Reviewing Some Children’s Books ~~ Part 2

clipartreading 1I’m one of these old school former teachers who believes that children’s books should have a purpose to them. I’m not really talking about formal lessons per se, but there should be something to appreciate in what children read. That might be a great story line, great illustrations to help us capture a dream or an idea, characters you just have to love, good character development, great setting, and so on. I’ve even changed my mind about some types of children’s books I’ve questioned in the past because of the good they brought about. I’m not trying to stand in judgement of children’s literature, but time with them is so precious that I hate to waste it on fluff.

In the following series I found an author who wrote with very important purpose. She was trying to prepare our children for social events in their lives. And yes, this particular series teaches a lesson. These are also secular books, but I think you’ll see how valuable these lessons are.

1.  A Help Me Be Good Book About Teasing by Joy Berry

Help me to be good about teasing

Joy Berry has written several series of picture books that deal with social behavior for children. The Help Me Be Good books seem to be written for preschool and kindergarten age children. They are written in cartoon form, almost like a comic book, with visual examples of the “rule” being taught. If you are familiar with the Highlights magazine for children, sometimes the cartoons take after the Goofus and Gallant series. One person demonstrates how it shouldn’t be done, and the other models the desirable behavior. The pictures are colorful and simple enough to get the point across. They are reminiscent of the Magic School Bus books where other side characters make funny remarks about what’s going on.

Ms. Berry explains her rationale behind these series. “Children have the ability to be good, and they are often eager to please. However, they often don’t understand their own egocentric or self-centered behavior. This self-centeredness often leads to misbehavior, and the misbehavior often leads to negative responses from others. The purpose of the Help Me Be Good books is to help your child break the cycle of negative action and reaction. Your child will learn how to replace misbehavior with acceptible behavior.”

In this book about teasing, T.J. teases his younger sister, Tami. The lessons teach her how to deal with her brother’s poor behavior. Other books in this series are about: Disobeying, Being Bossy, Accepting No, Throwing Tantrums, and Being Forgetful…to name a few.

I have found the philosophy of replacing bad behavior with good behavior is a good workable solution. Not every method is perfect, nor is it guaranteed to work all the time, but in my experience good discipline (not punishment) includes positive training. The key is to be persistent. I believe these books are a great tool for parents to use with younger children. I am especially impressed with the scope of topics covered in this series.

2.  How to Have Good Table Manners (A Survival Skills Book) by Joy Berry

Good Table Manners

Joy Berry has written several series of picture books that deal with social behavior for children. The Survival Skills series is written for 5 to 8 year-old children and covers a wide variety of common topics such as table manners, talking on the phone, being a good guest, how to behave in public, how to handle emergencies and so on. They are written in cartoon form, almost like a comic book, with visual examples of the “rule” being taught. If you are familiar with the Highlights magazine for children, sometimes the cartoons take after the Goofus and Gallant series. One person demonstrates how it shouldn’t be done, and the other models the desirable behavior. The pictures are colorful and simple enough to get the point across. They are reminiscent of the Magic School Bus books where other side characters make funny remarks about what’s going on.

In this book, Pamela asks Maggie to come over to dinner at her home. Pamela is setting a good example while Maggie is a mess. Her antics are comical but a little disturbing to the other people sitting at the table with her. The approach the book uses is to help someone who is baffled when they are told to be gracious at the dinner table. The first half of the book explains that gracious means thinking of others and that good manners are a way to be thoughtful; she then demonstrates how the rules apply. In the second half of the book, it covers in detail the pieces in a proper place setting of dishes, bowls, glasses, cups, napkins and flatware. Other topics include cutting your food, passing dishes to others, use of utensils, removing something discreetly from your mouth, placement of silverware when finished, how to excuse yourself from the table, and how to treat your hosts.

“The more you practice good table manners, the more natural they will become to you and the more you and others will enjoy mealtimes together.” I think that it is best to use a book like this to explore this topic first as preventative skills rather than bringing the book out after a problem has occurred. It can be approached as a “coming of age” skill to be mastered before their first visit to a friend’s home. A child that is dealing with hurt feelings, shame, or embarrassment has a more difficult time learning these skills after the fact because they often get defensive. I highly recommend this valuable book and series.

