Thursday, December 17, 2015

Principles of Mathematics, Book 1 {a Master Books review}

A Christian math program.

I'll confess, I was hugely skeptical. 


My experience with allegedly Christian math programs isn't good.  A couple word problems that deal with multiplying fish or dividing sheep from goats.  A couple of seemingly random Bible verses on the page.  How does that make it Christian?  I don't get it.

I didn't expect much more from Principles of Mathematics, Book 1, to be honest.  Because it is put out by MasterBooks, I was intrigued.  But not really hopeful.

I did something I never do.  I requested a product, expecting that I was going to be writing a not-that-positive review.

Katherine Loop surprised me. 

From the publisher:
Katherine Loop has done the remarkable! She has written a solid math course with a truly Biblical worldview. This course goes way beyond the same old Christian math course that teaches math with a few Scriptures sprinkled in and maybe some church-based word problems. This course truly transforms the way we see math.

Katherine makes the argument that math is not a neutral subject as most have come to believe. She carefully lays the foundation of how math points to our Creator, the God of the Bible. The nature of God, His Creation, and even the Gospel itself is seen through the study of math. Katherine does a marvelous job of revealing His Glory in this one-of-a-kind math course.

Katherine Loop's Principles of Mathematics Biblical Worldview Curriculum is a first of its kind. It takes math to a whole new level students and parents are going to love. It is a guaranteed faith grower!

Our thoughts:

I ended up making both my 9th and 10th grader do this course.  They are both beyond it, really, in some sense.  But they also both need a bit more of the foundational concepts of math.  They get the big picture pretty well, but they both struggle with details. 

What you get is an over 400-word textbook that contains the bulk of the course and can easily be used by multiple students.  In addition, there is the student workbook, which is consumable. 

The text is split into 21 chapters, and each chapter is dividing into a number of individual sections.  For a full one-year course, the idea is to usually be doing a section each day.  Each section is a few pages of reading, often with some problems and examples being worked out.

The workbook is 3-hole punched, which is handy.  It includes two schedules for the text, worksheets for each section, quizzes for each chapter, tests for each quarter, a final exam, and the answer key.

I love the schedules.  The first has the student completing the material over the course of a 36-week year, and would be great for a middle school student.  I plan to have my 6th grader start it that way in January.  This has the student usually working through a section a day, but sometimes they read a section one day and do the worksheet the following day.  Study days are also built into the schedule.

The second schedule is to complete the material in a semester, and that is the schedule my high schoolers are following.  Normally, they are working through a couple of sections in a day, and many of the study days are in addition to working in a section.  Tests still get their own day and are not combined with any other work.  This pace has been great for us.

What about the content though?

This does cover the general stuff you expect a pre-algebra course to cover.  A review of basic operations, mental math, multi-digit multiplication and division, fractions, factors, decimals, ratios, proportions, and percents.  At some point, depending on what you've used in elementary years, it starts introducing new concepts, such as negative numbers, sets, statistics, and graphing.  Geometry, including distance, perimeter and area is covered.  Then you get into things like exponents, square roots, scientific notation, before going back to more complex geometry like triangles, volume, angles, and a chapter called Congruent and Similar.  The final chapter is a review.

The material is covered in a conversational style that frequently addresses why in the world you would need to know this.  I think that could help ME when we get to the geometry portion.  I have a hard time grasping content unless I understand why I might care. 

That conversational style makes some complicated concepts a lot easier to understand too.  She refers to math concepts as tools in a toolbox.  Some tools like a basic screwdriver or addition are ones you will pull out all the time.  Some tools are more specialized, and wonderful when you need them, but you aren't going to need them every week.

Along those lines, I really loved that in the mental math section, she gives ideas, makes them use that particular technique... and then when reviewing mental math later, most of the time you are told to use whatever method you want to.

What about the "Christian Worldview" aspect?

I'm going to be blunt and say, "This course is not for everyone."

My oldest two sons and I have just finished taking a live class using the Thinking Like a Christian materials put out by Summit Ministries.  One huge point made in that class was that God created everything, and there is no such thing as a separation between secular and sacred.  God is part of it all, and that applied to theology, biology, ethics, history, politics, law, psychology... everything.

Our instructor never applied it to math, though.  But math is part of everything, so that idea does still hold true.  This book does that.  God created a consistent universe, and holds it all together.  That is why we are able to discover laws of nature and laws of math.  We attach labels to these concepts, but ultimately, the only reason we can do things like memorize the fact that 2+3=5 is that God created that consistency in the first place.  Two and three was five yesterday, it is five today, and tomorrow we aren't going to wake up and find that has changed either.

The first two chapters of the book have a lot of discussion about this kind of thing, but it comes up in later chapters too. 

With the accelerated schedule, sometimes it feels like we're being hit over the head with the same general thing, and sometimes there have been some Bible verses thrown in that seem to be a bit of a stretch.

Overall, though, we are loving it and absolutely planning to get Book 2 when we finish this one.

Disclaimer:   I received this book for free from Master Books.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received complimentary products does not guarantee a favorable review.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Word of Promise New Testament {a BookLook Blogger review}

I am a bit of a print book snob.  Given a choice, I will almost always go for a physical book, one I can touch and dog-ear, and make notes in at times.  When it comes to my Bible, that is even more true.  I want to have something I can easily re-read, and write all over.

With the time spent in the car, and with a couple of dyslexic kids, I've learned to appreciate the value of good audio books.   Productions like The Word of Promise New Testament are helping me to appreciate the value of a good Audio Bible.

From the publisher:
Hear the Bible Come Alive in Dramatic Audio Theater™!

This multi-voiced, scripted dramatization of the New King James Version (NKJV) features a star-studded cast of actors, an original music score, and incredible feature film quality sound effects. This world-class production creates a dramatic audio theater experience that makes you feel like you’re really there with Jesus and His disciples. Listen in your car, on your MP3 player, or with your family or small group to gain a new perspective of the Bible.

The Word of Promise® New Testament Audio Bible is a 20-CD set and includes a bonus “Behind-the-Scenes” DVD.

