Friday, January 30, 2015

Book Reviews :: Tiny Bear's Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones, illustrated by Igor Oleynikov and Little Chick's Bible by P. J. Lyons, illustrated by Melanie Mitchell

Tiny Bear's Bible is a Bible story boardbook wrapped up in a fuzzy cover. The material for the bear is a light brown, fuzzy fabric and the ears are flaps that can be lifted and played with. The material covering the background is a medium brown, fuzzy fabric. (The colors of the two brown, fuzzy fabrics are more varied than the cover image to the left shows.) The title ("Tiny Bear's Bible") appears to be iron-on lettering on an oval of blue felt. The blue straps on the bear are also made of blue felt. Everything appears to be securely stitched in place. Although the fuzzy fabrics on the cover of Tiny Bear's Bible don't seem to come apart when I pull at them, they don't appear to be the most sturdy fuzzy fabrics I have come across. I am not sure what they would do if a baby put them in their mouth...and I am not going to put this in my mouth for the sake of a review. ;o)

(Note: I have seen an alternative cover for Tiny Bear's Bible that appears to have a dark fuzzy brown bear on a cream colored fleece background, shown below. I did not receive a book with that cover.)
The text is written by Sally Lloyd-Jones. There are 11 Bible stories retold (in rhyme) in Tiny Bear's Bible
They are:
  • God Makes the Whole Wide World, Genesis 1-2 (Creation)
  • God Promises to Rescue Noah, Genesis 6-9 (Noah's Ark)
  • God Keeps Moses Safe, Exodus 1-2 (Baby Moses)
  • David Fights a Horrible Giant, 1 Samuel 17 (David & Goliath)
  • God Protects Daniel in the Lions' Den, Daniel 6 (Daniel in the Den of the Lions)
  • Jesus is Born, Luke 2 (Birth of Jesus)
  • Jesus Stops a Scary Storm, Mark 4 (Jesus Calms the Storm)
  • The Lord's Prayer, paraphrase of Matthew 6 (The Lord's Prayer)
  • The Friend of Sinners, Luke 19 (Zacchaeus)
  • God Makes Jesus Alive Again!, Matthew 27-28 (Death and Resurrection of Jesus)
  • "I am with you always", Matthew 28 (Reminder that God is always with us)
In each each story is a reference to Tiny Bear and something that ties in to how the story relates to us (God keeps his promises, God takes care of us, God helps us, etc.). I appreciated these additions to the story-telling to remind us that these are more than just stories.

The illustrations in Tiny Bear's Bible are done by Igor Oleynikov. Each 2-page spread is fully illustrated. On the left page of each opening (along with the title and Scripture reference), there is an illustration that corresponds to the Bible story being retold. On the right page of each opening (along with the story text), there is an illustration that shows Tiny Bear in a scene that corresponds with the Bible story. The illustrations are beautifully done in a colorful, but slightly muted color palette. The illustrations are not quite as cartoonish as you might expect in a children's book, but I appreciated that.



Little Chick's Bible is a Bible story boardbook wrapped up in a fuzzy cover. The material for the chick is very soft, fuzzy fabric and the wings and beak are flaps that can be lifted and played with. The material covering the background is a soft light yellow fleece. The title ("Little Chick's Bible") appears to be iron-on lettering on an oval of orange felt. Everything appears to be securely stitched in place. The fuzzy fabrics don't seem to come apart when I pull at them, and seem quite sturdy. Even with that said, I am not sure what they would do if a baby put them in their mouth...and I am not going to put this in my mouth for the sake of a review. ;o)

The text is written by P. J. Lyons. There are 8 Bible stories retold (in rhyme) in Little Chick's Bible
They are:
  • God's Wonderful Work, Genesis 1-2 (Creation)
  • God's Friend Noah, Genesis 6-8 (Noah's Ark)
  • Baby Moses in a Boat, Exodus 1-2 (Baby Moses)
  • David Fights a Giant, 1 Samuel 17 (David & Goliath)
  • God's Greatest Gift, Matthew 1:18-24, Luke 2:1-7 (Birth of Jesus)
  • The Real Neighbor, Luke 10:25-37 (The Good Samaritan)
  • It's a Miracle, John 6:1-13 (Feeding of the Many with Loaves and Fishes)
  • Jesus Opens Heaven's Doors, Luke 23:44-24:8 (Death and Resurrection of Jesus)
The illustrations in Little Chick's Bible are done by Melanie Mitchell. Each 2-page spread is illustrated (although they are not edge-to-edge illustrations). The left page of each opening has a white background and includes the title, Scripture reference, story text, and a small illustration of Little Chick in a circular frame. The right page of each opening is a full-coverage illustration that corresponds to the Bible story being retold. The illustrations are cute and colorful, as you would expect from a children's book.


