Focus on the Family


Call It Courage

A book review for parents

This adventure book by Armstrong Sperry is published by Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing and is written for kids 8 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


Mafatu is a young boy living in the South Seas. As a toddler, he was shipwrecked with his mother during a hurricane. She died. Once he returns to his tribe, Mafatu fears the sea and his people label him as a coward. At age 12, Mafatu can no longer bear to live with the stigma. He sets out alone in a canoe to prove himself. On his journey, he battles the sea, a shark, an octopus and savages known as the eaters-of-men. He returns a hero, and his story is repeated for generations.



Christian Beliefs


None



Authority Roles


Tavana Nui is Mafatu's father and the chief of Hikueru. The text says he grew "silently grim" over the years as he heard the villagers talk of his son's cowardice. He is full of joy in the end when his son courageously returns. Mafatu's mother dies trying to save him in a hurricane. She grabs him just as the canoe overturns and saves his life. Mafatu also views the hated sea god, Moana, and the god of the fishermen, Maui, as authority figures. He believes Moana is after him because he wasn't able to claim Mafatu as a child. Mafatu thinks Maui is saving him from Moana's wrath.



Other Belief Systems


Mafatu believes in gods including Moana and Maui. He prays frequently and fervently to Maui for help on his adventure and attributes Maui with his salvation from Moana. The older villagers believe Mafatu's cowardly behavior is the fault of tapapau, a spirit who possesses children at birth. The savages (the eaters-of-men) have a marae, a sacred place, with an idol.



Profanity/Graphic Violence


Mafatu battles a shark and savages.



Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality


None



Awards


Newbery Medal, 1941



Discussion Topics


If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:


Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.


Cannons of the Comstock

A book review for parents

This historical Western fiction book is the fifth in the "Saga of the Sierras" series by Brock and Bodie Thoene and is published by Bethany House Publishers.

Cannons of the Comstock is written for people ages 15 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


In 1864, California is a mixture of Union supporters and Confederate sympathizers. Although Tom Dawson’s family is from Virginia, their sympathies are with the Union, and they are strongly opposed to slavery. After hearing of a Confederate secret society plot to seize control of California silver and gold mines, Tom infiltrates the group to supply information to the Union army. As a spy, Tom is drawn into a dangerous game of deception that forces him to rely heavily on Mont James, a 9-year-old former slave. As Tom earns the trust of the leaders of the group and breaks up their plans to outfit a ship as a privateer, Mont is kidnapped and placed in an underground Chinese slavery ring. Later, after Mont escapes, he and Tom reunite to battle the Confederate sympathizers before someone escapes with the stolen gold shipments.



Christian Beliefs


While the main thrust of the book is the intrigue over the Confederate secret society, the authors do provide background on how churches split over the Civil War, even to the point of trying to out-sing each other during worship services. They describe the bitter feelings that divided congregations and neighbors as Christians tried to practice their faith. While a biblical text supporting slavery is used, in each scene this viewpoint loses to the biblical quotes that do not support slavery.



Authority Roles


Although white and Chinese slaveholders play an important role in the story, they are depicted as evil.



Other Belief Systems


None



Profanity/Graphic Violence


The word n-gger is used a few times. Fight scenes include detailed descriptions of the attacks but are tame compared to what viewers may see on television or in movies.



Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality


The story details a mild romance between characters, but there is no kissing. A woman who is clearly viewed as having a bad character and being a Confederate sympathizer attempts a seduction.



Awards


Unknown



Discussion Topics


If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:

Note:
Opium drugs and opium addicts are in some scenes, but the users are not portrayed in a positive light.


Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.


The Capture

A book review for parents

This fantasy book is the first in the "Guardians of Ga'hoole" series by Kathryn Lasky and an Apple Series book published by Scholastic, Inc.

The Capture is written for kids ages 9 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


When Soren, a young Barn Owl, is pushed from the family's nest by his brother, he's easy prey for the evil owls of St. Aegolius (St. Aggie's). They capture and take him to their "orphanage," where young owls are brainwashed through overexposure to moonlight and other tactics (collectively called "moonblinking"). Those in charge at St. Aggie's intend to make the orphans their slaves. Soren and an Elf Owl named Gylfie discover what the evil owls are doing. By using strategies of their own, including the retelling of legends and tales of yore, Soren and Gylfie manage to avoid being moonblinked. They want to escape the cave that houses St. Aggie's, but neither has learned to fly, and there's nowhere they can practice without being discovered.

One night, Gylfie sees an owl named Hortense stealthily passing off an owl egg that she is supposed to be hatching to eagles outside of St. Aggie's, thereby rescuing it. They realize she must have avoided the moonblinking, too, and they confront her. She admits that she's working undercover in St. Aggie's to help her owl community discover what is happening to their stolen eggs and babies. Later, evil owls kill Hortense after catching her doing this.

Soren and Gylfie become increasingly anxious to escape when they witness another aspect of moonblinking. At the evil owls' command, vampire bats crawl onto the breasts of young owls, make a tiny cut, and suck out some of the owls' blood. According to one of the owl guards, this takes away the young owls' desire to fly. Soren and Gylfie find an old owl named Grimble, who has not succumbed entirely to moonblinking. He gets them clearance into other areas of St. Aggie's and gives them brief opportunities to practice their flying. He, too, is killed in the process of helping the two young owls escape.

When Soren and Gylfie are free, they realize they still want to help stop the evil activities at St. Aggie's. They meet a Great Gray Owl named Twilight and a Burrowing Owl named Digger as they search for their families. Soren finds the nursemaid snake that lived with his family but Soren's and Gylfie's families have moved. Together, the four owls and one snake search for the legendary Great Ga'Hoole Tree. They've heard tales of noble knight owls living there. If the stories are true, they intend to find these brave owls and enlist their aid in destroying St. Aggie's.



Christian Beliefs


When Soren and Gylfie see the pelletorium, where young owls must work, the narrator says if they'd known the meanings of words like heaven and hell, they would have called this place hell. Owls like Soren's parents, who lived in churches, sometimes owned books of psalms.



Authority Roles


Hortense is a small owl, without some of the capabilities of other owls in her family, who poses as a moonblinked baby owl to help save the eggs stolen by the leaders at St. Aggie's. She does this because she wants to use her limitations for a noble purpose rather than live a life where people feel sorry for and must take care of her. The evil owls, including Skench, Spoorn, Jatt and Jutt, steal and brainwash young owls and make them work at St. Aggie's. Grimble encourages the young owls to fly and believe in themselves.



