• The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls - The Beginning - Book Review - great books for kids who love Magic Tree House
    book reviews,  elementary

    The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls – Book Review

    I am really excited to share today’s book review with you!

    So, I have one reader and one not-quite-a-reader-yet-but-listens-to-a-lot-of-audiobooks, both of them have loved the Magic Tree House series, my daughter has read almost all of them and listened to tons on audio and my son has listened to a number of the books on audio.

    If you are wondering why I am talking about the Magic Tree House when I’m reviewing a different book, here’s why: I think if your kids love the Magic Tree House books (as most kids do) they are going to love The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls series.

    I was sent The Beginning, book 1 in The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls series by author M. J. Thomas and was asked to review it. Now, here’s what you need to know about my book reviews: I actually share what I think about the book. I don’t try to sugarcoat things or praise books I don’t really like, that’s not a helpful book review at all.

    So, even though I was sent this book to review I didn’t promise to only write nice things, it just so happens this book is one I would highly recommend, but you can read the full review to decide if it’s right for you.

     

    The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls - The Beginning - Book Review - great books for kids who love Magic Tree House

     

    THE STORY

    The series follows siblings Peter and Mary (plus their dog Hank), in this first book their parents have just dropped them off at their great-until Solomon’s house for a month. The kids uncover a set of ancient scrolls in a secret room and are transported back to the beginning of the world.

    They spend a week watching the world and earth being created and trying to solve the secret of the scroll before the seven days are over or they will get stuck in the past forever.

    Throughout the series the kids (and Hank) are transported to different key moments in biblical history.

     

    WHAT I LIKED

    NARNIAN – The first chapter where the kids are dropped of at great-uncle Solomon’s house feels very Narnian, it reminds me of the kids arriving at the Professors house.

    HUMOR – There was some fun humor in the book, I actually laughed out loud when reading this paragraph in the first chapter:

    All Peter knew was that his Great-Uncle Solomon didn’t know anything about kids. The last time they had seen him, four Christmases ago, he had given them each a new toothbrush.

    CREATION IN A NEW LIGHT – I have no idea how many times I’ve read the story of creation in the Bible, many, many times, and it’s such a short section I find myself skimming through when I read it and not stopping to really think about it. This book made me pause and think about what it really would have been like at each point in creation and really brought the story to life.

     

    The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls - The Beginning - Book Review - great books for kids who love Magic Tree House

     

    EASY TO READ – At a grade 1-3 reading level these books make great first chapter books for kids.

    ADOPTION – It’s just a brief mention but there is mention of Mary being adopted from China and as an adoptive mom it’s nice to see that in books.

    REFERENCES – At the end of the book there is a page that lists the Bible chapters and passages the book is based off of so kids can go and read them straight from the Bible themselves.

     

    WHO I WOULD RECOMMEND IT TO

    This book was an easy and fun read and I think it would be great for kids in grades 1-3, especially those who love Narnia or the Magic Tree House books.

    I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series and hope they bring the Bible to life as much as this one did. If you’re curious, here are the other titles in the series:

    The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: Race to the Ark, Book 2 – the trio must rush to help Noah and his family finish the ark before the coming flood.

    The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Great Escape, Book 3 – Peter, Mary and Hank journey to ancient Egypt where they see firsthand the devastation of the plagues.

    The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: Journey to Jericho, Book 4 – they join the Israelite spies on a mission to Jericho as the Israelites prepare to enter the Promised Land.

    The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Shepherd s Stone, Book 5 – they travel to Bethlehem, where they befriend a young shepherd named David and witness the epic fight between David and Goliath.

    The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Lion’s Roar, Book 6 – This one is being released June 4th! In Peter and Mary’s sixth adventure, the Hidden Scrolls take them back to ancient Babylon, where Daniel is about to get thrown into the lions’ den.

     

    If you read the books let me know what you think of them!

  • The Prairie Thief Book Review - fantasy for elementary and middle grade
    book reviews,  elementary,  middle grade

    The Prairie Thief Book Review

    It’s time for another book review!

    The Prairie Thief is a book I have been meaning to read for a long time. I got the book out from the library a few times but never made it a priority to read until recently.

    Also, I want to note: the first time I took the book out from the library I didn’t realize it was fantasy – somehow I totally missed the little guy on the cover!

    I have heard people describe this book as Little House on the Prairie with a fantasy twist but I wouldn’t agree with that at all. I would say it’s more Anne of Green Gables or A Little Princess with a fantasy, Spiderwick Chronicles-esq twist.

