Thursday, September 15, 2016

Book Review: Blue Eyed Doll

Book Review by Barb Szyszkiewicz

 Blue-Eyed Doll by Deanna K. Klingel

Did you think that the custom of classroom pen-pal letter exchanges and sending “Flat Stanley” on trips around the world made its educational debut in the 21st century? Deanna Klingel’s novel Blue-Eyed Doll tells the story of a very unique cultural exchange that took place 90 years ago!

This fascinating historical novel transports the reader to 1920s California, where students collected dolls to exchange for dolls from students in Japan, and follows the collectible dolls into World War II and its aftermath. Don’t miss Ruth Mary, the gutsy main character–she’s terrific.

The novel begins with feisty Ruth Mary, an eight-year-old, bargaining with her father for the chance to participate in the classroom doll exchange. Her siblings find clever ways to help Ruth Mary succeed in her mission, and many surprises result after the choice of a unique doll wearing eyeglasses.

While I was well aware of the prejudice, imprisonment and other hardships faced by Japanese-Americans during World War II, I had no idea that Asian-Americans in the Western US experienced similar bigotry two decades before the war began. This is an aspect of American history of which I knew virtually nothing. Deanna Klingel, in this novel, explores the general mistrust of all things Japanese that was a hallmark of life in the western states at that time, and one missionary’s attempt to foster friendship and peace.

Readers will be intrigued to learn how prevalent the religious influence was in the public schools and public life of our nation in the 1920s. The author leads the reader on a journey into a time period not so distant from our own, but a very different one.

Blue-Eyed Doll is appropriate for middle-school students and up, and would be a fine classroom read-aloud for students in third grade and up. Don’t dismiss it as “just for kids,” though! Grown-up readers will enjoy it as well; in fact, the author recently read the entire novel to the residents of a nursing home.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Pictures of Me by Marilee Haynes

ISBN#: 978-0819860194
Publisher: Pauline Books and Media

Blurb:  Eleven-year-old Annie must complete a self portrait for the end-of-year project-and present it to the class. Annie's fear of public speaking isn't her only problem. Two of the girls in class seem to enjoy making life miserable for everyone; Taylor, her best friend, is having trouble at home; and Lacey, the new girl, can be nice but Annie can't quite figure her out. With forty-eight days until the end of the school year and the looming project, Annie and friends have to grow and be willing to face who they are-and who they want to be.

Pictures of me is a perfect display of what middle can be like for some children. I think anyone who has ever dealt with a bully or a difficult person could relate to Annie. In the book, Annie and her friends, while coming up with the perfect self portrait for their "Fifth Farewell," learn about themselves and each other in the process. 

I loved how three dimensional the characters were in this book. Each of Annie's friends had a real story to them. They weren't just the supportive friends. They were children struggling with real life issues.  I loved how three dimensional the characters were about their problems and showed the struggles they had in making their decisions.

An excellent addition to the book is the discussion questions at the end. They are great conversation starters about bullying, friendship and learning about ourselves. These questions could be a great culminating activity in the classroom. 

I thoroughly enjoyed Pictures of Me and recommend it without reservation.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Donna Gentile Nifty Thrifty Bible Crafts

Nifty Thrifty Bible Crafts
Donna Gentile
ISBN: 0-9888356-0-6
Cover Art: Diane Bay
Religion/Christian Ministry/Children

Purchase Link: Amazon 

Short Book Blurb:

Parents! Need to jumpstart your children’s creative juices? Teachers! Do your students love making crafts? Crafts that are fun yet easy on your budget? Nifty Thrifty Bible Crafts: Animals of the Old Testament includes 32 reproducible craft patterns such asGive God Your Best Photo Frame or Rooaar! What a Cool Gift Bag! Each craft highlights low-cost materials, E-Z Step-by-Step Instructions and Teachables (a new Christ-character for each craft). Children will also fall in love with the 16 attention-grabbing, animal-narrated Bible stories. As they listen closely for clues to guess the animal narrating the Bible story, they learn a new Christ-character quality such as being kind, respectful or helpful.  Great resource for home, Sunday school, VBS, Homeschool or any time!  (ages 5-10).

This is a book of Bible-based crafts for children. Each craft features:
Supplies  list: -these are usually common household, recyclable or school supplies
Preps -  quick and simple preparations for the craft
E-Z Step:  clear and easy directions
Teachables: This special section often has a bible verse prompt to help children practice “Godly character qualities. ”

Donna Gentile put together a wonderful crafting resource for parents and teachers to have when they want to use a craft to enforce Christian values such as obedience, forgiveness and love. There are 32 reproducible crafts in the book. Every craft is tied to a Bible verse in the Teachables section of the page. 

