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Lives of champs

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Children’s Books

Lives of champs

Nonfiction for kids and teens

Snowman: The True Story of a Champion

Catherine Hapka & Rutherford Montgomery

Hapka’s numerous books for children include popular series such as Horse Diaries and the Ponies of Chincoteague. But her adaptation of Rutherford Montgomery’s 1962 book Snowman stands out for its classic, family-oriented feel. Hapka’s version tells how a horse named Snowman—once headed for the slaughterhouse—came to be the best jumper in America, winning the 1958 jumping Triple Crown. Some kids may be less interested in the adult drama, including a cancer diagnosis, but for many horse lovers, Snowman’s extraordinary “personality” will capture their interest to the end. (Ages 8-12)

Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, A Life in Balance

Simone Biles & Michelle Burford

During the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, gymnast Simone Biles won four gold medals, including the all-around floor and vault medals. Fans who want to go beyond the headlines will find Biles’ biography reads a lot like her TV persona—bubbly, fun, focused, and heartfelt. Her mom’s drug use cast a shadow over her early years, but with the help of caring coaches, gymnastics gave her a positive focus. Biles demonstrates an admirable commitment to her family throughout, as well as a willingness to acknowledge character flaws. She occasionally highlights her Catholic beliefs, including prayer to saints. (Ages 12 & up)

The Right Steph: How Stephen Curry is Making All the Right Moves—with Humility and Grace

Mike Yorkey

Former Focus on the Family editor Mike Yorkey explores the life of Christian basketball player Stephen Curry, relying on secondhand magazine articles and interviews for his information. Basketball lovers will appreciate Yorkey’s fast-paced writing and the collection of interesting facts about Curry’s game, such as how his grandfather’s rickety rim led to his trademark high arc. Yorkey puts too much emphasis on speculative topics like Curry’s possible conception out of wedlock, which can feel like gossip. But unlike some secular sportswriters, he allows Curry’s vibrant Christian faith to shine through. (Ages 12 & up)

We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement that Defied Adolf Hitler

Russell Freedman

Freedman uses striking photos and simple language to bring the World War II story of Hans and Sophie Scholl to life. Although the siblings knew that speech against the Nazis carried a death sentence, they and a handful of friends published thousands of leaflets calling for sabotage of their “evil” government. Those who know the Scholls’ story will wish Freedman focused more on their Christian faith. He briefly mentions it as a reason for their boldness, but he doesn’t delve into it. He also includes a superfluous mention of homosexual activity by Hans, for which he apparently repented. (Ages 12 & up)

Afterword

The Radical Book for Kids: Exploring the Roots and Shoots of Faith by Champ Thornton (New Growth Press, 2016) deserves to be at the top of many families’ wish lists this Christmas. Intended for children ages 8-14, the book invites readers to explore Christian truths with colorful illustrations, eye-opening graphs, and kid-friendly crafts and games. Covering a variety of subjects—including Latin and Hebrew vocabulary, a primer on prayer, and stories of Christian martyrs and authors across the centuries—Thornton presents Bible truths in a way intended to soften kids’ hearts, not just build head knowledge.

Families may also appreciate All Is Bright: A Devotional Journey to Color Your Way to Christmas by Nancy Guthrie (Tyndale Momentum, 2016). While coloring books seem a dime a dozen these days, Guthrie’s devotional with extra coloring pages for kids includes real spiritual substance, focusing on Christ and His Word. —E.W.