Other Belief Systems


Soren wonders if the evil owls are not owls at all, but some kind of demon spirits in disguise. As Grimble dies, he says an ancient owl prayer in which he claims he's redeemed himself by helping young owls fly. He also says that owls who believe in themselves will fly. The evil owls harvest flecks of a mysterious mineral that seems to give some owls unusual powers.



Profanity/Graphic Violence


Characters frequently use phrases such as Great Glaux, which Soren indicates is swearing. Glaux was the most ancient order of owls from which all owls descended. Soren and Gylfie use the term racdrops several times (short for raccoon droppings), which is one of the dirtiest words an owl can use. Twilight tells an enemy he's going to send him straight to h---.



Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality


None



Awards


Unknown



Discussion Topics


If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:


Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.


The Carjackers

A book review for parents

This second preteen mystery in the "Rugendo Rhinos" series by Shel Arensen is published by Kregel Publications.

The Carjackers is written for kids ages 8 to 10. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


Fifth-grader Dean Sandler and three buddies form the Rugendo Rhinos Club. They live in Kenya where their American parents serve as missionaries. The boys' adventures include shooting doves with an air pistol and cooking the meat, capturing and eating flying ants and riding their bikes off of a ledge and into a river. When money for the mission is missing and cars are being stolen, the Rhinos search for the culprits. The daughters of missionaries in Kenya form a girls' club called the Cheetahs and beat the boys to solving part of the stolen car mystery. Not to be outdone, the Rhinos solve the rest of it.



Christian Beliefs


All the main characters are Christians, and together they attend church services as missionaries. They pray about troubles, such as when cars are stolen. When missionaries in Zaire are in danger but are able to leave the country safely, the characters call it an answer to prayer. Dean's dad edits a Christian magazine, which includes stories of personal testimonies, and he shares the publication with nonbelievers.



Authority Roles


Dean's father and mother guide him when he makes mistakes. A couple of the Rugendo Rhinos initially don't admit to accidentally triggering a car alarm. When they confess, the car owner readily forgives them. Dean borrows his dad's favorite camera to photograph the car thieves, and his dad grounds him from using his bike for a week because Dean did not ask for his permission to use the camera.



Other Belief Systems


There are many Kenyan words used and defined in this book, but the belief systems of the culture are not mentioned.



Profanity/Graphic Violence


After the boys shoot a dove with an air pistol, it tumbles from the tree and moves about in the dirt. One boy decapitates it.



Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality


None



Awards


Unknown



Discussion Topics


If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:


Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.


Carry On, Mr. Bowditch

A book review for parents

This historical, coming-of age book by Jean Lee Latham is published by Houghton Mifflin and is written for kids ages 10 to 14. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


Feeling the financial impact of war and death on his family, former sea captain Habakkuk Bowditch of old Salem indentures his son, Nat, to a shipping company. Nat has an amazing head for mathematics. His teacher believes he could attend Harvard. But his apprenticeship requires him to work for his employers until he's 21, too old for school. Despite his circumstances, Nat takes every opportunity to learn about navigation and shipping. He goes on to write books, teach crews how to figure important sailing calculations and serve as captain of a ship.



Christian Beliefs


Grandma says it's not Christian to waste food. Nat learns several languages, including Latin, Spanish and French, by using the Bible (and specifically, the first chapter of John) as a translation tool. A kind and scholarly clergyman, Dr. Bentley, teaches and encourages Nat.



Authority Roles


After Nat's father wrecked his ship, it "took the tuck out of him" (according to Grandma). The text hints at Habakkuk's tendency to turn to alcohol in troubled times. Nat's employers, the captain under which he served and Dr. Bentley all trust and respect Nat, giving him freedom and resources to teach himself and others the ways of the sea. As an authority figure himself (while serving in high positions on voyages), Nat spends most of his spare time teaching the crew members lessons that could help them improve their own stations in life.



Other Belief Systems


As a child, Nat is convinced that a spell — jingling change in his pocket under a full moon — will bring good luck to his family. Nat's father gives up sailing because he believes he'll bring bad luck to any crew he joins.



Profanity/Graphic Violence


None



Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality


Nat is kissed goodbye before his voyage.



Awards


Newbery Award, 1956



Discussion Topics


If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:


Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.


The Case of the Autumn Rose

A book review for parents

This mystery novel is the first book in "The Davis Detective Mysteries" series by Rick Acker and is published by Kregel Publications.

The Case of the Autumn Rose is written for kids ages 9 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


Arthur and Kirstin Davis, a brother and sister duo, have set up a detective agency to resolve minor infractions such as locker thefts or to locate things, such as lost dogs. One day, they receive an international phone call from a woman named Madame Dragonfly. She asks the two to investigate how a horse farm called Autumn Rose got its name and if it has a connection to her father, Pierre LeGrand. She explains how her father left Vietnam soon after she was born and how she and her mother have not heard from him in many years. All Madame Dragonfly knows is that her father possesses a valuable pearl called the Autumn Rose. She wonders if he fled to America and named the farm after this valuable treasure. After they take the case, men in dark cars start following Arthur and Kirstin. With a gang and unknown assailants following them, they race to find the treasure. When the police temporarily take them off the case, Madame Dragonfly convinces their parents and the police that the Davis Detective Agency is in just as much danger being off the case. She supplies bodyguards for the children, and the investigation continues. Kidnapping, false trails, gunfire and a high-speed boat chase eventually lead the children to the Autumn Rose (the pearl). At the close of the book, Madame Dragonfly decides she can't keep it for herself. She has come to know Christ and now believes there is something far more valuable than this pearl.



Christian Beliefs


The novel opens with an account of a 130-pound soldier who carries a 200-pound man for many miles. He credits his strength to the power of Christ. Arthur and Kirstin talk about the Bible, the power of prayer and the role Jesus plays in giving them direction. Arthur prays for protection for his sister and Madame Dragonfly, a non-believing woman with a Christian father. She tells the story about how her father became a Christian and how he no longer views the pearl as priceless. He wrestled with its value and determines that his daughter should not be given the pearl until she understands the parable of the pearl of great price in the Bible. He also refers to having prayed for years that his daughter would realize something far more valuable than the pearl. The author depicts main characters who not only are God-fearing, but also have a daily relationship with Him as Lord. They are contrasted with some characters who do not know the Lord and who are on an empty search for wealth.



