The BEST Children’s Storybook Bible

I am extremely picky when it comes to children’s Bibles.

Extremely.

I’m looking for a lot in that little package. Biblical accuracy, lack of fluff, lovely illustrations, and all done with text that is engaging and interesting to the youngest audience.

It’s a tall order.

So where, exactly, does one find a children’s Bible that meets these high standards? Perhaps you’ve walked into a Christian bookstore or browsed the pages of Amazon lately to find one. If you went into that without a plan, you probably found yourself overwhelmed. An Amazon search for “children’s bible stories” brings back a whopping 7,663 results to wade through!

And what happens if you choose the wrong children’s Bible? In your desire to begin planting God’s truth in your child’s heart, you could instead be sharing inaccurate accounts and misleading picture of God’s Word. Or worse, nothing at all could happen. The lack of an accurate and engaging story could leave your child bored, uninterested, and apathetic towards God’s Word.

What Are You Going To Do?

Well, you could spend a couple hours scrolling through Amazon, reading all the mixed reviews (do people ever agree on those reviews?). You could drive to the nearest Christian bookstore and page through all the Bibles on the shelf, maybe asking the employees for their recommendation (hopefully they’ve tested them out with their kids). Or you could hop over to Amazon right now and take five minutes to purchase our hands down, number one, most favorite Children’s Bible.

We have been using The Rhyme Bible Storybook since my oldest was just a small toddler and we absolutely love it. We own multiple different children’s Bibles, but this is the one we find ourselves coming back to again and again and again. (It’s also the Bible we used for the Play Through the Bible series)

And if that’s not enough to convince you to go grab it right now, I want to give you a detailed review of why we love this Bible so very much.

Biblical Accuracy

When it comes to storybook Bibles, this is probably my number one concern. In our attempts to make the stories digestible to children, are we staying true to the meaning of the actual Biblical text? In the many other Bibles I have read or flipped through, there are three common themes I see happening: too much extra fluff, important elements being omitted, and dumbed down stories. With the Rhyme Bible Storybook:

1) There is no extra “fluff” added. The author goes just a little too deep into their imagination, weaving a story that may not actually be implied in the original text. While these stories can be fun to read, they don’t always give an accurate picture of what the Bible is trying to say. The Rhyme Bible Storybook is simple and to the point, while also communicating the important aspects of the text.

2) The most important elements are included. On the opposite end of the spectrum we have another problem, vital information being left out. This especially happens with children’s Bibles that like to gloss over the more uncomfortable aspects of the Bible. I’ve seen the Fall skipped over, hard stories tied up with a pretty moral, and even the frighting omission of Christ’s death on the cross. While no children’s Bible is going to cover all the dark, nitty gritty moments in the Bible (nor should they), with its 35 stories the Rhyme Bible Storybook does a great job giving an overview of the Biblical story, including the most important aspects.

3) The stories are not dumbed down. You’ll find this especially in the story Bibles that are marketed towards the very youngest listeners. Sure, the stories are short and simple, but there is not much there either. With the Rhyme Bible storybook, the stories are simple, yet also give plenty of information that can be discussed, dwelt on, and grown into. With this Bible both my one year old and my five year old are able to listen intently while still gaining something from the stories each on their own levels.

Simple Text

I mentioned this briefly before, but I think it bears repeating. The text in the Rhyme Bible Storybook is beautifully simple. Young children and older alike will be drawn into the lovely rhyming nature of the stories. Yet, the sing-song text is not overly flowery or verbose, unlike other popular children’s Bibles that have not done well at keeping my children engaged (I’m looking at you Jesus Storybook Bible).

However, if you find that your younger toddler still has trouble following these short stories, I also recommend The Rhyme Bible Storybook for Toddlers. We have used both versions, and while we don’t love the toddler one quite as much, the stories are even shorter and simpler, perfect for the youngest children.

Beautiful Illustrations

Beautiful illustrations may not seem like that big of a deal, but I can assure you, once you’ve glanced through some of the downright goofy looking children’s Bible cartoons, lovely pictures are a nice change of pace.

The illustrations in the Rhyme Bible storybook are simple, colorful, interesting, and full of emotion.

Just a note: there is an older version and a newer version with updated illustrations. We have the newer version of the Rhyme Bible Storybook and also the toddler version with the older illustrations. We like both! Some people do have a preference though and you can find both versions on Amazon.

