Books for Summer’s Sunlit Days and Firefly Nights

Books for Summer’s Sunlit Days and Firefly Nights
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Stand Like a Cedar

By Nicola I. Campbell, illustrated by Carrielynn Victor
Reviewed by Agnes Mastin

Set in traditional Coast Salish territory in the Pacific Northwest, this delightful story for 2- to 5-year-olds opens the door for children of all ethnicities to glimpse a traditional Indigenous lifestyle. Campbell uses her storytelling abilities to invite the audience to walk with Creator by respecting all of creation. 

Expressions of ancient cultural traditions are illustrated in watercolor by Stό:lō artist Carrielynn Victor. Illustrations feature West Coast landscapes and a blend of European and Indigenous art styles. Images work hand in hand with Campbell’s storytelling to bring this story to life. 

Songs and stories reflect the belief that everything in creation has a story to tell, include prayers to Creator, and invite a promise to stand tall like a cedar by protecting, honoring, and respecting all creation. (Birchbark Books)

Home Is In Between

By Mitali Perkins
Reviewed by Li Ma

A little girl named Shanti moves with her parents from India to the United States. At first her parents’ presence and cooking make their new city neighborhood feel just like their village. But changes and challenges happening outside, from different holiday practices such as trick-or-treating to the use of a new language in school, cause Shanti to have an identity crisis.

Living in between cultures can be exhausting, but children have a unique resilience. Shanti recovers her optimistic attitude. She no longer feels out of place because home can be “in between.”

The author notes how her own story as an immigrant child led to the creation of this book. She affirms that switching between two sets of cultural codes can be hard but also is an enriching gift. (Macmillan)

The Inventions of God (and Eva) 

By Dave Connis, illustrated by Amy Domingo
Reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema   

Young Eva is bursting with exuberance and imagination as she explores God’s world and makes various objects. That’s not surprising because Eva is a child of God made in God’s image. God loves to invent—he made the earth, after all! 

Eva reflects God’s image in another way too. She likes to take things that are broken and fix them. God does, too. But while Eva merely glues Mr. Robotreestuff back together after he falls from a great height, God accomplishes so much more as he takes a broken world—humanity and creation—and sends his “Redemption Glue: Made With Jesus: Holds All Things Together.”  

This spirited children’s picture book, replete with humorous, flamboyant artwork, will turn young children’s attention to our awesome Creator. (WaterBrook)

Birdie’s Bargain 

By Katherine Paterson  
Reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema   

Ten-year-old Birdie is sad, scared, and most of all angry because her dad has been called up for his third tour of duty in Iraq. Struggling beneath a financial burden, Birdie, her mom, and her baby brother, Billy, move in with Gran in her cramped apartment while he’s away.  

Birdie is comforted when she wears her “I Jesus” T-shirt. She has a plan and decides to make a bargain with God for her dad’s safety.    

Renowned author Katherine Paterson sensitively explores the deep spiritual questions that children ponder as they face the disturbing complexities of war, domestic abuse, poverty, and bullying. Recommended as a great shared reading experience for Christian parents and children, it’s an avenue to talk about the things of God. (Candlewick)

The Samosa Rebellion 

By Shanthi Sekaran  
Reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema   

Muki Krishman loves his friends and multiethnic community in the neighborhood of Oceanview, where most people are like him and his family: hardworking immigrants.  

Unsettled by seeing a drone—“a winged camera”—called a Dragonfly zooming about the neighborhood, Muki thinks, “Maybe it’s the Dragonfly, maybe it’s Paati (grandmother) moving in, or maybe it’s just being twelve, but I can’t shake the feeling that a big change crouches just around the corner, waiting to pounce. Something—something—is on its way.”   

Fast-paced, adventurous, and humorous, this novel for middle-school readers, which includes some profanity, is relevant to current cultural issues such as xenophobia and immigration. Well-drawn, realistic characters who speak truth to power and rise up against injustice are inspiring and refreshing literary companions. (Katherine Tegen Books) 

The Beatryce Prophecy 

By Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Sophie Blackall  
Reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema   

Brother Edik and the other monks of the Order of the Chronicles of Sorrowing fear the malevolence of Answelica, an ornery goat that does what she pleases, butting any who anger her or stand in her way. Life irrevocably changes for Brother Edik when one morning he discovers an injured and feverish child lying beside Answelica in her pen; the girl, Beatryce, is holding the goat’s ear as if it were a lifeline. 

