"A Better Bicycle" is #30 in The American Adventure Series. This book is set in Minneapolis, MN in 1896. The historical events covered in this book include the increasing popularity of the bicycle, the rise of alcoholism (and unemployment) and the work of the WCTU (Women's Christian Temperance Union). Moral issues brought up in this book include working to earn money for an item rather than having it given to you, compassion for others, the effects of alcoholism on a family, prioritizing how you spend your money and choosing friendships wisely.
This was yet another book that blew me away with how much wholesome content could be packed into one chapter book, while remaining interesting and not "preachy" in tone. The author has a way of communicating the judgments, doubts, worries, and selfish thoughts that run through all of our minds, allowing us to ride along with the character as they weigh their options in given situations and reason out the best course of action.
In this book, the children have been expressly told not to spend time with, or even be around newsboys, or other children of the 'rougher' sort that ran around without their parents and perhaps with disregard to social standards for behavior. When a newsboy helps Esther get home after she sprains her foot/ankle, she's unsure how her parents will react. She and her cousin, Ted, slowly become friends with him and discover he only works as a newsboy because his father was injured at the railroad and then lost his job. Humor keeps the book from being too serious or negative because Esther is forever finding herself in situations where she's scolded for unladylike behavior. She's a clumsy girl with good intentions and as the book wears on, she does discover a need to be more mindful of her behavior around others. She also demonstrates humility when being corrected or embarrassed.
The children travel with family to the Chicago World's Fair and discussion of the exhibits they viewed could lead to fascinating research or unit studies about the time period. From farming, to women's rights, to a towering Ferris Wheel, there is much to see during their visit. Returning home from the fair, the gravity of the unemployment situation bothers the children and Esther comes up with a way to help families who are having a hard time getting enough food. Eventually, the city takes more notice and begins to tally the number of unemployed and plans are made to help assist these families.
We use these books as part of our homeschool history to give the children a broad overview and spark their interest in American History. I've been very pleased with them and have only discovered a few books which had plots or content a bit too intense for my 6 and 4 year olds. All have been very appropriate for my 4th grader and enjoyable for me to read as an adult. I've learned a lot through this series that I hadn't learned in school and it's much more pleasurable than memorizing dates or watching a dry documentary.
This book had several quotes which would be excellent conversation starters. I'll share some of the ones I gleaned here:
The most creative acts in history are God-generated acts. It shouldn't surprise us that creative people are often chronic procrastinators. Creatives generate more ideas than they can pursue, which is one reason they are not the risk takers they are often made out to be. They tend to be cautious about the ideas on which they expend their energy. (pg. 18)
I would recommend this to anyone wanting to take a fresh look at Jesus as the Bible portrays Him. It can be easy to get caught up in what we think a Christian "walk" should look like or bogged down in guilt for areas we feel we don't measure up. This book opens the door for freedom to be who God called you to be rather than to try fit some type of cookie cutter mold created by the current church, the current culture, or perhaps most accurately, the current church culture.
In the interest of full-disclosure, I received a copy of this book courtesy of Tyndale House Publishers for the purpose of reviewing. I was not required to give a positive review, my opinions are genuine.
This children's book by Rachel Anne Ridge is a fun read. It's 39 pages long, but with minimal text on each page, so you can easily read it in under 5 minutes. I found it rather cute that even though it is a read-aloud length story for young children, the author broke it into "chapters" by putting a cute little sign on 3 of the pages. The story flows beautifully even if you miss this detail and I didn't bother mentioning the chapters to my kids the first time, but I think mentioning it in the future may help them glean more from this story. The chapter names are "Meeting", so we could see how he meets others, "Caring" and "Celebrating."
Flash is a donkey with a blue wagon and big ideas for heading on an adventure and collecting odds and ends that he considered "treasure" which caught his eye. When he takes a tumble and crashes his wagon load, a goat, a pig and a hen come to make sure he's okay. They bring Flash to their home to care for him (he has a bump on his head) and we are all entertained by the big personalities portrayed in so few words in this book. The illustrations show a lot of expression. When his new acquaintances have a problem that Flash is able to help solve, he discovers he has made friends. The emphasis of this book is meant to be that caring for others can be a prerequisite to making friends. It does not heavily imply that just because you do something nice for someone they WILL be or ARE your friend for sure. Don't read that far into it, it's a lighthearted kids' story.