3.  How to Say the Right Thing (A Survival Skills book) by Joy Berry

Say the Right Thing

Joy Berry has written several series of picture books that deal with social behavior for children. The Survival Skills series is written for 6 to 8 year-old children and covers a wide variety of common topics such as table manners, talking on the phone, being a good guest, how to behave in public, how to handle emergencies, how to go to bed, how to clean your room, how to be kind to your guest, how to make your breakfast and lunch, how to take care of your clothes, and so on. They are written in cartoon form, almost like a comic book, with visual examples of the “rule” being taught. If you are familiar with the Highlights magazine for children, sometimes the cartoons take after the Goofus and Gallant series. One person demonstrates how it shouldn’t be done, and the other models the desirable behavior. The pictures are colorful and simple enough to get the point across. They are reminiscent of the Magic School Bus books where other side characters make funny remarks about what’s going on.

Ms. Berry explains what this book sets out to accomplish: “When you talk with other people, you need to know about
*handling introductions
*handling conversations
*acknowledging compliments and gifts
*making and accepting apologies
*saying no
*excusing yourself.”

The book is about Pamela when she meets and greets friends and acquaintances. Then Arnold comes along and again you have the Goofus and Gallant scenario where friends interact among themselves. Pamela models proper conversational skills and Arnold displays disruptive or rude behaviors. Other lessons include being gracious when people ask you questions and friendship skills.

I find that it is best to introduce these topics first as preventative skills rather than bringing the book out after a problem has occurred. A child that is dealing with hurt feelings, shame, or embarrassment has a more difficult time learning these skills because they often get defensive.

“The most important thing to remember when you are with other people is this: Treat other people the way you want to be treated. If you follow this guideline, you will usually end up saying the right thing.”

4.  Every Kid’s Guide to Making Friends (A Living Skills Book) by Joy Berry

friends

Joy Berry has written several series of graphic/picture books that deal with social behavior for children and young people. The Living Skills series seems to be written for children 8 to 10 years old. Other books in the series includes: Every Kid’s Guide to Nutrition and Health, Every Kid’s Guide to Handling Disagreements, Every Kid’s Guide to Handling Family Arguments, Every Kid’s Guide to Laws that Relate to Kids in the Community, Every Kid’s Guide to Intelligent Spending, Every Kid’s Guide to Good Manners, Every Kid’s Guide to Making and Managing Money, Every Kid’s Guide to Being Special, Every Kid’s Guide to Handling Fights with Brothers or Sisters, Every Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Prejudice and Discrimination, Every Kid’s Guide to Laws that Relate to School and Work, Every Kid’s Guide to Handling Illness, Every Kid’s Guide to Understanding Nightmares, Every Kid’s Guide to Laws that Relate to Parents and Children, Every Kid’s Guide to Decision Making and Problem Solving, and more.

The graphics in the book are very much like The Magic School Bus series. Little animal characters at the bottom of the page make humorous comments to each other while the kids above them interact with each other. The lessons are fast paced and short. The graphics are bright, simple and succinct, and the guidelines are something even adults should practice every day.

Ms. Berry explains what this book sets out to accomplish: “In Every Kid’s Guide to Making Friends, you will learn about
*friends
*guidelines for making friends
*guidelines for keeping friends
*the importance of having friends.”

I especially agree with one of her concluding statements about friendship. “Friends don’t just happen. It takes work to create a friendship. However, the good things you do to make friends are worthwhile because friends make life more interesting. Friends can also help make you happy.” I agree. It’s important that our young people know that good things are worth working for.

I find that it is best to introduce these topics first as preventative skills rather than bringing the book out after a problem has occurred. A child that is dealing with hurt feelings, shame, or embarrassment has a more difficult time learning these skills because they often feel defensive and put up walls.

5.  You Can Be a Star! (A Winning Skills Book) by Joy Berry

be a star

Joy Berry has written several series of graphic/picture books that deal with social behavior for children and young people. The Winning Skills Books series seems to be written with middle school age children in mind–the fifth through eighth grades. I’m sure depending on the maturity of the child, third and fourth grade young people could also benefit from this series. Some of the books I’ve found in this series include: You Can Overcome Fear, You Can Be Assertive, You Can Handle Criticism and Rejection, You Can Handle Rude People, You Can Be a Winner, You Can Handle Stress, You Can Have a Great Future, You Can Get Rid of Bad Habits, You Can Be Liked, You Can Be Beautiful, You Can Handle Tough Situations, You Can Attain Your Goals, You Can Get Organized, You Can Be Creative, You Can Be Smart, You Can Be in Control, You Can Be Happy, and others.

