Tuesday, May 27, 2008

15 Top Christian Books For Children

By Kristina Seleshanko

One way to instill Godly principles in your children is to read them Christian books from an early age. Even babies and toddlers benefit from hearing God's truth on a daily basis, and colorful picture books are a great way to expose them to biblical principles.

As editor of Christian Children's Book Review, I see a lot of books published for children of Christian families. Some are ho-hum at best, but here are a few gems that no family should be without.

Adeline by Kathryn Rathke. In this delightful tale, a little girl who loves Valentine's Day learns a lesson about the ultimate Valentine: God. For kids 4 and up. (Baker Books, 2004)

Bible Animal Friends by Matt Mitter. With vivid illustrations, googly eyed animals, and rhyming text reminiscent of well-loved nursery rhymes, infants, toddlers, and preschoolers will love this volume. This book is a great way to start introducing Bible stories like Balaam and his donkey, the Egyptian plague, how ravens fed Elijah, and more. (Multnomah, 2007)

Big Thoughts for Little Thinkers by Joey Allen. This is actually a series of four books: The Scripture, The Gospel, The Trinity, and The Mission. Here is intelligent talk about what the Bible and specific Christian tenants are, explained in a way that young children (ages 3 to 7) can understand-and enjoy. (New Leaf Press, 2005)

God's Wisdom for Little Girls by Elizabeth George. If you have a girl, one of the key things you can teach her is what a Proverbs 31 woman is. George does an excellent job of explaining this important passage to 5 to 8 year old girls. (Harvest House Publishers, 2000)

I Can Talk with God by Debby Anderson. When it comes time to teach your children how to pray, this book is an excellent tool. The pictures are bright and colorful, and the truths of how to pray (and how God might answer) are told in an engaging, fun way. For kids 2 to 5. (Crossway Books, 2003)

I'd Be Your Hero and I'd Be Your Princess by Kathryn O'Brien. For children 4 to 8 years old, these books (one designed for boys, the other for girls) explain Godly characteristics and how important they are. I'd Be Your Princess won the Gold Medallion Book Award in recognition of excellence in evangelical Christian literature. (Standard, 2004 and 2005)

Little Girl's Bible Storybook and Little Boy's Bible Storybook by Carolyn Larsen are excellent choices for kids 6 to 9. Each tells Bible stories in an appealing fashion, and there are study sections throughout to help kids understand important biblical concepts. Best of all, there are ideas for parents on how to discuss these concepts with their children. (Baker Books, 1998)

Little One, God Made You by Amy Warren Hilliker. I began reading this book to my daughter when she was an infant. Now she's two, and she still loves it! The text is extremely simple and establishes one important fact: God made you and loves you just the way you are. For children 4 and under. (Zonderkidz, 2004)

Little One's Bible Verses by Stephen Elkins is a superb way to introduce even the youngest babies to God's word. With sweet illustrations of children and babies, plus notable quotes from Psalms, this is an excellent first "Bible." (Broadman & Holman, 2003)

Parables Jesus Told by Ella K. Lindvall. In simple words and colorful images, this book retells five parables, ending each with a brief explanation of how to apply the story to real life. The book is designed for 4 to 8 year olds, but many younger children will enjoy it, too. (Moody Publishers, 2000) Sidney and Norman, the Tale of Two Pigs by Phil Vischer. Pigs Sidney and Norman are opposites. One is messy, the other neat. One seems to always succeed, the other never does. Then they both meet God. One pig learns that God loves him just the way he is, while the other learns that God loves everyone...even messy neighbors. (Tommy Nelson, 2006)

The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones is an ideal Bible for kids 4 to 8, detailing 43 stories from Genesis through Revelation. Each story in some way relates to Jesus and who he is, giving children the big picture of what God is all about. The text is engaging, as are the illustrations. (Zonderkidz, 2007)

The Lord is My Shepherd by Hans Wilhem. The greatness of this book is its simplicity. The text of Psalm 23-one of the most beautiful and comforting passages in the Bible-is paraphrased in kid-friendly language that clings closely to a modern translation. This book is another great way to introduce even the youngest children to the Word of God. For babies on up. (Scholastic, 2007)

Wait Until Then by Randy Alcorn. Any parent who wants to explain what happens to us when we die, how to deal with the death of a loved one, and how to cope with serious disappointment will want to read this book with their child. Beautifully written and illustrated, for kids 9 to 12. (Tyndale, 2007)

Will: God's Mighty Warrior by Sheila Walsh. Very few Christian books are targeted specifically to boys, so Will is a welcome addition. For 4 to 8 year olds, this book teaches children about the armor of God in a kid-friendly way. (Thomas Nelson, 2006)

Kristina Seleshanko is the editor of Christian Children's Book Review (http://www.ccbreview.blogspot.com/), which won two Litty Awards in 2007 (Best Christian Litblogger and Best KidLit Litblogger). She's also the author of 16 books.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Great Moments In Hardy Boys History

by Robert Gould

Long before reading was fundamental or Harry Potter and Captain Underpants burst onto the scene with magic and scatological humor (respectively), there were The Hardy Boys - the well-groomed, good-natured, parent-friendly siblings who attracted heinous crimes like Curious George attracts malfunctioning candy factories.

