Focus on the Family


The Hallelujah Lass: A Story Based on the Life of Salvation Army Pioneer Eliza Shirley

A book review for parents

This juvenile fiction book in the "Daughters of the Faith" series by Wendy Lawton is published by Moody Publishers.

The Hallelujah Lass is written for kids ages 8 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


The proper Victorian-era daughter of a minister, Eliza Shirley at first believes that faith is a private matter and salvation comes through good works. When her community is turned upside-down by a group of preaching women whose faith affects lives in transformative ways, Eliza and her best friend, Beck, are captivated. By the time she is 16, Eliza has joined the women, whose group has adopted the name Salvation Army. At 17, she takes her evangelistic work to America, where her parents work alongside her to preach the Gospel of Jesus and change lives. As a result of her determination and God's blessing, the Salvation Army takes root in America.



Christian Beliefs


This story centers on Christian faith. Both of Eliza's parents are Christians, and her mother prides herself in having a "fiery faith." When Eliza comes forward in church to pray for salvation, Beck (her best friend) is concerned because Eliza believes in salvation by works. When Eliza later lays down her pride to respond to Christ in a more meaningful way and embrace salvation by faith, Beck is relieved and thrilled. The two become spiritual sisters and encourage each other's service and growth.

Because this series appeals primarily to girls, the author develops the theme of women's roles in ministry. It is an issue in Eliza's culture and even in her home, but Lawton shows how important it is for girls to find their particular ministries. Her handling of the issue is thoughtful and sensitive.

Passing references to biblical ideas and passages reinforce how faith is an everyday part of their thinking. References to standing in the gap, sharing testimonies, wandering in the desert, the armor of God and the blowing of the Holy Spirit are a few examples.

In her ministry with the Salvation Army, Eliza learns what faith really means. She learns to rely on the Lord to take care of her daily needs and the needs of the ministry. She prays a lot, often publicly, and often with her family or friends. God answers her prayers.



Authority Roles


Eliza is respectful toward her parents, even when she disagrees or is impatient with them. When she is ready to join the Salvation Army but her parents want her to wait, she makes it a matter of prayer and says outright that she knows it is right to respect their decisions.



Other Belief Systems


None



Profanity/Graphic Violence


The ladies of the Salvation Army are controversial, and their open-air preaching incites riots. Although the violence is not extreme or graphic, it does range from having objects thrown at the ladies to people being injured and bloodied by ax handles in the riots. One man is heard screaming that his ear has been bitten off.

There is also a character, Katie, whose decision to follow Christ openly results in beatings from her husband. Lawton never describes the actual beatings, but Eliza and the preaching ladies discuss Katie's injuries. It is worth noting that her abusive husband ultimately comes to faith in Christ and repents.



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.


Happenstance Found

A book review for parents

This fantasy book by P.W. Catanese is the first in "The Books of Umber" series and is published by Aladdin Paperbacks, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing.

Happenstance Found is written for kids ages 8 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


Happenstance (Hap) is 12 when he wakes up in a cave having no memory of his past. The extraordinary Lord Umber, a man who advises royalty, writes books and presents amazing new ideas in his land full of sorcery and strange creatures, finds Hap with the help of a secret adviser, and he takes the boy into his home. Hap meets Umber's one-handed artist (Sophie), a bodyguard who is compelled by a curse to speak honestly at all times (Oates), an unfriendly housekeeper who secretly loves Umber (Lady Truden), an eccentric, unwashed historian who researches for Umber (Smudge), a kindly cook (Balfour) and a reclusive warrior just a few inches tall (Thimble). They all live under Umber's roof. Hap finds that he is sometimes able to see a mysterious thread that leads him places. The reader does not know much about what this thread is. While Umber tries to piece together Hap's origins, Umber's crew battles and avoids the ghoulish, multi-eyed Occo (also called The Creep) who wants to capture Hap and extract his unique green eyes. Occo has many eye sockets and thinks he will be able to see magical threads, too, if he has Hap's eyes. As book one ends, Occo is killed with the help of Umber's crew. Readers learn that Umber is really from another world (that appears to be Earth), which has been destroyed by the misuse of technology. Umber is on a mission to restore his world to its past glory, and he enlists Hap's help.



Christian Beliefs


A couple of times, Hap "prays" something will or won't happen, but in these cases, this word seems to be used interchangeably with wish or hope. There is no mention that he is praying to anyone.



Authority Roles


Lord Umber, who shares music and technological advances from his other world, helps the kingdom thrive without trying to usurp any power from the royals. He's a gracious and intensely curious man who periodically suffers bouts of depression. Crown Prince Argent and his brothers appear only once at Argent's birthday party. Argent expresses concern that Umber's printing presses will allow the spread of foolish and insubordinate ideas, while another prince shows himself to be a drunken buffoon. The sorceress Turiana, who once enjoyed the favor and respect of the nation for all her aid and kindness, allowed her interest in dark magic to turn her evil. She is now ghostly and malicious, and Umber has imprisoned her in his castle for the safety of the kingdom.



Other Belief Systems


Lord Umber's world includes sorcerers, wizards, magic and all kinds of creatures and monsters. All of these fascinate him because the world from which he originally hails has no such things. Oates has a curse on him that makes him speak his mind with complete honesty at all times. As Hap listens to music, he says it is a kind of magic, capable of weaving a powerful spell. Umber uses hypnosis to try to jog Hap's memory of his past. Umber credits luck when he finds a much needed escape route.