    I’m going to share a short summary of the book, some of my thoughts about it and who I would recommend it for.

     

    The Prairie Thief Book Review - fantasy for elementary and middle grade

     

    THE STORY

    The Prairie Thief is set in Kansas in 1882 and follows Louisa Brody who has temporarily been sent to live with her closest neighbor (the Smirches) since her father has just been accused of, and arrested for, stealing (from the very neighbors she is sent to live with).

    Louisa is adamant her father is not a thief and is determined to figure out who the guilty one is so she can save him from hanging. Unfortunately the Smirches don’t make life easy on her while she is with them. And while she is trying to uncover the truth she soon learns that things aren’t what they appear on the surface. And once she knows who the guilty party is she still isn’t sure how to clear her father’s name.

     

    WHAT I LIKED

    MEMORABLE CHARACTERS – each of the characters in the story are memorable in their own way, Melissa Wiley does a good job of making it clear which characters we should like and which we should be wary of (even the name Smirches sounds like a bad character, doesn’t it?!).

    A DEVELOPING CHARACTER – Louisa is not a perfect child by any means but I appreciate her attempts to control herself and continue to grow. The inner chats she has with herself, especially faced with a not-so-nice person, are a great example for children who struggle with self control.

     

    The Prairie Thief Book Review - fantasy for elementary and middle grade

     

    GOOD WORK ETHIC – I suppose this being set in the 1800’s has something to do with it but this is another great example for children these days, Louisa has a number of daily chores, especially being the “woman” of the house, and she does them without complaining.

    BIBLE & POETRY REFERENCES – of course almost homeschool parent will appreciate the fact that Louisa’s father’s two books are the Bible and a book of poetry. Louisa enjoys poetry and if you have children who are a little hesitant in this area this book may help spark some interest in that area.

     

    WORTH NOTING

    HARSH CHARACTERS – the Smirch’s, who Louisa goes to live with, are a quite harsh family, especially the mother, I would say she may fall on the side of abusive. I know a lot of families who read this blog are foster parents and/or adoptive parents and I just want to point this out if it is a trigger for your child. Not that you shouldn’t read it, but it may be something you discuss as you read through the book. For most children, who have grown up in loving families, this is a good example of a poorly run home and it may be interesting to point out that back in 1882 people let parents parent how they wanted to, without getting involved themselves or other involved like they do now.

     

    WHO I WOULD RECOMMEND IT TO

    I think this book would be a great read aloud for elementary aged children and a great independent read for 8-12 year olds. Since the main character is a girl I do think it will appeal more to girls but I think the subject is equally interesting for boys so I am hoping to read it aloud to my 6 & 8 year old this summer.

     

    If you’ve read this book before I would love to hear your thoughts!

  • A Fablehaven Book Review - what I liked, what you should know and the ages it's best for.
    book reviews,  high school,  middle grade

    Fablehaven Book Review

    I’m excited to start what will be a nearly-weekly series of book reviews!

    As I explained earlier this week I think it is important to make sure we are aware of what our kids are reading, especially if you are a Christian parent.

    I decided to start by reviewing Fablehaven because it’s one of those books that I have heard a lot of people mention. I have gotten the book out from the library one or two times before but never got around to reading it so I made it a priority this time.

     

    THE STORY

    In Fablehaven sister and brother, Kristen and Seth, go to visit their grandparents for a few weeks, they’ve always known their grandparents were a little strange but they saw them so infrequently they couldn’t figure out why.

    It isn’t long into their stay before they realize that their grandparents vast estate is actually a preserve for all sorts of mystical creatures, both the safe and the not-so-safe. They slowly learn more about Fablehaven and the creatures that live there until something goes wrong and they need to save their family from powerful evil forces.

     

    From an adult standpoint I enjoyed this book, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I would recommend it for everyone. I’m going to share what I liked about the book, what concerns me and what I am planning on doing with my kids as a result.

     

    A Fablehaven Book Review - what I liked, what you should know and the ages it's best for.

     

    WHAT I LIKED

    LIGHT WINS – this is a story with defined good and bad, it even talks about how the evil is darkness and the good is light and it comes to head in a battle with the light winning. I appreciate how this parallels Jesus defeating Satan.

    GREAT VOCABULARY – the book is very well written and has some amazing vocabulary. I have never been a fan of “read through a book and write down any words you don’t know” but if that’s your thing, this is a great book for that!

