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Charlotte’s Web (Audiobook)

Reviewed by Lorilee Craker

I’ve always loved this story of a pig named Wilbur, a girl named Fern, and a spider named Charlotte, but the audiobook version, read by the late E.B. White himself, is, as Charlotte described Wilbur, “radiant.”

Listeners will be transported to an old-fashioned barnyard with all its creatures as White envelops them in his timeless tale of friendship and sacrifice. White, who died in 1985, is said to have written Charlotte's Web after watching a spider spin a web on his farm, so it makes sense that his narration is so wonderfully intimate. Who better to give life to these characters?

Listeners of any age will fall for Wilbur, Charlotte, and the gang all over again as they immerse themselves in this tender, wise, and life-giving classic story. (3 hours, 34 minutes, Audible)


Once a Queen: A Novel

By Sarah Arthur

Reviewed by Ann Byle

Sarah Arthur, author of numerous nonfiction titles, offers young-adult readers her first novel, a tale of queens, faraway lands, and mysterious happenings.

Eva Joyce, an American 14-year-old, spends the summer at the English manor house of her grandmother, a woman she’s never met. As she explores the house and grounds, Eva discovers that the fairy tales she loved as a child are perhaps more than simply stories. Her frosty grandmother’s nighttime ramblings add even more mystery as Eva and her new friend Frankie try to unravel what’s going on.

Young adult readers will identify with Eva as she struggles to know herself and her family, and they’ll love the richly layered story Arthur weaves perfectly to its satisfying conclusion. (WaterBrook)


Elevate and Dominate: 21 Ways to Win On and Off the Field

By Deion Sanders

Reviewed by Paul Delger

Sports personality Deion Sanders makes headlines. Folks either love the guy or they dislike him and question his tactics. Love him or not, the former professional football and baseball player, now the head football coach at the University of Colorado, is on a mission to influence especially young people’s lives. His book Elevate and Dominate: 21 Ways to Win on and Off the Field is an inspirational tool that can motivate athletes, coaches, parents, and business or community leaders. The book also discusses parts of Sanders’ personal story of being raised by a single mother and having a life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ. The book affably draws the reader in and offers plenty of encouragement and hope. (Gallery Books)


The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism

By Tim Alberta

Reviewed by Cynthia Beach

The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory draws a through line across decades of events to locate where Evangelicalism has fractured.

Each chapter recounts stories from different cities: Atlanta, Ga.; Montgomery, N.Y.;, Columbus, Ohio; and Washington, D.C. Whether we delve into the Southern Baptist fracas or a lone pastor’s shattering, the patterns align.

I found Alberta’s book a worthy and troubling read. Why? It articulated well the knife edges I now feel in my world.

This book scares me. After all, no matter which party we align ourselves with, trouble abounds, as Frederick Douglass says, when we confuse the Christianity of the land with the true Christianity of Christ. (HarperCollins).


God Gave Rock and Roll to You:

A History of Contemporary Christian Music

By Leah Payne

Reviewed by Robert J. Keeley

God Gave Rock and Roll to You is not a lightweight treatment of the contemporary Christian music industry that developed in the 1970s and became a major economic force in the 1990s. In this carefully researched book, Payne, a professor of American religious history at Portland Seminary, weaves the story of how pastors and other Christian leaders fought against music with a beat, tried counterprogramming with youth musicals, and finally embraced Christian rock and pop as a good alternative to what mainstream music was offering to young people.

The story is complex, and Payne takes us through many of the twists and turns of what was going on in music and in the broader evangelical community. If you lived through any part of this history, you will be fascinated. (Oxford University Press)


The Body Revelation

By Alisa Keeton

Reviewed by Mary Li Ma

God created us as embodied human beings. The body has a natural healing ability to overcome adversity, pain, and even trauma. When we consider all things as coming from a benevolent God, including how our body experiences its surroundings, it brings a new revelation about the guidance of God in our life. This book seeks to restore a holistic view of human beings as embodied and sacred.

Alisa Keeton guides readers to embrace the truth that we are called to honor God with our bodies instead of living “disintegrated lives.”

“The bodies He’s given us are useful for metabolizing, not just food, but also mental and emotional pain,” she writes. As we partner with our bodies to understand this intricate dynamic, we can progress from merely surviving to thriving. (Tyndale)


Remaining You When Raising Them: The Secret Art of Confident Motherhood

By Alli Worthington

Reviewed by Mary Li Ma

Motherhood might be intuitive for some people. But according to Alli Worthington, it might also be a season of lost identity, perpetual guilt, outsized expectations, and emotional suffering.

