Friday, November 20, 2015

Reef Libre, an In-Depth Look at Cuban Exceptionalism & the Last Best Reefs in the World by Robert Wintner


Cuba reefs host apex predators and coral cover at optimal levels. While Cuban reef vitality may be linked to economic default and no shoreline development, no agricultural pesticides or fertilizers and limited human population growth, the Castro regime is aggressively developing its reef potential.

Seas to the south are now 100% shark protected.

Most Cuba travelogues advise “getting off the beaten path,” but Reef Libre examines that path, to see where it might lead as things change. Will Cuba reefs remain protected? Or is this perilous age of natural decline a last chance to see a healthy reef system?

Robert Wintner and the Snorkel Bob Jardines de la Reina Expedition herein provide narrative insight with photos and video. First stop is the baseline: Havana urban density. Down south at Cayo Largo, reef collapse seems imminent with 600 guests changing daily, and the phosphate-laden laundry water flowing directly to the deep blue sea. Will Cuba’s Ministry of Tourism step up with the Jardines de la Reina paradigm? Rising from the Golfo de Ana MarĂ­a, Jardines is a thousand square miles of mangrove estuary, for ages compromised by constant extraction of its biggest predators, taken as food. Protected, it now rises on the world reef stage.

A DVD comes with the book in a paper sleeve glued to the inside cover. Reef Libre, the movie, runs about an hour.

My Thoughts:

This is a gorgeous photography book/DVD combination! The book comes with a DVD(that slips inside the front cover), and I was able to appreciate the book more by watching the video. While there's more covered in the book, the DVD does cover a great deal that's mentioned in the book. I'd recommend watching it first, just so the photography means more. I loved that throughout the DVD, as a new fish was shown, its name shows up on the screen, too. With the music in the background, it was a peaceful video, and filled with such beauty that I plan on happily watching it again.

Throughout the book, the author is warning readers against the aquarium trade. Many times, I'm ashamed of how ignorant I am of certain subjects, and this book brought to my attention to the aquarium trade. It's obvious that the author feels love for these "little fishes", and wants them to thrive in their natural environment. It was a very eye-opening experience for me on many levels, though. I'd never even heard of many of these creatures! The book also talks about life in Cuba. We get a cultural lesson, too, so this is by no means only about the fish.

I mention details below, but the book isn't for children, as is. A black crayon would turn this into an excellent learning/teaching tool for kids, though. To be honest, I thought about passing it on, but the value of it is simply too great, so I'm marking out words, and putting it on my children's nature shelf. They love looking at pictures of God's creations, and this is probably the most beautiful nature-type of book we've had the pleasure of admiring. Again, though, there's really much more to the book, so it could be a great book that could grow with them. 

Aside from my content warnings, this is a book I can easily recommend. It is beautiful, and a book you need to see in person!


The book is NOT for children(as is). There's profanity, including F-bombs. (While some of those are "beeped" out, others aren't.) There's also various artwork featured that isn't overly appropriate for children. There's one involving a man and woman in a nude pose.

The DVD looked as if it was mostly made so that children could enjoy it. There is one section featuring an artist and her artwork, and I'd highly recommend parents looking at the art before letting your children watch it. It might or might not be a big deal to your family. It is abstract nudity, and the breasts are mentioned by the narrator. (There is more of the artwork featured in the book.) I didn't hear any profanity.

*I was provided a review copy, in exchange for my honest opinion.

Watch the Trailer:


Purchase Links:


Barnes and Noble


About the Author:

Best known as Snorkel Bob in Hawaii and around the world, Robert Wintner captures Cuba above and below the surface with urgency and hope. As a pioneer in fish portraiture, Wintner demonstrated social structure and etiquette in reef society. Reef Libre goes to political context, in which human folly will squander Cuba’s reefs as well—unless natural values can at last transcend political greed. As pundits joust over who did what to whom and why, Wintner ponders reef prospects in view of political changes.

Robert Wintner has authored many novels and story collections. Reef Libre is his fourth reef commentary with photos and his first overview of survival potential in a political maelstrom. He lives and works in Hawaii, still on the front lines of the campaign to stop the aquarium trade around the world.

Connect with the Author:





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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Adventures in Odyssey: Give the Gift That Lasts All Year


What’s on your children’s Christmas wish list? As excited as they might be about that new toy, as every parent knows, the thrill of the gift will eventually wear off. Focus on the Family and Adventures in Odyssey have created the perfect gift for those who want to give their children or grandchildren a present that will provide year-round fun with eternal impact.