The graphics in the book are black and white pencil drawings in comic book fashion (not superheros). The young people in the cartoons are a little older than middle school age in appearance. The lessons are relevant to young people and short in length. The graphics are simple and succinct, and the guidelines are something even adults should practice every day.

The first half of the book explains famous, infamous, and the characteristics of being a star. Stars are usually respected, appreciated, receive special attention, and recognized by others. Some are little known and some are well-known. A star has the ability to affect others in a positive or negative way. There are advantages and disadvantages to being a star. Most people want the advantages of being a star because they want to be respected, appreciated, recognized and receive special attention. The author talks about balance, give and take, and fulfilling our purpose in this world. “People are healthiest and happiest when they are fulfilling their purpose.”

The second half of the book gives attention to how a person can fulfill their purpose by honing their skills and finding and using their talents. The author talks about using those talents as a young person and eventually segues into a discussion of goals and careers using these same talents and skills. “The focus needs to be on what you can give rather than on what you can receive out of life. If you concentrate on what you can give, you will make a contribution to the world of which you are a part, and this will make you a star.”

I find that it is best to introduce these topics first as preventative skills rather than bringing the book out after a problem has occurred. A young person that is dealing with hurt feelings, insecurities, shame, or embarrassment has a much more difficult time learning these skills after the fact because they often get defensive and put up walls.

I believe this series would be very helpful to parents of middle school age children and young people. I encourage the parents/guardians to include family discussion with the use of these books, especially when incorporating the value system the family espouses.

6.  Change and Moving by Joy Berry

change and moving

Joy Berry has written several series of graphic/picture books that deal with social behavior for children and young people. The Good Answers to Tough Questions Books is a series that appears to be geared toward Middle School age and Junior High age young people. Depending on the maturity of the young person, I believe upper elementary young people would benefit from the series as well, as long as there is good interaction with care-taking adults and/or loved ones. Some of the books I’ve found in this series include: Good Answers to Tough Questions about Death, Good Answers to Tough Questions about Divorce, Good Answers to Tough Questions about Traumatic Experiences (or Trauma), Dependence and Separation, Good Answers to Tough Questions about Disasters, Weight Problems and Eating Disorders, Step-families, Physical Disabilities, Good Answers to Tough Questions about Substance Abuse, Good Answers to Tough Questions about Moving, Good Answers to Tough Questions about Adoption, Good Answers to Tough Questions about First Time Experiences, Good Answers to Tough Questions about Learning Disabilities, Good Answers to Tough Questions about Mental Illness, Serious Illness, and others.

The graphics in this book are colorful and focus on students who appear to be middle school age. The lessons are relevant to young people and short in length. The graphics are simple and succinct, and the guidelines are something even adults should practice every day. Most of the material is conveyed in a dialogue format between students at school and a teacher in a classroom.

The first half of the book discusses different types of changes. They talk about how we react to change and what our choices are to the different types of change. “Although you can have control over many of the changes in your life, it is impossible for you to have complete control over all of them. This is especially true of unwanted changes. Unwanted changes are a natural part of every human being’s life.” The author concludes, “When you handle a change appropriately it has a positive effect on your life.” Then she explains how to handle circumstances appropriately.

The second half of the book discusses moving which is often perceived by some young people as an unwanted change. The author writes down how many react to a move, their fears and uncertainties. Then she offers several steps to take to handle these emotions. I think this advice is practical and workable if followed.

I find that it is best to introduce these kind of topics first as preventative skills rather than bringing the book out after a problem has occurred. A young person that is dealing with hurt feelings, insecurities, shame, or embarrassment has a much more difficult time learning these skills after the fact because they often get defensive and put up walls.

I believe this series would be very helpful to parents of middle school age children and young people. I encourage a person to include family discussion with the use of these books, especially when incorporating the value system the family espouses.

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Reviewing Some Children’s Books ~~ Part 1

I thought I would try something different today. Since September is back to school for many families, I am going to review some children’s books. There are quite a few genres represented, and several types of children’s books. The ones I review today are basically children’s picture books with an animal theme.

The first three are by James MayRose, an author who creates his children’s books with photography. His pictures are beautiful, attractive for children, up close and personal. He has a talent for capturing animals in winsome poses.

