Book Club, Girls’ Edition: “The 100-Year-Old Secret”

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I love book club days, and this group of girls is always fun.  This month was no exception as we delved into Edison’s Gold""“>Edison’s Gold, which we had a blast working with last summer, but while that book focused heavily on the exciting aspects of history and science, this one centered around art and relationships.

Book Club Plans @ A Nest in the Rocks

There is lots of meat for discussion with this book.  What is theft?  Who owns art?  Can missing art be recovered after a long period of time?  To what lengths is it okay to go to find stolen goods?

After hashing out the answers to those questions, we headed into the kitchen to make a British treat.  The book does take place in London, after all, and Zena and Zander often mention their confusion at the differences between American and British food names.  We chose to make cinnamon scones, and the girls worked together to prepare the dough and get them oven ready.

Book Club Plans @ A Nest in the Rocks

While they were baking, we moved on to our next project.  Knowing that picture frames were, at some points in history, nearly as much of a work of art as the painting or drawing they contained, we decided to build our own gilded frames, like the ones holding the infamous “Girl with the Purple Hat.”  I pre-cut large cardboard frames, leaving wide edges so they could hold lots of texture.  I put ditalini, spaghetti noodles, and old yarn on the table, as well as dishes of Elmer’s glue.  The kids dipped these objects into the glue and then positioned them on the frames in patterns to create different textures.  When they were finished, I spray-painted them to achieve a solid color frame with a ‘carved’ look.

Book Club Plans @ A Nest in the Rocks

When their frames were gilded, the girls moved onto portrait work.  We talked about proportion and scale in faces and body figures, and then the girls chose a friend to paint.  We set up easels with big paper and palettes of paint, and after sketching out their people with some light-colored chalk, they set to work.

After creating some super colorful portraits, we headed back into the kitchen to eat our scones.  They were a hit – just like this book.

What are your kids reading now?

Why My Kids Read Books About Liars

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A few weeks ago, as I was discussing a book with a group of kids at book club, one older child pointed out something with concern.  The kids in the book were liars – and they lied not once, but repeatedly throughout the book.  Although the story was fun and exciting, why did I choose a book where the main character was such a poor role model?

Why My Kids Read Books About Liars @ A Nest in the Rocks

This isn’t the first time I’ve been asked this question, and I doubt it will be the last.  And, yes – I am very picky about what my kids read.  We shoot for a variety of literature styles, and we prefer to read books of quality, but I recommended this book to my children, and I would do it again. 

Why?

Several reasons:

  • We are not perfect.  Nobody is.  Reading books about characters who are perfect and have no character flaws can create harmful comparisons in our children’s minds.  I don’t want them to assume that they need to be perfect like Suzy from the last book that they read.  On the other hand, neither do I want them to read about people who carelessly and selfishly live only for themselves.  We search for books in which the reader will learn something:  culture from the setting, spiritual or emotional lessons from the character’s growth.  If the character’s major flaw is the problem in the story, we discuss why it is a problem.  We discuss how that person grew from the experiences in the book and which choices s/he could have made differently and why.    If the main character is a liar, as in this book, then we talk about why that person lied and what the better decision would have been, as well as what the Bible has to say about honesty and truth.
  • The lie fit the book.  The book in question was a modern fantasy.  The plot is a bit outlandish because it’s meant to teach, not to be a realistic, contemporary emotional work.  Because it was fantasy, the children found themselves in a completely un-realistic situation.  They distance-traveled magically to another place.  They lied to avoid detection and to blend in to their surroundings, which allows the plot to advance and the reader to continue to learn about the culture of that city.  If the children had not lied, the police would have been called, the children discredited, and the story would’ve been over.  The author had to allow the children to lie about their situation for the magical fantasy to continue.  Will our children begin to lie because this character did?  Since their pizza dinner won’t magically circumvent the space-time continuum and transport them to Italy, I don’t think so.  In our club meeting, we discussed this, and so this lie not only moved the story along, but helped to teach our children about plot structure and writing strategies.  Win-win.
  • The lie was not central to the story.  In many chapter books for very young readers, they assume things.  Like that people can fly or that putting on a cape makes you invisible.  They assume that it’s normal for a moose to come to school or for dogs to grow bigger than houses.  Small children don’t question these things, but see them only as fun.  In the book in question, the same scenario was happening:  the lie was only a small detail in a story that assumed that certain foods allowed you to travel the world magically.  The lie confirmed the assumption that the scenario was magical and allowed the plot to continue. 
  • Flawed characters teach us to evaluate people.  From reading about these problematic people, we learn about how to look below the surface in the actions of the people around us.  We learn look for their motives, for ways that we can be compassionate, for ways that we can help or ways to stay out of danger.  We learn to discern between the good and the bad.
  • It stretches our imagination.  If we only read books about people who were exactly like us, we wouldn’t know much about the world around us – or other people.  Jesus didn’t socialize only with believers, but with all kinds of people.  Children are still children, and we do need to protect them from negative influences, but I don’t think a lie in a story should automatically move it to the ‘don’t read’ list. 
  • The world isn’t only black and white.  Truth is black and white.  God is black and white.  How we follow those aren’t.  My children can read about a lie and then discuss and evaluate it with me.  It works for us.  Maybe it doesn’t for you.  We don’t all have to make the same choices when it comes to books and characters.  The world would be pretty boring if we all read only the same few stories.

