The House Beyond The Congo Cross

Friday, September 30, 2011

Debby’s voice faltered. Her hands dropped limply to her side. There was no use pretending. She knew well enough both she and her mother were really prisoners now.

Book: The House Beyond The Congo Cross by Peggy Albrecht, Christian Literature Crusade, 1982
Genre: Realistic Fiction/Adventure
Target Audience: Girls 11-14
Subjects: Missions, Trust in God, Thankfulness
Summary: Debby liked living in Africa. At least she did back when she and her family lived in the quiet peaceful village. But now that they have moved to the city, she hates it. She hates the constant noise, the danger, the iron gates guarding their home and just about everything about this new home. Things just get worse when late one night, while Debby’s father is away, their home is invaded by strangers who have come to take over the house and keep Debby and her mother as prisoners within the house.
Notes: This is a story written by a former missionary to Africa for the purpose of showing people a picture of some of the things God does in the lives of those who serve Him on the mission field. In this book, Debby has to learn to put her trust in God even when it seems impossible. Her father puts up a plaque reminding her to give thanks in everything, but she has no desire to be thankful for anything about her current situation until, during a dangerous moment, she overhears others having a conversation about the subject and realizes she is not following God the way she is supposed to. It’s honestly not the most well written or entertaining book, but that’s not it’s purpose. It is the third book in the Debby Newton series.
Recommendation Scale: 4.5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 – Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

The Reveal

 Pressed my forehead into the wall I was hiding behind. Could I stand losing him? Or was this relationship worth fighting for? I felt anxious inside, wanting God to tell me right then and there whether I should walk away or claim him as my own… What did God have in store for me?

Book: The Reveal by Sarah Anne Sumpolec, Moody Publishers, 2005
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Target Audience: Girls 14-18
Subjects: Suicide, Dating Relationships, Pornography, Remarriage, Relationships with family,
Summary: This year starts off pretty exciting for Beka with a missions trip to Hatai and Josh and Mark both continuing to show interest in her. Things take a turn for the worst when those around her start facing difficulties. Lori’s dad starts pursuing pornography, Beka’s dad starts pursuing dating again and Beka finds herself even caring about Gretchen as she faces tragedy. Then when the rumor Beka most feared breaking out, finally starts circulating around school, God gives her a chance to make the most of difficult situations.
Notes: This book, as with the others in the series, covers quite a few intense issues, but as they are real issues, facing real teens today, it is also very realistic. It also takes a look at what God has to say about some of these things. This is the 4th book in the Becoming Beka series, a story about a young teen who’s mother died, who felt so lost she considered suicide and who became a Christian and is now seeking to live her life in highschool as a follower of Christ even while many typical high school challenges come her way.
Recommendation Scale: 4/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Ephesians 5:15-16 – Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

The Great Galaxy Goof

I counted to ten. Then twenty. Then thirty. I could feel the heat of the blasters even through the suit. I would get back home-or melt trying.

Book: The Great Galaxy Goof by Robert Elmer, Bethany House Publishers, 2000
Genre: Adventure/Science Fiction
Target Audience: Boys 10-13
Subjects: Friendship, Wisdom
Summary: A few jokes gone bad and the next thing you know, a couple of kids are in space! Buzz is the new kid on the space station but it doesn’t take even a whole day before he has some great opportunities to get to know the other kids on the station. All it takes is Mir playing a few practical jokes and Buzz making a poor choice himself, to send both boys launching off in a space shuttle!
Notes: This is the first book in the AstroKids series, stories about kids living on a space station in the year 2175. It is definitely a science fiction book with a focus being on the adventures the kids get into with the aid of the technology at hand. The story is not all that realistic, but still teaches some good lessons for upper elementary and younger teens. In this story, Buzz makes one poor choice that leads to life-threatening consequences. Mir also made a choice and in his attempt to show off to Buzz, launched them into space.
Recommendation Scale: 3/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Ephesians 5:4 – Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.

The Rise And Fall Of The Kidsboroian Empire

Friday, September 16, 2011
Someone was trying to destroy the town and I had a good idea who it was. The only problem was that I had no proof.