Well Made Product

Lets face it, toddlers and preschoolers can be rough on books. They are still learning to turn pages gently, close the cover properly, and to not chuck books across the room mid tantrum. Our copy has survived multiple years and tons of use from two rough boys. It’s looking a little rough around the edges, but still going strong. The binding is sturdy, the pages are thick, and it’s made to last.

Engaging and Child Approved

Besides being Biblically accurate, an engaging story is probably the most important part of any children’s Bible. If your child isn’t interested in listening to the stories, reading them isn’t going to do a whole lot.

Every child I have read the Rhyme Bible Storybook to, both my own children and others, have loved it. They have listened intently, captivated by the story being read. Every morning when we do our reading, every story is followed by pleas of “More! More! Another story!” And, while it’s possible that your child is the exception to what I’ve found, I think if you give this Bible a try you, too, will fall in love.

Where to Buy

While I assume the Rhyme Bible Storybook can be found at your local Christian Bookstore, the easiest thing to do is to hop over to Amazon and get it delivered right to your house. New versions of the book run for about $13, but you can also easily find it used for around $5.

Even if you already have children’s Bibles, this one would make a great addition to your collection. You won’t be disappointed! It also makes a great gift to tuck in an Easter basket or give at a baby shower. You might love it so much you buy twenty and give them to all your friends!

This is NOT a sponsored post – we just really love this children’s Bible! There are Amazon affiliate links included, which does not change the cost of the book to you, but does give me a little extra spare change to keep this blog running. Thanks for making purchases through my links!


Teaching Your Kids the Christmas Story (Truth in the Tinsel Review and Giveaway)

REVIEW and GIVEAWAY

Christmas is one of my absolute favorite times of the year. Christmas music, shopping for gifts, decorating the tree, cookies and hot chocolate – I love it all. And of all the great things that the Christmas season brings, there is nothing that compares with finding memorable ways to share the true meaning of Christmas with my kids. (In fact, I had a whole series devoted to it last year)

That is why I am so excited to share with you today this amazing Advent resource – Truth in the Tinsel!

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I have actually known about Truth in the Tinsel for a few years now. I thought about trying it with K last year, but he was only just turning three and, being pregnant, I was keeping things extra simple. So, I knew this year was finally going to be the year we were going to do it!

I purchased my copy a few weeks ago, so that I’d have time to read through it and get everything prepared for the coming Advent season. As I read through the crafts, K would look over my shoulder – getting more and more excited and wanting to know when it would be time to get started.

So What is Truth in the Tinsel Anyway?

Good question! Well, let’s get the the down low straight from the source. On the Truth in the Tinsel website it says…

“Each day Truth in the Tinsel will lead you through a passage of scripture, a corresponding ornament craft and talking points for you and your kids. It’s more than a devotion — it’s a meditation and hands-on learning for kids. It’s more than a craft-book — it’s a memory-builder for your family. It’s more than an e-book — it’s an experience and adventure in God’s Word!”

You can also read more in the guest post Truth in the Tinsel author, Amanda White, wrote last year or go to the Truth in the Tinsel page!

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Things I love about Truth in the Tinsel

Great Directions
Everything is so perfectly laid out for you. Supply lists, clear instructions, tips, alternate calendars, links to all the templates you’ll need – it couldn’t be any easier.

Simple Crafts and Activities
We love to keep things simple around here. I want crafts that my child can actually do, not things that I have to do for him. These fit the bill perfectly. Simple enough for a little one, yet fun enough for an older child too, these crafts are perfect for the whole family.

Although I encourage you to give them a try even if you think you’re not the crafty type, you can also get printable ornaments to decorate. Perfect for those extra busy days (cause who doesn’t have those during the holiday season!?) or when you’re just not feeling like doing a craft.

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Tells the Whole Christmas Story
Starting in Isaiah and ending at the cross, Truth in the Tinsel tells the grand story of Christmas in a way that is perfect for helping kids to remember. If you’ve been around here for any length of time, you’ll know that I love doing Bible activities that help my kids to really experience the story with all their senses.

Oftentimes I have to come up with these activities on my own (like Play Through the Bible or Hero Training!) , but with Truth in the Tinsel all the work is done for me and all we have to do is have a blast doing it.

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A Few Truth in the Tinsel Tips

Get the book early
I know, I know, it’s not even Thanksgiving yet, so why are we talking about Christmas already anyway? Well, for me at least, the key to a smooth Christmas season is taking some time pre-Christmas to get prepared.

By downloading the ebook a few weeks early, you’ll have time to read it through and make a plan for how and when you’re going to do it. This will help you feel less rushed and let you be able to enjoy the process more.