First authored by Leslie MacFarlane (and then by a legion of ghostwriters), the Hardys have become a world-wide phenomenon in their 80-plus years of existence.

Here are a few great and not so great moments from the history of the Hard Boys:

The Tower Treasure released

Even now, cynical and crusty at the age of 54, seeing the cover of this book gives me goose bumps. It was cool then and it's cool now. In a preview of themes from just about every book in the series, The Tower Treasure begins with the boys chasing a stranger who is up to no good and ends with the somewhat death-defying hope that "another mystery would soon come their way." And indeed it did. The 57 volumes that followed would represent the canon of classic Hardy Boys mysteries, as well as one of the greatest selling literary series of all time.

The boys go "PC"

After 1959, editors, concerned about the rather WASPy nature of the lead characters, gave Frank and Joe a couple of ethnic sidekicks to help out the crew in a more socially acceptable way. Young readers growing up in Middle America were now exposed to the Italian and Jewish cultures via new side-kick characters Tony Prito and Phil Cohen. Elie Weisel it wasn't, but it still represented an admirable effort, during that time, to expose young minds to different American cultures.

Giving birth to a genre

The success of the Hardy Boys paved the way for additional popular youth-oriented titles. The Hardy's original publisher, the Stratemeyer Syndicate, went on to sell tens of millions of copies of The Bobsey Twins, Tom Swift, and of course Joe and Frank's female counterpart, Nancy Drew (with whom the Boys would team up in countless popular stories over the years).

The Boys become a world-wide phenomenon

As of 2007, The Hardy Boys have been translated into over 25 different languages, including Spanish, German, French, Dutch, Russian and Japanese - thus proving the universal appeal of a sinister figure, a hidden key and a creaky grandfather clock.

An important place in education

Perhaps the most prominent place the Hardy Boys hold in history is that they have kick-started a love of reading with generations of boys. In a world where boys lag significantly behind girls in reading skills, these simple mystery books geared towards young males have stood out like beacon. One can only imagine how many great students and authors have achieved success thanks to their entry - via the Hardy Boys - into the world of reading. There's no denying their place as one of the best literary on-ramps for young men who have gone on to bigger and better things.

What does the future hold for the frères Hardy? One can only hope that, like Lincoln Logs and Raggedy Ann, this is a timeless childhood classic that will never truly go away - even in the face of PlayStation 6's or Virtual Rubik cubes. The Hardy Boys are a classic, and classics never go out of style.

Robert Gould is a children's literacy advocate and the Creator/Author of 19 books for boys, including the popular new "movie-style" Time Soldiers® adventure books and "Father and Son Read Aloud Stories." You can find more information on books and reading for boys at http://www.bigguybooks.com/ For a FREE dinosaur book to get your reluctant reader jump started on a life-long love of reading, go to http://www.freedinosaurbook.com/

Friday, May 23, 2008

Review: Diary of a Wimpy Kid

by Donna M. Mcdine

There is no wonder "Diary of a Wimpy Kid," has been nominated for a Kids' Choice Award for Favorite Book. Author, Jeff Kinney immediately immerses you into the thoughts and actions of sixth grader, Greg Heffley. Greg's antics wouldn't be complete without his best friend, Rowley, who at times, Greg can't stand.

Greg finds himself in the sea of middle grade students ranging from the small and ordinary to the ones that have muscles and are growing facial hair. Where is one to fit in?

"If it was up to me, grade levels would be based on height, not age. But then gain, I guess that would mean kids like Chirag Gupta would still be in the first grade."

Greg finds himself writing in his journal about his life as a sixth grader and how to fit in. "Just don't expect me to be all "Dear Diary" this and "Dear Diary" that. That's for girls.

Rowley begins to make strides in popularity and Greg latches on to bring himself popularity, which kicks off a domino affect that tests their friendship in hilarious fashion.