Cast Includes:
  • Jim Caviezel (The Passion of The Christ, Déjà vu) - Jesus
  • Academy Award winner Richard Dreyfuss (Mr. Holland's Opus, The Goodbye Girl) - Quotes from Moses
  • Academy Award winner Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinny, What Women Want) - Mary Magdalene
  • Golden Globe winner Stacy Keach (Prison Break, Hemingway) - Paul
  • Academy Award and Golden Globe winner Louis Gossett, Jr. (An Officer and a Gentleman, Roots) - John
  • Kimberly Williams-Paisley (According to Jim, Father of the Bride) - Mary, Mother of Jesus
  • And many others


Our thoughts:

Given the cast list above, I knew this was going to be pretty incredible.  I was right.  And I was told in the description to expect 20 CDs, but that still didn't quite prepare me for just how long that truly is.  It comes very nicely packaged, and each CD is labeled so you know just what is on it.  CD 7 for instance, is labeled as covering Luke 14-21.

The "And many others" from the above list impressed me too, because honestly, I only recognize half of the folks named as having parts.  Other people listed on the case include:
  • Michael York - Narrator
  • Terrence Stamp - Voice of God
  • Lou Diamond Phillips - Mark
  • John Heard - Matthew
  • Ernie Hudson - Peter
  • Luke Perry - Judas and Stephen
  • John Schneider - James
  • Chris McDonald - Luke
  • Michael W Smith - Cleopas
I recognize almost all of them.

The production quality is fantastic.  Music and sound effects enhance the production without overwhelming it, and that is a big deal for me.  It is easy to pay attention, as it isn't a monotonous reading of the passages, but the drama comes through.  I have listened to (or tried to) audio Bibles in the past, read by some fantastic people, but struggled to listen for more than a few minutes.  This keeps me engaged.

This is in the NKJV, and appears to follow the text, minus some "he said" types of things.  For instance, John 7:6 reads: "Then Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always ready." On the CD, it skips the "Then Jesus said to them," part and starts with Caviezel (Jesus) saying "My time has not yet come..."

It doesn't remove all of the attributions.  It seems that it mostly the "Jesus said" ones, where you most certainly recognize the voice and clearly know who is speaking.  The bit parts are usually prefaced with the words like, "his brothers said" so you don't have to guess at context.

Excellent job, and at $25, this isn't expensive.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Friday, November 20, 2015

Ishtar's Odyssey {a Kregel Book Tour review}

I don't recall at all when we first read through Jotham's Journey by Arnold Ytreeide as an Advent devotional, but it seems it was at least a decade ago.  According to everything I see, it was published in 2008, though.  So a decade isn't possible.

Like so many other really great friendships, it just seems that these books have been part of our Advent lives forever.

Ishtar's Odyssey by Arnold Ytreeide is the fourth title in this Advent series. 

From the publisher:
A new Advent family devotional from the author of Jotham's Journey! Fourth in a set of Advent adventure books for families, Ishtar's Odyssey follows the ten-year-old son of a Persian wise man as their caravan follows a star across the desert. Ishtar would just as soon stay in the comfort of the palace, but slowly he learns that there's much to see, do, and learn in this world that can't be experienced in school. He eventually meets Jotham, Bartholomew, and Tabitha as he follows his father and uncles in their search for a newborn king.

Arnold Ytreeide's family advent devotionals have become a much-loved Christmas tradition, enjoyed by multiple generations. With over 100,000 in print they include Jotham's Journey, Bartholomew's Passage, and Tabitha's Travels.

Our thoughts:

If you've read Jotham's Journey, Bartholomew's Passage or Tabitha's Travels, you already have a pretty good idea as to what to expect.  Fairly short daily readings for the entirety of Advent, with lots of cliff-hanger endings from day to day.  The main narrative follows a child who is caught up in some aspect of the Christmas story, and that kid learns a thing or two over the course of the story in a bit of a coming-of-age series of events.  Mostly, though, it is encountering Christ, the son of God, that transforms their lives.  If you've read any of the sequels, you also know that the main character is going to encounter the kids (and other characters) from the past books as well.

A bit of a formulaic approach, sure.  But it still works.

This story focuses on the magi, the wise men from the East.  Ishtar is the rather pampered, self-important son of one of the wise men, and he isn't really a likable character at the start.  It took a bit longer than I expected for my kids to care at all for him, but eventually you can't help but get caught up in the story.

I think it is probably best to read these stories in order, but you do not have to have read the other three to enjoy this newest one.

This is a wonderful Advent tradition.  With Advent starting in just over a week, you still have time to obtain this and start in with this for your family.

Disclaimer:  I received this book through Kregel Blog Tours.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own.   

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Another Way Home {a Litfuse Blog Tour review}

I started reading Deborah Raney's Chicory Inn series with the very first title, and the character I was immediately drawn to was Danae.  When I realized that each of siblings was going to have a book focused on them, I was immediately hoping the next one would be Danae's tale.

Finally, it is her turn.

Another Way Home by Deborah Raney was worth the wait.

From the publisher:
Sometimes God's ways are not at all what we expect . . . and exactly what we need.

Grant and Audrey are adding grandchildren to their family left and right, but middle daughter, Danae, and her husband, Dallas Brooks, have been trying for years with no baby in sight.

Though Danae is ready to consider adoption, Dallas will not even discuss it. Despairing of ever having a family of her own, Danae decides to pour her passion and energies into volunteer work with a newly opened women's shelter in town. Looking for a good cause to fill her lonely days, she never expects to give her heart to the hurting women she meets there. She's finally learning to live her life with gratitude, but then heart-wrenching events on Thanksgiving weekend threaten to pull the entire Whitman clan into turmoil-and leave them all forever changed.
Two Roads Home involved Danae swapping homes with her older sister, and now at the start of Another Way Home she is in this big, beautiful dream home, decorating a nursery, with no real hope of ever being able to fill it.  Danae is in full-blown feeling sorry for myself mode, and isn't a very pleasant person to be around.  Like her sisters' stories, this one has a rather unlikeable person go through some transformations during the events of the book, and end up a much more mature and all-around better person by the end.

This book touched me also because of the subject of adoption.  I have a passel of adopted cousins.  The eldest one has adopted a baby herself, from the same orphanage she had been at.  Another cousin, I just found out, is in the process of adopting an older child.  I love reading about adoption.

Unlike the other two books though, I actually liked Danae, even when she was wallowing in self-pity.

