Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Break For July



I'm taking a break from my blog during the month of July.

At some point last year, I had full intentions of no longer reviewing books if I couldn't involve my children in the reading and reviewing of them. I don't know what happened, but I ended up with a ridiculous stack of books. Thankfully, I finally saw the light of day, and stopped requesting again. I made a goal to be done with everything by July 1st, so I could escape from the internet just a bit during July. I'm exhausted and my head and my eyes hurt from so much reading, but I'm done. Hallelujah! :D (Now you know why so many posts went through today....I had a GOAL to accomplish!) ;)

It should remain quiet around here, unless I've forgotten a commitment, in which case you'll see that pop up.


I'll leave you with a few of my favorite books from the past few months. Despite the HUGE amount of reading I've done, it seems very few of them have made it to my blog.



The Glass Casket by Mccormick Templeman

This book is beautiful, but dark and creepy. Don't judge it by its horrible cover, though! It's so much better than that, and I loved it. It's a retelling of Snow White and Rose Red. Just don't read it at night!



The Riverman by Aaron Starmer

Though I don't recommend it AT ALL for the target age, I think it is an amazing story for adults to read. I was quickly turning the pages, and couldn't figure out what was going on. It's very strange, but thought provoking.



The Boys of Fire and Ash by Meaghan McIsaac

This one has more of a science fiction feel to it than average old YA fiction. It's unique, and another one I loved.



Lord willing, I'll see y'all in August! Have fun! I'm simply preparing for some rest and play now. :D

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A Worthy Pursuit by Karen Witemeyer


Description:

A teacher on the run. A bounty hunter in pursuit. Can two enemies learn to trust each other before they both lose what they hold most dear?

Stone Hammond is the best tracker in Texas. He never comes home empty-handed. So when a wealthy railroad investor hires him to find his abducted granddaughter, Stone eagerly accepts.

Charlotte Atherton, former headmistress of Sullivan's Academy for Exceptional Youths, will do anything to keep her charges safe, especially the orphaned girl entrusted to her care. Charlotte promised Lily's mother she'd keep the girl away from her unscrupulous grandfather, and nothing will stop Charlotte from fulfilling that pledge. Not even the handsome bounty hunter with surprisingly honest eyes who comes looking for them.

When Miss Atherton produces documentation that shows her to be Lily's legal guardian, Stone must reevaluate everything he's been led to believe. Is she villain or victim?

Then a new danger forces Charlotte to trust the man sent to destroy her. Stone vows to protect what he once sought to tear apart. Besides, he's ready to start a new pursuit: winning Charlotte's heart.

My Thoughts:

Romance books just aren't my ideal reading material right now. I'm not sure what has happened to me, but I find myself sarcastic and my eyes roll more and more while reading. It's not my husband's fault, in case you want to blame him. (Husbands are typically the first place of blame when a woman admits such things.) ;) I'm hoping it's just a stage I'm going through!

Karen Witemeyer is one of my most favorite authors, though, so I couldn't resist reading her newest work. I gave myself a pep talk before diving into the pages, and prepared to read a sweet romance. There were still moments of eye rolling as she admired his muscles, and he admired that she was the perfect height for kissing, etc, etc. But, even in my stage of sarcasm, I enjoyed it.

As I've came to expect with Witemeyer's books, I got a very sweet romance! I loved the characters, and even though I don't typically like kids to be a part of the romance books I read, Witemeyer makes it work!

This is definitely a book I'll revisit when my sarcastic phase has subsided, but I really did enjoy it this reading round, too. If you enjoy Christian romances, read each and every one of Witemeyer's books! They truly are treasures.

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

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Purchase Link:

A Worthy Pursuit


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NIrV Study Bible for Kids


Description:

An updated study Bible with an all-new design for kids ages 6-10 using the NIrV written at a third-grade reading level.

The bestselling NIrV Study Bible for Kids starts early readers ages 6-10 on the rewarding path of reading and studying God's Word. This Bible uses the complete text of the New International Reader's Version® (NIrV) which is written at a third-grade reading level and is perfect for those learning to read. With colorful artwork, easy-to-read Bible text, and fun features, kids will engage with the Bible in a way that makes it stick.

Features include:

*Presentation page for personalization and gift giving
*32 full-color pages include illustrations to bring Bible characters and events to life plus helpful study information about the Ten Commandments, how to become a Christian, prayer, and more
*Check It Out: sketches and descriptions of what life was like in Bible times
*Brain Game: questions to help kids remember important Bible themes
*Soak It Up: great verses for kids to memorize
*Book Introductions: brief overviews of each book with an outline of key events
*Dictionary: Bible words for quick reference
*Map section

My Thoughts:

As my Grasshopper is getting older and getting closer to reading on his own, I've started debating on what Bible for him to use as a personal study Bible, as opposed to one with us. I love my NKJV Study Bible, and greatly appreciate the extra study features. I want a Bible that he can understand and that is targeted more for younger people. I also would love one that will give him those extra little study features. Most of the children's Bible that we've reviewed through the years have been passed on, since Grasshopper wasn't reading yet, and so I don't have them to look over for our current season of life anymore. (It wasn't until a friend asked for recommendations on children's Bibles that the light bulb fully clicked on wanting the study feature for my children, by the way. As of right now, for Bible class and Worship Services, they have simple NKJV Bibles, though Grasshopper has been using my ESV Slimline Bible. At home, we're more varied.)

As far as the NIrV goes, please don't take my post as a recommendation for it. I'm pretty new to it, and while I don't love the NIV, I don't avoid. I imagine I can say the same for the NIrV. I'm just a momma winging it! I want my children to understand and love God's Word, but they'll always need to be on the lookout for false teaching and false translations. I hope we can always discuss what they're reading and answer questions. Never rely on only one traslation! (From what I've understood, the ASV is the closest word for word translation from the original.)