In addition, there are 16 lovely Bible stories told throughout the book. Each Bible story is followed by two crafts that each focus on a different Christian value.  The crafts use common, inexpensive household items to reinforce the Bible stories and verses in the book and make them even more memorable. These crafts are a great stand alone lesson or culminating activity surrounding the used Bible verses. 

I do recommend reading through everything thoroughly if you are using it in a Catholic school, as scripture is take from the NIV version of the Bible and some lessons may need to be reviewed before presenting them in that environment. However, over all these are wonderful and engaging activities to do with the children.   The book does a magnificent job in inviting the children to contemplate God's Word.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Get to Know King David... Book Review

Get to Know King David
Author: Nancy I. Sanders
ISBN: 978-0-310-74475-7
Cover Illustration: Greg Call
Juvenile Nonfiction/ Biography/ Religious/


Back Cover: David led an adventurous life-from shepherd to warrior to the king of Israel. But he was also a man of God. Read about this hero from the Bible and his place in history.

The Get to know series features:

  • 4-color maps and photos
  • Scripture references and fun facts
  • A word bank
  • and much more
Review: This book is an awesome history of the life of King David. Readers will enjoy the fun facts woven throughout the book as well as the maps, pictures, and adventures that David encountered in his life. He had stones thrown at him, he went hungry, and he had many lessons in life. The book details other interesting facts in the Bible like the Ark, the Ten Commandments, and the timeline of the life of David in relation to other facts in history before Jesus. 

Nancy I. Sanders is an expert at bringing what some might deem boring history and makes it come to life. She keeps the reader engaged and involved with every page. Priests and pastors, parents, and Sunday School teachers will appreciate the accurate presentation of the story of King David and be confident that the book will educate the reader with Biblical accuracy. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Book Review: Get to Know Mary

Get to Know Mary
Author: Nancy I. Sanders
Cover Illustration: Greg Call
ISBN: 978-0-310-74480-1
Published by Zonderkidz

What better way for children to understand the people in the Bible then with a full color biography written specifically to their way of learning? Get to Know Mary written by award winning author Nancy I Sanders is just such a biography.

The author does a wonderful job of bringing Mary to life for the reader. From being a young girl in Israel to the one chosen by God to be the mother of Jesus, young readers will come away with a new understanding of the humanness of Mary.

 Each chapter includes words that may be new to the reader and their definitions. Factual information is divided into easy to understand paragraphs in story form. To aide the reader in comprehension, there are visual keys to indicate scripture, eye witness accounts, and Bible hero characters.

Also included with the text are pictures of original paintings of the people in the Bible, maps to show where events occurred, and illustrations and pictures to bring visual interest to the story of Mary's life.

Nancy I. Sanders has done a beautiful job of engaging and educating the reader about the real life of Mary. Parents will appreciate the Biblical truths taught in such a fun and interesting way for their children. The book will serve as a great way to open more discussions about Mary and modern family values that each parent wants their child to know.

Check out www. to order a copy for your home or Sunday school class. Selling for 6.99 makes this biography very affordable for your collection of Biblical references.  

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Bird Face by Cynthia T. Toney

Bird Face is a standout among novels written for or about the junior-high crowd; this book doesn't deal with vampires, the occult, or any of the other usual subjects. Instead, the book delves into the soul of Wendy, a shy but talented eighth-grader who's trying to find her place in her family, her community and the cliques in her school. As she discovers more about who she is and how to be a friend to those around her, she sees others' vulnerabilities.

Author Cynthia T. Toney nails the voice of the fourteen-year-old protagonist. Wendy’s faith is right up front in this novel, beginning in the very first chapter when she’s seen struggling against the impulse to swear—an impulse she’d confessed in the past and was trying hard to resist. Not a goody-two-shoes but definitely someone who’s trying to do what’s right, Wendy fights feelings of jealousy when she’s left out of the “in” crowd as well as when others have the nice things she wishes she could own. Wendy is also the victim of a bully, and her attempts to shake his verbal attacks and vandalism occupy much of her mental energies.

There’s a bit of a mystery in this story: anonymous sticky-note messages for Wendy, left all around school. These mysterious notes encourage her when she’s struggling the most, reminding the reader that people who really care are the ones who want the best for others. As Wendy seeks clues to the mystery note-writer, she encounters friends and classmates in crises of their own.

Bird Face is a winning combination: a good story, a realistic main character, and an exploration of the meaning of friendship. Recommended for middle-schoolers and teens--but this book carries messages for the adult reader as well.

Bird Face can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, or at your local bookstore.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

A New Feature

Welcome to our newest feature: Book reviews! My Light has been working hard putting together a new team just for reviewing books. There are many great books for children out there which we can't wait to share with you! 

Is there a book you'd like to know more about before purchasing it? Let us know. If we think the book is a good read for the children, we will post our review.  

Have you written a book that you'd like to include in our book review program? Head on over to our BOOK REVIEW info page for our guidelines.