Profanity/Graphic Violence


One of Umber's servants recites a limerick that is clearly meant to end in the word a--, but a dash appears in the text instead. A shark bites Boroon, a giant boat-bearing sea creature, causing blood to flow into the water. Boroon's driver, Nima, avenges the monster by slashing the shark with a sword and causing more blood. Frightening images of trolls and hobgoblins are called up a few times. Descriptions of the corpse-like Turiana are a bit scary, but the most terrifying images are those of Hap's pursuer, Occo. He's a ghastly creature with backward legs, and he steals other creatures' eyes to pop into his own numerous oozing eye sockets. Occo's long nails pierce through the skin of one of Umber's men, causing him to bleed profusely. When Occo is wounded by Thimble, he experiences intense agony and spews out searing threats while trying to catch the tiny man.



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:
Wine is served on Nima's ship. Prince Galbus drinks at his brother's birthday party and appears from his behavior (and his wine-scented breath) to be inebriated. A few other times, wine is mentioned alongside other food at a meal.


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.


Happy Birthday, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle

A book review for parents

This humor book in the "Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle" series by Betty MacDonald and Anne MacDonald Canham is published by HarperCollins Publishers.

Happy Birthday, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is written for kids ages 9 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


Part Mary Poppins and part super nanny, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle never fails to calm frazzled parents and cure their children of annoying behavioral problems. Each chapter is a stand-alone story in which a child acts up, a mom reaches her boiling point and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle saves the day. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle helps kids overcome TV addictions and aversions to brushing their teeth. She also alleviates bad habits such as messiness, picky eating and insulting others. In the final chapter, the kids throw her a surprise birthday party. Detailed black-and-white sketches comically depict the children in the throes of their disciplinary dilemmas.



Christian Beliefs


None



Authority Roles


Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, always available when the neighbors call for help, expels bad behavior effortlessly with a mix of reverse psychology and magic concoctions. She loves the neighborhood children and frequently has them to her house to play or work on projects after school. Most parents in the book who haven't sought Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's help seem to be at the mercy of their youngsters, unable to keep them from misbehaving. One couple, never having met Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, agree to turn their children over to her for a weekend so she can cure their kids' TV addiction.



Other Belief Systems


Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s treatment methods generally involve magic. She dispenses such items as invisible paint, accomplishment powder and a seasoning that turns any food into noodles. Sometimes Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's talking pets help, too.



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.


Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

A book review for parents

This fantasy book is the second in the "Harry Potter" series by J.K. Rowling and is published by Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic, Inc.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is written for kids ages 9 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.


PluggedIn.com, an entertainment and media ministry of Focus on the Family, has reviewed this book. Here is PluggedIn.com’s review: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

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.


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

A book review for parents

This fantasy book is the first in the "Harry Potter" series by J.K. Rowling and is published by Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic, Inc.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is written for kids ages 9 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.

PluggedIn.com, an entertainment and media ministry of Focus on the Family, has reviewed this book. Here is PluggedIn.com’s review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows


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.


Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

A book review for parents

This fantasy book is the fourth in the "Harry Potter" series by J.K. Rowling and is published by Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic, Inc.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is written for kids ages 9 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.

PluggedIn.com, an entertainment and media ministry of Focus on the Family, has reviewed this book. Here is PluggedIn.com’s review: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire


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.


Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

A book review for parents

This fantasy book is the sixth in the "Harry Potter" series by J.K. Rowling and is published by Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic, Inc.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is written for kids ages 9 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.

PluggedIn.com, an entertainment and media ministry of Focus on the Family, has reviewed this book. Here is PluggedIn.com’s review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince


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.


Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

A book review for parents

This fantasy book is the fifth in the "Harry Potter" series by J.K. Rowling and is published by Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic, Inc.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is written for kids ages 9 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.

PluggedIn.com, an entertainment and media ministry of Focus on the Family, has reviewed this book. Here is PluggedIn.com’s review: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix


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.


Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkhaban

A book review for parents

This fantasy book is the third in the "Harry Potter" series by J.K. Rowling and is published by Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic, Inc.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkhaban is written for kids ages 9 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.

PluggedIn.com, an entertainment and media ministry of Focus on the Family, has reviewed this book. Here is PluggedIn.com’s review: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkhaban


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.


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

A book review for parents

This fantasy book is the first in the "Harry Potter" series by J.K. Rowling and is published by Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic, Inc.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is written for kids ages 9 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.

PluggedIn.com, an entertainment and media ministry of Focus on the Family, has reviewed this book. Here is PluggedIn.com’s review: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone


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.


Heart of Courage

A book review for parents

This historical fiction book by Lois Walfrid Johnson is the fourth in the "Viking Quest" series and is published by Moody Publishers.

Heart of Courage is written for kids ages 10 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


Bree knows that she has done the right thing in giving her freedom to her sister Keely and paying the ransom for her friend Lil. But as they leave with her brother Devin to return to Ireland, she is heartbroken. However, Mikkel promises Bree freedom if Devin returns and the three of them go on a voyage together. Bree questions God's wisdom and presence in her life, and God continues to reassure Bree that she is where He wants her to be. Bree worries that Devin will not make it back in time for their voyage. Finally, he arrives and they start their journey. Trouble seems to follow their voyage, and Bree is concerned for Mikkel's safety. As Mikkel follows Leif Erikson to Greenland, Mikkel's boat encounters heavy fog. During this time of fear, Mikkel asks God to be in charge of his life, and Mikkel begins his new life as a Christian.



Christian Beliefs


The theme of Heart of Courage is the realization that God knows where you are and has a purpose for your life. Bree struggles with this idea as she is once again left in Norway. She is unsure if Devin will return or if Mikkel will keep his promise. Through it all, God gives her a peace that she is His daughter. During a time of fear for Mikkel, he realizes that he needs Bree's God. He does not know how to carry the guilt of leading his crew to possible death. If he is to die, he does not want to go to a cold, impersonal afterlife. Mikkel wants to go to the heaven Bree has spoken of. Through the book, Bree realizes that she does not hate Mikkel anymore. She does not know at what point her constant attempt to forgive helped her to truly forgive.