Prep the crafts
To make things go even smoother, I’m hoping to take an afternoon and prep all the Truth in the Tinsel ornament crafts at once. I’ll put all of the ready to go supplies in individual bags and store them together in a tub. That way, when it’s time to do the day’s craft, it’ll just be grab and go!

It’s the process, not the product
The point of doing Bible crafts with your kid’s isn’t to end up with a magazine worthy ornament in the end. The point is to let the crafting be a way to help impress God’s word upon your child and to use the experience to open up time for great discussions.

Don’t worry if your ornaments turn out looking a little wonky, your child is just going to love that they made it themselves!

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Well, are you ready to get your copy yet?

Then you’re in luck! Amanda has generously offered a copy of Truth in the Tinsel AND a copy of the printable ornaments to go to one lucky Simple Life. Messy Life. reader! For your chance to win, all you have to do is enter the contest below.

However, if you think Truth in the Tinsel is something that would be great for your family and you are ready to get started – don’t hesitate to go grab it now!

I know exactly how it goes where you’re like “Yes! That sounds awesome. I will get that later for sure.” Then you blink and it’s halfway through December and you completely forgot (oh wait, maybe that’s just me!). Don’t let that happen!

The good news is that Truth in the Tinsel is super affordable. Plus it is great for all ages in your family and you can continue to use it for years to come.

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Affiliate links included. Thank you for using your purchases to help support Simple Life. Messy Life.

9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage {REVIEW}

Imagine this scenario.

You’re mad. He’s frustrated.

You want one thing. He wants another.

He’s not hearing you. You’re not understanding him.

Words have been said.

I don’t know about you, but this scene plays out in my marriage more than I’d like to admit.

But what if there was another way?

In 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage Sheila Wray Gregoire writes about her and her husband’s conflict,

We never actually resolved anything since we weren’t really dealing with the issues. I focused on winning the argument, but in the process I was losing my husband. I forgot that marriage was not about me winning; marriage was about oneness – and that meant we needed to find a way for both of us to win. 

Oh, how often have I found myself in this exact same place! So how do you make a change? The key is found in thought number 7 (out of the 9) – “Being One is More Important Than Being Right.”

In this chapter, Sheila goes on to dig deep into what it really means to seek oneness through conflict in your marriage. Something that really resonated with me was the section on overcoming anger.

You see, real talk moment here, I have a little bit of a temper. Okay, I take that back, I can really struggle with my temper! Although I do believe I have seen some improvement (thank you Jesus!) in our six years of marriage, sometimes it does get the better of me.

Sheila explains that when we are in conflict, in the heat of the moment, our emotions are going crazy and our adrenaline starts pumping. Because of this, thinking clearly becomes very difficult. She writes:

Your heart rate increases. Your body gets primed to flee, if needed. All of your senses are heightened. This cycle starts because the limbic system takes over, inhibiting rational thinking and putting you into emergency mode. It often takes up to an hour after feeling anger for the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain responsible for higher order thinking, to start functioning normally again. 

So, what’s a frustrated spouse to do? Sheila gives an answer – empathy.

The geek in me loved her reference to a scene in The Lord of the Rings. Gimli and Aragon are in the heat of battle when they come upon each other. She writes, “They stop in their tracks. They see not foe, but friend. The battle frenzy dissipates.”

Isn’t that a great picture of what it is like to stop and really see your spouse in the midst of a heated conversation?

Once you realize you’re on the same side, resolving the conflict becomes a lot easier. The rest of the chapter goes on to give practical advice for conflict resolution. For example, I really liked the idea for you and your spouse to list the 5 most important things to you and then use that to come to a compromise.

Just incorporating “Being one is more important than being right” is enough to dramatically change your marriage for the better and that is only one of the 9 thoughts. The rest of them are just as good! I highly encourage you to read this book. In fact, I think I’m going to read it again with my husband!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Affiliate links included. Thank you for using your purchases to help support Simple Life. Messy Life.

Fruit of the Spirit Preschool Curriculum Review {Home Preschool 101 Series}

This post is part of the series “Home Preschool 101.” It is a peek into how we do homeschool preschool.

Here are all the posts (links will go live as published)…

Our Home Preschool Goals

Our Simple Preschool Plan 2015-2016

Our Top Eight Preschool Building Materials

Our Top Five Preschool Science Supplies

Our Top Ten Preschool Arts and Craft Supplies

My Favorite Preschool Resources

Home Preschool Room Tour


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As part of our preschool plan for this year we are going to be using the Fruit of the Spirit Curriculum. Today, I wanted to spend a little time telling you about this awesome program!