Maybe it is because I hung out in that same pity party locale years ago, where I didn't relate to the issues facing Danae's sisters.

Maybe it is that all of the characters are more fleshed out and real now in this third book.

I'm not entirely sure, but I do look forward to the next installment with the Whitman family soon. 

Disclaimer:  I received this book through LitFuse Blog Tour.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own.  

Monday, November 16, 2015

2015 Blue Ribbon Awards

Another Crew year is closing out this week, which I find really hard to believe.  Especially because effective this month, I'm leading this group.  I don't believe I've actually announced that on my blog before now.

This year has been crazy for me.  I usually end up using -- and reviewing -- quite a few products over the course of the year.  Mom died right as the reviews were truly kicking off, and it seems like I've spent all year long trying to get back on track and up to speed.  And suddenly, the year is ending.

So, while I reviewed pretty much nothing this year for the Crew, we have used a bunch of these.  So I'll be commenting on things here.

At the end of each Crew year, we get a chance to vote for our favorite products in a whole lot of categories.  Here are the results:

2015 Schoolhouse Review Crew Blue Ribbon Awards

Favorite Reading Curriculum: Reading Kingdom
Favorite Writing Curriculum: Institute for Excellence in Writing
Favorite Vocabulary Program: Dynamic Literacy
Favorite Spelling Program: Institute for Excellence in Writing: Phonetic Zoo
Favorite Grammar Program: Institute for Excellence in Writing: Fix-It! Grammar
Favorite Penmanship Program: CursiveLogic
Favorite Literature Curriculum: Progeny Press

Among the language arts related products, we used all of the winners, and we really did love them.

Favorite History Curriculum: Home School in the Woods
Favorite History Supplement: Heirloom Audio Productions: In Freedom's Cause
Favorite Science Curriculum: Visual Learning Systems
Favorite Science Supplement: Ann McCallum Books: Eat Your Science Homework
Favorite Math Curriculum: CTC Math
Favorite Math Supplement: SimplyFun

Other core curricula are all fantastic too -- everyone was using CTC Math, Heirloom makes so many great audio dramas, Home School in the Woods is a bit overwhelming for me, but oh so worthwhile!

Favorite Christian Education Curriculum: Grapevine Studies
Favorite Christian Education Supplement: Brinkman Adventures
Favorite Foreign Language Curriculum: Middlebury Interactive Language
Favorite Fine Arts Product: Maestro Classics
Favorite Elective Curriculum: Apologia Educational Ministries: Field Trip Journal
Favorite Audio Drama: Brinkman Adventures
Favorite Video:

My one and only review is above -- Maestro Classics was simply wonderful.  The Nutcracker.  Loved that.  But we are making use of most of the other products too.

Favorite Elementary Product: Star Toaster
Favorite Middle School Product: The Critical Thinking Co
Favorite High School Product: Writing with Sharon Watson
Favorite College or College-Prep Product: Freedom Project Education
Favorite Parent Product: Koru Naturals
Favorite Planning Product: Apologia Educational Ministries: The Ultimate Homeschool Planner

Three of my absolute favorite products this year are in the above section.  The Critical Thinking Co. has a critical thinking title for middle school that we are absolutely loving.  Writing with Sharon Watson's Illuminating Literature is a wonderful (and boy-friendly) high school literature course.  And Koru Naturals introduced me to emu oil, something I'm not sure I could live without anymore.

Best Resource I Didn't Know I Needed: Homeschool Planet
Best Online Resource: Super Teacher Worksheets
Best e-Product: Home School in the Woods
Just for Fun: USAopoly
Kids' Choice: La La Logic
Teens' Choice: YWAM Publishing
All Around Crew Favorite: Institute for Excellence in Writing

I was not surprised that IEW is on the list for All Around Crew Favorite!

Members of the 2015 Schoolhouse Review Crew are sharing their thoughts about the Blue Ribbon Award winners and the companies they voted for who may not have won.  Go check that out.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Faith of Our Fathers {a FlyBy review and Giveaway}

When I was in high school, I had a really good (male) friend, and one evening we decided to go see a movie.  We ended up seeing The Killing Fields, which was a movie neither of us knew anything about, at all, but it was what was playing next when we got there.

Turned out, as you probably know, that it related to the Vietnam War, and Cambodia in particular.  That evening, I learned some things about my friend that I didn't know.  Like that his dad was really his stepdad.  His real dad died in Cambodia.

It was a fairly emotional night for both of us.

I was vaguely aware of the Vietnam War as a child, but only vaguely.  It had never occurred to me before then that real people, you know, like friends' dads, had died there. 

The synopsis of Faith of Our Fathers reminded me so much of that friend of mine. 

About the movie:
John Paul and Wayne are two young men in search of their fathers.  Problem is...their fathers have been dead for 25 years.  Eddie and Steven are two young men in search of their sons...whom they've never met.  In 1969, Eddie and Steven are with their squad deep in the jungle of Vietnam on a five-day mission to retrieve fallen comrades.  They write letters to their wives, often mentioning their love for their sons, one, who is an infant and one yet to be born.  In 1994, John Paul and Wayne go on a five day road trip to the Vietnam Wall in Washington DC to see their fathers' names.  Along the way, reading those letters, they begin to get an understanding of who their fathers were and how they died.  Trials and mishaps, both funny and sad, complicate the road trip for the boys.  The horrors of war and the testing of faith manifest themselves for the young men in Vietnam.  Ultimately, in parallel stories - 25 years apart - the fathers and sons are bound together forever. 
John Paul and Wayne are a little younger than my friend, but the whole idea of seeking to know the father you never got to know in real life struck me.  I know every war results in casualties -- and many of those men would have left behind children who never knew them.  It seems that the Vietnam War resulted in so many more of those situations.

Maybe the anti-war protests and the horrible treatment of returning soldiers made some of this even worse for these kids.

It is something to think about.  And I think movies like this are important.  We get a chance to identify with both sides -- the fathers and the sons who were left behind. 

Check out the trailer:

I have to say that there was definitely a fair amount of scenes that felt pretty contrived, and there was some awkward dialogue. 

Even still, I was cheering for a positive ending (knowing I wouldn't truly get a happy one).

I have a copy to give away!  US and Canada only, please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

This grief thing is weird

Yesterday was an unusual day.