Authority Roles


Devin honors his parents. Devin wants desperately to be able to return for Bree, but he tells his parents that he will trust their decision. He knows that God will tell his parents what needs to be done. Mikkel loves his parents and is thrilled when his father decides to sail with him. He refuses to let Bree go back to Ireland, in spite of his parents' and grandparents' wishes.



Other Belief Systems


Many people are forced to choose between Christianity and their gods, Odin and Thor. Many are afraid that if they turn their backs on Odin and Thor, bad things will happen, because they can be angry gods. Erik the Red says that any God who shows love toward his people must be weak.



Profanity/Graphic Violence


None



Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality


There is non-romantic kissing and hugging between Bree and her brother Devin when Devin leaves and then again when Devin returns.



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.


Here, There Be Dragons

A book review for parents

This fantasy book in the "The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica" by James A. Owen is published by Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing.

Here, There Be Dragons is written for kids ages 13 years and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


John, Jack and Charles, three strangers, become caretakers of the Imaginarium Geographica — an atlas of imaginary lands called the Archipelago. John cannot decipher as many of the atlas' ancient languages as others expect, which makes their escape from the Wendigo, black-hearted creatures that eat live flesh, and England on a dragonship even more of an adventure. Once John, Jack and Charles arrive in the imaginary lands, the Morgaine (three witches) prophesy John's future, and the three companions find Bug, a young boy, as a stowaway.

The rest of the book details how they keep Winter King, who isn't a king, from exerting his power over the imaginary lands and capturing souls from the un-dead (Shadow-Borns). Ordo Maas, a wise man from Earth, assists the caretakers, and eventually John and his group realize that if they place a lid on Pandora's box, they can defeat the Winter King. Just when everything seems hopeless, Bug is found to be one of King Arthur Pendragon's descendants, which makes him the true king of the imaginary lands. A lid is placed on Pandora's box, and John deciphers the right words on the atlas to call the dragons, which have been missing from the imaginary lands for some time. Then the dragons return John, Jack and Charles to England.



Christian Beliefs


Although Adam, Eve, Methuselah, Noah and others are referred to, the author distorts the biblical accounts to fit with the book's mythology. Artus, a guide, explains that prayers aren't said for any god's sake. Prayers are important for people to commit to and remember what they believe. The character of Jack is used to emphasize that what people allow in their minds will affect how they act.



Authority Roles


The three witches prophesy about John's part in the future. Samaranth, a dragon and a sage, guides the travelers to what they next need to do. On the island of Byblos, people honor those who are older because they have more life experience. Ordo Maas (the counterpart to biblical Noah) is wiser than anyone he is likely to meet, except Adam. Everyone kneels before Ordo, but he tells them to stand. Arthur Pendragon, before his death, rules both the Archipelago and the human world, commands the dragons and unites the two worlds. The author fictionally names former caretakers as well-known authors Roger Bacon, Charles Dickens and James Barrie.



Other Belief Systems


The green knights must do penance for past sins or to right something they did wrong. The Morgaine are three witches who act as one. They can tell the future, much like the three witches in Shakespeare's Macbeth. The human world is described as the fields where Adam, Eve and their children live, and the imaginary lands as being much older than where Adam lives. The gods destroy the Drowned Lands (Atlantis) because the inhabitants either explored the mysteries of life too deeply or had an inattentive angel watching over them.

When Captain Nemo is introduced to the group, he gives a Hindu greeting. The Camelot legend is presented as real, in which King Arthur is the one king who rules both the real world and imaginary lands. A talking badger, Tummeler, says that Oxford is a place of knowledge and Druid craft. Shadow-Borns are people who serve the Winter King after he steals their souls. They in turn can steal the spirits of others.

Ordo Maas knows all the children of the earth. He brought the animals from earth to the imaginary lands and taught them to speak. Ordo Maas, his wife and sons build a large boat before a year-long flood. He says, "The gods have been destroying mankind by flood since time began. It was necessary until the point that men learned enough to begin destroying themselves all on their own." He goes on to tell how people can become gods. Before the Winter King possessed the kettle (Pandora's box), it belonged to Ordo's wife (given to her by the gods). The great kettle of iron holds the talents and vices of man.

Ordo Maas builds the dragonships from a ship with a small bit of divinity. The dragons are the bearers of divinity. "The Golden Eyes of the Dragons are what allows passage between the worlds." These eyes are only on dragonships.

Pandora's box is used to take away free will. Sailors say a prayer to Astraeus, the god of the four winds, to help them keep their course. There is a circle of stones, like those at Stonehenge, where a person can call on the dragons to return. The shield that covers the kettle belongs to Perseus. The Summer Country compares to heaven, which is whatever one wants it to be. The author mixes history with his imagination and makes John's real name J.R.R. Tolkien and his two companions' real names Charles Williams and C.S. Lewis. Perhaps this is an attempt to historically legitimize this tale, as if the imaginary lands were a true part of history, at least from a revisionist viewpoint.



Profanity/Graphic Violence


The book begins with the death of a professor, but it implies rather than gives details. Wendigo eat live flesh. People become Wendigo creatures after they have eaten a best friend or loved one. John uses God's name in an exclamation when he sees the Nautilus, Captain Nemo's ship, for the first time. John has war memories about his comrades being killed. There is an attack at the Great Council. Birds are referred to as bloody. Phrases such as "I'll bash your head in" are frequent. Idiot, stupid, d---ed, d---ation and h--- are used, along with such words as drat.