This book is fantastic.  It made our children excited to cook and explore the world.  They grew interested in trying new foods and experiment with flavor combinations.  They wanted to learn about travel and European landmarks.  They haven’t taken up lying.

The following books are all ones with lying characters – and great lessons to teach about survival, family relationships, and world culture.  Do you allow your children to read any of these?




 

“The Case of the Jewel Covered Cat Statues” by Cindy Vincent

Buckley and Bogey, Cat Detectives, find their next big case with the Buckley and Bogey Cat Detective Agency to be their most complicated ever! It all starts when someone hides a mysterious package in their Mom’s antique store — in the middle of the night! Of course, the boys find it, and put it in a nice, safe place, until they can open it . . . and, find the rightful owner. But that’s when a whole bunch of suspicious people show up in St. Gertrude, and every single one of them seems to be after that package! Holy Catnip! Plus, everything happens just when a priceless, jeweled statue collection goes on display at the St. Gertrude Museum. Missing from that collection are two jewel covered cat statues that disappeared almost a hundred and fifty years ago.

But soon Buckley and Bogey wonder how long those statues will stay missing. Because this is one case that really keeps them on their paws! From a trip to the Museum, and to an old church for the Blessing of the Animals; and from dinosaurs to diamonds, they end up dodging shady suspects the whole time. It sure helps to have their friends with them, especially when the bad guys make a beeline for boys. That’s because it becomes very clear, very quick — the priceless cat statues aren’t the only cats those crooks are after! Holy Mackerel!

Your child will love Bogey and Buckley. They’re funny, smart, and into everything.  You’ll love them, too – because they star in the perfect mystery books for young readers. 

Bogey’s character is modeled after – you guessed it! – Humphrey Bogart.  He’s full of cliches and style, but he’s kind and a good mentor to Buckley, too.  Buckley is a bit more dramatic.  He’s a younger cat who’s still growing into his paws and is full of enthusiasm – but still gets scared in the face of danger.  His timidity and newness to the world of detective work makes him the perfect character to bridge the gap between classic gumshoe slang and the abilities of young readers.

This story is marketed as being suitable for tweens, but my kids could’ve read it long before then – and it’s certainly clean and wholesome enough for any reader.  Buckley even learns several life lessons throughout the story, which is one of the reasons I enjoyed it.  If my kids are going to read about crime and drama, I want the characters to learn from their mistakes.  In this case, it wasn’t that Buckley or Bogart caused the problems, but the dangerous scenarios were serious.  They were caused by people with major criminal intent, and having Buckley learn from their mistakes is the perfect way to balance this suspenseful plot with the spiritual needs of a young child.

The crime drama was not the least bit scary, though.  Even though Buckley trembles and needs the reassurance of frequent cat treats, his tendency to yell, “Holy catnip!” and frequent saluting mishaps made the whole story funny.