The Odyssey Adventure Club (OAC) offers families 24/7 access to 25 years’ worth of Adventures in Odyssey (AIO) episodes in a safe online environment where children can explore and learn. Christmas really is the perfect time to tap into your children’s imagination while infusing faith and fun into their day . . . and every day of the year.

To celebrate the holidays this year, the OAC is offering free content for everyone, including an Advent calendar, a broadcast download with tips to create a memorable Christmas, AIO cutouts and Christmas stocking stuffer cards. Membership to the OAC costs just $9.99 a month — or even less if parents make a six-month or one-year commitment. Enrollment provides more than enough content to keep kids engaged throughout the year:

  • Access to exclusive content and first looks at books and select Radio Theatre dramas.
  • On-the-go access to the OAC app for both iOS and Android users.
  • 24/7 streaming access to nearly 800 AIO episodes.
  • A new, members-only AIO episode every month.
  • A subscription to Adventures in Odyssey Clubhouse Magazine, and more.
In keeping with AIO’s rich heritage of teaching children about biblical principles — such as the importance of giving — a portion of each OAC membership benefits Focus on the Family partner organizations. Here are a couple of examples of what has been accomplished through Odyssey Adventure Club members:

The Odyssey Adventure Club wants to reach beyond fleeting entertainment this Christmas, partnering with parents in helping their kids grow deep in faith and find their place in God’s story.


Speaking of the holidays, you can prepare for Christmas with Thriving Family's 2015 Advent Activity Calendar — Tales of Christmas Past: 25 Inspiring true stories of the season. Assemble a beautifully designed Advent poster to help your kids focus on Christ this Christmas. Then read Scripture passages and stories that relate to individual flaps on the poster. You can also create easy-to-fold booklets for each story. Get more information about this year's free Advent calendar at, or sign up to download it.

To learn more about the Odyssey Adventure Club, visit, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Monday, November 9, 2015

A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest by J.A. Myhre, with Illustrations by Acacia Masso

New Growth Press (October 2015) 160 pages


A Boy Named Mu, an African Journey, and You

Mu, a ten-year-old orphan, has lived his entire life in the heart of Africa. For as long as he can remember he has served in the household of a great-uncle where he is unloved and ignored. In his drudgery-filled life, Mu has little hope of happiness, and little hope that anything will ever change.

But one day, everything does change. On his way to draw water one morning, Mu is astonished when a chameleon greets him by name and announces that they will embark on a quest together. And what a quest it turns out to be! Mu faces danger and finds unexpected allies as they journey through a fascinating and ever-changing landscape.

A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest blends magical realism with a compelling story. The exciting story line combines an orphan's journey to find a home with the plight of child soldiers and the dangers of the Ebola virus and, along the way, highlights universal themes of integrity, loyalty, faith, and love. Written by long-time medical missionary J. A. Myrhe, the artful story is laced with subtle gospel themes and handles cross-cultural issues with grace and sensitivity. Kids will encounter good and evil and learn the truth about hope, happiness, and what it means to be human in this page-turning first book in a new series.
My Thoughts:

This book was written as a Christmas present for the author's children. I couldn't resist reading it knowing that. I imagined wonderful little lessons and conversation starters tucked within the pages. Really, that's just what I got. This is a book I won't mind keeping around for my boys! It's full of adventure and bravery, and even bad choices and forgiveness.

The story seems to be an allegory. No, those aren't usually my thing(at least in connection with Biblical teaching), but it mostly worked for me with this one. I can't overthink things, because then I start thinking about differences in beliefs and all that, so I didn't try to figure out what each thing meant. (Yes, I realize I'm missing out there, but I've also had to abandon other allegories when I overthought them.)I really liked this one, though.

I love that the book is set in Africa. I could do a unit study about Africa with my boys down the road with this book as the center source of information. It has wonderful detail concerning the landscape and the people, including daily life and many of the difficulties they face. There are some scenes, one in particular, that are tough to read. I don't think my boys are ready for some of the content right now. Younger children that are very sensitive might not be ready for it, either. I will gladly tuck our copy away on the shelves for the right moment, though!