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 Hiding Place

A book review for parents

This historical book based on Corrie Ten Boom's life by Corrie Ten Boom with John and Elizabeth Sherill is written for people who are 13 and up and is published by Chosen Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


Corrie Ten Boom, her sister, Bessie, and their father run a watch repair business outside of Amsterdam. When Corrie is in her 50's, Hitler's German army seizes Holland and begins persecuting Jews. Although Corrie and her family are devout Christians, their compassion for their neighbors leads to their involvement in a stealthy underground effort to hide and protect Jews. The Ten Booms are eventually captured and imprisoned for their "crimes" against the Germans. Corrie and Bessie endure horrific conditions in several concentration camps, all the while sharing their faith with anyone who will listen.



Christian Beliefs


The Ten Booms are committed Christians who engage in daily Bible reading and who reach out to their neighbors in Christian love even before the German invasion. They struggle repeatedly over the question of whether lying to help save a Jew's life is contrary to God's will. Corrie and Bessie pray fervently throughout their prison experiences. They smuggle a Bible into the camp and share God's word with the other inmates. Bessie constantly praises God for her circumstances and pities her cruel German captors because they're so far from God. Many Bible passages appear in the text.



Authority Roles


Corrie's father demonstrates a deep, abiding compassion for the people in their community. Her parent is selfless even in the most desperate conditions. In many of his conversations with his daughter, Corrie's father exemplifies God's wisdom and love for His children. Though a few Germans are sympathetic to Corrie's cause, most show contempt and cruelty to their prisoners. They mock the captives, force them to parade around naked and subject them to unthinkable physical labor while housing them in rickety, flea-infested bunkhouses. God, in many circumstances throughout the book, shows His power and authority to be far greater than that of the German army.



Other Belief Systems


Jews frequently engage in friendly religious debates with Corrie's father. Though specific tenants of Hitler's agenda are not mentioned in detail, Nazi beliefs play a foundational role in the story.



Profanity/Graphic Violence


None. Brief descriptions about life in the concentration camp are disturbing, though. For example, while looking for her ailing sister in the hospital, Corrie discovers naked corpses thrown carelessly on the ground. Corrie and Bessie hear the tortured cries of their fellow prisoners, watch the elderly and infirm being sent to the extermination area and hear frequent gunshots as prisoners are executed.



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: Corrie's father and others smoke pipes and cigars.


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 Higher Power of Lucky

A book review for parents

This slice-of-life fiction book by Susan Patron is published by Richard Jackson Books, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing and is written for kids 9 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


Ten-year-old Lucky lives in the tiny desert town of Hard Pan, Calif., with Brigitte, her father's former wife, who is from France. Lucky works after school at Short Sammy's Found Object Wind Chime Museum and Visitor Center, where she sweeps up after various 12-step meetings. Listening through a hole in the wall, Lucky becomes enthralled as 12-step members, whom she calls "anonymous people," talk about finding their Higher Power. When Brigitte becomes homesick, Lucky worries that Brigitte will leave her and return to France. Lucky devises a plan to take control of her own life and run away from home. After being trapped in and rescued from a dust storm, Lucky finally feels strong enough to scatter her dead mother's ashes (an idea previously too painful for her to consider) and return home. Then Brigitte makes plans to legally adopt Lucky.



Christian Beliefs


Lucky searches for her Higher Power after overhearing people in several 12-step programs talk about finding theirs. She notes how people in these groups usually have to hit rock bottom and complete a fearless moral inventory before they find their Higher Power. She likes how the 12-step meetings end with a prayer. The implication is that since people prayed in the museum, it was the nearest thing the city had to a church or synagogue. As Lucky ceremonially scatters her mother's ashes, friends and townspeople sing "Amazing Grace," and Lucky finally feels that a Higher Power is paying attention to her.



Authority Roles


Lucky's mother was killed in a storm two years before the story begins. Lucky barely knows her father. She even mistakes him for the undertaker at her mother's funeral. Lucky's father asks his first wife, Brigette, to take care of his daughter. She moves from France to be Lucky's guardian. Brigette is a kind but somewhat distant caregiver who pines for her native land, which causes Lucky to live in fear that Brigitte will leave. Lucky's absent father sends small checks to help Brigitte pay for Lucky's care. In the end, Brigitte is more demonstrative in her love for Lucky. Short Sammy is a kindly recovering alcoholic who befriends Lucky and her pals. He leads the 12-step meetings at the museum.



Other Belief Systems


Lucky's favorite scientist is Charles Darwin. She mentions him several times throughout the book. Her several remarks about evolution indicate her belief that it's simply a scientific reality. When several random and unusual events occur one day, Lucky believes they are signs that are telling her that it's the right time to run away. The signs are a look that passes between her and a friend that seems to indicate that he understands her; the realization that her skin and hair color will help her blend into the desert; and the early dismissal of her class due to a dust storm.



Profanity/Graphic Violence


None



Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality


Short Sammy tells the people in his 12-step meeting that a snake once bit his dog on the scrotum. Lucky overhears the account and ponders the word scrotum throughout the book. In the end, Lucky asks Brigitte what it means, and Brigitte explains that it's the sac on a male containing sperm to make a baby. Brigitte makes sure that Lucky isn't asking the question because someone tried to sexually abuse her. Brigitte is satisfied with Lucky's answer.



Awards


The New York Times Bestseller, 2007 and 2009; Newbery Medal Winner, 2007; ALA Notable Children's Books, 2007; and others.



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.


Holes

A book review for parents

This adventure book by Louis Sachar is published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux and is written for kids ages 8 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


Wrongly accused of stealing sneakers, Stanley Yelnats is sentenced to 18 months at Camp Green Lake correctional facility. The boys there dig holes daily in the hot sun, supposedly to "build character" — but Stanley soon discovers the warden is actually hunting for a treasure tied to Stanley's ancestors. As he masters his digging skills and rescues a fellow inmate, Stanley's self-confidence grows. He also discovers the treasure may be closer than anyone realizes. Flashback tales about Stanley's family history are woven through his Camp Green Lake experiences.



