Friday, January 31, 2014

Water & Weather Tom DeRosa and Carolyn Reeves

 Water & Weather by Tom DeRosa and Carolyn Reeves is a  fully illustrated, full color - 88 page, soft color science text for elementary students.  Everything having to with water and weather and more is
included in this book.  Information about everything from the ocean, to the ice age, the water cycle, fossils and climate change is included in this comprehensive book.  As with any text book for students, there is a glossary of terms and a question answer opportunity with the "Investigative Problems" feature with each section to reinforce the material learned.  This impressive book contains high quality photos, graphics and charts.  Based on the cover alone, I was very surprised to see the amount of information contained in this simple looking text.

Although marketed as an elementary text for the home schooled market, this amitious book easily fits into the popular non fiction science genre for young pre-teen readers and elementary students. This stand alone book need not be confined to the classroom.  Illustrated with full color photos, diagrams, charts and illustrations, this book is sure to hold the attention of any young reader.  Hands on "Investigation" pages as well as  experiments are dispersed throughout the text of the book. There are 20 total experiments included which would make this book a perfect lab manual for an elementary science course.  In my opinion, this student text, fits well into the ever popular, emerging non fiction science genre as recreational or educational reading for any  reader.  As for using it as a text, perhaps as an additional resource to a more thorough science text- it is good way to bring to life, the subject of Earth Science, and weather and water in particular. 

This book is marketed towards the homeschooling, Christian family.  Reading through this text, you will find discussion of the creation account from Genesis as well as information on the worldwide flood and how it relates to fossil evidence, dinosaurs and the ice age.  Presented in an academic and professional format, this book ties together faith and science, giving much needed credibility to biblical creation without sacrificing academic scholarship.  It is hard to comprehend the amount of scholarship and research contained in this 88 page indepth textbook.  While written for a childrens' curriculum, I am sure parents and educators will enjoy this book as well.  This book leaves no stone unturned and is certain to answer countless questions about a host of science topics that go far beyond the topic of weather and water alone. This edition is part of the educational series of elementary science books, "Investigate the Possibilities". 

As a blogger for New Leaf publishers I received a copy of this book by Master Book and imprint of New Leaf publishers for the purpose of writing this review.

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Bible Stories For His Beautiful Princess by Sheri Rose Shepherd

Bible Stories For His Beautiful Princess by Sheri Rose Shepherd, illustrated by Shelley Dieterichs is a new bible story book written just for young girls.  Dieterichs' inviting, colorful cartoons will capture the attention of toddlers and pre-schoolers.  The princess theme will appeal to the young fans of disney princesses.  Mixed with illustrations that accompany the short bible stories are pastel colored illustrations of young girls dressed as princesses.

This book contains the basic and most well known bible stories from the old and new testaments.  You will find the story of God's creation and Noah's ark as well as popular New Testament stories and teaching such as the Golden Rule and The Storm and The Easter Story.

These stories are tailored for very young readers.  For example in the account of Noah's ark,  you will not find  a depiction of the flood waters only an illustration of the beloved ark filled with friendly animals.  You will learn about Adam and Eve and Eden, but there is no mention of the Serpent, the Tree of Life and its fruit or the first sin.  On the account of the cross, Jesus crucified is depicted from behind where very little of Jesus is actually depicted.  This is not suprising as the intention of this book of bible stories is to introduce very young children to the bible.  Those expecting theological accuracy should not look to this book.

Mixed with the bible stories "Princess Prayers" which introduce young children to the concept of prayer.  Also included are application suggestions as indicated by "princess Jewel" sections.  For each story you will find the bible reference and an actual bible quotation from the New Living Translation bible.  This is more than a bedtime story book- but in the simplest form, a study bible.  This 159 page book is perfect for parents to read to young girls.  I can picture replacing the typical fairy tales and princess bedtime stories, with stories from this book.  This is a wonderful way to introduce a young child to the bible for the first time.  As a blogger for Tyndale bloggers I received a copy of this book published by Tyndale Kids for the purpose of writing this review.