Lots of activities going on, which is good.  A huge party/celebration for the community after church, complete with bouncy houses, cotton candy, pie-eating contests, lots of food, lots of candy -- just an all around fun/crazy time.

And a chat with a friend I haven't seen for awhile who recently became a widow.

And then last night was packing Operation Christmas Child boxes, which also included a whole lot of crazy activity, and a bunch more not-necessarily-healthy food.

And a chat with a friend who I see frequently, who has been a widow for a bit over a year now. 

In both of those chats, we discussed loss, grief, dealing with things.  The recent widow seems to be at a pretty good place right at this moment.  The not-as-recent one had a rough day because of a birthday party, and seeing folks that she and her husband had done things with for a lot of years.

It occurred to me last night, as I did my traditional hug and "Goodnight, my 14-year-old" routine with my middle child, that my mom won't be calling him tomorrow to wish him a happy birthday.  And that means I won't be talking to her tomorrow either.

This grief thing is weird.  It takes happy occasions and makes them hard sometimes.  And from talking with that second friend, I know this is a long-term thing.

Maybe by writing this out, I'll get my crying done here in the middle of the night, and tomorrow I can be happy with my birthday boy.  And not cry when Dad calls.  I doubt I'll pull off the last one though.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

When Lightning Struck: a Book and Unit Study review

I have always been fascinated by the life of Martin Luther.  I'm sure that growing up in the Lutheran Church was a big part of that.  As a kid, though, I would learn bits of his story here, and parts of it there, but I was never exposed to anything truly comprehensive.

I would have absolutely loved When Lightning Struck! The Story of Martin Luther by Danika Cooley.

Book description:
When Lightning Struck! is the story of Martin Luther, the Father of the Reformation, written for young adults.

Martin Luther's life was too exciting not to be written for teens and younger readers! In this fast-paced, action-packed novel of Martin Luther's life, teen readers (and more than a few adults!) will be introduced to a fascinating time when princes ruled Europe and knights roamed the countryside. They'll learn about a time when powerful forces lined up against each other and believing the wrong thing could get you killed.

When Lightning Struck! is far more than just an adventure story, of course. It also tells a theological story. Drawing carefully from Luther's own words, this book introduces readers to a kindred spirit who struggled with what knowing God through Scripture means for daily life. They will understand what was at stake and how powerfully liberating Luther's idea of grace through faith was—in his time and in ours!

In crisp, enjoyable prose, author Danika Cooley conveys both the drama and the meaning of the Reformation for younger readers like no one before her!

This book is intended to work for kids as young as 3rd grade, and it is fascinating for adults too.  With an emphasis on action (see excerpt to the left), the story starts off with the life-changing thunderstorm in 1505 that led Luther to become a monk.  The story then shifts back to his childhood and goes sequentially from there.

We've been using this as a read-aloud with children ages 9 to 18.  It certainly keeps everyone's attention!

The book all by itself is really terrific, but what makes this even more amazing is some of the resources that are available with it.

If you visit Danika's site, you can find a Discussion Guide that is completely free to download.  The Discussion Guide includes a page for every one or two chapters.  The pages are colorful, with a few discussion questions in a box, but there is more than that.  Each page also includes a box with timeline information that covers not only the events talked about in that chapter, but also other major events.  About half of the pages include some type of background information, such as a brief biography of Ulrich Zwingli.  The other half include a mini Bible Study.  The pages also have some sort of artwork.

You can also find a 12-week Unit Study for grades 6-12 that is free for subscribers.  The Unit Study includes the pages from the Discussion Guide, but there is so much more than just that.  A summary page each includes possible assignments for history, science, geography, writing, vocabulary and art.  That is followed by a whole lot of notebooking pages, including a study of an artist and five of his works.  The final page is a copywork page.

We aren't using all of this, but it is nice to be able to pick and choose and add what works in my family.

Bottom line:  If you are studying the Reformation time period, this is a great addition to that study.  If you want to add a bit of church history to your children's lives, this is an awesome choice.  I wouldn't necessarily use the book if my oldest was a 3rd grader, but it has been terrific with my range of kids.  And the study guide has been fantastic for everyone from 4th-12th grades as well.  I think Trina is just used to her materials being a bit over her.

Go.  Get it.

Oh, and go enter the amazing Reformation Day Giveaway.

Friday, November 6, 2015

On a Winter's Night {a Family Christian review and giveaway}

Friends of mine have been complaining about Christmas music being on the radio already.  And while I understand that sentiment, I also just love Christmas music and am thrilled to be able to listen to it longer than just in December.

Which is one of the things I love about doing reviews.  I get the chance to "have to" listen to a CD like On a Winter's Night by Jim Brickman.

"I know it is only November, honey, but this is a review!"

I love it.

When Family Christian gave me this opportunity, I knew I had to go for it.  Lots of years ago, my sister-in-law gave me a Jim Brickman CD (or tape?  Could it be that long ago?) for my birthday.  I had never heard of him, and I probably rolled my eyes a bit, as I sometimes get a little weird about other people's ideas about music I'd enjoy.

But I loved it.  If it was a tape, I'm sure I wore it out.

The publisher describes this pretty simply:
Jim Brickman has revolutionized the sound of solo piano with his pop-style instrumentals and star studded vocal collaborations. That trend continues with On A Winter's Night, which is a soothing collection of personal favorites on solo piano.

My thoughts:

I love this.  There is a great mix of music on here, many of which sound very traditional.  Lots have little riffs of traditional songs in there, and that mix is just so pretty to listen to.

About two-thirds feature just the piano, which are really my favorites.  A few feature someone singing.  Kenny Rogers, John Oates, and a bunch of names I don't recognize.  They all have beautiful voices, and they fit their songs so well.

One also has a violinist, Tracy Silverman.  This is simply beautiful.  Christmas in Brazil.

I think my favorite song is the piano-only version of Blue Christmas.  I am a big Elvis fan, so I am partial to this song.  And this wordless version is lovely.

My kids love John Oates singing Night Before Christmas.  The words are not quite exactly the same as in the poem, but they are so very close. 

The best part of this CD is that the music is just so gentle and not completely in-your-face Christmas music, so listening in November doesn't seem wrong at all, and it will be quite relaxing as Christmas gets closer too.

