“A Forest, a Flood, and an Unlikely Star” by J.A. Myhre

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Just thirteen-years-old, Kusiima has no time for school, sports, or hanging out with the other boys in his African village. With no father or mother to take care of him, he works long hours to support his grandmother and sickly baby sister. Then one day, Kusiima’s life suddenly changes when he travels into a nearby protected forest. In the forest, Kusiima is presented with many choices, all with uncertain outcomes. Should he go along with illegal logging? Help to save an endangered baby gorilla? Follow a donkey to who knows where? With each choice, Kusiima has to make yet another decision about what is right in front of him. As he does, he meets a mysterious doctor who holds the key to his past and his future. In the end, Kusiima is faced with the hardest choice of all. Can he forgive a great wrong and heal a broken relationship? Readers of all ages won t want to put down this exciting book that addresses current realities like AIDS, malnutrition, and environmental destruction, all set in a richly detailed African adventure story. Following along as Kusiima makes his decisions, readers will find themselves considering their own choices and growing in empathy for others. This action-packed tale of a boy, his sister, and an orphaned gorilla is also a clear call to give up bitterness and forgive deep hurts, restoring broken lives and relationships. A Forest, a Flood, and an Unlikely Star is the third book in the Rwendigo Tale Series and follows Book One, A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest, and Book Two, A Bird, a Girl, and a Rescue.

Myhre

God loves us and knows about every detail of our lives.  That’s the message I took away after ready A Forest, a Flood, and an Unlikely Star.  It’s a story for kids that doesn’t sugarcoat the hard things in life – Myhre talks AIDS, starvation, poaching, death, and more.  These issues all play a major role in this book.

So it’s a serious story, and it deals with issues that many children can’t possibly imagine.  Myhre writes the story in a very age-appropriate way, if there is such a thing, so that you’re very aware of Kusiima’s age but also of his fears.  I thoroughly enjoyed how relateable she created this character to be.

The story is well-planned and smooth.  It teaches great lessons while entertaining, and you’ll be excited to find out what happens to Kusiima.  The story is so far outside my realm of experience, though, that it was difficult for me to relate to.  That’s a good thing, in a way, but it made the plot feel a bit slow-moving to me.  

A Forest, a Flood, and an Unlikely Star would be a great story for those interested in international missions or for children learning about life in other countries.

I received a free copy of this book from LitFuse Publicity.  All opinions are my own.

 

Book Club: “Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone”

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We recently embarked on one of our most fun book clubs ever:  we read Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone.  

My Big Helper worked with me to flesh out details of the book that we could bring to life.  We spent several days making labels and creating things to turn my yard into a wizarding world.

Book Club

The day of our book club event dawned bright and sunny with brilliant blue skies.  The kids hurriedly donned their Hogwarts gear and ran outside.

Harry Potter

After everyone had arrived, we kicked off the day with the Sorting Hat.  I sewed it out of some khaki-colored felt and carefully put a small pocket on the inside of the hat.  When it came time for our sorting, a friend called my phone, which we then hid in that pocket.  As I loudly called each child’s name, he declared the house each child would go into.  It was a very fun part of the day, and the kids cheered for their housemates as the sorting continued.

Harry Potter

Following the Sorting and welcoming speeches, we moved onto the back deck for History of Magic.  We decided to recreate most of the classes that Harry Potter and his friends attended, and we used this class to summarize and discuss the book.

Harry Potter

The kids also decorated paper neckties that matched their individual houses.  Then they wrote about what they thought they might see in the Mirror of Erised.

Harry Potter

Potions class had us relocating to the driveaway, where we used a mixture of powders to create neat reactions.

Harry Potter

They were very fun to watch!

Harry Potter

Lunch was especially fun.  We made many of the foods mentioned in this book, particularly those found on the lunch trolley on the Hogwarts Express, like Pumpkin Pasties …

Harry Potter

Golden Snitches ….

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and Pumpkin Juice.