Monday, January 27, 2014

If You Were Me and Lived In... Turkey ... A Child's Introduction to Cultures Around The World By Carole P. Roman

If You Were Me and Lived In... Turkey... A Child's Introduction to Cultures Around The World By Carole P. Roman is a new picture book introducing young readers to a new country. This book is the newest edition in a series of picture books focusing on a particular country.  Literally, this book takes only two minutes to read cover to cover but it will hold a child's attention.  This book follows a similar format as the first books in the series about Mexico, South Korea,  and France. Yet in this newest edition, the author makes greater use of a variety of textures and mixed media in producing the illustrations. The water texture, and cloudy sky image  textures add instant appeal to an outdoor city illustration of Instanbul.  The dusky sky backdrop against the illustration  of a simple yet distorted line drawn market and cobblestone road makes for a beautiful and unexpected presentation.  The beautiful sunset and authentic stone  texture adds an authentic appeal and beauty to a simplistic scene. I would like to see this trend continued to a greater degree in future books.  I am happy to see the direction that Roman is taking with the illustrations in her geography picture books. I believe the "Carlesque" styled mixed media illustrations with the simple line cartoons in her  newest book are  an unexpected treat.  Mixed media illustrations are very popular and appealing for young readers as evidenced by the popularity of Eric Carle's kids' books.  By combining geography with mixed media- I believe that Roman will generate even greater interest and attention for her educational series.

This story would also be a good choice for a family that is interested in their Turkish ancestry, a family vacation or even appropriate for pre school children as part of a social studies lesson. This consistency of these geography books makes this series perfect for the school setting. An educator can count on the fact that young children will be introduced to the basics.  The predictability of the book's format will also appeal to younger readers who are familiar with the series.  In this addition to the series, the  child will learn about the geographical location of Turkey and will be  introduced to its climate, tourist attractions- and the impressive Hagia Sophia, local foods,  sports and other social norms. Full color, simply drawn cartoon drawings with the unique  texture accents compliment the text.   The pronunciations at the end of the book introduces the child to the native language but it would be better to have the equivalent English words listed as well and definitions to reinforce the material learned in the story.

At  some point in the future, I would like to see Roman combine all the editions of this series into one larger encyclopedia type of volume in order to create one single comprehensive text.  I would also like to see the illustrations revamped and updated in order to incorporate more of the mixed media textures as well. I believe that her loyal readers would be interested in having all these editions in one book.  To do this would be a wonderful educational and entertaining resource.  This would also make the book more accessible and convenient to educators and schools in the  public and  private sectors as well as  home schoolers.  I am curious to know how Roman determines which countries to feature and whether she will eventually cover the majority of countries around the globe.  As a blogger I received this book for the purpose of writing this review. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Schism: The Battle for Darracia by Michael Philip Cash

In his new science fantasy novel, Schism: The Battle for Darracia, Michael Philip Cash creates a surreal, richly developed futuristic world complete with its own religion, social norms and castes as well as  political intrigue.  It is clear that the author put a great deal of thought and research in creating an entirety new fantasy world right from scratch. Rivaling the depth and imagination of Tolkein's and C.S. Lewis' beloved fantasy worlds, Cash creates a futuristic, sci-fi reality with the same level of imaginative development as Tolkien's middle earth world.  This book transports the reader into a new futuristic fantasy world. No detail is too insignificant for Cash in his visual description of a surreal and futuristic two Sun world with its futuristic landscape. The significance of its ancient religion in society and political upheaval and class wars transcends time and space- representing common elements of society that all readers will relate to.  This richly developed world will appeal to history and political enthusiasts as well as fantasy and science fiction fans.