As far as the extra features, I really like them. The pictures are the same as in 101 Bible Stories from Creation to Revelation, done by Dan Andreasen. Actually, as I was debating hard whether to even try this particular Bible out, it was the pictures that swayed me to give it a try. I DO very much love Andreasen's illustrations! As far as I could tell, there aren't any new ones, though, if you have the other book. Actually, I think there are more pictures within the book than in this Bible.

There's lots of different study helps. There are full color/page illustrations, along with some smaller illustrations throughout. There also full color charts of various kinds and reading plans. ((Beware that there are plenty of "faith only" references in these charts, so if you believe as I do...that baptism washes away our sins(Acts 2:38)....then you'll have to do as we will, and edit a bit.))

As far as the full color, thick, glossy pages, here's what you'll get:

There's 4 pages that have 3 different reading plans to read the whole Bible. These pages also have several illustrations, along with Bible references to place them. There's a two page spread teaching about worship, and page with a few definitions. There's a page dedicated to The Bible, Books of the Bible, The Ten Commandments, God, Jesus, The Holy Spirit, Love, Prayer, The Lord's Prayer, Miracles, The Parables of Jesus, the ABCs of Becoming a Christian(editing for us)and 8 maps. There's also full page color illustrations within these color pages.

There's more color charts throughout, but on the same thin pages as the rest of the Bible. Each chapter will give you "good verses to read". There's little bits and pieces put into the text, too, like "Brain Games", with questions, "Soak it Up", which is Bible verses, and "Check it Out", which is like a super mini devotional.

Overall, it's a nice Bible, as far as extra features go.

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

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Purchase Link:

NIrV Study Bible for Kids

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Spiritual Parenting in the First Five Years: God’s Plan for Early Childhood Christian Development by Callie Grant(Freebie Alert)


Description:

Parents have nine months to prepare for their new baby. From birthing and breastfeeding classes to researching the perfect brand of diapers and the safest crib, much time is put into making sure parents will meet the physical needs of their children. But what about the spiritual needs? The first five years of life are fundamental to development. Could parents be missing out on a key time when they could not only teach about shapes and colors but also share the heart and nature of God?

Graham Blanchard is the only Christian publishing house that specializes in board books to help parents teach their kids about God from infancy. Now, to continue that mission it has produced its first book for parents, Spiritual Parenting in the First Give Years: God’s Plan for Early Childhood Christian Discipleship, (May 15, 2015), written by Graham Blanchard company founder Callie Grant, with the involvement of pastors, Christian educators, and parents.

In Spiritual Parenting in the First Five Years, Grant lays out five Bible-based principles for the care and feeding of a new child’s inner life. Drawing from Scripture and the inspiration of great Christian teachers, Grant shows how new and expecting parents can maximize this vital development window—an opportune time to teach children about who God is and who they are in him.

My Quick Thoughts:

Y'all probably know by now that we greatly enjoy the Graham Blanchard books around here. They have a new parenting book that as of right now, you can grab a PDF copy of the book for free at their website. If you'd rather have the kindle version, it's 4.99 at Amazon.

It's a super quick read at only 36 pages, but it might give you a little boost of encouragement as far as making sure you teach your little ones. It will also encourage you to listen to your little ones, and be prepared to answer their questions in a heartfelt way, as opposed to memorized answers. Children are smart, and know when something is from the heart!

So, if you've got little ones, grab yourself a copy while it's free! ;)


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The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupery



My Thoughts:

The copy I borrowed from my public library was very old and the only one, and the best I can tell is actually a 1st edition. After finishing it, and loving it so much I wanted to hug it(despite its textured cover, with no book cover...the horror!), I was saddened to realize that I was only the 4th person to have ever checked it out. (1 in 1999, 2003, 2009, and myself here in 2015) Because I loved it so much, and due to the apparent lack of interest, at least in my little part of the world, this will now be one of those books I try my best to get people to read.

The copy I read was translated by Katherine Woods, thankfully. I always search around for kindle versions before checking actual books out of the library. By doing so, it didn't take long to discover the strong distaste for this book's fans concerning the newer translation by Howard. Though I haven't read his translation in full, based on the quote comparisons I've seen, I highly recommend locating Woods' translation of this book!

After finishing the first time through, I still felt like I had missed a great deal of what the author was trying to say. I decided to activate my audible trial, and use one of the picks for this book, and so I listened to it, too. I also downloaded a free study guide for the book from a reputable site. (It had the full text of The Little Prince, along with all of the illustrations at the end of the study guide. Is this legal? I didn't think so, but I don't fully understand all things legal wise.)

I still don't understand what each person/thing within the story was supposed to represent, so I'm hoping I get some answers reading other people's reviews. :) I typically love reading books that remind us adults to think more like a child, though, and this one was no exception. Books like these are special. While it's a children's book, and a sweet one, it feels like there's so many lessons written for adults.

One thing I did learn after reading the story is that baobabs are real. I'm showing my ignorance here, but I thought they were a made up component of the story. Some of them are quite odd looking, and truly look like something added to a fictional fantasy story, but are very much real. As far as looks go, I like them. ;) I also did a little research on the author, and was sad to learn that he died and/or disappeared soon after this book was published. The more I read, the more curious I became to read his other works, even if I don't think I could appreciate them as much as The Little Prince.

It seems as though I've rambled on and on without really saying anything about the book.

So. Here are some of my favorite things within the book.

The illustrations! They were odd, to say the least, but they warmed my heart. My favorite was the fox, because he really didn't look like a fox at all, and his ears were indeed too long.

I also loved the whole "taming" experiment.

'"To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world..."'(page 66)

I just really loved the little fox!

I loved that the little prince even cleaned out his extinct volcano, because "One never knows!".

"I have good reason to believe that somewhere on my planet there is an old rat. I hear him at night. You can judge this old rat. From time to time you will condemn him to death. Thus his life will depend on your justice. But you will pardon him on each occasion; for he must be treated triftily. He is the only one we have." (page 39)

"Well, I must endure the presence of two or three caterpillars if I wish to become acquainted with the butterflies."(page 34)

There are so many quotes I loved within the book that made me think, and I now want to get my own beautiful copy to admire, and maybe a raggedy copy, so I can highlight my favorites.