Since I received both Tiny Bear's Bible (by Sally Lloyd-Jones, illustrated by Igor Oleynikov) and Little Chick's Bible (by P. J. Lyons, illustrated by Melanie Mitchell) to review, I cannot help but compare the two. I absolutely love the cover on Little Chick's Bible (it is SO soft!), but prefer the text and illustrations from Tiny Bear's Bible. However, if it comes down to it, I think either (or both!) would be great to share with little ones.
FTC Declaration: The publisher has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book or advanced reading copy through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. This does not change the fact that I will give my honest opinion in my reviews.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Adventures in Bible art & journaling :: Week 4

Here are the pages from week 4 of my Bible art & journaling adventure:

For this page - I started out just wanting to doodle something, and ended up doodling a nest. I liked what I did, so I found a place in my Note-taker's Bible to do it again:
Many of the Psalms have to do with singing (they are psalms, after all) and I was inspired after reading Psalm 96 to embellish my page with this:
Psalm 29 shows the incredible power just in the voice of the Lord, and this was the mental picture I got from reading it:
Many Psalms talk about praising the name of the Lord, but I especially liked the mental picture that came with the phrase "from the rising of the sun to its setting" from Psalm 113:
Thanks for stopping by today!
Supplies:
Bible: Zondervan (NASB Note-taker's Bible);
Colored Pencils: Prang (various colors);
Pens: Sakura (Pigma Micron);

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Book Review :: Esther: Royal Beauty by Angela Hunt

Esther: Royal Beauty is a new novel in the Dangerous Beauty Novel series by Angela Hunt. I have read books by Angela Hunt in the past, so I was interested in reviewing this novel. 

Esther: Royal Beauty is based on the biblical story from the book of Esther. The chapters in Esther: Royal Beauty are either told from the perspective of Hadassah (Esther) or Harbonah (a fictional character - the king's eunuch servant). It wasn't clearly stated, but Harbonah's character refers to writing a couple times which made it sound like maybe these were supposed to be written chronicles from himself and Esther.
I struggled with a few things in reading Esther: Royal Beauty:
First of all, it gives hopes and dreams to Esther that we aren't told about in the Bible. Yes, I understand that in re-telling the story as a story the author is going to form opinions and perspectives from each character, but Esther's character wasn't what I was expecting. She seemed to despise her Jewish upbringing and dreamed of getting away from it all, in whatever manner necessary (despite her conservative upbringing). 

Second, I felt like this book focused too much on castration (eunuchs) and sex (concubines/harem/king). Although it was not graphic and was delicately handled compared to so many other books out there, it was just referenced more than necessary in my opinion. 

I had more concerns until I read the author's note at the end of the novel. One thing Angela Hunt does well is research her novels thoroughly. There is a substantial reference list at the end of Esther: Royal Beauty (which you normally wouldn't find in a novel at all) and the author's note directly acknowledges some of the concerns I had about the story. After reading the author's note I felt like I had a better understanding of the author's perspective, so it might be good to read this before reading the novel (but it may have a couple small spoilers if read before the novel). 

As is mentioned in the author's note, there are many events mentioned in the novel which were either historically accurate (according to the author's research) or historically based (meaning they were likely to happen, but not necessarily fact). The events in Esther: Royal Beauty are both based on the biblical account and extra-biblical historical information.

Although I did enjoy reading Esther: Royal Beauty, it isn't among my top favorite Angela Hunt novels. Still, it was interesting to read. 
FTC Declaration: The publisher has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book or advanced reading copy through the Bethany House Blogger Review Program. This does not change the fact that I will give my honest opinion in my reviews.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Book Review :: Bunny's First Spring by Sally Lloyd Jones, illustrated by David McPhail

Bunny's First Spring is a new hardcover book (with dust jacket - same images on each) from Sally Lloyd-Jones, illustrated by David McPhail. You may know Sally Lloyd-Jones as the author of The Jesus Storybook Bible and Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing

I must admit, with Sally Lloyd-Jones as the author, I was expecting more of a moral-based or praise-based book. Really, this is just the story of a little bunny who is born one spring, sees the change that fall and winter bring, and then gets to see the re-birth of the next spring. The change and growth of the world are often compared to the bunny throughout the story. It is sweet to experience the seasons for the "first time" with the little bunny, and the illustrations are a beautiful complement to the text. There is a (paraphrased) quote from Martin Luther at the end of the story, but I wish the idea of God bringing new life had been emphasized in the text of the story, rather than just tacked on in a quote at the end. 