Authority Roles


The Davis children, Arthur and Kirstin, get permission from their parents before taking the case. Their relationship with their parents is treated as a respectful submission to authority rather than as a strained or resented demand. There are also references to such things as praying about safety and trusting a healthy and respectful set of parents to give proper parameters to their detective work. When the danger becomes greater, the parents want their young detectives to back out of the case, and no argument takes place between the parents and the disappointed teens. The Davis home appears to be a traditional family with traditional roles. The mother voices her questions and concerns to her children and guides them in making their own choices. She also drives them to the horse farm when she is concerned for their safety. Madame Dragonfly is cool and distant from Arthur and Kirstin. During her first phone call with them, she asks them to refer to her by a code name and gives them very little information. The two decide to ask her for more information to see if she is willing to be honest with them. The young detectives develop a cooperative relationship with a police officer. This officer treats the children as helpful and highly regarded sleuths who help him with his time consuming work.



Other Belief Systems


Some of the characters in the book are referred to as nonbelievers, but there is no mention of their belief systems.



Profanity/Graphic Violence


There is no profanity in the novel. The Vietnamese T-shirt Gang shoots at their car and boat, but the kids are able to dodge the bullets. Two bodyguards are kidnapped at a roadside rest stop, thrown in the car and taken away. Later, it is made clear that they were drugged or sedated.



Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality


None



Awards


None



Discussion Topics


If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:


Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.


The Case of the Dinosaur in the Desert

A book review for parents

This fourth mystery book in the "New Sugar Creek Gang" series by Pauline Hutchens Wilson and Sandy Dengler is published by Moody Publishers.

The Case of the Dinosaur in the Desert is written for kids ages 8 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


Lynn Wing enters a dinosaur-drawing contest and wins first place. The prize is the opportunity to participate in an actual archaeological dig in Arizona. Lynn invites the rest of the Sugar Creek Gang to join her. When they arrive at the dig site, an unpleasant paleontologist named Dr. Alex Royer eventually greets them. She does not like having young people on her dig site and alternates between ignoring them and accusing them of stealing things, such as fossils. At one point, the Sugar Creek Gang is told to leave, and another kinder paleontologist, Brian, helps them get permission to return. From that time forward, the kids determine to be kind to Dr. Royer, following Jesus' example, regardless of how mean she is to them. Eventually, one of the Sugar Creek Gang members, Les, finds the real thief, a neighboring ranch owner, and Dr. Royer and Les get the culprit to admit his guilt. In the end, the gang realizes that they have learned important lessons about following God through their willingness to show God's love to Dr. Royer.



Christian Beliefs


This book is written from a Christian worldview. The kids talk about specific Bible verses with their parents, and Les' father discusses prayer with him. Members of the Sugar Creek Gang, also, pray. Through doing the things that the Bible tells them to do, the kids start to understand how they please Jesus when they obey His Word. The book emphasizes the importance of not just reading God's Word, but also applying it to everyday situations. When a poisonous snake almost attacks Les, he realizes that God divinely protected him. Les explains to Brian, a kind paleontologist, that a Christian is a person who trusts Jesus and wants to please Him.



Authority Roles


The Sugar Creek Gang believes their parents are in authority over them, and they honor and obey them. Despite poor treatment by the adults in charge at the dig site, they try to be respectful. Dr. Royer uses her position to treat the Sugar Creek Gang poorly, and Brian uses his position to protect the kids. Les' father comforts him with biblical principles and Bible verses, and all the gang's parents try to do what is best for their children



Other Belief Systems


None



Profanity/Graphic Violence


None



Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality


None



Awards


Unknown



Discussion Topics


If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:


Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.


The Case of the Loony Cruise

A book review for parents

This fifth mystery book in the "New Sugar Creek Gang" series by Pauline Hutchens Wilson and Sandy Dengler is published by Moody Publishers.

The Case of the Looney Cruise is written for kids ages 8 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


When the Walkers and the Sugar Creek Gang take a vacation together on a houseboat in Minnesota, they invite another guest, Lisa Glenn. Lisa is a spoiled teenager who constantly belittles Les and his friends. She considers them losers because they respect their parents and don't smoke or drink. Les watches out for Lisa, such as when he follows her after she has said unkind things to him, so he can lead her back to the houseboat. Later, when all the kids become lost in the woods and must work together to survive a violent storm, Lisa learns more about how the others' lives have changed because they became Christians. In the end, she does not feel that their faith is something to belittle.



Christian Beliefs


This book is written from a Christian worldview. Jesus, prayer, the Bible and God are all discussed. Lynn tells Lisa that the only way to heaven is through the knowledge of Jesus. Tiny recognizes that even this vacation is a gift from God.



Authority Roles


Lisa, who is not a Christian, defies authority. She does what she wants. At one point she tries to persuade Les that it is okay to drink and smoke because his parents will never know. The Sugar Creek Gang honors and respects authority and recognize that their parents are to be honored and obeyed. Mr. Walker explains to Lisa that he is currently her legal guardian and he expects her to do what is asked of her. Disobeying authority is viewed in a negative light.



Other Belief Systems


Lisa says she will worry about heaven when she is older.



Profanity/Graphic Violence


Though no profane words are actually printed, Lisa is characterized as using foul language.



Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality


Lisa talks about making out and asks if the Sugar Creek Gang ever plays "kissy-face." Les is repulsed by the idea.



Awards


Unknown



Discussion Topics


If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:


Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.


The Case of the Monster in the Creek

A book review for parents

This sixth mystery book in the "New Sugar Creek Gang" series by Pauline Hutchens Wilson and Sandy Dengler is published by Moody Publishers.

The Case of the Monster in the Creek is written for kids ages 8 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


After Bits claims to see a monster in Sugar Creek, the gang is determined to discover what it is. In the meantime, Les helps his sisters, Hannah and Catherine, with monsters of a different kind — two unruly little cousins that the girls have agreed to baby sit for two weeks. The Sugar Creek Gang and their families grow fearful when Tyler disappears because a known child molester was seen in their area. They figure out that Tyler has run away to Sugar Creek County Park. What they don't know is that the molester is luring Tyler toward his truck with the promises of things that Tyler wants. Fortunately, the Creekers find Tyler moments before he gets into the molester's truck. The mystery of the monster in the creek is solved when a stream ecologist agrees to take the gang to the creek at night, they learn which kind of fish is in the creek.



Christian Beliefs


This book is written from a Christian worldview. God, prayer, Jesus and the Bible are all interwoven throughout the storyline. On several occasions, Les spends time with God — praying, giving thanks and simply enjoying His presence.



Authority Roles


The Sugar Creek Gang recognizes that the Word of God commands them to honor and respect authority, especially that of their parents. An older woman accuses them of doing something they didn't do, and they are arrested without cause and slightly mistreated by the police. The children still treat the police with respect. Their parents take their side and do not allow the police to continue in their wrongdoing. At one point, Les does yell at his parents, but later apologizes. Another time, Bits rolls her eyes while her father is giving her instructions, but she obeys what he says. The two young cousins show no regard for authority whatsoever and wreak havoc in the Walker home and in their lives. Mr. Walker points out that that their lack of obedience to authority almost causes Tyler to be kidnapped by a child molester.



