Thursday, April 29, 2010

The American Girls Collection - ADDY LEARNS A LESSON: A SCHOOL STORY - Book 2

In this second installment of Addy's story she learns what real friendship and true freedom mean.  Addy and her mother arrive in Philadelphia after escaping from slavery.  Addy is excited to go to school for the first time and she meets her first friend, Sarah.  In this book Addy realizes what genuine freedom and a sincere friend means.

AGE RANGE: 1st grade and up

POSITIVE: Addy and her mother's integrity and strength shine through this story.  It will show your child how Addy handles difficult situations with strength.

EDUCATIONAL: You will get a peak into how the school system worked in the 1860's for freed slaves.  At the back of the book "A Peak Into The Past" gives more details on schools for freed slaves.

  • Using examples from the book role play with your children on how to handle difficult situations biblically
  • Do more research into how freed slaves were taught compared to white children during the 1860's
As always any feedback or comments are welcome!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Damon, Pythias, and the Test of Friendship - Retold by Teresa Bateman Paintings by Layne Johnson

This beautiful picture book tells a lovely story of true friendship.  This is based on a true story in ancient Italy on the island of Sicily.  Pythias and Damon are best friends.  When a harsh ruler sentences Pythias to death their friendship is put to the test.  This story is powerful and inspiring.  Bateman vividly retells the story while Johnson's paintings bring this story to life.

POSITIVE:  Pythias and Damon's friendship is a compelling example of trust and loyalty. The story also shows the meaning of forgiveness and love.  Their friendship is a great example of John 15:12-13 "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends."  Pythias and Damon are a good illustration of true love between believers even though this is not a Christian story.

EDUCATIONAL: This book is a good introduction to the island of Sicily.  You can talk about geography and ancient customs of Italians.

  • Teach about Sicilian culture - make an art piece or sicilian recipe
  • Look up other Sicilian stories of that time
  • Simple bible study on friendship

As always any comments or suggestions are welcome!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Garden Of Eve - K.L. Going

Michael L. Printz Honor Winner

The Garden of Eve  is a coming of age story that tells of a young girl who is a going through the painful loss of her mother.  Going is able to bring to life Evie's (main character) story.  It is an engaging story and I couldn't put it down.  In this book things are not always what they seem and the author does a good job of tying up loose ends.  One of the things that bothers me as a Christian is that K.L. Going makes it seem as if the creation story is a fairy tale.  Children 4th grade and up will enjoy this book.

POSITIVE As I mention before your child will not want to put this book down.  It is a complex story that does a good job of delving deep into the main character.  The story line is continuous and captivating.

EDUCATIONAL It is a well thought out story and there is good character development


  • Talk about how the character changes through the book
  • Teach your child how the Bible is also a historical book
  • Do a bible study on Adam and Eve and what they can learn from the story
As always any comments or suggestions are welcome!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Pied Piper of Hamelin - Deborah Hautzig & S.D. Schindler

 The Pied Piper of Hamelin is a folk tale originally from the Grimm Brothers.  The author writes as if this story could be true.  Apparently some aspects of the story happened in Germany many years ago.  Hautzig embellishs the rest.  It is a dark story especially for children in Grades 1-3.  Like a lot of original folk tales the Pied Piper is a familiar story.  Be prepared to explain concepts of death, missing persons, and kidnapping to your children.

POSITIVE:  It is an interesting story.  You children will want to know what happens at the end.

EDUCATIONAL:  The book is set in Germany and the time period seems to be in the 1800-1900's.  It is well written with a clear beginning, middle and end.

  • Talk about what to do when a stranger approaches them
  • Do a beginning, middle and end with your child and have them draw pictures
  • Find Germany on a map and play a German game
  • Explain what a folk tale is and show them different books in the genre
As always any comments or suggestions welcome!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

An American Girl - Meet Addy Book One (1864) - Connie Porter Illustrated by Melodye Rosales

"Meet Addy" is part of the American Girls collection.  Addy is a spirited African American slave who lived during the Civil War. In book one we meet Addy and her family who are trying to escape from slavery.  When I was younger I loved the American Girls books and this book does not disappoint.  It took me back to those times when I couldn't put these books down and I couldn't wait for the next one.  Your children will want to read the whole series in one sitting.

POSITIVE Addy's parents model what true love really is.  Her mother teaches her to focus on loving people and not hating them even when she's beaten.  Addy is courageous and loving.