It wasn't until the end, while I was reading the author's note, that I learned that this is the first book in a series. I'm super excited to read the others! This really is a beautiful book.

*I was provided a review copy, in exchange for my honest opinion.


Purchase Link:

A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest


The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was the October pick for the Reading to Know Classics Book Club, chosen by Sky. Obviously, I'm behind getting my post up.

A few years ago, I bought one of those complete collections books for Sir Conan Aurthur Doyle. I'm almost positive I read some within it, and greatly enjoyed it, but now I can't remember anything specific, so I'm not completely sure. For that reason, I think this was my first journey into one of the mysteries that Doyle imagined.

I really enjoyed it, and I left the book excited to read more. Just like most classic mysteries I read, though, I'm always hesitant to say very much. I don't want to ruin any surprises. I will say that I didn't figure out the main mystery, but I did figure out one of the side mysteries, which made me pretty proud of myself. ;) Eventually, I'm determined to figure out the main portion before it's revealed in one of the older mysteries, though. I'm not the best at putting clues together just yet.

I've watched and LOVED the two Sherlock Holmes movies(starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law). I'm pretty sure I was disappointed that Downey was picked as Sherlock, but just like with Ironman, he made it work, and I can't picture anyone else now. I couldn't help but picture Downey and Law in my mind as Sherlock and Watson while reading the story. That said, I'm not even sure how close the movies are to the stories.

I hate to admit that I had a hard time picturing the described moor. I was especially curious when a pony enters the story. I ended up doing a little picture search, so l could better visualize it all. Still, after finishing the book I was hoping to watch a movie based on this particular book. The only thing available to me at the moment was an episode of Sherlock. I wasn't fond, though I did watch it to the end. There was ONE brief part where I thought they might keep it remotely close to the book, but then I could hear the writers laughing, "Nah! Just kidding. We're going to keep it as far from the book as possible!" I left it wondering if that was purely coincidence, because I can't imagine that any of the writers actually read the book. I don't recommend that episode if you're looking for something remotely close to the plot that Doyle created. Even though I think I might have watched an episode when it first came out on TV, I wasn't overly familiar with the show. I don't plan on watching any more, because it got on my nerves.

I DO hope to locate a copy of one of the other movies based on the book, and hopefully it will be closer to the story. Any recommendations?

Have you read anything by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle? I'd love to hear your thoughts! 

Reading to Know - Book Club

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Ology: Ancient Truths Ever New by Marty Machowski


A Page-Turning Storybook of Theology for Kids

In the cellar of the old stone cathedral, Carla and Timothy uncover a life-changing treasure, a carefully wrapped ancient book known as The Ology. What adults might describe as a beautifully illustrated storybook of systematic theology, the kids discover to be a story of adventure, mystery, and wonder that leads them to the truth about God, themselves, and the world around them.

Truth is for kids, not just for adults! So The Ology gives kids of all ages a beginner s theology book to help them understand who God is and how we, as his children, relate to him. Arranged within a traditional systematic theological framework, each truth in The Ology is also connected to the larger redemptive story of Scripture. The doctrine of God, for example, is presented in the larger framework of creation, where the attributes of God are on display and easier to understand. Designed for six-year-olds through preteens, this flexible resource includes built-in adaptations for use with younger or older children, so that entire families can enjoy it together.

Read The Ology to preschoolers, read it with grade-school kids, and let older kids discover the hidden truths by reading the corresponding Scripture passages for each section. However you read it, The Ology will give your children a gift that will last a lifetime a solid foundation of life-changing biblical truth that will point them to the God who loves them and gave himself for them.

A beginner s book of systematic theology in the form of a beautifully illustrated storybook.

Clearly explains life-changing theological truths with everyday examples and simple language that kids can understand.

Uses illustrations, analogies, and word pictures to help kids understand God, the world, and themselves.

Designed for six-year-olds through preteens, with built-in adaptations for use with younger or older children, so that entire families can enjoy it together.

My Thoughts:

I've been using Leading Little Ones to God for our devotional the past few months, and it's changed the way I look at devotionals. It is awesome and has answered questions for my children, especially my Grasshopper, that I wasn't sure how to answer in an appropriate way for their mind to understand. I was dreading the end, because I didn't know what book I would go into next. After receiving The Ology, my problem was solved, and I think it will fill the devotional spot quite nicely for us.

