“Life with Lily” by Suzanne Woods Fisher

Lily is six in this story, just starting first grade in a one-room schoolhouse in upstate New York. Her parents are busy building a farm, and soon animals join the family—Jenny the cow and Chubby the miniature horse. A baby brother arrives, too, which Lily has mixed feelings about. (She wanted a sister!) Aside from a mischievous friend like Mandy Mast, Lily is happy at school and even happier at home. 

Trouble is brewing at the schoolhouse and change is on the horizon for Lily and her family.
I loved Life with Lily!  It’s the perfect book for a young girl.  While the book itself is quite thick, the prose flows smoothly and with clear, colorful vocabulary.  Better yet, each chapter is its own small story within the context of the big book, so the the readers reach mini resolutions with each chapter.  For those readers not accustomed to reading full-length chapter books, this is the perfect way step on that ladder!

As a mom, one of my favorite aspects of this book is the wholesomeness of the book.  Lily is an adventurous, fun girl who enjoys simple beauty and helps her family.  She’s brave and kind, yet has problems that most young girls can identify with – with obeying her elders, with making wise friendship choices, and with fear of the unknown.  Her parents are wise and their instruction will teach young readers bold lessons.   

As a teacher, I love all the hands-on activities that Lily does in this book – because it presents myriads of choices for lessons and for exciting, real-life interactions with Lily’s life!  My daughter’s book club will be reading this soon, and we’re planning to do many of the activities that Lily enjoys in the story – like baking, making indoor windows, and sewing a quilt square.   

This a series that will definitely grace our bookshelf so that we can enjoy it for many years.  I can’t wait for the next installment!

To read other reviews on this tour, click here.

Suzanne Woods Fisher lives with her family in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has one husband, four children, one son-in-law, a brand new grand-baby, and a couple of dogs. She graduated from Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California.

Suzanne has contracts with Revell for six more books about the Amish, both fiction and non-fiction. She is also the host of “Amish Wisdom·” on toginet.com, a weekly radio program featuring guests who are connected to Simple Living.Find out more about Suzanne at http://suzannewoodsfisher.com/.

I received a free copy of Life with Lily in exchange for an honest review.

“If I Could Ask God Anything” by Kathryn Slattery

If I Could Ask God Anything is just that – a series of questions and answers divided by topic and geared for children. The questions are open and honest, and the answers are, too. When an answer isn’t known, Slattery says that, as well as explaining how she knows the answers she does. She lists references for known answers and explains in simple, clear-cut terms.

I love the way that this book starts out with simple questions like “Did Jesus ever do anything wrong” and works up to harder questions like “If God loves people, why do bad things happen?” Slattery doesn’t dodge difficult questions and gives them the same honest consideration as the simpler ones. Written from a Christian perspective, the answers in this book are encouraging and appropriate for a child of any age who asks them. The scripture references make it easy to go back to the Bible and see for yourself, in context, what God has to say about any given topic. This book is a must for any parent who has a curious child asking those hard-to-answer questions.

Thomas Nelson has provided me with a free copy of this book. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I expressed are my own.

“How to be God’s Little Princess” by Sheila Walsh

What do princesses need to know?  It’s not all about the party dresses and tiaras.  In this princess-pink book, Sheila Walsh teaches girls the ins-and-outs of etiquette regarding clothing, dining, friendships, and hostessing.  While this may seem like any other Emily Post-like manner guide, Walsh takes her tips straight from the Bible and gears them toward young girls.  There are chapters about caring for your attitude, dressing modestly, and being smart on the Internet.

I love the way that this book is divided into chapters with interactive quizzes and games sprinkled throughout.  This is not a serious, study-guide type manual but is written more along the lines of a fun, girly mazagine that just happens to have a rigid spine.  The information is sound and basic and very relevant to young girls’ lives today.

The only issue I have with this book is with the princess theme.  This book is not watered down or written for toddlers; I would guess it would be most interesting and be useful for girls ages 5-9.  However, they are not all going to be able to read the text independently at that age, and after that many girls lose interest in the princess concept.  I think, though, that this book would be great if read with an adult and discussed together.

I received a free copy of this book from BookSneeze in exchange for an honest review.

