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Summer Reading for Days of Fireflies and Freshly Mown Grass

Summer Reading for Days of Fireflies and Freshly Mown Grass
Ben White

When I Pray for You

by Matthew Paul Turner
Illustrated by Kimberley Barnes
reviewed by Sonya Vanderveen Feddema

In this cheerful rhyming children’s picture book, author Matthew Paul Turner shares a parent’s prayer for a child to grow up in the love and light of God: “I pray you love well. / That the light in you swells. / That the story God writes is the one that you tell.”

The parent prays for the child’s joys, achievements, fears, and dreams, reminding the child “when I pray for you, I imagine God’s view / And pray all that God sees comes alive inside you.”

Kimberley Barnes’s pictures of vivacious, diverse characters and bright settings of home, playground, and nature enhance the book. An excellent baptism gift. (WaterBrook)

We Are Gardeners

by Joanna Gaines and Kids
Illustrated by Julianna Swaney
reviewed by Jenny deGroot

HGTV’s Joanna Gaines and her family share their experience of gardening, beginning with a gifted potted fern and a hopeful dream. From their dining room table to the backyard they draft their horticultural plans, then slowly put them into action. From overhydration to aphid attacks and uninvited trespassing goats, the family discovers, there are many challenges to and life lessons in growing a good garden.

Julianna Swaney’s illustrations are gentle in tone and detail as we see both the garden and the family grow. Recommended for ages 4 to 12, this picture book is a gardening inspiration for any dreaming family. (Thomas Nelson)

A Woman Is No Man

by Etaf Rum
reviewed by Lorilee Craker

First-time novelist Etaf Rum artfully braids the stories of three Palestinian immigrant women: the vulnerable Isra, fresh from the West Bank; her domineering mother-in-law, Fareeda; and Deya, Isra’s daughter, who chafes at the constraints of her harsh cultural confines in modern-day Brooklyn.

As a Christian, I found it valuable to learn about conservative Muslims. Through my reading, Isra, Deya, and the rest became not just “other” and “them,” but imagebearers of their Creator.

Essentially, this intense novel ponders a woman’s worth. What will it mean for these characters to realize their intrinsic value? The answers kept me turning pages far into the night. (Harper)

Save Me the Plums

by Ruth Reichl
reviewed by Kristy Quist 

As a child, Ruth Reichl discovered her love for food as she poured over old Gourmet magazines. Later, after years as a food writer, she became its editor in chief. This book, rich in description of the editorial world, fine food, and even travel, is a fun read for publishing nerds and foodies. During her time with Gourmet, Reichl learns more about who she is, with or without the trappings of success. And while she does not hint at a religious life, she offers all of us food for thought as we consider the very spiritual question of what defines us. (Random House)

The Warrior Maiden

by Melanie Dickerson
reviewed by Sonya Vanderveen Feddema

In 1423, 18-year-old Mulan longs to travel from her village in Lithuania to distant lands and fight against the ruthless Teutonic Knights. When Mulan’s father unexpectedly dies, she makes a decision that will change her life: She disguises herself as a young male soldier and volunteers to fight in her father’s stead. Loosely based on historical events, this novel for young adults portrays a time when armies on both sides of a conflict fought in the name of God. Melanie Dickerson adeptly weaves biblical truths about justice, righteousness, and the power of prayer throughout this swashbuckling adventure, which even includes a blooming romance. (Thomas Nelson)

All Manner of Things

by Susie Finkbeiner
reviewed by Ann Byle

Susie Finkbeiner’s new novel captures the Vietnam War era’s fraught time with beauty and gentleness. Narrator Annie Jacobson and her family live in tiny Fort Colson in northern Michigan and have already experienced the aftereffects of war. Annie’s father, Frank, left her, her mother, and two brothers long ago after his stint in the Korean War. What we would today call post-traumatic stress disorder was just “tremors” then, and the need to escape to cope.

Finkbeiner speaks to issues of war, race, family drama, tragedy, and ultimately the many faces of love as Annie comes to terms with her life and heart and as one family faces life’s tragedies with fortitude and God’s grace. (Revell)

Gritty and Graceful

by Caryn Rivadeneira and illustrations by Sonya Abby Soekarno
reviewed by Alison Hodgson

“It wasn’t easy to be a girl in Bible times. Girls lived hard lives.” And yet, “God used girls . . . to do great things for God. And God did great things for girls!” Caryn Rivadeneira’s exciting, first-person accounts and Sonya Abby Soekarno’s vivid illustrations make it clear that from the very beginning, God looked to girls and women to teach, lead, love, and change the world. From Eve to the woman at the well, from Miriam to Martha, this hopeful and inspiring new juvenile nonfiction book will encourage gritty and graceful girls of today to imagine how they can make a difference in the world and do great things for God. (Beaming Books)

Rayne and Delilah’s Midnite Matinee

By Jeff Zentner
Reviewed by Natalie Hart

Rayne and Delilah are screen names for Josie and Delia, respectively. They’ve been hosting a syndicated weekly horror movie show on cable-access TV for a year and a half. Josie wants to go into TV as a career, and Delia loves cheesy horror movies and the equally cheesy hosts who introduce them. Those movies are her remaining connection to her father, who left when Delia was 7.

