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Children's Books

Words for little ones

Four books from Christian publishers

Let There Be Light

Danielle Hitchen

Hitchen’s Baby Believer series (First Bible Basics, Psalms of Praise) combines inviting illustrations and simple Bible truths geared for young audiences. Her latest installment, Let There Be Light, reads first as an opposites primer—light and dark, alone and together. Hitchen includes related Scripture verses young children can grow into, helping familiarize them with the actual words of Holy Writ. Jessica Blanchard’s use of earth tones in the illustrations helps ground the book’s playful, angular shapes. A delightful, well-crafted resource for those who want to share God’s truths with young children. (Ages 0-3)

Who Sang the First Song?

Ellie Holcomb

Award-winning singer-songwriter Ellie Holcomb released her first kids’ album, Sing: Creation Songs, this past September. She continued her celebration of creation with the subsequent release of her first board book, Who Sang the First Song? While reading this book parents may need to clarify for their children that God spoke—rather than sang—the world into creation, but as a Narnia-like metaphor, Holcomb’s imaginative lyrics work. Kayla Harren’s whimsical illustrations portray parents and children of all colors with playful lions, polar bears, raccoons, and other animals before the Fall. The book and album go better together. (Ages 0-3)

The Doctor Who Became a Preacher

Rebecca VanDoodewaard

One of four selections in the Banner Board Book series, this biography of Martyn Lloyd-Jones introduces young children to The Doctor Who Became a Preacher. In simple terms, VanDoodewaard shows the love of God and man that led Lloyd-Jones to leave medicine for the pulpit. Although Blair Bailie’s illustrations occasionally appear inconsistent, she creates a warm, classic feel with her colorful characters. The pages also feel thinner and less substantive than comparable board books, but with so few Christian board book biographies available, this 16-page treatment provides a much-needed first look at a Christian hero. (Ages 1-3)

The Friend Who Forgives

Dan DeWitt

Author Dan DeWitt’s first picture book follows the life of the Apostle Peter. DeWitt grounds our hope for forgiveness in Christ’s resurrection, and he shows that—like Peter—we can learn from our mistakes with God’s help. Catalina Echeverri’s quirky illustrations keep kids chuckling (watch for the plucky rooster!), although she treats Peter’s denial of Jesus and his later restoration with appropriate gravity. This retelling isn’t as original or well-paced as some books in the Tales That Tell the Truth series (e.g., The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross), but this fun read packs a theological punch. (Ages 4-8)

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Children's Books

Athletes in action

Recent sports-themed books

The Big Game

Tim Green

Danny Owens plans to follow in the footsteps of his Super Bowl champion father, and his upcoming seventh-grade football season might earn him a spot on the high-school varsity team. His father’s unexpected death gives him new determination, but it also leads to violent outbursts and incomprehensible grief. Then Danny’s English teacher catches him cheating on a test and discovers he can’t read. Danny reaches a tipping point when he must choose between his image and his future. Green, a former NFL player, leaves out any mention of God but provides compelling sports writing and a picture of common grace. (Ages 12-15)

Power Forward

Hena Khan

Fourth-grader Zayd Saleem is small for his age, but that’s only one of the obstacles keeping him from playing basketball on the Gold Team. His Pakistani-American parents would rather he play violin, but with tryouts looming, he decides to skip rehearsals and practice basketball—without their knowledge. Zayd learns his lesson as punishment ensues and his basketball aspirations seem squelched. Khan’s series opener portrays a likable sports-loving protagonist and a traditional, tight-knit Muslim family that values honesty, tough love, and generational perspective. Aside from its unique cultural viewpoint, parents should know this book contains two misuses of God’s name. (Ages 7-10)

Soccer School Season 1 

Alex Bellos and Ben Lyttleton

Soccer enthusiasts will enjoy this humorous take on the sport’s parallels with a range of educational subjects. “Every class here is about soccer,” the book begins, and Chapter 1 covers biology with details about a soccer player’s diet and digestive system (including some toilet humor). First published in Britain, Soccer School contains some “subjects” that are more believable than others, with fun facts about goat mascots and soccer on Mars. Reluctant readers will enjoy the authors’ vast soccer knowledge coupled with comic-style drawings—but end-of-chapter quizzes contain undiscussed trivia that is confusing. (Ages 8-12)

Rebound

Kwame Alexander

Charlie “Chuck” Bell grieves the premature death of his father and struggles alongside his mother to face life without him. When Chuck starts acting out, his mother sends him to spend the summer with his grandparents in Washington, D.C. Here he finds healing through his grandfather’s tough love, his grandmother’s cooking, and his cousin Roxie’s cajoling on the basketball court. Set in 1988, this prequel to Alexander’s Newbery Medal winner, The Crossover, provides the backstory of Jordan and Josh’s father and similar parallels between adolescent struggles and sports. Bursts of graphic-novel-style panels enhance Alexander’s nonrhyming poetry. (Ages 10-12)

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Children's Books

Seeking answers

Trending young adult books

Piecing Me Together

Renée Watson

In this Newbery Honor Book, Jade, an African-American girl, attempts to navigate the complexities of living in an underprivileged section of Portland, Ore., while attending on scholarship a mostly white prep school. The book explores her perspective on art, race relations, and what it means to be an “at-risk” youth. Jade is an interesting main character, and her different, developing relationships form the backbone of the story. Characters discuss police shootings and their reactions to them. The book is clean, with no sexual activity or swearing, but the characters have a secular perspective on topics related to sex and religion. (Ages 13-15)

The Warden’s Daughter

Jerry Spinelli

As the daughter of a prison warden, Cammie O’Reilly’s life is far from boring. But what she wants more than anything else is a mother. The story chronicles her exploits to find a stand-in mother and presents a moving look at the long-term process of grieving. In addition to Cammie’s loss, the book tackles other difficult topics: One of Cammie’s inmate friends hangs herself, and a man arrives at the prison for killing a young girl. Despite its heavy themes, the book offers amusing moments between Cammie and her friends. Cautions: some swearing and taking of the Lord’s name in vain. (Ages 13-16)

The Other Side of Lost

Jessi Kirby

On the outside, social media starlet Mari Turner looks as if she is living the dream life. But then the façade crumbles, and Mari is left looking for an escape. When her aunt mails her the gear that was supposed to take her late cousin all the way to the end of the John Muir Trail, Mari decides to go in her place, hoping to find herself along the way. Both Mari and the plot get sidetracked by a trail romance that becomes uncomfortably intimate, though it stops short of sex. The story contains some bad language, and two side characters are in a sexual relationship. (Ages 16-19)

Girl in the Blue Coat

Monica Hesse

Hanneke is in the business of black-market groceries and trying to keep her family alive in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam. But her learned survival instinct faces a challenge after a client asks her to find a missing Jewish girl. Although at first Hanneke declines to get involved, further revelations propel her into action. The story is a moving exploration of life in occupied Europe and why people often choose ignorance to survive. A main character comes out as gay in one of the final chapters, and the discussions surrounding his relationship are flavored by a very modern understanding of identity. Another caution: bad language. (Ages 16-19)

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