Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Warrior's Faith: Navy SEAL Ryan Job, A Life-Changing Firefight and The Belief That Transformed His Life, By Robert Vera

ISBN: 9781400206780
A Warrior’s Faith is a well written and thoughtful portrayal of Ryan Job’s service to the United States as a Navy Seal. Vera does a masterful job of detailing the personal consequences of Job’s service to his country and fellow Seals.  As a history teacher and a Christian, I found the storyline to be compelling and arresting.

We are introduced to Ryan Job and the author while they are on a hike sponsored by Camp Patriot for wounded veterans. The difficulty of that hike for a blind veteran is indicative of the grit of Job and his story. Throughout the book; Vera makes reference to the contrast between the biblical story of Job and the contemporary account of Ryan Job’s trials and triumphs. This comparison is done with compassion, humor, and in a very matter of fact way. Seemingly like the way Ryan Job came face to face with a radically transformed life due to the nature of his injuries.

Each of us will go through life at our own pace, but no one is totally independent. Vera explains throughout the narrative how he came along side Job, that it was a God thing, leaving a successful and apparently secure financial career. Like the disciple Peter who steps out of a boat by faith to walk with Jesus on the water, Vera stepped out by faith and walked along side Ryan Job. Vera humbly recounts the struggles of assisting a blind man and with humor sheds light on the transformation that took place in Job’s life as a result of a sniper’s bullet that found its target on a roof top in Ramadi, Iraq.

“A Warrior’s Faith” is a story of the transforming power of faith. The author of the biblical book, Hebrews, tells us that “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Our lives are faith journeys; and Vera powerfully and personally shares his faith journey with us on the pages of his book.

Vera gives the reader  a look behind the headlines that captivate for only a moment, thus providing us with a simple, no nonsense look into the brief but important life of an American hero: Ryan Job. (reviewed by Ken Delorge, Principal, ACS)

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provided by BookLook on behalf of Thomas Nelson Publishing to facilitate this review. Opinions are those of the reviewer. No compensation was received for this review.

Salamander Season by Jennifer Keats Curtis, J. Adam Frederick, & Shennen Bersani

About the book: One cold, rainy, spring night, a young girl and her scientist father participate in “Salamander Night” to follow hundreds of spotted salamanders as they venture into a vernal pool to mate and lay eggs. Together, the father-child team studies the salamanders through their complete amphibian metamorphosis, culminating in the adult salamanders' disappearance into the woods in late summer. In easy-to-understand text, the girl relates the tale through her illustrated, photographic journal.

Review: This is a well-done book teaching a young child in terms and pictures they can understand the scientific life-cycle of the Spotted Salamander. Father and daughter stroll through the evening and discover yellow spotted salamanders crossing the asphalt road and going to a vernal pool.

What is a vernal pool? CLICK HERE for pictures and information. "Biological description of a vernal pool - A vernal pool, because of its periodic drying, does not support breeding populations of fish. Many organisms have evolved to use a temporary wetland which will dry but where they are not eaten by fish. These organisms are the "obligate" vernal pool species, so called because they must use a vernal pool for various parts of their life cycle. If the obligate species are using a body of water, then that water is a vernal pool. In New England, the easily recognizable obligate species are the fairy shrimp, the mole salamanders and the wood frog."
The photographs are really great as they picture the various stages of the spotted salamander. Other illustrations are done with ink and crayon. I especially like the For Creative Minds pages at the back of the book which cover "Salamander Classification," "Spotted Salamander Life Cycle Sequencing," "Salamander Nights, and "An Environmental Biologist." There is top-notch information on these pages.

Although this little book is designed for the grades K-3 or age 4-8 child, I see it being useful on into the upper elementary grades. The story is easy flowing and packed with tidbits of information that will pleasantly educate the youngster.

Highly recommend this book for its scientific pack and appeal to the child and educator.

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provided by Arbordale Publishing to facilitate this review. Opinions are those of the reviewer. No compensation was provided for this review.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Berenstain Bears God Bless Our Country By Mike Berenstain

About the book: The Bear family and their Bear Country neighbors celebrate the Fourth of July with a big parade. But not before the Bear cubs get a lesson about the blessings of freedom for their country. Features 12 full-color stickers.

