Category Archives: children’s books

I Am Martin Luther King Jr by Brad Meltzer, illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos (Dial, 2016)

Celebrating Multicultural Children’s Books

Recently, we celebrated Multicultural Children’s Book Day, where many bloggers around the world have shared about great multicultural children’s books.

Check out the origins of Multicultural Children’s Book Day at the main site and at Pragmatic Mom and Jump Into a Book.

The folks at Multicultural Children’s Book Day also put together a Classroom Kindness Kit.

We were given the opportunity to join in on the #ReadYourWorld fun and review a book that celebrates diversity!

I Am Martin Luther King Jr by Brad Meltzer, illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos (Dial, 2016)

About the book (from the publisher):

I Am Martin Luther King Jr. by Brad Meltzer, illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos (Dial, 2016)

We can all be heroes. That’s the inspiring message of this New York Times Bestselling picture book biography series from historian and author Brad Meltzer.

Even as a child, Martin Luther King, Jr. was shocked by the terrible and unfair way African-American people were treated. When he grew up, he decided to do something about it—peacefully, with powerful words. He helped gather people together for nonviolent protests and marches, and he always spoke up about loving other human beings and doing what’s right. He spoke about the dream of a kinder future, and bravely led the way toward racial equality in America.

This lively, New York Times Bestselling biography series inspires kids to dream big, one great role model at a time. You’ll want to collect each book.

My Kids’ Thoughts:

My son says: “I like it! But I don’t like when Martin Luther King Jr. couldn’t be friends with his best friend anymore. I like the fun illustrations and reading about Martin Luther King Jr.”

My daughter says: “I give this book 4 1/2 stars! I really love reading about Martin Luther King Jr., and I like when everyone comes together to let freedom ring and be kind to each other. I like the illustrations, and I don’t mind that Martin Luther King Jr. is shown as staying smaller the whole time, but I do think that’s a little confusing. At the end of the book, I feel like we can all help each other.”

My Thoughts:

This book is part of the “Ordinary People Change the World” series, which highlights amazing actions done by many people for justice and kindness throughout history.

My kids and I have been reading a lot about Martin Luther King, Jr. over the past year, and they were thrilled that we’d get to read and review this book.

The narrative is a bit longer for a picture book, so this book (and series) is better suited for ages 5 and up. This book included a lot of information within its pages though, which we all liked and appreciated. My kids enjoyed how the narrative was written as if Martin Luther King was talking to them, telling us his story. They also enjoyed the illustration style and formatting of having some folks talk in dialogue bubbles that added to the narrative. These spots allow for perfect places to take turns reading out loud.

The material sparks conversations on fair treatment and justice, even for the younger age group. Starting in childhood also helps younger readers relate what happened to minorities. I expected more back matter at the end of the book, although it makes since that the back matter is condensed since the narrative highlights many events within MLK Jr.’s life. I’m especially glad the book states, “…remember how far we’ve come. And how much more work there is to do.” The ending spread empowers readers to know our voices can come together to support each other.

I personally found the illustration choice of keeping Martin Luther King Jr. as child-sized throughout the book distracting rather than helpful. My kids noticed it too (as my daughter noted above), but it also didn’t bother them. (This is a style choice throughout the whole series, so it’s something I believe most readers can get used to.) The illustrations are colorful and interesting. We’ll definitely be checking out more of this series.

Check out more reviews of amazing multicultural books at the link-up!

Multicultural Children's Book Day

I also share about kidlit books, including many diverse books over at my Instagram account. Join me and let’s talk books!

Instagram for kidlit books and more

Celebrating multicultural children’s books is for every day! What favorite diverse books have you been reading lately?

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book as a MCBD reviewer. All opinions expressed are my own, and this is my honest review.

I am an affiliate for Amazon Associates. If you click on an Amazon link and then make a purchase, I receive a small commission. This does not affect your final cost at all. Thank you for supporting this blog and my family!

This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Courage to Soar by Simone Biles with Michelle Burford (Zondervan, 2016)

Soaring and Believing {Book Review – Courage to Soar by Simone Biles}

Courage to Soar by Simone Biles with Michelle Burford (Zondervan, 2016)

From the publisher:

Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, a Life in Balance by Simone Biles with Michelle Burford (Zondervan, 2016)

Simone Biles’ entrance into the world of gymnastics may have started on a daycare field trip in her hometown of Spring, Texas, but her God-given talent, passion, and perseverance have made her one of the top gymnasts in the world, as well as a four-time winner of Olympic gold in Rio de Janeiro.