Have you ever read The Little Prince? What did you think? If not, go grab a copy! ;)

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Purchase Link:

The Little Prince (This was the only one I could find that specifically had Woods as the translator.)

The Little Prince Deluxe Pop-Up Book (This is my birthday request from Jonathan, even if it is Howard's translation.)

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Reading to Know - Book Club

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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Laugh Out Loud Pocket Doodles for Boys/Laugh Out Loud Pocket Doodles for Girls by Rob Eliiot, and Illustrated by Jonny Hawkins


Description:

Rob Elliott's Laugh-Out-Loud joke books have brought laughter to more than half a million households. His last book invited kids into the action as he teamed up with cartoonist Jonny Hawkins to create Laugh-Out-Loud Doodles for Kids. Now the dynamic duo is back with two brand-new books for boys and girls who love to draw and love to laugh! Packed with jokes that will keep boys and girls giggling for hours, and unfinished doodles for them to complete any way they want, these books keep little hands and minds busy. Perfect for road trips, lazy summer days, or anytime the kids say, "I'm bored!"


My Thoughts:

These books are small. If I lay my hand flat on the top of each one, my hand is bigger, just to give you an idea. There's a book for both boys and girls. Flipping through, they're mostly the same style, though with different pictures and jokes. You might expect the girls' book to have rainbows and butterflies throughout, but it's not like that. The only differences I saw in the two books are the covers, the characters inside the girls' book are female and the names are for girls. The boys' book has male characters and male names. Otherwise, you can't really tell one is for girls vs. boys.

Each page has a joke, the beginning of a picture, and a drawing prompt.


Other than reading books, my next in line wishful hobby is learning to draw/paint. I haven't dedicated the time to it like I would like so far. I recently added a couple of drawing classes/lessons to our "curriculum" line-up for this coming school year. I figure if I want to learn to do something, I better involve my kids! ;) I've tried to encourage drawing here and there for them, but I hope there will be more confidence, particularly with my Grasshopper in the coming months/years with his creations. He has an imagination that regularly amazes me, but he is always more hesitant to draw, at least lately, claiming he can't do it. It seems more of a confidence issue vs. lack of interest.

For that reason, I love that these books give one's imagination a little head start, but ultimately the drawer is free to come up with what he/she wants. It gives me a chance to sit down with my little ones and tell them a joke or two, and encourage them to practice drawing and stretching their imagination. Not only will it ultimately build more confidence over time, but it's also a neat little keepsake for me. I've tried to write little notes on each page about conversations that were happening while drawing and what was being drawn.


They've been a fun way to spend some special time together and laugh together, even if my little ones didn't really get most of the jokes. One of the great things about my children is that they don't need a reason to laugh other than someone else is doing it,though my goal is always to teach "with", not "at". (Recently, one of my children pointed and laughed at a woman, proclaiming she had "clown" hair. I was horrified to say the least.) Many of the jokes went right over their heads, but if I laughed, they laughed along with me.


For older children that can read the jokes themselves, these would also be great drawing/imagination practice, but could be great for car rides or doctor waits. Even though my little ones are below the target age, we've still enjoyed them. The best thing of all is that one does NOT have to be a great artist to enjoy themselves with them, as we are proof! :D

*We were provided review copies of both books, in exchange for our honest opinions.

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Purchase Links:

Laugh-Out-Loud Pocket Doodles for Girls


Laugh-Out-Loud Pocket Doodles for Boys


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Friday, June 26, 2015

Anchored: Finding Hope in the Unexpected by Kayla Aimee(With TWO GIVEAWAYS!!!)


About the Book:

You count a pregnancy by weeks and Kayla Aimee had only ticked off 24 of the 40 when she unexpectedly went into labor. She thought her church upbringing had prepared her for every circumstance but when tragedy struck and threatened to take the life of her newborn daughter, it felt as though once solid ground had turned to glass beneath her feet, destined to shatter everything she held sacred.

When swept into a story of suffering, we all find ourselves vulnerable, questioning everything we thought we knew as we wonder, “Where is God in this?” With everything feeling as fragile as her one and a half pound daughter, Kayla finds herself asking that same question as she faces her greatest fear: that she may have finally become a mother just to lose her only child.

Both poignant and humorous, Anchored recounts Kayla’s gripping story of learning to navigate her newfound motherhood in the most unexpected of ways, from holidays in the hospital and middle-of-the-night phone calls to the joy of coming home. With vulnerability and plenty of wit, Kayla lays bare her struggle to redefine her faith, her marriage, and herself within the context of a tragedy she never saw coming. For anyone who has felt their faith in God falter, Anchored extends a gentle invitation to join her as she uncovers a hope that holds.

My Thoughts:

As soon as I heard about this book, I knew I wanted to read it. In it, Kayla Aimee tells about her journey through having a micro-preemie, Scarlette. My Grasshopper was a micro-preemie, weighing 1 lb, 8 ounces. While our stories are very different, they are also very similar. I saw my own story in hers often, and with those memories, there was both pain and joy. It's a tough journey to survive, but we all made it through, thanks to God!


Anchored officially gets the award for making me cry more than any other book! What's so great about it is the humor intertwined through the pain. Often, I was laughing while also crying. I truly loved her humor!

