Focus on the Family


Maggie Come Lately

A book review for parents

This teen girls' fiction book in "The Pathway Collection" by Michelle Buckman is published by Think Books, an imprint of NavPress.

Maggie Come Lately is written for kids ages 16 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


Maggie was four when her mother committed suicide; in the 12 years since, Maggie has cared for her dad and younger brothers, Tony and Billy. On her 16th birthday, she wishes for change: she prays for popularity, a boyfriend, and other good things to happen for her. Instead, she finds a classmate's beaten and raped body, comes to blows repeatedly with Dad's new girlfriend, Andrea, and learns that a neighbor has been abusing Billy. The trying times force Maggie to think through her own beliefs, particularly about sex. She ultimately discovers that God has put her in these situations so she can help others.



Christian Beliefs


A number of characters, including Maggie, her dad, Andrea, Maggie's friend Dixie and Dixie's mom, attend church and discuss their faith. Maggie says short prayers in the midst of her struggles, asking for help and purpose in her life. Maggie's brother, Tony, attends church against his will and seems to be struggling with his identity in general. Andrea and a teacher tell Maggie God allowed her to find Sue (the rape victim) so she could help the girl and send a message to others.



Authority Roles


Maggie's dad has been a loving provider for the family since his wife's suicide, though he's left the domestic duties to Maggie. He has trouble standing up to Andrea and has secret concerns about Maggie (who is the same age his wife was when she got pregnant out of wedlock). Mrs. Chambers, the mother of Maggie's friend Dixie, is easy to talk to and serves as Maggie's advisor; she even speaks to Dad on Maggie's behalf when Maggie doesn't know how to voice her concerns about Andrea. Mr. Dweller, whom everyone considers a kind-hearted youth helper at church, takes advantage of Billy's trust and sexually abuses him. One of Maggie's teachers makes it clear to the administration that she'll quit if they stop her from talking about her faith.



Other Belief Systems


Mrs. Chambers has a charming way about her that helps her get what she wants from people. Maggie calls it her "pixie magic."



Profanity/Graphic Violence


There is one use of the word pissed.



Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality


Maggie's classmate is raped and her brother is abused, though no graphic details are provided. Maggie, her friends and even friends' parents have discussions about cleavage and "boobs." A boy Maggie dates puts his hand under her bra and she slaps him. Maggie talks with other characters about her concerns that sex – not friendship – seems to be at the forefront of dating relationships with kids her age.



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.


Mandie and the Holiday Surprise

A book review for parents

This mystery book, eleventh in the "Mandie" series by Lois Gladys Leppard, is published by Bethany House Publishers, an imprint of Baker Publishing Group.

Mandie and the Holiday Surprise is written for kids ages 9 to 14. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


Mandie and her friend Celia are excited to leave school for Christmas break. Mandie's mother promised her a big surprise for Christmas, and Mandie can't wait to discover what it is. When her mother and Uncle John are delayed due to weather and can't get home until Christmas Eve, Mandie becomes even more anxious. But excitement changes to anger when her mother tells the surprise: Mandie is going to have to share her mother with a new baby.



Christian Beliefs


Characters pray, ask God for help and are healed. Mandie thanks God for her answered prayers. They attend church on Sunday, and Uncle John reads the story of Jesus' birth from the Bible on Christmas morning.



Authority Roles


Mandie's grandmother plays a positive role in this story — Mandie's parents are absent through most of it. Her grandmother is responsible for her and makes Mandie aware of any selfish or harmful attitudes she has. Uncle Ned responds with love and patience to Mandie's anger over the new baby. He lovingly rebukes her with Scripture concerning her attitude, which ultimately leads to Mandie asking her mother for forgiveness.



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: In 2004, there were 40 books in the "Mandie" Series.

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.


Manga Messiah

A book review for parents

This graphic novel, Bible story by Hidenori Kumai is published by Tyndale House Publishers and is written for kids ages 13 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


Using the manga comic format, this book portrays the life of Jesus from the prophecies that foretold His birth to His ascension into heaven. Adapted from Scripture, these 23 stories refer to Jesus as Yeshuah and use more obscure names in referring to His parents ("Miryam" for Mary and "Yosef" for Joseph). While this graphic novel is not a literal, word-for-word presentation of the Bible, the text remains true to Scripture. The writer adds brief descriptions to the dialogue so the reader will better understand the settings for these stories. Additional comic bubbles within the illustrations give insight into the thoughts and reactions of the characters.



Christian Beliefs


The book gives a biblically accurate overview of Jesus' life.



Authority Roles


None



Other Belief Systems


None



Profanity/Graphic Violence


Jesus' death and the clearing of the temple contain violence but are well-handled.



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 Masquerade

A book review for parents

This first coming-of-age book in the "Becoming Beka" series by Sarah Anne Sumpolec is published by Moody Publishers.

Masquerade is written for kids ages 13 to 18. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


Nine months after Beka's mom is killed in a car accident, Beka still suffers from bad dreams, insomnia and emotions she can't control. She continues to push her Christian family away in an attempt to hide her secret that she is not a Christian and angry. She feels isolated and alone. A new girl at school, Lori, makes friends with her, and Beka is coaxed by an old friend to try out for a play. She gets a part. Beka refuses to tell anyone what is going on emotionally. She makes wrong choices that cause her dad to take her to a psychiatric hospital for help. She explains that she is riddled with guilt for pushing her mom away to hide that she was only pretending to be a Christian. Her dad tells her that her mom knew and prayed for her. A friend's foster mom tells Beka what it means to be a Christian, and Beka gives her life to Jesus. At a New Year's Eve party, Beka realizes that she has feelings for a boy, Mark. By the end of the book, Beka is confident that God is in control of her life.



Christian Beliefs


Lori's mom, Megan, explains to Lori and Beka what it means to be a Christian. Lori believes instantly because she can see God through her foster parents' lives. One of the themes in The Masquerade is God's forgiveness. Beka had made bad choices in her life, including pretending to be a Christian. She wonders if her sins are too big for God to forgive. Megan assures her that God is big enough. All through the book, Beka's family lives out their Christian faith as they attempt to help Beka through her anger at God. They show true concern and do their best to continually forgive her as she hurts them. Mark, the boy she is interested in, claims to be a Christian when Beka confronts him. Mark is living a moral life externally. Beka asks him if he is ashamed of being a Christian.



Authority Roles


Beka's dad is a godly, Christian man doing his best to raise his family as a single parent, amid his grief over his wife's death. His decisions are based on godly principles and on prayer. He forgives Beka when she makes mistakes and tells her how much she is loved. Lori's foster mother, Megan, also shows godly authority. She is available at any time for Beka and Lori and eventually leads them both to the Lord.



Other Belief Systems


None



Profanity/Graphic Violence


None



Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality


A girl asks Beka if she and Mark have hooked up. She is surprised that Beka has never made out with anyone. Beka attends two parties where she gets drunk. Boys and girls are making out at these parties.



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.


Maudie in the Middle

A book review for parents

This family life book by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor and Lura Schield Reynolds is published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Books and is written for kids ages 9 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


Maudie, whose only claim to fame is being born in the year 1900, is stuck as a middle child in her family. The three older siblings get to do exciting things, and her three younger ones get all the attention. Maudie craves her parents' recognition, but her tendency toward bad behavior often earns her the wrong kind of notice. Only after her uncle dies and her parents are forced to spend a month away from home does Maudie grow into her own unique role in the family.