This laugh out loud book is a must read not only for boys but for anyone that has gone through the tribulations of middle school. Jeff Kinney has done a wonderful job in bringing the middle school world to life with true meaning with hilarious results. Don't miss this fantastic book!Title: Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Written & Illustrated by: Jeff Kinney

Ages: 10-up

Publisher: Amulet Books

ISBN-13: 978-0-8109-9313-6

Publication: April 2007

Donna's publishing credits include Stories for Children Magazine, Stories for Children Newsletter, Kid Magazine Writers, Long Story Short, Institute of Children's Literature Rx for Writers, SCBWI Metro NY Newsletter, and Once Upon A Time. With an acceptance from Boys' Quest magazine to publish her non-fiction children's article entitled, "Fishing Through a Frozen Lake," to be published December 2012. She is also a children's book reviewer for Musing Our Children Group, The National Writing for Children Center, and the Stories for Children Newsletter.

Visit her at: http://www.donnamcdine.com or http://www.donna-mcdine.blogspot.com

Evolution of Children's Horror Literature

by Sarah Todd

Titled "Welcome to the Dead House", the book was an instant bestseller and became the first in the highly successful "Goosebumps" series. "Welcome to the Dead House" tell the story of a town called Dark Falls, a place hiding a secret - all the residents are the living dead, and need fresh blood to sustain their "lives". Whenever a new family arrives in the sound they move to The Dead House. The heroes, Josh and Amanda, learn this secret and proceed to save their parents, send the townspeople back to their graves and escape Dark Falls.

Author Robert Lawrence Stine wrote 62 books in the series, as well as a number of spinoffs. Stine, who's been called "The Stephen King of Children's Literature", has said a lot of his books were inspired by classic science fiction and horror stories, with influences also drawn from classic fairy tales. "Night of the Living Dummy" is a variation on the "Pinocchio" theme - twin sisters Lindy and Kris find a discarded ventriloquist's dummy, and Lindy decides to keep him. As she develops comedy routines with the dummy Kris obtains her own dummy. One night the girls go into their room, finding the dummies lying on the floor, the new dummy's hands around the older dummy's neck. Coincidence? No - the younger dummy is alive, and malicious. After a string of unpleasant events the girls manage to dispose of the dummy, but then discover the other one is also alive.

Christopher Pike is another successful children's horror story writer. He includes references to Egyptian, Hindu and Greek mythology in his novels, and quotes authors like Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, Agatha Christie and Stephen King among his influences. His "Spooksville" series of 24 books includes one titled "The Wicked Cat", in which Adam and his friends find a black cat during a walk in the local woods. Strange things begin to happen in the town; a house burns down and a tree suddenly falls down. At every strange occurrence the cat is in attendance, watching everything with its strange green eyes. Then it turns its supernatural powers on Adam and his friends...

Another noted children's author is Lee Striker, the pseudonym of Australian Children's author Margaret Clarke. She chose her name after hearing about Stine's "Goosebumps" series, and decided she wanted her children's horror fiction placed next to his books on the bookshops. She has 12 books in her "Hair-Raiser" series, which contains titles such as "The Revenge of the Vampire Librarian" (remember to get your library books back on time...) and "Curse of the Mummy", where a man brings back a new wife after a business trip to Egypt. But what kind of MUMMY is she, because she smells odd and uses a lot of bandages and band aids, and cats behave strangely when she is near.

Children's horror writing is not a new concept, and it didn't start with fairytales. Originally fairytales were not originally intended to be read by children. The Brothers' Grimm's writing was aimed at adults, and met the then increasing demand for literature based around local folklore in the early 19th century. Anyone who has seen the film "The Brothers' Grimm" will probably back me on this - that film is most definitely NOT for children! As the Horror genre evolved "Dracula" and "Frankenstein" made the average fairytale appear somewhat childish, so the different stories were reworked and rewritten by adults so they would be more suitable for children. By the Victorian era the average Grimm fairy tale was far less graphic and violent than the original, and Disney's handling of the stories has "tamed" them still further.

While the Grimms were compiling their collection of adult fairytales other writers were already producing children's stories, many of which contained elements of horror. Hans Christian Andersen's "Tales Told For Children" was published in 1835, and some of the stories in that book are excellent references for children's horror literature:

"The Red Shoes" are a pair of beautiful, cursed slippers which force their wearer to dance continually. A vain young girl slips them onto her feet, and finds herself unable to stop dancing. So bad is the problem she cannot go to church, and is unable to attend her adoptive mother's funeral because she cannot stop dancing. Condemned by and angle to dance forever as a warning to all vain children, she begs an executioner to cut off her feet. For the rest of the story she is haunted by the animated shoes, which dance before her as she moves on wooden feet with the help of crutches.