EDUCATIONAL This is a historical fiction book.  It is good for ages 7 and up.  Porter does not sugar coat the experiences that a slave goes through in 1864.  "A Peek Into The Past" gives more information on slavery and the Underground Railroad.

  • Visit an underground railroad stop if you live near one
  • Visit the Field Museum
  • show your children videos during this time period
  • Highlight Addy's characteristics as examples to how your children can handle situations
  • do a bible study on love
As always any comments or suggestions are welcome!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Royal Diaries Series: Eleanor & Catherine Kristiana Gregory

The Royal Diaries is a series of diaries written from the point of view of a famous princess.  I am reviewing two books from the series: Eleanor (France) and Catherine (Russia). Both books narrate the joyful experiences and struggles each of these girls go through for a period of one year.  Gregory wrote through the perspective of major life changes in their lives.  This series seems to be geared toward middle school girls.  Eleanor and Catherine were fast and interesting reads.  I was eager to find out what happened to both princesses.  If you child likes historical fiction this is a good book for them.
POSITIVE Both girls speak about their faith in God.  They show resilience and and courage in major life challenges.

EDUCATIONAL  I really enjoyed the historical notes at the end of the book.  They tell what happens to the girls as they grow into adulthood.  It describes their reigns as the head of their respective countries.  It also goes through their family trees.

  • research historical period - what they wore; customs etc.
  • write a chapter or diary from point of view of another major character in the story
As always any comments or suggestions welcome! 


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Disney's A Bug's Life - Flik's Perfect Gift Judy Katschke

In Flik's Perfect Gift we find Flik looking for a unique gift for Queen Atta's birthday.  As he makes complicated plans to make the ideal gift we learn that sometimes the most simple thing is the best.

POSITIVE Katschke shows Flik trying to do his best in getting a gift for the Queen.  Highlight to your children how they too can give their best in everything that they do.  A good verse to go with this concept is Colossians 3:23 "Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men". You can also see how much love and respect Flik has for his superior, the Queen.  

EDUCATIONAL This is a level 2 book so it is for readers who are more confident in their early reading abilities.  This book contains smaller type and more words to a page.  It has simple sentences that are longer but the story is a little more complex.  I really like how the first page in the book gives parents ideas on how to read to their children.  It also ends with comprehension questions.


  • other things Flik could've given
  • teach your children how to write a thank you card - they can write one to Flik from the Queen
  • teach them to read between the lines
  • what kind of gift would God want from us? 

Any comments or suggestions would be appreciated!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Blue's Clues Hello, Spring! - Alison Inches Illustrated by Ian Chernichaw

     From the well known program Blue's Clues comes the book "Hello, Spring!" In this easy to read book Blue and her friends say goodbye to winter and hello to spring.  The book starts off with everyone saying goodbye to different things commonly associated with winter.  Toward the middle of the book they begin to welcome spring.  This is a great book for children beginning to read.

POSITIVE The illustrations are colorful and appealing.  Beginning readers will enjoy the simple everyday words that they will learn to read.

EDUCATIONAL Emerging readers will become confident readers because of the repetition in this book.  This will help them to advance to a higher level.  "Hello, Spring!" is a pre-level 1 book which means it is concentrating on making sure the reader is recognizing words.  It also has simple sentences, word repetition and familiar words and phrases.

  • Since "hello" and "goodbye" are repeated in this book you can help them learn what opposite means and give examples
  • teach difference between winter and spring
  • make a mural or a painting of winter or spring
  • teach some of the words as vocabulary words
  • pick words that you ca make rhyming words to help them learn to spell and read Example: Take the word hat and write cat, mat, fat etc.  Make a rhyming story
As always comments or suggestions are welcome!

    Thursday, March 4, 2010

    Charlie Monkey - By Jo Rigg & Simon Mugford

    "Charlie Monkey" is part of the Funny Faces Series.  My 10 month old daughter loves this book.  It's a touch, feel, light and sounds book.  Each page shows a different animal with a sensory part on its body.  It also has a catchy rhyme about the animal.  Young children will love feeling the different parts of the animal and the appealing rhymes.

    POSITIVE The book is engaging and colorful.

    EDUCATIONAL This is an excellent book for any child up to second grade.
    The rhyming helps emerging readers to learn to read while it helps younger children develop language skills.  The sensory sections are good for the children to feel different textures.