Christian Beliefs


Maudie's family regularly attends church, sings hymns for enjoyment, has family devotions and invites church people — such as the preacher and his wife — over for Sunday dinner. When the church has its annual foot-washing ceremony (complete with the Lord's Supper re-enactment), Maudie decides this is her opportunity to be forgiven and to start being a better child. She talks about humbling herself as Jesus did with His disciples. Though Maudie accidentally sleeps through the ceremony, Mother washes her feet at home, and Maudie feels forgiven. Their denomination isn't mentioned, but Maudie talks with one of her brothers about how they are baptized when they're 12.



Authority Roles


Maudie's mother and father work long, hard hours and do their best to meet the physical, spiritual and emotional needs of their seven children. Aunt Sylvie, who lives with the family, often gives Maudie the special attention she craves. Miss Richardson, the town's teacher, is Maudie's role model. She's attentive to her students and makes Maudie feel good about her abilities. Brother and Sister Bliss, the minister and his wife, often compliment Maudie and her siblings on their behavior in church. Maudie compares herself to Sister Bliss and feels she could never be that good.



Other Belief Systems


Maudie names the family's new foal Lucky because it was lucky to be alive after its mother died giving birth to it.



Profanity/Graphic Violence


Father says dang once.



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.


Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment

A book review for parents

This science-fiction adventure is the first book in "Maximum Ride" series by James Patterson and is published by Little, Brown and Company, in conjunction with Time Warner Book Group.

The Angel Experiment is written for kids ages 12 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


At a secret lab called The School, scientists perform genetic tests on children. Four years ago, one of the scientists (Jeb) helped six mutant kids escape to a house in the mountains. He lived with them there for two years as a loving protector and father figure. Then he vanished. They assumed he'd been killed.

Today, 14-year-old Maximum Ride (Max) affectionately cares for the mutant group like a mother. She calls them the Flock because each, including her, was injected with bird DNA. Consequently, each child has wings and can fly. Other Flock members include Fang (age 14), Iggy (14 and blind due to The School's experiments), Nudge (an 11-year-old girl with the gift of gab), Gasman (or Gazzy, age 8, so named because of his flatulent tendencies) and Angel (Gazzy's 6-year-old biological sister who can read minds).

The Flock has remained under the radar for two years when they're attacked at their home by The School's half-human/half-wolf creations called Erasers. The creatures capture Angel, and the others take flight to rescue her. When the Flock reaches The School many days later, they're captured and returned to animal cages, similar to those they once inhabited. They're startled and angered to find Jeb conducting tests there once again. Jeb tries to tell Max to trust him, but she and the other Flock members escape. Angel tells them she overheard things in the lab that could help the kids learn where they came from.

Based on Angel's information, the Flock flies to New York in search of a place called The Institute. Max begins hearing a voice in her head that speaks in cryptic messages and guides her to The Institute. There, the kids find more mutant children trapped in cages. They evade the Erasers long enough to print out some information about their past history. As they escape, they kill a particularly powerful Eraser named Ari in self-defense. Jeb screams to Max that she's killed her own brother. Max continues to ponder this remark as the other kids read the information about themselves. The younger kids want to fly to Washington, D.C., to follow leads on their parents. Max goes with them, though she has no information about her own past. The Voice tells her she has a greater mission before her.



Christian Beliefs


Max says listening to Nudge's motor mouth could turn Mother Teresa into an ax murderer. She thinks flying must be what it feels like to be God. She says she feels a lack of enthusiasm even after Jeb has told her she's preordained and practically implied she's the messiah. When Max has one of her horrible headaches, she begs God to let her die quickly. Jeb passes through the crowd of Erasers as Moses parting the Red Sea.

Having never been to church, the kids are intrigued by St. Patrick's cathedral. Max says it smells ancient and religious. She feels safe and says it seems like a place where six homeless kids just might be heard. Angel suggests they pray, and Nudge asks if they're praying to God. Nudge prays for parents. Angel prays she'll get her teddy bear back, that she'll grow up to be like Max and that they'll be safe from the bad guys. Iggy asks that his sight will be restored and that he'll be able to "kick Jeb's butt," and Gazzy prays that he'll be big and strong so that he can help people. Max says she never really thought about whether she believed in God and wonders if God would have let the scientists do such evil experiments. She prays for bravery, strength, wisdom, answers and the ability to take care of the Flock. They all feel so peaceful in the church, they don't want to leave.



Authority Roles


Max is the main authority figure for the Flock. She makes the plans and keeps everyone safe. She believes honesty is always good, "except when it's better to lie" to protect others. When she hears Angel cursing, she vows to watch her own language to set a better example. Scientist Jeb Batchelder cares for the Flock like a father for two years. When they find him alive and working at The School once again, they feel angry and betrayed. The Voice in Max's head guides her to The Institute. It says it considers itself her friend and loves her more than anyone, but that it asks the questions, not her. Dr. Martinez is the mother of a girl Max rescues from bullies. When Max is hurt, Dr. Martinez assists Max without judging or asking too many questions about her wings. She protects Max from being captured, patches up her wounds and even bakes homemade cookies with her. Max fantasizes that Dr. Martinez is her mother. Some of the Flock members suspect their parents gave them to The School for money.



Other Belief Systems


Max calls a bullet wound she receives sheer bad luck. When the starving Fang finds food, he calls it Nirvana. Max justifies using a stolen ATM card because the card's owner was a jerk, and she reasons that it's his karma getting back at him. In a toy store, a Ouija board moves by itself and tells Max to save the world. When Max is lost in the subway, she lets the feng shui guide her and finds the door she needs.



Profanity/Graphic Violence


The Lord's name is frequently used in vain. Butt, crap, h---, suck and heck appear a few times. The kids sometimes curse more severely but without specific words appearing in the text. Max calls the scientists sadistic spawns of Satan. She shoots Ari "the bird."

A number of battles between Flock members and Erasers turn violent and bloody. People are shot and sliced up by bird beaks. Body parts, including noses and necks, are broken with "stomach-turning" cracking noises. When Angel is kidnapped, Max punches a tree until she's bloody and skin is missing. The scientists perform horrible experiments on kids. They shock and burn them, operate on them, put them in mazes like rats and leave them in pet crates when they're not being tested. Some test subjects have vital organs outside of their bodies. A few times, the kids in the Flock see badly mutated children die in front of them.



Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality


When Fang has been beaten badly, Max kisses him on the lips.



Awards


The New York Times Bestseller List, 2006; YALSA Teen's Top 10 Award, 2005



Discussion Topics


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

Note:
Smoking: A woman Nudge thinks may be her mother smokes a cigarette.

Criminal Activity: The Flock sleeps in parks, steals food, hops subway turnstiles, hotwires a car and gets money from an ATM when someone accidentally leaves a card in the machine.


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 Maze of Bones

A book review for parents

This first adventure, mystery book in "The 39 Clues" series by Rick Riordan is published by Scholastic, Inc.

