Tuesday, December 18, 2012

American Patriots: Answering the Call to Freedom by Rick Santorum

ISBN: 978-1-4143-7908-1
An absolutely wonderful book to read!!  I agree whole heartedly with another review that this should be required reading for any high school history class.  In fact, the chapters are so short that it could easily apply to middle school students as well.

Rick Santorum has addressed 25 heroes of the American Revolution and how they were instrumental in the formation and foundation of our country.  He draws from the “The Declaration of Independence”…”We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  He centers on “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and introduces Patriots who believed strongly in these areas and pursued them with their very own lives.  Many of the individuals within this book were also firm in their belief that without the hand of our Creator upon our lives, we would all be lost.  These biographical sketches draw our hearts and attention back to God and how He ultimately is our “life, our liberty, and our pursuit of happiness.”  Without Him, we are nothing.

I found the Patriots in this book absolutely fascinating.  Mr. Santorum highlights several women who served as marksmen and spies, a gentle giant who fought like a madman, a baker who fed George Washington’s army, a financial hero who supported the movement even unto poverty at his death; a bi-racial man who was the pastor of a white church for 30 years until the congregation realized he was “black” and asked him to leave.  While all of these are not signers of the Declaration of Independence, they were most definitely instrumental in the foundation of our country and deserve our gratitude for their sacrifices.  We also have a responsibility to teach our children the heritage of our country and how far we have strayed from the founding fathers original “Call to Freedom.”

Rick Santorum has created a wonderful history book!  I highly recommend “American Patriots – Answering the Call to Freedom.”

About the author:   Rick Santorum was a candidate for the Republican nomination for President of the United States in 2012. His grassroots approach to campaigning catapulted him to frontrunner status. Prior to running for President, Rick served in the U.S. House of Representatives.

DISCLOSURE: We received a complimentary copy of American Patriots: Answering the Call to Freedom from Tyndale Blog Network on behalf of the publisher, Tyndale, and author to facilitate our honest review. Positive remarks were not an obligation.

Monday, December 17, 2012

"Anna's Blizzard" by Alison Hart

Children of all ages would enjoy this book, but it is especially suitable for upper elementary readers.

This historical fiction takes place during the blizzard of January, 1888 on the American Great Plains. Anna Vail and her pony Top Hat head to school as usual with no indication of how the weather was about to turn. Anna is a hard working young girl who helps with herding the family sheep, but school is another matter. Anna struggles with her schoolwork and has a difficult time making friends with those students who are smarter and have more of this world’s treasures.

But, Anna is very brave, and her bravery is never more evident than when the blizzard hits during the school day. While the school appears to be the safest place to ride out the storm, it becomes obvious as the blizzard bears down on the little sod school building that the children must depart if they are to survive. But where will they go and how? Read and find out how Anna’s bravery and the instincts of her faithful pony see the children to safety. (rev. J.La Tour)

About the book:  A young Nebraska girl discovers the courage to save others during a life-threatening snowstorm. It is 1888. Twelve-year-old Anna loves life on the Nebraska prairie where she lives with her parents and four-year-old brother in a simple sod house. When a fierce blizzard suddenly kicks up on a mild winter day, Anna, her schoolmates, and young teacher, Miss Simmons, become trapped in the one-room schoolhouse.

About the author: Alison Hart is the author of more than forty books for young readers, including Emma's River, Anna's Blizzard, and the Racing to Freedom trilogy. Hart is a teacher at Blue Ridge Community College and lives in Virginia. You can visit Alison Hart’s website here.

DISCLOSURE:  A complimentary copy of Anna's Blizzard was provided by Peachtree Publishers on behalf of the author for the purpose of facilitating our honest review without obligation to render a positive review.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

"Betrayal" by Robin Lee Hatcher

ISBN: 978-0-310-25809-4
Zondervan Pub.
Betrayal is the second book in the “Where the Heart Lives” series written by Robin Lee Hatcher.  Though this book could be read on its own, this reader would recommend reading book one Belonging first as intended by the author. There are several details in book two that would not be clear without the reading of book one.   

