Category Archives: children’s books

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.

Swimming with Faith: The Missy Franklin Story by Natalie Davis Miller (Zondervan, 2016)

Book Review – Swimming with Faith: The Missy Franklin Story by Natalie Davis Miller

Swimming with Faith: The Missy Franklin Story by Natalie Davis Miller (Zondervan, 2016)

About the Book (from the publisher):

Swimming with Faith: The Missy Franklin Story by Natalie Davis Miller (Zondervan/Zonderkidz, 2016)

Missy Franklin is one of the most talented swimmers in the world. She is a four-time Olympic gold medalist and currently holds the world record in the 200-meter backstroke and American records in both the 100-meter and 200-meter backstroke. She was Swimming World’s World Swimmer of the Year and the American Swimmer of the Year in 2012. This story tells of her rise in fame and humbleness in the sport.

My Thoughts:

My kids and I enjoy watching the Olympics and marveling at what our bodies can do with training, dedication, and respect for what God gifted us. With the Summer Olympics coming up, this seemed like an opportune time to read about one of the US’s Olympics athletes, swimmer Missy Franklin.

You can read this book to learn much more, obviously, but Missy grew to love swimming from a young age and began swimming competitively at age 5. With natural aptitude shining early on, a desire to improve, and extremely supportive parents, she competed in her first Olympics in 2012 at age 17. She’ll be returning to the 2016 Olympics this year.

Geared towards perhaps around third grade reading level and up, this book presents information about Missy’s childhood and training in a fact-focused way. The book offers highlights of her swimming career, side notes about how her faith spurs her journey, and excerpts via other media interviews of quotes from Missy, her parents, and coaches. The matter-of-fact approach and short chapters make this a quick read, but the organization of the chapters can be a bit cumbersome at times. The first chapter overviews her whole story and the second chapter then overviews her process of getting into swimming, but in doing so, we jump back and forth chronologically, which can be a bit confusing to read. Beginning in the third chapter, readers find the timeline flows more naturally. Several statements and sentiments are repeated across chapters unnecessarily (particularly a fixation on Missy holding off on receiving prize and endorsement money for years to remain ‘amateur’ status to be able to compete on high school and college swim teams). While these oft-repeated facts are important to Missy’s story and understanding her character, but I feel it’s a bit of a disservice to readers to repeat them so frequently from chapter to chapter (and sometimes even within chapters). The information about her faith is brief, but can still be inspiring for readers exploring trust and their own faith.

The book reads more like a series of articles, which some readers may enjoy, others may not. Certainly, Missy’s story of dedication, perseverance, eagerness to help others, and learning to trust God’s timing will encourage many young readers pursuing their own dreams with God-given talents.

In this year’s Olympics, from what I found, Missy will be competing in the 200m backstroke, 200m freestyle, and the 4x200m freestyle relay. We’ll be watching out for her! She also keeps a fairly active Twitter account to follow along some of her swimming journeys.

Which athletes inspire your families?

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via BookLook Bloggers 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.

The Prince Warriors by Priscilla Shirer with Gina Detwiler

Book Review – The Prince Warriors by Priscilla Shirer

The Prince Warriors by Priscilla Shirer with Gina Detwiler

About the Book (from the publisher):

The Prince Warriors by Priscilla Shirer (with Gina Detwiler), (B&H Books, 2016)

The battle is real.

As brothers, Xavier and Evan are used to battling each other. But now they’re discovering that there is a much bigger battle going on all around them. And it’s their turn to fight. Based on Ephesians 6:10–18, The Prince Warriors is the first book in Priscilla Shirer’s epic new series that brings to life the invisible struggle ensuing in the spiritual realm. Xavier, Evan, and their friends have typical lives until they enter a mysterious land called Ahoratos. There they meet their guide, Ruwach, who offers wisdom and direction as the kids’ initial adventure begins—an adventure filled with armor and danger and a very real enemy.

Written by New York Times Best-Selling author Priscilla Shirer, The Prince Warriors series was created for middle-grade readers and will include the fiction trilogy as well as Unseen: The 365 Prince Warriors Devotional and the Unseen app.

My Review:

I’ve read several of Priscilla Shirer’s adult Bible studies and love her perspective, writing tone, and insights. She’s one of my go-to, trustworthy Bible-study writers. In her first foray into children’s fiction for middle grade readers, we see great insights into living for God and spiritual warfare, in particular, with this series (the first of a planned trilogy).

There’s a lot to like about this book, particularly the magical realism and otherworldly-ness found within the spiritual realm of “Ahoratos,” which four main characters find together, and the teamwork and trust they learn together. The plot remains interesting and action-packed throughout the book’s twenty-five chapters. The characters offer some range in personalities (and includes one girl as a main character, too, which makes the title of the book a bit misleading), though some of the traits and comments can lean a bit on the stereotypical side, particularly when referring to gender stereotypes. But there are several things to like there, too, like boy/girl friendships (yet not necessarily romantic) and varied interests (science, skateboarding, drawing, etc.).

The biggest obstacle in reading is that the point-of-view perspectives change constantly within each chapter, and even within paragraphs from sentence to sentence. Though the book is told in third person, it is still told through a character’s perspective because readers ‘see’ internal thoughts and characteristics that would only be known through that character’s perspective. But, most novels switch perspectives chapter to chapter, or perhaps at page breaks between scenes, not actually from paragraph to paragraph within the same scene. This constant perspective change can be a bit distracting while reading because readers regularly have to switch their own frame of mind to be able to envision which character is saying and feeling what, and which characters are getting to know someone else or seeing something through observation of that character. The writing could also be tighter in some places as several spots “told” instead of “showed” a key characteristic or feeling.

But, if readers can get through the perspective changes, the intriguing plot and the strong faith-based themes are what really carry this book. The book ends satisfyingly with the current adventure wrapping up, yet more adventures promised in future books, as well as some unanswered mysteries and a newly introduced character to learn about in the second book. This story also discusses great themes (trust, believing without seeing, kindness, forgiveness, redemption) through action and then lets the reader see how these characters apply the themes in their ‘real world’ lives, which makes this book great for parents to read with their kids and discuss together.

What are some of your favorite faith-based middle grade reads?

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher 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.