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Overview of the Program

The Fruit of the Spirit Curriculum is an 18 week program designed to be done three days a week. Based on Galatians 5:22-23, it teaches God’s truths to little learners in a fun and engaging way. This curriculum uses God’s Word as the basis for learning about a variety of preschool skills such as: pre-reading skills, numbers, colors, shapes, and more. You can download a free lesson plan here.

What I Love about this Program

1. The seamless integration of Biblical truth and preschool skills

What a better way to teach your preschooler than to surround the lessons with truth about Jesus? Each lesson is based on a portion of Galatians 5:22-23 with Bible activities and preschool lessons to go along.

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Making the “Fruit of the Spirit Tree”

2. Hands on activities

Leigh Ann definitely took into consideration the way preschoolers learn best when she created this curriculum. The whole thing is chalk-full of hands on activities! Crafts, sensory activities, music – when your child uses the Fruit of the Spirit he or she will have all their senses engaged.

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*Attempting* to explain the Trinity

3. Great conversation starters

On our very first day of use the Fruit of the Spirit Curriculum, K turned to me and asked “what is a Spirit?” We hadn’t discussed this topic very much outside of our lesson on the baptism of Jesus , so what followed was a conversation on the Trinity. Hard concept for a little person (or a big person!) to grasp, but we probably wouldn’t have even tried yet without the nudge from this program.

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Playing a game with one of the printables

4. Uses low cost materials

We don’t have a lot of room in the budget for preschool materials, so this curriculum works perfectly. It requires no fancy supplies and what I didn’t already have, I was able to grab from Wal-mart in one trip. Plus, the recommended reading can be found at the library and the songs can be found on youtube. Not to mention the hundreds of printables included!

What Are You Waiting For?

If you are looking for a great program for your preschooler that combines fun early learning activities and a great message about God’s truth – look no further. You will love the Fruit of the Spirit Curriculum!

Right now Leigh Ann is running a sale on the curriculum – 20% off of the already low price! But if you want it, you better grab it now because the sale only goes through the 31st! 

IBG Fruit of the Spirit Curriculum

Affiliate links included. Thank you for using your purchases to help support Simple Life. Messy Life.

Finding Balance in Your Life

Even though I knew it was coming, adding child number two to the mix threw my normal routines all out of wack. Before I knew it, life felt like a giant to-do list mountain that I would never scale. I knew that I was going to have to make some changes if I was going to survive – let alone thrive!

Enjoy Your Life eCourse

Then, just as I was beginning this process for myself, I learned about Kayse’s Enjoy Your Life e-course. Perfect timing!

As I read through the daily e-mails, it was like Kayse was speaking directly to me! With her gentle and encouraging style, she led me through the steps of ordering my days in order to thrive in the stage of life I am currently living.

Enjoy Your Life eCourse

One of the best parts about this course is that it is not just a list of steps on how to plan out your days. In between the practical advice, Kayse weaves Biblical wisdom, encouragement, and a heavy dose of grace. She teaches you how to add margin into your life so that you can not only tackle the to-do list, but also carve in some “me time” too! It’s like a breath of fresh air!

Does this sound like something you would be interested in? Then I know you will be blessed by this e-course!

Enjoy Your Life eCourse

Enrollment opens on Monday August 10! You can also sign up here to be notified as soon as registration opens.  If you sign up sooner, you’ll be able to get some AMAZING discounts.

Monday (launch day) looks like this:

  • 12:01am – 5am PST: Only $7!
  • 5:01am – 10am PST: Only $9!
  • 10:01am – 3pm PST: Only $11!
  • 3:01pm – 8pm PST: Only $13!
  • 8:01 pm – 11:59pm PST: Only $15!

Plus, everyone who buys the course on the first day will be entered to win a $200 gift card to Erin Condren!

On Tuesday, the course will return to the full price of $17.99. This is still a great deal because just look at what you get:

  • 10 days of brand new content, delivered right to your inbox each day.
  • An exclusive course pack of printable worksheets to help you get your thoughts and plans on paper.
  • Access to a private Facebook group where you can find others on the journey, share ideas, ask questions, and be encouraged.
  • A beautiful printable for you to frame as a daily inspiration.

Kayse will also be running giveaways on her blog all week!

I highly encourage you to go check it out! And if you take the course please let me know about your experience – I’d love to hear how it goes for you!