This book is set in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s in Wyoming.  The main characters, Julia Grace and Hugh Brennan, have lived lives filled with disappointment and betrayal.  Hugh finds himself as the book opens happening upon a ranch on his journey to Idaho to seek out the whereabouts of his orphaned sisters.  The ranch belongs to a beautiful young widow, Julia Grace.  

Woven throughout this book is the guidance of the hand of God on the lives of two who have found Him to be their only solace in the midst of great difficulty.  This beautiful story of finding peace and love when least expected is one this reader found captivating and a joy to read.  Book three in the series, Beloved promises to be just as enjoyable. (rev. J.LaTour)

Author bio:  Robin Lee Hatcher is the bestselling author of over sixty books. Her well-drawn characters and heartwarming stories of faith, courage, and love have earned her both critical acclaim and the devotion of readers. Her numerous awards include the Christy Award for Excellence in Christian Fiction, two RITA Awards for Best Inspirational Romance, Romantic Times Career Achievement Awards for Americana Romance and for Inspirational Fiction, and the RWA Lifetime Achievement Award. Robin currently resides in Idaho. 

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary review copy was provided by Zondervan to facilitate our honest review. No obligation was made to provide a positive review.

Friday, December 14, 2012

"Belonging" by Robin Lee Hatcher

In book one of Robin Lee Hatcher’s “Where the Heart Lives” series, the town of Frenchman’s Bluff in the high desert of Idaho is in need of a new school teacher.  Felicia Kristoffersen is in need of a teaching position, one that will take her to a new place with the promise of new beginnings that will help her forget her painful past.  She arrives in Frenchman’s Bluff with a desire to prove herself in this position; but unbeknownst to her, there are those who never wanted her to come in the first place. 

Colin Murphy, a local merchant cares most about his motherless daughter Charity.  While he knows the town needs a teacher, he believes a single, inexperienced lady teacher will not provide the educational advantages he wants his daughter and the other students of Frenchman’s Bluff to have.  Experience has told him they just don’t stick with the job for long.  He is about to learn that Felicia is not your average teacher.

They both are about to find that God is “working all things together for good” in spite of their past sorrows and disappointments to give them the love, joy, and guidance they so desperately desire and in ways they least expect.

I found this book to be a wonderful read; one I had difficulty putting down. (rev. J.LaTour)

About the book:  Leaving behind her bitter past, Felicia Kristoffersen seeks to make a brighter future for herself as a teacher in Frenchman’s Bluff, Idaho. But in this tiny high desert town, she can’t afford to fail. And not everyone is happy she’s here to begin with. Award-winning novelist Robin Lee Hatcher weaves a historical romance that asks the question: Can faith triumph over life’s harshest storms?

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy of Belonging by Robin Lee Hatcher was provided by Zondervan on behalf of the author to facilitate an honest review with obligation for positive remarks.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

"Oliver Twist" by Charles Dickens Full-Cast Audio Dramatization

Binding: 5 CDs & 1 DVD
List Price:$39.99
Release Date:November 2012
The Focus on the Family rendition of Charles Dickens Oliver Twist is very well dramatized with well-placed narrator information interspersed in the dialogue.  There is an excellent interpretation of the plot, and believable character voices. 

The story of young Twist follows the path of a lonely orphan boy from the parish workhouse, to the London criminal underworld, and finally to a peaceful life with his father’s best friend.  Mr. Brownlow, and his Aunt Rose in the country.  Dickens’ story of greed, justice, and redemption is captivating and worth the time to listen and learn from the complex journey of Oliver Twist.

My children and I enjoyed listening to it together.  They each hardily agreed it was well done and we are looking forward to a time when we can listen to it again! (rev. A.Freeman)

About the production:  An audio drama of the highest quality, Oliver Twist was recorded on location in London with an award-winning cast. This classic story will steal your heart as the timeless characters are brought to life in Focus on the Family Radio Theatre’s edition of Charles Dickens’ beloved tale. This amazing audio production comes on five CDs, with a bonus DVD that includes behind-the-scenes production footage and the documentary Modern Day Oliver. Purchase of the product also benefits Focus’s “Wait No More” adoption initiative.