I also felt comfort that I wasn't alone with many of my feelings, like the sadness and anger that my body failed my baby. (I had a "bad placenta", due to no fault of my own, even if I blamed myself, and my Grasshopper wasn't getting the oxygen or nutrients he needed to survive.) Also, I'm typically a pretty easy going person when dealing with other people. (The girl at Sonic would disagree as I recently told her they should change the email title from "Treat Your Kids to $1.99 Wacky Packs" to "Treat ONE OF YOUR KIDS to a $1.99 Wacky Pack" if they were only going to let me use one coupon and I could only use that one coupon for one meal.) ;) Still, I'm usually pretty easygoing concerning the public when I'm not losing my mind. I've always wondered if I over-reacted to reporting a nurse and removing her from Grasshopper's bedside while he was in the NICU. Reading Kayla Aimee's story made me feel better about that decision. It's never okay to stomp your foot in frustration, huff, and then GLARE at a tiny baby in anger because their beeping monitors interrupted a conversation, especially not in front of that baby's parents, and especially not when you're being paid to take care of that baby. It's also not okay for the same nurse to bring her germ-y children at the height of flu season into the NICU(against the rules, anyway), especially when not washing their hands, and especially when they were EATING, which was also against the rules, and especially when giving the wrong germs to my baby struggling to survive could have killed him. I was reminded that I made the right choice. We NEED to know that our precious baby is being cared for while we're away. Mercy, y'all. There were some horrible nurses happening in that NICU that were in the wrong line of work. There were also some wonderful, amazing men and women, and memories of them warm my heart! If you have a little one in the NICU, this book might give you the encouragement to do what you feel is best for him/her, even if it hurts someone's feelings.

Anchored covers life just before Scarlette was born, all the way through after coming home from the hospital, with various other memoir type life events and memories thrown in throughout. It was comforting to see someone else that had been through the therapists and doctors after coming home, and questioning whether we might be pushing too much, too soon, but also noticing the lack of milestones. And, even knowing that severe anxiety is part of the package. My Grasshopper is still tiny for his age, but he's doing so good, and this book has helped remind me to be grateful for how far he's come.

If you've had a micro-preemie that pulled through the struggle, you'll probably connect with this book. If you've never had one, I still recommend it, just so you can understand, just a tiny bit, some of the hardships these mommies are facing.

*I was provided an ARC, in exchange for my honest opinion.

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Purchase Link:

Anchored: Finding Hope in the Unexpected


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Giveaway #1:

Would you like to win a copy of this book?

Just leave me a comment, with a way to contact you if you win, and I'll put your name in the drawing.

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Giveaway #2:

I recently heard of a family grieving the loss of their own little micro-preemie. Even while in the NICU, I saw many of them come and go, and since leaving I've heard of many losses. My heart and my tears and my prayers are with each and every one of you!

I ordered this picture for a grieving family from ChristianFineArt a few years back. I chickened out of giving it to them, because I realized pictures like this offend some people. I would like it to go to someone that would love to have it, though, because I think it's beautiful. (I haven't posted a photo of the picture due to my fear of copyright issues, so click over to see it.)

Do you have a little one resting with Jesus? Or, do you know someone grieving not having their little one in their arms? If you'd like to enter for this picture, just leave me a comment with a way to contact you if you win.

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Rules for both giveaways:


-Please let me know if you're entering for Giveaway #1 or #2 or BOTH.
-US only
-Must be 13 or older to enter.
-Winners will be chosen by random.org
-Ends June 30, 2015(Sorry the time frame for these are so short, but I'm taking July away from blogging, so I need to end it before then.)

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Bash and the Chocolate Milk Cows by Burton Cole


Description:

Anytime boring Beamer visits Bash, his crazy farm cousin, weirdness always rules. This time, Bash schemes a way for the cows to give chocolate milk on April Fool’s Day. Meanwhile, there's a robber on the loose, and Beamer is stuck with his crazy cousin, the pesky neighbor Mary Jane, and a goat of many colors. But somehow Beamer manages to learn an important lesson about baptism and the Great Commission. It's just another day at the farm!

Based on Matthew 16:15-16, this third book in the Bash series is hilarious fun for kids 8 to 12.

My Thoughts:

Before saying anything about this book, I want to make it clear that my blog is intended for female readers. My thoughts are for the ladies and I won't debate with men! (I Tim. 2:12 ) (I've never had an issue here at my blog, but Amazon is another story.)

I have to be honest and say that I didn't overly connect with this book, BUT I am far outside the target age. I had planned on passing it on to one of my nephews to get his opinion, but then I wasn't sure what the message concerning baptism was, so I felt a bit uncomfortable passing it on to any of them. I know perfectly well that my beliefs are different than most concerning baptism.

Here, I'll simply let the Bible speak:

Mark 16:16 “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

1 Peter 3:21 “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ."

Acts 2:38 "Peter said to them, 'Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'"

Ladies, I encourage you to study more on the subject! (Don't let what you've been taught stand in the way of a deep study on this subject!) Here are two excellent "Question and Answer" sessions at Come Fill Your Cup. ((Part 1 and Part 2)) And, also the article "What About Baptism?" There are lots of Bible verses and study throughout all of those!

The ending of this book ends with a baptism ceremony, of sorts. I DID like the part where Beamer taught the adults that baptism was urgent. It must be done immediately when the Truth is realized. Many adults tried to talk him into a future, more convenient day, but he wasn't having it. Baptism can happen ANYTIME. If you realize the Truth, fill up that bathtub/pool/whatever is around, and have a friend/spouse/relative put you completely under the water after repenting of your sins, and confessing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. You don't have to have a preacher do it on a scheduled day or even at a worship service. That part was great! I still wasn't clear, even after reading, whether the book is teaching baptism was still simply an act of symbolism. I also wasn't sure about the whole "follow-the-leader" scenario. I seemed like his friend jumped in and decided to be baptized to keep him from being embarrassed. Then others jumped in and decided the same, and I'm not sure they had the right reasoning in mind. Baptism is an important choice, and one that must be made with the right reasons. Otherwise, you're just getting dunked under water! I did as a child. I believe I was baptized because everyone else my age was doing it, and it bothered me for YEARS that I had the wrong reasons within my heart. As an adult, I made things right for sure, and was "re-baptized". It's okay if you disagree with that decision. I know I made the right one, and I'm now at peace! ;)

Aside from the ending.....(which again, I'm unclear on exactly what was being taught)

There's a great deal of pranks for April's Fools within the book. I imagine many would find them all humorous, especially within the target age group, but I just never fully connected. I think the fact that Beamer kept calling his cousin, Bash, weird kind of threw me off. I'll pick up a book called weird in a heartbeat, but I don't care for calling people weird. Also, this is the 3rd book in a series, and I imagine reading the first two books first would have helped.

