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Culture Children's Books

Fresh off the shelf

Jim Weber/The Commercial Appeal/AP

Phiona Mutesi

Children’s Books

Fresh off the shelf

Four recent Christian fiction books

Good Good Father 

Chris Tomlin & Pat Barrett

Tucker meets many kindly animals in his search to find a gift for the king. Each animal suggests his idea of the perfect gift, but Tucker eventually realizes the powerful king is also a “good, good Father” who loves Tucker regardless of any present he could bring. Similar in theme to Christina Rossetti’s Christmas poem In the Bleak Midwinter, this book was adapted from the song “Good Good Father” by award-winning singer-songwriter Chris Tomlin. Illustrations reflect typical Christian kids’ book fare—cute, cuddly, and a little old-fashioned—but Tomlin and Barrett offer a story worth savoring. (Ages 4-8)

Ember Falls 

S.D. Smith

Christian author S.D. Smith’s “rabbits with swords” fantasy series began with The Green Ember, a runner-up for WORLD’s Children’s Books of the Year in 2015. This September, the adventure continues with Ember Falls. Picket, Heather, and their just, young ruler, Prince Smalls, once again fight back wolves and birds of prey to usher in the era of the “Mended Wood.” With more action and character development in this installment, both boys and girls will find much to love. Parents may want to skip the $24.95 hardcover version for the cheaper paperback. (Ages 8-12)

Blue Ribbon Trail Ride 

Miralee Ferrell

Ferrell’s newest addition to her Horses and Friends series is traditional Christian fiction at its best: crisp, humorous, and full of quirky kids and adults trying to live out their faith … all while chasing adventures around the horse stable. In this installment, Kate and her friends put together a trail ride scavenger hunt. When someone steals the entry fee box, they must find out who-done-it, or Kate’s autistic brother won’t be able to afford his summer camp. As new clues keep the pages turning, Ferrell’s characters display refreshingly tender consciences, finding hope together in God’s forgiveness. (Ages 8-12)

Life Just Got Real 

Sadie Robertson & Cindy Coloma

When easygoing AJ Smith attends an upscale Nashville high school for the first time, junior class president Kate Kelly isn’t impressed. But soon TV producers tap the girls for a reality show, and these polar opposites must sink or swim together. Robertson’s own reality TV experience on Duck Dynasty gives the plot some credibility: With co-writer Coloma’s help, an entertaining Cinderella story unfolds. Robertson manages to contrast AJ’s Christian beliefs with Kate’s self-centered worldview without sounding preachy. Includes unwise dating and an emphasis on external appearance. (Ages 12 and up)

Afterword

With Disney’s film Queen of Katwe hitting theaters, Christian families may want to note a new paperback version of the book by the same name. When 9-year-old Phiona Mutesi discovered chess at a Sports Outreach ministry in Uganda, she soon became a prodigy. By the age of 15, Mutesi had traveled to Russia for the international Chess Olympiad and become the top chess player in Uganda.

In the book by Tim Crothers (Scribner, 2016), faith in Christ motivates both Mutesi and her coach to overcome daily challenges to her success—but the author’s focus on other characters takes away from that gospel center. Younger teens may not be ready for the adultery, suicide, and other kinds of brokenness represented here. But mature teens and adults will appreciate Crothers’ treatment of redemptive themes often downplayed by Disney. —E.W.