With cinema-quality sound and an original soundtrack, this audio drama tells the story of a young orphan sent from a child farm to begin life in a workhouse. After committing the unpardonable offense of asking for more food, Oliver is sent off to apprentice with a coffin-maker whose wife mistreats him. He runs away to London, where he meets the Artful Dodger and Fagin, who trains kids to be pickpockets. Despite his many trials and hardships, he finally gets his happy ending, bringing hope for redemption to all around him.

There are 5 CDs and 1 DVD including a behind the scenes glimpse into production.  For more information visit http://www.RadioTheatre.org/OliverTwist

DISCLOSURE: We were provided a complimentary copy of this production by  Tyndale Blog Network on behalf of Tyndale Publishers and the Radio Theatre (you can view a sample of production of Oliver Twist audio and see and hear the actors in action) in exchange for our honest review without pressure for a positive review.

"It Can't Be Done Nellie Bly" by Nancy Butcher

“It  Can’t Be Done Nellie Bly” by Nancy Butcher is a delightful story of a newspaper reporter's attempt to travel around the world in 75 days to beat the record of the fictional character of Phileas  Fogg.  The author weaves a wonderful tale of the adventures faced by this daredevil woman and creatively inserts Nellie’s own words. 

The chapters are short and flow easily to make a young reader encouraged with reading chapter books. The connection with factual information of events and the fictional dialogues created by the author is smooth and accomplished through a study of journals and other research. 

This book will be an enjoyable read by middle readers.  I also enjoyed the added factual information and pictures in the back few pages of the book. The short bibliography at the end would be helpful for further research. (rev. C.Delorge)

About the book: This book tells the true story of a courageous woman's famous journey in 1889 that took her all the way around the globe in record time.

Nellie Bly was a newspaper reporter for the New York World in the late nineteenth century. But instead of writing about "ladylike" subjects like tea parties and charity balls, Nellie wrote about the social problems of her day: poor job conditions, dilapidated housing, and dishonest politicians.

Many people objected to the things she wrote about. But Nellie Bly was unstoppable. If someone told her "It can't be done, Nellie Bly," she went right ahead and did it anyway.

Author and Illustrator:  Nancy Butcher is the author of more than two dozen books for children and adults, including It Can't Be Done, Nellie Bly! and The Fire-Us Trilogy, coauthored with Jennifer Armstrong. A graduate of the University of Chicago, she lives in New York.

Jen Singh studied illustration at Kendall College of Art & Design and has illustrated several books. She lives in Georgia. 
DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy of It Can't Be Done, Nellie Bly! was provided by Peachtree Publishers on behalf of the author to facilitate our honest review with no requirement for a positive review.

Friday, December 7, 2012

"Jangles a BIG fish story" by author/illustrator David Shannon

ISBN: 978-0-545-14312-7
Published by The Blue Sky Press an imprint of Scholastic
 Review:  Jangles a BIG fish story by Davis Shannon is a delightful tale of the fish that got away.  The story is smooth to read and would make a great read-a-loud story for children to anticipate what will happen at the end.   I enjoyed the illustrations that make you feel like you are part of the story.   Every town has a story that has been passed down for generations and this book is a wonderful depiction of a father passing down a tale to his children. (rev. C.Delorge)

The illustrations in Jangles a BIG fish story seem to literally jump off the page at you.  You are amazingly brought into the story by the bold, active, strong art.  
About the author/illustrator:  David Shannon has been telling tales all his life. When he was a little boy, he created a book that later inspired his international bestseller No, David!, a 1998 Caldecott Honor Book, as well as David Gets in Trouble; David Goes to School.; and It's Christmas, David!  Shannon  is the author and illustrator of numerous popular picture books, including Too Many Toys; Good Boy, Fergus; Alice the Fairy; and A Bad Case of Stripes. This year, the Blue Sky Press reissued How Georgie Radbourn Saved Baseball, a New York Times Best Illustrated Book of 1994 and the first book Shannon wrote himself.  A native of spokane, Washington, Shannon has been an avid fisherman since childhood. 