Harry Potter

We ended the day with a rousing game of Quidditch.  We modified it a bit, of course, since our brooms don’t actually fly, but the kids didn’t seem to mind.  They had a great time chasing their Snitch around our yard and trying to win the house cup.

The Harry Potter books have become cultural icons.  They’re amazing works of literature, but they’re loads of fun, too.  Give it a try and see what Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone can do for your book club.

NEW! “Lemoncello” Movie Pack and Bundles!

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Chris Grabenstein’s Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library series, and I’m not the only one – that first book spent more than 100 weeks on the New York Times’ Bestseller List.  The second in the series is just as good, and the third is due to be released in just a few weeks – I’m super excited!

There are a few things that makes these books so wonderful – first, that they’re entertaining but completely clean reads, which is a rare thing for a middle-grade book these days.  Just as good, though, is that they’re smart books.  Grabenstein writes philosophical truths, lessons about kindness, and educational skills throughout his books, but your kids won’t realize that they’re learning anything – they’ll be too busy laughing at Mr. Lemoncello’s antics and trying to solve the mysteries before Kyle Keeley does.

I’m all for maximizing learning opportunities, though, and so that’s why I’ve created some really fun extension activities and novel studies to accompany these books.  You can find them here – and I’m happy to share a few NEW products, just in time for the movie release!

That’s right –  Nickolodeon has turned Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library into a movie, and it premieres on October 9.

To go along with this fantabulous opportunity to compare book and movie, I’ve created a new movie pack – full of discussion questions, creative writing projects, recipes for your movie party, printables, and more!  You can get your own copy here.

Grabenstein

You might want more than just those few pages of movie-related fun, though.  Perhaps you’re going all out for a big Lemoncello party, reading and watching for a book club event, or hosting your own library-style gala, just like in the book.  I’ve put together a bundle with both resources from Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, which features three games, loads of printables, a recipe for Lemonberry Fizz, and more.  You’ll find both the original party pack and the new movie pack in this bundle – 89 pages of fun!

Grabenstein

If you’re as big of a Lemoncello fan as we are, though, that might not be enough.  Maybe you also want to try your hand at Lemoncello-style scavenger hunts, STEAM activities, a unit study, plus all the printables, games, recipes, and more from the above bundle, then this is the one for you.  With 199 pages of Lemoncello-style fun, you’re guaranteed to find just the right learning projects and activities to maximize your child’s learning.

Grabenstein

Who else is counting down the days ’til the movie and the new book release?

NEW! A Linked Unit Study for Elise Broach’s “The Wolf Keepers”

Every once in a while, I read a book that I grabs all of my attention and screams to be used for fun with kids.  I love taking those books and turning them into fun unit studies for educational purposes, and Elise Broach’s new book The Wolf Keepers is just such a book.

Elise Broach

A high-stakes middle grade historical adventure through Yosemite National Park by the New York Times-bestselling author of Masterpiece.

Twelve-year-old Lizzie Durango and her dad have always had a zoo to call their home. Lizzie spends her days watching the animals and taking note of their various behaviors. Though the zoo makes for a unique home, it’s a hard place for Lizzie to make lasting friends. But all this changes one afternoon when she finds Tyler Briggs, a runaway who has secretly made the zoo his makeshift home. The two become friends and, just as quickly, stumble into a covert investigation involving the zoo wolves who are suddenly dying. Little do they know, this mystery will draw them into a high-stakes historical adventure involving the legend of John Muir as they try to navigate safely while lost in Yosemite National Park.

Elise Broach has written a fantastic novel around the real life story of John Muir!  I love the approach she takes with his mystery, and she deepens the story by adding layers upon layers of moral dilemmas.  While the story is suspenseful, it stays upbeat, even when there are large things afoot, making it the perfect book to carry deep, yet kid-friendly discussions.

Elise Broach

So what will you find in a unit study for The Wolf Keepers?