This epic story's backdrop is original.  This is a new world the reader will become immersed in like adapting to a new culture.  Yet the themes are universal- coming of age and the quest for identity themes and the pursuit of purpose present a story line that readers of all ages can relate to.  The eerie unfamiliar setting is set side by side with ordinary and  universal ideas. Cash creates a book that sociologists, historians, scientists as well as fantasy enthusiasts will enjoy dissecting and analyzing.
Fans of the ever popular  StarWars, Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek series will enjoy the well developed characters as well as appreciate the intergalactic quest for peace and purpose and royal intrigue.  Parallel elements found  in Schism are reminiscent of a combination of elements drawn from popular science fiction so that readers will feel right at home with Cash's story.  It is ironic that a horror and mystery writer can cross into the fantasy genre  with such ease. The same talent used in developing three dimensional characters and their personal struggles as well as interpersonal relationships found in Cash's  earlier works is evident in this fantasy novel as well.
At first glance this may seem like a quick read but from the very first chapter it becomes clear that the reader has entered a new world. As a reader I found myself immersed with Cash's lively description and vivid writing style.  I recommend this as a good book for any young adult or science fiction fan.  The only changes I'd suggest for this book relate to its format.  A smaller sized mass paperback format would be more suitable for this genre in contrast to a full sized trade paperback with thick pages. I feel an embossed raised cover would do this story more justice in capturing the attention of the reader.

As a blogger I received this book published by Red Feather publishers for the purpose of writing this review.

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Galapagos Islands- A Different View

Galapagos Islands: A Different View (edited by Georgia Purdom) is a new science pictorial about the Galapagos Islands written from a creation world view.  This impressive full color science book contains vivid graphics and high definition photos throughout.  The quality and scholarship of Purdom's work rivals that of the best science texts and journals.  Photos of the unique wildlife as well as ecosystem give the reader a bird's eye view of these islands.

Starting with an overview of the creation account as depicted in the book of Genesis of the Old Testament, the editor ties in biblical creation with the science of these impressive and unique ecosystem.  The reader will get a comprehensive view of how creation is in indeed consistent with the natural world that can be observed.  Additionally, there are contributions from.a number of respected creation scientists and scholars adding additional scholarship and credibility to this work. This book incorporates history and social science- the development of evolutionary world views side by side the creationist world view.  This rounded depiction gives the reader a comprehensive view of these special islands.

This book is appropriate for all ages and audiences - young and old alike as well as the secular educational and homeschool market. This book can be adapted into a science curriculum for an earth science or geology course.   This would be a great book to see in any school or public library or museum gift shop.  Science fact books are an ever growing genre gaining popularity among elementary readers.  This book would make a great gift for any young reader interested in wildlife and science.  Ironically, an ecosystem that has been widely viewed as evidence of evolution is shown to prove the validity of creationism from the bible.  This book will appeal to all readers of all educational backgrounds and interests:  history enthusiasts as well as environmentalists and those who hold an interest in wildlife. 

I highly recommend this book published by Master Books an imprint of New Leaf Press. I would like this book to be offered in the school market. This book would be a welcome addition to school book fairs and libraries. 


Monday, January 20, 2014

The Compass Bible

Compass, the Study Bible for Navigating Your life is based on the easy to understand Voice translation.  The Voice,  translation of the bible, is a new, modern translation.  This new bible is a hybrid that melds together the usefulness of a study bible, together with the simplicity of a paraphrase- in a screen play type of format to boot! This translation is based on the Voice, originally released a few years ago with some notable changes in the 2011 edition.  In contrast to the first release, Jesus is no longer the "Liberator" , but rather the "Annointed".  And John the Baptist, is no longer referred to as John the "Immerser" but John the Baptist.  These changes from the earlier edition of the Voice, reflect a return to the more traditional rendering of the bible text.  The significance  of the word "voice", is based on the idea that Jesus is considered to be the "Logos" or the "word" as referenced in the first chapter of John.  Just as the word is living and alive, a translation of the bible should be a living form of communication to share the good news of the gospel.

 This Voice translation, brings to life, the words of the bible in an easy to read paraphrase.  This is not a literal translation, but this translation,  nevertheless, gets the reader to understand the meaning of the bible.  This bible is the perfect outreach method to reach out to those who have never read the bible, or perhaps find the bible too intimidating.  Suitable for adults and youth alike, the life changing words of the bible are still maintained in this easy to read format.  While this version does not have paragraph titles as other modern versions, it is written in a screen play type of format. The text is broken up,  based on the speaker. Each character is in a bold font, and the text follows just as in a play format.  Paragraphs of explanatory text are inserted- yet distinct, from the actual bible text so as to not confuse the reader.  The commentary makes this bible useful as a simple  study bible!