“The God Puzzle” by Valerie Ackermann


The God Puzzle is a colorful, easy to use tool to help you communicate to your child the rich truths about God, His ways, His will and His love. The God Puzzle will help you address doctrinal themes of the Christian faith in a kid friendly way, present Bible lessons in an interactive way that will hold the child’s attention and deliver quality teaching with no preparation needed. 75% of children leave the church when they leave home. Something isn’t working. Sunday School isn’t doing it all. Kids need answers, good ones. And they need them from you, the parent. This book enables you to give them simple, clear answers.


What makes The God Puzzle unique?

  • ready made discussion questions for parent to ask their child in each lesson
  • can be done at any pace that works with your family . . . every night, once a week, 10 minutes here, 30 minutes there . . . it fits into realistic family life
  • puts the pieces together for a child to understand God, the Bible, and the Christian faith
  • in each lesson the responds to the truth so they understand their relationship to God is personal and life transforming
  • any parent, whether they know nothing, or a lot about God can start teaching their child today with no prep
  • deep theology put into language a child can understand
  • deeply Biblical, each lesson points to Christ
  • put in an order that starts with creation, and teaches the Bible as one story that all points to Christ
  • child stays engaged by filling in blanks, crosswords, drawing, matching and using their Bibles as they learn


The premise of this book is an important one:  to teach kids about how the entire Bible fits together.  We often teach individual Bible stories to little ones, but do we show them how far and wide and intricate the love story of the Bible really is?  How it’s not a bunch of separate stories but our history as God’s created and chosen people and how He has been patiently loving us since the time of Eden?


With that goal in mind, the chapters in the book walk kids step-by-step through a study of the important beliefs of Christians, and that’s a distinct difference from what I expected: it’s not a walk through the Bible, it’s a walk through God’s love story to us.  There is a great deal of scripture in each lesson; some for the kids to look up, some to think about, some to pray about, some to ponder, some to copy.  The scripture references do not go in either Biblical or chronological order, but are pulled out according to the topic that they address.  I think that this trait alone bumps up the difficulty level of this book. 


The readers are not unpacking just one verse, but instead studying how various parts of the Bible all support God’s plan of salvation for His people.  If the kids are not familiar with their Bibles, these lessons will be a bit time-consuming  as there are lots of scripture references to find, but then again, becoming familiar with the Bible is also a very good thing.


Each chapter is a lesson and takes about four pages of the book.  There is an activity for the kids to do in nearly every lesson – something like a word puzzle or something to color.  There are also review or discussion questions located at the end of each chapter.

I have only one big concern with this book.  While the lessons come straight from scripture, we know that different people interpret those scriptures differently – and one of the biggest differences among Protestants is how baptism is handled.  The God Puzzle takes a decidedly Baptist view on the issue, which may be very confusing for Methodists or those with similar ideas.  For those people, I’d recommend being prepared with your views and scriptural basis for why you believe what you do and be ready to discuss it thoroughly.  Isn’t that basically what we’re supposed to do, anyway?


According to the author, this book is geared for ages 7 to 12.  My Big Helper is eager to get started, and she’s 8 – but I do think that the lessons are very meaty and deep.  That’s a good thing – but it may be too much to do one lesson in one sitting.  I can see this book being a great resource for an upper elementary or middle school youth group.  It could be fun to have different groups of kids looking up different scriptures and then sharing their thoughts with the whole group – think-pair-share style.  I also thought of many art and extension activities that might help the lessons to stick for visual or kinesthetic learners.


As a bonus, the back of the book contains a list of scripture verses according to topic that kids can look up to find out what the Bible has to say about given things.  Worrying?  Scared?  There’s verses there for you.


The God Puzzle is a fantastic resource for parents at home and for young youth groups.  This book tackles the Bible in a way that even adults sometimes miss – and it shows how every piece of the Bible fits together like a puzzle to make up God’s plan.  As adults, we need to be studying this.  As parents, we need to be teaching this to our children.  We cannot neglect the big picture look at the fine details of God’s plan.


This is the perfect resource to help you do it.


Click here to read other reviews on this bloggy hop or here to purchase your own copy now.


