Uncle John’s City Garden
By Bernette G. Ford, illustrated by Frank Morrison
Reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema
Li’l Sissy, the youngest child in her family, is bursting with enthusiasm and curiosity as she and Brother and Sister help Uncle John in his unique garden. Situated on an excavated city lot between tall buildings in the projects in Brooklyn, N.Y., it’s dubbed “the garden” by the community before any garden even exists. But that changes when Uncle John’s hard work combines with the efforts of the three children—digging, raking, planting, watering, and weeding—to patiently nurture seedlings into mature plants. In this playful children’s picture book, illustrator Frank Morrison’s delightful pictures combine with author Bernette Ford’s buoyant narrative to celebrate the wonder of nurturing a garden in an unlikely place and the life-giving outcomes of sharing, caring, and community. (Holiday House)
Reviewed by Sam Gutierrez
When Marques Keith Brownlee–High Definition (MKBHD) posted his first YouTube video in 2009, he was 14 years old.
Thirteen years later, Brownlee is one of the most popular technology reviewers on YouTube, with an astounding 16 million subscribers. Major tech executives, including Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, and the CEOs of Google, Apple, and Microsoft, tap into Brownlee’s channel so they can speak to his audience about their latest gadgets and innovations.
YouTube is a place where many creative young people carve out niches for themselves. MKBHD is one of them, a trusted expert on anything having to do with the technology industry and its culture-shaping products.
Lent: The Season of Repentance and Renewal
By Esau McCaulley
Reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema
Biblical scholar Esau McCaulley’s accessible guide to the season of Lent is the first book in the Fullness of Time series—six short books on the seasons and key events of the church year, including Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost.
Raised in the Primitive Baptist Church, McCaulley didn’t encounter the liturgical practices associated with church seasons until he was a young adult. He effectively combines anecdotes about his spiritual growth through embracing Lenten disciplines with explanations about the history of Lent and how it is practiced today. He repeatedly shows that the season of Lent is not about burdensome rules or ways to earn God’s merit—an impossibility!—but “a gift of the collected wisdom of the church universal.” (IVP)
Reviewed by Lorilee Craker
Alaska Daily boasts a wildly different setting than the big-city streets usually featured in films about newspaper reporters and manages to make Anchorage seem like a remote village. Here local journalists pursue stories as small as who won the biggest cabbage at the state fair—but they also chronicle issues as massive as the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women. The show, starring Hilary Swank, was created by Tom McCarthy, who directed and cowrote the now-classic journalism movie Spotlight (2015). He was inspired by investigative articles in the real-life Anchorage Daily News.
The show underscores the importance of local journalism as it highlights the systemic injustice of missing and murdered Indigenous women. The show has little offensive language and only mild content in terms of violence and sex. (Rated TV-14, ABC, Hulu)
These Songs We Sing: Carla Klassen, a piano teacher, accompanist, professional chorister, and church musician, explores why timeless hymns resonate so deeply in our individual and collective souls. (Pandora Press)
An Influential Voice for Democracy: In the documentary Becoming Frederick Douglass, Oscar-nominated filmmaker Stanley Nelson explores the role Douglass played in securing the right to freedom for African Americans. (Amazon Prime)
Don’t Watch on an Airplane: Based on the poignant book by Ann Napolitano, Dear Edward tells the story of Edward Adler, a 12-year-old boy who is the lone survivor of a devastating commercial plane crash. Starring Connie Britton and Taylor Schilling, with newcomer Colin O’Brien as Edward. (Apple TV+)
Read by Ruby Dee: The audiobook version of Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston, narrates the story of Janie Crawford, a Southern Black woman in the 1930s, and her journey from a free-spirited girl to a woman of independence and substance. (Audible)