The Maze of Bones is written for kids 9 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


At the reading of Grace Cahill's will, Cahills from around the world are present to collect their portion of her estate. But Grace threw them a curve: Each heir can take $1 million or join an epic treasure hunt in which the winner will receive power beyond his or her wildest dreams. Dan and Amy, favored young relatives of Grace, accept the challenge despite the threats of their guardian, Aunt Beatrice. With the help of their au pair (nanny), Nellie, they fly to Paris and battle their quirky, scheming relatives to follow up on clues involving Ben Franklin (supposedly an ancestor of the Cahill clan). At the end of the book, Dan and Amy are ahead in the race, but readers are left guessing at answers that will be found only in upcoming installments of "The 39 Clues" Series.



Christian Beliefs


Nellie mutters something in Spanish that "sounded like a prayer" to Dan and Amy.



Authority Roles


Amy and Dan's parents (of whom they speak fondly) are deceased. For a while, Dan and Amy are under the guardianship of a mean aunt who doesn't like them and calls the authorities on them when they go against her wishes. Nellie is easily lured into their adventure and does whatever they ask. She serves as an authority figure only in the sense that she can drive a car and get them through customs. Various adult members of the Cahill family are fiercely competitive. They lie to and steal from Dan and Amy — and even threaten them with weapons and poison — in an effort to solve Grace Cahill's mystery hunt. Grace dies early in the book, but the text makes it clear she had a loving connection with Dan and Amy and was glad they were not evil schemers like her other relatives.

These are intelligent children who work their way through a foreign country searching for clues. They've been disowned by their mean aunt and can't return to the U.S. because she has notified the authorities that they've escaped. Grace has urged them to trust no one. Although Nellie chauffeurs them, she doesn't do anything to care for them. They tell her to wait in the car for them while they look for clues, and she complies. The kids do not have any real authority figures in their lives.



Other Belief Systems


Grace Cahill has a necklace that she considers a talisman or good luck charm. After her death, it is in Amy's possession.



Profanity/Graphic Violence


One use of God's name taken in vain. A cousin once uses the word wankstas. Weapons and poison are threatened against the children.



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: "The 39 Clues" promises to be an extensive series. It is written by several different authors and comes with coded game cards that allow readers to go online to the39clues.com and help solve the mystery.

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.


Melonhead

A book review for parents

This humorous slice-of-life book by Katy Kelly is published by Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House Children's Books and is written for kids ages 8 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.


Plot Summary


Whether he's getting his foot stuck in a tree after climbing on rooftops or trying to track down a snake he's lost in his house, 10-year-old Adam "Melonhead" Melon never has to look far to find trouble. Along with his friend Sam, Adam tries repeatedly to develop an invention (actually, a "reinvention" — because it must be made of recycled materials) for the school science contest. Adam's and Sam's parents, neighbors Pop and Madam, the science teacher and other adults patiently nurture and encourage the boys. Ultimately, the rescue kit they create wins the science contest and earns them a trip to the semifinals.



Christian Beliefs


None



Authority Roles


Adam's mom is a worrier and frequently on edge, partly because of her daredevil son's activities. She dislikes how his dad has attended a conference on Sunday because she believes Sunday should be a family day. Dad works for a congressman, so he often stays at the office late and tells the family he needs to focus on the big picture. He does show up when he's needed to help Adam out of a crisis. Pop and Madam are Adam's neighbors: The neighborhood kids like to hang out with them, and Pop has given Adam permission to climb on his roof anytime. Mr. Santalices, the science teacher, uses humor as he inspires and encourages his students to work on their science projects.



Other Belief Systems


Adam says his classmates with good ideas are lucky, and he thanks his lucky stars for Pop. Another of Adam's friends says he's going to a baby sitter's wedding at Temple Sinai.



Profanity/Graphic Violence


Peeing, farting, poop and butts are mentioned several times by Adam and his friends. Adam's mom thinks talk like this is vulgar but Adam finds it hilarious. Adam and his friend talk about a kid who broke his arm and had a bone poke through his skin before it (the bone) flew across the playground. Adam is a little sad when Cobra (a garter snake) swallows a mouse whole.



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 Merchant of Death

A book review for parents

This first fantasy book in the "Pendragon" series by D.J. MacHale is published by Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing.

The Merchant of Death is written for kids ages 9 to 14. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


Bobby Pendragon kisses the girl of his dreams and heads for a basketball game when his eccentric Uncle Press takes him into a medieval world of another dimension called Denduron. Little by little, Bobby learns that he is a Traveler who, with his special powers, must try to help the Milago miners escape the tyrannical rule of the Bedoowans. The Bedoowans' leader, Kagan, is controlled by an evil Traveler named Saint Dane, who wants to bring chaos wherever he goes. With the aid of other young Travelers, Loor and Alder, Bobby saves his uncle from the Bedoowans and strives to stop the use of tak, a massively destructive weapon. Bobby writes about all his adventures and sends his journals back through time and space to his friends Mark and Courtney.



Christian Beliefs


Bobby asserts that the account of David and Goliath is "just a story." The Bedoowans force the Milago people to fight vicious creatures called quigs in an arena. Bobby likens this to the way Christians were killed in the Roman Coliseum.



Authority Roles


Uncle Press leads Bobby into intense danger, offering little explanation to the 14-year-old. Bobby's parents never appear in the story. They vanish along with his house when he first goes to Denduron. At the end, Uncle Press seems to indicate that Bobby will be fine without his parents for the time being. The villain, Saint Dane, is determined to cause havoc and destruction for all so that Halla (see "Other belief systems") will fall. He is able to change into any form, and he whispers suggestions to people to make them do his bidding.



Other Belief Systems


Bobby, Uncle Press and the other Travelers believe their mission is to save Halla. Halla is everything: every time, every territory and every living entity. It separates order from chaos, and if it crumbles, “there will be nothing but darkness. Everywhere. For everyone.”



Profanity/Graphic Violence


Words like a--, h---, p---ed and the misuse of God's name appear several times. Scenes involving the predatory quigs often end in gory descriptions of the animals feeding on people (or each other). A homeless man runs in front of a subway train and dies.



Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality


Bobby and Courtney share an open-mouthed kiss in the beginning of the book.



Awards


Unknown



Discussion Topics


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

Note: This is the first book in a long series.


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.


Mercy Clifton: Pilgrim Girl

A book review for parents

This historical fiction in the "Crimson Cross" series by Peter Marshall, David Manuel and Sheldon Maxwell is published by B&H Publishing and is written for kids ages 9 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


Mercy Clifton, a traveler on the Mayflower, is the first European to set foot in what will be Plymouth, Mass. During her travels and her first year in the New World, she loses her parents, wrestles with whether she should stay or return to England, and tries to keep her thoughts and decisions in line with God's Word. Along the way, she is attracted to a boy named Jack. Although he likes Mercy and eventually asks her to marry him, Jack focuses on getting rich and being a man of means, not of God. Through facing hardship, meeting Squanto and other American Indians, and cooking a feast of thanksgiving, Mercy chooses to align herself with God's design, not Jack's, and trust in His provision.



Christian Beliefs


Mercy and other Pilgrims pray, seek God's will and praise Him for His goodness. When one Pilgrim is tossed overboard by a wave (he was in a place he shouldn't have been) and is rescued, the Pilgrim leaders praise God for saving him and nurse him back to health. They try to show God's love to others no matter how difficult the situation. Over time, the captain of their ship and those on it who are not Pilgrims come to respect this group, called the Saints, because of their love for each other and service to those who are not in their group.



