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Children's Books

Daring dreamers

Nonfiction books for middle graders

Courageous World Changers by Shirley Raye Redmond: In this book, Redmond introduces readers to 50 True Stories of Daring Women of God. The one-page cameos feature women from the past and present, showcasing how God equips women to serve in diverse ways. The profiles highlight well-known Christian leaders but also feature lesser-known women such as social worker Josephine Butler, missionary pilot Elizabeth Greene, and doctor Mary Stone. Although sometimes seemingly focused more on the women’s achievements than their faith, the vignettes altogther aim at inspiring young women to use their unique gifts for God’s glory. (Ages 8-11)

Beyond Words by Carl Safina: This young reader’s version of the same-titled New York Times bestseller follows Safina as he sets out to discover What Elephants and Whales Think and Feel. His fascinating research and anecdotes will delight middle graders who want to learn more about how these massive creatures communicate and interact with each other. But the adaptation falls short of highest praise due to choppy writing and Safina’s bent toward evolution. Rather than affirming our separate and unique role as humans, Safina instead asserts that man, elephant, and whale are “essentially the same” and that “beneath the skin … we are kin.” (Ages 10-14)

Susan B. Anthony by Teri Kanefield: 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote. This fourth book in The Making of America series is an engaging biography that incorporates photographs and illustrations as it traces Susan B. Anthony’s role in women’s suffrage and abolition. In her final pages, however, Kanefield takes aim at conservatives, alleging that the late 20th century “saw a conservative backlash to the women’s movement.” She also bemoans Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential loss as an Electoral College casualty. (Ages 9-14)

Child of the Dream by Sharon Robinson: Child of the Dream is Robinson’s memoir about coming of age during the height of the civil rights movement. Sharon, daughter of baseball legend Jackie Robinson, shares her struggles to fit in as an African American teen in the white, upper-class world of Stamford, Conn. Meanwhile, her father works alongside key civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., and her parents host fundraisers at their home to support the cause. As Sharon watches the events of 1963 unfold, the courage of her Southern peers inspires her to make her own stand for freedom. (Ages 8-12)

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Children's Books

Resurrection reads

Books to help children prepare for Easter

He Is Risen: Rocks Tell the Story of Easter by Patti Rokus: Though the format of this picture book may be surprising at first, Rokus’ simple language and elegant rock designs tell the story of Christ’s death and resurrection in a fresh and effective way. The book’s pages feature photographs of rock arrangements on a black background, each depicting events from the Passion Week. Rokus pairs these scenes with short sentences and reference verses, keeping the format uncomplicated and easy for children to follow. The tactile textures and colors of Rokus’ rock illustrations will appeal to children and spark their imaginations, leaving space for readers to connect to the story in their own way. This quiet retelling allows the reader to focus on the magnitude of a story that has been oft repeated. (Ages 4-8)

On That Easter Morning by Mary Joslin: Colorful illustrations pair with compelling storytelling in this book to lead young readers from the last week of Christ’s life on earth through His resurrection. Joslin’s dialogue and descriptions bring the Easter story down to ground level with a straightforward account that intentionally taps into the emotional responses of the characters involved. Joslin also helps children understand historically and theologically important connections, like how the Last Supper was a celebration of Passover. The illustrations are unique and beautiful, ranging from a simple and somber watercolor for the scene on Golgotha to a garden filled with brightly patterned trees on Easter morning. This simple picture book is an excellent way to help young children connect to the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. (Ages 5-8)

Miracle Man: The Story of Jesus by John Hendrix: The first half of this book focuses on the miracles of Jesus, and the second on His death and resurrection. The bright illustrations pop off the page—but the pictures aren’t the only art. The words themselves help illustrate the story as well as tell it, weaving in and out of the drawings, with colors and styles changing to support the narrative. Hendrix’s account of Jesus’ life taps into universal themes of healing and restoration. He goes to great lengths to defamiliarize the story, making it fresh and new even for those who have heard it repeatedly in the church. This book gives the broader context of Christ’s life, helping children better understand the importance of how the story ends. (Ages 5-9)

Benjamin’s Box by Melody Carlson: Families can use this book alongside “resurrection eggs,” a set of plastic Easter eggs with small items inside them that help tell the Easter story. Carlson introduces readers to Benjamin, a young boy living in Jerusalem during the first century, and then tells how Benjamin’s story intersects with Christ’s—from helping serve the Last Supper in the upper room to seeing the events of the crucifixion unfold. Along the way, Benjamin collects mementos to help him remember these amazing events, such as a coin from Judas, a nail from the cross, and a stone from the garden where Jesus rose again. Reading the book with a set of resurrection eggs will create a fun and tactile way for children to experience the Easter season. (Ages 4-8)

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Children's Books

Persevering plots

Fiction for tweens to older teens

Flight of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse: In this sequel to Mark of the Raven, Selene adjusts to being Lord Damien’s wife. Despite their hasty marriage and enemy families, they are falling in love. But the shadowy goddess known as the Dark Lady haunts Selene’s dreams, forcing her to choose between the Dark Lady or the Light, her husband’s good God. This book has all the charms of its prequel—a setting with interesting culture, likable characters, and pure romance—and also the same annoyances. Selene spends pages pondering the same questions, and the nightmares involving the Dark Lady could scare younger teens. Note: Selene and Damien’s romance is a significant theme. The book focuses on their friendship but describes their feelings of excitement when they kiss and hints at the first time they have sex. (Ages 16 and up) 

Sawdust in His Shoes by Eloise Jarvis McGraw: The circus is in Joe Lang’s blood. At 15, he is proud of his abilities and aims to become the best performer in the top circus troupe. But when his father dies suddenly, Joe finds himself in a boys home waiting for a judge to decide his fate. He runs away and ends up on the Dawson family farm. The well-written plot focuses on the character development Joe undergoes during his time with the Dawsons—a loving family that extends him grace before he appreciates it. This book first released in 1950, but today’s tweens will enjoy the reprint edition. Parents will appreciate the refreshing perspective of a family unit with a strong father and a young man learning humility. (Ages 10 and up) 

Hunger Winter by Rob Currie: The Ingelse family is fighting for survival in this fictionalized account of life in the Netherlands during the Nazi occupation of World War II. When the Gestapo arrests eldest daughter Els in a ploy to lure out of hiding her father Hans, a hero in the Dutch Resistance movement, 13-year-old Dirk becomes the sole protector and provider for their young sister Anna. Fearful that the Nazis will soon come for them, Dirk and Anna flee into the night and undertake a daring journey across the Netherlands in search of safety. Along the way they encounter challenges and setbacks that will test their faith and courage, but they persevere, emboldened by their father’s words that “Sometimes you have to take a chance, because it’s the only chance you have.” (Ages 10-14) 

The Good Thieves by Katherine Rundell: Is it ever acceptable to steal back “what was already stolen”? That’s the question readers will wrestle with as Vita Marlowe forms a plan to get her grandfather’s castle back from the man who took it. Vita, who has just come with her mother from England to 1920s New York, has to convince a group of kids to join her in righting the injustice by stealing back what was stolen. This fun, engaging story offers varied and interesting characters and an exciting plot that showcases loyalty and friendship. A few notes for parents: At one point the children visit an illegal speakeasy under a brassiere shop, one character curses in Russian, and another says a “single, unrepeatable word” when he sees Vita’s African American friend Samuel. (Ages 10 and up)

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