  • a vocabulary puzzle with answer key
  • discussion/comprehension questions by chapter
  • creative and expository writing prompts
  • research projects for history, science, math, and biographies
  • poetry and literature activities
  • art projects
  • a recipe

This work can be done individually or cooperatively.  You could assign all of it or just certain projects.  Students can work at their own pace, and safe links are provided to ensure a safe Internet experience.

The Wolf Keepers would make a fantastic book club book, as well!  

If you want to grab a copy of this unit study, you’ll find it here.

Happy reading!

 

“God’s Crime Scene for Kids” by J. Warner Wallace

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In this companion to Cold-Case Christianity for Kids, Jason uncovers a mystery in his grandmother’s attic. He and his friends, Hannah, Daniel and Jasmine, enlist the help of Detective Jeffries at the Jr. Detective’s Academy. Along the way, they develop the skills needed to investigate the mystery and the evidence of God’s existence. The cadets learn logical-thinking skills as they examine the contents of a mysterious box and the vast universe.
 
In God’s Crime Scene for Kids, real-life detective J. Warner Wallace shows kids ages 8 to 12 what skills are needed to solve Jason’s mystery, and at the same time looks at evidence in the universe that demonstrates God is the creator. Ultimately, kids will learn how to make their own case for God’s existence.

J. Warner Wallace

J. Warner Wallace has hit it out of the park with his newest book God’s Crime Scene for Kids.  The second in his apologetic series for kids, the book reads like a fiction story, but each chapter teaches the reader new investigative skills that help them to examine Christianity from a new perspective.

I love that this book is such a short, easy read.  The detective vocabulary is in bold print with definition bubbles off to the side.  The many pictures give it a friendly feel, and the accompanying printables and videos make the book even easier to understand – and to teach, too.

God’s Crime Scene for Kids may be short, but that doesn’t make it watered down or a preschooler’s book, either.  With real life detective strategies, real vocabulary words, and a deep premise (how did the universe come to be?), this book is real and deep.  The best part is that it teaches kids how to think in those real and deep ways so that they can examine the Bible and their own faith to see if it holds up to the test.

Wallace has created neat resources to accompany the book itself, too.  There are videos and pages to download for each chapter, as well as a printable certificate upon completion of the book (and the course).  With all of those resources, it should be easy for an adult to use these resources, along with the book, to teach a Bible study or detective class.

I love these resources!  They are deep, kid-friendly, and easy to use.  I’m definitely going to be using God’s Crime Scene for Kids with my own family.

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

I received a free copy of this book from LitFuse Publicity.  All opinions are my own.

 

‘God’s Crime Scene for Kids’ Mystery Investigation Kit Giveaway

Join your children in learning how to determine the most reasonable cause for everything we see in creation with a real-life detective! In God’s Crime Scene for Kids, J. Warner Wallace shows kids ages 8 to 12 what skills are needed to solve Jason’s mystery. Jason uncovers a mystery in his grandmother’s attic. He and his friends, Hannah, Daniel and Jasmine, enlist the help of Detective Jeffries at the Jr. Detective’s Academy. Your kids will look at evidence in the universe that demonstrates God is the creator and ultimately learn how to make their own case for God’s existence.

Help your kids become detectives who investigate creation for signs of God and His creativity by entering to win the Mystery Investigation Kit!

 

One grand prize winner will receive:

Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on August 31. The winner will be announced September 1 on the Litfuse blog.

NEW! “The Voice, the Revolution, and the Key” by Jenny L. Cote

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My Big Helper loves to read.  She’s happy to read anywhere and for hours, and like me, she loves a good, thick book in which she can really fall in love with her characters.

That’s one reason she loves Jenny L. Cote’s books.  The Epic Order of the Seven series is lengthy, amazingly detailed, and deep – and yet she often laughs out loud while she’s reading.

The newest offering in the series, The Voice, the Revolution, and the Key is no different.  She absolutely devoured this book, and she’s eager for the next one. 

Why?

Here’s what she has to say:

    Watch out!  The Voice, the Revolution, and the Key will take you on the most exciting mission yet for the Order of the Seven.  It keeps the reader on the edge of their seat waiting for more.  This story is well-written and makes you feel as if you were a part of the action.

