Review of God Is Able, by Priscilla Shirer

April 8th, 2014

God Is Able

by Priscilla Shirer

B&H Publishing Group, Nashville, Tennessee, 2013. 157 pages.

A big thank you to my friend Ruth for giving me this book for Christmas!

God Is Able looks closely at Ephesians 3:20-21:

Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.

Each chapter looks at one phrase from these verses, attempting to get all their gloriousness to sink into our hearts.

She writes in a colloquial style. She gives lots of examples and illustrations. The real power of this book, though, is in its ability to get you thinking about these powerful verses. Reading a chapter about each phrase only begins to do them justice.

BHPublishingGroup.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on my own copy, a gift from a friend.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Review of Who Could That Be at This Hour? by Lemony Snicket

April 5th, 2014

“Who Could That Be at This Hour?”

All the Wrong Questions, Book 1

by Lemony Snicket
read by Liam Aiken

Hachette Audio, 2012. 4 hours on 4 CDs.

I began listening to this new series by Lemony Snicket and was captivated. It’s got all of his clever humor without the sad plight of persecuted orphans that turned me off from A Series of Unfortunate Events.

We do have a 13-year-old kid – the young Lemony Snicket – setting off on his apprenticeship for a mysterious organization. His chaperone takes him to Stained-by-the-Sea, and they are told to return a mysterious statue to its rightful owner. However, Snicket quickly realizes the statue is already in the hands of its rightful owner. His chaperone doesn’t believe him, and they begin a crazy adventure.

The book is full of delightful, understated details. Stained-by-the-Sea, for example, is no longer by the sea, but there is a sinister forest of seaweed where sea used to be. The reader uses a wonderful matter-of-fact voice, eminently suitable for crime noir.

I love Lemony Snicket’s trademark, “which here means…”, always used in clever and funny ways. And the similes he uses are always bizarre, but apt. I wish I could give examples, but that’s a problem with an audiobook.

Lemony Snicket freely tells us that he was asking the wrong questions, and tells us what the right question would have been. But he doesn’t tell us what the answer would have been to the right question. That is only revealed with time.

Some pieces of the mystery are revealed in this book, but it’s definitely the beginning of something bigger. There are reportedly going to be four Wrong Questions. And I have already decided I’m going to be sure to listen to all of them.

LemonySnicketLibrary.com
HachetteAudio.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/who_could_that_be.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library audiobook from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!

Review of To Dare Mighty Things, by Doreen Rappaport

March 31st, 2014

To Dare Mighty Things

The Life of Theodore Roosevelt

by Doreen Rappaport
illustrated by C. F. Payne

Disney Hyperion Books, New York, 2013. 44 pages.
Starred Review

This book does exactly what a picture book biography should do. It gives the reader a fantastic introduction to the life of a great man. There are big, beautiful pictures, showing active scenes. The text covers the highlights of his life, beginning with his curious childhood. I especially like the quotations featured on each page, in large bold print.

Here’s text from a two-page spread about his childhood. The quotations are much larger than the rest of the text.

Teedie stuffed hedgehogs into drawers.
Sometimes they escaped.
Guests were warned to check water pitchers for snakes before pouring.

“He has to be watched all the time,” his mother told his father.

He illustrated and wrote books about ants, spiders, ladybugs, fireflies, hawks, minnows, and crayfish.
His fingers were always stained with ink.
He collected animal and bird specimens and created a museum in his room.
He smelled. The whole house smelled.

“All growing boys tend to be grubby; but the ornithological boy is the grubbiest of all.”

Of course, with the cover image simply the head of Theodore Roosevelt, I’d love to see people pose with the book in front of their face.

This is an accessible book for young children, giving them an overview of Theodore Roosevelt’s life and work in a beautiful package that will catch anyone’s interest.

doreenrappaport.com
cfpayne.com
disneyhyperionbooks.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/to_dare_mighty_things.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

The Big Kahuna Is Coming!

March 28th, 2014

School Library Journal‘s Battle of the Books is almost finished! On Monday the Undead Poll winner will be announced, and on Tuesday will be the Big Kahuna Round!

The books remaining are not ones I even wanted to win the first round! However, I loved what judge Robin LaFevers had to say today:

The more important truth is this: While I was forced to pick just one of these books, you don’t have to. Anyone who reads both of them will be the true winner.