Review: For the small price of $4.99, you can acquire this republished Berenstain Bears book that has been beloved for years. God Bless Our Country is illustrated in the endearing Berenstain tradition that will charm the current youngsters just as it did many years ago.

The Fourth of July (Independence Day) celebration is approaching and the Berenstain Bears are making preparation to participate in their town's parade and other activities. They are learning about the history of the United States and how faith was a cornerstone in the building of this country.

I just love Berenstain Bears and this reprinting gives wonderful opportunities for children and parents to enjoy the adventures of these lovable bears.

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provided by BookLook Blogger Review Program on behalf of ZonderKidz to facilitate this review. Opinions are those of the reviewer. No compensation was received for this review.

Trees: A Compare and Contrast Book by Katharine Hall

Ages 4-8, Grades K-3
Hardcover ISBN: 9781628554533, $17.95
Paperback ISBN: 9781628554618, $9.95
About the book: Trees grow in many habitats, all around the world. Some trees are short and some are tall. Some grow in hot deserts and others grow on cold mountains. Some have leaves that are broad and wide and others are short and narrow. Some trees stay green all year round while others have leaves that change color. Compare and contrast the different characteristics of trees through vibrant photographs.

Review: Trees have such an important roll in providing an atmosphere that is conducive to life here on Earth. In Trees: A Compare and Contrast Book, the author Katharine Hall provides beautiful photographic illustrations that feature the teaching points of this little children's book on Trees. She compares areas where tree roots can take hold, the difference between evergreens and deciduous, broad leaf and conifers. The reader (or listener) will even learn places where trees will grown and the one place trees do not grow. Interesting!

The "For Creative Minds" section in the back of the book provides information that further helps the reader to learn and the teacher to teach the absolute value of trees. I like this book. Well done.

DISCOLSURE: A complimentary paperback copy was provided by Arbordale Publishing  to facilitate this review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer. No compensation was received for this review.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Animal Helpers: Raptor Centers by Jennifer Keats Curtis

Hardcover ISBN: 9781628554472, $17.95
Paperback ISBN: 9781628554557, $9.95
Ages 4-8, Grades K-3
About the book: Even powerful birds of prey can get sick or hurt. When that happens, animal helpers at raptor centers come to the rescue! Dedicated staff treats injured, sick, and orphaned animals. They return the birds to their native environment or find forever homes at education and raptor centers for those that can’t survive in the wild. Follow along in this photographic journal as staff and volunteers come together to care for these remarkable birds.

Review: This is actually a vocation book where young children can learn about the work of being an animal helper (Veterinarian) in a Raptor Center. The need for birds of prey - raptors - to have help in order to survive is presented. The recovery of raptors from situations where they are injured and transferred to a raptor center is examined with text and illustrations.

Then the young child is asked several questions - would you clean the cage of a raptor, would you weigh a new born raptor, etc. Identification of various raptors via quality photographs is good.

As usual, Arbordale has a For Creative Minds section at the end of the book that allows further exploration into the realm of raptors. This is always a highlight of these books.

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provided by Arbordale Publishing to facilitate this review. Opinions are those of the reviewer. No compensation was received for this review.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Double Cross (FBI Houston Series Book 2) by DiAnn Mills

About the book:  FBI Agent Laurel Evertson's investigation into a scam targeting the elderly takes an unexpected twist when key evidence leads her to Morton Wilmington, a felon she arrested five years ago on her first undercover assignment. That case has haunted her since, and though she's vowed to forget Wilmington--and what she sacrificed to put him away--he is now her best lead.Houston Police Officer Daniel Hilton fears his grandparents may be the scammer's next targets, and he'll do anything to protect his family--even force interagency cooperation. But he's quickly drawn to Laurel's empathy and zeal and agrees to follow her lead . . . even if it means teaming up with a felon.As the unlikely trio uncovers evidence suggesting the scam is more extensive and deadly than they imagined, both Laurel and Daniel find themselves in the crosshairs of a killer. Together they must decide if they can trust Wilmington's claims of redemption, or if he's leading them straight into a double cross.