Authority Roles


The Brewsters, Bradfords and Carvers are leaders of this small group of Pilgrims, and they take seriously their leadership roles, trying to do what is right before God in all things — showing His mercy and His discipline. Mercy listens to her parents' guidance and subsequently gives the Brewsters the same respect after her parents' death. Jack's father, Mr. Billington, is a poor role model for Jack. He looks out only for himself, complains nonstop, beats his wife and continually embarrasses himself and his family.



Other Belief Systems


Two groups are on the Mayflower: Saints and Strangers. The Saints are those who seek religious freedom in the New World and try to follow God's will for their lives. The Strangers are all others. Some of the Strangers seek fortune. Others seek fame or power. Many eventually become Christians. Some sailors on the Mayflower are superstitious. Native Americans believe in a Great Spirit deity. The Great Spirit is mentioned but the belief system is not explored. At one point, Squanto tells how he felt the eagle took his prayers to the Great Spirit.



Profanity/Graphic Violence


Mr. Billington beats his wife, but the reader only learns about the bruises and her fear that he might be reported. Jack's younger brother plays with gunpowder and almost blows up the Mayflower. About half of the travelers die of illness or because of accidents on the voyage or during the first year as colonists. Mr. Billington points his musket at American Indians, but his son keeps him from shooting them. A group of Pilgrims attack a group of American Indians, but this battle is fought through trickery, and no one is killed. At one point, Jack threatens to hurt Mercy and leave her in the swamp. When a wolf almost attacks Mercy, her American Indian friend kills it with a knife, but not before Mercy's dog is almost killed by the wolf. Jack tells a story about dodging arrows as he was running for his life, but all of Jack's stories are exaggerated. Diseases and maladies are described, such as when one man's foot is frostbitten and two of his toes turn black.



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.


Millie's Courageous Days

A book review for parents

This second historical fiction book in the "A Life of Faith: Millie Keith" series based on the original novel by Martha Finley is published by Zonderkidz.

Millie's Courageous Days is written for kids ages 10 to 14. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


Millie and her family are devastated after an accident leaves her sister Fan near death. They hold a four-day prayer vigil, and Fan miraculously recovers. This creates a crisis for Millie's friend Rhoda Jane, whose father died of a fever the year before. Rhoda Jane's doubts deepen after her brother sustains a terrible injury and gives his life to Jesus in the aftermath. Damaris Drybread, their judgmental and angry schoolteacher, becomes the mother of an orphan baby. Meanwhile, Celestia Ann and Reverend Lord are married in the Keith's newly completed home. When a fever strikes Pleasant Plains, causing sickness and death in many families, the faith of the family is tested. God uses the sickness to show Damaris and Rhoda Jane His love and to strengthen Millie's faith.



Christian Beliefs


The Keith family members are strong believers. They go to church regularly and pray at home. Millie prays for God's guidance in all circumstances and believes the promises of the Bible. Millie chooses to take a godly stand in the areas of friendship, slavery and loving her enemies. Mr. and Mrs. Keith pray for a miracle when their daughter Fan is injured in an accident. God heals Fan.



Authority Roles


Millie's father is a strong, gentle, godly man who leads his family through the use of Christian principles. The family respects Mr. Keith, and they go to him with their problems. Mr. and Mrs. Keith encourage Millie to love Damaris as God would love him, and she eventually offers her friendship to him.



Other Belief Systems


None



Profanity/Graphic Violence


Rhoda Jane's brother, Gordon, is injured when exploding gunpowder propels a ramrod through his hand and chest.



Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality


Millie's friends are interested in boys and some of them have crushes. The young people only see each other at chaperoned events, and the attitude of the young men is respectful and protective.



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.


Millie's Faithful Heart

A book review for parents

This fourth historical fiction book in the "A Life of Faith: Millie Keith" series based on the classic by Martha Finley is published by Zonderkidz.

Millie's Faithful Heart is written for kids ages 10 to 14. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


While temporarily living on her Uncle Horace's plantation, Millie learns that her Aunt Isabel has tricked her into owning a young slave, Laylie. Millie is determined to offer the child a better life and to teach Laylie about Jesus. Millie defends her young charge and tries to help Laylie's older brother, who is a slave on another plantation. Eventually, she arranges their daring escape north to freedom. Meanwhile, the handsome Charles Landreth attempts to win Millie's heart. He is not a believer, and Millie must decide whether or not to accept his love. She helps her cousin, Elsie Dinsmore, settle on another estate, Roselands, and delays her own return home. Finally, Millie's father takes her home to Pleasant Plains.



Christian Beliefs


Millie is a strong Christian in the middle of a family of nonbelievers. She prays and depends on God for comfort, wisdom and guidance through the Bible. She tries at all times to submit herself to God as she makes decisions under difficult circumstances. A young slave, Laylie, eventually gives her life to Jesus.



Authority Roles


Uncle Horace displays integrity and honor as he leads his household. He comes to respect Millie's beliefs, and although he does not become a believer, he defends Millie and her views.



Other Belief Systems


The Dinsmores are not Christians, although, they do attend church.



Profanity/Graphic Violence


None



Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality


Millie's relationships with young men are chaperoned.



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.


Millie's Grand Adventure

A book review for parents

This sixth historical fiction book in the "A Life of Faith: Millie Keith" series based on the classic novel by Martha Finley is published by Zonderkidz.

Millie's Grand Adventure is written for kids ages 10 to 14. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


Millie Keith is a 17-year-old girl living in a frontier town in the 1830s. She and her friend Gavi are heartbroken. During a visit to her great-uncle's plantation, Millie fell in love with a southern gentleman who proposed, but Millie refused him because he was not a Christian. She is astonished and confused when he walks into a Mercantile shop in her town. Meanwhile, Gavi is supposed to marry a young man, but he has disappeared. Millie supports her friend as they wait for word from an acquaintance, which searches for Gavi's husband-to-be. After a tornado destroys their harvest, Millie's family tries to store enough food for the winter. Millie and her family learn lessons about faithfulness, trusting in God's provision and moving forward with courage instead of disappointment.



Christian Beliefs


Millie and her family members put their faith into practice as they pray, search God's Word and trust Him for provision and direction. Millie knows Scripture well and turns to God with all of her problems and fears. The family demonstrates integrity and grace in their relationships with their neighbors and in their counsel to Gavi about marriage.



Authority Roles


Millie's father is a strong, gentle man who follows God's Word as he leads his family. His wife and children respect him.



Other Belief Systems


None



Profanity/Graphic Violence


The Keith's pet dog is killed while defending the children from a bear.



Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality


Millie and her friends take courtship and marriage seriously.



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.


Millie's Reluctant Sacrifice

A book review for parents

This seventh historical fiction book in the "A Life of Faith: Millie Keith" series based on the classic novel by Martha Finley is published by Zonderkidz.