    • Expand on the sensory part of the book by giving your child different objects with different textures
    • Add on to the book with different animals using the same type of rhyme and make a picture with one part of the animal a different texture
    • For older children watch videos of the animals they read about in the book

    As always any comments or suggestions are welcomed!

    Thursday, February 25, 2010

    The 39 Clues: Book 4 - Beyond The Grave

    The 39 Clues Book 4: Beyond the GraveIn this number one New York Times bestselling series we continue on a thrilling journey with the Cahill siblings on a treasure hunt. This is the fourth book in a 10 part series. Each book is written by a different author.  Beyond the Grave is just as exciting as the first three books.
    Jude Watson picks up where Peter Lerangis left off in Book 3.  Amy and Dan are in Egypt looking for the next clue that their deceased grandmother, Grace, has left for the Cahill family members on this treasure hunt.  In this adventure they get help from the grave as their Grandmother guides them to the clues to help them to try to win this challenge.

    POSITIVE Amy and Dan struggle with dysfunctional family relationships throughout the series.  In this book they have to choose between believing the best in each other and their Grandmother or being just like the rest of their cousins.  They come up against choices that go against everything they have been taught to get ahead of this game. The Cahills decide to choose what their Grandmother Grace taught them.  This will be good opportunities to highlight to your children how choices affect not only them but the people around them.  They also stick together and stay strong in the end.

    EDUCATIONAL: Every book gives a history lesson on the country they are in.  In this book your children will learn about ancient Egyptian artifacts and places. This book is a good read for advanced 2nd grade readers to middle school age children.

    • make a video of important Egyptian artifacts and places
    • write the story from the point of view of one of the Cahill ancestors
    • visit the Field Museum of Natural History's section on Egypt
    Please leave any comments or suggestions!

    Thursday, February 18, 2010

    Rainbow Fish Discovers the Deep Sea - by Marcus Pfister

    From the author who brought you "Rainbow Fish" come another fantastic tale about Rainbow Fish.  With it's sparkly pictures and engaging story Rainbow Fish and his friends are sure to delight your child on every page.
    In this new adventure Rainbow Fish is playing with his friends when he loses his last silver scale.  This begins a journey that brings him new and different friends.  Every page glitters with different deep sea creatures that Rainbow Fish meets along the way.

    POSITIVE  Rainbow Fish is open to being friends with creatures that are different from him.  This is a good segway into talking to your children about acceptance of different people and about what diversity means.

    EDUCATIONAL  Pfister shows many different sea creatures in the book.  This will interest young children into looking up different ocean animals.

    • Teach young children what goes into simple science reports using the different sea creatures featured in this book
    • Introduce elementary age children to Power Point.  Show them how to make a slide show using the different creatures as their subjects
    • Take a trip to the aquarium to learn more about the animals featured in the book

    Please leave any comments or suggestions

    Thursday, February 11, 2010

    The Magician's Elephant - By Katie Di Camillo Illustrated by Yoko Tanka

    The author of "The Tale of Despereaux" and "Because of Winn Dixie" has come out with a new and enchanting book.  The Magician's Elephant is uniquely and poetically written.  It is a tale of undying hope, faith in things unseen, and enduring love.
    The book starts with introducing us to the narrator, a young orphan named Peter.  He lives upstairs in the attic with his care giver Vilna Lutz.  DiCamilllo takes an impossible situation and makes it into a wonderful story.  As the title suggests there is a lot of magic and fortune telling involved. 

    POSITIVE Kate DiCamillo does a good job of creating characters that you feel strongly about and are connected to.  The main character, Peter, has strong character traits that you can point out to your child if you are reading the book to them.  He is loving, loyal, honorable, and brave.  The love Peter has for his sister made my heart melt.

    EDUCATIONAL  This book is a good blend of fantasy and reality.  While reading it to your child you can point out what makes a book considered fantasy.  There is good character development that progresses through the book also.

    • Character trait chart of one of the main characters (relate Bible verses to these traits and see how your child can develop them)
    • Dig deeper into Christianity and what God's Word says about magic
    • Write chapters from the Elephant's perspective like Ch. 1
    • Make a relationship map on  how all the characters are connected
    • Write about the night at the opera house from your child's point of view - as if they were there
    • Illustrate favorite scenes from the book
    Any comments or suggestions are always welcome!