Review: Double Cross captures the reader's attention with the involved, fast faced suspense tale where the FBI and local police work together to solve a scam that turns deadly.

This story involves undercover work with felons, charity scammers duping vulnerable senior citizens, and heroes turned bad.The depth of deception is not revealed until the final pages. A good read where Christian faith is presented as a source of strength and in a felon character who found redemption while in prison. A sweet blossoming romance is part of the story as well.

Author DiAnn Mills Website Author Facebook

DiAnn Mills talks about working with the FBI to research the FBI: Houston Series

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provided by Tyndale Blog Network on behalf of the publisher Tyndale Fiction to facilitate this review. Opinions are those of the reviewer. No compensation was received for this review.

Little Gray's Great Migration by Marta Lindsey & illustrated by Andrea Gabriel

Hardcover ISBN: 9781628554526, $17.95
Paperback ISBN: 9781628554601, $9.95
Ages 4-8, Grades K-3
About the book: Little Gray loved his lagoon and the humans who came to visit him there. One day, Mama announces that they must swim north to a far-away sea. At first he is sad to leave his home, but Little Gray soon realizes the importance of their journey.  What happens along the way and how does Little Gray help his mother? Swim along with Little Gray as he finds the way to this special, food-filled sea.

Review: People are fascinated by whales and according to the author's story-line in Little Gray's Great Migration, Gray Whales are also fascinated by people - so much so that they relish entertaining people and receiving their applause.

While entertaining, I find the story just a bit too fictional to be classified as a children's non-fiction. However, the story is cute, sweet, and will most certainly entertain and engage young children.

As usual, Arbordale Publishing has included a For Creative Minds section at the end of the book. I found this very good and informative and believe it to be this book's redeeming factor. Included are Whale Surfacing (Don't we love it when they breach?), Whale Fun Facts, A Migration Map (fascinating!), and Whale Food. This section alone is well worth the money you spend to acquire this book.

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provided by Arbordale Publishing to facilitate this review. Opinions are those of the reviewer. No compensation was received for this review.

Animal Eyes by Mary Holland

Hardcover ISBN: 9781628554465, $17.95
Paperback ISBN: 9781628554540, $9.95
Ages 4-8, Grades K-3
About the book: The sense of sight helps an animal stay safe from predators, find food and shelter, defend its territory and care for its young. We can tell a lot about an animal from its eyes: whether it is predator or prey, whether it is more active during the day or night, and sometimes even its gender or age. Award-winning nature photographer and environmental educator Mary Holland shares fascinating animal eyes with readers of all ages.
Review: This non-fiction picture book for young school age children is "spot-on" with age-appropriate information, beautifully detailed photographs, and educational appeal. It is sure to captivate the young mind as they learn of the variety of eyes in insects, animals, and people.

Written in straight-forward prose, the child will absorb facts tucked away that teach the difference in the eyes of predators and prey animals. They will learn just what a predator and what a prey animal is. They will learn that different eyes have more eyelids than human eyes have and the purpose of these extra eyelids.

They will learn about the number of eyes creatures have and why they have more than two. Also, the positioning of the eyes and the purpose behind the positioning.

As with other publications from Arbordale, there is a For Creative Minds section in at the end of the book. This will stretch the mind of the young child and be interesting to the older reader.

This book is a real winner!

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provided by Arbordale Publishing to facilitate this review. Opinions are those of the reviewer.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Dino Treasures by Rhonda Lucas Donald and illustrated by Cathy Morrison

ISBN: 9781628554588
About the book: Just as some people dig and look for pirate treasure, some scientists dig and look for treasures, too. These treasures may not be gold or jewels but fossils. Following in the footsteps of Dino Tracks, this sequel takes young readers into the field with paleontologists as they uncover treasured clues left by dinosaurs. Readers will follow what and how scientists have learned about dinosaurs: what they ate; how they raised their young; how they slept, fought, or even if they ever got sick. True to fashion, the tale is told through a rhythmic, fun read-aloud that can even be sung to the tune of Itsy Bitsy Spider.