Millie's Reluctant Sacrifice is written for kids ages 12 to 14. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


Millie Keith, a young woman with a strong faith in God, is delighted to be marrying Charles, her love of six years. Charles is a doctor and is eager to practice medicine and share the Gospel. In 1843, Charles and Millie travel as missionaries to the unfamiliar country of Bolivia, a very long way from the small town of Pleasant Plains, Ind. After an arduous journey, they come to a small mining town where they build a clinic. They stand against the extremely hostile pagan belief in the goddess Pachamama and fight a spiritual battle for the life of a young Quechua boy.



Christian Beliefs


Millie and Charles are strong believers who are excited to spread God's Word in Bolivia. Millie relies on God for wisdom, comfort, strength and direction for her life.



Authority Roles


Millie's father, Stuart Keith, is a gentle, strong and godly man who is respected by his family and friends. Millie respects her new husband and his views.



Other Belief Systems


In Bolivia, Millie and Charles encounter the worship of the pagan goddess Pachamama and the witches who worship her. The witches rule the people in that area through the people's fear of sickness and that witches' curses that are believed to cause death.



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.


Millie's Remarkable Journey

A book review for parents

This third historical fiction book in the "A Life of Faith: Millie Keith" series based on the classic novel by Martha Finley is published by Zonderkidz.

Millie's Remarkable Journey is written for kids ages 10 to 14. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


Millie has been sick for two years and has not fully recovered. She has a debilitating cough that worsens in the winter months. Millie's great-uncle offers to escort her to his plantation in the South so she can recover. On the plantation, she struggles to understand slavery and put up with Uncle Horace's difficult wife, Isabel. A little girl named Laylie is assigned to be Millie's slave, which upsets Millie. She befriends the girl and tries to help her and the child's brother. The way Millie lives her life challenges Uncle Horace to reconsider his views on slavery.



Christian Beliefs


The Keith family members are strong believers. As Millie leaves home, they counsel their daughter to give her heart fully to Jesus, even in the area of romance. Millie prays for God's guidance in all circumstances and believes the promises of the Bible. She calls verses to mind in her daily activities. Millie speaks out about her anti-slavery convictions and tries to help her young maid, Laylie, and Laylie's brother. By demonstrating godly character, she gently challenges her Uncle Horace's views on Christianity and slavery.



Authority Roles


Millie's father is a strong, gentle, godly man who leads his family in Christian principles and love. Millie respects her Uncle Horace even when she does not agree with him. Uncle Horace's family, on the other hand, is disrespectful to him.



Other Belief Systems


None



Profanity/Graphic Violence


The slave, Luke, is whipped by the foreman for a minor infraction and Millie tends to his injuries.



Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality


Millie's relationships with young men are closely watched.



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.


Millie's Steadfast Love

A book review for parents

This fifth historical fiction book in the "A Life of Faith: Millie Keith" series based on the classic novel by Martha Finley is published by Zonderkidz.

Millie's Steadfast Love is written for kids ages 10 to 14. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


Sixteen-year-old Mille Keith travels home to Pleasant Plains after spending the winter at her great-uncle's plantation in the South. During the journey, Millie meets a young Romani girl named Gavi who is traveling with her younger brother and sister. They become immediate friends when the two girls stop a runaway stagecoach. Because the person they are supposed to meet is in a home that is quarantined because of an outbreak of smallpox, they travel Pleasant Plains with Millie and care for Millie's younger siblings. Millie and Gavi take on the responsibility of nine siblings while Millie's father and mother help the home that has been quarantined. Meanwhile, Millie learns that the slaves that she had helped escape from the plantation are safe in New York, but they need money to buy their freedom to keep from being captured again.



Christian Beliefs


The Keith family members are strong believers who go to the Bible for wisdom and comfort. When she is in need of divine help, Millie relies on the many Scriptures she has memorized. The family demonstrates their beliefs through their generosity and desire for justice.



Authority Roles


Millie's father, Stuart, is a strong, gentle man who understands his role as husband and father under God's authority. The children respect and obey him out of love.



Other Belief Systems


None



Profanity/Graphic Violence


None



Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality


Millie and her friends follow what God's Word says about purity of heart. Millie refuses a marriage proposal because the young man is not a Christian.



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.


Millie's Unsettled Season

A book review for parents

This first historical fiction book in the "A Life of Faith: Millie Keith" series based on the classic novel by Martha Finley is published by Zonderkidz.

Millie's Unsettled Season is written for kids ages 10 to 14. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


In 1833, the Keith family moves to a small town in Indiana. Twelve-year-old Millie is the oldest of eight children. She gives up her school and social life to work alongside her parents and Aunt Wealthy as they transform an old warehouse into a home. Meanwhile, she makes friends with the girls of the town and learns that she has the heart of a teacher. Most importantly, she sees that Jesus can use her sacrificial giving to help others in important ways.



Christian Beliefs


The Keith family members are strong believers. They go to church regularly and pray at home. Millie prays for God's guidance in all circumstances and believes the promises of the Bible. Millie is committed to sharing the joy of following God with her friends and presents a Bible to one of them as a Christmas gift. In their travels, the family witnesses one man committing his life to Christ because of Millie's witness.



Authority Roles


Millie's father is a strong, gentle, godly man who leads his family using Christian principles and in God's love. The family respects Mr. Keith and they go to him with their problems. Mr. and Mrs. Keith pull their young daughters out of Miss Drybread's school when they learn that she is abusing her role as a teacher.



Other Belief Systems


None



Profanity/Graphic Violence


None



Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality


Millie's friends are interested in boys, and some of them have crushes. The young people only see each other at chaperoned events, however, and the attitude of the young men is respectful and protective.



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.


Miracles on Maple Hill

A book review for parents

This historical book by Virginia Sorensen is published by Odyssey, Harcourt Young Classics, Harcourt Inc. and is written for kids ages 8 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


Marly's dad is back from the war — but his experiences as a prisoner of war changed him. Hoping to restore her husband's zest for life, Marly's mom brings the family to her grandmother's house on quiet, rustic Maple Hill. The neighbors, Mr. Chris and his wife, Chrissie, welcome Marly's family and show them the essentials of their syrup-making business. Mr. Chris also teaches Marly and her brother, Joe, about animals, plants and the transformations in nature. As Marly witnesses the changing seasons, neighbors working together and her father's spirit healing, she becomes convinced that miracles do happen on Maple Hill.



Christian Beliefs


Mr. Chris says he would swear on a Bible that the syrup Marly helped harvest during his illness tastes exactly like his.



Authority Roles


Marly's parents come to Maple Hill for a fresh start. Initially, her father is tense and cranky, and her mother walks on eggshells around him. After a short time in their new home, her father rediscovers a sense of joy in life by singing, working the land, etc., and her mother is able to relax. Mr. and Mrs. Chris, neighbors who knew her mother as a girl, prepare meals, offer assistance when needed and invite Marly's family to learn about their interesting vocation. Mr. Chris explains nature to the kids on a regular basis. Miss Annie Nelson, the truant officer, comes looking for the children to punish them. When she sees the way they're helping with Mr. Chris's crop, Miss Nelson enlists other children in town to assist as well.



Other Belief Systems


Mr. Chris tells Marly that witches supposedly used the blood from a particular root to kill people.