    Thursday, February 4, 2010

    In The Night Kitchen - by Maurice Sendak

    Maurice Sendak is most famous for "Where The Wild Things Are".  Even though this book is not as famous as its counterpart it is an imaginative tale on a simple task.  Mr. Sendak take a simple question - why they always have cake in the morning - and makes it into an adventure.

    It's about a young boy who wakes up to a lot of racket in the middle of the night.  He falls through the house to meet three bakers who mistake him for an ingredient in the cake. The book goes along the boy's journey as he tries to get home.

    The story is very original.  Sendak's pictures are colorful and imaginative.  The only thing that was an issue for me was when the young boy loses his clothes on the way to the bakers.  There is frontal nudity on some of the pages.  I feel that elementary age children will focus on that and it may detract from them fully appreciating the story.  This is a Caldecott Honor Book.

    POSITIVE As written before this is, in my opinion, an inventive way to explain why they get cake in the morning.  The pictures are colorful and will catch the readers attention right away.

    EDUCATIONAL This book can be used to spur your child's imagination.  Just like Sendak took the act of baking a cake and making into an adventure do the same with your children.

    • Make a book like Sendak's - example: "How was the soup made?" Encourage them to think of different and improbable ways to make the soup and draw pictures to match.  They can then read it to the family.  
    • Bake a cake like in the story. 
    As always any comments or questions are appreciated

    Thursday, January 28, 2010

    What is Heaven Like? By Beverly Lewis Illustrated by Pamela Querin

    Has your child ever asked you this question?  This is a fantastic book to answer any child's questions about heaven.  It is written from a young boy's perspective after his grandfather dies.  Each page shows him asking about different aspects in heaven.  On the bottom of each page is a bible verse that corresponds with the question asked.  Querin has beautifully illustrated each page.

    POSITIVE Lewis succeeds in matching the bible verse on each page to the question her narrator asks.  The grandmother also goes through the gospel message with the young boy.  I think it's done in a way that is understandable and simple for any child to learn.  This book strongly emphasizes Jesus and the Bible which is a great way to teach about heaven.  It beautifully represents the bible in words and pictures.  Anyone reading this will be touched by God's words.

    EDUCATIONAL One of the things I really liked was how much dialogue is written in this book.  For children who are just learning to read and write this is a good example of how a conversation is written in a book.  When children see it modeled it's easier for them to write a conversation into their own stories.  It also teaches kindergarten and first grade students what a question is.  Many times in my teaching career my first graders had a hard time understanding the difference between a sentence and a question - this book gives great examples.  Lewis takes a hard concept to explain and does it in a sensitive way.  She teaches about what heaven will look like using the bible and coupled with the beautiful illustrations children will have a lovely image when they read the different verses.

    ACTIVITY  Put the different verses used in the book together and make a picture out of it.  To expand on that concept find verses on other things explained in the bible (for example how Jesus will look when he comes a second time) and draw a picture or write a vivid description.  You can also use this book as a springboard for teaching the gospel message.

    As always any comments or activities you have will be appreciated. 

    Tuesday, January 19, 2010

    We're Going on a Bear Hunt By: Michael Rosen Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

    This is a delightful adventure book that young children will love.  It starts with the Father taking his children through the various places in a journey to find a bear.  This book takes you on a journey with the family that goes through the grass, mud, river, woods and a cave to look for a bear. Your children will be engaged with this pop-up edition the whole way through.  They'll be excited to see what happens on each page.  Michael Rosen does a good job of capturing your imagination as you read the book.  The illustrations also are of good quality and original.

    POSITIVE  This is a great book for a father to read to his children.  The family always helps each other out and sticks together as they figure out how to get out of the trouble they are in.  It shows unity and a sense of togetherness.

    EDUCATIONAL  Due to the repetition in the book this is an excellent book for children first starting to read.  It encourages them to remember the words.  The illustrations are reminiscint of Roald Dahl's books.   
    ACTIVITY:  After reading the book you and your child can go on your own adventure through a local forest preserve or garden trying to find a plant or animal.  They can then write a book about their adventure.

    Please share your thoughts or activities that you would do with this book.


    Welcome to Empyreal Book Corner.  This blog is a Christian mother's perspective on different books - mainly children's books.  All respectful comments and suggestions are welcome.

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