I think Bunny's First Spring is a cute book to share with little ones about the changes that the seasons bring. (The book states ages 4-8, but I think this may be more suited for ages 2 or 3 through 6.)
FTC Declaration: The publisher has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book or advanced reading copy. This does not change the fact that I will give my honest opinion in my reviews.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Adventures in Bible art & journaling :: Week 3

Here are the pages from week 3 of my Bible art & journaling adventure:

Reading about Nebuchadnezzar in the book of Daniel made me have a new respect for him. Many times we focus on the part of the story where he is requiring everyone to bow down to his statue, but after an extremely humbling time, he immediately raises his head and praises God. 
This is inspired by a quote that I love from The Jesus Storybook Bible ("And they were lovely because he loved them."):
Psalm 148 is full of praise to God (and who...or what...should be praising God) and I just loved the mental picture it gave:
I love the picture Psalm 8 gives of God "hanging" the moon and stars in place: 
For this page, I combined the images that were talked about in two different translations (NASB & NIV):
I love this blessing: 
I don't remember what exactly brought me to this passage (quite a few of the passages I have come across lately are from our family reading time using the Daily Office Lectionary in The Book of Common Prayer, so it may have been something from there), but I immediately had a picture in my head when I read it, so I just had to get it down:
I love wearing scarves, and when I read about binding love and faithfulness around your neck, this is the picture I got:
Life is like a mist:

Thanks for stopping by today!
Supplies:
Bible: Zondervan (NASB Note-taker's Bible);
Colored Pencils: Prang (various colors);
Pens: ZIG (Millennium); Sakura (Pigma Micron); 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Book Review :: One Thousand Gifts Devotional by Ann Voskamp

One Thousand Gifts Devotional is a devotional by blogger and author of the popular book One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp.

One Thousand Gifts Devotional is a hardcover book with an attached ribbon bookmark. (The hardcover is just as you see it in the preview image, there is no dust jacket.)

Ann Voskamp has a very particular style of writing (very flowery and somewhat disjointed, in my opinion), and it takes me awhile to get in the mode. If you have read her blog or her book (One Thousand Gifts), you will be familiar with her writing style. I felt this was even more difficult to manage in a devotional than I did in her book, simply because devotionals are intended to be "digested" in small portions. At first, it took me reading about 5 devotionals in a row (in one sitting) for it to really start sinking in.

Each of the 60 devotions in One Thousand Gifts Devotional is followed by a short prayer and then the remainder of the last page is lined (for notes, prayers, etc.). In a few cases the prayer ends at the very end of a page, and, in these cases, there is no lined space.

The devotions have recurring themes such as: grace, joy, thankfulness, and trust. Some devotionals will flow into the next (more like a story), and some do not. (I did not feel like the devotionals in One Thousand Gifts Devotional were just snippets or portions from the One Thousand Gifts book, but it has been awhile since I read the book, so I may be forgetting. The reason I mention that is that I do not feel like it would be a waste to own both books.)

Yes, there are also 1000 lines (numbered) at the very back of One Thousand Gifts Devotional to record your own list of one thousand gifts. 

I have had quite a few "lightbulb" moments from reading both One Thousand Gifts and One Thousand Gifts Devotional, but I also know that Ann Voskamp's writing style can be difficult to tackle. I feel like these are both great choices for reading and will benefit you if you have the time to get into Ann Voskamp-mode. :o)
FTC Declaration: The publisher has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book or advanced reading copy. This does not change the fact that I will give my honest opinion in my reviews.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Book Review :: A Plague of Unicorns by Jane Yolen

A Plague of Unicorns is a new book from New York Times bestselling author Jane Yolen. Jane Yolen has authored more than 350 books and has been the winner of several literary awards. A Plague of Unicorns is based on the author's short story "An Infestation of Unicorns" (published in her book Here There Be Unicorns).

A Plague of Unicorns is a hardcover book with a dust jacket (the dust jacket is printed with the cover image you see in the preview - the hardcover is solid olive green with a tan spine and green foiled lettering). The text is large and there are some illustrations throughout the book. (There seem to be more illustrations in the earlier chapters than there are in the later chapters.)

For me, A Plague of Unicorns was difficult to get into...and although it did pick up a bit around chapter 4, it remained a book that was just not particularly appealing to me. The chapters are relatively short, and seem to be broken up into snippets of a story rather than a continuous flow. (For example: chapter 7 has 8 marked sections in approximately 12 pages of text.) I wish A Plague of Unicorns had a glossary of terms, as there were a variety of uncommon words used without good contextual clues. (A few examples: abbot/abbey, bestiaries, pleurisy, oblate, etc.) As far as I was concerned, there was no real "action" in the story until around the last quarter of the book. That is not to say that I feel like all books should be action-packed, but the first 3/4 of A Plague of Unicorns felt rather dull and unappealing.

I was excited to have a chance to review A Plague of Unicorns and was hopeful that my kids would enjoy it as well, but my daughter (who often reads hundreds of pages in books per week) picked this book up and returned it shortly thereafter, unfinished. My son still intends to try it...time will tell what he thinks of it.