Profanity/Graphic Violence


None



Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality


None



Awards


Newbery Award Winner, 1957



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 Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

A book review for parents

This adventure book by Kate DiCamillo is published by Candlewick Press, an imprint of Walker Books and is written for kids ages 8 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


Edward Tulane, an elegant bunny made mostly of china, believes himself to be a fine specimen. Despite the fact that his owner, a little girl named Abilene, loves him desperately, he cares for no one but himself. Only after Edward is thrown from a ship into the ocean — then rediscovered by a series of different owners — does he understand the real meaning of love. His miraculous journey comes full circle when Abilene's daughter purchases him at a toy shop.



Christian Beliefs


In one adventure, a woman hangs up Edward to scare away crows. The illustration is reminiscent of a crucifixion, as Edward is tied and nailed to a cross-shaped piece of wood and feels "mocked" by the birds that circle him. When a boy named Bryce uses Edward as a dancing puppet, a bystander becomes upset and says it's a sin to dance. Though not mentioned in an overtly Christian way, the themes of love, hope and self-sacrifice are built into this story.



Authority Roles


Most of the people who own Edward throughout the story name him and care deeply for him. Some even make clothes for him and reserve a special place for him in their daily activities. Several characters, including a diner owner and a toy repairman, behave cruelly to a child (Bryce) while Edward's in his possession. Sarah Ruth, a terminally ill 4-year-old, has a father who drinks a lot and is physically abusive. Pellegrina, the grandmother of Edward's first owner, tells Edward she's disappointed in his failure to love. Her words haunt him and drive his subsequent transformation.



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.


Mixed Bags

A book review for parents

This contemporary fiction book is the first in the "Carter House Girls" series by Wendy Lawton and is published by Zonderkidz, a division of Zondervan.

Mixed Bags is written for kids ages 13 to 17. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


After the death of her mother, DJ struggles to fit in with her father's new growing family. Her grandmother, Katherine Carter, is starting a boarding house for hopeful models, and even though tomboy DJ has nothing in common with fashionistas, she goes to live with her grandmother. DJ's search for her own identity is complicated by her grandmother (who was a famous model in the 1960s), the new girls in the house and a new boyfriend. Along the way, DJ acquires an arch-enemy, the beautiful and conniving Taylor, a disconnect with an old friend and a relationship with Christ through another friend.



Christian Beliefs


The predominant Christian figure is DJ's longtime friend Rhiannon, who was not a Christian when DJ first knew her. She exudes peace, confidence in her identity in and relationship with Christ, and grace in personal interactions. She is also compassionate, as when she finds DJ heartbroken and alone at a party. Rhiannon takes this opportunity to show DJ that what's missing inside her is not a boyfriend's approval or fashion acceptance but the Lord. DJ prays to receive Christ, and she experiences an immediate difference. Rhiannon also shares with DJ that she has been praying that God would send her another believing friend and that she hoped it would be DJ. Other girls in the house come from Christian homes but are not Christians. One girl openly rebels against her parents and their belief system, going out of her way (Goth dress, piercings, sullen attitude) to shock them. Another girl explains that she grew up in the Bible belt and has always attended church. When DJ asks if she's a Christian, she replies, "Of course," although her behaviors suggest otherwise. DJ notes this and wonders if there are different kinds of Christians. Then she remembers her mother and a Christian friend having long, deep talks that DJ lacked the spiritual maturity to understand.



Authority Roles


DJ's grandmother, Katherine, sets the rules. They are fair and meant to protect the girls' safety and reputations. However, she has not yet earned the genuine respect of the girls in the house. They admire her for her fashion sense, but not for her leadership or maternal role. One girl, Taylor, blatantly smokes and drinks behind her back. DJ is not always respectful to her grandmother, either, arguing and rolling her eyes. At the same time, the reader sees that Katherine has not yet made an effort to set aside the routine of her own life to connect with the girls on a meaningful level.

When the girls discuss their relationships with their parents, there are mixed attitudes about authority. Taylor portrays herself as independent person, throwing off rules and any attempts to control her. Kriti respects her parents and their business. She tells DJ that if she is in an uncomfortable situation with drinking, smoking or others being mean, she can call her parents to rescue her. Casey expresses disdain for her parents and openly rebels against them. Rhiannon is respectful and appreciative. DJ misses her deceased mother and resents her father and his new wife.



Other Belief Systems


None



Profanity/Graphic Violence


During one of her many arguments with Taylor, DJ becomes so enraged that she considers slapping her across the face, but she opts for berating, instead.



Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality


There is a misunderstanding about condoms in a purse that embarrasses and angers DJ because they are not hers. Some of the other teens don't think it's a big deal. Kriti remarks that she never sleeps with a boy on the first date. DJ wonders what exactly that means. DJ begins to dress more fashionably, but adheres to her self-imposed rules of modesty. When she and Eliza go shopping, DJ buys clothing that she will be comfortable wearing. Because the clothes are stylish, her peers approve of them.

DJ's boyfriend, Conner (who is not identified as being a Christian), treats DJ differently based on how she portrays herself. At the beginning of the book, when she is a tomboy, he is respectful. When her white shirt gets wet, he looks shyly away and suggests she dry her shirt. Later, when DJ begins to take more interest in her appearance, he makes out with her in the backseat of a car, and she has to tell him to stop.

DJ has a confusing conversation with her grandmother, who explains that she does not want her girls sleeping around, and she does not want them to be unsafe if they do have sex. Seeing the inconsistency, DJ tries to get her grandmother to take a firm stand, but her grandmother won't.



Awards


Unknown



Discussion Topics


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

Note: There are a few scenes in the book depicting underage drinking.


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.


Moby Dick: A Pop-Up Book

A book review for parents

This adventure book by Sam Ita is published by Sterling Publishing Co. and is written for kids ages 6 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


Comic-book-style graphics and intricate pop-up art relate a condensed version of Herman Melville's classic tale. Ishmael, a young man, meets Queequeg, a former cannibal, and they find work aboard the same ship, Captain Ahab's Pequod, as whale harpooners. When the ship's oil — extracted from harpooned whales — begins to leak out of the casks, Ahab refuses to return so what is left can be sold and forces his crew to keep searching for the great white whale, Moby Dick. Years earlier the mammal took Ahab's leg (he has a peg leg now), and revenge drives Ahab's life. When the Pequod finds Moby Dick, everyone and everything except Ishmael is destroyed. Ishmael is rescued by another ship.



Christian Beliefs


Queequeg says that he is in England to learn about the Christian God, but no corresponding actions support his statement, except that he goes to church. A church scene is depicted as a full spread of pop-up art on the same page as a YoJo god (see "Other beliefs"). Queequeg sits next to Ishmael and sleeps. The preacher's sermon is about the story of Jonah. When the preacher talks about a great fish swallowing Jonah, Ishmael questions how a man can fit inside the belly of a whale and doubts that such a thing is possible. The pop-up art is of Jonah in the belly of a sea monster. Of course, Ishmael eventually meets Moby Dick, an enormous white whale whose stomach is large enough to hold a man. Doubts about the Christian faith are presented in a number of places, but the doubts are not reasoned with or answered. Captain Ahab, who is filled with selfish revenge, is the only person to say that there is only one God. Ahab justifies that statement by relating it to himself, as he is the only captain of the Pequod.



