Monday, March 26, 2012

Book Review: The Donkey Who Carried A King

Are you looking for a great resource to help you share the Gospel with kids this Easter? If so, you might be interested in R.C. Sproul's latest children's book, The Donkey Who Carried A King.

From the Publisher:
Riley gets upset when his playmates pick him last for their games. When Grandpa hears about the problem, he asks, "Riley, have you ever heard about the donkey who carried a king?"

Davey was a young donkey who was bored and unhappy because he was never given anything to do. Then one day, some strangers came to the gate--and Davey's master picked him for a very special task. Davey carried the King, Jesus, into Jerusalem. Afterward, Davey felt proud of himself and believed he should do only special jobs. But Davey's master put him to work doing ordinary things. That made Davey grumpy.

A few days later, Davey saw something terrible--some angry people were making the King carry a heavy beam of wood. Davey could not understand it, but another donkey, old Barnabas, helped him see that the King was being a Servant. After that, Davey made up his mind to do every task without grumbling.

Through his story, Grandpa helps Riley see what Jesus was really carrying on that terrible day.

My kids (especially my five and seven-year old) have asked me to read The Donkey Who Carried A King again and again in the short time since we have received it. Sproul helps kids deal with real-life struggles by pointing them to our Savior who suffered beyond what we can imagine. He also brings children important lessons about gratitude and true servanthood. Most significantly, Dr. Sproul clearly shares the Good News:
"Jesus died on a cross that day. When He died, He gave His life to save His people from their sins. In a way, he carried their sin and their guilt. By dying for them, He took the punishment that they deserved for sinning against a holy God -- the punishment that you and I deserve. He was a king, but He was a servant to His people" (pg. 33).
Furthermore, Sproul shares that Jesus didn't stay dead but was raised on the third day and reigns forever with His Father in Heaven.

Like several of Sproul's other children's books, The Donkey Who Carried A King includes helpful questions, answers, and Scriptures at the conclusion of the book to help parents and children better understand the message of the story. I pray that this touching book will be beneficial to many families who are seeking to impart Gospel truth to the children in their lives and am happy to recommend it to you for your consideration.

You can find more information as well as a book sample at Westminster Books.

Happy Easter, my friends!! May you rejoice in the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

*Many thanks to Reformation Trust Publishing for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Book Review: ESV Grow! Bible

The ESV Grow! Bible has been specifically developed for children ages 8-12. It contains a number of features common to children's Bibles including: "Introductions to each Bible book, charts, and maps [which] help young readers understand the themes, characters, and context of Scripture" (Crossway). Additionally, the ESV Grow! Bible includes helpful timelines at the beginning of each book of the Bible.

However, the ESV Grow! Bible also contains features that are relatively unique to many children's Bibles such as:
  • 45 "Cross Connections" explaining how certain Bible passages point to Christ
  • 90 "4U" sections explaining and applying texts to the child's life
  • Articles about Jesus and the teachings of the Christian faith which help children understand important theological concepts
I appreciate how the ESV Grow! Bible includes boxes featuring a "W Question" on nearly every other page. I think this helps prepare young people for Bible study by teaching them to ask who, what, where, when, or why of a text. Including these questions throughout the text also encourages children to pause and think about difficult/new concepts over which they may be tempted to read quickly or skim.

Perhaps my favorite "feature" of the ESV Grow! Bible is the way in which it accurately portrays the Bible as one unified story about Christ and all that God has done through Him to bring salvation to those who would believe. This Bible is uniquely centered on Christ and the Gospel in a way that many children's Bibles are not.

When asked why she uses her ESV Grow! Bible more than her other Bibles, my nine-year-old daughter said, "It helps me understand what I am reading better." While we are not to add or take away from God's Word, there are an increasing number of tools available to us which enable us to understand the Holy Scriptures more clearly while being faithful to the text. I am happy to commend the ESV Grow! Bible to those whose children (grandchildren, etc.) are not yet ready for an ESV Student Study Bible.

*Many thanks to Crossway  for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

"Weight of a Flame" Winner

Congratulations to: 
Camille E.

Who is the winner of Simonetta Carr's
new book, Weight of a Flame.

Many thanks to:
my faithful readers for
making this giveaway possible!

Thanks to all who entered! 
If you didn't win this time, stay tuned;
I have another great giveaway coming up soon. :)
Have a blessed day, my friends!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Book Review: Lit!

Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading BooksIf you had a goal of reading a book a week for the next fifty years of your life, you would be able to read approximately 2,600 books in your lifetime. That's a lot of books! However, compared to the number of books already in print and current publishing trends, this means that "For every one book that you choose to read, you must ignore ten thousand other books simply because you don't have the time (or money!)" (Reinke, pg. 94, emphasis added). I don't know about you, but I'm not reading a book a week...nowhere close. This means that there are A LOT of books that I will not be able to read in my lifetime. I want to make what I read count for all it's worth.

One resource that has been instrumental in shaping my reading goals for 2012 is Tony Reinke's new book Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books. Reinke spends the first half of the book building a distinctly Christian, Gospel-centered worldview for reading books.  He spends the second half of the book going over practical application points such as how to decide what to read, how to find time to read, how and why one might consider marking up a book, how to build community by reading, how to raise readers, etc.

Overall, I found Reinke's book very helpful and thought-provoking. I appreciate that he included plenty of Scripture references  but is not legalistic and does not lay the burden of the "law" where there is none. Although there are many authors which Reinke esteems throughout the book, you will not find a recommended reading list per se. He does, however, recommend and explain the benefits of establishing reading priorities in order to determine how different types of reading material should fit into our diet. Again, Reinke does not legalistically prescribe reading priorities for his readers but guides them into thinking about what priorities would be most God-honoring for them. I found this extremely useful.

Through Lit!, Reinke helped me to grow in my understanding of the value of various types of fiction, including fantasy. He also helped me to consider the benefits of secular literature in a way of which I had not previously thought of it. While there are parts of the book that probably could have been fleshed out more, Reinke expounds on the most important concepts and gives his reader much to ponder. This is a book to which I will be returning regularly as I seek to ensure that the few books I choose will be the books most likely to benefit my life. Readers and non-readers will likely find this book an asset to selecting books wisely.

*Many thanks to Crossway for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Book Review: Weight of a Flame

Weight of a Flame: The Passion of Olympia Morata [Chosen Daughters]
From the Publisher:

"Olympia Morata (1526–1555) is her father’s finest student and a girl far ahead of her time. A quick tongue and a ready pen are her mind’s tools to record her vivid thoughts, poetry, songs, and opinions. Appointed tutor to Duchess RenĂ©e’s children, Olympia looks forward to a bright future—when suddenly, evil rumors threaten to turn her world upside down. In the midst of it all a young doctor comes courting. Will their love survive the danger waiting on the other side of the Alps?"
"The Chosen Daughters Series highlights the lives of ordinary women who by God’s grace accomplish extraordinary things."

"Though little-known today, in the first part of the 16th century, sparks of the Reformed faith burned brightly in Italy. Italian Protestants were faced with three choices: compromise and silence, defiance unto death, or voluntary exile. Olympia Morata, an intelligent young women from a family faithful to biblical truth, was one of the women whose passion helped to spread the flame of the Reformation. Well-educated and gifted in languages, Olympia followed her destiny through academic studies, leading to a position in the royal court, a platform for public lectures and opportunities for influence through writing. In her personal life she endured loss and sadness, but she later found true love in marriage despite great danger and hardship. Olympia died at the age of 29, eager for the presence of her Savior."

Weight of a Flame is informative, interesting, and well-written. In it, Simonetta Carr tells the story of an intelligent young girl with a unique position during the time of the Reformation. Not having heard of Olympia Morata prior to reading Weight of a Flame, I quickly devoured the book in two evenings.

One of the things that I appreciate about Simonetta Carr's writing is her dedication to historical accuracy and her transparency throughout the writing process. She doesn't simply fabricate her story, but does much research to ensure that she is faithful to the historical account. If you're interested in learning more about her writing process, you can read her post on writing historical fiction or follow her blog. It is obvious that Ms. Carr put much time and effort into making Olympia Morata's story come alive.

I must confess, when I first read the book summary, I was a little bit nervous about reading this title. Don't get me wrong, I love historical fiction, but I don't read romance novels, and I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this book. However, having read all of Simonetta Carr's books and having followed her blog for some time now, I decided to read Weight of a Flame: The Passion of Olympia Morata. I am so glad that I did!

As usual, Simonetta Carr did not disappoint. Thankfully, Weight of a Flame did not read anything like a romance novel at any point and, though specifically targeted at young girls, is a good read for folks of all ages. Young girls, in particular, will likely identify with Olympia as she seeks to please her father and as she matures and makes her faith her own.

I enjoyed Weight of a Flame very much! You may have the opportunity to enjoy it as well! Simonetta Carr and P and R Publishing graciously sent me a copy to share with one of my readers. If you are interested in entering for a chance to win a free copy of this book, enter your name and email address in the form below prior to March 9, 2012.

Giveaway closed. Congratulations to the winner!

*Many thanks to Simonetta Carr and P and R Publishing for sending me a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest opinion!