Kate DiCamillo once again presents middle-school readers with a stirring novel that celebrates the power of love and explores the human desire to find a place to call home. DiCamillo’s deft characterization, subtle humor, and engaging plot combine with illustrator Sophie Blackall’s winsome artwork to make The Beatryce Prophecy an engaging and entertaining experience. (Candlewick) 

Once Upon a Wardrobe 

By Patti Callahan
Reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema   

Eight-year-old George Devonshire and his 17-year-old sister, Megs, are living in Worcester, England, in 1950. George is frail, having been born with a weak heart. After discovering C.S. Lewis’ Narnia, he begs Megs, a brilliant math student at Oxford, to visit Lewis—or Jack, as he preferred to be called. George is consumed with burning questions, and because he is dying, his questions need to be answered soon: “Where did this land of the lion, a white witch, and fauns and beavers and castles come from?”    

As Megs continues to visit Jack, listen to his stories, and share them with George, the siblings are transformed. Ultimately, Megs understands that “we are enchanted not by being able to explain it all, but by its very mystery. That is—finally, that is—enough.” (Harper Muse)

The Girl Who Could Breathe Under Water 

By Erin Bartels
Reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema   

Twenty-six-year-old Kendra Brennan has experienced success and acclaim with the publication of her first novel, That Summer. However, while attempting to begin writing her second novel, she receives a letter signed by “A Very Disappointed Reader.” Stymied in her creative efforts, Kendra knows that before she can banish her writer’s block she needs to confront the person who wrote the letter—and she’s convinced she knows who it is.  

In this complex, stirring, and at times deeply disturbing novel for adults, Erin Bartels skillfully weaves threads of love, hope, forgiveness, and restoration in a tapestry that also portrays abuse, despair, hatred, and brokenness. Subtly and effectively, Bartels sets her novel on the foundation of Christian hope and God’s sovereignty over all things. (Revell) 

Carry On: Reflections for a New Generation

By John Lewis
Reviewed by Reginald Smith

U.S. Representative John Lewis, who died in 2020, was the youngest protege of civil rights giants Martin Luther King Jr., Andrew Young, and Ralph Abernathy. 

In these pages, Lewis willingly shares his experiences with his mentors and heroes who gave him courage to get into “good trouble,” as when facing Alabama state troopers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. His wife also gave him quiet counsel. Lewis’ voice and energy easily flow from the pages as a man saturated in the faith of the Black Southern Baptist tradition. 

This compact book is a reminder that seeking justice as a Christian is more than sending a check or writing a terse letter to your politician. Like John Lewis, we can get our shoes and bodies involved to become better racial justice allies. (Grand Central Publishing)        

Five Little Indians

By Michelle Good
Reviewed by Agnes Mastin

Michelle Good draws her audience into the lives of five children who come of age and are released from the control of St. Mary’s Indian Residential School in Mission, B.C. All of the five must find their own ways. 

Turning away from the so-called “Christian” ideals taught to them in the abusive setting of the residential school, they face addiction, prostitution, rage, suicide, and other mental disorders as they live in Vancouver’s Lower East Side.

This is a story of succumbing to pain and oppression. It is a story of resilience and overcoming the worst life has to offer. 

I recommend this book for anyone who wants to truly understand the experience of those who survived the residential schools, which oppressed and crushed humans God created and called good. (HarperCollins)

The Jesus Music (A Visual Story of Redemption as Told by Those Who Lived It)

By Marshall Terrill
Reviewed by Paul Delger

The Jesus Music book, an accompaniment to the 2021 documentary film of the same name, provides a comprehensive picture of contemporary Christian music over the genre’s 50-year history. It begins with the story of hippies in California coming to faith and not liking the traditional music of the church. A more contemporary music style was born. 

Highlights include going down memory lane with Christian rockers such as Larry Norman, Resurrection Band, and Petra and learning how Keith Green wanted to give away his music to those who couldn’t afford it, much to the chagrin of his record label. Readers also learn how Michael W. Smith refused to create a worship record, but the Lord kept after him. When Smith finally agreed, it became the second-largest CCM record of all time and launched the modern worship genre. The book is also filled with beautiful photographs. (KLOVE Books)

The Truth and Beauty: How the Lives and Works of England’s Greatest Poets Point the Way to a Deeper Understanding of the Words of Christ

By Andrew Klavan
Reviewed by Trevor Denning

As Andrew Klavan and his son Spencer were enjoying drinks on a balcony, father confessed to son, “I don’t understand the Sermon on the Mount.” The words of Jesus seemed so illogical— beautiful and undoubtedly true, but blurry.

“Maybe the problem is that you are trying to understand a philosophy instead of trying to get to know a man,” was Spencer’s reply. Klavan found it one of the most profound things he’d ever heard.

As Klavan tries to understand the man Jesus, he weaves in the stories of the Romantic poets. Klavan is a gifted storyteller, and these sections shine. He discusses the poets’ artistic influences and their own influence on the art that followed before bringing it all back to the words of Jesus. A glorious, singular book. (Zondervan)

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