Kregel Book Review

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Clarissa and I read books together everyday. Usually I read them aloud to her and later she will go back and “read” them to herself. She has a great memory and she is learning to decode words so she does a decent job with the books we have already read together. I follow several different book lists and am always looking for something new. I especially like a book that is fun to read but also educational so I signed up to review The Goldtown Beginnings Series by Kregel Publications.

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I like that both books are easy to read. They are marketed for ages 6-8, and I feel like emerging readers could actually read these books independantly. The chapters are short. The font is easy to read. There are some black and white pictures on a couple of pages of each chapter. I also like that there are some nonfiction text features in this book, even though it is historical fiction. The beginning of the book has a table of contents as well as a page of new words that kids might not know (glossary). I really liked that the vocabulary words were in the beginning in of the book to be introduced before the story instead of at the end. At the end of the book, there is a short section about the history.

The first book in the series is Jem Strikes Gold. Jem (Jeremiah) is almost 8 and his little sister Ellie (Ellianna) is almost 6. They live with Mama and Pa in a tent by the river where they have a gold claim. Pa works with an old neighbor named Strike to pan for gold. But Mama makes more money selling pies and doing laundry for people in town. The rich boy in town named Will causes trouble for Jem a few times in the story.

Clarissa wasn’t really excited about the story until the dog showed up and then she didn’t want me to stop reading. In the book, Mama was adamantly opposed to keeping the dog that Strike found until the dog helps Jem with his problems with the rich kid, Will. I liked that Jem and Ellie came from a good, Christian family. The siblings got along well and worked together to help their family. The book also brought up some great discussions about The Gold Rush, why someone would live in a tent, poverty, a one room schoolhouse, and what a dog needs to eat.

The second book is called Jem’s Frog Fiasco. Nugget, the dog, has been with Jem and Ellie for a few weeks now. The family is still poor so it is a struggle to feed the dog. Jem decides that he needs a job so that he will have enough money to buy meat from the butcher to feed Nugget. The cafe owner in town tells him that he wants to add frog legs to his menu, so he will pay Jem five cents per frog he catches.

Jem and Ellie have a fight while catching bullfrogs at the pond because Jem thinks Ellie is too loud and scaring the frogs away. Jem tells Ellie to go home and she leaves. Jem has a very successful afternoon catching frogs. When he gets home, he finds out that Ellie never made it home. Everyone goes to look for her. Eventually, Jem finds her in a coyote hole with help from Nugget, the dog. This story would be a great conversation starter about money, responsibilities in a family, and sibling relationships.

When we finished the second book, Clarissa asked if there were more. The next two books in the series are scheduled to release in March. The publisher website also provides enrichment materials in the form of activity guides, lapbooks, and coloring pages to go along with these stories. You can read about what other families thought of the books here.

Jem Strikes Gold & Jem's Frog Fiasco {Kregel Publications Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

Secret of the Hidden Scrolls Review

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I heard author MJ Thomas on a podcast this spring and I was really excited about what he had to say. When one of his sons was in about second grade, he had to write a book report but couldn’t find a book that he was excited about. He asked his dad to write one for him. So MJ Thomas set out to write a book that would not only entertain his son, but teach him about his faith through making Bible stories come to life in a historical context. Thus, his series, The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls was born. I was disappointed that my local library did not carry these books, but I put it on my list of books to read with Clarissa.

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I was so excited to see Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Shepherd’s Stone (Book 5) and Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Lion’s Roar (Book 6) of the series published by WorthyKid Books as an option to review this fall. The timing wasn’t great because it was during the time that Tiffany was born. But I read the description to Clarissa and she was really excited about the books. I knew that we would still be reading at bedtime, so I asked for them. I am so glad that I did!

Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Shepherd’s Stone (Book 5) follows siblings Peter, Mary, and their dog Hank as they spend a month with their Great Uncle Solomon who is an archeologist. They travel through time to explore the story of David and Goliath. On their journey, they have to follow clues to solve a message given to them by the angel Michael. They only have four days to solve the puzzle!