I must admit that in the beginning Buckley’s never-ending dialogue made it difficult for me to adapt to the flow of the story, but My Big Helper had no such problem.  She dove right in and loved it from the first page – and after finding my literary balance, I enjoyed it, too.  

The Case of the Jeweled Cat Statues would make a great family read-aloud or fun story for beginning readers through tweens.  It’s clean, wholesome, and fun all the way through. We can’t wait to check out more books by Cindy Vincent.  Don’t take my word for it, though – read on to find out what My Big Helper thought:

I like The Case of the Jewel Covered Cat Statues because of the adventure, mystery, lesson, and the perspective.  In the suspenseful parts, I felt just like Buckley the cat. I laughed every time Buckley messed up at saluting Bogey and my heart stopped in exciting parts.  I love how the author combined a mystery and a lesson in friendship together.  This book is cat-astic and once you read it, you’ll want to get your paws on another one!

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

Cindy Vincent was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and has lived all around the US and Canada. She holds an M.A.Ed, and is the creator of the Mysteries by Vincent murder mystery party games and the Daisy Diamond Detective Series games for girls. She is also the award-winning author of the Buckley and Bogey Cat Detective Caper books, the Daisy Diamond Detective book series, and the Cats are Part of His Kingdom, Too: 33 Daily Devotions to Understanding God’s Love. She lives with her husband and the real, live Buckley and Bogey, who run surveillance on her house each and every night.

Find Cindy, Buckley, and Bogey online: website
 
I received a free copy of The Case of the Jewel Covered Cat Statues from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

Book Club, Girls’ Edition: “Paris” by Giada de Laurentiis

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I always look forward to book club events.  I have a blast planning them and watching the kids learn and interact – but it’s been a long time since I anticipated a book event as much as this one.  Why?  Because Book Club, Girls' Edition:  "Paris" @ A Nest in the Rocks

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After talking about the book, we started to prepare.  We made chef’s hats out of poster board and tissue paper to get into the spirit of things.  They came out really well!

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 I asked each child to bring a French bread and a French cheese to this event, so the next thing we did was to taste it all.  I put small selections of each on platters on the table and asked each child to sample everything.  (I forgot to take a picture before they sampled, but as you can see, they liked their choices and didn’t leave much behind.)  We tried some wonderful new things:  Smoked Gruyere, French sticks, boule, and more.

After that we teamed up for a Jeopardy-style game.  The questions centered around the information found about France and French food from DSCN0991

When the girls were ready, they brought their creations over to the griddle I had preheated for them.  I watched closely as they grilled their sandwiches.  They worked together really well! 

I sliced each sandwich into three pieces and distributed one to each girl.  I passed out the rubrics, and we sampled them one at a time and then shared our opinion via rubric.

In the end, the girls were so excited about creating foods that they wanted to make more, so while they played around with a new French foodie creation, I added up all the points on the rubrics to determine the highest-scoring team.  After sampling their latest creations – which were surprisingly yummy – I announced the winner (the open-faced sandwich team) and passed out their certificates.

We had a lot of fun cooking competitively.  My Big Helper is already dreaming up her next creation.  I can’t wait to sample it!

Paris Girls 2

Don’t they look great in their hats?

Do you let your kids experiment in the kitchen?

 

Book Club, Girls’ Edition: “Isabel’s Secret”

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This month our girls read Book Club, Girls' Edition:  "Isabel's Secret" @ A Nest in the Rocks

I was very excited for the girls to dig in to OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Each girl could take home two different items.  We discussed the various heath benefits to coconut oil, beeswax, and essential oils, and then the girls whipped up a simple body butter.  This pair went to town on one scent, while the other group chose a different one.

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Next they each made their own variety of sugar scrub.  They chose their ingredients and how rough they wanted it to be, and when they finished, we put their products in large baby food jars. 

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Afterwards, they designed labels for each jar and decorated them to give as a gift for Christmas.  They ate some fudge we had prepared while they worked, because that was one of Holly and Isabel’s favorite treats! We wanted to make our own, but we knew there wouldn’t be time for that.