At the end of the story is a page with Proverbs 11:30, "The seeds of good deeds become a tree of life; a wise person wins friends." Then there are 2 pages prompting the reader to discuss with the child(ren) how we can be caring toward our friends. My children (ages 4-9) enjoyed this story and so did I. It's a sturdy hardcover book with a dust jacket (but when you take the dust jacket off or lose it, as happens often at our home, the hardcover is full color printed just like the dust jacket is) and the thick pages should stand up to years of use.
In the interest of full-disclosure, I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers for the purpose of reviewing. I was not required to give a positive review; my opinions are genuine.
"The Great Mill Explosion" is part of The American Adventure Series and is set in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1878. The historical event covered is the explosion and subsequent fire destroying several flour mills in downtown Minneapolis. The moral issues include how to handle it when you are placed in a position to choose between two friends, when a friend is being bullied, and the emotional and physical challenges of being or loving a burn victim.
The first couple chapters of this book are rather intense as they describe the children being near enough to hear the explosion, feel the shudders, see and feel the chaos of falling debris and panicking people, but not yet understand what is happening. For that reason, I would suggest starting reading this book during the day when you will have time to read and discuss at least the first 3 chapters if you have small children. The reason for this recommendation is that if you read only the first 2 chapters, you will be left hanging with the suspense of whether or not one of the girls' fathers is alive. We found it to be much better for my sensitive child to read straight through chapter 3 and have some good news to stop after despite the despair described in the story.
Due to the intense start, I was unsure whether my sensitive 6 year old would handle the rest of the book well. I am glad I stuck with it and read the whole book as it had beautiful lessons about how to politely and respectfully handle difficulties in friendship and how to step out and offer compassion to others in difficult situations even when it feels awkward or uncomfortable. These books have been a great addition to our homeschool for supplemental American History and we have all learned and retained a great deal. I grew up in Minnesota and attended public school there, even studying our state for a class project and never heard of this event.
If you'd like to check out other reviews from this series, click below:
"Lights for Minneapolis" is #27 in The American Adventure Series. It is set in 1881 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The events and individuals covered in this book include James Hill (Head of the Great Northern Railroad) and the controversy and benefits of bringing electric lights into Minneapolis. Character issues brought up in this book included: learning to hear both sides of an argument, how to respectfully work through a difficult teen-parent relationship (or older child/preteen), acting out when you're upset and the consequences, and more.
I cannot say how impressed I am with the books in this series. We continue to be fascinated by the way history is brought to life in meaningful way that promotes curiosity and conversation and my children have also had the opportunity to gain empathy and wisdom when discussing the character issues addressed. Honestly, there is more substance for education in these books than in many curriculum lessons I've seen on the topics. I absolutely recommend these books to homeschoolers or others wanting their children to experience rich literature at a young age. Set the bar high for the books they read, it shapes them!
This book didn't have any content that was too advanced or intense for my sensitive and 4 year old boys and it provided a lot of food for thought for my 4th grade son as well. I live in MN and did not know much of the history presented in the books which are set in Minneapolis in this series. It's been a great learning experience for all of us and it's so enjoyable the kids think of it as story time rather than school time.
This little journal by Wee Society is quite fun and unique. It is ideal for artistic, creative, and/or right brain dominant children and is described as "a fill-in journal for kids." I think it could be beneficial for older children and even adults with developmental delays or handicaps as well. The print on the inside is all very large and should be appropriate for anyone with about a second grade reading level or higher. The bold colors and imaginative prompts are sure to appeal to a wide variety of personalities.
Some of the pages encourage the reader to draw or sketch, but never in a way that should cause them to feel their artistic ability is lacking. For example, one page says, "If I could have any pet, it would be a ___________ . There is a picture of a leash leading to a collar where the person can draw an animal in. Another drawing prompt page says, "This is my favorite thing to do inside" with a picture of a blank house to draw in. The page opposite says, "This is my favorite thing to do outside" with a place to draw. So, none of the pages ask the reader to copy a drawing, finish the other half of a drawing, etc. Other pages are writing prompts, such as, "When my family is together, we like to" followed by a picture of lined notebook paper with large writing space for completing the thought. There are prompts asking what you'd name a band, what you wish was in your refrigerator, and what you would pack if you were going to outer space.
There is a good variety of prompts, some more reflective, some about favorite things, some about dreams. I appreciated a prompt which asked what awards I would like to give someone as this could stir kids to think of good characteristics they see in those around them, or good deeds they've witnessed. The dust jacket is removable and has more opportunities to journal inside of it. I think this is a practical choice since dust jackets don't always survive long when books are frequented by young kids and the actual hardcover underneath is fully colored and offers opportunity for doodling and personalization.