I love that Clarissa was able to see some of the historical context from the Bible story and that the actual story seemed true to what the Bible says. It also brought up some great discussions for us. For example, David originally told Mary that she could not go with him and Peter to deliver food to his older brothers. The reason was because Mary is a girl and girls are not allowed on the battlefield, which was surprising to Clarissa because we just spent four years on an army base where there were definitely female soldiers. Also, in the book David had sisters living at home, which I had not really thought about before since the Bible focuses on the brothers. David also talks about a poem he wrote (Psalm 23), which I thought was great because that is on our list of things to memorize for November. So now Clarissa has a context for that as well.

Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Lion’s Roar (Book 6) was also wonderfully written. This time, Peter, Mary, and Hank go to ancient Babylon. They land in a temple of the Babylonian God Marduk. There is a statue (idol) in the temple and the high priest tells Peter and Mary that they need to bow down and worship the idol. Peter and Mary refuse because they will only worship the One True God. This makes the high priest (and his pet raven) very angry. They have to escape being captured with the help of the angel Michael.

The book teaches about architecture (ziggurat) and history (7 wonders of the ancient world) along the way. Peter and Mary escape to the hanging gardens where they meet Hannah who also refuses to worship idols. Hannah also happens to be the granddaughter of Shadrach. While visiting her grandfather’s spice shop, Peter and Mary heard the story of the fiery furnace in person. They also met Daniel. I always forget that Daniel being thrown into the lion’s den is several decades after the fiery furnace. In this book, Peter and Mary eventually get thrown into the lion’s den too and they, along with Daniel, are protected by their angel friend Michael.

I like that at the end of both books there is a list of chapters in the Bible that correspond to the story so that you can compare the book to the actual Bible story.

We have only read books five and six in the series so far. The stories stand alone, so you can read them out of order. Clarissa really wants us to get the first four in the series because she enjoyed them so much. While reading these books, book 7 was also published. I am excited to announce that the publisher is running a giveaway. You can enter to win signed copies of all seven books in the series by clicking here. There will be three winners.

We did these books as a read aloud, but I think they would be great reading for a younger elementary student who is a confident reader. The books are marketed for ages 6-9 and claim they are written on a first through third grade reading level. I think a first grader would have a hard time reading this independantly though. There are a few black and white pictures in each chapter to help engage your younger readers.

Depending on your curriculum goals, these books could be used for Bible, Reading, or History. These also provide some great discussion starters about Bible stories and imagining what it would be like if we went into the Bible story or which stories we would like to become a part of. I am excited to read the rest of the books. I look forward to being able to read book 7 near Christmas time since it is about the birth of Jesus. You can read about what other families thought of the books here.

Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Shepherd's Stone (Book 5) & The Lion's Roar (Book 6) {WorthyKids Books Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

Nothing Book Review

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Clarissa and I are always looking for good books to read. I get especially excited if the book points Clarissa to Jesus. This is one reason we were very excited to review Nothing by Natalee Creech published by Worthy Kids, an imprint of Hatchette Book Group.

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Nothing: Nothing Can Separate You from God’s Love! is a wonderful book based on the scripture Romans 8:38-39, “Nothing can separate us from God’s Love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created.” The publisher recommends it for ages 4-7, but I think the age range could go wider than that. It’s a great book with a lovely message.

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I love that the simple words in this book remind my daughter that there is nothing that she can do or anything that can happen to her that will make God stop loving her. The pictures are fabulous. There are pictures of space ships and the deep seas, crazy weather, and normal kids.

At the end of the book, I was ready to talk to Clarissa about the message. That it doesn’t matter what she does wrong or what kinds of crazy things happened in her life, God would always love her. And she got this silly look on her face and she said, “Mom! I know that God will always love me!” We didn’t need a long discussion to convince her and that was good for this mama’s heart. If that’s the only thing she learns before she leaves my house, I’ve done my job. I look forward to sharing this book with friends and her Sunday School class at church.

Nothing (Nothing Can Separate You From God's Love) by Natalee Creech {WorthyKids, an imprint of Hachette Book Group Reviews}

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Our favorite books about South Korea

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In honor of Multicultural Children’s Book Day, I thought I would share our favorite children’s book about South Korea. Some of these we own and some we have borrowed from the library (actually all are at the Camp Humphreys Library).

