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Culture Children's Books

Children's Books

David McPhail

Books

Children's Books

Four Christian novels

In this latest Imagination Station book, time-traveling cousins Patrick and Beth get separated in the Ecuadorian jungle, home to jaguars, crocodiles, and ferocious-looking Waodani tribesmen. As the cousins try to complete their mission and get home to Whit’s End (from Focus on the Family’s Adventures in Odyssey series), they learn about the 1956 deaths of missionary Nate Saint and friends, and how God used their deaths to save many tribespeople. Boys and reluctant readers will especially appreciate this introduction to “Operation Auca” for its simple text, exciting illustrations, and cliffhanger chapter endings. (Ages 7 and up)

A Dolphin Wish (Glimmer Girls)

Grammy-nominated singer Natalie Grant offers her second book in the Glimmer Girls series. This time twins Mia and Maddie work together to discover who’s releasing animals at Captain Swashbuckler’s Adventure Park. With enjoyable elements like a beachfront cottage and a dream-come-true swim with dolphins, Grant’s writing adequately captures the fun of a family trip to the beach. It also avoids some pitfalls of many preteen books: The girls face normal growing pains and sibling rivalry without resorting to incessant snark or materialism. A good clean summer read for young girls. (Ages 8-12)

The Prince Warriors 

The Prince Warriors combines elements of The Pilgrim’s Progress, The Chronicles of Narnia, and the better parts of The Hunger Games. Ultimately, the book holds its own as a fantasy tale. Our heroes (three boys and one girl) journey into an unseen spiritual realm wearing Ephesians 6 armor, while mechanical butterflies and an app give the story a contemporary spin. Most importantly, characters of various skin colors learn lessons without losing their three-dimensional feel, and the plot thickens throughout. (Ages 9-12)

The Owlings: Book Two 

“What science cannot teach us, we cannot know.” Josiah and his classmates hear this claim on a field trip to a science museum. Yet soon after, talking owls (named after C.S. Lewis and his friends) show up to debunk this erroneous worldview. DeWitt, the dean of Boyce College, shares his passion for philosophy in this independently published tale. Although DeWitt’s characters remain underdeveloped and the tale doesn’t build much drama, it does put important ideas within reach of young readers. Some families and teachers may find it a helpful conversation starter. (Ages 9-12)

Spotlight

This summer marks the 150th anniversary of Beatrix Potter’s birth. In addition to a newly discovered Potter tale—The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots—due to release this September, two excellent picture book biographies (both for ages 4-8) mark the occasion.

Beatrix Potter and Her Paint Box by David McPhail (Henry Holt and Co., 2015) offers a charming introduction to the famous author’s childhood. Warm watercolors echo Potter’s love of painting and inspire readers to create their own art.

In Beatrix Potter & The Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig (Schwartz & Wade, 2016), Deborah Hopkinson borrows a story from Potter’s own journals, but sets it during Potter’s childhood. Written as a letter to the reader, the book recounts the adventure of a borrowed guinea pig that dies in young Potter’s care. A humorous tone and playful illustrations keep the story from being depressing, and Potter’s love for the animals that inspired her work is clearly on display. —Betsy Farquhar