This is true of all sixteen books in this year’s battle. They were all outstanding books. If you haven’t already, go back and read what the judges have to say about them — then get those books read! You will be delighted!

Now, what are my hopes for the Final Round? (Not that the results have had *any* correlation with my hopes this year!)

Well, I think I want the Undead Poll winner to win it all!

Mind you, I have no illusions that All the Truth That’s in Me, the book I voted for, will win the poll.

But I think Eleanor & Park has a great chance, and I’m crazy-in-love with that book, so I hope it wins the whole thing!

And if the winner were Rose Under Fire or Midwinterblood, I’d be similarly enthusiastic. In fact, as long as I’m listing, these are the other books I’d like to win it all if they win the Undead Poll:

All the Truth That’s in Me
Doll Bones
Far Far Away

However, if one of those books doesn’t win the Undead Poll, then I’ll whole-heartedly root for Boxers & Saints. How’s that for being wishy-washy?

One thing’s for sure: It’s going to be fun to read the Big Kahuna Judge (Jennifer Holm)’s decision!

Review of The Shadow Throne, by Jennifer A. Nielsen

March 28th, 2014

The Shadow Throne

by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Scholastic Press, New York, 2014. 317 pages.
Starred Review

This is Book Three of The Ascendance Trilogy, and brings events to a satisfying conclusion. Yes, you should read The False Prince and The Runaway King first to properly enjoy this book.

War has come to Carthya. And rather than only Avenia advancing against young King Jaron, they have persuaded Mendenwal and Gelyn to fight with them. Carthya is surrounded. Worse yet to Jaron, Imogen, whom he sent away for her own safety, has been kidnapped by Avenia.

Jaron has several goals, and many of them depend on misdirection. He hopes to fight the armies separately. Amarinda needs to get to her home country to ask for their help. And above all, he wants to rescue Imogen, though Mott persuades him that her kidnapping was a trap to capture Jaron. Jaron does have plans, which have repercussions all the way up to the end of the book, but the reader gets the impression that his plans, while good, depend much upon luck as well. Still, there are some nice twists and turns to the story. I confess, at one point I peeked at the end of the book to make sure about something that had apparently happened. I’ll simply say that things look terribly grim at several points, but there is a nicely satisfying ending. And how events get to that point makes an exciting story.

The book is a little episodic. Jaron deals with one threat, then another different threat, then another different threat, and so on. This meant I took a little longer to read it than most books I like this much, because it was possible to put the book down (until the last third or so).

However, this was a grand finish to an exciting and clever series. I didn’t reread Books One and Two before I started this one, but that’s all the more reason to reread the entire series, which I am absolutely sure I will want to do some day soon.

jenninielsen.com
scholastic.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/shadow_throne.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!

Stand-out Author: Holly Black

March 24th, 2014

I’m doing a series on Stand-out Authors — Authors whose books are 2013 Sonderbooks Stand-outs, but are not making their first appearances on my lists.

Holly Black, like three other authors, has her fourth Sonderbooks Stand-out this year.

I’ve read many of her books, and they aren’t always my favorites. This year was her first children’s book (as opposed to YA) that made my list. I wasn’t the only one who loved it, as Doll Bones was also a Newbery Honor Book this year. It’s an atmospheric quest story about three kids growing out of childhood while they lay to rest human bones embedded in a doll.

My other favorites were from the Curseworkers series, with White Cat appearing in 2010, and then again in 2011 in audiobook form. The second book, Red Glove also made an appearance in 2011. These books involve an alternate reality where certain people have the ability to curse others simply by touching them. Cassel has to decide whether to use his powers for good or for evil, for his family or for the government — and which of those is good and which evil.

Holly Black is someone with lots of imagination and a knack of telling a suspenseful story. Check out her books!

Review of The Only Necessary Thing, by Henri J. M. Nouwen

March 24th, 2014

The Only Necessary Thing

Living a Prayerful Life

by Henri J. M. Nouwen
compiled and edited by Wendy Wilson Greer

Crossroad Publishing Company, New York, 1999. 224 pages.
Starred Review

Here is an excellent choice for reading small bits daily as a devotional book. They are sections taken from the body of work by Henri Nouwen, compiling his teaching on prayer.