1. High Five: Caught on Camera by James MayRose

High Fivin Animals Caught on Camera

Children love picture books. They usually come in different types. This one is a picture book you sit to read to the little ones. This one features photographs of a variety of animals in comic poses, all as if they were offering a ‘high five’ to the viewer or another furry friend. With each picture is a caption that catches the moment and personifies it. Even a beluga whale gets into the act. “I see the ‘high’, but where’s the ‘five’ ?” Since this book is on a kindle, the pictures are alive and vibrant, and sure to entertain the little ones with the cute and the weird.

2.  Dear God…Twenty-six Very Short Prayers for Children (To Inspire and Make Them Smile) by James MayRose

Animal Prayers

My children always loved picture books when they were very young. This type of picture book is one where you sit down to read to them while looking at the various animal pictures. This book features photographs of many kinds of animals in poses that look like they are praying to God. Some of the captions accompanying the pictures are serious, and some are light-hearted; none are disrespectful. A mother monkey holds her little one close and prays, “God, thank you so much for my beautiful daughter. She is the love of my life. Please help me to do my best for her and raise her in Your image. Amen.” Children can learn so much about God when they hear prayers modeled for them. This book is on kindle, and the pictures are alive, warm and friendly. There’s a great variety of animals represented in this book.

3. In the Hands of God: 24 Message to Inspire You and Life Your Spirits by James MayRose

In the Hands of God

“In God’s hands we are all beautiful…
for God sees the prince inside every frog.
God helps us to see the inner beauty in all people and things.”

They say a pictures is worth a thousand words. In this picture book for children (of all ages), the theme is animals and hands. Many of the animals shown are in someone’s hands. The messages are short, usually 3-4 lines long, but powerful and important for our children. There’s one tiny message for each picture. My favorite image is two hands releasing a lovely white dove into the air. The photograph captures and essence of freedom and the bird stretches out his wings and takes flight. Having this book on the kindle shows off the photographs to their best advantage. You get a close up view of a lot of animals you normally wouldn’t see so close.

4.  The Singing Bobcat by Marie Tabler

the singing bobcat

Some children’s picture books are born out of a moment of experience and a good dose of “What if…?” The author of this book says this book was inspired by the mournful cry of a bobcat she heard while out jogging with her friend. The story of an unlikely friendship between a little blue chick and the bobcat was the result. For awhile, the friendship was sweet, but when winter began to approach, bobcat was sad because his friend had to leave and fly to warmer places. Children will enjoy what happens next.

Computer generated graphics, a rhyming scheme, and a satisfying ending give this charming story a light-hearted touch. Its message about friendship in the unlikeliest places is universal.

5. God Loves You and All the Bugs Too by Heather McBride

God Loves you and bugs

Technically, this is not really a children’s picture book nor is it a child’s read aloud book. It seems to be more like a children’s program, much like the Junior Church program my husband and I used to have with children while the adults were upstairs having worship services. The first half of the book is a grouping of children’s songs such as Jesus Loves Me, This Little Light of Mine, Angels Watching Over Me (this one I recognized from the Wee Sing Bible Songs book and tape/CD), and a couple other songs I wasn’t familiar with. [King of the Jungle: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJwUvjVq9k4%5D There are graphics inserted on some pages that are common stock pictures you can find easily on the internet. Then there are some Bible verses with a few more pictures.

The second half of the book contains the story. Again, it is not a fictional story with a plot line, characters and setting, but a basic pre-school lesson with Bible verses interspersed. The graphics are cute. There’s at least one on each page. You could sit down with a young child and read them this story as you would a picture book, although in my opinion, the graphics are too small to catch and hold their interest while you give the lesson.

For very little children, it would probably be best to divide the “story” into smaller chunks and focus on a particular point and its verses and a song or two. It would be preferable to take only 10 minutes at a time. The “story” would be too long to deliver as a stand up lesson in Pee Wee church all the way through.

This would make a good reference source for a children’s worker.

Review of Witness Men: True Stories of God at Work in Papua, Indonesia by Rebecca Davis

English: Today's sunset, Raja Ampat, West Papu...

English: Today’s sunset, Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Witness Men: True Stories of God at Work in Papua, Indonesia by Rebecca Davis

“While some of the missionaries studied in language school, an old Dani chief in his clan’s man hut reminded his sons that one day someone would come, a pale man, over the mountains, one who had discovered the secret of nabelan kabelan–forever life.”

