"You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me."

-C.S. Lewis

What we read has such an impact on us, and I am always on the lookout for something that will inspire me to be a better person. Here is a sampling of books that have been in the teetering stack sitting on top of what is rumored to be my bedside table.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Christian Mama's Guide to the Grade School Years, by Erin MacPherson

The Christian Mama's Guide to the Grade School Years, by Erin MacPherson, is a humorous account of what it is like to usher a child into the first few years of school.  It is a book geared toward prayerful parenting, and one that many parents would enjoy reading.  It has great ideas, and is certainly written from a meaningful Biblical perspective. 

That being said, it is really less of a guide and more of a parenting memoir.  There are very good ideas in this book, but they are peppered in between lengthy stories about the author's own family.  These stories are cute and can help a parent feel better about not being the only one who is dealing with these kinds of issues, but they can be distracting to a reader who is looking for a more meat-and-potatoes kind of guide.  Even that kind of information skews toward the more humorous side, which can detract from the message.

The author has been a high school teacher and has interviewed people who are experts - the "From the Principal's Office" sections by an experienced principal are the best parts of this book.  But coming from a Christian mother who is also a grade-school teacher, some of the points dealing with school in this book are under covered and even inaccurate (for example, not all private schools give your child access to state-of-the-art techniques - some are so underfunded that students get a substandard education).

The bottom line?  If you're looking for a heavier guide, this isn't the book for you - but you will still get very good parenting tips.  If you're looking for a humorous memoir that will help you get your child ready to enter kindergarten - or help you improve your parenting skills (and can't we all?), then this is the book for you. 

Disclaimer:  I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Four of Five Stars

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Accidental Pharisees, by Larry Osborne

Accidental Pharisees is a pretty clever name for an important topic.  The premise of this book is a discussion of overzealous faith and how to avoid it.  By using the Pharisees and their lack of understanding about the spirit behind doctrinal laws, author Larry Osborne tries to show Christians that overzealous faith runs counter to what Christ calls us to do.  And he does this in an easy-to-read way that promotes further discussion or study if the reader so chooses.

The point that Osborne tries to make is a good one.  It's that whole "you're not the boss of me" mentality that we remember from childhood.  "Bossing" each other didn't work then, and it doesn't work now.  He identifies the major ways in which he feels Christians have this attitude:  pride, exclusivity, legalism, idolizing the past, uniformity, and gift projection onto others. 

I think that the fundamental message that we can take from this book is this - each individual Christian has his or her own legitimate calling from God.  Nothing another person can do should be able to reject or minimize that calling.  To that end, I feel that this book is successful.

There is a caveat that I attach to this review.  Osborne seems to be influenced by life experiences with exclusivity - and the book reflects that.  There is a negative attitude about several different kinds of churches, and Osborne tends to generalize.  He makes it seem as if almost any style of church other than his suffers from exclusivity.  I wish he had recognized that not every church with a given label behaves in an exclusive manner.  Sure, some do,  but many don't.  And that's not reflected in this book.  I would hate for someone to shy away from a church because of it.

I can recommend this book for solo reading or group discussion, but keep an open, prayerful mind.  I found it best to apply this book to my own individual circumstances, and ignore the comments that were made about church styles. 

Disclaimer:  I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Three out of Five Stars

Monday, March 11, 2013

Chocolate-Covered Baloney: Confessions of April Grace

Chocolate-Covered Baloney: Confessions of April Grace, by KD McCrite

April Grace Reilly is a sixth-grade girl who definitely knows her own mind.  And in her topsy-turvy world, that's a very good thing.  She's got a grandmother who's dating a pastor from a neighboring church, an annoying sister who thinks she's God's gift to the soap opera world, and a Big Mystery on her hands.  To top it all off, April Grace's non-existent other grandmother drops in out of nowhere and becomes all too existent.  How's a girl supposed to stay on top of all of this?

This was a delightful book to read.  April Grace has got the spunk and personality to match wits with Ramona Quimby any day of the week.  The first person point of view is very effective in this book.  We really get a great sense of April Grace's wit and frustrations with the people in her world.  She does read younger than sixth grade - but that's a very good thing, in this reader's mind.  A book like this would appeal to readers in fourth grade and up.  It's a very good example of middle grades fiction - and probably the best middle grades fiction book I have read in the Christian genre.

The best part about this book was the writing.  McCrite is a very talented writer.  Chocolate-Covered Baloney has such amazing voice, and such skillful show-not-tell writing.  This is a book that any girl in the middle grades can enjoy reading.  I highly recommend this book .

Disclaimer:  I was provided a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Five out of Five Stars