Christian Beliefs


Characters in Stanley's flashbacks attribute physical healing to God and suggest that a tragic event was "God's punishment."



Authority Roles


The warden and counselors at Camp Green Lake call the boys stupid, withhold water from them as they work in the hot sun, and sometimes even hurt them enough to draw blood. In one scene, these adults are prepared to shoot Stanley and his friend, Zero, in order to acquire the treasure. X-Ray, one of the young inmates, is leader of the boys in Stanley's unit; he makes decisions including what order the boys stand in to get water each day. Stanley's parents, though they show up mainly in Stanley's memory, are kind and supportive. He lies to them in his letters so they won't worry about him.



Other Belief Systems


Stanley and his dad halfway believe in a family curse supposedly placed on Stanley's great, great grandfather.



Profanity/Graphic Violence


Counselors say, "What the h---?" and take God’s name in vain once. A fair amount of violence occurs as the warden hurts the counselors and inmates, the counselors point guns at the kids, and the kids fight each other. None of the violence is terribly descriptive.



Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality


In a flashback to the time of Stanley's great grandfather, a white schoolteacher kisses a black peddler she loves. The town lynches him.



Awards


Newbery Medal, 1999; National Book Award for Young People's Literature, 1998; Christopher Award for Juvenile Fiction; ALA Notable Book; Publishers Weekly Notable Children's Book of the Year, among others.



Discussion Topics


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


Note: Producers often use a book as a springboard for a movie idea or to earn a specific rating. Because of this, a movie may differ from the novel. To better understand how this book and movie differ, compare the book review with Plugged In's movie review.

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.


Horrible Harry Moves Up to Third Grade

A book review for parents

This school-life book in the "Horrible Harry" series by Suzy Kline is published by Puffin Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group.

Horrible Harry Moves Up To Third Grade is written for kids ages 6 to 8. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


Everything seems different to Doug and Harry when they arrive at school on the first day of third grade. But before long, they locate Miss Mackle and their classmates (including Harry's rival, Sidney). As the kids tell about their summer activities, Doug says that his family visited a copper mine. He neglects to mention that he was too scared to go in. Miss Mackle decides the mine would be a great field trip destination, much to Doug's dismay. Harry and Sidney play tricks on each other from day one of third grade — but when Sidney disappears on the field trip, everyone worries. Even Harry is relieved when Sidney is found, and the two boys become friends.



Christian Beliefs


Miss Mackle prays when one of her students is missing. Doug prays that the class won't have to take a field trip to a copper mine because he's afraid of being underground.



Authority Roles


Having moved to the next grade with her second-grade students, Miss Mackle seems genuinely pleased to be the children's third-grade teacher. She decorates the classroom creatively and takes the kids on a field trip. When a student wanders off, she expresses deep concern. When he turns up, she hugs him happily but warns him against leaving without permission again. The principal cheerfully helps Doug and Harry find their new classroom.



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.


Horton Hears a Who

A book review for parents

This animal story, drama book by Dr. Seuss is published by Random House Children's Books and is written for kids ages 4 to 8. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


Horton, an elephant, hears the small voice of a Who coming from a speck of dust. Although no one else hears the voice, Horton vows to protect the small community. Other creatures try to destroy the dust speck until they eventually hear the residents of Who-ville, too.



Christian Beliefs


None



Authority Roles


Authors treat parental role with support and respect.



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:


Notes: Dr. Seuss was a winner of a 1984 Pulitzer Prize and author/illustrator of 44 children’s books that continue to be bestsellers, even after his death.

Producers often use a book as a springboard for a movie idea or to earn a specific rating. Because of this, a movie may differ from the novel. To better understand how this book and movie differ, compare the book review with Plugged In's movie review.

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 Hundred Dresses

A book review for parents

This school-life, family-life book by Eleanor Estes is published by Harcourt Children's Books and is written for kids ages 5 to 10. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


Wanda Petronski's strange last name is just one of many attributes that makes her odd in the eyes of her classmates. She lives in a shabby neighborhood next door to a man who everyone believes is crazy. Every day, Wanda wears the same blue dress — although she claims she has a hundred dresses in her closet at home. A girl named Peggy frequently teases Wanda about the hundred dresses, and Peggy's reluctant sidekick, Maddie, joins the taunting to avoid getting teased. Only after Wanda creates 100 beautiful pictures of dresses, do Peggy and Maddie realize how they've hurt her, and they try to make amends.



Christian Beliefs


Nothing overtly Christian is mentioned, though Wanda demonstrates grace and forgiveness toward the girls who tease her.



Authority Roles


Miss Mason, the girls' teacher, raves about Wanda's artwork. She receives a note from Wanda's father, which indicates that Wanda's family is moving due to prejudice against their Polish heritage. After reading the letter, Miss Mason says she'd prefer to believe no one purposely hurt Wanda's feelings, and she asks the students to think about what has happened.



Other Belief Systems


None



Profanity/Graphic Violence


None



Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality


None



Awards


Newbery Honor Book, 1945



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 Hunger Games

A book review for parents

This sci-fi novel is the first book in "The Hunger Games" series by Suzanne Collins and is published by Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic Inc.

The Hunger Games is written for kids ages 13 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen lives in the nation of Panem (a post-apocalyptic North America) with her mother and younger sister, Prim. Her family resides in District 12, the poorest of 12 districts ruled by the wealthy Capitol. Katniss provides for her mother and sister by hunting with her friend Gale in the forbidden woods nearby.

As punishment for the districts' rebellion attempt years earlier, the Capitol holds an annual televised event called The Hunger Games. Each district must draw the names of a boy and girl between the ages of 12 and 18. These 24 youths become contestants (called "tributes"), who must fight to the death in a vast arena created by the Capitol Gamemakers. The lone survivor returns home to wealth and fame.