     

    OF CONCERN

    QUITE DARK – while very well written there are some very dark scenes throughout the book, portions I think would be scary for the sensitive.

    TERMINOLOGY – there are a number of words in this book that may be a red flag for some. There are mentions of demons (the main bad guy is a demon) and the dark arts. There is also talk of hexes and magic.

    Personally, I struggle when fantasy books take terms from real life (like “demons”), on one hand I think it makes the bad guys more obvious but on the other hand I feel like it may be confusing for kids, so I’m not a fan of that use. I wish there would have been a better way of describing the “demon”, maybe by making him a dragon or something that is more fantasy but known to be a bad character.

    TRIGGERS – the story starts out at a wake and talks about the death of grandparents (even says “asphyxiation” and explains how they died because of a gas leak), this could be a trigger for some.

    DISOBEDIENCE – one of the characters in the book is repeatedly disobedient and doesn’t seem to learn from his mistakes. I am okay with flawed characters but wish there would have been more development in this area throughout the book.

    NEGATIVE TOWARD RELIGION – there is one quote in the book that was a major red flag in the book for me (page 114), it says: “No mythology or religion that I know of holds all the answers. Most religions are based on truths, but they are also polluted by the philosophies and imaginations of men.”

    MISPLACED – so, this is no fault of the book itself but it is actually categorized as a teen and young adult book according to Amazon but, at least in my library, it is shelved in the middle grade section and I don’t think it belongs there.

     

    A Fablehaven Book Review - what I liked, what you should know and the ages it's best for.

     

    HOW WE ARE GOING TO APPROACH IT

    After hearing so many good things about Fablehaven I was surprised to walk away with such a list of concerns. Like I mentioned, I enjoyed the book as an adult but that being said, I would hesitate allowing my kids to read it on their own. If anything I would like to read this book aloud with my kids and be able to have a discussion as we go through it, especially when we get to that quote on page 114 (though I would still wait a few years before reading it aloud with them).

    Down the road when my kids are older and also more grounded in their faith I would be willing to let them read the book independently but want to make sure they know that I am open for discussion about it.

    I have only read the first book in the series and have heard they “get better” but I am not sure exactly what that means. As of right now I’m not interested in reading any further but if you are convinced I should, let me know.

    Do you have suggestions for what I should review next? Let me know!

  • How Much Do the Books Our Kids Read Matter? - Screening chapter books as a Christian parent
    book reviews,  books

    Do the Books Our Kids Read Matter?

    I have been thinking about this ^ a lot in the last week, if you receive my bookish newsletter each week you’ll already know that from last week’s email.

    Part of this has a lot to do with the fact that Raeca is really into the fantasy genre and it’s something I know almost nothing about since it’s never been my genre. I have become slightly more knowledgeable in the last couple of years but just a little.

    I know that many books, especially those in the fantasy and fairy tale genres can be so great for sharing the Gospel story, where good conquers evil, but there are also many books in the genre that aren’t great, or are better for certain ages.

     

    A Homeschool Interview

     

    Last week as I was thinking about this subject I decided to go back and listen to an old episode of the Read Aloud Revival podcast – #41 where Sarah Mackenzie interviews Carolyn Leiloglou on the topic of navigating fantasy for Christian parents.

    The episode is very good and I highly recommend listening to it if you or your kids are interested in the fantasy genre.

    But the truth is, it’s not only fantasy books that we should be screening for our children.

     

    WHY WE SHOULD SCREEN WHAT OUR KIDS READ

    As a Christian parent it is my job to make sure the books my kids read are helpful in someway instead of harmful. I’m supposed to prepare them for their life but in an age appropriate way. I am also to train them to love and follow Jesus.

    One thing I didn’t understand as a kid when my parents were telling me not to read certain kinds of books was that they were actually doing so out of a love for me and not just because they wanted to be strict. Unfortunately I didn’t realize this until I borrowed some of these “banned” books from my friends and had nightmares as a result, of course I couldn’t actually tell my parents about these nightmares because then they would know I had read the books.

    (The books I am referring to are the Goosebumps books, I just Googled it and a bunch of covers popped up and they still creep me out to this day though I have zero recollection what the books are actually about.)

     

    The Best Chapter Books for Grade Two Free Reading

    (Yikes, this photo is a flashback to my more minimalist days and also when we didn’t own so many books, I miss those days in many ways. Sorry, that was off topic . . .)

