Marie Durand by Simonetta Carr (Christian Biographies for Young Readers) ~Review

Marie Durand by Simonetta Carr

Marie Durand spent hours in prison writing letters of encouragement and spiritual wisdom.

Marie Durand spent hours in prison writing letters of encouragement and spiritual wisdom.

When I was teaching young children, I often explained to them that if they wanted a glimpse of the future, they should look into the past and learn from it. History is such a large slice of the pie called the past that we who are teachers, parents, and leaders need to carefully select which slices to learn from. For those of us who are Christians, we additionally choose to direct our young charges toward histories that reflect as much about God’s nature and character as they do about the people they are reading about. That is what this children’s biography series does.

Not only does the author introduce her readers to a Christian family in France from about 400 years ago, we learn much about God and a particular slice of French history. Mrs. Carr skillfully weaves her tale so well that we easily feel empathy for all of Marie Durand’s family as they face one challenge after another, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Teaching children while in prison

Teaching children while in prison

The era was long after the inception of the Protestant Reformation, but before “The Age of Enlightenment” as some modern history books call it. Marie Durand was born into a world where the ability to worship God according to their consciences was illegal. Parents had to make compromises to live in peace. Marie had an older brother, Pierre, who loved the Lord in spite of his public education. When he became an adult, he decided to become a Protestant pastor. It was a risky decision because his illegal activities put his entire family in danger of being imprisoned. One day a spy in the congregation informed the authorities of his activities. Because the home where he conducted worship services belonged to his mother, she was arrested and sent to prison. She died there seven years later. Marie was only seven years old. Pierre escaped to Switzerland where he sought further education and training to become a pastor.

Several years later, soldiers raided the Durand home where they found hidden Bibles, hymnals and their father’s diaries. The government used these as evidence of Pierre’s crimes. They arrested Marie and Pierre’s father because he was related to a criminal. He was sent to prison where he stayed for a long time. Marie was left alone at the family estate when she was only 17. Shortly after that, she became engaged to a family friend. They only enjoyed their engagement for a few months before they were both arrested and sent to separate prisons, again for being related to Pierre. The remainder of this 64-page book focuses on the thirty-eight years Marie spent in the Prison of Constance. It was there that her numerous letters guided and encouraged the hearts of many Christians, including her family in exile and family in prison.

Opening the copy of the book I was to review, I was immediately impressed with the physical quality. It is of legacy quality construction in the way it is bound. The pages are sturdy, glossy, thick, and smooth to the touch. This book is a great addition to any child’s book library. The author, Simonetta Carr, partnered with illustrator Matt Abraxas whose oils fit the time period they portray. All the illustrations he contributed to this book depict incidences of deeply emotional moments and personal relationships. It’s the type of art I would want my children or grandchildren to spend time with and learn from.

A faint chance of being released

A faint chance of being released

While this is a children’s picture book, young readers would appreciate the story line, the extra information the photographs offer, the timeline of events laid out in the final portion of the book, the pronunciation key of terms and important names mentioned on the pages. The author also provides a copy of a letter Marie wrote to her niece while she was still in prison and some fascinating historical background that influenced the story line.

Finally, Mrs. Carr’s writing style makes this piece of history come alive for the parent, the reader, the listener, the visual learner, the art enthusiast, and the teacher. It is a flexible book which fits many needs. I highly recommend it for its educational value and for personal pleasure.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Cross Focused Reviews (A Service of Cross Focused Media, LLC) on behalf of Reformation Heritage Books. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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The One O’ Clock Miracle by Alison Mitchell and Catalina Echeverri ~Review~

The One O’ Clock Miracle by Alison Mitchell and Catalina Echeverri

The One O' Clock Miracle

“At The Good Book Company, we are dedicated to helping individual Christians and local churches grow. We believe that God’s growth process always starts with hearing clearly what He has said to us through His timeless word — the Bible.”