There ARE good things in here, though. I enjoyed the little Bible lessons/devotionals within the family. Aside from my disagreement with the baptism part, I didn't hate it. I just won't pass it on. If I wasn't sure what it was teaching, imagine what a child would think. With my own children, I can discuss things, but it's not so easy with others.

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

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How to Love Your Neighbor Without Being Weird by Amy Lively (WITH GIVEAWAY!!!!)


Description:

"I want to love my neighbor, but I don't know how."

Most of us feel guilty about Christ's command to love our neighbor, but let's be honest--we don't even know most of the people living around us.

How can we love people we don't even know? Besides, doesn't it count as "loving our neighbor" when we send money to missionaries and put out yard signs for our church? Are we supposed to just knock on our neighbors' doors and tell them about Jesus?

"They'll think I'm weird."

How to Love Your Neighbor Without Being Weird helps you overcome fears about getting to know your neighbors and sharing your faith. You'll learn simple, practical ways to get to know your neighbors, using your God-given personality. As you venture out of the comfort of your living room and into the lives of your neighbors, you'll form authentic friendships, create a safer community, and find fulfillment in obeying Christ's #2 command.

Loving your neighbor isn't a random command; it's God's perfect plan.
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My Thoughts:

This book is dedicated to loving and reaching out to the neighbors that live close to you. While I do think it's helpful as far as reaching out towards others, it definitely has potential for more value for those that live in communities where the houses are close together and many. That's not realistic for many. If you live in the country, or unsafe communities(which the author does recommend using common sense), this book probably won't be the greatest fit for you.

I feel like I keep saying I don't connect with books lately(and you'll see me say the same thing again later today), but after reading halfway through this one, I started skimming though the rest. I'm usually drawn towards books that have anything "weird" about it. Since it was right there in the title, and I've tried to add more "relationship" reading into my days lately, I thought it would be a good fit for me. I don't live in a community that I could watch my neighbors to see when they were most active, and therefore, the best time to approach them, as recommended in here. I'd have to hide in the trees, with binoculars, and then possibly see the neighbors. That would be very weird, and be completely against the point of the book. Again, I could still use some of the advice, but I'm just not the target audience for the book.

There is some great encouragement and advice for those wanting to connect with neighbors, but I do feel those living in closer set communities will benefit the most from it.

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

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Purchase Link:

How to Love Your Neighbor Without Being Weird


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GIVEAWAY:

Would you like to win my copy of this book?

Just leave me a comment, with a way to contact you if you win, and I'll enter you in the drawing.

Rules:

-US only
-Ends June 30th, 2015
-Must be 13 or older
-Winner will be chosen by random.org

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Monday, June 22, 2015

A Friend in Me: How to Be a Safe Haven for Other Women by Pamela Havey Lau


About the Book:

Young women long for relational connection with women further ahead of them on the journey. Yet, without realizing it, many of us tend to distance ourselves from those in younger generations. Can we really have close relationships with women who have different thoughts on church, different experiences with family, and different ways of talking about God? Where do we start?

In A Friend in Me, Pam Lau shows you how to be a safe place for the younger women in your life. She offers five patterns women need to internalize and practice for initiating relationships and talking about issues such as faith, forgiveness, sexuality, and vocation. Most significantly, she reminds you that there doesn’t need to be a divide between generations of women. Together, we can have a global impact—and experience a deeper faith than we’ve ever known.

My Thoughts:


For some reason, I thought this book was to learn how to be a better encouragement to teens. It's mostly written for older women to be an encouragement to ladies my age. Much of it can apply to teenagers, but when I saw that it wasn't overly written for me, ***I skimmed through the book***.

I have to admit, I very much want the encouragement and experience of an older lady in my life. In the opening note, another author recommends that younger ladies read this book, and then go and find an older friend. Maybe I'm just not being brave enough, but "picking" a lady out and informing her that she will now be my mentor just doesn't seem too realistic to me. Just recently, I read a blog post where someone mentioned not having older ladies in her younger years to encourage her, so she turned to books for her encouragement. (I wish I could remember the author of that post now, but I do know it was in connection with the passing of Elisabeth Elliot.) I thought that was a marvelous idea, and I determined to read more classics written by older ladies. I've been listening to podcasts a good bit lately, and recently enjoyed one by Mrs. Elliot on sulking, which I need to listen to again! ;) (Although I'm in no way saying books could replace real relationships, but it's better than nothing!) 

Reading through some of the advice in here for older ladies was pretty great in some areas. I've felt the judgment from older generations all too well. Some of the comments coming from older ladies have been ridiculous, and I've determined to never say such things to struggling young mothers. I'm left baffled at times whether statements are meant to be encouragement or competition. And, I'm truly not someone to get overly offended at every little thing. I hate those "What Not to Say to This or That Person". As someone that questions every little thing I say anyway, I'm left wanting to keep my mouth shut at all times. I constantly want to say, "Well, tell me what I CAN say to not offend you!" I've been the topic of many of those lists, too, and most of the things never bother me. I'm left wondering when we became a generation with such chips on our shoulders, ready to attack anything that comes out of other people's mouth. Being so easily offended DOES offend me! ;) Again, as someone that has felt the pain of bad comments from hopefully innocent intentions, there's some great advice as far as helping older ladies be a true encouragement to younger ladies, as opposed to hurting them and shaming them.

There's also some advice I didn't agree with at all. This is most definitely a book to "Take the meat and leave the bones". I can't imagine that anyone would completely agree with everything in here. Pick and choose!

I will mention that the author includes a chapter on sex, which I appreciated. This is definitely a topic I could use advice on as far as being an influence with tweens/teens/young ladies. Again, I didn't agree with everything said within this chapter, so use your own judgment when taking some of the advice. Don't take it as Biblical advice, but the opinion of the author. There's many things covered in this chapter, but she recommends not stopping the discussion at "Stay pure until marriage", which IS excellent advice. I have no regrets about staying pure, nor have I heard anyone else that has regretted it. That said, too many women go into their pure marriage not having a clue what to expect. I love that she gave some advice and encouragement there. ((Young ladies, if you're soon to be married or recently married, and you'd like some advice and encouragement in that area, Chantelle at Happy, Healthy, Holy Home has a "Blushing Brides" series .))