Here’s his “Invitation” at the front of the book:

The invitation to a life of prayer is the invitation to live in the midst of this world without being caught in the net of wounds and needs. The word “prayer” stands for a radical interruption of the vicious chain of interlocking dependencies leading to violence and war and for an entering into a totally new dwelling place. It points to a new way of speaking, a new way of breathing, a new way of being together, a new way of knowing, yes, a whole new way of living.

It is not easy to express the radical change that prayer represents, since for many the word “prayer” is associated with piety, talking to God, thinking about God, morning and evening exercises, Sunday services, grace before meals, sentences from the Bible, and many other things. All of these have something to do with prayer, but when I speak about prayer as the basis for peacemaking, I speak first of all about moving away from the dwelling place of those who hate peace into the house of God. . . . Prayer is the center of the Christian life. It is the only necessary thing (Luke 10:42). It is living with God here and now.

Some other sections struck me, so I’ll list a few for you here. This will give you the idea of the book. It’s got thoughtful, meditative insights on living a prayerful life.

But, as Christians, we are called to convert our loneliness into solitude. We are called to experience our aloneness not as a wound but as a gift — as God’s gift — so that in our aloneness we might discover how deeply we are loved by God.
It is precisely where we are most alone, most unique, most ourselves, that God is closest to us. That is where we experience God as the divine, loving Father, who knows us better than we know ourselves.
Solitude is the way in which we grow into the realization that where we are most alone, we are most loved by God. It is a quality of heart, an inner quality that helps us to accept our aloneness lovingly, as a gift from God.

Another:

Prayer, then, is listening to that voice — to the One who calls you the Beloved. It is to constantly go back to the truth of who we are and claim it for ourselves. I’m not what I do. I’m not what people say about me. I’m not what I have. Although there is nothing wrong with success, there is nothing wrong with popularity, there is nothing wrong with being powerful, finally my spiritual identity is not rooted in the world, the things the world gives me. My life is rooted in my spiritual identity. Whatever we do, we have to go back regularly to that place of core identity.

From the section on “Belovedness”:

God does not require a pure heart before embracing us. Even if we return only because following our desires has failed to bring happiness, God will take us back. Even if we return because being a Christian brings us more peace than being a pagan, God will receive us. Even if we return because our sins did not offer as much satisfaction as we had hoped, God will take us back. Even if we return because we could not make it on our own, God will receive us. God’s love does not require any explanations about why we are returning. God is glad to see us home and wants to give us all we desire, just for being home.

I liked this one from the section on “Forgiveness”:

The interesting thing is that when you can forgive people for not being God then you can celebrate that they are a reflection of God. You can say, “Since you are not God, I love you because you have such beautiful gifts of God’s love.” You don’t have everything of God, but what you have to offer is worth celebrating. By celebrate, I mean to lift up, affirm, confirm, to rejoice in another person’s gifts. You can say you are a reflection of that unlimited love.

And finally, I love the image in this one:

Forgiveness is the great spiritual weapon against the Evil One. As long as we remain victims of anger and resentment, the power of darkness can continue to divide us and tempt us with endless power games. But when we forgive those who threaten our lives, they lose their power over us…. Forgiveness enables us to take the first step of the dance.

Some beautiful thoughts for people interested in deepening their prayer lives.

CrossroadPublishing.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/only_necessary_thing.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Review of Tap the Magic Tree, by Christie Matheson

March 23rd, 2014

Tap the Magic Tree

by Christie Matheson

Greenwillow Books, 2013. 40 pages.

Tap the Magic Tree is similar to the book Press Here, by Herve Tullet, in that it directly asks children to interact with the book. For example, it asks children to tap the book, and the picture changes on the next page. Later, they shake the book, and there is another change that corresponds to what they have done.

However, what makes this book even more innovative is that it goes through the cycle of seasons with a tree. So it’s a beautiful way to show children how trees change through the seasons, while giving them the fun of following directions and watching what happens.

It starts with a bare tree, only branches:

There’s magic in this bare brown tree.
Tap it once.
Turn the page to see.

When you turn the page, one leaf has sprouted on a branch.