 

One of Clarissa’s favorite books to borrow from the library is Goyangi Means Cat by Christine McDonnell. A little girl is adopted from South Korea and comes home to live with her new family in America. She doesn’t know any English but her family quickly learns a few Korean words, specifically “goyangi” because of their pet cat that the little girl loves so much.

We own Bee-Bim-Bop by Linda Sue Park because Clarissa loved it so much when we borrowed it from the library that we read it every day for a week straight and actually had to learn to make bibimbap from the recipe in the book.

Last year, we reviewed Carole P. Roman’s If You were me and lived in… South Korea. I think Clarissa likes it because it talks about some of the places we have visited. I think it gives you some idea of Korean culture as it discusses Korean words for mom and dad, money, school, and sports.

Lately, Clarissa has been interested in Sori’s Harvest Moon Day by Uk-Bae Lee. This story is about a little girl and her family and how they travel to their grandparents’ house for Chuseok, which is one of the two major holidays in South Korea. It is interesting to see how another culture celebrates a holiday to honor ancestors and spend time together.

Another book we borrowed from the library is called The Firekeeper’s Son by Linda Sue Park. This story is about a boy who lives by the sea. His family has the important job of lighting a fire on the mountain each night if everything is calm. Each mountain has a family to light a fire. This way, the king will know if there are invaders in the land. If the fires are not lit, then the king will send soldiers to help. One day, the boy’s father hurts his ankle and he has to light the fire himself.

The library on post has an entire section of Korean children’s literature. Some of it is Korean folktales and others are books written in Korean. But these are our favorites.

Our favorite books for four year olds

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Clarissa has always been a reader. I have pictures of her looking at books sprawled out on the floor before she could walk. She asks to visit the library often and requests that I read to her several times per day. If I am not available, she says “okay,” and then walks into her room, closes the door, and starts “reading” to herself. These were some of her favorites when she was four years old. Again, we have a lot of series of books on this list. Thought there were a few that were favorites by themselves.

  • At four, Clarissa was pretty much obsessed with Magic School Bus. She watched the show on netflix everyday and has several different books to read. Her favorites were Inside the Human Body and Time of the Dinosaurs. But we pretty much read any Magic School Bus book that we could find.
  • Gigi, God’s Little Princess is a wonderful series of books by Sheila Walsh. Clarissa says that Gigi “reminds her of Fancy Nancy, except that Gigi loves God.” She’s your typical five year old girl who has some crazy adventures with her best friend Frances. She has a cat named Tiara and a dog named Lord Fluffy. Gigi is also very into the color pink.
  • Usborne has several books about the human body. Clarissa really enjoys the lift the flap ones.
  • Gerald and Piggie books by Mo Willems were another favorite. Elephant Gerald and Piggie are best friends but they are so different. Piggie is fun and exciting and Gerald is a little more cautious but they have great adventures together. I also like that all of the books are written entirely in dialog.
  • Little Critter was one of my favorites when I was a little kid. Clarissa loves Little Critter and the crazy adventures that he has with his family. I like that he has a great family and that he is your typical kid. “I tried to make you lunch, but I got hungry…I didn’t forget to use soap, I just don’t like it…”
  • We bought Clarissa Lily’s Easter Party a few years ago to go with her Resurrection Eggs. She pulls the book out several times per year. I can’t put it away with the Easter things. She likes the story of friends having and Easter egg hunt. I like that she is learning more about the different parts of the Resurrection story.
  • I wrote a review about the Planet 316 Bible last year. It is Clarissa’s favorite Bible. She loves that she can use my phone to make the stories come to life. I like it because she is excited about reading Bible stories.

I need to write separate posts for Christmas and Easter because we have so many favorite books for those seasons.

Branch Out World Review

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Clarissa really enjoyed the Paddington Bear movies, so we were excited to review a literature study on the picture book of Paddington Bear by Branch Out World. In this literature study, you read the same book for five days in a row, but focus on a different subject with activities each day.

The study says that it is for students aged 5-10. Clarissa will turn 5 next week so I thought it might be a good fit for us. While Clarissa definitely was ready to enjoy the story, the literature study was written for older kids. I was able to adapt several activities for us, but I think I will have to try these particular activities again when she is more like 8.

