Tuesday, March 28, 2017


by Rudyard Kipling
adapted by Jerry Pinkney
1997 / 48 pages

This is a lightly adapted, and wonderfully illustrated version of one of Rudyard Kipling's short stories, from The Jungle Book. It is about an orphaned mongoose, Rikki Tikki Tavi, who is adopted by (or does he adopt them?) a family of humans, living in India.

But upon his arrival he finds himself right in the middle of a battle. The family's garden is home to three snakes - two of them cobras! Now, for readers who didn't already know, Kipling informs us "that a mongoose's job is to fight and eat snakes."

So we've got quite the setting here! My daughters all enjoyed the book, but the middle one, all of five years old, had to cling to my arm as I read (I think I may have some bruises). Children's books are generally quite tame, but there is a place for some tension. Reading a storybook with wicked villains and big battles is a controlled means to teach children that yes, bad guys do exist, and evil is out there, and someone needs to fight it. Now this Kipling story doesn't mention God, but as parent we can connect the dots for our children: we can tell them that like Rikki Tikki Tavi, we are called to battle.

I'll add, I didn't use this one as a bedtime story. There is a time for tension, and right before bed isn't it.

You can find a original version of Kipling's story here, and while Jerry Pinkney does a good job of adapting the text – his light hand alters no more than 10%, keeping Kipling's rhythms intact - the reason you'd want to get this version is because of the pictures. They are gorgeous! My daughters had no idea what a mongoose looked like, and  haven't seen cobras all that often, so the pictures filled in the gaps they wouldn't have otherwise been able to imagine.

You can pick up a copy at Amazon.com here, or at Amazon.ca here.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Atonement Child

by Francine Rivers
374 pages / 1999

I don’t read “girl books” – if it makes you cry I’m not interested in it. But two friends forced this book on me. Any time I mentioned the “P” word, Pro-life, they would ask me if I’d read The Atonement Child yet. They brought it up repeatedly, and very enthusiastically. Finally I thought I would get it over with and actually read the thing.


This is hard hitting book, a powerful book. It tells the tale of Dynah Carey, a girl who has it all. She comes from a solid Christian family, is dating a sincere young man who’s training to be a pastor, and she’s attending a Christian college.

Then she’s raped, and becomes pregnant.

The rape, thankfully, is never described, and is done with by page 18 of this 374-page book. The real story is about how Dynah and the people close to her react to her pregnancy. The unthinkable choice of abortion becomes more and more of a consideration to Dynah as her pregnancy causes her perfect world to crumble. Dynah ends up questioning her faith and God. Why did God let this happen to her?

Though the logical argument against abortion is dealt with briefly, this is primarily an emotional appeal against abortion. It is also a very effective appeal – I think this book might well make some people pro-life.

The rape makes this an adult book, but parents might want to give it to older teens and discuss the issues involved. It is informative and well written, and I’m just glad I was forced to read it.

You can pick up a copy at Amazon.com by clicking here and from Amazon.ca here.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Come Back, Barbara

by C. John Miller 
& Barbara Miller Juliani
182 pages / 1997

As with an earlier review, I should let you know that not all of the labels below are completely appropriate. For instance, although you can read this book in an evening or two (and you may well do so), don't stop there. Read it again, a chapter at a time, with the study questions at the end as a guide, and incorporate some of the Bible passages quoted in the questions into your own devotions.

The most important label for this book is "prodigal." It tells the true story of how Barbara, seemingly out of the blue, tells her parents that she is not going to church and doesn't want any part of the Christian life anymore. As her parents look back, they can see signs of her stubbornly self-justifying attitude much earlier, and they spend time trying to see what went wrong – more specifically, what they did wrong.

Of course, such a question is futile, and in seeking to place blame and guilt, especially on their wandering child, the Millers were, as they admit, approaching her with an attitude of shame instead of love. This story continues with her parents' journey, by God's grace, sometimes in very dramatic ways, toward recognizing that any straying child has been sinned against herself, including by her parents.

This movement toward humility, toward the acknowledgement of their own need for God's grace, leads toward other necessary changes – the willingness to seek their daughter's forgiveness, the ability to show unconditional love for an often self-centered child, the willingness to give up control over a child who is daily rejecting her parents' upbringing, and a life of persistent prayer.

That last trait is one that I want to look at more (and I will tell you about it in a review in the next couple months), but a life of prayer is certainly one of the greatest fruit of having a child wander from the truth.

What makes this story especially compelling is the fact that Barbara answers each chapter of her father's story with her perception of what her conflict with her parents looked like from her point of view. Too often, parents of prodigals can not understand what their outreach to their children looks like to them – how easy it is to for any child to see through our confident or indignant exterior to our need for control or our smug sense of superiority. At the same time, her responses also show just how great is the power of humble unconditional love.

If you want to find out more about how God brought Barbara back, you can find this book at Amazon.com here and at Amazon.ca here.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Billy and Blaze series

C.W. Anderson (1891-1971) was an author and an artist who loved horses. He created more than 30 children's books about in all, including an 11-book series about a boy names Billy and his horse Blaze.

It all begins with the horse-loving Billy getting his birthday wish: his very own pony. If your children like horses even a little bit they will love these books, because every second page is filled with another illustration of a horse in action. Anderson's sketches are big, and detailed, and beautiful. I don't know a child who hasn't loved to peer at them closely.

Now, I should note I'm not recommending Anderson because of his writing. His stories are very simple, they have next to no tension, and the writing is decidedly average.

But your kids are sure to love the pictures. My oldest daughter loved these books long before she ever knew how to read them, pouring over the pictures again and again.

Billy and Blaze heading out on an adventure.
There are a 11 Billy and Blaze books in all, and that bumps up the value of Anderson's books. What parent, when they find a book their child loves, doesn't wish there were many more in the series? And that's exactly what we have here!

The 11 books are:

Billy and Blaze (1936)
Blaze and the Gypsies (1937)
Blaze and the Forest Fire (1938)
Blaze Finds the Trail (1950)
Blaze and Thunderbolt (1955)
Blaze and the Mountain Lion (1959)
Blaze and the Indian Cave (1964)
Blaze and the Lost Quarry (1966)
Blaze and the Gray Spotted Pony (1968)
Blaze Shows the Way (1969)
Blaze Finds Forgotten Roads (1970)

Each is about 40 to 50 pages long, making it a pretty ideal bedtime story for my 4 and 6-year-old. We've enjoyed each one of these (although we've never read Blaze and the Indian Cave because that's the only one our local library doesn't have).

So, to repeat, these are not great literature, but they are wonderful as picture books. The only downside I can think to this series is that it is likely to feed the "pony-fever" of any horse-loving boy or girl you might have in your house. But...oh well.

If you want to buy any of these books, you can find a link to the 8-book pack at Amazon.com by clicking here. They don't seem to have a package deal in Canada, so here's a link to the first book, Billy and Blaze at Amazon.ca.