But there is more to Simone than the nineteen medals—fourteen of them gold—and the Olympic successes. Through years of hard work and determination, she has relied on her faith and family to stay focused and positive, while having fun competing at the highest level and doing what she loves. Here, in her own words, Simone takes you through the events, challenges, and trials that carried her from an early childhood in foster care to a coveted spot on the 2016 Olympic team.

Along the way, Simone shares the details of her inspiring personal story—one filled with the kinds of daily acts of courage that led her, and can lead you, to even the most unlikely of dreams.

My thoughts:

Written for tween age and up, this autobiography follows Simone from her early life in foster care through her gymnastics journey to the Olympics.

Each chapter starts with an inspiring quote from an author, athlete, or otherwise accomplished person. Simone also sprinkles in inspiring statements throughout her narrative, typically as she learns the lessons they grow from. These motivational lines can apply to anyone with a goal, which helps expand the book’s readership.

“…a person can only fail if they stop trying, if they refuse to pick themselves up and try harder.” – Simone Biles, Courage to Soar

The writing tone is casual and quality is average, but accessible. The chapters progress mainly chronologically (with a few backtracks), culminating with her recent Olympics experience. Readers gain insights to the many pressures that come with elite gymnastics. Faith discussion is limited, as comments were generally more about praying that God would make this or that happen and recognizing talents as God-given. If you’re looking for a deeper look into the author’s faith, you won’t find it in this book, but readers can still learn more about her dedication and perseverance. This book isn’t meant to make one think and analyze, but instead provides entertainment, background about a role model, and a few inspiring moments along the way.

What athlete or role model have you read about recently?

Disclosure: I received a free electronic copy of this book from the publisher as a part of the BookLook bloggers program. All opinions expressed are my own and this is my honest review.

I am an affiliate for Amazon Associates. If you click on an Amazon link and then make a purchase, I receive a small commission. This does not affect your final cost at all. Thank you for supporting this blog and my family!

This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

NIrV Love Letters from God Bible (Zondervan, 2016)

Reflecting on the Bible as a Family {Book Review – Love Letters from God Bible}

NIrV Love Letters from God Bible (Zondervan, 2016)

From the publisher:

NIrV Love Letters from God Bible by Zondervan (2016)

What if a child could read his or her own personal mail from God? The NIrV Love Letters from God Bible will invite kids to do just that! This full-text Bible in the New International Reader’s Version (NIrV) is a perfect way to introduce children to God’s Word and his great love. With 80 love letters from God written especially for the reader, children will see Bible stories and themes come to life and learn just how much they are loved by their Creator.

Each love letter also contains a very special Bible verse, entitled God’s Wonderful Words to You. Much more than a mere memory verse, each carefully chosen promise will be God’s very own personal words of love, encouragement, and hope, and are highlighted in the text. The love letters will culminate in an invitation for the children to write their own RSVP to God.

Features include:

-80 personal love letters from God
-Highlighted Wonderful Words—special verses to remember and cherish
-80 prompts encouraging children to write their own love letters to God
-8 full-color tip-in pages with additional content
-The complete text of the New International Version (NIrV)

My thoughts:

This NIrV Bible is a continuation of the style from the author’s Love Letters from God picture books. (I reviewed the first one in that series here.) My kids still enjoy reading through the original Love Letters from God, so we looked forward to reviewing this Bible together.

This Bible is a full Bible text in the NIrV translation. There’s a short “how to use this Bible” page before the table of contents, then an explanation of the translation, and then it goes straight into Genesis.

We love the NIrV translation, so reading this Bible remains enjoyable. About once a book (or twice for some books), readers find a short “love letter from God” written in the same style as the picture books, written from the perspective of God talking to the reader (referring to the reader as “you”). The letters often reiterate something read in the Bible text and ask questions for reflection as well as restate aspects of God’s love. Each letter concludes with a highlighted verse. Beside each letter, readers have about one vertical third of the page to “write back” to God and respond to the suggestions reflection questions. These reflections often ask “have you ever…” questions to relate the biblical material to the reader’s current life or ask “how do you feel” about a truth introduced.

As with any Bible with interpreted devotions, I suggest reading and analyzing these devotions/reflections together with your child/students as not all interpretations may fully fit your family/church’s theology.