I have a copy of this amazing CD to give away!  US only please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book and an additional copy for a giveaway, free from Family Christian Stores through the Family Christian Blogger program.  This post does contain affiliate links.  I was not required to write a positive review, and any affiliate relationship does not impact my opinions. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Ology {a Litfuse Blog Tour review}

One issue I've had with our life in general is that I don't feel like my kids are getting anything at all like the basic theological foundation that I experienced during my two years of confirmation classes.

My adult son is going through a New Member Class at church that seems to be covering a lot of that type of thing.  And eventually I'll find something to do with my other teens, I am sure.

But I've found a fabulous option for my elementary/middle school children.  The Ology: Ancient Truths Ever New by Marty Machowski is a fantastic book.  I may even use it with my teens on our second run through it, but more on that later.

From the publisher:
A page-turning storybook of theology for kids

In the cellar of the old stone cathedral, Carla and Timothy uncover a life-changing treasure, a carefully wrapped ancient book known as The Ology. What adults might describe as a beautifully illustrated storybook of systematic theology, the kids discover to be a story of adventure, mystery, and wonder that leads them to the truth about God, themselves, and the world around them.

Truth is for kids, not just for adults! So The Ology gives kids of all ages a beginner's theology book to help them understand who God is and how we, as his children, relate to him. Arranged within a traditional systematic theological framework, each truth in The Ology is also connected to the larger redemptive story of Scripture. The doctrine of God, for example, is presented in the larger framework of creation, where the attributes of God are more clearly on display. The Ology takes abstract theological concepts and makes them easier to understand with the use of creative examples, illustrations, and analogies. The goal is not to say everything that could be said about a theological topic, but rather to share the key thoughts behind a theological concept. The Ology is a starting point to learning theology and aims to create a hunger and desire in children to learn more as they grow older.

Designed for six-year-olds through preteens, this flexible resource includes built-in adaptations for use with younger or older children, so that entire families can enjoy it together. Read The Ology to preschoolers, read it with grade-school kids, and let older kids discover the "hidden" truths by reading the corresponding Scripture passages for each section. However you read it, The Ology will give your children a gift that will last a lifetime---a solid foundation of life-changing biblical truth that will point them to the God who loves them and gave himself for them.

Our thoughts:

This book is split into 71 sections, organized in eleven topic areas.  The sections are pretty short, which is great, as you can read through them in just a few minutes.  The broader topics include:
  • The Ology of God
  • The Ology of People
  • The Ology of Sin
  • The Ology of the Promise and the Law
  • The Ology of Christ
  • The Ology of the Holy Spirit
  • The Ology of Adoption into God's Family
  • The Ology of Change
  • The Ology of Church
  • The Ology of the End Times
  • The Ology of God's Word
Systematic Theology for kids.  Seriously, how much better does it get than this?

We are working through one section per day, which is suggested in the introductory materials.  for ages 10-12, they suggest reading through the book to get a big picture overview of the theology covered here.  Then, the suggestion is to go back through the book, one section at a time, looking up the Scripture references, which are incorporated into the beautiful illustrations by Andy McGuire.  They can journal their way through this, listing the Scriptures, commenting on how that ties together, and also answering discussion questions.

I suspect that we will just discuss the discussion questions, but I love the idea of them putting together a journal.

I'm impressed.  Go see a sample of The Ology for yourself.  And then go see what others had to say on this Blog Tour.

Disclaimer:  I received this book through LitFuse Blog Tour.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own.  

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Nutcracker by Maestro Classics {a Schoolhouse Review Crew review}

Maestro Classics Review
I have to start this review off by saying that I simply love Maestro Classics.  I have not met a product of theirs that I didn't like, and I own them all.  I was absolutely thrilled to receive The Nutcracker this year, especially given that it is narrated by Jim Weiss. 

I first discovered Maestro Classics during my very first year on The Schoolhouse Review Crew.  Six years ago, I had the honor to review The Tortoise and the Hare, and we fell in love.  A year later, we were reviewing Peter and the Wolf, and then Swan Lake a year after that.

The Nutcracker though?  That just makes my heart go pitter-patter.

Maestro Classics Review

Most of the Maestro Classics titles include the narrated music, some discussion of various aspects of the music, and the music without narration, along with fun little extras.  My kids particularly love the sections where Stephen Simon, the conductor, talks about the music.

The Nutcracker is different from that standard.  It is only the narrated music.

And it is wonderful.

The London Philharmonic performs.  Of course it is wonderful.

The narration, written and spoken by Jim Weiss is superb.  He tells the story, of course, but he tells of so much more than that.  At one point, he is describing what 'pirouette' means, which I thought was great.  If you've ever seen a performance of The Nutcracker, the narration really helps you to picture the ballet in your head while you listen.

Included with the CD is a little booklet.  This contains a list of the various scenes of the ballet.  There is a two-page spread about ballet, which is a perfect length.  Did you know that women didn't dance in ballets until the middle of the 18th century?

There is also a spread about the harp, where I learned quite a bit.  Another spread gives a brief biography of Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky.  And finally there are a couple word puzzles.

Maestro Classics is making it even easier to use their materials as part of a music education now, as they have been developing Curriculum Guides to go with their CDs.

This is really amazing!

For The Nutcracker, the guide gives information about ballet, including links to videos, discussion of nutrition, exercise and games.  You can learn more about how Christmas is celebrated around the world.  There is material on the history and science of nutcrackers.  Then you get into fairy tales for a language arts section.  Hands-on families can make a nutcracker, or cut out ballerina snowflakes.  There is more information so you can study Tchaikovsky more in depth.  And there is even math.

Now, I'm not a unit study mom at all, but I am absolutely planning to spend some time using this curriculum guide with my kids in December.

And by kids, I mean all of them.  I believe Maestro Classics claims their materials to be targeted to a fairly young age group (8-12 maybe?) but I have to say that I have used their materials with all of my kids all along.  For that first review of Tortoise and the Hare, my kids were three to twelve, and the CDs were a great fit for every one of them.  Now, they range from nine to eighteen, and the CDs are still a great fit for all of them.

If I were going to be attending any production of The Nutcracker with children of any age, really, I would purchase this CD and have the kids listen to it a few times before going.  The child would then be familiar with the storyline, and also with the music, and be free to enjoy the dancing part without the distraction of trying to figure out what is happening in the story.