(I'm coming back to add this in: The author also encourages us to make sure no one feels like "less" because they are no longer pure. I agree with this wholeheartedly. Some girls don't have a choice in the matter. Some make the wrong choice and have regrets. No one is "less" due to lack of purity. It's always tough making sure to encourage young girls to keep their purity and letting others that are trying to follow the right path know they're not any less special because they no longer are.) 

So, once again, I did skim the book, but there's some good advice in here, even if I didn't overly connect with it at this stage of my life. There's also things I didn't agree with, so take what you can from it if you're a lady that has encouragement potential for younger women. While it seems to fit more for older ladies, there's still good advice for younger ladies working with teens. It'll probably be one I'll revisit down the road a bit.

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

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Purchase Link:

A Friend in Me: How to Be a Safe Haven for Other Women


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Monday, June 15, 2015

John Shaw's Guide to Digital Nature Photography


Description:

Photography legend John Shaw returns with his much-anticipated guide to digital nature photography, complete with more than 250 extraordinarily beautiful photographs.

For over four decades, John Shaw’s authentic voice and trusted advice has helped photographers achieve impressive shots in the great outdoors. In his first-ever book on digital photography, Shaw provides in-depth advice on everything from equipment and lenses to thorough coverage of digital topics including how to use the histogram. In addition, he offers inspirational and frank insight that goes far beyond the nuts and bolts of photography, explaining that successful photos come from having a vision, practicing, and then acquiring the equipment needed to accomplish the intention. Easily digestible and useful for every type of photographer, and complete with more than 250 jaw-dropping images, John Shaw’s Guide to Digital Nature Photography is the one book you’ll need to beautifully capture the world around you.


My Thoughts:

I'm pretty ignorant when it comes to photography. I'm showing that with this review! I just have a plain digital camera that I'm trying to learn to use better. I want to learn how to take better pictures of my family and just the little moments in life. I don't have expensive equipment, and have no intentions of getting it any time soon. I'll be honest with you and tell you I feel completely UNqualified to review this book, which is why I've held on to it for much longer than I should have. I thought it would be a bit more on the basic side. Jonathan got me a new camera this past Valentine's day, and I realized that I don't overly know what I'm doing, even though it is a simple digital camera. Also, I had plans for Grasshopper and Firefly to use my old one a bit during their nature lessons and walks. Should they want to learn more down the road, I wanted to have a bit more knowledge on the subject, too. Though I believe this book is on the beginner level, and there really is great advice in here, a large amount of it went right over my head. It'll be one I'll revisit down the road when I've learned a bit more of the basics.

The topics covered are:

Gear
Getting Started
Lenses
Composition
Close-ups
The Photographer at Work

Despite being over my head, I have more than enjoyed looking at the gorgeous photos within the book. There's a puffin(two pictures, though I don't know if it's the same bird or not) that I have just sat and stared at multiple times. They're just beautiful birds and beautiful pictures. Even if the photography advice ends up being a bit over your head, the pictures still make the book worth hanging onto.

Again, though, I want to dedicate a bit more time to learning the basics, and I'll gladly revisit this book.

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

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Purchase Link:

John Shaw's Guide to Digital Nature Photography


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Fairy Tale Romance Collection by Melanie Dickerson




Description:

Romance, intrigue, and danger abound in this five-book bind-up of Melanie Dickerson’s bestselling fairy-tale retellings.

The Healer’s Apprentice: Rose has been appointed as a healer’s apprentice at Hagenheim Castle, and when Lord Hamlin—the future duke—is injured, it is Rose who tends to him. As she works to heal his wound, she begins to fall in love, and wonders if he feels the same. But Lord Hamlin is betrothed to a mysterious young woman in hiding. As Rose’s life spins toward confusion, she must take the first steps on a journey to discover her own destiny.

The Merchant’s Daughter: Annabel is trapped in indentured servitude to Lord Ranulf, a recluse who is rumored to be both terrifying and beastly. She soon finds he is actually very kind and caring, and the two strike up a friendship that could soon become more. Then Annabel becomes involved in a situation that could possibly lead to Ranulf’s demise.

The Fairest Beauty: Sophie desperately wants to get away from her stepmother’s jealousy, and receives her chance when Gabe arrives from Hagenheim Castle to rescue her, claiming she is betrothed to his older brother. Though romance is impossible--she is his brother’s future wife, and Gabe himself is betrothed to someone else--the pair flee to the Cottage of the Seven to find help. Before long both must not only protect each other from the dangers around them, they must also protect their hearts.

The Captive Maiden: When Gisela learns the duke’s son, Valten--the boy she has daydreamed about for years--is throwing a ball in hopes of finding a wife, she vows to find a way to attend, even if it’s only for a taste of a life she’ll never have. To her surprise, she catches Valten’s eye. Though he is rough around the edges, Gisela finds Valten is everything she hoped he would be. But other forces are bent on keeping the two from falling further in love, putting Gisela in more danger than she ever imagined.

The Princess Spy: Margaretha has always been a romantic, and hopes her newest suitor, Lord Claybrook, is destined to be her one true love. But then an injured man is brought to Hagenheim Castle, claiming to be an English lord who was attacked by Claybrook and left for dead. And only Margaretha--one of the few who speaks his language--understands the wild story. It is up to her to save her father, Colin, and Hagenheim itself from Claybrook’s wicked plot.

My Thoughts:

This fairy tale collection contains 5 books, all written by Melanie Dickerson. It includes The Healer's Apprentice, The Merchant's Daughter, The Fairest Beauty, The Captive Maiden, and The Princess Spy. If you wanted to buy all of these books, buying this collection would save you almost $2(at the time of this post....The Captive Maiden is on sale for $1.99 and the other 4 are $4.99 for the kindle versions).