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary review copy was provided by Scholastic to facilitate this honest review.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

"Who Is It?" by Sally Grindley & illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw

About the book:  An exciting read-aloud book turns classic fairy tales upside down and lets youngsters join in the fun. Children will be eager to shout out the answers to the question "Who Is It?" and to warn the unsuspecting characters about what's going to happen next.

But young readers will also be thrilled to find out there's a big surprise in store for them, too!

Review:  Parents have long shared the classic fairy tales of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Billy Goat Gruff, Little Red Riding Hood, etc. through the years.  Kiddies love them.  Sometimes we as parents take a few liberties with the tale to make it fit our  personal ideas and ideals as well as that of our child.

In Who Is It? author Grindley doesn't really tell the stories.  She has created a parent/child guessing game of "Who Is it?" with clues from which the child is to identify the story.  An interesting concept and one that many parents and children will thoroughly enjoy.

The book is illustrated with vivid, bold stroke art colored richly in the primary colors.  The illustrations of the story characters are cute and boldly engaging. 

I can visualize parents having giggly fun with their child with this book and the child requesting the Who Is It? game repeatedly.  I personally would not use this at bedtime because sensitive children might feel threatened just prior to falling asleep.  The same sensitive child could easily engage with the story/game without difficulties an another time in the day.

About the author & illustrator:
  • Sally Grindley is the author of numerous books for children. She lives in England.You can visit Sally Grindley’s website here.
  • Rosalind Beardshaw has illustrated numerous books for children. She lives in England. 
DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy of Who Is It? was provided by Peachtree Publishers on behalf of the author to facilitate our honest review.  

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

"Historical Fiction is Not Dead" by Margo L. Dill (author of "Finding My Place: One Girl’s Strength at Vicksburg") (plus GIVEAWAY)

I'd like to welcome Margo L. Dill as guest blogger today.  She has written Finding My Place: One Girl’s Strength at Vicksburg which is an engaging story of the Civil War from a Southerner's stand point.  Let's see what Margo has to say to us today about historical fiction....
From Margo L. Dill....   I recently had a chance to go on my first school visit since my middle-grade, historical fiction novel came out at the beginning of October. Luckily, the teachers had read the book to the students before I got there for Family Reading Night, and they all seemed to really like it. I never got to my prepared presentation because the kids had so many questions about the characters and the events in the war, and many of them wanted to know if I was writing a sequel. To see these children so excited about a historical fiction book warmed my heart—especially after attending a writing conference earlier in the year where New York agents and editors said that historical fiction was on its way out and could not be sold.
        Before this experience at Reading Night, I knew children responded better to historical fiction than they did history books or social studies lectures from my years as an elementary teacher. It’s almost like historical fiction authors along with parents, teachers, and librarians are ganging up on the kids (in a good way!) and tricking them into caring about some characters and a story, so that they will also learn history. Thank goodness for this little bit of trickery. It helped me when I was in school, too, reading books like Little House on the Prairie or Johnny Tremain.
        I don’t think historical fiction is dead, despite what’s selling the best on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. I think it’s important to share it with our children and students—to point out what’s fact and what makes the story fiction. Once you’ve read a historical fiction book to a child, then you can teach her more about the history that goes with it. They’ll have something to connect with when they learn why the Declaration of Independence was so important or the North won the war or the causes for World War II. 
        In my book, Finding My Place: One Girl’s Strength at Vicksburg, I was determined to give students a view from the Southern citizens during the United States Civil War because so many books out there are from a Northern point of view and focus on the soldiers. I wanted to show how the war affected people’s lives, but I also wanted to share this time period with children. What did kids do for fun back then? What did they read? What chores did they do? What did they do when supplies ran low because of the war? Were kids back then like kids today? I hope that I was able to accomplish this and more.
        One of the best compliments an author can receive is: “Is there going to be a sequel?” especially when children are learning while reading! I’m thankful for the genre of historical fiction. I’m glad my first novel is a part of this, and I hope that we will be using the genre to connect children and history for many years to come. 