    I don’t think every book kids (or adults) read need to have some major lesson or moral. I know that sometimes it is nice to have a chance to read a lighter book, especially if you’ve just finished reading something heavy or you are going through a heavier season in life but I do think that we need to be careful about we read and what we let our children read.

    While I was having all these thoughts last week I went to a Lamplighter book party and it was so encouraging to hear of a company that puts in an effort to their stories are character building and it was another reminder that I want to be more diligent with the books we read in our home.

     

    Do the books our kids read matter? On screening books as a Christian parent

     

    HOW DO WE MANAGE TO SCREEN ALL THE BOOKS?

    Because I know not every parent has the time/interest/ability to pre-read every book their kids read I am planning on starting to do some book reviews here. Since I enjoy reading a lot of middle grade books, have a decent sized collection thanks to thrift stores and have access to nearly every book thanks to the library, writing book reviews seems like a good idea.

    Instead of the weekly book lists I’ve been writing pretty regularly for nearly three years most weeks I will be posting a book review instead of a list (though there will still be some book lists every now and then). I’m planning on mostly doing reviews for chapter books (probably heavy on the middle grade chapter books) but if there is a picture book or something else that I feel like reviewing I’ll go ahead and do that (my site my rules 😉).

    If you have suggestions on some books you would be interested in having me review, let me know, I obviously already have a stack waiting for me to read but if there is something specific people are looking for I’ll bump that up on my list.

    If you have rules for what your kids are allowed to read or methods on how you make sure the books they are reading are good I would love to hear them!

  • House of Dreams: The Life of L. M. Montgomery middle grade book review
    book reviews,  books,  reviews

    House of Dreams: The Life of L. M. Montgomery – Book Review

    I came across House of Dreams, a biography on L. M. Montgomery a few weeks ago via someone on BookTube and I knew I needed to read it.

    As a Canadian I am embarrassed to admit that the only Lucy Maud Montgomery book I’ve actually finished is the first book in the Anne of Green Gables series.

    Just prior to seeing this book I had decided to try to read all of L. M. Montgomery’s books by the end of 2019. Of course, that was before I knew how many she had written but I’m still going to give it a try.

     

    House of Dreams: The Life of L. M. Montgomery middle grade book review

     

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    Another thing that pulled me in to this book was the cover and inside illustrations, they are done by Julie Morstad, who is also a Canadian and has written and illustrated some cute children’s books.

    House of Dreams (named after one of Maud’s own books) is written for the middle grade crowd and middle grade books are some of my favorites to read which gave me yet another reason to purchase this book.

    I loved how easy House of Dreams was to read. Liz Rosenberg did a great job organizing the story of Maud’s life, just before picking this book up I had set aside a biography of Beatrix Potter because it was so incredibly boring, House of Dreams was completely different in that regard and for that I was so thankful.

     

    House of Dreams: The Life of L. M. Montgomery middle grade book review

     

    While the book was well written, one thing I was not prepared for was how dark the story of Maud’s life was going to be. Thanks to a Heritage Minute video that came out earlier this year I did know that Maud had suffered from depression but I didn’t realize how long her struggle was or how much it penetrated her life. (Obviously, as someone who has never struggled with it, it’s not something I completely understand.)

    From what I have read from L. M. Montgomery and from what I know about her other works is that she writes in a very uplifting way, which gives no indication of how hard her personal life was.

    I had hopes to read this book with Raeca at some point down the road, and I still may but it will be further in the future than I had originally thought. We read and listen to quite a few biographies right now thanks to the Christian Heroes Then & Now series and reading House of Dreams after so many Christian biographies was a bit of a downer. While the Christian biographies do not usually have particularly easy lives there is always a hope that is missing from Maud’s life. Both her and her husband struggled with mental illness, which, knowing her husband was a minister made it an even more sad fact. Not that people in the church don’t struggle, but there is still hope and that was obviously missing from Maud’s life and that of her husband.

     

    House of Dreams: The Life of L. M. Montgomery middle grade book review

     

    I didn’t know any of the details surrounding Maud’s death until reading this book and the fact that her death was potentially a suicide also gives me pause when thinking about reading this book with my kids, it at least makes me want to delay the point at which we read it.

    So, those are some of my thoughts on House of Dreams, over all the book is extremely well written but the content is, in my opinion, for a bit of an older audience. While I often read middle grade books with my kids now (who are 5 & 8), this one I would probably wait until they are teenagers to go through.

    Have you read this book? I would love to hear your thoughts!