friends! I’ve got a mini-vacation for you even if you’re not vacationing anywhere any time soon.  After this discovery, you’ll feel as if you’ve been to New York City on a summer vacation…no foolin’.

Author Sally Lloyd Jones has created an adorable children’s book which she says is a “completely true made-up story,” as parts are true, parts are amazing U.S. history, which history buffs will chew on, and the characters represent Sally’s relatives, however they live in England, not in New York City. Us adults will be charmed as well.

The book?  Goldfish on Vacation

I predict those of you anywhere close to NYC will go hunting for this fountain we’re about to learn about. I will for certain next time we visit.

Once again, I learned of this book thanks to Eric Metaxas on his radio show, www.metaxastalk.com This particular show aired 5/3/18. You don’t want to miss Sally and Eric’s banter, how this book came to be, plus her adorable accent.  (She’s the very same author who penned The Jesus Storybook Bible among many other books.)

Goldfish on Vacation opens with three children, “H, Little O, and Baby Em,” proud owners of three goldfish, “Barracuda, Patch, and Fiss.” The children go round and round in their New York City apartment just like the goldfish go round and round in their bowl. Not such a fun way to start your summer vacation.  Stuck.

At the end of the street where the children live, there’s an old, abandoned fountain which in its day was a place for horses to drink from…until cars were invented.

Because of the cars, folks no longer needed horses and the fountain became overgrown, abandoned, and a place for people to dump trash, sadly.

But, a curious thing happens. To the children’s great discovery, a sign is posted one day at the nearby Hamilton Fountain Water Garden:

“COMING IN TWO WEEKS! CALLING ALL GOLDFISH LOOKING FOR A SUMMER HOME!”

Out of the blue, a man begins cleaning up the fountain, restoring it, complete with plants such as lily pads, suitable for a LOT of goldfish to inhabit. The children’s Grandpa marks their calendar accordingly.

The fourteen days fly by and before they know what’s happening, the children can no longer see the man working on the fountain. It appears ALL the children living close by have arrived with their goldfish, swimming in their bowls, more than ready to let them have their own summer vacation.

Let me pause here to say the illustrator, Leo Espinosa, brilliantly captures the  plot of this story, offering the reader of any age to delight at the wonders on every page. (www.studioespinosa.com) You can see and feel the excitement of all the characters!

Scores of parents, grandparents, and children all become friends because of their goldfish. Fever pitch jumping up and down, in and out of the fountain ensues, and suddenly, summer’s over and school’s about to begin.

You may wonder HOW H, Little O, and Baby M get EXACTLY Barracuda, Patch and Fiss back home. Ah, my friend, you must read the book to find out.  You’ll be grinning ear to ear.

If by chance you live in NYC or near, head to Riverside Drive and 76th Street. You’ll find the real-live Hamilton Fountain which is named after Robert Ray Hamilton (who lived from 1850-1890).  He gave the fountain to New York and believe it or not, he just happens to be the great-grandson of one of our founding fathers of the United Sates:  Alexander Hamilton. Don’t you history buffs just love that?

Sally tells us a man by the name of Brad, who’s a volunteer for the Riverside Park Conservancy is who cleaned up the fountain.  Bravo, Brad! Thanks also goes to someone who gave money for the fountain to be restored in 2009.

Run, don’t walk to your nearest bookstore and grab Goldfish on Vacation.

You’re welcome.

Smile.

‘Til next time!

 

1 Comment

Filed under Book Reviews, children's books, Grandchildren