Book: The Rise And Fall Of The Kidsborian Empire by Marhsall Younger Tyndale House Publishers, 2008
Genre: Adventure/Realistic Fiction
Target Audience: Boys 10-16
Subjects: Deceit, Secrets, Prayer, Leadership
Summary: Kidsboro is thriving! New businesses are opening, kids are working, buying, selling, and even doing business with a new bank that has opened. Then a new kid who knows the secret of the mayor’s past shows up and uses blackmail to get voted into the community where he partners with the town troublemaker to take over all of Kidsboro.
Notes: Second in the Kidsboro series, this book is about a group of kids that, with Mr. Whittaker’s help, form their own community. The story is primarily about Ryan, the town mayor, and his attempts to use godly wisdom to lead his friends (and enemies!). In this book, he tries to hide a secret from his friends and allows ungodly kids to nearly take over the entire town as a result.
Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Proverbs 2:6, 9 – For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path.

The Passage

Friday, September 9, 2011

 “That’s the problem. I don’t know what God wants, and as far as I can tell there aren’t any Scriptures that say “You should or shouldn’t be with Mark.” I rolled onto my back and put the pillow over my face and screamed into it.

Book: The Passage by Sarah Anne Sumpolec, Moody Publishers, 2005
The Passage (Becoming Beka Series, Book 3) 
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Target Audience: Girls 14-18
Subjects: Dating relationships, relationship with parents, bullying
Summary: You know, sometimes it would be nice if the Bible came with specific details, like “Thou shalt date Mark” or “Thou shalt not date someone who is leaving for Seattle in a few months no matter how attractive”. But it doesn’t. So Beka starts ignoring it and trying to solve things on her own – which basically means – do whatever she wants at the moment. That plan doesn’t seem to be working too well though. Mark and Josh are both interested in her – highly interested. Both want to take her to a dance and she’s not sure her dad will allow either one, let alone both. Throw Gretchen back into the mix and life gets even more stressful as Beka waits for Gretchen to destroy her life in revenge for telling about the fire. Oh yeah, then there’s the worry that her dad will start dating Gabby who Beka really doesn’t like. Surely life is supposed to be easier than this!
Notes: Gotta admit, the teen romance drama drives me nuts as Beka goes back and forth between guys, but the author does a great job portraying Beka as very realistic – imperfect, but moldable. Beka pushes the limits and does things deliberately against her dad’s rules, feeling them to be unfair. She tunes out what she hears in regards to Christ and what He wants of her. But when she finally comes to her senses, she realizes that her dad had good reasons for his decision and at this time, pulls her Bible back out and realizes that even if it doesn’t spell out names of potential boyfriends, it provides exactly the answers she needs. Because the Bible is frequently brought up and portrayed as being where to turn when life gets confusing, and because the wise adult characters and using it and prayer as the source for their decisions, I can highly recommend this book in spite of too much teen romance drama for my person tastes.
Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

2 Timothy 2:22 – Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

Voyage With The Vikings

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

“Thank you,” Patrick said. “I’m ready now. I can’t wait to meet a sword-fighting Viking!”

Book: Voyage With The Vikings by Paul McCusker and Marianne Hering, Focus on the Family/Tyndale House Publishers, 2010
Voyage with the Vikings (AIO Imagination Station Books) 
Genre: Adventure
Target Audience: Boys and Girls 8-13
Subjects: History – the Vikings, Showing love to enemies
Summary: When Beth takes Patrick to check out Whit’s End, Mr. Whittaker offered to let them take a trip to Greenland in the Imagination Station. It doesn’t take long before adventure finds them – first an encounter with a polar bear, then an encounter with a herd of reindeer, then a fierce Viking who wants to either kill them or take them as slaves, then an accusation of being a thief, then the risk of getting involved in sacrifices to false gods and on and on! Patrick was eager to meet a Viking but had no idea just how much adventure would await him!
Notes: This book was incredible! It’s like a Christian version of the Magic Tree House series – it has the kids taking an adventure to another time and place where they learn about history and science. But it’s better than Magic Tree House in that it teaches Biblical principles as well! I highly recommend this for both elementary and early Jr. Highers!
In this particular one, the characters learn how to be representatives of the 1 true God in the way they conduct themselves, including showing kindness to someone who intended to harm them.
Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Romans 12:19-21 – Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Olympic Dreams

DJ stared after her for a moment before slamming the glass down on the lawn. Jerking weeds out of the ground was probably better than jerking the hairs out of a certain policeman’s head. When she stabbed herself on a hidden thistle, she said a word she was glad Gran wasn’t around to here. Maybe getting a horse wasn’t her biggest problem after all.