This bible may not be the best choice for intense academic bible study.  Those who prefer the traditional translations such as the NIV and NKJV will find this bible a bit too much of a paraphrase.  For those new to the bible or those who enjoy translations such as the NLT or Message will enjoy this edition.  This is a beautiful embossed hardcover bible.  The pages have a newspaper- type of texture which bible traditionalists will notice as different from typical bible paper. This can serve to appeal to those readers who do not favor the traditional onion skin bible paper found in many mainstream bibles. This bible is also reasonably priced in comparison to some overpriced bibles that may cost up to $40 or $50.  The editors published this bible with a mass appeal to make this an accessible bible in terms of cost and understanding.  I feel it's about time publishers produced bibles for the masses rather than expensive specialty elitist bibles for a select few.  After all the purpose of scripture is to reach everyone of all socio-economic groups.

As a blogger for booksneeze, I received a copy of this bible published by Thomas Nelson for the purpose of writing this review and my opinions are my own.

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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Let There Be Light by Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Let There Be Light, written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and illustrated by Nancy Tillman is a creation story with a multicultural twist.  The most impressive and appealing aspect of this full color children's book, is that it is illustrated with detailed, full color art on every single page.  The quality of the art in this book is comparable to museum quality art, in stark contrast to the quickly drawn, careless cartoon artwork that seems have become the recent standard for many children's books these day.    The vibrant art contains unexpected, realistic detail as well as a modern abstract element.  Though subtle, the multicultural influence of this book is evident with the focus on African animals in the artwork as well as the multicultural children wearing traditional styled clothing on the final pages. 

As far as the text- the actual story, it is a basic re-telling of the creation account in storybook form.  The simple words and creation story are brought to life with vibrant adjectives to capture the attention of a young child.  This book is a wonderful introduction to the creation account of the bible for any child.  Right when the story is expected to end, the reader will find on the back end page a cryptic, one line message for the child: "You are loved", to reinforce the idea of God's love without actually inserting anything extraneous into the body of the creation account that was not originally included in the seven day bible account.  The minimalist description on the back of the book, "you are part of something truly amazing", captures the significance of the creation account that modern society often undermines.  These magical touched give the bible account of creation new appeal for young readers in a day and age where fantasy and fairy tales and Disney stories compete for the attention of youth and parents alike.  As a blogger for Booksneeze I received a copy of this book published by Zondervan for the purpose of writing this review.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Seeing the Voice of God by Laura Harris Smith

Seeing the Voice of God: What God is Telling You Through Dreams & Visions by Laura Harris Smith is certain to capture the attention of countless readers.  This book bridges the gap between the new age movement and Christianity through the lure of dreams and prophecy.

This thorough work is a compilation of evidence from scripture as well as collective dream experiences that support the idea of Charismatic and spiritual gifts such as prophesy and visions. Coming from a respected authority- this credible book bears great spiritual weight. For those who do not follow the Charismatic beliefs in spiritual gifts- this book will seem too sensational.

The title of Smith's book,  makes a pretty bold claim.  Especially bold are the promises to inform the reader about specific aspects of dreams and dream interpretation  through a variety of sources, visions and even literal messages from God. This book is a great springboard or outreach tool to introduce any reader to the gospel message as well as drawing in those readers who are interested in the occult, new age and astrology.  As far as marketing, this book will draw in many curious reader- religious and secular, alike.  Many readers, filled with curiosity- many of which might have only  limited experience or a superficial grasp of the actual text of the bible, will find it hard to resist a book with such monumental claims.  To add additional legitimacy and authenticity- the author provides a variety of sources.  There is even a dream dictionary styled in the same format as a concordance.  The dream symbols are referenced to bible verses where a similar reference may be found.  Nevertheless, some traditional readers who don't ascribe to Charismatic beliefs may feel that connections and parallels are made artificially and that the references in the bible are not referring to literal dream symbols.  This book is not simply the product of one person's visions or dreams but a compilation of shared experiences of other believers dreams' and sleep sciences- that support the basic scriptural message of the dreams and spiritual messages.