Other Belief Systems


None



Profanity/Graphic Violence


Though nothing explicit is shared, a man who has recently been released from jail tries to lure both Lynn and Tyler, on different occasions, into his truck with promises of a ride home and a puppy.



Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality


None



Awards


Unknown



Discussion Topics


If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:


Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.


The Case of the Red Hot Possum

A book review for parents

This first mystery book in the "New Sugar Creek Gang" series by Pauline Hutchens Wilson and Sandy Dengler is published by Moody Publishers.

The Case of the Red Hot Possum is written for kids ages 8 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


When 11-year-old Les moves to a new neighborhood, he meets several children who have one thing in common: They are all avid fans of the Sugar Creek Gang mysteries (a real book series written by Paul Hutchens). Before long, Les, Bits, Tiny, Lynn and Mike form the New Sugar Creek Gang and set out to solve their first mystery. They want to know who is illegally trapping possums in Sugar Creek County Park and why. As Les and his new friends search for answers, they discover some truths about prayer and honoring parents. In the end, they deduce that the owner of a possum farm is behind the illegal activities in the park.



Christian Beliefs


The main character, Les, is a believer who attends church with his family. Many of the other characters are Christian as well and also attend church. In several instances, the children pray when they don't know what to do. A biblical worldview is reinforced by most of their parents.



Authority Roles


The members of the New Sugar Creek Gang honor their parents, with the exception of Bits. Bits is often disrespectful and even disobedient. In one instance, Bits acts on a disobedient decision and finds Les and herself in danger. Tiny is outspoken in telling Bits about the importance of obeying those in authority, especially her parents.



Other Belief Systems


None



Profanity/Graphic Violence


Animals are caught in traps but the graphic details are not described.



Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality


None



Awards


Unknown



Discussion Topics


If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:


Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.


Catching Fire

A book review for parents

This science fiction novel is the second book in "The Hunger Games" series by Suzanne Collins and is published by Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic Inc.

Catching Fire is written for kids ages 9 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


The Hunger Games is an annual televised event in which the dictatorial Capitol of Panem forces two teens (called tributes) from each of its 12 districts to fight to the death.

Katniss Everdeen and her District 12 counterpart, Peeta Mellark, survived the 74th Hunger Games. As champions, they returned home to wealth and fame. But like most Games survivors, their nightmares about the deaths and brutality they witnessed in the arena overshadow their victory. Katniss also fears the wrath of the Capitol leaders. Her subtly subversive actions in the arena rendered her a symbol of revolution for the districts. Panem’s President Snow visits Katniss at her home, confirming that one more slip on her part will spell torture and death for her or her loved ones.

Katniss and Peeta take their obligatory Victory Tour by train through the 12 districts. Under orders from President Snow, they maintain the pretense of their undying love for one another. Peeta does love Katniss, but she is torn between her affection for him and that of her District 12 hunting partner, Gale. Though Peeta and Katniss play their roles, announcing their engagement and talking up their wedding, they inadvertently add fuel to the fires of revolution.

Katniss’ fears and nightmares increase as she hears about various districts revolting. She devises a plan to escape into the woods outside of her district with her friends and family. But when Peacekeepers nearly beat Gale to death, Katniss realizes she must stay and fight for change for her people.

President Snow, determined to quiet Katniss and the revolution, rules that the next Hunger Games will consist of tributes who were former champions. Since Katniss is the only girl from her district to ever have won the Hunger Games, she will automatically return to the arena. Peeta volunteers to be the other tribute from District 12 and Haymitch, the only other District 12 winner in history, mentors them as he did in the first Games.

Haymitch insists Katniss and Peeta work with tributes named Finnick and Johanna in the arena. Katniss is skeptical of forming any alliances but follows Haymitch’s directions. She’s confused when Finnick and Johanna save and protect her and Peeta rather than allowing them to be eliminated from the competition.

The arena, a high-tech stadium that resembles a beach with a jungle around it, operates like a giant clock. Each hour brings a new form of torment, from natural disasters such as lightning storms to birds whose cries are engineered to sound like the tortured screams of the tributes’ loved ones. When only a few tributes remain, an old, seemingly crazy tribute shows Katniss and her team that a wire he’s created may be able to electrocute the remaining tributes if paired with lightning. Katniss and her allies help him rig the wire, just before the lightning strike leaves Katniss unconscious.

She wakes on a padded table with tubes in her arms. Believing the Capitol is planning to torture her and Peeta further, she tries to escape. Then she learns she is with Haymitch, Finnick and Johanna, headed to District 13, a region thought to have been destroyed long ago. Katniss learns Haymitch and the others, along with the new head Gamemaker, are helping stage a rebellion against the Capitol. The lightning strike against the wire was part of a plan to allow the tributes to escape from the arena. She responds in rage, feeling her friends used her. Gale comes to see her. When she asks about their home, he delivers the cryptic message that "there is no District 12."



Christian Beliefs


None



Authority Roles


Haymitch, a friend and mentor to Peeta and Katniss, is a former Hunger Games champion. His horrible memories drove him to alcoholism. President Snow, a heartless dictator, has breath with such a strong smell of blood that Katniss wonders if he drinks it. He devises a number of schemes to frighten and/or eliminate her. Katniss’ mother suffered severe depression after Katniss’ father died several years earlier. Prior to her time in the Hunger Games, Katniss served as sole provider for the family and harbored anger for her mother’s emotional abandonment. Katniss now allows her mother back into her life and gives her opportunities to reclaim her role as caretaker for the family.



Other Belief Systems


Katniss’ mother gives her a pin for good luck. Katniss worries that many people’s fates depend on her.



Profanity/Graphic Violence


Katniss shouts obscenities a few times, though no curse words appear in the text. The term "knocked up" is used to describe both Katniss and her sister’s goat. Peacekeepers put a bullet through an old man’s head when he whistles a subtly rebellious tune. A Peacekeeper nearly beats Gale to death, leaving the skin on his back mutilated like a "raw, bloody slab of meat." Capitol leaders commonly cut out the tongues of people who disobey them, leaving them as servants called Avoxes. Katniss dreams about being forced to watch as someone’s tongue is cut out. She also has night terrors about other tributes pursuing and killing her and about her father being "blown to bits" in a mining accident. She often daydreams about killing President Snow. Leaders execute the head Gamemaker of the 74th Hunger Games because he allowed Katniss to spark a rebellion. Peeta and Katniss watch videos of former tributes in the arena. One is skewered through the head by sharp bird beaks while another bleeds from an empty eye socket after an axe wound. Katniss remembers a former tribute known for ripping open another tribute’s throat with her teeth. Peacekeepers brutally beat Cinna, Katniss’ prep team leader, in front of Katniss as she waits to enter the arena. When many tributes die early in the Games, the waters and beach are bloodstained and covered with bodies. One tribute flails and contorts as she’s enveloped by poisonous fog. Katniss and her allies battle and kill mutant monkeys.



Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality


Katniss kisses Gale a couple of times and Peeta a number of times. Cinna kisses Katniss goodbye before she enters the arena. Katniss recalls a former District 12 Peacekeeper who lured starving young women into his bed by offering them coins or food. Katniss and Peeta often sleep in the same bed in each other’s arms so they won’t have nightmares. There is no mention or insinuation of anything sexual. Katniss even says that "nothing else happens" but sleep, though their bedroom arrangements cause people on their Victory Tour train to gossip. Peeta lies and tells the viewers Katniss is pregnant in hopes of gaining sympathy and/or keeping her out of the Games. Another tribute tells Katniss she’ll rip her throat out, even if she is "knocked up." Peeta tells Katniss the other tributes are teasing her because they perceive her to be very pure.



Awards


YALSA Best Books for Young Adults, 2010; Booklist Editor’s Choice for Youth, 2009; Time magazine’s Top 10 Fiction Books, 2009, and others.



Discussion Topics


If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:

Note:
Alcohol/Substance Use: Haymitch, an alcoholic, is rarely sober. Katniss and Peeta help get him alcohol, partly because they’re afraid that without it he’ll drink something more dangerous, such as rubbing alcohol. Katniss’ prep team members are nearly incoherent from alcohol at one of the Capitol celebrations. The prep team shares bright colored pills to keep them going early in the morning. They also give Katniss sleeping pills to help stop her nightmares, but she only finds it harder to sleep. The tributes from District 6 are known "morphling" addicts.

Overindulgence: Excess is a trademark of the Capitol residents. Both men and women wear bright makeup and gaudy clothing; Katniss almost pities them for being so blind to their frivolity. At a Capitol party, Katniss and Peeta are disgusted to learn that vomit-inducing drinks are neatly set at the buffet table. This affords guests the opportunity to stuff themselves, throw everything up, and then eat more.

Modesty: One tribute wears a net "strategically knotted at his groin" so he isn’t technically naked. A female tribute runs around nearly naked during the opening ceremonies, sometimes oiling her body.

Lying: When Katniss buys alcohol for Haymitch, she says it’s for her mother to use in making medicine. Katniss’ friends and family say that Gale is her cousin (not a potential boyfriend) so she will be allowed to see him. Katniss and her prep team lie about Katniss having a talent for clothing design, when her prep team leader has actually created the sketches. Peeta lies to the viewing audience about Katniss being pregnant. Katiniss and her loved ones tell other lies to the government to protect themselves.


Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.


Changing Faces

A book review for parents

This contemporary fiction book is the first in the "Real TV" series by Wendy Lawton and is published by Moody Publishers.

Changing Faces is written for teens. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


Brainy, heavily scheduled Olivia O'Donnell wants nothing more than to be valedictorian of her senior class. It looks promising, too — until she discovers the selection committee will consider the candidates' volunteer hours as well as grades. Though Olivia is a committed Christian, she fears she is "mercy challenged," especially when she's placed in the uncomfortable position of doing public relations for a shelter. Life becomes even more complicated when she's selected to represent the shelter on her favorite makeover reality show, Changing Faces. Meanwhile, her relationship with best friend, Jane, begins to crumble, and she faces the endless ridicule of her nemesis, Aubrey. With the help of friends at the shelter and church, Olivia begins to realize that the transformation she really needs isn't about clothes or make-up but about the state of her heart.



Christian Beliefs


Olivia, her family and best friend, Jane, are all faithful Christ followers and regular church attenders. Olivia begins working at the shelter at the suggestion of her youth pastor's wife, and the friends she makes there (Carter and Mia) have a faith in God as well. Olivia struggles throughout the book to maintain a quiet time with God in the midst of her chaotic schedule. Toward the end, she writes down verses and keeps them with her to remain focused on God's direction. With God's help, she also changes her attitude toward the "down-and-out" people living at the shelter and her rival, Aubrey.



Authority Roles


Olivia's parents insist the family eats together to stay connected, and they encourage her to maintain her devotional time. Olivia's mother accompanies her to the taping of Changing Faces, and the two women share fun, memorable moments. Diane, the youth pastor's wife, remains courageous and encouraging throughout her battle with breast cancer. Olivia's teacher, Mrs. Brenner, also urges Olivia to make her quiet time a priority, and she helps Jane, Olivia and Aubrey iron out the differences that have been tearing them apart. The only negative authority figure is Carlos, Mia's step-father. Wanted for murder and other illegal activities, he tracks Mia's family down at the shelter with a gun; he intends to harm them.



Other Belief Systems


None



Profanity/Graphic Violence


None



Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality


None



Awards


Unknown



Discussion Topics


If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:


Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.


The Children's Book of Virtues

A book review for parents

This story collection by William J. Bennett is published by Simon & Schuster and is written for kids ages 5 to 10. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


Former U.S. Secretary of Education William Bennett aspires to make time-honored, morally rich tales (along with colorful, detailed pictures) readily available to children everywhere. His anthology includes legends, fables, poems, prayers and other lessons in virtue along with illustrations reminiscent of days gone by. Each tale falls into one of four categories: (1) courage/perseverance; (2) responsibility/work/self-discipline; (3) compassion/faith; or (4) honesty/loyalty/friendship. Readers learn through the bravery and wisdom (and sometimes, through the poor decisions) of the characters about some of the choices that will serve them best in life.



Christian Beliefs


Two rhyming prayers ("A Child's Prayer" and "God Make My Life a Little Light") note God's care and forgiveness and ask Him to teach us to be helpful and giving. In the rhyme "Little Fred," Fred demonstrates a proper bedtime routine by saying his prayers. St. Francis in "The Sermon to the Birds" urges his winged friends to love and praise God for His providence, using language taken from the Sermon on the Mount. In "The Honest Disciple," a student tells his rabbi that if he found money that didn't belong to him, he would be tempted to keep it. He should therefore pray that God would help him resist temptation and do the right thing.



