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Bronco and Friends: Mission Possible 

By Tim Tebow and A. J. Gregory, illustrated by Jane Chapman
Reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen

Bronco is enjoying a rest in the summer sunshine when a bee lands on the tip of his tail. Bronco is terrified, so he runs away, crashing into Alexis the goat and stopping in his tracks. The bee, named Phoebe, is still clinging to Bronco’s tail. She asks for help because her family was stolen from the beekeeper who loves and cares for them.  

Immediately, Bronco thinks, “Why would I help a bunch of bees I don’t even know? … They’ve never done anything for me.”  

The compassionate narrative and cheerful illustrations found in this endearing children’s picture book develop the theme of Philippians 2:4 (MEV): “Let each of you look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (WaterBrook) 

Josey Johnson’s Hair and the Holy Spirit

By Esau McCaulley
Reviewed by Darrell L. Delaney

Josey Johnson is preparing to sing in the church choir on Pentecost Sunday. Her hair has personality, which means it changes all the time. As her hair gets braided, Josey is told that God didn’t make any mistakes when he made her and that she is a work of art. 

Josey also learns that Pentecost was the day the Holy Spirit came and brought people together despite their differences. She wears a red dress because it resembles the fiery tongues that landed on each person. 

McCaulley makes a complicated concept very accessible to little people. 

When I read this to my daughter, she saw herself in the book. She understood in a new way that she is a work of art and that God is still active in this world today. (IVP Kids)

The Wolves of Yellowstone: A Rewilding Story 

By Catherine Barr, illustrated by Jenni Desmond 
Reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema

On March 1, 1872, Yellowstone National Park became the world’s first national park. Though wolves had roamed freely for hundreds of years in that area, their numbers radically decreased when the United States government supported the people who hunted and killed the animals. In 1926, rangers shot and killed the last wolf in the park. 

Catherine Barr’s intriguing nonfiction narrative and Jenni Desmond’s earthy, spirited artwork combine to give children a glimpse of the devastating impact of that decision and, years later, the concerted effort it took to reverse the consequences. This book gives children the opportunity to learn about how God’s amazing creation is intricately woven together and to discover the effort it takes to care for and maintain it. (Bloomsbury Children's Books)

100 Days to Brave for Kids: Devotions for Overcoming Fear and Finding Your Courage

By Annie F. Downs
Reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema

Annie F. Downs’ 100 devotions for children about bravery each include a Scripture passage, a brief meditation, a question for reflection, and space to journal.  

With compassion and astute awareness of the issues children face, Downs delves into themes such as nurturing godly dreams for the future and working hard to achieve them, loving and helping others, facing change with hope and perseverance, honoring and caring for the bodies God has given us, and working to bring about God’s goodness in the world. Downs’ primary focus as she encourages children to set aside fear with God’s help and to be brave is to give God honor: “All glory for any bravery we exhibit goes straight to Jesus.” Recommended for children ages 8-12. (Zonderkidz) 

My Own Lightning

By Lauren Wolk
Reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema

In this sequel to Wolf Hollow, it’s 1944, and 12-year-old Annabelle is living under a cloud of tragic events that occurred just months ago in her small western Pennsylvania community of Wolf Hollow. Annabelle had done all she could to shield her friend Toby, a reclusive WWI veteran, from bullying by the new girl, Betty Glengarry, but she had failed.  

Forgiveness, restoration, and compassion characterize Annabelle’s journey from confusion to healing in this novel for middle school readers. While Wolf Hollow portrayed the darkness of the human heart and its tragic consequences—a narrative at times tense and difficult to read—My Own Lightning offers glimpses into a world where redemption is always a possibility and joy can be rediscovered after great sorrow. (Dutton Books for Young Readers)

Confessions of a French Atheist: How God Hijacked My Quest to Disprove the Christian Faith 

By Guillaume Bignon 
Reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema

With honesty and vulnerability, Guillaume Bignon dissects his life before and after becoming a Christian. In poignant and searing detail, he relates how “God took this atheistic, hedonistic software engineer who scorned religion, grabbed him by the scruff of the neck, demolished his intellectual objections, changed his heart, forgave his sins, and made him into a philosopher, theologian, and apologist of the Christian faith.”  

Bignon hoped to accomplish three objectives by writing his memoir: to amuse readers with his personal story, to excite readers’ curiosity with his apologetics, and to invite readers to follow Jesus as he himself does today. Bignon’s memoir accomplishes all of these objectives. It celebrates the love of God that pursues God’s children relentlessly. (Tyndale) 

Call Me Indian: From the Trauma of Residential School to Becoming the NHL's First Treaty Indigenous Player

By Fred Sasakamoose
Reviewed by Agnes Mastin

Fred Sasakamoose is a Residential school survivor and the first Treaty Indigenous player in the NHL. These things are true, but neither fact tells the whole story. 