"The Little Mermaid", yearning to be with a handsome human prince with whom she has fallen in love, gives a witch her tongue in exchange for a potion that turns her tail into legs. She must get her prince to marry her to give her a soul, and she sets out to find her love, even though every step she takes is as painful as waking on sharpened knife blades. Even though she is mute the prince does fall in love with her, and is enchanted by the way she dances for him, never knowing the agony she suffers at every step. The course of true love never did run true, and the prince marries someone else. The heartbroken mermaid throws herself into the sea and turns into foam.

"The Little Match Girl" sells matches on the icy streets to keep warm. One New Year's Eve, she lights her matches to keep warm. In their light she sees wonderful warm banquets with tables full of wonderful food and a sparkling Christmas tree. Looking up she sees a shooting star, and remembers it means someone is about to die. Lighting her last match she sees her grandmother, the only person who ever treated her kindly. Her grandmother has come to take her to Heaven, and the following morning her frozen little body is discovered, surrounded by burnt out matches.

Charles Kingsley's "The Water Babies" features a chimney sweep named Tom, who meets a young girl called Ellie at her house. After he is chased away he falls into a river and drowns. He is turned into a water baby, and experiences several adventures while learning life's lessons under the tutelage of the fairies. Once a week he is allowed to see Ellie, who had the misfortune to fall into the river just after Tom. Eventually he proves himself worthy to return to human form, and lives a full life. He is reunited with Ellie, but they never marry.

Children's horror writing is a challenging genre, and although the stories may have changed slightly over the years there's still a demand for these kind of books from a young, enthusiatic audience. It's a genre that's going to be with us for many years to come.

The writer was born in Africa, and lived there for the first 38 years of her life. She worked in the world of public relations for over five years, running her own PR company and dealing extensively with the world of journalism and the print media. She is an author on http://www.Writing.Com/, a site for Writers. Her blog can be visited at: http://www.writing.com/authors/zwisis/blog

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Review: The Squirrel, the Worm and the Nut Trees

by Lillian Brummet

The first thing that greets the reader upon seeing "The Squirrel, the Worm and the Nut Trees" is the glossy green cover and the large cartoon like illustrations of nature scenes. Illustrations both on the cover and inside this children's book were created by Bobby Switzer are soft, smooth and friendly; I felt they are very easy on the eyes. The happy and sometimes frustrated critters will have readers giggling.

"The Squirrel, the Worm and the Nut Trees" is the story of a ruthless little worm that only smirks when squirrel approaches him with his concerns about sharing the nut harvest. So Squirrel and his family learn to adapt and harvest their share before the worms begin building their nests, thereby outwitting their nemesis and ensuring a full pantry all winter long. They did this without war, without hate... but simply by adapting and accepting the change they must go through. So the lesson in learning how to be calm, rational and communicate rather than reacting with aggression is fairly strong in this story. I also enjoyed the concept broached in this tale that one can give a situation thoughtful consideration and sometimes consult others in order to create an effective plan of action.

Adverse changes such as the prospect of starving over the winter months did not send the squirrel family over the edge - they kept calm and conserved what they had. They also learned to be proactive, to take fate into their own hands. Another interesting point I would like to raise about this story is that the squirrels left enough to sustain (& fool) the worms.

"The Squirrel, the Worm and the Nut Trees", in spite of being a fiction children's tale, can serve in the classroom setting with lessons on many levels from peace to dealing with conflict & biology lessons such as the interconnected life systems. The lovable characters and the insight into wildlife that this book provides could very well build an appreciation for nature in today's children.

"The Squirrel, the Worm and the Nut Trees" is the first of a series by this author Jimmie Powell. The suggested retail price of 15.95 (US) is a good price for a 44-page illustrated children's book of this genre. The book is approximately 8.5 X 8.5 inches in size and is pleasing to the eye with the soothing use of earth tones such as various shades of green, brown, burgundy, grey and blue.

Unfortunately, although I browsed the publisher's website I could not find any information on eco-printing or socially responsible publishing options that the publisher has chosen to employ during the production of this book; such as using vegetable inks, recycled content; carbon offset efforts or support of a charitable organization. However, I cannot find it within my heart to dock this book even a half a point. I truly loved this book and highly recommend it.

ISBN#: 978-1-4327-1326-3
Rating: 5-out-of-5 stars

~ Lillian Brummet: co-author of the books Trash Talk and Purple Snowflake Marketing, author of Towards Understanding; host of the Conscious Discussions radio show (http://www.brummet.ca)