Authority Roles


Selections such as "There Was a Little Girl," "George Washington and the Cherry Tree," "Please" and "Over in the Meadow" show parents training and disciplining their children. Selections such as "Kindness to Animals" and "The Sermon to the Birds" urge readers to show compassion to animals. The knight in "St. George and the Dragon" and the woodcutter in "The Honest Woodman" demonstrate integrity and put the needs of others first. Negative authority figures appear in "The King and His Hawk" (a king angrily kills the bird who saved his life), "Someone Sees You" (a father makes his daughter serve as a lookout while he steals from neighboring fields), and "Why Frog and Snake Never Play Together" (Frog-child and Snake-child's parents pit them against each other just because they're different from each other, forcing them to discontinue their budding friendship).



Other Belief Systems


Numerous talking animals, fairies and other objects appear in many of the selections, along with other instances of fairy tale magic. One girl climbs to the heavens in "The Stars in the Sky," and another's water dipper turns into a fountain in "The Legend of the Dipper." In "Hercules and the Wagoner," Hercules asserts that heaven helps those who help themselves. St. George battles a dragon. A Native American man named Strong Wind ("The Indian Cinderella") has the ability to make himself invisible; his sister magically restores beauty to a girl, and Strong Wind turns the girl's cruel sisters into trees.



Profanity/Graphic Violence


Mild violence appears in "King George and the Dragon" when the knight slays the beast and "The King and His Hawk" when the king kills the hawk.



Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality


None



Awards


Unknown



Discussion Topics


If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:


Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.


Chosen Ones

A book review for parents

This fantasy book is the first in the "Aedyn Chronicles" series by Alister McGrath and is published by Zonderkidz, a division of Zondervan Publishers.

Chosen Ones is written for kids ages 9 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


While visiting London during a school break, siblings Julia and Peter discover a hidden garden in their grandparents' backyard. One night they are drawn to a pool in the garden and step into it. The children find it's a portal to another world, and they are transported to the strange land of Aedyn. An aged monk tells them that he called them there to help fulfill a prophecy. Hundreds of years previously, three evil lords — the Jackal, the Leopard and the Wolf — overthrew the beneficent ruler Marcus and began ruthlessly oppressing the citizens and enslaving those who refused to obey the new rulers.

Upon hearing the monk's story, Julia and Peter travel through the woods to the castle where the evil Lords of Aedyn reside. They arrive and pretend to be on the island as a result of a shipwreck. Peter is carrying a small bag of gunpowder in his pocket, and in an attempt to show off, he throws a smidgen of it on a candle flame. The explosion scares and then impresses the overlords, who determine they must pry the secret of this magical powder out of Peter. The overlords imprison Julia and threaten her life, which persuades Peter to make a deal with them. When they still don't free Julia, Peter directs them to make cannons of clay. The cannons are tested, and they explode, providing Peter a chance to escape. Slaves break Julia out of prison, and she and Peter are reunited. The siblings then lead the slaves in a revolt against the Lords of Aedyn. The uprising is successful. Soon after, Peter and Julia wake up back in their garden in London, where their grandmother finds them asleep and shivering in the cold of the night.



Christian Beliefs


Chosen Ones is a simple fable depicting good vs. evil. Neither Julia nor Peter is Christian, but they learn about the Lord of Hosts (who represents God) while in Aedyn. It's implied at the end of the story that the teenagers pledge to live for Him. Before returning to London, they are told that their work in Aedyn will help pave the way for the Anointed One, who represents Jesus.



Authority Roles


The story focuses solely on Peter and Julia, who find themselves essentially on their own in Aedyn, where most of the story takes place. Though they're only 14 and 13 years old, Julia in particular seems more mature in the new world, and the youngsters take on the authority roles themselves in this land. An aged monk calls and guides the children into a prophecy. The three evil lords — the Jackal, the Leopard and the Wolf — ruthlessly oppress and enslave those who refuse to obey them.



Other Belief Systems


None



Profanity/Graphic Violence


Julia punches Peter in the face. Clay cannons explode when fired, injuring five guards, burning one beyond recognition and killing another. The men on horses use their swords to kill the guards that were left alive by the exploding cannons. During the final battle scene, arrows kill several of the castle guards.



Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality


None



Awards


Unknown



Discussion Topics


If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:

Note:
Deception – The children lie about being shipwrecked and deceive the overlords.

Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.


Christy & Todd: The College Years

A book review for parents

This Christian romance novel by Robin Jones Gunn is a compilation of the three books in "The College Years" series. It is written for teens ages 13 to 17 and published by Bethany House. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


Christy Miller has been friends with Todd Spencer for over five years. In fact, he gave her a "Forever" bracelet years ago as a symbol of their friendship. But Christy wants more. As she travels across Europe for three weeks with Todd and her best friend, Katie Weldon, Christy wonders if she and Todd will ever move forward in their relationship. At the end of their journey, Todd tells Christy he loves her. But Christy feels she can't say she loves him back until she knows it in the depths of her heart. Christy realizes that she loves Todd during a youth group retreat to the desert. But before she has a chance to tell him, Todd is involved in a terrible car wreck that leaves his body permanently scarred. Christy tells Todd that she loves him over and over while he is unconscious in the hospital. She finally gets a chance to reveal her feelings for him coherently during a breakfast picnic on the beach. Christy thinks that once she admits she loves him, Todd will get down on his knee and ask her to marry him. But he doesn't. Weeks go by and Christy wonders when Todd will ask her. Shortly before Christmas break, as they gather with their college friends at a local restaurant, Todd pops the question, and Christy says yes. The next six months are filled with excitement and frustration as Christy and Todd make wedding plans and realize their differences. They rely on God to draw them closer to Him and closer to each other as they prepare for their future together.



Christian Beliefs


Todd, Christy, Katie and their friend Antonio sing worship songs around a campfire in Italy. During their trip across Europe, the four friends witness to Marcos, Antonio's cousin, who is not a follower of Christ. Marcos gives his life to the Lord after reading the book of Romans, which Katie tells him was written specifically for his people, the Italians. In Rome, Todd, Christy and Katie see the Mamertine Prison, where the apostle Paul was once held captive. Marcos explains that Emperor Nero used to burn Christians alive on poles to light his garden parties. Christy contemplates how those people had been martyred for their faith and wonders if she would choose Christ in a life-or-death situation. Back at school, Christy tries to read her Bible and pray every morning. Her 13-year-old brother, David, gives his life to Christ after Todd's accident. Although she was baptized as an infant, Christy decides to be baptized as an adult as a visible symbol of her commitment to Christ. Todd, Christy, David and Christy's Uncle Bob continually witness to her Aunt Marti, who is not a believer. As they prepare for their wedding, Todd and Christy discover how the church is the bride of Christ.



