Category Archives: family

Unstuffed by Ruth Soukup (Zondervan, 2016)

Book Review – Unstuffed by Ruth Soukup

Unstuffed by Ruth Soukup (Zondervan, 2016)

About the book (from the publisher):

Unstuffed: Decluttering Your Home, Mind, and Soul by Ruth Soukup (Zondervan, 2016)

STUFF. It’s everywhere. Lurking in corners and closets, spilling onto counters and coffee tables, creating havoc everywhere we look. And it’s not just the physical clutter that weighs us down. Oh no, it is the stress of overbooked schedules, and the weight of life that sometimes feels oppressive and totally out of whack.

New York Times bestselling author Ruth Soukup feels your pain–she has been there too. Through personal stories, Biblical truth, and practical action plans, she will inspire and empower each of us to finally declutter not just our home, but our mind and soul as well. Unstuffed is real, honest, and gets right down to the question we are all facing–how can we take back our lives from the stuff that is weighing us down?

In this book, together we will:
• Create a comprehensive vision for our homes, and make instant changes to improve its overall function.
• Discover that more closet space is not the solution, and instead learn how to set strict limits for the stuff we bring in.
• Overcome the frustration of dealing with our kids’ influx of stuff and implement practical solutions for keeping the chaos at bay.
• Recognize the pitfalls of an overstuffed schedule BEFORE it gets out of hand, and instead learn to combat the culture of busy that keeps us running from one thing to the next.
• Finally conquer that mountain of paperwork that threatens to tumble down around us at any moment.
• Let go of the guilt that gets attached to gifts and instead learn to separate our loved ones from their stuff.
• Begin to cultivate our real friendships while eliminating the toxic relationships that weigh us down.

My thoughts:

The author blends practical with inspirational in a fairly well-rounded (for the intended audience) book in Unstuffed.

When picking up this book, it’s important to realize from the start that the book will not focus solely on decluttering physical possessions. Thankfully, the subtitle conveys this right away: “Decluttering your home, mind, and soul.” The book is organized into three main sections (Home, Mind, and Soul), with three chapters in each section tackling different components, like living areas, storage, kids, schedule, paperwork, gifts, and soul aspects of living (friends, wellness, and spiritual). The author uses both personal anecdotes along with practical step-by-step lists to offer what she’s learned and researched about decluttering our lives – physically and mentally. She incorporates a few faith-based statements throughout, but especially focuses on spiritual ‘decluttering’ and focus in the very last chapter.

A few aspects to consider: This book will be most helpful to its intended audience, which is first world, middle class with an overabundance of material stuff and crowded schedules. If outside of that group, this book will either be not useful, or possibly frustrating. However, considered within the intended audience, she begins with the physical stuff because many readers feel like that can help them gain some sanity if they’re in a position many middle class Americans are with too much all around.

The practical tips begin right away (on page 17), and her ideas will likely help much of her intended audience. If readers have researched decluttering techniques at all, many of her tips will have been heard or read before, but can still serve as good reminders. Perhaps more helpful is how she includes examples of applying those tips before or after each such numbered list of tips. The second section of the book is perhaps more useful because it deals with the why of decluttering (and why we get so cluttered in the first place), which allows readers to reflect and look at ways to change (and ways to accept grace). I particularly appreciated her thoughts on balance.

"We want to believe we can create balance. But balance comes from rest." - Unstuffed by Ruth Soukup

There is also a DVD study available to accompany this book, as well as an app and website with access to many of the resources discussed in the book.

What books or articles have helped you refocus on what matters?

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.

February 2016 - Picture Book and Middle Grade new releases mini-review series on Instagram

New Book Review Series on Instagram

So, every February for the past couple of years, I’ve done a little mini-review series over on Instagram where I feature one KidLit book per day. (Last year was #PictureBookBiographies!) Each day this month on Instagram, I’ll feature one amazing picture book or middle grade novel published between January 2015 and February 2016, and share a 1-4 sentence review along with it.