One year, on the day of "reaping," Prim's name is drawn. Katniss volunteers to take her sister's place. The other tribute is Peeta Mellark, a baker's son who once saved Katniss' family from starvation by sneaking them bread. Guards put Katniss and Peeta on a train for the Capitol. Haymitch Abernathy, their trainer, accompanies them. He is the only District 12 tribute who has ever survived the Hunger Games.

The bored, wealthy people of the Capitol celebrate the Hunger Games with parties and parades. Capitol-appointed prep teams create an image for each tribute by providing costumes, makeovers and talking points. Tributes who impress the Capitol viewers win "sponsors" — or wealthy fans, who will fund gifts of food and equipment at critical points in the Games.

In his pre-Games TV interview, Peeta claims he's secretly loved his District 12 counterpart for years. Since tributes are always on camera, Katniss can never ask Peeta if his declaration is true or a ploy to attract attention. She plays along, and they draw many sponsors with their ill-fated romance.

After Olympic-like opening ceremonies, the tributes are thrown into an arena with miles of forestland. Eleven tributes die the first day as the contestants fight for the few supplies the Capitol has provided. Katniss takes off alone, hiding and hunting for several days until a group of allied tributes traps her in a tree. There, she finds a young tribute named Rue, who reminds her of her sister. They drop a nest of mutated yellow jackets on their opponents and escape. Their alliance and friendship are short-lived. Another boy kills Rue with a spear a few days later.

Playing on the audience's thirst for romance, the Gamemakers announce that if two members from the same district are the last two contestants, both may return home. Katniss finds Peeta and nurses the wounds he's acquired in a battle with another tribute.

When only one contestant besides Katniss and Peeta remains, the Gamemakers release a pack of vicious dog-like creatures. The beasts slowly maul the other boy to death. Katniss and Peeta believe they've won the Games, but at the last moment, a voice announces that the previous rule change has been revoked. Only one contestant can win, meaning the District 12 tributes must fight each other to the death. Peeta and Katniss threaten to eat poisonous berries simultaneously. The Gamemakers, knowing a double suicide will be an unsatisfying conclusion for the audience, quickly uphold their earlier ruling.

Though both teens are allowed to return to home, Haymitch tells Katniss that the Capitol is furious with their attempt to throw the Games. So even as she rides the train to District 12, Katniss senses she is anything but safe. She also learns that Peeta's love is real, but he's crushed to hear that Katniss is uncertain of her feelings for him. She's developed a deep fondness for Peeta, but she finds herself thinking more about Gale, a friend she used to illegally hunt with in the forest.



Christian Beliefs


None



Authority Roles


Katniss' father died in a mining accident several years earlier. She recalls his beautiful singing. Katniss' mother subsequently suffered a mental breakdown, leaving Katniss to support the family. Though Mother eventually improves, she is never the same nor does she reclaim the roles of parent or provider. Peeta's mother smacks him across the face for burning bread. Haymich, District 12's sole Hunger Games winner in its 40+ year history, is Katniss and Peeta's official adviser. Known throughout the nation for his embarrassing alcohol-induced TV appearances, he sobers up some to help them form a strategy. He sends them gifts on the battlefield when they follow his orders. The dictatorial leaders of the Capitol, as well as its self-absorbed citizens, dress strangely and eat lavishly. In their existential boredom, they seek extreme "entertainment," which includes watching others suffer brutality and die gruesome deaths.



Other Belief Systems


A few times, Katniss mentions having good luck. Rue carries a good luck charm. Katniss says the woods where she hunts have been the savior of her and her family. She says her mother and sister can work magic with herbs (meaning that they're good at making and administering medicines). Before becoming a tribute, Katniss devoted her Sundays to hunting and trading with Gale.



Profanity/Graphic Violence


The word h--- appears once. In this tale of 24 teenagers forced to kill each other, readers follow a number of gruesome, bloody and otherwise disturbing scenes. One tribute murders another by snapping his neck. Other tributes are killed by spears, arrows, blows to the head with rocks and the stings of mutated yellow jackets. Wounds ooze blood and puss, and the wounded smell festering flesh. One of the final tributes is mauled by a pack of rabid dog-like creatures for hours before he dies. Katniss also mentions how, in previous games, tributes were killed by venomous snakes, went insane from thirst or froze to death. One previous contestant tried to eat the tributes he'd killed, but the Gamemakers stopped this because it didn't play well with the audience. Leaders in the Capitol cut out the tongues of those who disobey them. Despite the many alarming images, readers find little if any gratuitous gore. The descriptions emphasize the horrible plight of the tributes and the gross desensitization of the Capitol dwellers.



Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality


Katniss and Peeta kiss a number of times and snuggle together for warmth in a sleeping bag.



Awards


The New York Times Bestseller, 2009-10; Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, 2008; American Library Association (ALA) Best Book for Young Adults, 2009; and others.



Discussion Topics


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

Notes: Like the Hunger Games tributes in the Capitol arena, many early Christians faced cruel deaths in the Roman Colosseum. Parents or teachers could study the persecution of early Christ followers and compare/contrast those believers with the Hunger Games contestants.

Mythology: The book's plot was influenced by the Greek myth in which King Minos requires 7 boys and 7 girls from Athens to battle the Minotaur in a labyrinth.

Alcohol: Haymitch drinks constantly. He is often drunk and humiliating himself, like when he vomits all over the floor of the train en route to the Capitol. The prep team gives Katniss wine at a dinner, but after drinking half of one glass, she feels foggy and switches to water. She says she can't understand how Haymitch can stand being in a fog all the time. Instead of observing Katniss and rating her pre-Games performance, the intoxicated Gamemakers ignore her and sing drinking songs.