Journal and Doodle Through The Bible – REVIEW AND GIVEAWAY

Today I am sharing with you one of my new favorite things. I’d like to introduce you to my new favorite Bible studies, Journal and Doodle Through the Bible!

Journal and Doodle Through The Bible

I had been in a bit of a Bible study rut when I came across these intriguing studies. I had never done anything quite like them!

Created by Kari Denker, of the Stone Soup for Five blog, these studies combine simple drawing, journaling, and in depth Bible study for a devotional experience that will knock your socks off!

Here’s five reasons why I love the Journal and Doodle Bible Studies…

Journal and Doodle Through The Bible

1. They are Perfectly Planned for You

Each study is broken into individual sections with tasks separated by checklists. I don’t have to waste any time or brain power trying to figure out what to do next because it is already all set-up for me! This is perfect for my quiet time, which tends to be frequently interrupted by my darling children. I can easily put down the study and pick right back up where I left off!

Journal and Doodle Through The Bible

2. They Dig Deep into God’s Word

I’m not going to lie, I am really picky about my Bible studies and devotionals. There is just so much out there that is fluffy and cheesy! The Journal and Doodle Studies do a great job at helping you dig deep into the passage you are studying. They cover context, key words, reflection, application, and more.

3. They are Created to Be Memorable

Oftentimes while reading my Bible I find myself finishing a passage and then promptly forgetting everything I just read. These studies are amazing for helping you slow down and really reflect on what you are reading. Plus, the doodling seems to activate another area of your brain, helping you to better remember what you are studying.

Journal and Doodle Through The Bible

4. They Are Great for all Ability Levels

I am a terrible artist. Seriously. I have drawing abilities about on par with a seven year old (and that may be a diss on many a seven year old’s abilities). At first I was a little hesitant to do a Bible study like this, because I thought it wouldn’t work for me and my limited abilities. I’m glad I decided to give it a try because I couldn’t have been more wrong! Kari does a great job guiding you through the doodling, complete with lots of examples! Perfection is discouraged and mistakes are welcome. Of course, if you are more artistically inclined, the sky is the limit with these studies!

Journal and Doodle Through The Bible

5. They are Fun!

While I do thoroughly enjoy a good theological book or a detailed commentary, I love how fun this type of study is! It is so nice to take break from child wrangling and have a little fun with my Bible study during my quiet time.

Does this sound like something you’d be interested in? I have good news! Kari is generously to offering a free copy of her latest study pack to one lucky Simple Life. Messy Life. reader!

Journal and Doodle Through The Bible

The winner will receive a digital download (PDF) of the special launch week package – Journal and Doodle studies for both 1st and 2nd Corinthians, plus 4 doodle reference sheets! (If you don’t want to take a chance on winning, go grab the pack now before launch week is over – the studies are very reasonably priced!)

Enter below for your chance to win!

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Great Picture Books For Toddlers Volume 2

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My son loves to read. I’ve never met a young child with such a long attention span for listening to picture books! Because of this we go through a lot of library books each week. Some are great, but a lot are duds. The purpose of this series is so we can pass on our tried and true favorites to you and your budding reader. You can read more about how I select a picture book here and you can get the first list here.

Here’s the second ten. I hope you enjoy some of these books as much as we did. Don’t forget to leave your favorites in the comments!

 


 

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Sheep in a Jeep – by Nancy Shaw   This is one of many in Nancy Shaw’s sheep series. Those silly sheep are always getting themselves in trouble! Some of them we’ve liked better than others, but Sheep in a Jeep is definitely a favorite!

 

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The Water Hole – by Graeme Base   This book is amazing in so many ways. First, it is a great story of the importance of water to animals and the planet. Second, it shows animals from all over the world. Third, the pictures are absolutely gorgeous!

 

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Llama, Llama, Red Pajama – by Anna Dewdney  K eats up every book in the “Llama, Llama” series, but this one is our favorite. It’s so fun to read and as an added bonus you get to add in a little lesson about throwing tantrums.

 

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Turtle Splash: Countdown at the Pond – Cathryn Falwell  This books was the bedtime story of choice for a long time. It is great for learning animals, numbers and counting, and paying attention to details. The pictures are beautiful as well.

 

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The Little Blue Truck – by Alica Schertle  Combine animals and trucks and you have a sure-fire winner for any toddler! Add in the lesson on friendship and you have a book that stands the test of time.

 

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The Missing Mitten Mystery – by Steven Kellogg  This book was right on the edge of K’s comprehension level, but it kept him interested because of its level of engagement. Any book that has a question or an element of mystery keeps him coming back for more.