Review: The illustrations are striking and interesting. The artist has taken an imaginative tour of prehistoric time and fleshed it out. Perhaps too much liberty for a line of books such as Arbordale which tends to educate as well as entertain. I really like the illustrations but consider them flights of one's imagination.

The author has taken the findings of archaeological discoveries and attempted to translate them for the mind of the young child. Children do seem to be fascinated with dinosaurs and this book will certain feed that imagination.

Each two page spread focuses on a rhyme that beats well to Itsy Bitsy Spider song of the nursery. There is a lot of text in each of these. Example - "Skin Samples":
"Say, can you describe what dino skin was like?
If you said, "it's scaly," you'd be in the right.
But finding dino skin is not an easy task.
Most fossils are of bone, as skin just doesn't last.
Can you now imagine how great it must have been
to find a duckbill fossil complete with dino skin?
Plain as you can see are scales of different size,
which makes this fossil find a rare and special prize." 
At the back of the book there is a section For Creative Minds. The difference between a Biologist and Palentologist is examined. Ways to read clues in body and trace fossils are presented.

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provided by the publisher to facilitate this review. Opinions are those of the reviewer. No compensation was received for this review.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Ride by Kayla Davidson and illustrated by Kim Felts

About the book: Learning to ride a bicycle is a risky challenge for Olivia. She avoids this risk and even turns down ice cream, her favorite snack. What will encourage Olivia to overcome her fear and take a chance?

The Ride gives children hope and understanding. Regardless of the size of the task or regardless of the person's age, gaining strength and courage from the Lord is only a prayer away.

In this, her second book, Kayla Davidson creates a fun, playful way to teach children how to include God in their everyday lives.

Review: The Ride is a story of how a young girl overcomes her fear of riding her bike without her training wheels by relying of God. The encouragement of her supportive mother, the lure of a trip to the ice cream parlor, and the use of prayer help Olivia overcome her fear.

While the story is sweet and I always love a story where one’s trust in God is encouraged, I found the lovely art a bit off with the story. The child using the training wheels is pictured as a school age girl who appears older than one would expect a child to be who uses training wheels. But this is just my opinion.

The illustrations are lovely. The story is sweet. The lesson learned wonderful!  “I can do all things with Christ.”

DISCLOSURE: The author provided a complimentary copy in exchange for our review. No compensation was received and opinions are those of the reviewer.

Henry Hodges Needs a Friend by Andy Andrews & illustrated by Colleen Madden

About the book: From the author ofThe Kid Who Changed the World, this hilarious rhyming story, complete with charming art, offers comfort to children who often feel left out or are in need of a good friend.

At some point, almost every child struggles with feeling like they don't fit in or are left out just like Henry Hodges. Henry is a lonely little boy on a lonely little street who longs for a friend. One day, his mother and father take him to a pet rescue shelter and his lonely world is changed! Told in a playful rhyme with adorable illustrations, this book will be a favorite among children and parents who love dogs and, ultimately, will comfort and encourage children who struggle with feeling accepted and finding friends.

Review: I think the illustrations of Henry Hodges Needs a Friend a "spot on" bringing vivid coloring, whimsical expressions, and child-friendly creatures to enhance the story. Written in rhyme, Henry's search for a special friend explores Henry's imagination of just what a "One-of-a-kind" friend (think pet) would be like.

A figure-skating hippo
Would really be nice.
But he'd eat way too much
And break through the ice.

Henry and his parents go to a shelter and find a cute dog to be Henry's friend. The end of the book reveals that a one-of-a-kind friend is "YOU" and that is what your friends need. The book teaches that each friend is unique and you need to be a friend to someone.

I enjoyed this children's book think that families that enjoy pets would find it a treat to read.

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provided by the BookLook Blogging program on behalf of the publisher Tommy Nelson a Division of Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Monster Needs a Party (A Monster & Me™ book) by Paul Czajak – illustrations by Wendy Grieb

ISBN: 978-1-938063-55-8
Hardcover - $16.95
About the book:  A Monster & Me Book – That time of year is finally here: Monster’s birthday has arrived!  With pirates, prizes, and playful rhyme, this story is sure to surprise readers until the very last page.