This is a short 143-page chapter book written for children. It is Book 3 of the Hidden Heroes series. Each of the 15 chapters is only about 3-4 pages long, the perfect length for reading out loud to children. The reading level appears to me to be about fourth grade, although I think many third graders could read this as well. As a read aloud book, it would appeal to 7-year-olds on up. I know some adults would love to read this book as well. Having taught in Christian school, led devotions for children’s church, children’s choir, and done a few children’s moment devotions during church services, I know this book will be wonderful as a series to be read aloud at home or in children’s ministries. The chapters do build on each other, but not so much that one has to be read before others could be understood. A group of 3 or 4 stories could be read together. I mentioned to my husband a few days ago that I wish we had had this series of books available to us when we were working in children’s church together.

Location of Province of Papua in Indonesia

Location of Province of Papua in Indonesia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The focus for this book is a portion of the small island above Australia known as the Dutch New Guinea in the past and today as Papua, Indonesia. Many tribes lived there, speaking many languages and dialects. It wasn’t until a group of explorers flew over the area in 1938 and saw the huts in the valleys between mountain ranges that we even knew about the people. They were so isolated that the hundreds of thousands of people living in an area the size of Nebraska thought they were the only people in the world.

These are stories of a handful of missionaries and their first efforts to learn the language and speak to the people of the many tribes from the Bible to introduce them to Jesus and to free them from the fear that caused so much war between the tribes. As men and women accepted Jesus as their Savior, Witness Schools were established to teach the new believers how to share the gospel with their fellow tribesmen. The reader will find these stories fascinating as the gospel was shared using the culture’s own customs to help them understand how much God loves them.

Provincial flag of Papua province, Indonesia

Provincial flag of Papua province, Indonesia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At the back of the book, the author takes a moment to explain how she got started on her “treasure hunt” research project. The following chapter gives us the resources and books she used so the reader can also search for more information. The final section contains a scripture verse and a couple of discussion questions for each of the chapters of the book.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book! I think you and your children will too!

A complimentary review copy was provided to me by Cross Focused Reviews (A Service of Cross Focused Media, LLC) and Christian Focus Publications (www.ChristianFocus.com). I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

English: Papua Indonesia Flag

English: Papua Indonesia Flag (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bill Bright Shines for the Lord

Book Review:  Bill Bright: Dare to Be Different (by Kim Twitchell)

As a parent who loves the Lord Jesus Christ with all my heart, I wanted to share this love of Jesus with my children. One of the many ways I did was to read to them biographies, historical fiction and autobiographies of people who loved and served Him. I have such wonderful memories of us sitting on the couch together reading exciting books as a family. We had many library systems where we found an abundance of series and books, books on tape, and music  that helped us expand our universe of God’s heroes and the varying cultures, the histories and geography surrounding them and their circumstances, their art, literature and music.

Even now I am still an avid reader of children’s literature and I believe this biography about Bill Bright would be great reading for your children and/or grandchildren. The story is divided into two parts. The first is dedicated to telling Bill Bright’s childhood story and the development of his character. The author skillfully wraps you up in Bill’s world and you become his friend. The reading level for this portion of the book could easily fit with good readers in the second grade and up. If you are reading this book aloud, this should hold the interest of even 5-year-olds.

The second half of the book deals more with Bill’s adult life and spiritual development beginning, especially, when he was introduced to Jesus Christ. Once Bill accepted Christ as his Savior and Lord, his life was turned upside down and the unexpected began to happen. We read how miracles occurred around him, even in his courtship days with Vonette, his future wife. As a reader, I found this part of the book exciting and encouraging. I think reading this portion of the book aloud to the family would be the better option if you have very young children/grandchildren.

Logo of Campus Crusade for Christ's campus min...

Logo of Campus Crusade for Christ’s campus ministry. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bill Bright was the type of person to dream big, and this story tells you how God honored those dreams and brought to reality Bill’s desire to share Christ with the entire world. It began with the birth of the campus ministry called Campus Crusade for Christ (now known as CRU) and finally took form in the Jesus movie. Before reading this book, I had not connected this movie with Bill Bright. I could barely put the book down while reading how it was conceived, made and used by God to reach people with the Gospel. It was uplifting to read how Bill prayed for more than 30 years for a way to share this Good News with people in the country known then as the Soviet Union and to see how those prayers were answered.

I highly recommend this book whether you have children to share it with or not. It makes good reading for adults as well. Believers everywhere will find their faith reinforced as they read how Bill Bright learned to trust God explicitly.