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Book Review

Listed in alphabetical order:


The Berenstain Bears

and the Gift of Courage

by Jan & Mike Berenstain (illustrator/author); published by Zonderkidz, the children's division of Zondervan

Summary: Sister Bear likes animals, from dogs to lizards. She even likes insects. The school bully, Too-Tall, makes fun of Sister because she talks to a ladybug. Sister does not stand up for herself. That night, when Papa reads Brother and Sister a bedtime story, the cubs learn more about David and Goliath and are inspired to be courageous. On the way to school the next morning, Brother and Sister witness Too-Tall and his gang trying to knock down a hornet's nest by throwing rocks at it. Brother and Sister bravely, yet unsuccessfully, try to stop them. When the nest rips open, the hornets swarm after Too-Tall and his gang, but not after Brother and Sister. Brother and Sister learn that God gives even small cubs the courage to do what is right, and He protects them.

Christian beliefs: The "acting courageously" theme in this book is taken from 2 Chronicles 19:11. Papa reads a bedtime story from the Big Book of Bible Stories. He tells the story of David and Goliath. Papa reminds the cubs that God is watching over them and that knowing God is there should give them the courage they need when they need it.

Authority roles: The parents include a book of Bible stories as reading material for their cubs. Papa is affectionate and loving as he tucks the cubs into bed for the night. He encourages them to be unafraid because God is watching over them.


Daddy is a Cozy Hug

by Rhonda Gowler Greene (author);
Maggie Smith (illustrator); published by Walker and Company, an imprint of Bloomsbury USA

Summary:  A little boy describes the fun he has with his daddy throughout the seasons of the year. They share activities such as swimming, building a birdhouse, camping and more.

Christian beliefs: None.

Authority roles: Daddy is an involved and loving father.


The Gardener and the Vine

created by Andrew McDonough (author/illustrator); published by Zonderkidz, the children's division of Zondervan

Summary: The Gardener cuts an isolated branch named Basil from a withering vine and grafts it onto a beautiful and fruitful vine. This is the start of a new and productive life for Basil.

Christian beliefs: This story is based on John 15:1,5 and Romans 11:13-25. It demonstrates that the Gardener (God) does the choosing, that even the weakest members of society can be used by God, that what looks like death is really life and that trusting God gives us new life.

Authority roles: The Gardener is reassuring and earns Basil's trust. He takes care of Basil on the long journey from the desert to the garden. The Gardener keeps his promises.


How About a Kiss for Me?

by Todd Tarpley (author); Liza Woodruff (illustrator); published by Dutton Children's Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group

Summary: This silly, rhyming story is about a small boy whose dad questions him about kissing various creatures and things, ranging from frogs and dogs to toes and mud. The father concludes that kissing and being kissed by his son is the best.

Christian beliefs: None.

Authority roles: The father is affectionate and loving. He cautions against kissing some things — skunks, snakes and mops.


My Brother Charlie

by Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete (authors); Shane W. Evans (illustrator); published by Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic, Inc.

Summary: My Brother Charlie is based on a true story. The narrator, Callie, relates the ups and downs of having a twin brother who has autism and can't communicate in the same way as others. Charlie is described from a child's perspective, perhaps to help children understand and accept those they know who are autistic.

Christian beliefs: One line says that Callie and her mother watch over Charlie with the strength of angels. The idea that all human life is valuable is conveyed. Callie says she is "blessed to be Charlie's sister" and counts her "Charlie Blessings" every day.

Authority roles: The parents are painted as a loving, married couple that spends time with their kids — taking walks and stargazing.


My Father is Taller Than a Tree

by Joseph Bruchac (author);
Wendy Anderson Halperin (illustrator); published by Dial Books for Young Readers, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group

Summary: Thirteen dads show how they spend time with their sons. These dads are ethnically diverse and live in different locales, but they all have one thing in common. They like doing things with their boys — talking, eating, teaching, playing, working and reading.