The book starts with providing support that God communicates to believers, based on scriptural anecdotes and accounts of communication through dreams.  In light of dream communication, the author identifies specific types of dreams and their messages for the present and also for the communication of future events.  The author incorporates common dream elements that just about all readers have experienced and applies those elements to divine communication and prophecy.  It is possible, some over zealous readers may even read into their dreams as being divine when there is in fact no divine message to be had. 

Nevertheless, Smith's  thought provoking book  raises spiritually complex issues such as the issue of the legitimacy of private visions apart from revealed scripture.  While it is true that some visions can be ruled out as false and inconsistent with revealed truth, not all can be easily scientifically or spiritually ruled out.  Some perhaps might be supernatural in nature.  Nevertheless that does not mean they should automatically be accepted as biblical in nature or truth.  I must admit I am skeptical when it comes to believing modern day visions and NDE.  For example, there are so many alleged apparitions of Mary in the Catholic church, that I believe most to be hoaxes, and in other cases, demonic in nature. 

 The reader places his faith by accepting the word of the  author of this book.    Once the reader decides to accept the author's word that the various  stories  are legit,  it is up to the reader to discern the source or supernatural power behind visions, dreams and if there is any spiritual significance.   This is where most readers will most likely accept with blind faith that these wholeheartedly are true accounts and that it is based on biblical truth. This is because most people want to believe that dreams do have significance spiritually and that God does communicate through dreams.. 

 Any responsible reader familiar with the bible will be aware that he or she is faced with the task of determining if the dream interpretations are spiritually based on truth, or if it perhaps is an indirect attempt of Satan to mislead believers into accepting false information.  Paul warned in the letters of the new testament, especially in the book of Galatians, that even Satan, and evil spirits can appear as angels of light, deceiving many.  So, if this is true, then is it possible that as accomplished and respected Christian speaker and authority might be deceived and misinterpret the collective experiences as being from God when it possibly isn't?  That possibility must be acknowledged by anyone who reads this book.   While Paul acknowledged the possibility of personal visions in the ancient church, he himself did not place on any believer the burden of accepting any other private vision other than the message contained in the bible. As Paul himself suggested in his letters, it is wise to be skeptical of private visions, and he himself never endorsed or encouraged any believer to believe any private vision or revelation. In a book about heaven, for the purpose of credibility and fidelity to bible, I believe any extraneous visions, dreams, experiences etc that are not divinely inspired/ biblical should be carefully considered  before taken to heart.

As far as the other details- knowledge and information could be obtained from evil sources for the purpose of adding "authenticity" and misleading believers into believeing the other aspects of the visions  shared.  The evil spirits are known for mixing truth with falsehood.  We are in a spiritual battle, and nothing is off limits as far as the evil spirits of this world are concerned.  they will try all sorts of tricky  deceptions. They will  try any underhanded tactic even going so far as using Christian elites, educators, leaders and the faithful, as tools to mislead others.  It isn't always obvious to everyone to sort truth from untruth unless they are firmly grounded in the Holy Spirit. Even those involved in the occult such as palm readers and fortune tellers, can sometimes fortell the future or the past with amazing accuracy with supernatural information supplied by the evil spirit realm.  In sum, the sole purpose of this book isn't in the after death experiences or sensational stories, but rather to deliver the life saving message of the gospel.  These stories serve as a springboard or bait- in the true sense in which Jesus refers to all apostles, followers and believers as fishers of men.

All in all there is no doubt that Smith  has written this book with authority and scholarship incorporating science, phsychology and scripture. The author has left no stone uncovered in his survey of the subject of dreams.  This book is so complete that it could even serve as an academic text on dreams.   Smith has accomplished her purpose- tailoring his book to a receptive audience in a package that is irresistible to countless curious, and spiritually hungry readers.

As a blogger   I received this book published by Chosen, a division of Baker Publishing Group publishers for the purpose of writing this review.  It is with caution I would suggest this book to anyone to read  as it is best for serious study for a reader that is willing to take the time to discern, in light of scripture, the validity of the messages from dreams and visions.