Authority Roles


Todd gets a job as a youth director at a local church. Because the teens have not experienced faithful leadership in the past, they are wary of Todd at first, but eventually warm up to him. Aunt Marti wants to take part in planning every detail of Christy and Todd's wedding. Christy refuses to believe that she is becoming more and more like her organized, yet controlling aunt.



Other Belief Systems


While in Switzerland, Katie tells Christy of a Norwegian legend that says if you pick seven wild flowers and sleep with them under your pillow on Midsummer's Eve, you'll dream of the person you'll marry. Back in California, Aunt Marti joins a group of artists called The Colony and plans to run away to New Mexico with the leader.



Profanity/Graphic Violence


A young American man named Jade asks Christy to go to a dance club with him while they are visiting Denmark. She turns him down, and he leaves. A few minutes later, Katie smiles at the shadow behind Christy and tells the man to kiss Christy, which he does. Thinking Jade is behind her, Christy flings hot tea in his face. It turns out not to be Jade, but Todd. Months later, Todd gets into a bad car accident that cuts his hands and leaves him scarred.



Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality


Todd and Christy's kisses become more frequent as their relationship grows more serious, though they make a point to keep their kisses quick and in public. Through Marcos' connections with the hotel owner, Todd and Christy secure the nicest suite in the Villa Paradiso in Italy. However, they decide that it wouldn't be right for the two of them to stay there alone. Todd gives Christy a long and passionate kiss before jumping on a train to the Arctic Circle; Christy resolves to save her kisses for her future husband. When Todd opens up about his past, he tells Christy that he and his dad lived with his dad's girlfriend on the Hawaiian island of Maui. After they become engaged, Todd and Christy vaguely talk about giving themselves to each other for the first time on their wedding night, but then they decide not to discuss it again until they are married. Todd says that waiting until marriage to have sex is like sitting at a long red light and waiting until the light turns green on your wedding day.



Awards


Unknown



Discussion Topics


If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:


Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.


Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls

A book review for parents

This tween chick-lit book is the second in the original "The Baby-Sitters Club" series by Ann M. Martin and is published by Scholastic Press, a division of Scholastic Inc.

Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls is written for kids ages 9 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


The members of the baby-sitters club — Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia and Stacey — are nervous when they learn that a burglar, nicknamed the Phantom Caller, has been stealing jewelry from homes in a nearby town. In the event that the Phantom targets one of the homes in which they are baby-sitting, the girls devise a plan to notify each other if they need help. Their anxiety increases after a few of the club members answer the phone while baby-sitting and hear silence. This silence is the Phantom's trademark.

While baby-sitting together, Kristy and Claudia receive the signature call and notice a prowler outside. The police come to their aid, and the prowler turns out to be Alan Gray, a boy who has a crush on Kristy. He admits to making some of the earlier phone calls, and Claudia later discovers that Trevor Sandbourne made some of the other calls to her. Trevor is the boy she has been hoping would ask her to the upcoming school dance. The real Phantom Caller is captured the following week, and the four baby-sitters feel they have successfully ensured the safety of their baby-sitting charges.



Christian Beliefs


None



Authority Roles


Because Claudia is not doing well in school, her parents make her spend time each day working on her homework while other members of the family supervise. When Claudia complains about her older sister, her beloved grandmother Mimi explains that a person can only change his or her own behavior — not someone else's.



Other Belief Systems


Karen, one of the children the girls often baby-sit, believes her neighbor is a witch. Karen feels that her new freckles are the result of one of the neighbor's spells. Stacey and another baby-sitting charge watch a scary movie together in which a character comes back from the dead.



Profanity/Graphic Violence


None



Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality


None



Awards


Unknown



Discussion Topics


If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:


Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.


The Clique: Massie

A book review for parents

This second slice-of-life/school life book in the "Clique Summer Collection" series by Lisi Harrison is published by Poppy, Little, Brown and Company, Hachette Book Group.

The Clique: Massie is written for kids ages 10 to 13. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.


Plot Summary


Rich, fashionable Massie Block has entered seventh grade and it's off to a bad start: Her dad's old college friend and his family are moving into the Blocks' guesthouse — and that includes fashion-challenged Claire. Massie, the leader of her school's most popular clique, immediately lets her "friends" Alicia, Dylan and Kristen know they must shun Claire. Massie even prescribes cruel tricks and behaviors for them to use in degrading the new girl. Despite the humiliation, Claire wants to be one of the "in" crowd. She uses a few tricks of her own to fool Massie's followers and improve her social status. After much inhumanity has passed between them, Massie and Claire find themselves hiding in the bushes together at a party to avoid being embarrassed by their drunken dads. There, they begin to talk amiably (setting readers up for book two in the series).



Christian Beliefs


Claire prays she won't be in class with someone, and a TV interviewer jokes with a soap star that everyone's "praying" the soap star will recover from his coma. Alicia tells Claire she looks like Satan when she's holding a flashlight up to her face. Claire replies that she is Satan.



Authority Roles


Massie's and Claire's fathers (William Block and Jay Lyons) are old friends. Neither appears much in the story except at the end, when they're both visibly drunk and singing to elicit donations at a fundraiser. The girls' moms are both relatively clueless about the rivalry between their daughters. They certainly don't realize the extent of the cruelty and lies involved in the girls' battles. Isaac, the Blocks' chauffeur, treats Claire kindly and tries to encourage Massie to temper her rudeness toward others. Vincent, the art teacher, is snippy with his students. He takes them to the city for a taping of "The Young and the Restless" on school time. As the leader of her clique, Massie orders her followers to behave in cruel ways toward Claire or anyone else she doesn't like.



Other Belief Systems


None, except that Massie and her friends idolize fashion and popularity.



Profanity/Graphic Violence


Variations of God's name taken in vain appear a number of times. Suck, a-- and b--ch appear a time or two. Massie makes a crude comment to her chauffeur about how he's "all up in her" backside.



Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality


A few short discussions of women's chests appear. In one case, the girls talk about someone getting "felt up" on their shopping trip by the lady who helps with bras. Alicia puts red paint on Claire's pants and starts telling everyone Claire got her period in class. Claire tells a ghost story that involves a couple making out in a car because they didn't have anything else to do. At a pool party, the girls suggestively dance to Britney Spears' songs, and lines from Spears' lyrics are included. Trying to sell her friend's homemade lip gloss, Massie says the popular boys like tasting it.



Awards


Unknown



Discussion Topics


If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:


Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.


Counselor

A book review for parents

This contemporary fiction book by Ann Aschauer is published by Pleasant Word and is written for people 17 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


Liz Danfield is at a crossroads in her college career. Almost ready to graduate with a degree in theater, she is unsure of the path she should be following. Full of insecurities, Liz has found the theatre world to be the perfect accomplice to help her hide from herself. With the help of an unlikely friend, she learns to stop hiding who she is and face reality. Her friend, a counselor, changes her life.



