Our 2019 Children’s Books of the Year stand out from an increasingly troubling crowd
Hidden Among the Stars
When a current-day Ohio bookstore owner acquires an unusual copy of Bambi, her search for its original owner starts a chain of events that will change her life—and several others’—forever. Flashbacks to Nazi-occupied Austria tell of hidden treasures, a tragic love triangle, and Hitler’s evil plan to exterminate Jewish lives. Dobson expertly weaves together past and present to produce a fascinating connection between them. This lyrical story—poignant, yet hopeful—shows that, even though we don’t understand God’s whole plan, we each have our assigned part in His perfect design.
Called to Protect
In this second book of the Blue Justice series, Chloe St. John and her K-9 partner join the team tasked with busting the human trafficking ring that’s probably behind her young cousin’s disappearance. Meanwhile, someone kidnaps U.S. Marshal Blake MacCallum’s daughter to use as leverage to force him to murder the judge he’s assigned to protect. Romantic—yet not cloying—tension exists between Chloe and Blake, but the excitement is in the search for the girls before they disappear forever. Eason handles well the heavy subject without being too graphic; no need to have read Book 1 first.
The Fashion Designer
This delightful sequel to The Pattern Artist continues the story of Annie’s new life in New York City. It’s 1912, a time when women are increasingly entering the workforce and marching for the right to vote. To accommodate changing attitudes and lifestyles, Annie and friends launch a clothing line for the “modern” woman. The characters find their faith stretched, and watch in awe as God provides steppingstones for each one. Historical details like the sinking of the Titanic and real-life characters like early clothing designer Lane Bryant help to make this a fun, compelling read.
The Heart Between Us
At age 32, Megan receives a much-needed heart transplant and decides to complete the bucket list found inside her heart donor’s journal. A GoFundMe account enables her and her twin, Crystal, to embark on a whirlwind trip including Peru’s Machu Picchu, the Great Wall of China, the Egyptian pyramids, London’s Buckingham Palace … the exhaustive list goes on and on. But don’t expect vivid descriptions of exotic places. It’s all about their individual hang-ups. On the bright side, the sisters eventually share a refreshed outlook on life, but all those fantastic backdrops are wasted on navel-gazing.
Ann H. Gabhart’s captivating novel River to Redemption (Revell, 2018) is based on a real 1833 cholera outbreak that killed 55 people in Springfield, Ky. In this story, Louis, a slave left behind when his owner flees the deadly disease, forfeits his chance to escape to freedom. Instead, he stays to bury the dead and care for the sick, including 7-year-old orphan Adria Starr. Fast-forward 12 years to find Adria—a secret abolitionist—all grown up but still very close to Louis. He teaches her much about faith. “If you pray believin’, you can make a mountain move from this spot here to somewhere over there.” His upstanding character wins respect and admiration from the townspeople, and Adria devises a plan to raise enough money to buy his freedom. Several subplots keep the action moving briskly—and the story ends on a hopeful note. —S.B.