The future brings complications to the show and to the friendship. This absorbing read for teens and adults reminded me how complicated even the seemingly simplest decisions about the future are. It increased my compassion for anyone making a life-level leap—all while making me laugh. (Penguin Random House)

And Social Justice for All: Empowering Families, Churches, and Schools to Make a Difference in God’s World

by Lisa Van Engen
reviewed by Sonya Vanderveen Feddema

As a child growing up in one of Michigan’s ten poorest counties, author Lisa Van Engen became familiar with the challenges people faced. Van Engen’s passion for justice shines throughout this informative, inspirational, and hope-filled book. Each of 14 chapters deals with a social justice issue such as clean water and sanitation, health care, poverty, or human trafficking.

Each chapter includes innovative solutions, discussion questions, a brief devotional, book lists and activities, and ways to extend awareness about each issue, making this a valuable resource for parents, educators, church leaders, and anyone who wants to guide children in the ways of justice. (Kregel Publications)

It’s Okay Not to Be Okay

by Sheila Walsh
reviewed by Paul Delger

Bestselling author and popular communicator Sheila Walsh offers practical, nonthreatening advice for battling challenges of all kinds. Walsh, who lives with depression, provides examples from her own life in overcoming and accepting hard things. She says the book is “not self-help, (but) God-help.” Walsh writes: “You don’t need to be okay because Jesus has made you all right. He’s paid the bill in full. He’s covered our ‘not okay-ness.’” Walsh suggests various action steps at the end of each chapter and cautions how hard it can be to change, encouraging readers to start again and again if necessary. (Baker Books)

Anxiety, Interrupted: Invite God’s Peace into Your Questions, Doubts, and Fears

by Rachael Dymski
reviewed by Lorilee Craker

What if anxiety isn’t useless pain? What if it can lead us somewhere happier and more peaceful?

In this slim yet mighty volume, Rachael Dymski writes gorgeously of her lifelong struggle with anxiety. Through stories of visiting her British grandparents on the Channel Islands, marrying an old soul, and becoming a mother, Dymski walks her readers through 10 different kinds of anxiety, including worries about God, marriage, motherhood, one’s calling, friendship, and social media. She is a wise and companionable guide, offering the gentle and welcome message that peace is not nearly as far away as we think. A timely book for an anxious age. (New Hope Publishers)

Can I Get a Witness? Thirteen Peacemakers, Community Builders, and Agitators for Faith & Justice

by Charles Marsh, Shea Tuttle, and Daniel Rhodes
reviewed by Chris Meehan

A wide-ranging assortment of men and women—some Protestant ministers, two Catholic priests, a nun, a lawyer, and others—are featured in essays about well-known activists.

Many served as the backbone of Christian activism in 20th-century America, such as Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement, and Jesuit priest Daniel Berrigan. The subjects of the book illustrate how, motivated by their faith, they faced down the principalities and powers that maintained—and still maintain—a tight grip on the economic life of a nation.

This book compels people of faith to fight to bring God’s justice into our world. (Wm. B Eerdmans)



The Lowdown

The Bible’s Generosity Toward Immigrants: With so many people migrating around the globe, how should Christians and the church respond? Leading Latin American biblical scholar M. Daniel Carroll Rodas explores the surprising amount of material on migration in both the Old Testament and the New in The Bible and Borders. (Brazos Press)

Such News from Miss Woodhouse: Anya Taylor-Joy and Johnny Flynn boast crackling chemistry in their roles as the well-meaning but clueless matchmaker Emma Woodhouse and wise and tender Mr. Knightley in this vibrant, warm, and funny retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma. (Working Title Films, now streaming)

Did Soccer Begin as a Privileged Sport?: The English Game, a richly detailed ensemble drama about the beginnings of football (soccer), comes from Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes and once again explores the class divide. (Netflix)

A Granddaughter Remembers Gampy and Ganny: In Everything Beautiful in Its Time, Jenna Bush Hager shares stories from her beloved grandparents, President George Bush and first lady Barbara Bush, that shaped her into the person she is today. Moving and bittersweet, these essays celebrate family and teach lessons about life, humanity, and kindness. (William Morrow)

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