Valerie Ackermann has a BA in Theology and has been a full time Children’s Ministry Director at Parkwood Community Church in California for over 10 years. She is also a weekly Sunday school teacher, wife, and busy mom of two boys ages 9 and 11. She has hands-on experience as a children’s ministry professional, teaching and leading children of all ages. Growing up in a Christian family in the small town of Saskatchewan Canada, she has wonderful memories of knowing God from an early age. She has a passion for kids to know the deep truths of God. 

Find out more at LeadMeToGod.com.


I received a free copy of The God Puzzle from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

“The Beauty Book” by Nancy Rue

The Beauty Book: It's A God Thing  -     
        By: Nancy Rue


Where do tween girls go for information about what’s beautiful?  Cinderella’s no longer the “in” thing – and there’s a media blitz happening in the American culture ready to show our youth super skinny, air-brushed bodies.  Nancy Rue combats this with The Beauty Book:  It’s a God Thing.  Half devotional, half how-to book, Rue writes each chapter in a magazine format that contains scripture, space for prayers, and question-and-answer sections, in addition to direct information.  You’ll learn how to give yourself a manicure as well as how to handle parental disagreements about piercings and clothing styles.  
Rue writes in a very direct, no-nonsense style.  The information is clear and concise, easy to understand and very sensible.  When the Bible gives directions about a certain topic, she answers simply, and when the question is more about when to begin a certain practice, she’s quick to point to parental wisdom and guidance.
For a tween seeking information, this is a great resource.  The how-to’s are great and the information is the exact stuff I remember wondering at this age.  I wish I’d had a resource like this to read!  
With that in mind, however, I was hoping to give you my daughter’s perspective on this book, but I found that (at seven) she is not yet ready for the information in this book.  While we could read certain parts of certain chapters and have fun with, say, giving each other pedicures (which we sometimes do), there is too much information about puberty in this book for her to read independently.  She’s just not there yet.  So while this would be great for girls who know the basics of puberty and need help knowing how to handle zits and hairy legs, we’ll be holding off for a few more years.  
If you know of someone who’s suddenly feeling more like the frog than the princess, be sure to check out The Beauty Book.  It may help put her back on track.
I received a free copy of The Beauty Book from Tommy Nelson in exchange for an honest review.

“A Light for my Path” by Davis Carman

A Light for My Path: An ABC Book Based on Psalm 119
A Light for my Path is not your ordinary kids’ book.
It’s repetitive in nature, true.  The pages take you through the English alphabet, with colorful drawings of nature, on which each page is featured an animal that starts with that letter and a word that describes God’s nature.  The animal is usually then also found, smaller, on the following page.
My Big Helper loved discovering those patterns.
My Little Man was intrigued by the animals themselves.
Both want to go research the animal found on the ‘n’ page, as it’s one that is very unfamiliar to us.
They commented that they liked the book.  They thought it was a good book as it taught them about God’s character.
Upon a first read, though, that could be the end – unless you were prepared to go deeper.  If you’re not sure how, there are suggestions at the beginning of the book, and here are a few of my own.
This book provides the opportunity to be used as a teaching guide with children elementary aged and younger.  You could refer to this over and over again when reading through scripture or coming upon life events when you want to compare the occurrence in front of you to God’s character.  What does that scripture say about God?  How could you see this event?  Does it line up with His character?  Is this something that needs to be investigated more?  I can see asking these questions and more with my kids as different circumstances arise to help them learn how to evaluate events and see them through Jesus’ perspective.
A Light for my Path also takes the alphabet theme just a bit further.  In the back of the book is Psalm 119, which is an acrostic poem in Hebrew.  The poem is written out with the Hebrew letter for each stanza found at the top of the page.  I know exactly zero things in Hebrew, so this was interesting to me – and to the kids.  
If you’re interested in a book for casual reading, this is probably not your best choice.  With only one word that changes from page to page, it’s not exactly action-packed.
But if you’re looking for a book that you can use over and over, in several different ways, to inspire, teach, and instruct your children in the ways and character and creativity of God, well … then A Light for my Path is perfect.
I received a free copy of this book from the Mosaic Review Forum in exchange for an honest review.

“A Big Year for Lily” by Suzanne Woods Fisher

Lily Lapp’s family has settled into their new home in Pennsylvania, but life still holds big changes and big steps for Lily. Good changes, like once again living close to her beloved cousin and best friend, Hannah. Bad changes, like a mean girl who plays tricks on her. And no change at all where Lily would most want one–Aaron Yoder sits near her in school and relentlessly teases her. Surprises are in store for Lily as she learns, with Mama and Papa’s help, to manage the ups and downs of growing up Amish.