Christian Beliefs


The book offers readers the understanding that Christianity is about a relationship with God, not a religious belief. It gives a strong call to pray and ask Jesus into your heart. There is also a positive introduction to a campus Christian group and their weekly worship meeting (Intervarsity.) Liz's parents go to church but are uncomfortable with Liz living too strong of a Christian life. Other students talk about their parents' Christian beliefs.



Authority Roles


Liz's friends in the theatre are into the party scene. The university Liz attends is a secular university. They allude to the fact that their professors follow a secular humanistic worldview.



Other Belief Systems


None



Profanity/Graphic Violence


None



Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality


Liz kisses her boyfriend.



Awards


Unknown



Discussion Topics


If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:


Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.


The Crazy Christmas Angel Mystery

A book review for parents

This third mystery/Christmas book in the "Cul-de-Sac Kids" series by Beverly Lewis is published by Bethany House Publishers, an imprint of Baker Publishing Group.

The Crazy Christmas Angel Mystery is written for kids ages 7 to 10. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.


Plot Summary


When Eric spies on the new neighbor, he sees something amazing — there are angels flying inside the old man's house. He shares this knowledge with his friends, the Cul-de-sac Kids (Abby, Stacy, Dunkum, Shawn, Carly, Jimmy, Jason and Dee Dee), and they decide to introduce themselves to Mr. Tressler instead of spying. Each child brings a gift, and they sing carols. He surprises them by joining in with his flute and showing them his "angels" — a bunch of white doves. Mr. Tressler goes caroling with them, as does Eric's grandfather, and the two older men become friends.



Christian Beliefs


When the boys discuss scary things, Jason says he doesn't have bad dreams as often if he prays before he goes to bed. Dunkum reminds them that the Bible says to think about good things instead of focusing on scary ones. Dunkum tells Eric that Christmas was a great mystery only God could have set up, and he explains some of what he learned in church about Mary, Joseph and Jesus. Abby and Dunkum are playing Mary and Joseph in their church's Christmas pageant.



Authority Roles


Eric's mom has hot oatmeal waiting for him at the end of his paper route. She invites Eric's grandpa to live with them when Grandma dies. Grandpa sometimes talks aloud to God. He sets an example for Eric by befriending the new neighbor. Abby is president of the Cul-de-sac Kids. When they gather to spy on Mr. Tressler, she calls the meeting to order.



Other Belief Systems


None



Profanity/Graphic Violence


None



Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality


None



Awards


Unknown



Discussion Topics


If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:


Note: Beverly Lewis has authored over 70 books and has been on The New York Times Best Seller list.

Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.


The Curse of the Cheese Pyramid

A book review for parents

This second humor, talking animals book by Geronimo Stilton in the "Geronimo Stilton" series is published by Scholastic Paperbacks.

The Curse of the Cheese Pyramid is written for kids ages 7 to 10. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.


Plot Summary


Geronimo Stilton enjoys his job managing The Rodent's Gazette until his thrifty grandfather, the paper's owner, steps in to cut costs. Grandfather sends Geronimo to Egypt to get a story on a professor who has discovered an energy source using camel dung. Though Geronimo's Dirt Cheap Airlines flight nearly crashes and he gets trapped in an ancient pyramid, he ends up enjoying his adventure and writing a book about it. When he returns home, he and his newspaper cronies create a plan to send Grandfather on an around-the-world cruise so they can return to business as usual. Text in a variety of colors, sizes, typefaces and alignments alongside comical rodent renderings make this book unique, but they mix fact and fiction about ancient civilizations.



Christian Beliefs


Geronimo says his ears were ringing like church bells at Christmousetime, and he refers to "mouse heaven."



Authority Roles


Geronimo's grandfather, in his quest to save money, puts an entire newspaper staff out of work and endangers his grandson's life.



Other Belief Systems


As Professor Spitfur tells Geronimo about Egyptian history, he shares several theories and legends: He notes that Egyptians were buried with their treasure so they could take their items with them into the afterlife. He also tells how some believed the Egyptians moved the heavy blocks for the pyramids using telepathy and that they built them to honor aliens from faraway galaxies. He shows Geronimo a tomb with pictures of gods and goddesses and says that whoever desecrates a pharaoh's tomb will be cursed. Shortly thereafter, he is hit on the head and loses his memory. After seeing the Egyptian sunrise, Geronimo says he understands why the Egyptians worshiped the sun.



Profanity/Graphic Violence


None



Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality


None



Awards


The Cenacolo Award for Publishing and Multimedia Innovation (2000)



Discussion Topics


If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:


Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.


CyberQuest: The Complete Virtual Adventures

A book review for parents

This fiction book by Sigmund Brouwer is published by Thomas Nelson Publishers and is written for kids ages 9 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.


Plot Summary


Following the great Water Wars of 2031, water is a highly-prized commodity to the citizens of New York. Their ranks are polarized between two extremes: those in control of the water who live Mainside and run the economy and the have-nots who live in the miserable slum-like conditions of Old Newyork. The have-nots are at the mercy of power-hungry gangs run by warlords. Now it's 2096, and while the government plans to launch a heat bomb to overtake and empty the slums, a secret resistance committee of 12 has been formed with the goal of finding someone qualified to bring the hope of the Gospel to the have-nots. The search narrows to one final candidate, Mok, and he endures a series of virtual reality cyberadventures that subject him to intense, life-or-death situations that ultimately prove his mettle, although not without a lot of complications that threaten his life.



Christian Beliefs


As a youngster, Mok, hears about the "Galilee Man" in an audiobook, and he questions whether this story and the man is part of a fairytale or is real. Through each of his cyberadventures, he learns more about this man, and he comes to believe in Him. He even experiences Christ's healing power in a miraculous virtual encounter.



Authority Roles


Although Mok never knew his parents, has no formal schooling and grows up in a setting where sheer brute force rules, his exposure to the audiobook about the Galilee Man shapes him into one who is quite different from others in his world. Even in the most difficult situations, he is respectful and compassionate, operating with honesty and integrity.



Other Belief Systems


Mok encounters pharaohs, pirates, Nazis, Pawnee Indians and Wild West snake-oil salesmen in his adventures. As he meets each, he assesses them in light of what he knows about the truth of the Galilee Man.



Profanity/Graphic Violence


None, but there are some scenes in which Mok's life is threatened by those who want to kill him at any cost. The scenes are not graphic.



Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality


None



Awards


Unknown



Discussion Topics


If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:

Note: This book was previously released as six separate books.

Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.