 

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Mouse Paint – by Ellen Stoll Walsh   Even though K doesn’t quite yet comprehend mixing two colors together to get a new color, he still loved naming all the different colors in this book.

 

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Potty – by Leslie Patricelli  Simple, but oh so perfect for a toddler. This short little book is super funny, but also gets them really thinking about what it will be like to ditch the diapers. My son likes to mimic what the little kid in the book does.

 

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The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and The Big Hungry Bear – by Don and Audrey Wood – A cute story about a mouse keeping his strawberry safe from a bear. My son loves the part where it goes “BOOM BOOM BOOM!” and always giggles at the silly things the mouse does to try and protect his strawberry.

 

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No, David! – by David Shannon   The pictures are the shining start of this book, depicting all the trouble little David gets into with his mother. However, in the end the message is clear – David’s mommy loves him no matter what. (Note: there are other books in this series and, except for, Oh, David, I don’t care for them much. There gets to be a point where David’s antics stop being silly and cross the line to just being a bad example.) 


 

There you have it! Ten more awesome picture books for toddlers. Have you read any of them? Please share your recommendations in the comments below!

The Expeditioners by S.S. Taylor – Middle Grade Fiction Review

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the expeditioners review

THE EXPEDITIONERS
by S.S. Taylor

Summary

Kit West’s map-maker father died under suspicious circumstances while on an Exploring mission, leaving him and his brother and sister orphaned and alone. However, Alexander West did not leave his children empty handed. When a mysterious man with a clockwork hand gives Kit a book from his father, the adventure begins for the three siblings.

My thoughts

The Expeditioners is one of my favorite books that I have read recently. S.S. Taylor’s rewriting of history paints a fascinating world for the West children. Their adventure is full of twists and turns and packed with excitement. With both boy and girl characters, this book will appeal to any young person who loves reading adventure stories. And not only that, but it makes a great book to read together. Just be warned, you might find yourself sneaking in reading time alone to finish the book yourself – it’s that hard to put down!

Discussion Points

  • The Expeditioners seamlessly weaves in moral issues surrounding the conquest of new lands. This can lead to great discussions in regards to the true history of Native Americans and other displaced peoples. Also great for discussions on greed and power.
  • Kit’s younger sister, M.K. is rough and tough. She drops a 2 or 3 “damns” during the course of the book.
  • In this world the government is corrupt and not to be trusted. Various members of government agencies are the antagonists. At one point, M.K. knocks out two government workers so that the kids can escape.

Bottom Line

Grab this book at the library! You won’t regret it! 

Middle Grade Fiction Review – SERIES

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The 8-12 age range is notorious for being when readers bloom. Reading is finally clicking and becoming effortless. Books are devoured like never before.When I was a middle-grade reader I loved reading! My favorite book was Harriet the Spy. I read it multiple times and never grew sick of it. I devoured the books on the shelves at home and we were always making trips to the library too.

I currently read a lot of middle grade fiction because this is the type of book that I am experimenting with writing. I love reading middle grade fiction because the stories are great, but I can also fit these short, quick reads into my busy schedule (because of this I highly recommend them to adults!).

It occurred to me one day that reading 2-3 children’s novels a week is probably not the norm for most adults! I know there are a lot of parents out there who like to keep an eye on what their child is reading, whether it is to avoid inappropriate topics or make note of things that should be discussed about the book. Or maybe you’re searching for a good book that would be perfect for your struggling reader, something that is perfect for him or her and will light a fire for reading. Well, look no further.

I am going to be starting a new ongoing series where I review middle grade books that I’ve read. Whenever I’ve got a good read to pass on to you, I’ll do my best to write up a detailed review, keeping in mind what would be important for you, the parent, to know about the books your child is reading. I truly hope this can be a great resource for you and your family.

Tune in tomorrow for the first review. And If you don’t want to miss a single review you can subscribe in the sidebar or the bottom of this page.

 

How To Train Your Dragon 2 – PARENT REVIEW

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A couple days ago I took my 2 1/2 year old son and my 13 year old brother to see How To Train Your Dragon 2, so I thought I’d write up a review for the movie. My goal with any review is to be thorough in order to help you make an informed decision as to whether that particular movie (or book, etc) is right for your family. That said, this review is loooong, and if you don’t want any spoilers, you might not want to read on!