The Ology starts out as a fictional story of two children finding an ancient book. We get to read that ancient book, which is many "meaty" devotionals. At the end, it shows that the children realize that this book should be read WITH the Bible, and so they go home to read it again alongside their Bibles. I think that's awesome! Each chapter has several Bible verses to go along with the lesson. I've tried really hard to make sure we read from our Bibles throughout our devotionals, just to stress the importance of it, so I like that several Bible verses are listed to help us out.

For each 2-page spread, one page is a full picture, with Bible verses placed within the picture. I love that the pictures are gentle, and somewhat vintage in style. Each lesson is short, so it works well for a variety of ages. While my Grasshopper can sit much longer and listen quietly, it's still a huge struggle with my little Bumblebee. Even if he sits through nothing else, I make him attempt to listen through our Bible times. (Any advice on becoming successful through this struggle would be welcomed! It seems the struggle has become greater with each child.) :) The short lessons make Bible time more successful with my littlest guy, though.

Just like with Leading Little Ones to God, there ARE spots that will be edited for us within The Ology. For the most part, I've loved what I've read of it, though. I haven't had this book very long, so I'm still reading through it, and making notes of edits and all. Overall, I'd say this is a great devotional for 6(ish) and older children(on average). I'm thrilled with it and grateful for the fact that it doesn't water things down, but makes Bible truths child friendly.

*I was provided a review copy, in exchange for my honest opinion.


Purchase Link:

The Ology: Ancient Truths, Ever New


Friday, October 30, 2015

My First Hands-On Bible


This Bold Blue deluxe edition of My First Hands-On Bible is the preschooler version of the popular Hands-On Bible, which has sold nearly one million copies. Jesus taught with hands-on lessons and illustrations; My First Hands-On Bible uses the same experience-based learning to communicate God’s Word in an active, understandable way.

My First Hands-On Bible is a fun and simple, yet meaningful way to engage preschool, prekindergarten, and kindergarten children (ages 3–6) with the Bible while helping them build a solid faith foundation. Each lesson focuses on a specific Bible point through a variety of activities in order to reinforce and help young children remember the stories and lessons. Using common household items, you can help your children have a “hands-on” learning experience while engaging them in 85 key stories from the Bible.

My First Hands-On Bible doesn’t just retell the Bible stories; it also includes actual Scripture from the easy-to-understand and easy-to-read Holy Bible, New Living Translation. In addition to the stories and activities, there are fun illustrations, prayers, and a special Jesus Connection feature.

My Thoughts:

A few years ago, we got to try out the hardcover version of My First Hands-On Bible. We loved it! It's perfect for the youngest little Bible learners. I'd say 0-3 is probably an ideal age for this Bible, overall(even though 3-6 is the recommended age). When I saw that there was an imitation leather version of it, I thought it would be perfect for my Bumblebee to use. While we tried the blue colored one, because my home is filled with little boys, there's also a pink one for the little girls out there(even if I prefer the blue one, either way). ;)

This Bible uses real verses to tell a Bible event, from a New Living Translation standpoint. It doesn't use every verse, though. For example, within the chapter about the history of Joseph and his brothers, one part shows that verses 26, 27, 28, 29, and 30 are used from Genesis 37, and then it skips to verse 36. It also doesn't cover every event within the Bible. The Old Testament has 39 events covered, and the New Testament has 46 events covered.

The great thing about this particular Bible is that it gives the parent directions that would appeal to a little one while reading it. It might tell you to count an object within a picture with your little one, or act like an animal that is being discussed, maybe by making that animal noise, or actually acting like one. It might tell you to march around the room, getting your little one to follow you. Everything is simple, and doesn't require buying tons of things, but it gives young children a visual lesson to go with the Bible history lesson. There's also plenty of sweet pictures that can teach little ones when they're looking through the book by themselves.

Also, at the end of each chapter, there's extras, like songs, questions, and activities. In the chapter about Jericho's Falling Walls(Joshua 6), the book suggests you build a wall with your child with blocks, and then march around it 7 times, letting your child knock it down after the 7th time around. It also suggests that you show your child how to make a horn by cupping their hands over their mouth and blowing. Each time that week they see something amazing that God has done, the child could blow on their horn.

It's a really sweet book, and has tons of potential for making precious Bible related memories with small children, and I definitely recommend it.

*I was provided a review copy, in exchange for my honest opinion.


Purchase Link:

My First Hands-On Bible