Margo L. Dill is the author of Finding My Place: One Girl’s Strength at Vicksburg,  about 13-year-old Anna Green and her struggle to keep her family together during the Siege of Vicksburg.

To read a summary or purchase an autographed copy (a perfect Christmas present for children ages 9 to 12!), please go to http://margodill.com/blog/finding-my-place   or  on  Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/Finding-My-Place-Strength-Vicksburg/dp/1572494085/ .

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ GIVEAWAY ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
A copy of Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg provided by author, Margo L. Dill.
Begins Dec. 4 and Ends Dec. 17, 2012 12:01 a.m. EST
a Rafflecopter giveaway  
Read the review of "Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg" on Reader's Review Haven.

Monday, December 3, 2012

"The Face of Heaven" by Murray Pura

ISBN: 978-0-7369-4949-
About the book: In April 1861, Lyndel Keim discovers two runaway slaves in her family’s barn. When the men are captured and returned to their plantation, Lyndel and her young Amish beau, Nathaniel King, find themselves at odds with their pacifist Amish colony.

Nathaniel enlists in what will become the famous Iron Brigade of the Union Army. Lyndel enters the fray as a Brigade nurse on the battlefield, sticking close to Nathaniel as they both witness the horrors of war—including the battles at Chancellorsville, Fredericksburg, and Antietam. Despite the pair’s heroic sacrifices, the Amish only see that Lyndel and Nathaniel have become part of the war effort, and both are banished.

And a severe battle wound at Gettysburg threatens Nathaniel’s life. Lyndel must call upon her faith in God to endure the savage conflict and to face its painful aftermath, not knowing if Nathaniel is alive or dead. Will the momentous battle change her life forever, just as it will change the course of the war and the history of her country?

The Face of Heaven is a dramatic story that will release on the 150th anniversary of the historic battle of Antietam, September, 1862. (August 2012)

Review: The Face of Heaven is a lovely historic fiction story that opens just before the Civil War in 1861. Lyndel Keim is an Amish girl growing up on her father’s farm in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

One morning Lyndel discovers two runaway slaves hiding in the barn. Ultimately the sheriff discovers their whereabouts, and the slaves are dealt with very harshly. The treatment of these slaves and the knowledge of thousands of others across the South causes Lyndel and her beau, Nathaniel King, to go against the wishes of their parents and Amish church leaders in joining the Civil War. Nathaniel enlists in the Iron Brigade serving in the Union army. Lyndel becomes a Brigade nurse working on or near the battlefields. Both see first hand the atrocities of the war, young men giving their lives for their beliefs and country.

Throughout their efforts to serve the Union Army in such famous battles as Chancellorsville, Fredericksburg, Antietam, and finally at Gettysburg, they find themselves entirely dependent upon God’s strength and wisdom. Sometimes they work alongside of each other; other times they work far apart, hoping and praying that God would preserve them both. (reviewed by S.Fincannon)

About the author: Murray Pura earned his Master of Divinity degree from Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, and his ThM degree in theology and interdisciplinary studies from Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia. For more than 25 years, in addition to his writing, he has pastored churches in Nova Scotia, British Columbia, and Alberta. Murray’s writings have been shortlisted for the Dartmouth Book Award, the John Spencer Hill Literary Award, the Paraclete Fiction Award, and Toronto's Kobzar Literary Award. His novels for Harvest House include Face of Heaven and The Wings of Morning. Murray pastors and writes in southern Alberta near the Rocky Mountains.

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy of The Face of Heaven was provided by Harvest House Publishers on behalf of the author to facilitate our honest review. Positive remarks were not required.