I think kids could enjoy this, handicapped or developmentally delayed individuals could benefit from its approach, and it would make a great gift item. Once it is filled out, it will be a fun piece of memorabilia for someone who may not have take the time to do a traditional journal, scrapbook, or photo album. This could even be incorporated into a young student's homeschool day before they are prepared for traditional writing prompts. It would surely be a highlight! My fourth grader snatched this and read through the whole thing, eagerly asking if he could complete it.
This is a small book (6 3/8" x 4 3/8") with a soft cover. As the title indicates, it contains daily prayers for a year. The prayers are not marked by date (ex. Jan. 1- Dec. 31), but rather numbered (Day 1 - Day 365). The font is slightly smaller than most paperback books, but it is not so fine print that the average person without eyesight issues should have any trouble. There is a ribbon bookmark attached to the binding and the prayers are also listed topically in an index in the rear (as well as each prayer having a "topic" listed above it, such as, "A Prayer about _________." Topics are varied from more broad to specific, but you won't find more than one prayer for a specific topic. In other words, they gave a different topic "title" to each of the 365 days prayers, whether they were similar or not. So, if you're looking for multiple days worth of reading on the same theme, be sure to read the whole index and look for potentially related topics. Five days of prayers take up roughly a page, and then the following 2 days (presumably weekend days if you stayed on schedule going through them in order) have shorter readings so there are two per page. I find this to be clever as I am more likely to fall behind on scheduled reading on weekends, so the shorter passages have a purpose.
As one might expect with something containing a large volume of prayers, I certainly found some of them more applicable or easier to relate to. There are a few times in the text that I feel the author takes too personal of a tone and creates a situation where the reader may find it awkward. For example, in one prayer asking for wisdom, he states, "Most would say that I am well-educated and intelligent." He does continue on to point out that knowledge is different from wisdom and he's seeking the Lord's guidance, but I could see this as a real put-off for some readers.
There are other places where the author admits he is an aggressive driver, going into a bit of detail of what goes through his mind. He also admits he has wished people would come to his church rather than attend other Christian churches. I commend him for his authenticity and honesty, but some of it has me shaking my head, wondering, why does this book have the subtitle "Strength and Joy to Begin Each Day"? The author does turn each prayer to the Lord, of course, but some entries feel much more like I am reading someone's personal prayer journal, rather than being led in prayer, praise, and worship. For example, here is a complete entry for a shorter reading day:
A prayer about SICKNESS
This is followed with the verse Luke 4:40 in the NLT translation. There's nothing wrong with the prayer, I guess it is just not what I expected to find in this resource.
There are also many prayers which I appreciate, such as:
There is at least one instance where the Parable of the (Sower and the) Seeds is utilized for only self-reflection and not applied to the spreading of the Gospel to new believers. The author was using the sower parable to request help for dealing with the "weeds" (worries) in his life. I found some of the prayers to follow a pattern of, "Here's my complaint, shortcoming or concern, God. Please, help me with that or just take it away." But there are some which also include a more direct statement indicating a need to repent or apologize over a wrongdoing.
Whether or not this is a good resource for you will likely depend a good bit on your own personality. All in all, I am disappointed that it reads more like someone else's personal prayer journal than a resource brimming with praise and worship reminding me of the steadfast truths, promises and hope that are found in Jesus Christ and His Word. It may be my fault for presuming that the focal point would be more on the Lord than on our daily life/following (application, I guess) in our walk as Christians in this imperfect world. I had different expectations from the front cover, and should have taken the back cover, which states, "Let these prayers help you release your troubles and concerns into God's care." with more emphasis.
I received a copy of this book courtesy of Tyndale House Publishers for the purpose of reviewing. I was not required to give a positive review, my opinions are honest.
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I am not much of a blog reader. There's only a couple I check on occasion:
Love this girl's writing... feels like she's a long distance friend. Well, her sister is my long-distance friend, so that probably helps. Either way, what an inspiration and encouragement- you just need to check out some of the places life has taken Leah and be strengthened and inspired by the love that oozes (yes, oooozes) from her heart for Jesus, His people and His creation!
If you like nummy recipes, or have special dietary needs (or both!) check it out. ALL of her recipes are Vegan, and many can be made gluten-free. I stumbled upon it when searching for dairy/egg free treats to make for my kiddo and have gotten hooked on several recipes. Okay, "hooked on" doesn't portray it well enough. How about "addicted to"? That's more fitting. Will definitely be going back for more!