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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christian Liberty Nature Reader, Book 5

I read this book to my children on account of Ambleside Online's recommendation. I really enjoyed it, and my children really enjoyed it. This Nature Reader covers such topics as blood, muscles, nerves, bones, the coverings of animals, how animals think, and how man is superior to animals. Each chapter concludes with an extensive list of questions about the chapter. Some of the explanations are a bit dated (for instance, the book claims that electricity is not involved in the brain sending messages to, or receiving messages from, the nerves).

On the whole I thought this book an excellent narrative book (not a modern textbook) about scientific topics for children. I would recommend it to those looking for a science book with literary quality for children. I would like to acquire the other books in the series and read them with my children.

Perhaps even more importantly, I would recommend Ambleside Online to any parent or educator.

Starflower, by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

I was pleased when I was offered the opportunity to review Starflower, because I enjoyed reading the first book by Anne Elisabeth Stengl which I'd been given to review, Moonblood. I was even more pleased when reading it, because I believe it to be even better than Moonblood.

In Starflower we get to see some of the same characters who figured in Moonblood, but in an earlier part of their history. We get to meet Eanrin before he's blinded. Starflower explores the meaning of love, love that lays down its own life for the sake of the beloved, love that pursues the beloved even when the beloved foolishly does not recognize the love being offered.

I'm impressed by the breadth, depth, and detail of Ms. Stengl's secondary world. I'm impressed by the consistency of her characters. I'm impressed by how much she makes me care about her characters and what happens to them. I'm haunted by the picture of a land in which women are deprived of their voices right after birth.

I highly recommend Ms. Stengl's books to readers of fantasy, and can't wait to read the other two books in the Tales of Goldstone Wood series.

Thank you Netgalley and Baker Publishing Group for giving me a review copy of this book.

Raising Dragons, by Bryan Davis

In Raising Dragons, Volume One of the Dragons in Our Midst series, a young man named Billy learns that he is half dragon, half human, and befriends a young woman named Bonnie who is likewise half dragon, half human. Are dragons evil? Billy and Bonnie early on learn that they are in danger and must flee to save their lives. The book relates their attempts to stay alive, and out of the clutches of their foes.

I loved Raising Dragons, was hooked from the beginning, couldn't put it down to save my life (or, more to the point, to lay down my life by washing the dishes and fixing the dinner). It was exciting and intense, and I cared about the characters. The more I read, the more convinced I become that fantasy has to be the best fiction genre.

I would recommend Raising Dragons to readers who enjoy young adult fantasy books, especially those who might be concerned about the amount of filth on display in secular young adult fantasies. I know my 12yo daughter will enjoy it, and am looking forward to sharing it with her. I am also looking forward to getting my hands on the other three books in the series.

Thank you Netgalley and Living Ink Books for giving me a review copy in exchange for my opinion.

Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving, by Eric Metaxas

I selected this title because Eric Metaxas's name has been in the news recently, on account of his recently published biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his remarks at the national prayer breakfast. 'Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving' is a brief children's picture book biography of Squanto. It underscores how God provided for the Pilgrims by preparing Squanto to help them.

I don't really have a strong opinion about this book one way or the other. It didn't stand out to me as either wonderful or horrible. I have allowed my six-year-old daughter to read it, and she enjoyed it. And I am still hoping to read Mr. Metaxas's biography of Bonhoeffer.

I agree with Mr. Metaxas's concluding remark: "Who but the glorious God of heaven could so miraculously weave together the wandering lives of a lonely Patuxet brave and a struggling band of English Pilgrims in such a way that would bless the whole world for centuries to come?"

I read a review copy of this book, in exchange for my opinion of it freely rendered. Thanks Netgalley and Thomas Nelson publishers for giving me a review copy of this book.

The Mighty Weakness of John Knox, by Douglas Bond

Douglas Bond, author of several historical novels for young people, here offers a biography of a mighty man of faith, John Knox, leader of the reformation in Scotland. This book was a well-written, easy-to-read biography with literary flair. I profited from reading this book, and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in church history. And I will tell you what makes this book so great: while its topic was the life of Knox, its focus was the glory of God.

'Haroun and the Sea of Stories,' by Salman Rushdie

In 'Haroun and the Sea of Stories,' young Haroun's mother, Soraya, runs off with their upstairs neighbor, Mr. Sengupta, and that leaves Haroun's father, Rashid, a professional storyteller, unable to tell stories anymore. Rashid calls out that he cancels his service. Haroun is awakened in the middle of the night by strange sounds coming from his bathroom, finds a Water Genie named Iff, and learns that his father had received his stories from an invisible tap connected to the Sea of Stories. Iff has come to disconnect Rashid, per Rashid's request. This starts Haroun's adventures with the Sea of Stories.

I relished the opening paragraph, "There was once, in the country of Alifbay, a sad city, the saddest of cities, a city so ruinously sad that it had forgotten its name. It stood by a mournful sea full of glumfish, which were so miserable to eat that they made people belch with melancholy even though the skies were blue."

I valued the creativity evidenced in the story. In addition to a character named Iff, there's a character named Butt. There are plentimaw fish in the sea (a play on 'plenty more' and many mouths). I appreciated the story-plea for freedom of speech. I enjoyed the speech pattern of many of the characters (especially the mail coach driver, and Mr. Snooty Buttoo).

I did not, however, come to care deeply about the characters. I am left to wonder why. Was there something wrong with me as the reader? Something lacking in the book? Was I supposed to care deeply about the characters?

I can't exactly bring myself to recommend this book, but I would not recommend against it, and I would permit my children to read it.