This book applies the gospel of grace to help moms realign their roles and priorities in motherhood. The author explains how society tends to impose a uniform purpose on mothers, as if self-sacrifice were the ultimate goal. But even in the lives of our children, we mothers are only passers-by. The truth is that “we carry a weight that God never intended us to carry.”

The author takes a strengths-based approach to help mothers discover their “superpower,” whether it is encouragement, steadiness, commitment, excellence, or joy. Instead of fixating on our weaknesses, mothers can focus on their strengths when raising their children. (Zondervan)


Necessary Trouble: Growing Up at Midcentury

By Drew Gilpin Faust

Reviewed by Reginald Smith

Historian Drew Gilpin Faust turns her pen to her own family’s history of living in the South and her coming of age as a baby boomer who challenged her upbringing during the civil rights movement.

Faust, who is white, realized she was living in a racially contradictory context in Virginia. “I grew up in a constant company of Black people, human beings central to my life, yet I somehow came to understand that an unspoken hierarchy required our distance—both physical and emotional—from them. . . . We had—and came to assume we deserved—better houses, better education, a better future.”

This memoir comes from the mind of a historian who truly believes that “history is about choices and about how individuals make those choices within the structures and circumstances in which they find themselves.” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)


Doing Asian American Theology

By Daniel D. Lee

Reviewed by Daniel Jung

Doing Asian American Theology by Daniel D. Lee, Ph.D., is particularly helpful for two audiences: non-Asian brothers and sisters who are interested in or currently serving an Asian American ministry context, and Asian Americans who are pastors in those contexts.

But the book is also useful for anyone who has lived experiences as an Asian American. Lee, the academic dean for the Center of Asian American Theology and Ministry at Fuller Seminary, draws from his professional training and his personal experiences to create the Asian American Quadrilateral—a four-fold framework that helps Asian Americans understand themselves, their faith, and their ministry. Whether the reader is Asian American or not, the book is essential for anyone who wishes to “perform their cultural analysis with a scalpel instead of a sledgehammer.” (IVP Academic)


This Ain’t No Promised Land

By Tina Shelton

Reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema

In this emotionally complex and well-crafted debut novel set in Chicago in 1987, author Tina Shelton narrates the story of one family from the alternating perspectives of mother Charlotte and her 14-year-old daughter, Gracey.

When Father Moses dies of a heart attack, the family is unmoored. Shockingly, Charlotte abandons her children in order to deal with her traumatic past.

Though the neighbors in their tightly-knit Black community gather around the girls to help them survive, the consequences of Charlotte’s decision pile up, and an irrevocable chain of events is set in motion.

Shelton subtly includes commentary on the fallout of slavery in the United States that continues through the generations, and she shows how, even though “this ain’t no promised land,” God is at work healing families and bringing justice. (Kregel Publications)


The Bookbinder

By Pip Williams

Reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema

Twenty-one-year-old twins Peggy and Maude have worked as bindery girls at the Oxford University Press since they were 12. Now it’s 1914, and World War I is ravaging Europe.

Though Peggy and Maude look identical, they are vastly different. Peggy dreams of an education at Oxford’s Somerville College for female students. But she knows college is not for bindery girls.

Maude, on the other hand, is seen as “feebleminded” by those who don’t know her. But Peggy knows otherwise.

Soon dreams of any kind seem pointless as the horrors of war are brought home to Oxford.

The Bookbinder, which includes several sexually explicit scenes, addresses themes still relevant in the world today, including the tremendous sacrifices offered by men and women alike in times of war and pandemic. (Ballantine Books)


The Warsaw Sisters

By Amanda Barratt

Reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema

Set in Poland during World War II, this richly detailed historical novel for adults narrates the stories of twin sisters Antonina and Helena Dabrowska.

Though the 17-year-old sisters had known hardship, nothing could have prepared them for the terror, deprivation, and indignity of living under German occupation. Antonina and Helena look on in horror as German forces assault the Jewish population, finally creating a walled-in ghetto for Jews.

Antonina and Helena each make choices that involve great danger and lead to a devastating rift in their relationship.

Author Amanda Barratt deftly explores the spiritual landscape of war: how it might cause people to turn away from God and how it might throw people on the mercy of God as they seek God with renewed desperation and fervor. (Revell)

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