Authority Roles


Ahab is the captain of the Pequod and is set on revenge. Nothing else seems to matter. Captain Gardiner, the captain of another ship, has lost his son in a fight against Moby Dick. He searches for his lost son even though he knows the boy is probably dead. Ahab will not help Captain Gardiner search. In the end, Captain Gardiner rescues Ishmael.



Other Belief Systems


Queequeg is from a small island, and he says his tribe, implied to be cannibals, will make him king if he returns. When Ishmael first meets him, Queequeg has returned from trying to sell a shrunken head. Queequeg says he is learning Christian ways, but when Ishmael asks if Queequeg thinks God is real, Queequeg says he is and shows Ishmael a small statue of YoJo. After being on the ship a while, Queequeg lies in a coffin and refuses to eat. One man says it's a ritual of Queequeg's tribe. Queequeg is waiting for death. On the ship, the men work hard, but when they are allowed a break, they turn to drinking



Profanity/Graphic Violence


Captain Ahab says that Moby Dick is from h---'s heart. Moby Dick's attack and the destruction of the Pequod are illustrated with pop-up art. Kids can move a flap to recreate the whirlpool that pulls the crew to its death. The art is not realistic or gory but illustrated like a comic book.



Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality


None



Awards


Unknown



Discussion Topics


Note: The pop-up art and comic book style are geared toward young readers — ages 6 and up. However, the story itself is dark, and the issues covered — revenge, death and doubts about God — are for an older audience.

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.


Motorcycles, Sushi & One Strange Book

A book review for parents

This contemporary Christian book is the first book in the "Real Life" series by Nancy Rue and is published by Zondervan.

Motorcycles, Sushi & One Strange Book is written for readers ages 13 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


Have you ever wondered what it is like inside the head of someone who has ADHD? Fifteen-year-old Jessie Hatcher doesn't have to wonder — she lives it. All of her life she has lived with her bipolar mother, Brooke, and has learned to take care of herself during Brooke's "in-bed phases" and to walk on eggshells during her "no-bed phases." Between Jessie's ADHD and Brooke's bipolar issues, their lives are chaotic, but they manage. Brooke has told Jessie that her father died before she was born, and Jessie never questioned that until a man named Lou Kennesaw from St. Augustine, Fla., calls to say he is her father. Jessie's mom admits that Lou is Jessie's bio-dad. The stress of this coming encounter between Jessie and her father sends Brooke into a bad "in-bed phase," in which she tries to commit suicide and is sent to the hospital.

Lou used to be an alcoholic, the main reason Jessie's mom left and never told Jessie about him. But Lou joined Alcoholic's Anonymous, went through their 12-steps and discovered Jesus Christ as his higher power, and Lord and Savior. That changed Lou's life.

Jessie's dad, already in town to meet Jessie, decides to bring Jessie home with him to Florida, and Brooke agrees. Jessie doesn't. She tries to dissuade Lou, even going to the length of tossing out all of her ADHD meds. Lou, however, is not one to be dissuaded. In fact, he has read up on ADHD and how to make the living environment structured for Jessie in a way that helps control the "hamster wheel" in her head.

In the airport on her way to Florida, Jessie finds a book titled RL (Real Life, a translation of the Bible using everyday words). She decides to keep it. The stories in it, especially those about Yeshua, seem to be talking directly to her and her life's circumstances.

Once in Florida, dealing with a new parent and a new environment isn't all Jessie has to contend with. She soon learns that she has a 10-year-old half-sister as well, Louisa, or Weesie as most people call her. Weesie, a miniature copy of Jessie, down to her freckles and red hair, but without the ADHD, lives with Lou on weekends and hates Jessie honing in on her dad.

Lou owns a motorcycle shop as well as a sushi restaurant, and Jessie finds her first connection to her father through them. Even though Jessie starts out their life together by crashing one of her father's rental scooters, she starts to understand that Lou really is committed to her and to developing their father-daughter relationship. Lou convinces a restaurant manger to hire Jessie, and this job gives Jessie a reason to learn to control her ADHD. She wants to succeed.

Lou is also a youth leader for his church. At youth group, Jessie meets Rocky, a 17-year-old who works for Jessie's dad at the motorcycle shop. Rocky ends up spending a fair amount of time with Jessie — time Jessie figures her dad makes him spend with her. But Rocky really does like her — just the way she is, ADHD and all. This even leads to one small kiss — after Jessie realizes Rocky does like her. Over the summer, between reading RL and watching Lou's example, Jessie finds Jesus (Yeshua) and accepts Him as her Lord and Savior. She also realizes having a solid, stable home with Lou is better than the crazy life she had with her mom.

Jessie chooses to stay with Lou, even when her mom shows up and wants to take her back to Alabama. Jessie seals this new life by taking RL back to the airport terminal for someone else to find, read and hopefully have a life-changing experience with Yeshua.



Christian Beliefs


Lou is committed to loving and developing a relationship with Jessie, ADHD and all.  He respects who she is and where they are as a father and daughter, and he loves her. Lou attends church and brings Jessie and Weesie with him. Lou says grace before meals. Jessie finds a book, RL (Real Life a translation of the Bible using everyday words) and finds that the stories of Yeshua and His life speak to her and her everyday relationships. Lou's life was changed by his relationship with Jesus Christ. Jessie asks Yeshua (Jesus) to come be a part of her life.



Authority Roles


Even though Brooke struggles with being bipolar, and Jessie struggles with living with her mom's issues as well as her ADHD, Jessie obeys her mom. As Jessie gets to know Lou as her father, she respects him — his rules and wishes. Jessie obeys her father. Rocky respects Lou as his youth group leader, as well as the father figure in his life. Rocky also respects Lou as Jessie's dad and obeys Lou's requests and rules when around Jessie.



Other Belief Systems


None



Profanity/Graphic Violence


Jessie crashes a scooter into a wall and gets scraped up. She falls off a beach walkway and bloodies her face and arms.



Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality


Jessie and Rocky share one kiss.



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.


Moving Day

A book review for parents

This first book about family and school life in the "Allie Finkle's Rules for Girls" series by Meg Cabot is published by Scholastic, Inc.

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



Plot Summary


Allie Finkle likes rules. She records her list of personal rules in a special journal. But her comfortable, orderly life is shaken when her parents decide to buy a creepy old house, to remodel it, and want to move the family, Allie and her two younger brothers, across town. Because of their decision, Allie knows she will have to attend a new school. Not only is Allie worried about entering a new class midyear, she's concerned about making friends and terrified because she believes (after hearing a neighbor boy's story) that their new house is haunted. Despite her efforts to sabotage the move, Allie finds herself liking her soon-to-be next-door neighbor and having fun visiting her new school. With the help of her Uncle Jay, she learns a new rule: Sometimes if you're willing to pretend to like something, you may actually begin to enjoy it.



Christian Beliefs


None



Authority Roles


Both of Allie's parents work at the same local college. Her dad teaches computer literacy, and her mom is a student adviser. They decide to move closer to the school so they can spend more time with the kids and less time commuting. They are attentive to Allie and her two younger brothers, and the family often goes on outings together. Allie's uncle Jay is a somewhat irresponsible graduate student (law-school-turned-art-major) who allows Allie to watch scary movies and helps her kidnap a turtle from a Chinese restaurant without her parents' knowledge.



Other Belief Systems


Uncle Jay (possibly joking) says that he is sensitive to psychic phenomena and only senses harmonious vibrations in Allie's family's new home.