Book Club, Girls' Edition:  "Isabel's Secret" @ A Nest in the Rocks

Lastly, the girls made fun placemats out of scrapbooking paper, stamps, and old Christmas cards.  They had such a blast that My Little Man got in on the action after the girls went home.  I love that we’ll have these personalized keepsakes for years to come.


Nature Photography Contest for Kids – NOW OPEN!

Voting is OPEN!  Please scroll to the thumbnails below and click on the word ‘vote’ under your favorites.  You get 10 votes!

Photography Contest Now Live - 2

Here’s how it works:

  1. Any child aged 7 to 12 may enter.
  2. The photographs must be taken by the child, but adults may assist in the uploading or digitization process.
  3. Each photograph must fit the nature theme.
  4. A child may submit multiple pictures – but each entrant is eligible to win only one prize.
  5. Photographs may be edited, but all editing work must be done solely by the child.
  6. Photographic entries must be taken between September 1, 2014, and October 31, 2014.
  7.  Winners will be chosen based on the number of ‘likes’ and clicks received on each thumbnail. 
  8. The top five vote-getting photographs will be displayed in a later blog post at A Nest in the Rocks AND displayed in a CafePress shop of children’s art.  This art will be available for sale with proceeds going towards children’s ministries at Warren’s Grove UMC.
  9. The grand prize winner will receive:  a copy of Callie’s Contest of Courage and the accompanying Liturature Study Guide by Jan May and a copy of The Stolen Necklace by Andi Bradsher.  The second-place winner will receive a copy of The Stolen Necklace by Andi Bradsher and a journal with his winning photo on it. 
  10.  Entrants may campaign for votes by advertising their entries and this contest.
  11. By entering this contest, you agree for your photographs to be shared on A Nest in the Rocks at the end of the contest, with CafePress at the end of the contest, and in the advertisement of this contest.  No names will be attached to any work, and while you agree to share it with us for this short time, it remains yours.

This contest will run through October 31 with voting set to begin on Saturday, November 1st.  So, break out your camera and start taking pictures! 

Let your kids be creative.  Think nature.  Maybe fall is very evident where you live right now.  Go for leaf collages, buckets of nuts, busy squirrels, or whatever thing outside strikes your kid’s fancy.  Let loose and have fun with it.

Good luck!

To make sure you’re up to date on the latest and greatest contest news, subscribe in the sidebar.

* Prizes for this contest are being donated by Jan May and A Nest in the Rocks.

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I Choose Joy!

Book Club, Girls’ Edition: “Mystery on Skull Island”

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Our family is studying pirates right now, so for book club the girls read “Mystery on Skull Island,” an American Girl History Mystery book.  It takes place in Charles Town, South Carolina, in the 1720s, just after pirates went from being popular to scary.  We learned a lot about colonial life from this story and decided to interact with that in our book club party.

Mystery on Skull Island

We started, of course, by summarizing the book and discussing it.  We all decided that pirates were really not fun people and that the girls in the story didn’t always make the best choices, though they did have good intentions.

Making Biscuits

Then we made mob caps.  Mob caps were ruffled hats that covered a girl’s head and were very common during colonial times.  Ours were not true to history, as we made them out of white t-shirts, but since that knit fabric doesn’t fray, this simplified the process greatly.  We cut large circles out of old white shirts and then used a large running stitch to sew about an inch in from the edge.  Each girl then gathered the cap and we tied off the thread. They were excited to wear their new caps and each chose to do so a bit differently.

Making Biscuits

The girls love to bake, too, so we made Grandma’s Biscuits.  They worked together well, as always, and ate the finished product with honey and jellies. 

After developing their own pirate names and designing their own necklaces out of string and plastic beads, it was time for the girls to head home.  We had a great time in the colonial era!

What are your kids reading right now?  How can you connect with it?

* This post was shared at:  Home to 4 Kiddos

“Tales of the Not Forgotten” by Beth Guckenberger

Tales of the Not Forgotten is a set of stories of children from five different countries written by missionary Beth Guckenberger.  Each one features a child facing an impossible situation when God shows Himself in a big way.  The publisher describes the book this way:


Follow these real-life stories as they take you on a journey to faraway lands and unknown faces. Travel through their challenges and see the hand of the great Storyweaver writing endings you’d never imagine!