My bottom line:

I have been so very impressed with Maestro Classics over the years, and I will continue to purchase everything they make.  While we love some of the titles more than others, we have yet to be disappointed by any of them.  Although I received The Nutcracker as part of the Crew, I have purchased most of the dozen titles they have.

These are well worth owning.

Go see what other Crew members have to say about The Nutcracker and Peter and the Wolf by clicking the Crew banner below:

Maestro Classics Review

Crew Disclaimer

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

NIV Bible for Teen Girls {a #FlyBy review and giveaway}

I don't have a teen girl quite yet, but I am very interested in knowing what is out there.  My 9-year-old daughter is quite enamored with her tween girl Bible, and it seems like having a "girl" Bible is really pretty important to her.

Therefore, I said yes to doing this review.

Trina's interest in "girl" stuff may be a result of having four brothers.  Or it might just be one of those inherently girl things.  I'm not sure which.  But when having a Bible for girls means she is more likely to read it, as long as it isn't just a gimmicky thing, it gets my vote.

They describe it this way:
Today's teen girl needs reassurance that no issue is too big for God.  The NIV Bible for Teen Girls, designed specifically for girls ages 13 to 18, will do just that.  This Bible is packed with daily readings, highlighted promises of God, challenging insights, smart advice, and open discussions about the realities of life.  This Bible is designed to help teen girls grow in faith, hope, and love.  It is as sincere about a teen girl's walk with God as they are, helping them discover his will for all areas of their life, including relating to their family, dealing with friends, work, sports, guys, and so much more. 
  • Daily Readings by popular Christian female authors including Bethany Hamilton (Soul Surfer), Annie Downs, Christine Caine, Nicole Weider, Elsa Kok Colopy, Crystal Kirgiss, Bekah Hamrick Martin, Denise Van Eck, and more
  • Character Profiles of women in the Bible
  • Book Introductions for each book of the Bible
  • Highlighted Promises of God are verses worth remembering
  • A Concordance for help in finding verses
  • The bestselling New International Version (NIV) of the Bible 

My thoughts:

This is a pretty basic Bible.  The cover isn't overly "girly" which is something I really like.  You get right into the Bible text without a big long how to use this Bible introduction or anything like that, which is nice.  As you go through the Bible text, you come across something every few pages.

There is an index at the back that lists all the Devotionals by topic and by page number, and I guesstimated that there are roughly 300 of those in total.  There are about 50 character profiles.  And obviously, there are 66 Book Introductions.  What that adds up to is that you can't go through too many pages without coming across one of these things.

The added material all seems solid (I didn't read them all though!) and interesting for a teen girl.  Some of the daily readings really do challenge you to think.  One by Bethany Hamilton in the middle somewhere talked about the obstacles that will come your way, and how your response to those challenges is important.  Your choices today impact what will happen down the road.

I enjoyed the character profiles too, which include some ladies you do not normally see profiled.  You know, women like Peter's wife.

I have a copy to give away!  US and Canada only, please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Streams of Mercy {a Bethany House review}

A few months ago I read (and reviewed) the book A Harvest of Hope.  I really enjoyed the book, which took place in a fictitious town in the Red River Valley in North Dakota. 

When I was offered a chance to read Streams of Mercy by Lauraine Snelling, the third book in the Song of Blessing series, I remembered how much I enjoyed the Norwegian speech and names, and went for it.

The publisher describes the book this way:
Anji Baard Moen, recently widowed in Norway, returns to North Dakota with her children. She quickly settles back into life in the familiar surroundings of Blessing, teaching in the high school and writing articles for the Blessing Gazette. In the midst of an unexpected crisis, Anji is thrust into a role she never imagined. And almost without her even being aware, an old friendship begins to show signs of developing into something more.

Meanwhile, Thomas Devlin, a minister without a post, has arrived in town. Devlin supports himself as a journeyman carpenter, and with the town growing rapidly, he has no shortage of opportunities. Establishing himself in a new community has its challenges, but as the newcomer gets to know the young widow whose house he's been working on, he thinks he may have found yet another reason to stay....

My thoughts:

First off, it was wonderful to pick back up with the stories of the folks who were the main characters earlier in the series.  It took a chapter or two for me to pick back up on who is who, and to sort out all of the old-fashioned names.

What I had forgotten, though, was that Miriam, the main female character in the last book, had just lost her mother, and reading about that right after my mom died had been hard.  Miriam is now a about where I am.  It's been awhile since her mother died, and she's picking up her life, yet still missing her.

I'm glad that wasn't the main story. 

The main story involved a young widow.  And a diphtheria epidemic.

Doesn't that sound upbeat and cheerful?

It actually is a wonderful book, and I'm glad I read it.  Reading about these strong immigrants and how they deal with the various difficulties they encounter, well, it makes me stop and think about where I really do place my trust and about what does really matter.

Although this is #3 in a series, this book definitely can stand alone.  I don't remember Anji being a part of the earlier books at all, although Thomas certainly is.

Disclosure:  Bethany House provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.  No other compensation was received, and all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Reformation Day Giveaway

I've always enjoyed learning about Martin Luther.  So much about his life and the times he lived in is just fascinating.  I know I had family in Germany in 1517, and we've traced my family tree nearly that far back.

I always wonder what led them to become Lutheran.

I know they were. 

The idea of a biography of Luther, that I could use as a read-aloud with my teens had a very strong appeal for me.  In spite of how completely crazy my life is right now, I knew I wanted to do this.  Watch for a review in another couple of weeks!

October 31 commemorates what has become known as "Reformation Day." Martin Luther’s nailing of his ninety-five theses to a church door on October 31, 1517 in Wittenburg, Germany, provoked a debate that resulted in what we now call the Protestant Reformation. As the “Father of the Reformation”, Martin Luther is a vital figure in Church history. His sacrifice and willingness to wage battle against the spiritual, religious, and political powers of his medieval world allowed Christians throughout time to embrace the truth of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone as explained by Scripture alone. Author Danika Cooley has written Luther's story for young people in her new book, When Lightning Struck!: The Story of Martin Luther.