Gambling: The Hunger Games are a hotbed of gambling, not unlike big sporting events of today.

Nudity: The prep team examines Katniss in the nude, and she's often naked in their presence as they prepare her for TV appearances. The mentions of nudity, neither graphic nor sexual, emphasize how Katniss is viewed as an object to be modified rather than a human being.

Illegal activity: Katniss and Gale hunt illegally. They sell some of what they gather and/or kill on the city's black market. Nearly all District 12 citizens rely on the black market for survival.

ReadPlugged In's insight about young adult book trends at Teen Lit: Now Without Witches!


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.


Hunter Brown and the Consuming Fire

A book review for parents

Hunter Brown and the Consuming FireThis fantasy book is the second in the "Codebearers Series" by the Miller Brothers and is published by Warner Press.

Hunter Brown and the Consuming Fire is written for kids ages 10 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


In Solandria, Xaul, an evil Xin Warrior, hates the Codebearers. To avenge his people, Xaul has a Veritas sword fashioned for his own evil purposes. Meanwhile, in the city of Destiny, Hunter Brown adjusts to being back at Destiny High School as a sophomore. No one believes his stories about Solandria, and Hunter tries to figure out how to live according to the Author's Writ around those who do not believe.

There is a new student at Destiny High named Rob. Hunter eventually realizes that Rob is also a believer, and during an excursion to the local fair, Rob, Hunter and a girl named Trista are forced to fight against the Dispirits from Solandria. They are quickly transported by Hunter's old friend Faith to Solandria and to the freezing cold of Galacia Shard.

Three years have passed in Solandria since he left. He is disheartened to find the Resistance scattered and Shadow in control. Petrov, the commander of the Resistance, is slowly dying from a wound inflicted by Xaul and the refashioned Veritas sword. But Petrov still has hope; he has been given the Flame. Hunter is drawn to it, and Petrov reads to him the prophecy. Hunter is given the mission of taking the Flame to its next destination to find the others to be marked by it, seven in all. Rob and Trista go with him.

Throughout the mission, the three teenagers mature individually and in their friendship. Rob becomes bold, Trista begins to believe in the Author, and Hunter grows in strength in his own beliefs. Six out of the seven are found and marked by the Flame when Hunter and Trista are drawn back into the world of Destiny to help Cranton, the bully of their school, in a life-or-death situation. Hunter succeeds in saving Cranton's life, and as emergency personnel check him and Cranton, Cranton is taken away in an ambulance, and Hunter is placed in a white van. While saving Cranton, Hunter became the seventh to be marked by the Flame. Those in the white van notice the marking. They give him a shot, and he gets the feeling that something is wrong.



Christian Beliefs


The Author's Writ is true, full of life and prophecies. The Author has a purpose for everything and whatever He does is perfect. The Author's plan is not always obvious, but there is no such thing as luck, and the Author is always in control. The Author gives the disciplines to those who study the Code of Life, and people are transformed. The Author gives assurance, power and hope when needed. Because the Author created everything, all things — even bad circumstances — have a purpose. The Author helps Sam, Hunter's former teacher in Solandria, in his time of need.

The Codebearers are able to see the Author in all circumstances and place their trust in Him. Plus, they know that no one deserves to be chosen by the Author. The Codebearers quote the Author's Writ while fighting battles, and because of the Author, they know that they are never alone. They also know that it's impossible for anything to come from nothing; something is responsible for the creation of everything.

Petrov, the leader of the Resistance, reads the Author's Writ and prays. Petrov points out that he can only give what the Author has given him, but he is willing to part with what the Author has given him at any time.

After Aviad, the Author's Son, united the two Bloodstones in himself, He died and the curse of death was lifted.

Hunter has visions, and the Author's Words are spoken through him.

Hunter listens to the voice of the Flame and trusts the Flame to lead him in the right direction. Hunter is also able to forgive because he remembers how the Author has forgiven him. At one point, Hunter has nothing left so he has to completely trust the Author. Toward the end of the book, Hunter is miraculously healed.

Hope, Hunter's companion, is from the Author. Eventually, Hunter has to release Hope and trust the Author's plan. At the very end of the story, the Author sends Hope to save Hunter.



Authority Roles


In this book, Hunter's mom is now working full time at a job that takes a lot of her time and energy. She is not around much. Hunter's sister is responsible for waking Hunter up for school. She is bossy and is easily exasperated by Hunter.

Mr. Strickland is the new high school principal. He is an ex-military man and deals with students accordingly. He was going to suspend Hunter without giving Hunter a chance to defend himself, but Ms. Sheppard, the school counselor, interrupts the process of suspension. Ms. Sheppard takes over and tries to get Hunter to talk about his life. Eventually, he opens up to her about Solandria. She tries to convince him that he has his own inner strength so everything is his choice, not the Author's or anyone else's. She suggests to Hunter that the whole world of Solandria is a fantasy that is only in his mind. It helps him deal with what is going on in his life. This is confusing to Hunter as is the crystal ball that Ms. Sheppard has.

Hunter and Trista become prisoners of the Scourge. Their names are taken away, and they are known only as numbers. If they disobey any rule, they are punished severely. They are given a way to escape: If they are willing to denounce the Author, they can leave the area of punishment.

The Scourge and Xaul both try to have authority over Hunter by making him doubt the Author's plans and his part in them.

On the other hand, Petrov, the commander of the Resistance, wants to hear Hunter's story and listens carefully to it. Hunter also finds Sam again and watches as Sam refuses to keep quiet about the Author, regardless of the punishment. Sam even stands up to Sceleris and is willing to die for his belief in the Author.



Other Belief Systems


Mr. Tanner, Hunter's biology teacher, insists that everything happens by accident. He believes that given enough time, anything can happen.