Profanity/Graphic Violence


Allie's mom makes Dad, Uncle Jay and the movers put quarters in the swear jar because of the language they use while moving boxes and assembling furniture. (No actual swear words appear in the story.) A group of girls led by her friend Brittany are cruel to a cat, tossing it around in a suitcase.



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.


Mudshark

A book review for parents

This humorous mystery book by Gary Paulsen is written for kids ages 8 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


Twelve-year-old Lyle Williams plays Death Ball — a combination of soccer, football, wrestling, rugby and mud fighting. When he trips and lands flat on his back, a member of the opposing team runs by him with the ball. Lyle stretches out his arm, grabs the player and prevents him from scoring. Later, Billy Crisper, an avid viewer of the animal channel, says that Lyle moved as fast as a mud shark. From that point forward, Lyle Williams is called by the nickname Mudshark.

Mudshark is such a keen observer that kids who have lost something come to him for help. When Kyle Robertson magically makes his father's car disappear, Mudshark finds it. When Willamena Carson loses the plastic brain that fits inside her model skull, Mudshark uncovers it. When Ms. Underdorf, the school librarian, buys an armadillo that never eats or moves, Mudshark realizes that it is actually a purse. Ms. Underdorf then buys a new pet — a squawky bird that has an uncanny ability to retrieve lost items, much like Mudshark.

When the principal asks for Mudshark's help in recovering all of the school's missing erasers, Mudshark recruits his friends, the librarian and the custodian to help him dupe the chatty bird, find the erasers and protect the culprit's identity.



Christian Beliefs


Willamena Carson loses her plastic brain model in the front pew of a Methodist church during a weekend sleepover.



Authority Roles


Nearly every chapter opens with an announcement from the school principal regarding three things: the hazardous smell coming from the faculty restroom, the increasing amount of missing erasers and a lost gerbil. The principal also feels it is his responsibility to get out of the way of teachers so they can teach. The narrator comments that the school secretary actually runs the school. Ms. Underdorf is happy that more kids are populating the library, even though they are only there to ask the parrot questions because they think it's psychic. When Kyle Robertson makes his father's car disappear, his dad tells him that if he ever does it again, Kyle won't be able to sit down for three months. Mudshark often looks after his three sisters because his parents are too busy or aren't paying attention. Mr. Patterson gets lost inside the school's air ducts at the end of the story.



Other Belief Systems


Other students think Mudshark has a sixth sense because of his sharp memory. Kids and faculty members also believe the parrot is psychic because it can find lost items without leaving his perch. Mudshark later discovers that the bird often escapes from his cage, wanders around the school and notices the same details as Mudshark.



Profanity/Graphic Violence


Death Ball is a popular game among kids but has been banned from school grounds because of the health risks that may result from ingesting mud. Mudshark's little sisters have a food fight at dinner. Mr. Patterson, who is startled by the lost gerbil, goes around school swinging a tennis racket at anything that moves, leaving waffle marks on the faces of several students. Mudshark considers releasing a Tasmanian devil in the library to get rid of the parrot.



Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality


Due to a lack of erasers, some teachers wipe the blackboards with their shirttails, creating uncomfortable moments in a classroom when the teacher is not fully clothed.



Awards


Unknown



Discussion Topics


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

Note:
Lottery: Members of the faculty and staff ask the parrot for winning lottery numbers because they think it is psychic.


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.


My Side of the Mountain

A book review for parents

This adventurous coming-of-age book is the first book in the "My Side of the Mountain" trilogy by Jean Craighead George and is published by Puffin, a division of Penguin Books USA Inc.

My Side of the Mountain is written for kids ages 9 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


Twelve-year-old Sam Gribley decides to run away from home in May 1959. He doesn't dislike his large family, but he dislikes his dependency on them, and he believes he can build a good life for himself in the Catskill Mountains. Thanks to his avid reading, Sam is able to survive for many months in the wilderness alone, save the company of a few friendly strangers. Sam fishes in the stream and traps small animals and deer for food and supplies. He also builds a home in the trunk of a giant hemlock tree, and he trains a wild falcon as a pet. Eventually, Sam entertains visitors, including his father. Reporters and photographers uncover Sam's story of survival after several months and come to the mountain to investigate the "wild boy." Nearly a year into his adventure, Sam's family joins him and decides to build a home on the land where he's been living.



Christian Beliefs


When Sam wanders into town on a Sunday morning, he notes that most of the townspeople are in church. He talks briefly with a man named Aaron, who has come to the Catskills to be involved in Passover activities.



Authority Roles


Although Sam's father says he is proud of his son, he doesn't search for him for many months after Sam runs away. Even after Sam's father finds Sam, he doesn't take Sam home. Instead, he's impressed by his son's survival skills and says Sam's mother won't have to worry because Sam is eating well. After nearly a year, the family joins Sam. Only then do his parents decide he needs to be 18 before he can live on his own. Other adults, such as Miss Turner the librarian and Bando — a college English teacher who gets lost in the woods and lives with Sam for a short time — befriend Sam, but they make no effort to return him to his family.



Other Belief Systems


Sam reminisces about Halloweens back home and even throws a Halloween "party" in which he puts out food for the local animals to enjoy. However, Sam's party gets out of hand when some raccoons break into his winter food supply and a frightened skunk sprays him.



Profanity/Graphic Violence


Heck and gosh each appear once. A mother falcon attacks Sam as he takes one of her babies from its nest.



Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality


None



Awards


Newbery Honor Book, 1960; George G. Stone Center for Children's Books Merit Award, 1969



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.


Mystery of the Silver Coins

A book review for parents

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

Mystery of the Silver Coins is written for kids ages 10 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.



Plot Summary


Bree and Lil escape from the ship that has held them captive since the Vikings raided their Irish countryside. They are able to elude their captors until Lil becomes seriously ill. As she is recuperating, marauder Mikkel recaptures them. Bree struggles with God's will in her life and realizes she must choose to trust Him. Meanwhile, as Devin and Jeremy, who had previously escaped from the same Viking ship, make their way home, Devin sees his need to forgive the Vikings. Because of this forgiveness, he is able to trust a kindly Viking who assists him on his journey.



Christian Beliefs


The main themes of Mystery of the Silver Coins are trusting God and forgiveness. God tells Bree that He wants her to be His light to other peoples. Bree believes that this means she will escape the Vikings. When she is recaptured, she needs to trust that God knows the plan for her life and that His Word is true. Bree, and Devin also, must continue to forgive. Devin is immobilized until God leads him to forgive the Vikings. With Bree, it is an ongoing, day-by-day forgiveness. She must choose to continually forgive Mikkel for leading the group of Vikings on their raid that ended her freedom and his inability to see her as a person and not just a slave.



Authority Roles


Devin and Bree hold their parents in high regard and are constantly thinking back to their advice and remembering their love. Mikkel holds his parents in high regard, also, and admires his father, but he is willing to go against his father's wishes and hide things from him. As he is rebelling, Mikkel knows what he is doing is wrong. Still he is not willing to change his ways.



Other Belief Systems


Mikkel prays to his gods for guidance in recapturing Bree. His gods are silent. He then prays to Bree's God. He feels His peace and guidance.



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.