After our reading on the first day, we talked about geography. Paddington is originally from Peru and moves to England. The literature study includes some great resources about both England and Peru, but Clarissa wasn’t ready for them. We found some videos online about life in England and Peru that she really enjoyed and colored the simple flags of England and Peru included in the study.

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Day two was supposed to be about dictionary skills and grammar, neither of which are super important to us in kindergarten. We did focus on the theme of helping others and the narration, which led to some great discussions. Clarissa actually has great recall when I read to her. She remembers and understands more than I realized.

Day three was about art and architecture. One of the activities was to look a certain page of the book for two minutes. Then, we were to close the book and see which details that we could remember. Clarissa enjoyed this activity so much that we did it four times! We also did some of the study about the different architectural elements on the page before she lost interest.

Day four was all about science. Clarissa really enjoyed feeling the difference between shaving cream and soap. Since Paddington used shaving cream to make a map of Peru, Clarissa wanted to draw a map of South Korea. We also had fun playing with condensation. I am glad that we have watched and read a lot of Magic School Bus so she understood the science of it.

Day five was all about math. Clarissa enjoyed looking for numbers in the illustrations of the book and then putting them in order. Then we tried some marmalade on toast to be like Paddington. She was not a fan of the marmalade so I was glad I bought a jar instead of trying to make it with the recipe included in the study. We did however make the strawberry tarts included in the study. Tim and I thought they were great. Clarissa enjoyed the cream and the tart but refused to try the strawberries. We may try again another time.

We enjoyed what parts of the Paddington Bear study that we completed from Branch Out World. I do recommend it to families, just not the age it specified. I think that if you want to do all of the activities as they are written, it is better for children ages 8-10. Branch Out World has other studies you can check out as well.

Paddington Bear {Branch Out World Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

Planet 316 Story Bible Review

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Planet 316

We have several different children’s Bibles that we use regularly. Or rather, we did. Since we received the Planet 316 Story Bible and the companion Planet 316 Story Bible app by Planet 316 and Worthy Kids/Ideals in the mail, Clarissa has decided that she doesn’t like the others. She only wants this one for Bible for story time. The Planet 316 Story Bible and the companion Planet 316 Story Bible app really do help to make the Bible stories come to life.
Planet 316 Story Bible and Bible App

The Planet 316 Story Bible has all of the stories you would expect to see in a Children’s Bible. Old Testament and New Testament stories are included. You can read them straight through like a normal book or there is a Table of Contents if you want to find a specific story.

The Story Bible itself is very nice. Each page is illustrated. The illustrations are very vibrant and colorful. Clarissa really enjoys them. She will sit on the couch and “read” the stories to herself.

The companion app is wonderful! I have never seen an app that makes the illustrations in a book move before. You can download the app for both apple and android for free. The app works with any device that has a camera. We downloaded it both on my phone and on a tablet (so we could have a bigger picture).

During our Bible time, we will find our story in the Bible. I read the page to Clarissa. Then, we turn on the app on either the phone or tablet. Clarissa can hold the device over the page of the book we just read. It scans the page and then the illustrations on the book pop up on the screen. If you touch the screen illustrations with your finger, they come to life. So when Jesus feeds 5000 with the little boy’s lunch, you touch the little boy and he says, “Here Jesus. You can have my lunch,” as he lifts his bread and fish to Jesus.

The app is easy to use so Clarissa can use the Bible without me. She can sit on the couch and look at the pictures. She knows how to scan them and wait for the picture to load on the phone or tablet. She can touch the screen to make the picture move or talk. She seems to really enjoy the sound effects and illustrations.

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I am thankful for a book that makes my daughter excited about reading the Bible and learning more about God. The Planet 316 Story Bible and companion Planet 316 Story Bible app would be a wonderful addition to a family’s home library or family devotion time. It would also be a great addition for a church or classroom. I used the Bible and app during a Sunday School lesson about Jesus’s burial. The kids were so excited to see the story come to life. I think it made them understand what was happening more than just telling them. The children in the class range in age from two to eight, so I think that children through elementary school would really enjoy this Bible.
Planet 316 Story Bible and Bible App {Planet 316 Reviews}

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