Ms. Sheppard tries to persuade Hunter that the Author and Solandria are all in his mind. She believes that everyone has an inner strength and a second vision.

Sceleris tells the prisoners in Dolor that if they are willing to serve him instead of the Author, they will be free.

The Xin believe that they are the Author and that the Author is in them. They are in charge of their own lives. They believe that they are perfected through pain — the more torture they endure, the better they are. They have to earn their way to be worthy of perfection and power.



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.


Hunter Brown and the Secret of the Shadow

A book review for parents

This fantasy is first in the "Codebearers Series" by the Miller Brothers and is published by Warner Press.

Hunter Brown and the Secret of the Shadow is written for kids ages 9 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


Hunter Brown, a ninth-grade boy at Destiny Hills High School, is unsure of who he is. His sister is smart and popular; Hunter is not. Hunter physically resembles his dad, who left the family three years earlier and has not been heard from since. He knows that he does not fit in and accepts this as his lot in life. Hunter finishes his school year by pulling a prank on the school's bully. To avoid getting caught in the consequences of the prank, Hunter and his friends go on an errand for a new janitor and retrieve a book. Because of this Book, Hunter is able to watch stories unfold, see spiritual creatures, travel to another land and learn about the Author. In the new land, Solandria, Hunter's friends are the Codebearers for the Author, and they teach Hunter how to prepare for the battle that is to come between the Author and Sceleris. Venator is a follower of Sceleris and seems to have a special connection to Hunter. When Hunter is sent on a secret mission to take the half bloodstone from Venator, he soon realizes that he and Venator are the same person and that he needs to choose whom he will follow, the Author or Sceleris. Hunter chooses the Author and dies to himself. He wakes up to find the Author writing a new story for him and begins to live the adventure in his own city of Destiny.



Christian Beliefs


In the world of Solandria, there is a group called the Resistance that is fighting the Shadow. A person fighting for the Resistance is called a Codebearer. The Shadow blinds men to the truth of the Code; it is the job of the Codebearer to make sure the Code is not forgotten. The Codebearers know that they can only do the will of the Author and the Author will never give them anything they cannot handle. Hunter is encouraged to join the Resistance and learn more about the Author through the Author's Writ (the Book). Aviad is the Author's Son, and Hunter needs to meet Him. Hunter must make the trip to Aviad alone. The Veritas sword, used by the Codebearers, is the only weapon that can defeat the Shadow. The Author made it, and the blade carries the Code of Life. The Author created everything, is always in control and knows what is best no matter the circumstances. He shows people how to find Him.

Sceleris was once a friend of the Author, but decided that he wanted to become the Author. The Author sent him away, and Sceleris no longer has access to the Author. Instead, his hatred for the Author increases as he continues to convince others that the Author does not exist.

There is a spiritual battle going on over Hunter's life. Hunter is encouraged to memorize Book passages. Evil spirits speak doubt and fear to Hunter and do not want him to read the Author's Writ; they want him to destroy it. Hunter learns that he can only succeed in his tasks when he asks the Author for help. He can't succeed in his own strength. Aviad tells Hunter that he is never alone and that for the Shadow to not have power, Hunter must die by giving Aviad his heart, that is, his bloodstone. The Author can then write him a new story in which the Shadow and his curse are not a part.

Eventually, Aviad takes both halves of the bloodstone and puts them together in His own chest, finishing the curse forever.

The city of Destiny, where Hunter lives with his family, is an illusion that the Shadow keeps up. Real life is in Solandria, where good and evil spirits can be seen.



Authority Roles


The principal at Hunter's school does not believe Hunter's story about the new janitor who told him to retrieve a special book. But, just in case there is an imposter janitor at her school, she takes what he said seriously, and she does everything she can to find this "janitor" in order to keep the students safe.

Hunter's mom is a single parent. Hunter feels that he is an inconvenience to her. She grounds him for the weekend for skipping classes the last day of school. Hunter disobeys and leaves the house. Hunter's father had abandoned the family three years earlier, and Hunter has not had contact with him since.

Sam is Hunter's teacher in Solandria and stays true to the Word of the Author. Hunter highly respects him. Petrov is the commander of the Resistance. He leads according to the Author's plans.

Hunter first sees Aviad as a bumbling, old man, and Hunter cannot see how this old man can help him in any way. Hunter chooses to trust Him, though, and Aviad leads him in the way Hunter must go. Aviad does not give Hunter the answers but assists Hunter as he figures out what the Book says.

Venator is a commander for Shadow and has a special connection to Hunter. He is powerful, ruthless, angry and deceptive.

Belac is a troll who captures Hunter and forces him to become his prisoner and slave. His only thought is for himself and his own comfort, and he does not give a thought to Hunter's well-being.

After the battle of Sanctuary, Ephriam is in charge. Regardless of how things look, he does not want to deviate from Aviad's orders. When Hunter disagrees and gets angry, Ephriam lets him walk away and gives him time to think things through.

Faldyn is a captain in the Resistance. He tries to help Hunter, but Hunter does not trust him. Faldyn gets irritated easily and does not trust Hunter, but ends up saving his life several times.

The Author is in control of all things. He knows what is best in all situations. He is pleased with Hunter and his journey thus far. The Author encourages him and gives him peace.



Other Belief Systems


In Destiny, Hunter is taught the theory of evolution in school. In Solandria, the evil spirits believe that they are in charge of their own destinies. If they follow their own beliefs then they are truly free. Belac wants nothing to do with the Author or Sceleris. He only does what he wants. He believes that as long as he accepts no higher power into his life he is truly free.



Profanity/Graphic Violence


None



Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality


None



Awards


2009 Moonbeam Children's Book Bronze Medal Award; Pre-teen Fiction-Fantasy



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.