Joel dares to ask for what he can’t have. Seraphina sacrifices what she can’t afford to give. Ibrahim looks for an answer buried out of reach. Christiana, saved by a mission, searches for her own.

These are the tales of the ones the world doesn’t see . . . the tales of the not forgotten.
In this collection of four real-life stories written for preteens, a compelling storyteller paints a picture of God’s dynamic movement in four foreign cultures, inspiring children to trust that God is weaving a story in their lives as well.

This resource will shrink the macro picture down to approachable, individual stories of real children and teach about fundamental survival issues. The stories address some of the challenging questions that kids have and weave God’s promises to orphans into each one.

The Tales of the Not Forgotten Leader’s Guide is a 6-session kids’ missions resource (sold separately) that walks adults through an easy-to-follow guide for making the abstract real and for designing an action plan to help others.

Preteens will be challenged to answer the questions:How do I pray? What can I give? Where can I go? Who will I serve?

The stories in this book are amazing.  I’ve always loved reading about how God works things out in just the perfect way, as only He can, but when He shows up for children who have so little, the stories can be difficult to read.  The cover of the book contains a warning under the author’s name that states that “These stories may change the way you see the world,” and it’s true.  I read this book on a lazy afternoon while watching my children play with friends, and I kept thinking that they were all going to wonder why I was crying over a book on a gorgeous summer’s day.  After reading these stories, it’s difficult to see the world as ‘out there’ instead of ‘next door’ and impossible not to want to help more children like these.

That’s where the leader’s guide comes in.  The leader’s guide is absolutely perfect.  Somehow I missed the boat and expected a video-like teaching series that could be part of a study, but what the CD actually contains is so much better.  It’s not a DVD at all but a data CD that contains everything you would need to turn this book into a series of mission lessons for kids.  It is a simple set of Word documents set up in a systematic hierarchy containing skits, memory verses, pictures of real kids to serve as visuals, recipes, math problems, activities to send home for families to use, and simple mission projects that the kids can do to take action within their own communities.  With this guide, you won’t need to search for ice breakers, printables, or ways to involve families, because it’s all here.  The research and planning has been done for you, so you can gather your children and begin.  It’s truly perfect for young youth groups, homeschool groups, Sunday School classes, etc.

That’s exactly what we’re going to do.  I knew after reading this book that it would be great to share these stories with my family for a few reasons:  they make great lessons of God’s faithfulness, and as a homeschooling family,  the format of the book is wonderful.  Each story is a separate chapter, and notes are spread throughout the book disguised as postcards and stamps that define foreign words and terms and help clarify customs that we might not understand.  In this way the book itself is very educational, but combined with the lessons and activities in the leader’s guide, it’s a complete class.  After sharing this information with my pastor, we’re meeting today to determine how we might use this resource best within our church.  I’m excited that our children will be doing this with their friends, but if that hadn’t worked out, we’d be doing it at home as a family.  Guckenberger has made it that easy – and it’s that important, too.

I read many great books, and some stick in my head for a long time afterwards.  Some I’m eager to share with my friends and family because I don’t want them to miss such a great read, but never before have I had plans to share a book with so many others within days of turning the last page.  As the cover states, your worldview will change as you read this book, but you also can’t help but want to be a a part of someone else’s story – to have a hand in helping them see that the God of the Universe has not forgotten them.

This book will show you how.

For more other reviews about Tales of the Not Forgotten, visit the blog hop here.  To go ahead and purchase your own copy of this book, click here.


Beth Guckenberger and her husband, Todd, are the founders of Back2Back Ministries (based in Cincinnati, OH) which communicates a lifestyle of service by sharing the love of Christ and serving God through service to others. Back2Back Ministries connects willing workers to open hearts through international and local ministry opportunities. Their ministry is currently caring and providing for orphan children and needy people in Mexico, Nigeria, India and most recently, Haiti.