February 2016 - Picture Book and Middle Grade new releases mini-review series on Instagram

2015 was an amazing year for high-quality children’s literature that makes us think, grow, expand our experiences, hope even in darkness and brokenness, and spread love. And 2016 is looking astounding.

I won’t be able to share all of my favorites, but I can share 29 superb books to share with the young readers in your life (and enjoy yourself!). We’ll share on Instagram with the hashtag #PBandMGNewReleases.

Join me over on Instagram for one daily post, and please share some of your family’s favorites in the comments! After the series is over, I’ll post a round-up of all the books and reviews here on the blog.

What are some of your family’s favorite new releases last year and this year so far?

A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest by J. A. Myhre

Book Review – A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest by J. A. Myhre

A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest by J. A. Myhre

About the book:

Mu, a ten-year-old orphan, has lived his entire life in the heart of Africa. For as long as he can remember he has served in the household of a great-uncle where he is unloved and ignored. In his drudgery-filled life, Mu has little hope of happiness, and little hope that anything will ever change.
But one day, everything does change. On his way to draw water one morning, Mu is astonished when a chameleon greets him by name and announces that they will embark on a quest together. And what a quest it turns out to be! Mu faces danger and finds unexpected allies as they journey through a fascinating and ever-changing landscape.
A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest by J. A. Myrhe (New Growth Press, 2015) blends magical realism with a compelling story. The exciting story line combines an orphan’s journey to find a home with the plight of child soldiers and the dangers of the Ebola virus and, along the way, highlights universal themes of integrity, loyalty, faith, and love. Written by long-time medical missionary J. A. Myrhe, the artful story is laced with subtle gospel themes and handles cross-cultural issues with grace and sensitivity. Kids will encounter good and evil and learn the truth about hope, happiness, and what it means to be human in this page-turning first book in a new series.

My thoughts:

The best parts of this book are the setting details when tied in with the character action. Several beautiful phrases conjure setting and draw the reader into visualizing this world, like this sentence on page 12: “Children trickled into the road like pink petals on a slow current.” The overall adventure Mu, Tita, and Botu travel on is interesting with a bit of mystery as to what the full quest is for Mu.

That said, much of this book reads as if it’s for adults rather than children. The perspective is third person, mostly from Mu’s point-of-view, yet it sounds more like an adult telling the story than Mu telling the story. The tone is full of more description than action in many places. This leaves little white space on the pages and slows down the pace. Several sentences at the end of chapters also repeat information already known or review actions occurred, as if to remind readers what they just read, which is likely unnecessary for the intended audience age.

But the themes woven within offer good points of conversation between readers (or parents/teachers and readers) to discuss cultural differences, war/rebellion, trust, friendship, family, survival, care/respect for animals/nature, having the choice between good and evil, and forgiveness.

Read more about the book here.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher as a part of the Litfuse blogging team 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 Beginner's Bible Sticker and Activity Book: All About Jesus (Zonderkidz, 2015)

A Supplement to The Beginner’s Bible for Kids

Since our kids were born, we’ve regularly read out of The Beginner’s Bible (from Thomas Nelson publishers) together. It’s a superb starter Bible for reading aloud and for preschoolers to practice reading themselves.

The Beginner's Bible

So when I recently had the opportunity to review an accompanying activity book, I knew my kids would be excited.

The Beginner's Bible Sticker and Activity Book: All About Jesus (Zonderkidz, 2015)

The Beginner’s Bible Sticker and Activity Book: All About Jesus (Zonderkidz, 2015) is one of a series of sticker and activity books for preschoolers to accompany the Bible stories shared in The Beginner’s Bible.

In 16 pages, this activity book offers a fairly wide variety of activities. Each page offers an even shorter version of the (already shortened) stories in the The Beginner’s Bible. So while this activity book shouldn’t be used as the main Bible reading, it offers a superb, hands-on supplement to family reading/study. Some pages have the kids place stickers over grayed out spaces, some include word searches, some include counting activities, mazes, or coloring. The activities also provide a span of developmental skills, including reading comprehension, sequencing, and memory recall.