Book: Olympic Dreams by Lauraine Snelling, Bethany House Publishers, 1995
Olympic Dreams (High Hurdles #1) (Book 1) 
Genre: Horse Stories/Realistic Fiction
Target Audience: Girls 11-18
Subjects: Relationships with family, Horses
Summary: DJ thinks her biggest problem in life is dreaming of being an Olympic rider with no horse or money to buy a horse. That’s until her Gran meets a man she finds attractive and starts dating him. DJ has never gotten along well with her mom. Gran has raised her all 13 years of her life. DJ and her mom don’t do much beyond arguing with one another. But if Gran leaves, DJ and her mom will be on their own. DJ can’t let that happen! But how can she get rid of this guy without destroying Gran’s happiness?
Notes: DJ and her Gran are Christians, her Gran a very strong believer. She has taken the role of spiritual parent in DJ’s life. There are just as many conversations about faith as there are about other aspects of parenting DJ. DJ has to learn to trust God with the change He is bringing about in her life and see that even when she can’t understand what’s going on, He does have a plan for her. This is the first in the High Hurdles series.
Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Ephesians 3:20-21 –Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Tiger Heat

“If Joey’s watch was a little slow, they probably fired as soon as they knew it was time to start the war. You know, right on the hour. Like they did know exactly where he was. Like they were waiting to gun him down as soon as they could.” It hit me. If that was true, there was only one way they could have known where he would be. “You don’t think…” “Yes, I do.” He smiled grimly. “Which is why we are leaving this hospital right now.”

Book: Tiger Heat by Sigmund Brouwer, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1998
Tiger Heat (Sigmund Brouwer's Sports Mystery Series: Baseball) 
Genre: Sports Fiction
Target Audience: Boys 11-14
Subjects: Loss, Criminal Activity, Baseball, Paintball, Friendship
Summary: Sewer rats aren’t rodents, they’re kids playing paintballs in the sewers of the city. Jim was supposed to join their baseball team to be a good influence on them and keep them out of the streets, but instead he’s joining them. Who cares about baseball and a Bible thumping coach? Their real skill lies beneath the city. When danger strikes though, Jim and the other sewer rats have a few things to reconsider.
Notes: This book had an interesting set up. A Church was sponsoring a baseball team for kids that had gotten in trouble with the law and some parents sent their son to join the group hoping he would have a good influence on these troubled kids. But the kid doesn’t know for sure if he believes everything about Christ for himself. So he does his best to fit in with them instead. He finds courage and comfort in a fantasy world, imagining himself as a brave comic book hero instead of an ordinary kid who is afraid. When the danger comes, he realizes his fantasy world is no help to him and reconsiders his parents’ faith, finding that does bring the courage he needs to survive the danger. There is also one character in the story who tells the boys some of the Gospel message at one point.
Recommendation Scale: 4/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Psalm 56:3 – When I am afraid I will trust in You.

Abby Secret at Cutter Grove

After her fright, Abby wasn’t sure she wanted to go tripping through Reese Cutter’s lavish home in the dark. The idea had sounded so good during the day, but what if someone thought they were burglars and came down with a loaded gun? What is Reese discovered them? Ma and Pa would hang their heads in shame. She turned to Luke. “We can’t get caught.”

