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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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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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Children's Books

Faith-building books

Five books from Christian publishers

Foundations by Ruth Chou Simons and Troy Simons: Ruth and Troy Simons write passionately in Foundations (which releases March 3) about the importance of cultivating family worship in the home: “Everything we desire for our families … begins with heeding the instruction given to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 6 to remember and declare the faithful works of God.” With Ruth’s nature-inspired watercolor artwork as the backdrop, Ruth and Troy lead readers through 12 Biblical foundations that they say anchor their family. Each foundation has five short devotionals with discussion questions and a suggested memory verse. This lovely book will inspire families to ponder more deeply what foundations are guiding their homes. (Ages 8 and up) 

Puritan Heroes by Glenda Faye Mathes and Joel R. Beeke: This book serves as a Puritan primer, providing older children with an overview of Puritanism and a closer look at 21 Puritan heroes, including Jeremiah Burroughs, Matthew Henry, and Jonathan Edwards. The glossy pages intermingle text with artwork, illustrations, and photographs. The book concludes by summarizing what we can learn from the Puritans’ lives and work. The appendix features a glossary and study questions for each chapter, and the book’s inside cover presents a helpful timeline identifying the lifespans of the 21 Puritan leaders in relation to key rulers and historical events. (Ages 8-14) 

Epic Devotions by Aaron Armstrong: This graphic-novel-inspired book offers devotions for 52 Weeks in the Story That Changed the World. The devotional builds upon the Bible storybook Epic and chronologically goes through key Bible stories to show how the whole of God’s Word points us to Jesus and God’s rescue plan. Each entry gives a key Scripture verse, a suggested Scripture reading, thoughts and questions for discussion, action steps to apply the lesson, and a memory verse. The devotional, which families can use together or children can read individually, features bright, appealing illustrations by Heath McPherson. (Ages 8-12) 

Jesus and the Lions’ Den by Alison Mitchell: Mitchell opens her latest Tales That Tell the Truth picture book by explaining to children that when we look carefully we can find Jesus moments in Old Testament Bible stories like Daniel in the lions’ den. To help children spot the moments when Daniel “is a little bit like Jesus,” artist Catalina Echeverri incorporates four special lion faces in her illustrations. After telling Daniel’s story, Mitchell then goes back through the plot to identify and explain the significance of the moments when Daniel prefigures Jesus. The endpapers suggest additional Old Testament stories families can read to learn about other Bible figures who point to Jesus. (Ages 4-8)

Far From Home by Sarah Parker Rubio: A young boy’s parents awaken him in the night and tell him they must flee their home immediately. On the long journey the boy complains until a woman tells him a story about another refugee boy, Jesus, who fled with his parents to Egypt. Rubio’s story sensitively handles the plight of modern-day refugee children, showing how hope and comfort can spring even out of deep loss. Two disappointments: The illustrations portray Jesus as older than a toddler when he flees to Egypt, and the text tells how Jesus would grow up to help, heal, and feed people but overlooks His ultimate sacrifice on the cross. (Ages 4-8)

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