The third of four charming novels that chronicle the gentle way of the Amish through the eyes of a young girl, A Big Year for Lily gives children ages 8-12 a fascinating glimpse into the life of the Amish—and lots of fun and laughter along the way. It combines Mary Ann Kinsinger’s real-life stories of growing up Amish and the bestselling writing of Amish fiction and nonfiction author Suzanne Woods Fisher. With charming line drawings in each book, this series captures the hearts of readers young and old.

Lily is back, and she’s better than ever!  We loved the newest installment of the Lily Lapp series.  Within a week of receiving the book, my daughter read it twice – and is working her way through the series again.  Any book that will encourage a love of reading like that is a winner in my book.

A Big Year for Lily is as full of childish adventures and parental wisdom as the first Lily book.  She deals with issues like what is truth?, who are my friends?, and how important is stuff?.  The story teaches about these important lessons while entertaining in a fun way.

I look forward to our upcoming book club event centered around A Big Year for Lily.  There are so many opportunities within this book for children to act out Lily’s adventures!  Besides math, quilting, and cooking ideas, there are art and game options, too.  For more specific plans, email me at amybradsher@gmail.com or keep watching for our book club post on a Friday in November.  I don’t want to give anything away here just yet if you haven’t read the book!  😉

My Big Helper is already asking when the next Lily will be released.  I’m not sure if Suzanne Woods Fisher and Mary Ann Kinsinger plan to collaborate on any more books after that one, but I hope that they do.  Our kids need more books like this – books that are strong in family values, respect, honesty, truth, and, yes, adventure!  Adventures that kids can really go and replicate on their own or with an adult’s supervision.  Please, keep’em coming, ladies!  

You can read other reviews on this bloggy hop here or purchase your own copy here.

Suzanne Woods Fisher is the bestselling author of the Lancaster County Secrets series and the Stoney Ridge Seasons series, as well as nonfiction books about the Amish, including Amish Peace. She is also the coauthor of a new Amish children’s series, The Adventures of Lily Lapp. Her interest in the Anabaptist cultures can be directly traced to her grandfather, who was raised in the Old Order German Baptist Brethren Church in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Suzanne is a Carol Award winner and a Christy Award finalist. She is a columnist for Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazines. She lives in California. For more information, please visit suzannewoodsfisher.com and connect with her on Twitter @suzannewfisher. Get Amish proverbs delivered right to your iPhone or iPad! Download the Free App! http://bit.ly/134r55G

Learn more about Lily at http://adventuresoflilylapp.com/

I received a free copy of A Big Year for Lily from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

“When I Fall in Love” by Susan May Warren

Hawaii was the last place Grace Christiansen ever imagined she’d vacation, much less fall in love. But when her family surprises her with a cooking retreat in paradise, she is pulled-or maybe yanked-away from her predictable, safe life and thrown headfirst into the adventure of a lifetime.