Book: Abby Secret at Cutter Grove by Pamela Walls, Tyndale House Publishers, 2001
Abby - Secret at Cutter Grove (South Seas Adventures #4) 
Genre: Adventure
Target Audience: Girls 11-14
Subjects: Relationship with family, friendship, greed
Summary: While helping Captain Duncan look for his long lost father, Abby’s family stays at a plantation to work for a while. What they find there, may not only reveal the truth about Captain Duncan’s father, but the truth about the founders of the plantation itself. Currently, the workers are reduced to nearly being slaves. They are provided for, but never enough to gain independence. Abby and Luke begin investigating how this plantation owner can treat his workers with such kindness and rudeness all at the same time. They soon discover a connection between this plantation and an enemy from their last adventure. And that enemy will be more than happy to get rid of them for good.
Notes: The lessons in this story come primarily from the other characters rather than the main characters. Abby and Luke simply reach out to the people they meet and show kindness and compassion, along with perhaps a bit too much curiosity. The lesson is primarily one of letting greed destroy your life.
Recommendation Scale: 4/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

1 Timothy 6:10 - For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Abby - California Gold

Abby’s heart tripped at the news. What is Sarah was to catch cholera? Abby knew the disease had no known cure. It struck quickly, caused violent vomiting, and often ended in death. It was her job to keep Sarah safe and she felt a sense of urgency now. Pa didn’t think she could take care of Sarah, at least not as well ashe could, or Mrs. Gronen’s servants. But with all her heart, Abby longed to prove she could.

Book: Abby California Gold by Pamela Walls, Tyndale House Publishers, 2001
Abby - California Gold (South Seas Adventures #3) 
Genre: Adventure
Target Audience: Girls 11-14
Subjects: Friendship, Salvation, Relationship with family, Pride, greed
Summary: Abby and Luke had a chance taking care of themselves with no family around when they were in the open sea, but now they have to take care of others as well. When Abby’s mom gets sick, her dad sends them back to Luke’s aunt. But true to her reputation, the mean spirited woman eventually causes them to run away. Luke leads them to the gold fields where the lure of gold causes him to do foolish and hurtful things. Abby learns how to survive there as well as how to care for the two younger ones. But the separation could bring danger on them both, especially when slavers take a liking to the young Hawaiian boy in their care and bears take a visit to the cave where Luke is mining.
Notes: This is a story about a boy’s pride as Luke tries to do it all himself. He has no intention of listening to Abby or anyone. He certainly has no intention of humbling himself before God and opening his heart to Him. And it’s a story about a girl’s pride as Abby determines she can care for the younger ones all on her own, just as well, if not better than the adults in her life. It’s a story of how God gets a hold of both of their hearts and makes them what He wants them to be.
Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

James 4:10 – Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.

Abby - Lost At Sea

“Luke!! she gasped, dropping the bucket in panic. “We’re alone!” Alone and adrift on the huge Pacific Ocean! Terror gripped her. She leaned against Luke’s side for comfort but when she felt him tremble, she began to cry. “Can we survive Lord?”

Book: Abby Lost At Sea by Pamela Walls, Tyndale House Publishers, 2000
Abby - Lost at Sea (South Seas Adventures #1) 

Genre: Adventure
Target Audience: Girls 11-14
Subjects: Friendship, Trust in God
Summary: Abby and Luke are best friends. Her family has been kind of like his family for quite a while now. His aunt cares nothing for him. So when Abby’s family makes plans to move to Hawaii, Luke knows he must go with them, with or without permission from his aunt. But then on the ship, a terrible storm comes up one night and while Abby attempts to rescue him, she’s no match for the storm and they find themselves adrift in the open sea. Their attempts to get help and get back to Abby’s family only put them in more danger though. Will they ever find their way to Hawaii safely? Will Abby ever see her family again?
Notes: This is a high adventure series, moving from one event to another. At the same time, it focuses heavily on developing the characters of Luke and Abby. Abby is a believer who is learning to put her whole trust in the Lord. When danger comes, she recognizes Him and the One who kept them alive and can help them escape their current situation. Luke is bitter against God, not wanting to surrender to Him, wanting to do everything on his own. God plays a big part in the story, Abby always coming back to rely on her faith.
Recommendation Scale: 4/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi
Dueteronomy 31:6 - Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Crosscourt Winner

“Man, where’d you come from?” “I’ve never played in one of these things” I said. “This is my first tournament”. “Well it won’t be your last. That’s for sure.”