The Beginner's Bible Sticker and Activity book in action

How We Used This Book

My daughter is starting to offer her input on some of my review items. She says she particularly loves the “people stickers” (since they’re the same illustrations as The Beginner’s Bible itself), and she likes that we get to do all the activities together as a family. :-)

The activities included are definitely geared towards preschoolers, but elementary and older kids could “lead” family study or church youth group activities with preschoolers using these activity books as a supplement. My kids eagerly did the activities, which were simple in general, but had varied directions, which is always good to practice. The only issue they had was being able to get some of the stickers (particularly the puzzle-shaped stickers) off of the sticker sheet without ripping. We spread out the pages over about a week and used this activity book as our Bible study for the week. It’s perfect to use in conjunction with The Beginner’s Bible by reading the full stories there, then completing 2-3 corresponding activity pages.

There are currently five other activity books in this series, covering Easter, creation, and more. The price (just a few dollars) is pretty reasonable for an activity book that can be spread out over a week’s worth of family Bible study, add a tactile component to Bible study, or even provide an activity or a long car ride.

What activity books does your family love for family Bible study?

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

I am an affiliate for Amazon Associates and GrapeVine Studies. If you click on an Amazon link or a GrapeVine Studies 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.

Picture Book Biographies Instagram Series {undergodsmightyhand.com}

28 Awesome Picture Book Biographies

Back in February, I did an Instagram series of 28 mini-reviews of picture book biographies. I loved reading for that series and sharing those books, and I’m finally getting to list all of the books in one place here!

Picture books are an awesome medium for biographies because they can inform, encourage, tell an amazingly relatable story, and inspire all in 1500 words or less (and usually 1000 words or less). They’re useful for people/social studies in classrooms/homeschool, as well as introductions to special events or topics. Plus, most are written uniquely or beautifully and can be great mentor texts for kid writers and grown-up writers!

Read below for the title/author/illustrator for each book, plus a link to my mini-review on Instagram for each book.

Picture Book Biographies Instagram Series {undergodsmightyhand.com}

28 Awesome Picture Book Biographies

Basketball Belles by Sue Macy, illustrated by Matt Collins

Basketball Belles by Sue Macy, illustrated by Matt Collins (Holiday House, 2011) – My mini-review

Before John was a Jazz Giant - Carole Boston Weatherford, Sean Qualls

Before John was a Jazz Giant by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Sean Qualls (Henry Holt, 2008) – My mini-review

Eleanor, Quiet No More - Doreen Rappaport, Gary Kelley

Eleanor, Quiet No More by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Gary Kelley (Disney-Hyperion, 2009) – My mini-review

Wilma Unlimited - Kathleen Krull, David Diaz

Wilma Unlimited by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by David Diaz (HMH Books for Young Readers, 2000) – My mini-review

Just Behave, Pablo Picasso! - Jonah Winter, Kevin Hawkes

Just Behave, Pablo Picasso! by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes (Arthur A. Levine books, 2012) – My mini-review

Nelson Mandela - Kadir Nelson

Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson (Katherine Tegen Books, 2013) – My mini-review

Ben Franklin's Big Splash - Barb Rosenstock, S.D. Schindler

Ben Franklin’s Big Splash by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by S.D. Schindler (Calkins Creek, 2014) – My mini-review

When Marian Sang - Pam Munoz Ryan, Brian Selznick

When Marian Sang by Pam Munoz Ryan, illustrated by Brian Selznick (Scholastic, 2002) – My mini-review

Rosa - Nikki Giovanni, Bryan Collier

Rosa by Nikki Giovanni, illustrated by Bryan Collier (Henry Holt, 2007) – My mini-review