Max Sharpe may make his living on the ice as a pro hockey player, but he feels most at home in the kitchen. Which is why he lives for the three-week culinary vacation he takes each year in Hawaii. Upon being paired with Grace for a cooking competition, Max finds himself drawn to her passion, confidence, and perseverance. But just when Grace dares to dream of a future beyond her hometown, Max pulls away.
Wrestling with personal demons, Max fights against opening his heart to a love he knows he should never hope for. And as his secrets unfold, Grace is torn between the safe path in front of her and what her heart truly desires. If love means sacrificing her ideal happily ever after, Grace’s faith will face its toughest test yet.
Each book in the Christiansen Family series gets better than the one before it.  I fell in love with the family and the town of Deep Creek with the very first book, but When I Fall in Love is strikingly different from the rest, and it’s hard to put my finger on exactly what makes it so.
Of course, the main character is Grace Christiansen, who like her brothers is amazingly talented in a unique and special way.  She is bonded tightly with her family and is both kind and generous, all of which make her extremely likeable.
Unlike the previous books, much of this one is set in Hawaii, and what place could be more colorful or romantic?  Warren maximizes this setting to play up the adventure.  It provides the perfect outlet for Max and Grace’s interaction – a cooking school centered around the local dishes for which Hawaii is famous.
The cooking school was a fun angle, but I enjoyed even more the way that Grace had previously not made it into cooking school on her own.  For someone so talented, this must have been a huge disappointment, but it also made Grace approachable to readers.
Max was a bit tougher to reach as a rich and famous celebrity, but the thorn in his side made the book.  Easy love stories abound, but his is much more rare and calls upon a real and deep love.  I enjoyed the suspense that it created within the story, the real emotional drama that both Max and Grace had to endure, and the lessons that each one learned.
While the plot was heartbreaking and realistic, Warren kept the mood under control with her own brand of fun humor.  While I felt sad with each character in turn, I also laughed throughout the story.  Warren’s quirks and trademark twists kept the pages turning and the mood from becoming too dark.  I loved this story – and I hope that you will, too.
Susan May Warren is the bestselling, RITA Award-winning author of more than forty novels whose compelling plots and unforgettable characters have won acclaim with readers and reviewers alike. She served with her husband and four children as a missionary in Russia for eight years before she and her family returned home to the States. She now writes full-time as her husband runs a lodge on Lake Superior in northern Minnesota, where many of her books are set. She and her family enjoy hiking, canoeing, and being involved in their local church. Several of her critically acclaimed novels have been ECPA and CBA bestsellers, were chosen as Top Picks by Romantic Times, and have won the RWA’s Inspirational Reader’s Choice contest and the American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year award. Five of her books have been Christy Award finalists. In addition to her writing, Susan loves to teach and speak at women’s events about God’s amazing grace in our lives. She also runs a writing community for authors. 

Find Susan online: website, My Book TherapyTwitter, Facebook

I received a free copy of When I Fall in Love from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

How to Make a Volcanic Dinosaur Cake

Currently Our Little Man is a dino fanatic, and so of course he wanted a dinosaur cake for his birthday this year.
I like to make their cakes as 3-D as possible, so rather than having a flat cake shaped like a dinosaur, I was dreaming of ways to make a gigantic T-Rex head.  Parts of it seemed like fun – cut marshmallows for teeth, layered marshmallows and gumballs for eyes, cut fruit leather for stripes – but how to keep the head from falling over from the weight of the extended jaws?  That one had me stumped.
And so, since he also likes volcanoes, I went with a dinosaur scene.  This was MUCH simpler than scissor-like teeth would have been, and he was fascinated with the dinosaurs in different scenes throughout the cake.
The fact that the dinos were removeable and became playthings after eating the cake – well, after licking washing off the ganache didn’t hurt.


