December 20, 2016

Simonetta Carr, Martin Luther

Luther's story is a compelling one, and Simonetta Carr has done an admirable job of presenting it to older children. The illustrations are very strong in this book; Carr has a nice mix of photos of historical places, portraits of Luther and other key figures, and original drawings to illustrate key events. The text presents the core events in Luther's life and the key themes of the Reformation in clear language. Occasionally more complex ideas will come across without sufficient explanation, but generally she has done a good job of maintaining an engaging tone and level-appropriate explanations of events and ideas. My boys (6 and 9) generally enjoyed the story, and they have already asked to do it again. ⭑⭑⭑⭑⭒

Thanks to the author, the publisher, and Cross-Focused Reviews for the review copy of this book.

October 16, 2016

A Bird, a Girl, and a Rescue, by J. A. Myhre

In this captivating novel, Kiisa, an eleven-year-old girl, finds herself in boarding school. The transition is a difficult one for her, but it is also filled with wonder, as she discovers a talking bird in her trunk among her things. This Messenger, Njili, relays news from home but also hints of a "rescue," and of interesting events to come.

Kiisa learns to navigate the new world of the school and begins coming into her own as a young woman, but events are turned upside down when rebels attack. And this gives Kiisa a new chance to seize the opportunities she is given to make a difference. Events hurtle to a compelling and action-packed conclusion.

My boys and I loved reading this novel. It was a great read-aloud book. I especially appreciated the immersion in East African culture (I'm assuming, based on the author's background, that it is quite authentic, since I don't have a first-hand way of judging), and enjoyed opening up my kids' eyes to other ways of life. The story is also filled with fascinating tinges of Christianity that come across as authentic and can stimulate further discussion. And the story was just a lot of fun. We haven't read the first book in the series yet (we most definitely will be doing so soon!), and it isn't required background for this book, though there are a few allusions to the earlier story.

In all, this is a great book. My boys (nine and six) all loved it and gave it two thumbs up. The language was often a stretch for the six-year-old, but he was still able to follow along, and my nine-year-olds were fully immersed in the action. I've no doubt they'll read this book on their own in the coming years.

Thanks to New Growth Press and to Cross Focused Reviews and Shaun Tabatt for the review copy of this book.