Obviously, with over 350 books and a variety of awards under her belt, Jane Yolen has a good fan base. Although A Plague of Unicorns is not a book I plan to read again, there are others out there who might enjoy it. 
FTC Declaration: The publisher has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book or advanced reading copy. This does not change the fact that I will give my honest opinion in my reviews.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Adventures in Bible art & journaling :: Week 2

Here are the pages from week 2 of my Bible art & journaling adventure:

This page was inspired by a drawing my 8 year old son drew (that hangs on our wall):
Here is his drawing:
The following pages were inspired by the Christmas/Advent season:


This page was inspired by something I read in a book (and also, obviously, the words to a popular Christian song):
I can't remember what lead me to this page (I think it may have been a book I was reading), but Psalm 145 is a beautiful praise to God and I loved how it listed so many of His traits: 
This was another page inspired by the Christmas/Advent season:
Thanks for stopping by today!

Supplies:
Bible: Zondervan (NASB Note-taker's Bible);
Colored Pencils: Prang (various colors);
Pens: ZIG (Millennium); Sakura (Pigma Micron); Sharpie (Pen.);

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Book Review :: I Can Learn the Bible (The Joshua Code for Kids) by Holly Hawkins Shivers, illustrated by Becka Moor

I Can Learn the Bible is a book written by Holly Hawkins Shivers and illustrated by Becka Moor. It is an adapted version of The Joshua Code (which is based on Joshua 1:8). (The author of I Can Learn the Bible is the daughter of the author of The Joshua Code, O. S. Hawkins.) As the cover states, I Can Learn the Bible is The Joshua Code for Kids. (We do not own The Joshua Code, so I cannot compare/contrast these resources in this review.)

I Can Learn the Bible will take your kids (& you) through 52 scriptures from the Bible. It is intended to be used as a year-long devotional (taking one week to study, learn about, and memorize each scripture). (There is a schedule suggestion listed in the "Letter to Parents".) The pages in I Can Learn the Bible are full-color.

Each devotion in I Can Learn the Bible is marked with "Week 1, Week 2, ...Week 52" and is a total of 4 pages long. Each devotion starts out with a full page illustration of the scripture for the week followed by 3 pages discussing the topic/verse, including a prayer (with a fill-in-the-blank portion to personalize the prayer). The illustrations are cute and done in fun (but muted) colors. (I wish the full page illustrations of the scriptures were available as printables or even coloring pages - these would be a fantastic resource to hang on the wall.) The devotionals have practical stories and/or examples that are great to help kids understand the concept being shared. Each devotional ends with the same phrase: "God's Word is for me and to me, it is in me, and working through me, and just like His love, it goes on and on forever!"

The majority of the verses (including all of the llustrated verses) that are referenced in I Can Learn the Bible are taken from the ICB (International Children's Bible) version. (I noticed only one verse referenced from the NIV and one from the NKJV.) 

For those who might be curious, I thought I would show a breakdown of where the 52 scriptures in I Can Learn the Bible are taken from:
Genesis: 1
Exodus: 1
Joshua: 1
1 Samuel: 1
2 Chronicles: 1
Psalms: 5
Proverbs: 2
Ecclesiastes: 1
Isaiah: 2
Jeremiah: 1
Zephaniah: 1
Matthew: 6
Mark: 1
Luke: 2
John: 6
Acts: 1
Romans: 3
1 Corinthians: 2
Galatians: 2
Ephesians: 4
Philippians: 4
1 Timothy: 1
James: 1
1 John: 1
Revelation: 1

The Appendix of I Can Learn the Bible has 12 tips for helping children memorize scripture. 

I think that I Can Learn the Bible is a great resource for families and is simple enough that it can easily be used by anyone. 
FTC Declaration: The publisher has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book or advanced reading copy through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. This does not change the fact that I will give my honest opinion in my reviews.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Book Review :: Give Thanks to The LORD by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Amy June Bates

Give Thanks to the LORD is a new children's picture book celebrating thankfulness (& the Thanksgiving holiday), inspired by Psalm 92.

Although the cover says "celebrating Psalm 92", Give Thanks to the LORD does not cover the full Psalm (more like the first 4 verses, only vaguely covering verses 2-4). It does not have the full text of the Psalm in print, only verse 1.

With that being said, however, the book has a great theme throughout of thanking God for friends, family, weather, nature, food, drinks, fun, and more food.

The illustrations in Give Thanks to the LORD by Amy June Bates are big, warm, and interesting. They have a "sketch" quality to them, as you can see from the cover image.

Give Thanks to the LORD has charming words, large illustrated pages, and a fantastic theme. I think it is a great book to read with young ones.
FTC Declaration: The publisher has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book or advanced reading copy. This does not change the fact that I will give my honest opinion in my reviews.