Beth travels and speaks regularly at women’s and missions conferences, as well as youth gatherings and church services. Her topics include orphan care, missions, parenting, marriage/intimacy, and faith. Her story-telling style captures audiences, and she draws from her field experience as a missionary and parent for illustrations to biblical concepts. In addition to her latest release, Tales of the Not Forgotten (Standard Publishing 2012), Beth has writtenRelentless Hope (Standard, 2011) and Reckless Faith (Zondervan, 2008).

The Guckenberger family lives and serves in Monterrey, Mexico where they have hosted thousands of guests on their ministry campus. Between biological, foster, and adopted additions to their family, Beth and Todd are raising nine children.

Learn how you can join Beth in ministry at www.bethguckenberger.com or www.back2backministries.org.


I received a free copy of Tales of the Not Forgotten from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

“Princess Stories” by Carolyn Larsen

Every little girl wants to be a princess, and this book operates under the theory that each one is – a daughter of the King Himself.  A devotional book in story format, author Carolyn Larsen tells the stories of nearly 30 women from the Bible.  She begins each story with an original Mirror, mirror poem and then tells that person’s basic story, written from a first person perspective.  Each chapter is two to three pages in length (in large typeface) and is followed by a Bible verse, a prayer, and three discussion questions, one of which focuses on the verse specifically. The best part is that each ‘princess’ is chosen for a different character trait, so that throughout the course of the book nearly 30 traits are explained, including those of wisdom, peacefulness, faithfulness, and bravery, just to name a few.

The last chapter of the book focuses on on Psalm 139 and the uniqueness with which God has created each one of us.  Larsen explains how God has created each little girl to be special and how they, too, can be God’s princesses!

This book is pink and purple and a little girl’s dream!  The artwork is colorful and glittery and though animated in many places, it draws in the viewer with the attractive and colorful pictures.  There are also drawings that are meant to be of the Bible characters and the readers, as well, and the readers are depicted as little girls of many different nationalities.

I LOVE this book!  It is difficult to find devotional books which interest both of my children – a girl and a boy – and incorporate Bible stories, scripture, and questions at a level which will excite them and challenge them, but this book does it all!

My children are eager to read their ‘princess story’ each evening and want to answer the questions.  They are excited to learn about each princess and anxious to relate the stories to their own lives.  Even my son, who is rather princess-phobic, is excited to participate.

The stories are written in language that my first-grader, though a super reader, is able to read on her own, and she is happy to do so.

What more could a mommy want than to find her children huddled together around a Bible book, so ready for Bible time that they’ll begin on their own?

If you have young children, this is a book you’ll definitely want to add to your library.

I received a free copy of Princess Stories:  Real Bible Stories of God’s Princesses from Tyndale House in exchange for an honest review.

Author, dramatist, and actress Carolyn Larsen has more than 30 books in print, including the popular The Little Girls Bible Storybook for Mothers and Daughters.  She is the founder of the performing group Flashpoints, a group of five women who use drama and creative movement to inspire.  Married to her husband for nearly 28 years, they have three grown children and live in Illinois.

“My First Handy Bible” Review

My First Handy Bible: Timeless Bible Stories for Toddlers

When my kids were toddlers, we bought them toddler Bible story books that we were super excited about.  We were sure that they’d love them and would want to keep them forever.

They rarely wanted to keep them past the first week.

My First Handy Bible isn’t like the others.  This book they would’ve wanted to keep.

Unlike many other Bible storybooks, there are more than just three or four pages in this book.  There are lots – and the chosen stories go beyond Noah and Abraham.  Each page features a different Bible story, and a summary of the story is printed on each.  Your children will meet both Old and New Testament characters and will learn why each one is so important.

The variety of stories in the book is not the only characteristic that makes it stand out.  The illustrations are bold and bright, with big people, strong facial features, and dark lines.  They are designed especially to catch and hold a toddler’s attention.

The last feature that makes the My First Handy Bible perfect for toddlers is the strong outside covering.  It has a plastic handle on hinges, making it easy to carry from place to place.  While the inside pages resemble regular board book pages but are thinner, the outside cover is thick and sturdy, with a magnetic clasp that keeps the book closed when in transport.

If you’re looking for a great storybook for toddlers, this is a great option!

I received a free copy of My First Handy Bible from B&B Media in exchange for an honest review.