Additional features:

  • three full-color inserts (front and back pages) with additional information or highlighting important aspects of faith and study, including the ten commandments, definitions, ‘how to pray,’ a ‘getting to know Jesus’ summary, and more. Each of these pages has a “Write Back” sidebar with questions for writing reflection. We particularly liked the “how to pray” page. It makes prayer accessible for all and less daunting for kids unsure of where to start.
  • a dictionary in the back
  • full color maps in the back
  • an attached ribbon bookmark

This isn’t a study bible since it does not contain other sidebars or introduction/summary information at the beginning of each book. But it’s also not meant to be a study bible. Its main purpose seems to be for reading and reflection on what the words of God mean about God and about our relationship with God. This bible serves its purpose well, so it’s a fine addition to any family library. If you are looking for one main bible for kids to use for both study and reflection, you may find other study bibles better able to suit your needs.

Read about two of our favorite NIrV Bibles for middle grade readers and advanced early chapter book readers here: NIrV Adventure Bible and NIrV Kids’ Devotional Bible.

Do you generally look for more reflection questions in your family bibles, or do you look for more study aspects?

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher as a part of the BookLook bloggers program. All opinions expressed are my own and this is my honest review.

I am an affiliate for Amazon Associates. If you click on an Amazon link and then make a purchase, I receive a small commission. This does not affect your final cost at all. Thank you for supporting this blog and my family!

This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

NIrV Kids' Devotional Bible (Zondervan, 2016)

A Year-Long Devotional Bible for Kids {Book Review – NIrV Kids’ Devotional Bible}

NIrV Kids' Devotional Bible (Zondervan, 2016)

About the book (from the publisher):

NIrV Kids’ Devotional Bible (Zondervan, 2016)

Complete with a year’s worth of devotions, the Kids’ Devotional Bible, NIrV will help children develop a habit they’ll want to keep. Engaging weekday devotions, fun weekend activities, interesting illustrations, and a dictionary make this a Bible they’ll want to read and apply to their lives. It includes the complete New International Reader’s Version (NIrV)—the stepping stone to the NIV—making it easier for young readers to read and understand.

Features include:

• Short weekday devotions that help young readers apply Bible lessons for a full year.
• 52 weekend devotions that teach kids about God’s creation through fun activities like visiting the zoo and gazing at the stars.
• “Got It” feature that encourages kids to find answers to Bible trivia themselves.
• Book introductions that give helpful information about each book of the Bible.
• A dictionary to look up words they want to know more about.
• The complete NIrV text, which uses shorter sentences and easier words. Kids can read this Bible on their own!

My thoughts:

Our kids are old enough now that we are loving going through study bibles with them, and they also pick up bibles on their own and read through passages we’ve recently studied together, etc. And, so far, we are big fans of nearly every Zondervan kids Bible we’ve picked up.

That trend continues with Zondervan’s newer Kids’ Devotional Bible. This bible has the full Bible text in NIrV translation (read more about this translation here — we love this translation for young readers!). It also has 5 devotions per weekday that move through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, as well as ‘weekend’ devotion each week.

The weekday devotions include:

  • a bible reading (usually between 2-10 verses),
  • a focus verse,
  • a short less-than-half-page devotion that tries to tie the biblical story or truth into more current, everyday living,
  • “ask yourself” questions to help young readers reflect on what they read,
  • a box to ‘check’ when the devotion has been read, if wanted,
  • and a note at the bottom notifying which page the next devotion appears, plus additional Scripture references for additional reading/study.

This structure is set up nicely for brief reflection and family discussion after each reading. The devotions remain fairly general to be accessible to most readers. Some can be a bit more on the superficial side, but others delve into deeper topics that will warrant family discussion. I find the language used and topics covered to be geared more towards kids ages 7 to 13 or so. (The language will be ‘too young’ to be as interesting for most teens, but teens can definitely join in with younger siblings on discussions and guidance.)

Also, I suggest parents/teachers reading the devotions with kids to help talk through the devotions. Because devotions are interpretive by nature, some of the devotions, on rare occasion, may not align with certain biblical understandings or your family/church’s theology. (This can happen with any devotional book, so discussions can help your kids learn to analyze and still some glean truth from something that may differ from their own understandings.)

Readers can decide to go through the Bible straight through, or use the “subject guide” in the back to pick Scripture readings and devotions on topical needs, like joy, forgiveness, giving, worship, truthfulness, etc. (Some literal readers may not like reading a “Thursday” devotion on a Monday, for example, if wanting to look for specific topics, but these devotions could still certainly be read that way.)

