Welcome to Book Blurbs!

Book Blurbs is designed to help you navigate the sea of literature available to your children – children’s literature reviewed by authors in the field.

We want to give you reviews to help you choose! 

“Be as careful of the books you read, as of the company you keep; for your habits and character will be as much influenced by the former as the latter.”
Paxton Hood

 

Song of the Sparrow

Lisa Ann Sandell has done a marvelous job retelling The Lady of Shallot by Tennyson.

Song of the Sparrow is written in beautiful verse, which enhances the tale and keeps the reader turning pages. The heroine, Elaine of Ascot, lives in a British encampment with her father and brothers. She mends clothes and tends to the wounded, but longs for a nobler role. The story predates Camelot, but Arthur, Lancelot, and Gwynivere are a significant part of Elaine’s tale.

I read Song of the Sparrow in one sitting, and highly recommend it for summer reading. Just under 400 pages, Song of the Sparrow is appropriate for all readers middle school and above.

Sandell, Lisa Ann. Song of the Sparrow. Scholastic Inc., 2008.

The Inquisitor’s Tale

Or Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz

Jeanne, Gwenforte, William, and Jacob, are unlikely companions on a quest in thirteenth-century France. Adam Gidwitz weaves second-hand accounts in a style reminiscent of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

The Inquisitor’s Tale is set in the days of the Crusades, when economic, racial, and religious tensions were prevalent. Our four heroes challenge their pre-conceived notions and find a common bond.

The theme of acceptance and sacrifice for a friend is laudable. This book offers parents an opportunity to discuss the role of the church and state as God intended as opposed to the relationship displayed in history. I recommend it for middle school readers.

Does God Take Naps?

Does God Take Naps? by Crystal Bowman is a wonderful discovery book for young children. Each page is filled with rhythm and rhyme asking and answering questions children have about God and their world.

Teri McKinley shares colorful and childlike images appealing to children of all ages. Does God Take Naps? is a perfect choice for bedtime. Bowman’s book is a wonderful gift and will delight the grandchildren.

Enjoy the sample below!

Bowman, Crystal. Does God Take Naps? Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2017.

 

Wolf Hollow

In the vein of To Kill a Mockingbird, Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk is the tale of a young girl in a small town exposed to events which change her life and the lives of her family forever.

Annabelle and her family befriend Toby, a reclusive World War I veteran living in the hills of Wolf Hollow. When Annabelle is bullied by a new girl in town, the unlikely friend comes to Annabelle’s defense. But when children get hurt and the new girl goes missing, all fingers point to Toby – who also disappears. The decisions Annabelle makes to clear Toby’s name don’t have the intended result. In the end Annabelle and her family discover more about Toby, the world, and themselves.

Wolf Hollow was an intriguing story which ended perhaps more realistically than I had hoped. Nevertheless, it would be a valuable tool at home and in a classroom for open discussion about lying, fear, assumptions, justice, and bullying.

Due to the nature of the events in the book, I recommend it for middle grade and older readers. I also suggest parents read the book along with their children. While you’re at it, read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee too!

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk is young adult fiction, just under 300 pages.

Wolk, Lauren. Wolf Hollow: a Novel. Puffin Books, 2018.Lee, Harper.

To Kill a Mockingbird. Lippincott, 1960.

 

The Diary of a Young Girl

From 1942-1944, teenage Anne Frank, along with her Jewish family and four friends, hid in a secret annex in Amsterdam. During the day, they kept as silent as possible so as not to be heard in the rooms below. They stepped around creaky floorboards, kept from flushing the one toilet, and spoke in whispers if they spoke at all. All the time, Anne kept a diary.

At the end of those two years, someone betrayed them and Anne and the others were arrested and sent to Auschwitz, a German concentration camp. Only her father, Otto Frank, survived the camp and the war. When he returned to their hiding place, a friend gave him his daughter’s diary, found the day they were arrested.

Last week, I toured Anne Frank’s house. I ducked behind the bookcase which opened to the narrow stairway leading to their hidden rooms. Following the long line of solemn visitors, I listened to words from Anne’s diary on a headset. Although the furniture was gone, the windows and walls remained just as they had been in August 1944. The windows still blackened, and photographs Anne placed on the wall above her bed were dimly lit in her small room.

I was taken back to the days Anne sat in this room quietly writing in her diary. Had the end of her story been a happy one, I would have felt very different. But Anne died in the concentration camp at sixteen of typhus – just weeks before the end of the war.

After the tour, I sat in a cafe watching tourists amble by and grieved for Anne. I imagined the sorrow and guilt her father must have felt having survived while his wife and two daughters didn’t. A friend of the family found Anne’s diary and gave it to Otto after the war. Anne’s words not only opened her father’s eyes to the thoughts and emotions of his daughter, it also provided a window for all of us.

You may say, lots of young people die of sickness and tragedy, what makes Anne’s story so special?

Her story is significant because it sheds light on the reality of the holocaust. It is a true testimony. It gives us a perspective from which we may determine good and evil, right from wrong. Some people would like us to believe the holocaust never took place – despite the many testimonies of survivors.

But when we read Anne’s diary, we get a glimmer of truth.

Jesus claimed to be truth as well as the light of the world (John 8:12 ESV). He said, nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light (Luke 8:17). When Jesus returns, he will bring light to those things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of our hearts (I Corinthians 4:5 ESV). 

Despite the sadness I feel for the tragic loss of young life in our world’s history, I am encouraged by the words of Christ. There will be justice. Horrible things done in the darkest places of our world will be exposed by the light of Jesus Christ. We should tremble, but for the grace of Jesus extended to us at the cross.

Light will cast out darkness. All tears and sorrow will fade into history. There will be no night – only light and life. Come to the cross today and accept the grace offered, so you may never face the wrath of the one who sees and will one day judge our hearts.

“Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.”  Anne Frank