Then you’re told,

Tap again –
one,
two,
three,
four.

Naturally, four more leaves sprout.

The progression follows the seasons. The reader taps all the leaves out, then rubs the tree to warm it up, so it gets buds. When you touch each bud, they blossom.

After the blossoms are out, the reader’s told to “Give the tree a little jiggle.”

Predictably, the petals fall to the ground.

The tree grows apples, which also eventually fall, and then the leaves start changing color. Then the reader gets to “blow a whooshing breeze,” and then “clap hands to bring the snow.”

After waiting, and watching a bird build a nest, we finish up with “Magic! It begins again.”

Because of the interactive element, young children will really remember how the seasons cycle in magic trees all around them.

harpercollinschildrens.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/tap_the_magic_tree.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Battle of the Books Round 2 and Round 3 Picks

March 22nd, 2014

School Library Journal‘s Battle of the Books has already finished the first round!

I made my predictions before the battle, and fared abysmally. I was 2 for 8. And the *only* two matches that I correctly predicted will face each other in the second round.

That means almost all my favorites are out of the Battle! Except the two that I did correctly predict, and one of those will go soon.

Here are the Round Two contests:

Match One, which has already happened:
The Animal Book
vs
Boxers & Saints
Judged by Tonya Bolden

For this contest, I honestly would have picked Boxers & Saints, and I’m not just saying that because it already won. However, since it will be up against one of my favorites in Round Three, I don’t want it to go any further than this.

Match Two, Monday, March 24:
Eleanor & Park
vs
Far Far Away
Judged by Rae Carson

I loved Eleanor & Park so much, that’s the one I have to root for. However, that said, I am quite confident that Eleanor & Park won the Undead Poll. So I do have a sneaking desire for Far Far Away, my second favorite among the books left in the Battle, to continue on. That way Eleanor & Park can rest up before the Final Round!

Match Three, Tuesday, March 25:
Hokey Pokey
vs
P.S. Be Eleven
Judged by Joseph Bruchac

These two are both good books, but they are also my least favorite books left in the Battle. I want the winner to lose in Round Three. However, for this round, I’m rooting for P.S. Be Eleven to emerge victorious.

Match Four, Wednesday, March 26:
The Thing About Luck
vs
The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp
Judged by Katherine Marsh

For this match, I want Obaachan to triumph in The Thing About Luck.

And what do you know, no matter how Round Two turns out, I already know how I want Round Three to go:

I want the winner of Round Two, Match Two to win Round Three, Match One.

I want the winner of Round Two, Match Four to win Round Three, Match Two.

From there, we shall see….

Will my abysmal predictions get any better?

Review of Shahnameh, retold by Elizabeth Laird

March 22nd, 2014

Shahnameh

The Persian Book of Kings

retold by Elizabeth Laird
illustrated by Shirin Adl

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2012. 135 pages.

I loved fairy tales when I was a child. This book contains stories in the fairy tale style that I’ve never heard before.

This is from the Introduction:

Iran (often known as Persia in the west) is a land of stories. There are so many that they could fill hundreds of books and take years to tell. Some of the best of them are found in the Shahnameh, or “Book of Kings,” a very long poem which was written a thousand years ago by a great Persian poet called Ferdowsi.

People in Iran, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan and all over the mountainous lands of Central Asia know the stories of the Shahnameh. They have told and retold them through the centuries, from one generation to the next. Professional storytellers recite Ferdowsi’s verses in tea houses by the roadside. Farmers relate them to each other as they rest in the shade of their fruit trees during the hot months of summer, and mothers and fathers tell them to their children as they huddle indoors round the fire in the cold of winter.

Iranians love to hear about what happened at the beginning of time, how the first kings ruled in glory, how the great age of heroes dawned, how champions like Sam, Zal and Rustam rode out on their fiery horses to fight wicked demons, and how brave women, like Rudabeh and Gordafarid, conquered the heroes’ hearts.

And that’s what you’ll find in this volume, tales of kings and heroes, battles, tricks, and love stories.

I’m not crazy about the art, but the simple flat style suits the subject matter, having a look of primitive art from ancient times, as well as plenty of floral decorations.

This book tells American children about folktales they may not have heard before.

franceslincoln.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/shahnameh.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.