On a Beam of Light - Jennifer Berne, Vladimir Radunsky

On a Beam of Light by Jennifer Berne, illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky (Chronicle, 2013) – My mini-review

The Noisy Paint Box - Barb Rosenstock, Mary GrandPre

The Noisy Paint Box by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Mary GrandPré (Knopf, 2014) – My mini-review

The Tree Lady - H. Joseph Hopkins, Jill McElmurry

The Tree Lady by H. Joseph Hopkins, illustrated by Jill McElmurry (Beach Lane Books, 2013) – My mini-review

The Boy Who Loved Math - Deborah Heiligman, LeUyen Pham

The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos by Deborah Heiligman, illustrated by LeUyen Pham (Roaring Book Press, 2013) – My mini-review

Words Set Me Free - Lesa Cline-Ransome, James E. Ransome

Words Set Me Free: The Story of Young Frederick Douglass by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James E. Ransome (Paula Wiseman Books/Simon and Schuster, 2012) – My mini-review

The Iridescence of Birds - Patricia MacLachlan, Hadley Hooper

The Iridescence of Birds: A Story about Henri Matisse by Patricia MacLachlan, illustrated by Hadley Hooper (Roaring Book Press, 2014) – My mini-review

The Camping Trip that Changed America - Barb Rosenstock, Mordicai Gerstein

The Camping Trip that Changed America by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein (Dial, 2014) – My mini-review

Queen of the Falls - Chris Van Allsburg

Queen of the Falls by Chris Van Allsburg (HMH Books, 2011) – My mini-review

Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library - Barb Rosenstock, John O'Brien

Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by John O’Brien (Calkins Creek, 2013) – My mini-review

Miss Moore Thought Otherwise - Jan Pinborough, Debby Atwell

Miss Moore Thought Otherwise by Jan Pinborough, illustrated by Debby Atwell (HMH Books, 2013) – My mini-review

Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors? - Tanya Lee Stone, Marjorie Priceman

Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors? The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell by Tanya Lee Stone, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman (Henry Holt, 2013) – My mini-review

When the Beat was Born - Laban Carrick Hill, Theodore Taylor III

When the Beat was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop by Laban Carrick Hill, illustrated by Theodore Taylor III (Roaring Book Press, 2013) – My mini-review

The Right Word - Jen Bryant, Melissa Sweet

The Right Word by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet (Eerdmans, 2014) – My mini-review

Mama Miti - Donna Jo Napoli, Kadir Nelson

Mama Miti by Donna Jo Napoli, illustrated by Kadir Nelson (Paula Wiseman Books/Simon and Schuster, 2010) – My mini-review

Seeds of Change - Jen Cullerton Johnson, Sonia Lynn Sadler

Seeds of Change by Jen Cullerton Johnson, illustrated by Sonia Lynn Sadler (Lee and Low, 2010) – My mini-review

Sojourner Truth's Step-Stomp Stride - Andrea Davis Pinkney, Brian Pinkney

Sojourner Truth’s Step-Stomp Stride by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney (Disney, 2009) – My mini-review

Manfish - Jennifer Berne, Eric Puybaret

Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau by Jennifer Berne, illustrated by Eric Puybaret (Chronicle, 2008) – My mini-review

The Streak - Barb Rosenstock, Terry Widener

The Streak: How Joe DiMaggio Became America’s Hero by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Terry Widener (Calkins Creek, 2014) – My mini-review

Emmanuel's Dream - Laurie Ann Thompson, Sean Qualls

Emmanuel’s Dream by Laurie Ann Thompson, illustrated by Sean Qualls (Schwartz and Wade, 2015) – My mini-review

Even more great picture book biographies have come out since I did this series, and more are being published in the future! What are some of your family’s favorite picture book biographies?

Disclosure: I either own the books above or checked each out from our library system. I was not given any for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

I am an affiliate for Amazon Associates and GrapeVine Studies. If you click on an Amazon link or a GrapeVine Studies 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.