There are some negatives to buying it this way, though. I love looking at the beautiful covers while reading books, and I do love the covers of each of the books within this collection. Each time I start the book, I typically look at the cover, unless of course, it's plain and boring. I also randomly flip to the cover and look at it in the midst of reading a story, too. I can't do that with this collection. Other than the cover of The Captive Maiden, which is on the front, you won't see the other covers within this collection. I was greatly disappointed in that. I know I wouldn't have been able to flip to it, but it would have been nice to at least see it before starting the story. At the end of one story, you're immediately taken into the next one.

Also, keep in mind that when you have 5 books in one, that percentage at the bottom goes by super slow on your kindle. I like knowing exactly how much percentage I have until to end, and find it discouraging when I've read 30 minutes, and my percentage has moved up only a couple of spots. That's just me, though, and it's by no means a complaint about the books within this collection. It's just things to keep in mind when deciding if those sacrifices are worth the $2 you'd save or if you'd rather buy them separately. To be honest, if you're like me, I'd recommend waiting for a sale, and buying them separately unless you're in a hurry to read them right away. I'd even be willing to pay the extra $2 and get them separately, so I could have to beautiful covers, too.

I read The Healer's Apprentice a few years ago, and loved it. It is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty. (I was going to link to my review, and I can't even find it! Anywhere.) The Merchant's Daughter is a Beauty and the Beast retelling, and I loved it, too. It's sweet and has a definite fairy tale quality about it. (You may remember my issues with The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest recently, but I was thrilled that I liked this one so, so much better!) The Fairest Beauty is a retelling of Snow White. The Captive Maiden is a Cinderella retelling, and The Princess Spy is a retelling of The Princess and the Frog.

If you like super sweet fairy tale retellings, don't mind not getting to see the covers while reading, and don't mind the super slow percentage progress while reading on your kindle, give this collection a try. It'll save you a bit of money getting it this way.

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

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Purchase Link:

Fairy Tale Romance Collection: The Healer's Apprentice, The Merchant's Daughter, The Fairest Beauty, The Captive Maiden, The Princess Spy (Fairy Tale Romance Series)

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Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Ark by Laura Liddell Nolen




About the Book:

There’s a meteor headed for Earth, and there is only one way to survive.It’s the final days of earth, and sixteen-year-old Char is right where she belongs: in prison. With her criminal record, she doesn’t qualify for a place on an Ark, one of the five massive bioships designed to protect earth’s survivors during the meteor strike that looks set to destroy the planet. Only a select few will be saved – like her mom, dad, and brother– all of whom have long since turned their backs on Char.

If she ever wants to redeem herself, Char must use all the tricks of the trade to swindle her way into outer space, where she hopes to reunite with her family, regardless of whether they actually ever want to see her again, or not . . .

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My Rating: 5/5 stars

My Thoughts:

The cover of this book made me think of a slightly creepy sci-fi movie from the 1980s. Based on that and the fact that I actually somewhat read the description of the story(shocking for me), I couldn't help but be curious.

I LOVED this book, y'all! While I was curious, I don't think my expectations were overly high. It was such a pleasant surprise that I loved it so very much, though. It turns out that my impression of the cover was pretty accurate(for me, anyway), except that this story takes place in 2065(if I understood correctly). It's a bit on the dark side. If the world was ending, and only 500,000 people would be given an escape with a starpass(ticket), you can imagine the violence that would happen in order to be part of that escape.

There's action and suspense throughout the whole book. When I first started it, I was pulled away for several weeks due to more pressing deadlines, but once I picked it back up, I devoured it. It kept me rapidly turning the pages, with unexpected twists and turns coming regularly. My only disappointment is that I don't have the next book in front of me. It does end with a cliffhanger.

I can easily recommend this book to anyone, from mature younger readers to adults. If you're looking for a quick and light read this summer, yet one that has plenty of action, give this one a try! It's officially on my "favorites" list, and I can't wait to get my hands on the next book.

Content:

Clean! There's no profanity at all and only a bit of kissing. (The romance is very mild within the story, too.) There is a good bit of violence, but it's not overly graphic.

*I was provided an e-copy, in exchange for my honest opinion.

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Purchase Link:

The Ark


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About the Author:

Laura Liddell Nolen grew up in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where she spent lots of time playing make-believe with her two younger brothers. They supplemented their own stories with a steady diet of space- and superhero-themed movies, books, and television. The daughter of a comic book collector, she learned how to handle old comics at an early age, a skill she’s inordinately proud of to this day.Laura began work on her first novel, The Ark, in 2012, following the birth of her daughterAva, a tiny rebel and a sweetheart on whom the novel’s main character is loosely based. Completion of The Ark was made possible in part due to an SCBWI Work-in-Progress Award. Laura loves coffee, dogs, and making lists. She has a degree in French and a license to practice law, but both are frozen in carbonite at present. She lives in Houston, Texas, withher husband and two young children, and their dog Miley, who is a very good girl.

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Friday, June 5, 2015

Join Odyssey Adventure Club for a Summer Challenge and Movie Ticket Giveaway

Take the plungebanner banner 

Summer . . . a time that kids pine for during the school year and parents may anticipate with something akin to dread. Fearing refrains of “I’m bored” or hours spent on the couch playing video games can make moms and dads nervous about the long, hot months stretching before their family. Focus on the Family’s Odyssey Adventure Club offers an answer, encouraging parents and kids to embrace faith and fun with the Take the Plunge Adventures in Odyssey Clubhouse magazine’s Summer Challenge.


Take the Plunge

The Take the Plunge challenge features:
  • Master Mind Monday — commit God’s Word to memory
  • Ways to Play Wednesday — spend active time with your family
  • Faith Sharing Friday — share God’s love with others
The Take the Plunge challenge helps families memorize at least five verses, engage in five activities together and share their faith with five people before the school doors swing open again. Those who sign up will receive an 11-week plan with suggested verses to memorize, activity ideas (such as visiting a war memorial) and ways to witness (such as passing out popsicles at the park with an invitation to your church), making this challenge the perfect tool for parents who want summer to be a time of spiritual and social stimulation for their kids.