Reformation Day Giveaway

To celebrate Reformation Day and the release of When Lightning Struck!: The Story of Martin Luther, I've joined together with a team of blogger friends to host this wonderful giveaway, valued at over $500!

One person will win ALL of the following:

$100 Amazon Gift Card

Fire 7-inch Tablet, WiFi 8GB ($49.99)

When Lightning Struck!: The Story of Martin Luther (hardcover $16.99)

From, a $50 Gift Certificate

From Nuremberg Tourist Board, a Playmobil Martin Luther figure ($9.99)

From Thinking Kids Press, a curriculum bundle from When Lightning Struck! author, Danika Cooley:
From Fortress Press, a book bundle by author, Tim Dowley:
  1. Christian Music: A Global History  ($35)
  2. Introduction to the History of Christianity: Second Edition ($55) 
  3. The Student Bible Atlas: Revised Edition  ($12.99) 
  4. Atlas of the European Reformations ($24)
From Home School Adventure Co.:
  1. Philosophy Adventure: Pre-Socratics (digital $39.95)
  2. Mere Christianity Critical Analysis Journal (digital $18.95)
To enter the giveaway, use the Rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms and Conditions:
This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.  Void where prohibited by law. Must be at least 18 years of age. This giveaway is in no away associated with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. No purchase necessary for entry. Odds are determined by the number of entries. Selected winners will have 48 hours to respond to email notification to claim their prizes or another winner will be drawn. Entry into this giveaway will subscribe you to the Thinking Kids Press email list.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Miracle Drug {a Litfuse Blog Tour review}

Medical thrillers -- when the medical part seems at all realistic -- have become a genre I really enjoy.  My experience with books by Richard L. Mabry, M.D. has all been quite positive, so I was excited to read Miracle Drug here this past week.

From the publisher:
Overcoming these odds will take more than a miracle drug---it will take a miracle.

The infection wasn't supposed to happen, but it did. The treatment was supposed to take care of it, but it didn't. Then Dr. Josh Pearson discovers why---his patients, including the former President of the United States, have been dosed with a different strain of the original virus, one that is universally fatal. The only chance for survival is treatment with an experimental drug, but the manufacturer might already have discarded its supply.

As if treating the President of the United States isn't stressful enough, the situation goes from bad to worse when Rachel Moore, a nurse Josh is falling in love with, falls ill. With the nation's eyes on him, Josh must pull off a miracle to save a man who holds a good deal of power and the woman who holds his heart.
My thoughts:

If you start off with the idea in your head that somebody has to be the personal physician for the most recent former president of the United States, so why not the main character in this book, Dr. Josh Pearson?  And the idea that quite a few someones would travel with the former president when he goes abroad, so why not the main character's girlfriend? 

Once I got past those thoughts, and actually started getting into the story, I had a hard time putting the book down.  Mabry writes great medical drama.  There are realistic-sounding medical scenarios that truly seem like they could be plucked from today's headlines.  You don't need a medical degree to follow along with what is occurring, but a little bit of familiarity with medicine probably helps.

The mystery keeps you guessing, which I really love.  I loved how once things do start to be solved, you still aren't entirely sure who else is involved.

I will continue to seek out other books by Dr. Mabry!

Disclaimer:  I received this book through LitFuse Blog Tour.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own.  

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Girl from the Train {a BookLook Blogger review}

The Girl from the Train by Irma Joubert is a book that has been recommended to me, so when I had the chance to review it, I knew I wanted to do so.

This book is written by an author from South Africa, and this is the first work to be published in English.

Let me go straight to the publisher's description here:
A sweeping international love story that celebrates the triumph of the human spirit over the inhumanities of war and prejudice.

Six-year-old Gretl and her sister jump from a train bound for Auschwitz, her mother and grandmother unable to squeeze between the bars covering the windows. The daughter of a German soldier, Gretl understands very little about how her grandmother's Jewishness brought her first to the ghetto, then to the train, and now, to the Polish countryside where she wanders, searching for food and water for her dying sister.

Soon, Gretl finds refuge with Jakób, a Polish freedom fighter, and his family, where she is sheltered until the end of the war. Gretl is then sent away to a new life, a new name, and a new faith in Apartheid-era South Africa. As she comes of age in this strange place, she confronts its prejudices as she hides the truth of her past from her new family.

When Jakob makes his way to South Africa many years later, Gretl and Jakób are reunited in a love story that transcends time and distance and survives the ravages of hatred and war.
My thoughts:

I was totally sucked in.  Gretl (whose name changes throughout the book) grabbed my heart from the opening pages, and never let go.  She's six at the start of the book, and she has lost her entire family.  It's late in the war, and things are pretty desperate in Poland.  Being German with Jewish blood isn't exactly a good thing at that time and place, so Gretl has to keep secrets and lie about who she is.

Jakób enters the scene, and ends up caring for this child as he really doesn't know what else to do.  At the end of the war, he finds a way to get her sent to South Africa.  Being Jewish or Polish or Catholic isn't exactly a good thing at that time and place, so Gretl has to keep secrets and lie about who she is.

South Africa is good for her, and we skip over a bunch of growing-up years, to find her in university. She still has lots of secrets to keep.  And when Jakób appears in South Africa, it becomes even more complicated.

Joubert writes an intricate story, that covers many locations, and has a realistic feel with the historical details provided.  Most of her characters are quite likable, and even the ones who aren't are portrayed in a way that you can understand why they do what they do.

I did not want the story to end.

And I will absolutely get any further books by Joubert that are written in English.  This book is an example of what I love about historical fiction.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Blessed, Blessed ... Blessed {a Tyndale House Blog Network Review}

I'll preface this review by saying that we do watch Duck Dynasty, though generally we are a season or two behind.  I enjoy the show.  One of the most recent episodes I have seen involved Mia, who is the daughter of Jace and Missy.

She was about to head off for surgery, as she was born with a cleft lip and cleft palate, and they promised to do something special before this huge surgery. She wanted to have a big family reunion, and that is what they did.

That particular show was pretty incredible, and Mia is just so sweet. I wanted to give her a big hug. And I wanted to learn more about her.

Blessed, Blessed ... Blessed by Missy Robertson gave me that chance.  Let's start with the publisher's description of the book:
Missy Robertson knew that marrying duck-hunting family man Jase Robertson would be an adventure . . . and she was up to the challenge. Their life together was good (even after Jase grew the beard). They had two children, worked hard to help build the thriving Duck Commander business, and loved and served God.