    Follow the intelligent and humorous group of animals called “The Epic Order of the Seven” through the years leading up to the Revolution as they influence some of the most important people in American history including Patrick Henry, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin.  Cote’s thorough research is evident on every page of this book, covering every aspect, including how the historical characters felt.  She makes brilliant connections through-out history that will leave you speechless.    

    Jenny L. Cote is an amazing author.  The Voice, the Revolution, and the Key shows how much effort and research she put into this book.  Readers of all ages will adore this thrilling, action-packed adventure.

Jenny L. Cote

The Voice, the Revolution, and the Key released today, and Cote is speaking and conducting writing interviews all over.  Check out her website for up-to-date information, and put this book on your TBR list – soon.  You won’t be sorry.

Does the name Jenny L. Cote sound familiar?  It should!  She’s the amazing author behind the Epic Patriot Camp that my Big Helper and Little Man attended last summer, and she’s as kind and creative as she is brilliant.  Her book is worth reading – or the travel worth making to meet her – just for that.  Read my review about our camp experience here, or find out more about Epic Patriot Camp in general here.

“Dragon Seed” by Marty Machowski

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An angry teen, a desperate mother, a missing father, and a shadow lurking in the background. Things were going from bad to worse for Nick and his family. Tempted to run away after yet another argument with his mom, Nick receives a handwritten, leather-bound copy of an old book a family legend passed down to him from his great grandfather. The book, called Dragon Seed, leads Nick deep into his family s history and introduces him to another angry young man who lived in the shadows (the shadows of the tombs). Like Nick, you’ll be shocked to discover where he fits in this story of epic proportions! This page-turning, young adult fiction story invites older children and teens into the real-life struggles of Nick. But it also ushers them into an imaginative exploration of the life of the young man Jesus saved as he wandered through the tombs. Best-selling author Marty Machowski uses both stories to introduce the reality of spiritual warfare and how its shadows affect and change us. Machowski, a trusted teacher for children of all ages, presents a thoroughly biblical view of spiritual warfare that emphasizes the importance of humility and dangers of pride. Teens will be drawn to the story of Nick and his struggles and will learn, as they read, to also identify the shadows in their own life and turn from them. While the biblical teaching is evident throughout the narrative of Dragon Seed, Machowski also includes a twelve-lesson Bible study at the end of the book to help teens ground their understanding of spiritual warfare on biblical principles. Youth pastors, leaders, and parents will also want to explore with teens the small group study at the end of the book with its unique take on spiritual warfare that emphasizes the biblical theme of humility. This is a perfect book to read with a group and discuss together the implications of Nick s struggles for their lives.

Machowski

Dragon Seed is the parallel story of teenage Nick and God’s great love for mankind colliding in an action-packed, concrete way.  Machowski turns sin into dragons and makes the spiritual realm visual in a way that reminds me of Ted Dekker’s Circle trilogy. 

Dragon Seed is billed as a modern-day parable, and I don’t think that label quite fits.  While part of the story is based on scripture straight from the Bible, but with the gaps we don’t know filled in fictionally, much of the story is straight from scripture.  So much is based on Biblical account that I don’t think it can be called a parable; I think ‘allegory’ is a better fit, although, again, so much is Biblical that I’m not sure that’s a great moniker, either.

When it comes right down to it, I’m not sure the label is really all that important.  What is important is that the Biblical references are true and real.  The story is compelling and well written.  The characters are real and life-like and reachable.  The story itself is one that everyone can relate to.

I love the way that Machowski took the idea of the dragon from Revelation and used the concept of sin throughout the Bible to show how easily that sin can infect us all; how none of us are immune to it, and how nobody is too far gone to be saved from it.  The concrete imagery is easy to picture and something that, again, we can all relate to.

Amazon bills this book as for older children and teens, but I disagree.  With children of varying ages, and several adults all in the story, I think it’s one that almost everyone can relate to. 