This is the third book I have read and reviewed by Catalina Echeverri and the second written by Alison Mitchell. One of the basic reasons I like these books by this team is because of my view of teaching young children, based on my experience as a children’s ministry worker. It seems we are seeing children at younger and younger ages willing to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. They are more jaded at younger ages…less receptive to God’s truth. For young parents, these books are wonderful for introducing key biblical concepts at an early age.

The One O' Clock Miracle pic2

An example of the simple concepts needed is expressed in A Christmas Promise. God keeps His promises. Many stories in the New and Old Testament illustrate this truth. We all need to be reminded that this is proof of God’s loving and just nature. In the book, Alby’s Amazing Book, these authors introduce young children to the exciting variety of stories you can find in the Bible. It’s only a dry book if we make it a dry book. The One O’ Clock Miracle follows this tradition by allowing children to understand that we can trust Jesus’ words. The story is based on John 4:46-54. “It is one of seven miracles that John writes about. At the end of his book, John tells us that the miracles are like signposts pointing to Jesus. They show us who Jesus is–that he is the Son of God, and God’s promised Rescuer King (the Christ). You can read this in John 20:30-31.”

The Good Book Company is a growing book publisher. I have read many of their books and been impressed with their desire to reach a young world in a fresh manner. You can view their statement of faith here. I hope they are considering stories of the other miracles of Jesus in the future. I highly recommend you check out the books they offer now, including The One O’ Clock Miracle.

The One O' Clock Miracle pic1All the comments I have made for the other books by these authors is true for this one. The illustrations are simple and whimsical. The story is told in all its simplicity and earnestness in a way that will delight your children. When the man returns, the children won’t be able to miss the joy he feels when his son is healed. Children remember best how a story makes them feel. So the result of a man who trusts in Jesus’ words is unforgettable. It is the same way in life when we see God working right in front of us, around us and within us.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Cross Focused Reviews (A Service of Cross Focused Media, LLC) on behalf of The Good Book Company. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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The Littlest Christmas Kitten by Leona Novy Jackson Illustrated by Kelly Dupre ~Review~

The Littlest Christmas Kitten by Leona Novy Jackson Illustrated by Kelly Dupre

Littlest Christmas Kitten

The Littlest Christmas Kitten is a child’s picture book which emphasizes the brief moments in a stable where something special happened–a baby was born–and only the animals were there to witness the event.

The illustrations done by Kelly Dupre reminded me of other picture books I’ve seen with a wood cut motif. Black is used as a contrasting outline color to the watercolor earth tones of the scenes. The cartoon-like drawings are light-hearted enough to catch a child’s eye. They are simple yet convey a great deal of emotion as the events unfold. The children reading this book would easily identify with the mother cat while she hunts for her missing kitten. In the meantime, the book successfully communicates the cozy atmosphere of the humble stable into which the Christ child was born. Without expressing the idea in words, the reader senses the anticipation of a few moments frozen in time: the tableau of the first Christmas.

Littlest Christmas kitten quote1

The most interesting part of the book for the adults is the section after the story which tell the story of the meaning of Christmas symbols, including the tradition of Christmas cats. This part is a great reminder to parents and grandparents and other caregivers to teach our children the true message of Christmas, that Jesus came to earth for a reason.

I highly recommend this picture book for your collection of Christmas related stories.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book from Book Crash on behalf of the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Kobee Manatee: Heading Home to Florida written by Robert Scott Thayer Illustrated by Lauren Gallegos; Little Ray books by V.R. Duin ~ Reviews~

Kobee Manatee: Heading Home to Florida written by Robert Scott Thayer and Illustrated by Lauren Gallegos

Kobee Manatee

Kobee Manatee by Robert Scott Thayer is a children’s picture book written with a purpose. This 34- page richly illustrated book tells us important facts about the manatee that normally lives off the warm coastlands south of the US. Kobee is a West Indian Manatee, although they are called Florida manatees as well. In the fiction portion of the book, Kobee has gone up to northern waters for the summer. But when it gets a bit colder in September, he is ready to head on south for the winter.