But after a difficult and risky pregnancy, their daughter, Mia, was born with a cleft palate—a serious condition requiring multiple cranial and facial surgeries. As their baby struggled to breathe, and Missy and Jase faced a life that suddenly looked very different than the one they’d planned, they found themselves staring down one of life’s biggest questions: Where is God in all this pain?

This is the Robertsons’ story. It’s for anyone scared and overwhelmed by a problem they can’t fix; anyone lost and searching for a way through. You’ll meet the young girl Mia who captured A&E’s Duck Dynasty viewers’ hearts, and learn how Missy and Jase have raised her and their sons to be faithful, confident, and secure in who they are. You’ll be inspired by how the Robertson family stuck by each other through the hardest times. And you’ll discover that God’s blessings are bigger than you ever dreamed—and there when you need them the most.
This book is wonderful. This isn't the story of some celebrity family. It is a story of a couple who are doing the best they can to raise up their kids, in the midst of challenges of all sorts. This is mostly a story of a mom, dealing with some of the "why me" circumstances of life. Losing a baby, becoming pregnant again, discovering this third blessing was going to have some serious special needs.  Dealing with those needs.

I heard a couple of stories about my grandmother at her funeral. My dad was a polio victim, along with a few of his cousins. When he got out of Sister Kenney, Grandma was sent home with instructions for some massage and muscle stretching/strengthening therapy.

Grandma faithfully got her toddler every day, and worked through those exercises. And Dad screamed and cried like he was being tortured. His big brother ran out of the house every time because he couldn't stand the torment of listening to his little brother going through this. Seventy years later, and my dad still doesn't show any of those post-polio symptoms that are so common. Dad didn't remember any of that, but his brother sure does.

I keep wondering what kind of Mom causes her child so much pain, day in and day out, hoping the doctors are right. Hoping this will make a difference. And am I strong enough to do that?  Is anyone these days?

Missy Robinson answered that last question for me. She made me think of Grandma repeatedly.
Both of these women are in there doing incredibly hard things for a child with some special medical needs.  Both just did what they had to do, and both make me realize how we can all -- when we rely on God -- reach down and accomplish some pretty incredible things. This book made me think I can be as strong as I have to be.  With God's help.

Whether you know anything at all about this whole Duck Dynasty thing or not, this book is well worth reading.

Disclaimer:   I received this book for free from Tyndale House Publishers.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Fruit of the Spirit

Today's sermon inspired Richard to create this:

The sermon was partially based on these verses (but more on the section above it, talking about all the bad stuff, the old stuff, the selves we aren't supposed to try to be) and this verse is coming up for him in AWANA as well.

I think he did a pretty okay job.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Faithgirlz! Bible {a BookLook Blogger review}

My daughter's Bible completely fell apart.  I wish it was because she spends so much time reading and studying from it.  To some extent, she does -- but the real issue is just that she sets it where it falls off the couch, her bed, the table, and it ends up lying open on the floor.

I feel like a horrible, ungrateful person who doesn't appreciate how amazing we have it in that we have so many Bibles available that we don't treat ours with the respect it deserves.  But then part of me also doesn't want to make her afraid to read it on the couch, in bed, while hanging upside down, etc.

Bottom line is that when I saw the NIV Faithgirlz! Bible available for review, I knew we needed to grab it.  It's cute, which my 9-year-old loves.  It isn't overly pink, which we both love.  And it magnets closed.  Something else we both appreciate.

The publisher describes it like this.
Bestselling NIV Faithgirlz! Bible with a fun, new magnetic closure binding.

This special binding of the NIV Faithgirlz! Bible offers a trendy and unique magnetic closure. Packed with exciting features that help tween girls better understand themselves and Scripture, the NIV Faithgirlz! Bible teaches girls that the Bible is real, relevant, and, best of all, that the story of God and his people is also their story. With in-text features written by tween expert Nancy Rue, the NIV Faithgirlz! Bible uses the bestselling New International Version (NIV).

Features include:
  • Book introductions-Read about the who, when, where, and what of each book 
  • Dream Girl-Use your imagination to put yourself in the story 
  • Bring It On!-Take quizzes to really get to know yourself 
  • Is There a Little (Eve, Ruth, Isaiah) in You?-See for yourself what you have in common 
  • Words to Live By-Check out these Bible verses that are great for memorizing 
  • What Happens Next?-Create a list of events to tell a Bible story in your own words 
  • Oh, I Get It!-Find answers to Bible questions you've wondered about 
 The complete New International Version (NIV) Features written by bestselling author and tween expert Nancy Rue

I decided to go ahead and let Trina dictate this review.  She's 9.
I like that there are little blocks with memory verses in them.  I haven't really read that many of them yet, because there aren't that many of them and I'm only partway into Genesis.  I definitely like the two I've found.

Some of the boxes are a recap of some parts, and they give you examples and have you write part of it yourself.  That makes me think.

The Bible itself is really fun with all the little flowers and birds sometimes.  The Bible text is just words, just printed words, no little heart dots on i's or anything.  All the fun stuff is in the extra parts.

There is cursive in some of the extras, so littler kids might have trouble reading that.

I really like the magnet part of the cover, so it closes up like a journal.  And when you open it there are another owl on the cover.  You can even use the flap as a bookmark, and at least when you are still in Genesis it will magnet to the cover on the inside.  I think my Bible stays nicer with the magnet thing, because, well, I tend to knock things around and I'm hard on books.  The magnet keeps it together.

I love it.
Really, need I say more?

Well, yes.  Trina talks above about liking the sections (In Your Own Words) where you are supposed to recap the story.  I like that it has her writing, and thinking, but the examples they give make me crazy.  Each recap section starts out with "them" recapping a portion of the story.  Something like this:
"Abigail knew that her whole household was in BIG TROUBLE because of what her husband had said, so she gathered up like 100 loaves of bread and some sheep and some raisin cakes (ew!) and rode out to meet David. Da-da-da-DAH!"
This makes me want to bang my head against a wall.

That being said, I wasn't finding anything I disagree with theologically.  Grammatically, however, let's just say that this isn't for me.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”