Christian beliefs: None.

Authority roles: These fathers interact with their sons through work and play.


Papa's Pastries

by Charles Toscano (author);
Sonja Lamut (illustrator); published by Zonderkidz, the children's division of Zondervan

Summary:  Winter approaches, and Miguel's family lacks some of life's necessities. One of their needs is firewood, which is essential for the making of pastries, the source of the family's income. Papa prays for the Lord's provision before setting out to sell his pastries. The trouble is that some of the villagers are even more destitute and are unable to afford his pastries. In his compassion for them, Papa gives away his pastries and returns home empty-handed. The next day, the villagers who received the free pastries visit the family to repay Papa's kindness. A carpenter repairs Miguel's roof, a woodcutter provides firewood for the family and a seamstress repairs their clothes.

Christian beliefs: Papa asks God to provide for his family. On the sixth page before the end of the book, Papa tells his family that the more they give to others, the more they will receive. As long as the implication is that we ask God, and He provides for us, not that our kindness to others is our provision or that kindness is more important than money, this book has the message of John 16:24. Papa prays for the needs of his family to be met. Miguel thanks God for His kindness to Miguel's family and for Papa.

Authority roles: Papa's generosity, kindness and dependence on the Lord are a powerful example for Miguel. Papa is hardworking, has faith and perseveres in the face of poverty. In front of the children, Mama tells Papa that he is very kind, but very foolish.


Roly Poly Pangolin

by Anna Dewdney (author/illustrator); published by Viking, an imprint of the Penguin Group (USA), Inc.

Summary: Roly Poly is a baby pangolin (a scaly relative of anteaters). It is fearful of everything new — new foods and new friends. It clings to its mother's tail in this rhyming story and runs from new experiences. One day as it flees a new experience, Roly Poly trips, forms into a ball and rolls down the hill. When it stops, Roly Poly does not come out of its ball shape for a long time. Eventually it hears a noise and notices another ball, another pangolin, next to it. Finding another pangolin its size helps Roly Poly start to embrace its world with less fear. Roly Poly has learned that it is less scary to try new things when life is shared with a friend.

Christian beliefs: None

Authority roles: Roly Poly's mother totes the young pangolin on her tail for the first few pages of the book. She does not appear in the rest of the book.


This Little Prayer of Mine

by Anthony DeStefano (author);
Mark Elliott (illustrator); published by Waterbrook Press, the evangelical division of Random House Books

Summary: In rhyme, a child narrator gives his prayerful conversation with God. He wants to give God his fears and trust in God's courage, be happy instead of sad, find God's direction amid confusion, change from misbehaving to behaving and not be lonely or selfish. He thanks God for the seasons, His love and friends, and asks to be more like God so he will care for others and be generous. Then he asks God to guide his future and love him forever.

Christian beliefs: The child narrator turns over his day-to-day actions to God, thanks Him for all God has given him and asks God to never take His love from the child. The child says, "And if You give me riches…" which may imply that the child is asking God for riches so he can be generous to others instead of being generous in all circumstances.

Authority roles: The parents are not mentioned in the text. The illustrations of the parents represent them as somewhat detached, more like they are observers of their child praying rather than participants with him. The father sleeps while the children misbehave in the kitchen; he stands with his daughter to appreciate a rainbow. The mother gives a gentle look of disapproval at her son's greediness when he wants to buy many boxes of the same toy; she marks his growth chart for year seven. Both parents tuck their child in at bedtime.


You Are My Wish

by Maryann Cusimano Love (author);
Satomi Ichikawa (illustrator); published by Philomel Books, a division of the Penguin Young Readers Group

Summary: A grandmother interacts with her grandchild. She compares her time-tested perspective, physical appearance and wisdom to the child's exuberance, physical appearance and youthfully fun approach to life.

Christian beliefs: None.

Authority roles: The grandmother is playful and attentive. Each rhyming couplet demonstrates a grandmother's appreciation and love for her grandchild.

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