Sasakamoose’s autobiography, Call Me Indian, tracks the life of an inspirational Nehiyaw (Cree) man who became the first First Nations player in the NHL. Sasakamoose’s story takes the audience on a roller coaster ride: one moment we are cheering for him, and the next we are flinching when things go very wrong.

Sasakamoose’s love for the game and his community is truly an inspiration for anyone who wants a better world. This book is for anyone who loves hockey or Indigenous people, and those who want to read about what real passion and compassion can do. (Penguin Random House Canada)

What Remains True 

By Nancy Naigle
Reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema

Merry Anna Foster desperately needs a new beginning and serendipitously finds it in the small town of Antler Creek, far away from her frenetic city life, a demanding family business, and an adulterous ex-husband. Merry Anna finds work in a small shop and makes friends with the locals, including Adam Lockwood, the handsome owner of the local feed store and a successful rodeo cowboy who has his career goals charted to precision.  

When Adam’s former girlfriend shows up at his door with a 5-year-old girl he never knew about and claims he’s the father, all bets are off. 

Author Nancy Naigle’s tender romance novel explores the ways in which people’s past decisions and present circumstances don't hinder God’s grace from bringing forgiveness, renewal, and a brighter, often totally unexpected future. (WaterBrook)

The Unhiding of Elijah Campbell

By Kelly Flanagan
Reviewed by Cynthia Beach

Elijah Campbell has a problem. He doesn’t like to relate to others, not even those he loves. He’d rather fake it and hide. “I ... tried to recover my most reliable way of responding when my walls were about to be breached: a smile so bright no one’s scrutiny had ever survived its wattage.”

Soon Elijah’s smile-weapon no longer works. His wife is unhappy. His editor is unhappy. And Elijah himself is unhappy. If only he’d let his recurring nightmares return him to a wound that needs attention. 

I loved this novel’s understanding of humanity and its incisive insights. 

This novel is the latest from the IVP spiritual formation imprint that includes novels by Sharon Garlough Brown. The Unhiding of Elijah Campbell refreshes in its verve and honesty. (IVP Formatio).

The Puzzler: One Man’s Quest to Solve the Most Baffling Puzzles Ever, from Crosswords to Jigsaws to the Meaning of Life

By A.J. Jacobs
Reviewed by Sam Gutierrez

A.J. Jacobs is known for books describing his immersion in yearlong projects. In The Year of Living Biblically, for example, he tries to live by all of the biblical commandments. In his latest book, The Puzzler, he immerses himself in puzzles.

The first puzzle he tackles is the crossword. Then he wrestles with the Rubik's cube. From there, he explores every kind of puzzle imaginable—anagrams, jigsaws, mazes, ciphers, sudoku, KenKen, riddles, Japanese puzzle boxes, and scavenger hunts, to name a few.  

The greatest puzzle of all, though, is the meaning of life, a puzzle Jacobs faces in the book’s final chapter. Does he crack the code? Does he unlock the symbols and discover what life is all about? Read the chapter called “Infinite Puzzles” to find out! (Crown)

Jesus Listens: Daily Devotional Prayers of Peace, Joy, and Hope 

By Sarah Young
Reviewed by Li Ma

Eighteen years after Jesus Calling, Sarah Young has released Jesus Listens, a devotional prayer book written from the perspective of a praying Christian. It reminds us that God listens to all our spoken and unspoken prayers. In this anxious time, it can be immensely comforting and encouraging to know that God listens when we pray. Young’s book offers one-page devotional prayers as jumping-off points for personal prayer.  

It takes intention and perseverance to develop a life of prayer. This book serves as a primer and a guide. Each daily prayer ends with a few Scripture verses.

Can pre-written prayers be authentic and heartfelt? Yes. The daily prayers in this book are a warm-up exercise for placing oneself in the presence of an active and listening God. (Thomas Nelson).


By Isabel Allende
Reviewed by Lorilee Craker

This sweeping novel from the great Chilean novelist Isabel Allende, 80, tells the epic story of Violeta Del Valle, a woman whose life spans 100 years, from the Spanish flu pandemic to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Violeta bears Allende’s elegant use of language, comparative wholesomeness (it has no swearing or sex scenes, though characters do not live pristine moral lives), and a plot that carries you along like a rolling river. What’s missing here is her trademark magical realism, epitomized in The House of the Spirits

Could Allende’s 21st novel be the last from one of the most widely read Spanish-speaking authors of our time? I hope not. (Ballantine Books)

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