So here’s how to make your own Volcanic Dinosaur Cake:
  • You’ll need two cakes – one cake in a 9X13″ pan and another half cake in a small oven-safe bowl.  You’ll want the cake to come 2/3 of the way up the bowl and for the bowl to be slightly wider at the rim than at the base.  I used a Betty Crocker peanut butter cake recipe for the flat cake and divided my Goofy Cake recipe in half for the bowl.
  • Mix each cake as directed.  Line the bottom of the flat pan with a piece of waxed paper.  Spray or butter well the bowl.  
  • Bake the cakes as directed until the center is springy.  For the Goofy Cake, this will take between 40 – 45 minutes at 350 degrees.
  • Let the cakes rest on a wire rack until just cool enough to handle, then remove carefully from the pans.  Chill.
  • Invert the flat cake onto a jelly roll pan to create a flat surface to work with.
  • Spread a thin layer of peanut butter onto the top of the cake.  This helped prevent the ganache from soaking into the cake.  (If you chill both the cake and the ganache completely, you won’t have this problem, but I hurried a bit.  Ultimately, it ended up tasting like a Tasty Cake – yum!)
  • At the point where the bowl cake begins to dome – the part that baked on top – slice this dome off in one flat cut.
  • Mix one batch of cheesecake filling – recipe below – and one batch of thick chocolate ganache to use as glue for holding pieces together and for decorating the tops of the cakes.  Tint the cheesecake filling red for lava.
  • Put the cheesecake filling into a sandwich bag and cut off one corner about 1/3 of an inch from the end.  
  • Pipe some cheesecake filling onto one corner of the cake.  This will serve as glue to hold the “volcano” in place.
  • Put the bottom of the bowl cake upside down on top of the cheesecake filling.
  • Top with another squirt of cheesecake.
  • Top that with the piece you cut off.  This will give your volcano a higher, domed top.  Angle the sides, if necessary, to create the proper shape.  I also cut a small hole in the top of the dome to create the “hole” inside the volcano.
  • Pipe some cheesecake filling around the volcano’s mouth and in rivulets running down the sides.  Use a knife to create ‘flowing’ patterns in the lava.
  • Add interest to the landscape.  Use marshmallows or other candies in various sizes and shapes as “boulders” strategically placed across your landscape.  If you want to add fossils, this is the time!  I planned to use pretzel sticks to create a dino skeleton under the mud, but I found fossil toys at the Dollar Tree, so I used one of those, instead.  If you look closely, you can see it in the lower left-hand corner of the cake.  My son was particularly excited about this feature.
  • The ganache should be chilled and slightly thickened by now.  It will pour well but thicken more in the refrigerator, so keep in mind that it will firm up and not run after you finish.  Begin to ladle the ganache over the volcano and landscape, being careful to avoid the lava-covered areas.  Ladle the ganache-mud over anything that you want to be earth-colored.
  • Chill your cake until serving time.
  • Add your toy dinosaurs.  Use their feet to make extra tracks across the top of the cake.  Don’t forget to place some in fun places, like on the sides of the volcano and on your candy boulders!
  • Twisty candles make for explosive volcanoes!  Place a few in your cheesecake-lined “hole” and light for a fun, action-packed cake. 
Cheesecake Filling:
  • Mix 8 ounces of softened cream cheese with 1/4 c. of powdered sugar.  Tint as desired.
Chocolate “Mud” Ganache:
  • Put 1 c. of chocolate chips into a heat-safe bowl.
  • Heat 3/4 c. of heavy cream until hot – but not boiling – and then pour quickly over the chocolate.  
  • Whisk until smooth.
  • Let cool until room temperature – at least – before using on a cake.
**Both of these elements must be refrigerated!  If using these in a cake, be sure to plan how you will keep it chilled and safe.

Do you make your children’s birthday cakes?  Do you do shapes or 3-D varieties?

How to Cook a Pumpkin

For the past few years, I’ve roasted pumpkins in the oven to make puree for cakes and breads.

This year, however, I heard of a new, much easier way:  the Crock Pot.

I love this method!  There’s no more guesswork about when it’s done, no more waiting for it to finish, no more heating the house (when here in the South it’s often still pretty warm outside) while the pumpkins bake.

Instead, I just go about my business – even cooking one overnight while I slept – and come back to it when I’m ready.  No rush, no guessing, no waiting, no crazy mess.

To cook your own pumpkin in a Crock Pot, here’s what you do:

First, of course, find a pumpkin.  I’ve always used a pie pumpkin.

Next, you need to break it.  Now, pie pumpkins are not as easily cut into as the ones many people carve around this time of year.  First, My Little Man and I tried these tools:

Surprisingly enough, I couldn’t really smash the pumpkin with the hammer as I hoped, so then I used the massive knive as a chisel and hammered the knife in all the way around.  (I wouldn’t recommend this, but I was in a hurry.  My Little Man got a good laugh out of the whole thing.)

This method works much better – just be sure to wash both the saw and the pumpkin before beginning.  Watch out for those fingers!

The hard part is now over.  Pat yourself on the back!

Scrape out all the pumpkin ‘guts’ and the seeds.  Put them into your slow cooker, making sure that the lid will fit on securely.  Add an inch of water to the bottom and cook the pumpkin for several hours, until completely soft and mushy.

Cook a Pumpkin
Place the pumpkins on a cutting board and give them time to cool.  When you can handle them safely, use a serving spoon to scoop out the soft flesh of the fruit.

My Little Man absolutely loved this part!  He cleaned out this whole pumpkin by himself, and he did a great job.

Put the pumpkin into a blender or food mill to puree it.

Or, as he likes to do, you could eat a bit of straight up pumpkin.

When you’re done, you’ll have several cups of fresh pumpkin puree, ready to freeze or bake into your favorite pumpkin recipe.