Book: Crosscourt Winner by Jeffrey Asher Nesbit, Victor Book, 1991
Genre: Sports/Realistic Fiction
Target Audience: Boys 12-15
Subjects: Salvation, Competition, Relationship with parents
Summary: When Cally’s dad finally gets discouraged enough after losing his job and pursues another woman, abandoning his family, Cally’s mom takes them all to live with their aunt and uncle. Here Cally has the opportunity to pursue tennis more heavily and winds up entering major tournaments. But he will be faced with many challenges along the way, including a boy in his own school that’s determined to bring him down using any means available. His mom, a strong believer, encourages him to take his burdens to Jesus but Cally isn’t yet sure he believes all that Christian stuff himself.
Notes: This story contains a number of good lessons – showing love to enemies, trusting in Jesus in hard times, and forgiving those who have hurt you. The plan of salvation is clearly discussed at one point in the book with the mom explaining to Cally why he should put his faith in Christ. There’s enough sports action to keep sport fans quite interested as well – sometimes play by play description of tennis matches.
Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

1 Corinthians 9:24 – Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.

Sir Kendrick and the Castle of Bel Lione

“Why didn’t you talk to me about your plans?” “I …I guess I thought you would object.” Duncan replied. “Your suspicions of my intent are not enough to risk your life for!”

Book: Sir Kendrick and the Castle of Bel Lione by Chuck Black, Multnomah Books, 2008
Sir Kendrick and the Castle of Bel Lione (The Knights of Arrethtrae)
Genre: Allegory
Target Audience: Boys and girls 13 and up
Subjects: Forgiveness, wisdom/respect for elders’ wisdom, deception/peer pressure/temptation
Summary: Sir Kendric and the much younger Sir Duncan are in search of the Vincero Knights. What they find is quite scary: a man in a castle is luring young people in with the promise of games and entertainment and excitement. Then the most promising of them are invited to become knights for him – Vincero Knights. When Duncan is taken in, Sir Kendric has to attempt to find someone who can give him answers. In the process he risks both his life, Duncan’s life and his character and witness.
Notes: This powerful story teaches an amazing lesson about forgiveness and respect for the wisdom of those who are older and more experienced. Duncan looks on Kendric as boring and too cautious – insanely so. But in the end Duncan learns valuable lessons and learns to look on Sir Kendric with the respect he should. Sir Kendric has an opportunity to destroy his most hated enemy and turns and offers forgiveness instead. I highly recommend this one for readers of all ages, not just teens.
Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

1 Timothy 5:17 – The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.

Off The Wall - Scuba Diving To The Extreme

“Even after he’s dead, we’ll have trouble. So we’ve decided this run is our last.” After he’s dead? He was going to kill a man? “And by the way, Ian, we’ll have to kill you too.”

Book: Off the Wall /Absolute Pressure (Orca Sports)by Sigmund Brouwer, Word Publishing, 1996
Genre: Sports Fiction
Target Audience: Boys 12-14
Subjects: Drugs, Forgiveness
Scuba Diving-- To the Extreme-- Off the Wall (Short Cuts)Summary: Ian is spending this summer the same as he does every other summer, hanging out at his uncle’s and doing scuba diving. When he is doing a favor for his uncle, while still underwater, he realizes the spring on his valve has been cut. He’s losing air fast and may not survive the trip back to the surface. And even if he survives that, it’s obvious someone is out to commit murder. Someone that desperate won’t stop at one attempt.
Notes: This is a short story and very fast paced. The focus is on the action, moving from one extreme event to the next with very little in between them. At the end though, there is an author’s note that makes the book really good. There is some discussion about forgiveness in the book itself, and even a hint at salvation, but then in the author’s note, Sigmund Brouwer carries it farther and explains briefly about forgiveness and even mentions how through Christ, God forgave us.
This book was republished in 2009 as part of the Orca Sports series and retitled Absolute Pressure.
Recommendation Scale: 4/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Colossians 3:13 – Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

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