On his way back home to Blue Spring State Park, Florida, Kobee meets up with a seahorse and a hermit crab, Tess and Pablo. They travel together to the warmer climate and experience a few adventures while we learn all about manatees with the use of little notes called “Kobee’s Fun Facts.”

Kobee Manatee back cover

The illustrations by Lauren Gallegos are warm, friendly and vivid. They create an inviting atmosphere for Kobee’s good-hearted personality. Young children will love the gorgeous pages with the deep blue color of the northern waters and the lively sea green of the southern and warmer waters. Fantasy and fact meet amicably in this work of art.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from NetGalley, on behalf of Thompson Mill Press. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Amazing Flight of Little Ray

The Amazing Flight of Little Ray by V.R. Duin

What happens when a critter asks itself, “Why can’t I?” This is a great story for those of us who are parents, grandparents, or teachers of little ones who sometimes ask us, “Why can’t I?” One day, our friend, Little Ray does just that. He wants to do something more…he wants to fly like a bird. His wise but worried mother doesn’t say a thing as he sets out to try his “wings” over and over. She knows some lessons in life are best learned through experience. Then poor Little Ray has a mishap with the very creature he wants to emulate. But he has a secret that he knows will solve his problem and he escapes without injury. While he plunges down toward his wet and sandy home, he becomes so thankful for the safety of the shallows off the coast. But even in his relief to escape, he still wants to try his “wings” again…sometime.

What can we learn from this whimsical story? It’s OK to try something new. It’s OK to fail and try again. It takes time and experience to learn what is
realistic to aim for and what is not. Some of our experiences in life tell us what our limitations are. Others encourage us to take a risk and aim higher. And it’s up to us help our children find a balance between learning from experience and learning from the experience of others.

I think children of pre-reading age will love this book read to them. The pictures are bright and cheerful, and will help to draw them into the story.

Little Ray’s reading trailer

Author’s website

Little Ray and Shark Patch Things Up by V.R. Duin

Solving problems is a very important skill for children to learn. Little Ray turns tense to fun. I found this to be a delightful story. It is written in the type of rhyme that has rhythm. It wouldn’t take much for the children to chime in. I know my own children loved meter as well as rhyme. As a former teacher, I immediately thought of many ways to incorporate this story into some lesson plans. It’s a great launch piece and you could move right into a lesson pointing out how inaccurate first impressions can be. Another lesson would be on cooperation in solving problems. Little Ray and the shark worked together to solve the problem. Everyone deserves second chances. The shark wasn’t such a bad guy after all. And so on. The illustrations are bright and cheerful and whimsical. They are going to catch your child’s eye.

Little Ray website

link to other books by V.R. Duin

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God’s Great Plan by Melissa Cutrera ~ A Review

God’s Great Plan by Melissa Cutrera and Illustrated by Matthew Sample II

“He’s praying for us and preparing a place
Where we’ll live forever with the God of all grace.”

Gods great plan
God’s Great Plan by Melissa Cutrera is a beautifully written picture book for young children. The illustrations by Matthew Sample II are vivid, detailed and full of meaning. They convey a sense of darkness when discussing the origin of sin, then warmth and comfort when you read about Jesus’ life and purpose. The author’s powerfully simple rhyming couplets communicate the heart of the gospel message from the beginning in the Garden of Eden to Christ’s resurrection.

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Grandparents sit up and take notice. Aunts and uncles, friends and family, I have a gift idea for you. Share this gorgeous picture book with them. When you want to tell the basic simple outline for God’s wonderful plan for man, begin when they are young. Knowing that nothing in life is left up to chance endows our little ones with a sense of purpose and security. Knowing they are loved and cherished not only by their family but also by God and that they play a part in His plan is one of the greatest gifts we can bestow on them. This book communicates the message to our children and grandchildren lovingly and effectively. I know I will enjoy reading this to my grandchildren some day.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Shepherd Press and Cross Focused Reviews (A Service of Cross Focused Media, LLC). I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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.