• 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 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.



    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.



    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 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.



    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.



    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.



    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!