As I finished reading the book, I found myself wishing for discussion questions, as my children were already clamoring to read it for themselves.    While those are not available, the book does contain twelve devotions at the end, which do include questions – and some even reference projects or activities you could do to make them more hands-on and inclusive.

Dragon Seed would be a great book for a youth group, church study, or family read aloud. It’s versatile, exciting, and relates truth, but best of all, it points to Jesus’s love while encouraging discussion.  Dragon Seed deserves a place on your bookshelf.

I received a copy of this book from LitFuse Publicity.  All opinions are my own.

“Hello Stars” by Alena and Wynter Pitts

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Lena Daniels never thought she’d get the chance star in a movie. Headstrong and determined, she has her life planned out to the minute. But when her best friends, Savannah and Emma, tell her about an audition, she knows there’s nothing else in the world she’d rather do. And now that she’s gotten her wish, Lena finds that being in the spotlight is harder than it sounds. She got everything she never wanted! Her face turns up everywhere she goes, and everything in her life is flipped upside down. Lena wonders if this is a dream come true or a horrible nightmare. Even a visit from her best friends during filming turns into a disaster.

With her little sisters—Ansley, Ashton, and Amber—and her mischievous pup, Austin, constantly at her side, Lena must face the challenges of everyday life while chasing her dreams of being a model and actress on the big screen. Lena tackles tough choices, learns the value of perseverance, and keeps her hopes high. She knows her faith and family will keep her feet on the ground and her eyes on the stars.

Hello Stars

Lights … camera … action!  for a fabulous new book!  Alena Pitts has written an exciting story, full of drama, spiritual lessons, and movie lights. 

It’s those lights that create such inner turmoil for Lena, the main character of the story.  I love the way that the author has her parents, friends, and even a singer-celebrity helping her to learn big lessons when she faces hard times.  Those lessons incorporate scripture, giving readers a steadfast foundation upon which to lean.

The troubles that Lena faces are realistic, even if much of the story is not.  Most tweens won’t have the opportunity to star in a movie, or even meet their favorite celebrity face-to-face, but the author puts the character, despite those amazing situations, in places of realistic, everyday-people kind of stress, and she learns how to cope with that stress in real ways.  That was definitely my favorite aspect of this book.

Hello Stars is a fairly short, fun read.  It’s the first in a trilogy, and I expect great things in the subsequent books.

I received a free copy of this book.  All opinions are my own.

 

NEW! Nature/Literature Scavenger Hunt Printable Pack

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You know I’m a super big fan of great books.  I love it even more when those books lead to more educational investigation, and that’s exactly what Julie Andrews Edwards’ book Mandy does.

Scavenger Hunt

Mandy, a ten-year-old orphan, dreams of a place to call her own. Escaping over the orphanage wall to explore the outside world, Mandy discovers a tiny deserted cottage in the woods. All through the spring, summer, and fall, Mandy works to make it truly hers. Sometimes she “borrows” things she needs from the orphanage. Sometimes, to guard her secret, she even lies. Then, one stormy night at the cottage, Mandy gets sick, and no one knows how to find her—except a special friend she didn’t know she had.

This is the perfect book for ten-year-old girls who love tiny houses and stories filled with hope.

Mandy is a classicly-styled story of a little girl dreaming for a home while trying to create her own in an abandoned garden.  The story lends itself perfectly to investigating more about the plants and animals that Mandy in her garden at the Shell Cottage, and that’s exactly what the Nature Scavenger Hunt to accompany Julie Andrews Edwards’ ‘Mandy’ will help your students do.  Perfect to be done as a family, book club, co-op, or class, this packet includes everything you need to study the flora and fauna in the book.

Mandy Cover

Inside, you’ll find:
– a listing of all plants and animals found within the book
– hyperlinks for all plants and animals for further research
– printable scavenger hunt boards for both the plants and the animals
– links to additional materials to make investigating nature fun
– a certificate of completion

Want to know more?  Come back later this week to find out how one of our book clubs used this packet.

What are your kids reading right now?