The weekend devotions differ with:

  • two Scripture readings offered (one for Saturday, one for Sunday),
  • additional reflection questions (in the “Some things to think about” sidebar),
  • a “Some things to do” sidebar with simple, broad ‘action steps’ to live out what has been read and studied. Some of these tips include things to pray, ways to help. Some are too general (like “help those in trouble”) for some readers to benefit strongly from them without guidance, but most action steps will at least spark readers’ ideas for living out our faith in the world.

Additional features:

  • Each book begins with a brief, one-paragraph introduction/summary to what takes place or what is discussed in the book.
  • Each book ends with a “Got it!” section that reflects on the book (and devotions within that book) as a whole, and one or two “Connect the dots” questions that ‘quiz’ or review the material (including Scripture references to find the answers).
  • A “How to Use Your Devotional Bible” article at the beginning of the Bible written to young readers (rather than to parents).
  • A dictionary in the back with definitions of harder biblical terms, people, places, etc.
  • A “subject guide” in the back to find topical devotional and Scripture readings.

Overall, this is quality Bible and that would be especially useful for family devotion time with middle grade readers.

Our very favorite study bible for young readers (thus far) remains to be the NIrV Adventure Study Bible, which I reviewed here a couple of years ago, but this newer devotional bible will likely be well-used in our house, as well, and is a worthwhile addition to family libraries.

What is your family’s favorite study Bible or devotional Bible?

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher as a part of the BookLook bloggers program. All opinions expressed are my own and this is my honest review.

I am an affiliate for Amazon Associates. If you click on an Amazon link and then make a purchase, I receive a small commission. This does not affect your final cost at all. Thank you for supporting this blog and my family!

This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

One Small Donkey (Thomas Nelson, 2016)

A New Christmas Story for Little Ones {book review}

One Small Donkey (Thomas Nelson, 2016)

About the book (from the publisher):

One Small Donkey by Dandi Daley Mackall, illustrated by Marta Alvarez Miguens (Thomas Nelson, 2016)

Little ones can do big things for God!

Your family will love this heartwarming Christmas story told from an unlikely perspective: a donkey carrying Mary to Bethlehem. Though the donkey wasn’t the biggest, fastest, or strongest of all the animals, he had an important job all the same. Adults and children alike will love the message about how God has big plans for little ones.

My Kids’ Thoughts:

My son says: “I like it! I like at the end that there are children in the illustration with the animal and donkey and baby Jesus. I also liked the sound words like clip, clip, clop and knock, knock, knocks.”

My daughter says: “I like that it’s a Christmas story. I like that the donkey’s halter is red. I like that the donkey’s master is Joseph. Even though the donkey wasn’t as big or as fast as the other horses, he still had an important job to carry Mary. I like that other animals come along on the journey and then all together at the end and Mary gets to have a baby with Joseph and hold him.”

My Thoughts:

This story offers a sweet fictional look at Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem and Jesus’s birth. We first meet the small donkey without Joseph and Mary, and we’re introduced to donkey wanting to be like the big, fast, sleek horses instead of his own donkey self. We don’t actually see anyone excluding the donkey in these pages before Joseph calls for him, but this idea of poor self-esteem can be relatable.

I stumbled reading parts of this out loud at times. I feel like some of rhythm in these rhyming lines didn’t flow as well as others I’ve read from this author. I almost wondered if this particular story needed to be told in rhyme. Some of its lovely phrases would have remained lovely in the prose form, too.

That said, it’s an enjoyable read aloud and captures another perspective of the Christmas journey. Plus it offers an age-appropriate focus on how everyone — no matter how fast, slow, big, or small — has an important job and a way to help. (The author’s note gives an inside look to the inspiration for the story, too.) The illustrations are sweet, colorful (though maybe their skin was a little too whitened for what’s probably historically accurate?), and show a blend of textures that are pleasing to look at while reading. My kids (as noted above in their review) were drawn to many aspects of the illustrations.

We own the author’s Listen to the Silent Night (another fictional retelling of the birth story) and absolutely love it. The rhyme and rhythm there are smooth and so beautiful. One Small Donkey is a sweet story, but if you can choose only one, we highly recommend Listen to the Silent Night.

What is one of your family’s favorite Christmas picture books?

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher as a part of the BookLook bloggers program in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

I am an affiliate for Amazon Associates. If you click on an Amazon link and then make a purchase, I receive a small commission. This does not affect your final cost at all. Thank you for supporting this blog and my family!

This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.