Before I get started, one more thing. You might be wondering, “she took her 2 1/2 year old to the movie theater? Why in the world would she do that?!” Well, two reasons. Number 1, I had a little bit of a movie gift card to use up and number 2, K loves dragons. He loved the first movie (which we own), so I thought he would love the second as well. Someday soon I’ll try to write up a post on how we’ve handled TV/movies with K.

So, without further ado, the review…


 

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How To Train Your Dragon 

If you haven’t seen the first How to Train Your Dragon, you might be a little confused as to some of what’s going on in the second movie, so I would recommend renting that first if you need to. Here’s a short summary of the first movie, skip ahead if you’ve already seen it.

HTTYD is set on the viking island of Berk, where they have a particularly nasty problem with dragon invasions. The main character, Hiccup, is the son of Stoick the Vast, chief of Berk. All vikings are rough, tuff, dragon fighting machines. That is, except Hiccup, who is a tiny, meek inventor. Desperately trying to win his father’s approval, Hiccup uses one of his inventions to try and bring down the deadliest dragon of them all, the Night Fury. Thinking he has not succeeded, to his surprise, Hiccup comes across the injured night fury in the woods. Thinking this was his chance to impress his father and the town, Hiccup attempts to kill the Night Fury, but when he sees the fear in the dragon’s eyes, he cannot bring himself to do it. He lets the dragon go. Over a period of time, Hiccup and the dragon (now named “Toothless”) bond, eventually becoming inseparable. Meanwhile, Hiccup has been enrolled in dragon fighting lessons, which he is actually succeeding in because of his newfound understanding of dragons. However, when he is chosen as the student to receive the public honor of killing his first dragon, Hiccup knows he must try and bring peace between dragons and vikings. His plan completely backfires and his father, furious and disappointed in his son, takes Toothless and uses him to find the dragon’s “nest,” intent upon finishing off the dragons once and for all. In the end, the queen dragon is too powerful for the vikings, but Hiccup and Toothless save the day (and Toothless saves Hiccup’s life), bringing peace between vikings and dragons.

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How to Train Your Dragon 2 – Plot Summary

In How to Train Your Dragon 2, the story opens once again in the town of Berk. Although, instead of fighting dragons, they now race dragons! The dragons live in the city and are loved by all. Stoick is trying to convince Hiccup that it is time for him to take over as chief, but Hiccup is not sure he is the right person to take over for his father. Hiccup, in part caused by the hole he feels from never knowing his mother, is searching to figure out who he is and what his place in life is.

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In his search for inner understanding, Hiccup occupies himself with outer searching as he and Toothless fly far and wide, mapping the surrounding areas, discovering new dragons and lands. In one of these searches, Hiccup and Astrid (Hiccup’s love interest continued from the first movie), discover a destroyed area, with buildings demolished and covered in ice. They have a run in with dragon trappers, who are capturing dragons to bring to their master, Drago, who is building a dragon army. After a narrow escape, they fly home to warn Stoick.

Upon hearing the news, Stoick begins to fortify the city, commanding everyone inside. Hiccup pleads with his father to ride to Drago and try to convince him not to fight. Stoick will not listen, as he has had experience with this ruthless killer before. Hiccup, determined to try and bring peace, does not listen to his father, and instead he flies off to find Drago. Astrid flies after him and the two go looking for the dragon trappers.

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As Hiccup and Astrid are trying to convince the dragon trappers to lead them to Drago, Stoick and some of the others find them and attempt to bring them home. Hiccup once again does not listen and continues on by himself. Stoick commands Astrid to take the other young people home, and he continues on with Gobber to bring Hiccup back, afraid at what might happen to his son.

As Toothless and Hiccup are flying, they are ambushed by a strange person in an outfit made to look like a dragon. They are taken into a cave and are surrounded by dragons, fearing for their lives. However, the mysterious stranger takes off her mask and it is Hiccup’s mother! She, like Hiccup, was unable to kill dragons, wanting peace instead. When Hiccup was a baby, she was unable to kill a dragon to protect him, and when a dragon carried her off, she was afraid to return. So, instead, she had spent the last 20 years living with the dragons. Soon, Stoick and Gobber find Hiccup and Stoick and Valka (Hiccup’s mother) reunite.

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Meanwhile, the other young vikings are worried because Hiccup, Stoick and Gobber have not returned yet, so they set out after them. They convince the trappers to take them to Drago, however, their plan backfires when Drago takes all their dragons and attempts to kill Eret, the main trapper. As Drago goes to kill Eret one of the dragons surrounds him with her wings and saves his life. This act turns Eret over to the side of the dragons. Drago and his army leave to capture the rest of the dragons and then declare war on Berk. Astrid, Eret and the others manage to escape and free the dragons. They then attempt to catch up to Drago.