Review: This is a really, really fun book and the second one I have read in the Monster & Me series.  I will not hesitate to read any future editions.  The rhyming pattern to the story is so easy to read and the illustrations are wonderful

It’s Monster’s birthday and he wants to have a pirate party with all his friends, but it seems that no one can attend.  Monster is very sad, so his friend offers to take him to Pirateland in hopes this will make him glad.  Monster says,”Okay, I’ll go” but doesn’t really expect to have much fun, you know.  But he was greatly surprised at all the fun games and rides!  When it was time to go home, Monster was no longer glum and walked into a birthday surprise.  All his friends did come to his birthday party and Monster had the best birthday ever.

Paul Czajak never disappoints with his illustrations and rhyming story. Fun, cheerful, and appealing in a monstrously delightful way.

If you have a chance to read this book, you’ll have fun too! (reviewed by P.Howard)
DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provided by the publisher to facilitate this review. Opinions are those of the reviewer. No compensation was received for this review.

Seaver the Weaver by Paul Czajak, pictures by The Brothers Hilts

ISBN13: 9781938063572
About the book: Seaver is an orb spider with a sky full of inspiration. His siblings prefer tradition and aren’t afraid to let him know. But Seaver doesn’t mind! He loves his new shapes and isn’t afraid to stand out. Told with quiet charm, this picture book tangles readers in a web of delight.

Review:  Seaver the Weaver is a delightful story about an orb spider who has a unique outlook on weaving his own path.  Seaver has many brothers and sisters who tell him that they are orb spiders and they weave round webs and that if he wants to be an orb weaver, “then your web needs to look like ours.”  Seaver wants to do like his brothers and sisters tell him, but he can’t resist the beautiful shapes he sees in the night sky and takes great pride in weaving those shapes.  Each time his family reminds him that he is an orb weaver and must weaver round webs, he looks at their webs all round, perfect, and empty and says that he’ll try to do better next time, but he "must now tend to his guest."

This is a good book about how sometimes it can be a good thing to not always do the normal. I felt that the author and illustrator were insightful in having Seaver make a correlation between the night sky constellations and the varied shapes he wove. The artistry of triangles, octagons, and other shapes different from the traditional round orb's woven by Orb Spiders.

Seaver the Weaver is written by the same author of the “Monster & Me" books, and he has woven a wonderful web of words.  The illustrations are simple, childlike and beautiful.  This is a fun book! (reviewed by P.Howard)

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provided by the publisher to facilitate this review. Opinions are solely those of reviewer. No compensation was received for this review.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Forsaken City by C.E. Laureano

About the book: Conor and Aine have barely escaped Seare with their lives. Conor knows he must return to find the harp that could end the Red Druid’s reign of terror, but in the midst of their escape, he and Aine are torn apart once more. Surrounded by despair and thrown into as much danger as they left behind, Conor and Aine must cling to the whispers of Comdiu’s plans for them and the homeland that depends on their survival. But at what cost? Will they learn to depend on Comdiu completely? Or will they give up hope?

In books today, the Christian faith is commonly depicted in a real life setting. However, author C.E. Laureano uniquely depicts the Christian faith through the genre of fantasy. In Laureano’s book Beneath the Forsaken City, the heroes and brotherhood wholly devote their lives to the service of Comdiu, who represents the Lord of the Christian faith. In the story, Aine, the heroine, a nobleman’s daughter, and a newlywed, finds herself chased by a tyrant king and betrayed by a covetous aunt. Entirely alone, Aine asks, “Could Comdiu have allowed her isolation as a lesson in trust?” All her life, Aine trusted that Comdiu’s protection was provided through guards, friends, and a husband, which became her expectation. However, she is placed in a situation that challenges her to critically examine her faith and learn that the Lord’s provision is not according to her expectations. As a Christian, I have asked myself the same question. I believe God guides us through specific trials to teach us trust as well as to open our eyes to His expectations for our life. For Aine, her challenges help her to trust Comdui’s omnipotence, just like our trials as Christians help us trust God’s omnipotence.  (reviewed by S.Fowler)

A complimentary copy was provided to facilitate this review.