The Cross Before Me

Authors: Rankin Wilbourne and Brian Gregor
Publisher: David C. Cook
Genre: Christianity
ISBN: 978-0-7814-1333-6
Pages: 288
Price: $22.99

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For many today, living a good Christian life means having everything they want and need. They reason that God will reward them for their good behavior. But is that what Jesus actually taught? Didn’t he ask his followers to take up their cross and follow Him?

We seem to be hard-wired to follow our bliss. But do we even know what that might be? Is it possible to give up everything in the name of Jesus, only to find out we didn’t even need anything but Him? Rankin Wilbourne and Brian Gregor have shared a compelling argument that we will be happier once we give up the notion of having it all, and instead, try to imitate Jesus on his journey to the the cross.

The Cross Before Me is not an easy read, as it invites us to look closely at how we live our lives and attempt to reform our thinking from within. One read was not nearly enough for me to absorb the depth of these concepts. I highly recommend it to all those who are seeking true peace and happiness.

Reviewer: Alice Berger


Henry and Bea

Author & Illustrator: Jessixa Bagley
Publisher: Neal Porter Books
Genre: Children
ISBN: 978-0-8234-4284-3
Pages: 32
Price: $18.99

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Henry and Bea are best friends. They love to play together, and they always seem to know just what the other is thinking. But one day, Henry doesn’t want to talk to Bea anymore. Instead, he sits alone in silence, avoiding everyone. Bea doesn’t know what happened, or if she did something wrong, but she keeps reaching out to see if there is anything she can do.

Finally, on a field trip to a farm, Henry tells Bea why he’s upset. His cat, Buddy, died, and he’s very sad. Bea gently comforts him, and they share a companionable silence. Then they decide on a symbolic act to honor Buddy’s memory, just as a storm begins. They both hope they will see a rainbow.

Children are understandably sad when a pet crosses the rainbow bridge. Henry and Bea demonstrates how to handle a friend’s grief in a positive and supportive manner, even when it appears that the person no longer wants to be friends. This touching and sweet book would be a perfect addition to any child’s collection.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

Christian, marriage, relationships

Love Lock

Authors: Rich Rollins and Marty Trammell
Publisher: Crosslink Publishing
Genre: Marriage / Christian
ISBN: 978-1-63357-158-7
Pages: 159
Price: $11.95

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Marriage needs good communication to thrive, but we’re all flawed human beings, incapable of perfect behavior all the time. Love Lock helps couples correct some of the wrong patterns they’ve fallen into, as they navigate life together.

Eighteen chapters touch on specific problems in the categories of: I need to feel understood, I need to feel valued, I need to feel a part of you, I need to feel appreciated and cherished, I need to trust you, and I need more resolution, less conflict. Each short chapter addresses a problem and ends with an exercise to be completed together. The authors write from a Christian perspective, and Bible verses are provided to support their viewpoints on creating a happy marriage.

Maybe you’ve noticed the locks couples leave on bridges, declaring their unending devotion to each other, and you want a marriage like that for yourself. If so, Love Lock would be a great guide for both you and your spouse to follow.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

acting, children, tween

Monologues for Kids and Tweens

Author: Mike Kimmel
Publisher: Ben Rose Creative Arts
Genre: Acting / Children / Middle-grade
ISBN: 978-0998151328
Pages: 150
Price: $14.99

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Practice makes perfect in the world of acting, so it’s no surprise that kids are always looking for good pieces to perform. Monologues for Kids and Tweens gives them some great new material to work with.

Kids think and speak differently from adults, and these monologues are written with that concept in mind. But young actors are also encouraged to personalize the monologues if they want, to make them truly their own. Most of the monologues are designed to be around one minute long, although some could run two to three minutes. They contain humor and drama, as well as some really good advice for kids. All contain positive messages, and there is no inappropriate humor or vulgarity.

Monologues for Kids and Tweens would be perfect for young actors looking to improve their skills. I highly recommend it.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

Amish fiction, romance

A Christmas Haven

Authors: Cindy Woodsmall and Erin Woodsmall
Publisher: WaterBrook
Genre: Amish Romance
ISBN: 978-0-525-65329-5
Pages: 208
Price: $14.99

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Ivy Zook is anxious to leave the Amish to pursue a career in party planning. But just when it seems her dreams are within reach, Arlan and Magda Keim crash into their town. Magda is very ill and her brother, Arlan, is caring for her.

The Keims have left their Schwartzentruber community under scandalous conditions, and are reluctant to return, so they take refuge with the Zooks. As Ivy gets to know the Keims, she becomes more and more aware of how much she will leave behind if she chooses the worldly path. And as she gets to know Arlan, she realizes she’s not sure she wants to anymore.

A Christmas Haven spans several months, concluding around Christmas time, and is a great read during any season. This sequel to The Christmas Remedy also continues the story of Holly Zook and Joshua Smucker as they prepare to marry, while worrying that Holly might not have the bishop’s permission to follow her dream of becoming a nurse. This sweet Amish romance will leave the reader with a joyful and merry heart.

Reviewer: Alice Berger


The Seed Who Was Afraid to Be Planted

Author: Anthony DeStefano
Illustrator: Erwin Madrid
Publisher: Sophia Institute Press
Genre: Children
ISBN: 978-1622828289
Pages: 32
Price: $16.95

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A little seed lives in a drawer with other seeds. Sometimes a man comes and opens the drawer, taking one away with him, and no one ever sees it again. The seed lives in fear that the man will come for him and something terrible will happen.

One day, the dreaded moment arrives, and the seed is carried away. He feels sad and lonely when he’s planted, and contemplates his fate. But a miraculous transformation starts taking place. He begins to grow, and soon he’s a tall tree. Now he can see the sun, the blue sky, and all the people and animals around him. He is happy because he has fulfilled his destiny.

The rhyming text of this story is perfect, and the illustrations are stunning. While there is no direct religious message presented in the story, Bible quotes are provided at the end of the book. These include a reference to the parable of the seed that must fall to the ground and die in order to bear fruit.

Kids find change frightening, and they will relate to the seed feeling fearful of leaving the safety and comfort of the drawer. Seeing the seed accept and finally embrace his transformation will help them see that sometimes change can be very good. I highly recommend The Seed Who Was Afraid to Be Planted.

Reviewer: Alice Berger


Franklin and Luna and the Book of Fairy Tales

Author: Jen Campbell
Illustrator: Katie Harnett
Publisher: Thames & Hudson
Genre: Children
ISBN: 978-0-500-65175-9
Pages: 32
Price: $17.95

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Illustrator’s website
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Luna is planning a surprise birthday party for her dragon, Franklin. To distract him while the guests arrive, she takes him to a magical bookstore. While they browse, her pet tortoise, Neil, opens up a very dangerous looking, locked book. In a flash, he disappears inside.

Without a moment’s hesitation, Franklin and Luna dive inside the book, looking for Neil. They run into three pigs, a witch, a knight, and others, and pass a glass slipper shop. No one has seen Neil. After nearly colliding with a wolf, they ask once again about Neil, and the wolf leads them to a race between her tortoise and a hare. Finally, a giant shows up on the scene, alerting them to the fact that the book is closing, and they’d better get out soon before they’re trapped for good.

Everyone wants to join Franklin and Luna on their trip back to the real world, and soon everyone tumbles out of the book. Franklin’s birthday party bash is the best ever, as new friends join old ones. Franklin and Luna and the Book of Fairy Tales is a creative spin on the classics, and is highly recommended.

Reviewer: Alice Berger