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While Hiccup, Stoick, and Valka are being happily reunited, their bliss is interrupted by the attack of Drago, coming to take the dragons in Valka’s nest. As the battle begins, it looks like Valka’s dragons will come out on top because they have their Alpha Dragon, a giant dragon who breathes ice. However, it turns out Drago has an Alpha Dragon as well! The two Alphas fight, and Drago’s comes out on top. Because of this all the dragons must come under the command of the new Alpha Dragon, including Toothless. As Hiccup tries to convince Drago to make peace, Drago commands his Alpha dragon to command Toothless to kill Hiccup. Toothless tries to resist the trance like state, but he cannot and he attacks Hiccup. Stoick comes in at the last second to save Hiccup, taking the deathly blow himself.

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Drago takes the dragons and leaves the vikings to mourn the loss of their great chief. After regrouping, Hiccup takes on the role of the chief (finally beginning to understand his purpose) and the vikings take a wild ride on the baby dragons (who don’t listen to anybody!) back to the Island of Berk to save their people.

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When they return to Berk, Hiccup goes to Toothless to try and get him out of his trance. He succeeds and the pair (along with the others) attack the Alpha dragon to try and loosen his grip on the other dragons. As the other dragons come out of their trances, they join Toothless who is now challenging the Alpha dragon. With the other dragons on his side, Toothless wins the battle with the Alpha dragon, defeating Drago, becoming the new Alpha dragon, and saving the people of Berk. Hiccup officially becomes the new chief and they all live happily ever after. 🙂

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Why You Will Want To See This Movie

  1. Action-packed fantasy – Fire breathing dragons, vikings, strange new worlds – it’s a great movie for the budding fantasy lover in your family.
  2. Great discussion starters – The main crux of the story was the battle between power and peace. Drago had been harmed by the dragons, so he strived to take them over and rule them by force and power. Hiccup had also been harmed by the dragons, but instead sought to bring about peace. Another big theme is Hiccup trying to figure out who he is and what his purpose in life is.
  3. Loyalty – In the end, the dragons broke through the power of the evil side and gave their allegiance to Toothless and Hiccup. They were loyal to the ones who loved them.
  4. Forgiveness – Toothless kills Hiccup’s father, yet he still returns to save him. Him and Stoick also forgive Valka for leaving them.
  5. Sacrifice – One of the dragons sacrifices her freedom to save Eret and in a powerful and emotional moment, Stoick sacrifices his live to save his son.
  6. Parallel to the power of sin – I thought there was a great lesson/analogy about the power of sin in this movie. Under the influence of the evil dragon, Toothless did the unthinkable. He was unable to come out of this “trance” without help and forgiveness. It’s not a perfect analogy, but it got me thinking. Brings to mind Genesis 4:7 “…But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”
  7. The power of influence – At one point in the movie, they say something to the extent of “a good dragon under the control of an evil person will do bad things” (can’t remember the exact quote). Brings to mind Psalm 1:1 in a way. Could lead to a good discussion on the way other people in our lives can influence us for good or bad.

 

Why You Might Not Want To See This Movie

  1. Scary Scenes – I thought there was a good deal more fighting and fire breathing in this movie then in the first one. This type of thing does not phase my dragon loving, bad guy fighting little guy at all, but if your child is sensitive to scary images you might want to skip this movie.
  2. Difficult plot – The themes in this movie were way over the head of my two year old. All he really grasps is good guy fights bad guy, good guy wins. If he didn’t love dragons, I probably would have skipped this movie until he was a little older and understood more of what was going on.
  3. Death – Hiccup’s father, Stoick is killed towards the end of the movie. In the (I’m assuming) traditional viking way, they send him off in a ship and then shoot the ship with flaming arrows.
  4. Disobedience – Hiccup repeatedly does not listen to his father who loves him and is trying to protect him. In the end, his father was right, and Hiccup’s decisions cost him a great deal.

 

Final Thoughts

I LOVED How To Train Your Dragon 2! That said, I am a fantasy lover, so it was up my alley. I loved the deeper themes that ran through the movie and think it would make for some great family discussions. My son, of course, loved the movie, although he was getting a little antsy towards the end, ready to get up and move around a bit. My 13 year old brother enjoyed the movie too. So that’s six thumbs up from us!

 

I’d love to hear if you have seen/are planning on seeing How To Train Your Dragon 2. What are your thoughts? Leave them in the comments!