"Research tells us that the more senses we involve when teaching children a principle, the more likely it is to stick,” Plugged In editor and Adventures in Odyssey podcast host Bob Smithouser says. “Bible memorization by itself is great, but it becomes even more powerful when put into action. Know it. Share it. Live it.”

Families who sign up to take part in the challenge at www.whitsend.org/summer will have access to weekly verses to memorize, ideas for family fun and suggestions for service projects that allow a family to share their faith. Additionally, anyone who signs up to participate in the Take the Plunge challenge will receive a free scene from the latest Adventures in Odyssey album, as well as a free story from the book Strange Journey Back.


A Bonus Contest

From June 1–5, tell us in 30 words or less how you are going to take the plunge to deepen your faith this summer for a chance to win a family four-pack of tickets to the theatrical release of Beyond The Mask June 5th weekend and free access to the Odyssey Adventure Club all summer long (June, July, August—total $85 prize value)!

Send your entry to contests@whitsend.org. Two winners will be chosen to win each day June 1-5 and announced on the Adventures in Odyssey Facebook Page.

Entries will be chosen based on creativity and writing skill. Rules are available at whitsend.org.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Bible Dominoes by Juliet David



Description:

This domino game helps children to learn about the Bible and Jesus while playing! It also encourages communication, sharing, counting, and matching skills. The pieces are large and colorful, so they re easy to pick up, and the pictures are clear. The set includes 28 dominoes with a mixture of Bible story characters, numbers, and animals to match, as well as instructions and a story booklet explaining the stories featured on the cards. A useful resource for home, school, or Sunday school.

My Thoughts:


I couldn't resist giving dominoes a try that had a Biblical focus.


From that aspect, I was disappointed. Based on how the people on the dominoes are dressed, my children can tell it's supposed to be people from the Bible. It's pretty impossible on most of them to pinpoint exactly what person is supposed to be represented, though. The animal pictures are a little easier to incorporate a Bible conversation into the game. Although this game comes with a little "Bible Story Booklet", there's really not much Bible learning happening with it. I can't recommend it to you if you're wanting it based only on the Bible part, unless you're more creative than me and can work in Bible learning within the game better than me.


If the Bible portion isn't a huge deal to you, this is a really nice game. Each domino is extra large, and made with thick, sturdy cardboard. It's a great way for little ones to match colors and numbers and it's fun.


*I was provided this game, in exchange for my honest opinion.

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Purchase Link:

Bible Dominoes


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Kika the Upside Down Girl by Jessica Tudos(With Author Interview and GIVEAWAY!!!!)


Book Description:

Kika always seems to accomplish things differently than others and tends to get into trouble for it. She reminds us that choosing to be different is more than okay, and finding others to join in her upside down adventures makes her heart feel huge - especially when it involves somersaults, vaults, flips and kips! Join Kika, a girl who loves living upside down in a right side up world, on her unique journey to a fliptastic world! Kika reminds us that choosing to be different is more than okay, and finding others to join in her upside down adventures feels fliptastic - especially when it involves somersaults, vaults, flips and kips in the Gymnastics Emporium!

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My Thoughts:

Kika is a little girl that loves doing EVERYTHING upside down. Her parents don't understand, and worry about her. Kika discovers something that allows her to put her love of being upside down to use, though.

I don't know that I've ever read a book about gymnastics, either by myself or to my boys, so this book definitely fills a need in the world of children's books. I'm not a gymnast myself, or ever been one, but I know it is a sport loved by many little girls and boys. I'm thrilled that they now have a special book that they can connect with concerning their sport.

The illustrations are the artwork of Mike Motz. I think they're fun and sweet, and energetic.

This is a perfect book for any little gymnast in your life!

*I was provided an e-copy, in exchange for my honest opinion.

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Purchase Link:

Kika the Upside-Down Girl


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Author's Bio:

Olympic gymnast turned author, motivational speaker and experiential educator Jessica Tudos (JessicaTudos.com) is on a mission to empower kids, youth and adults to develop the confidence and resiliency required to lead active, healthy and creative lives. In organizations around the world, Jessica empowers audiences through engaging stories, insights & reflections drawn from her upside down life, including her Olympic gymnastics adventures. Jessica is a sought after speaker, facilitator and professor in experiential education, physical literacy, leadership & elite sports.

Interview with Jessica Tudos:

1. What motivated you to write Kika The Upside-Down Girl?

The real “get off my bum and do this” came when I started reading to my son. I realized that there were no picture books with a strong gymnast character in them, so I figured I could actually do something about it – if not me, then who? I considered writing a book about a little boy upside down, but as they say, “write what you know,” so moving forward I decided that Kika (my nickname growing up), was going to be the main character!


2. How has writing this book changed you?

An interesting thing happened with the release of this, my first, kids story. As I shared Kika’s empowering story with many kids and adults, my work shifted too. I realized Kika was an inspirational force for everyone, affecting how I teach college, motivate audiences through speaking gigs and parenting my son. Like Kika, we all need to feel confident in who we are and what we love to do, no matter what others think.


3. How did Kika the Upside-Down Girl get published?

After running a successful 10K crowdfunding campaign to initially self-publish the book, I started sharing Kika’s message at many events, including Toronto’s annual Reading for the Love of It Conference. After Domnizelles Publishing CEO Genevieve Rossignol read my story at the event, she acquired Kika the Upside-Down Girl and we are now working together to extend Kika’s message far and wide.


4. Inspired by Kika the Upside-Down Girl, what is the FL!P Approach you talk about?

As a motivational speaker and educator, I inspire kids, youth and adults to build the confidence, resilience and courage they need to lead more active and creative lives. I realized that my work could resonate more powerfully if broken down into four practical FL!P steps. The process is: First – Find your passion, commit to it and own it; Last – What do you want to achieve? What does success look and feel like? Go there; In-between – How will you get there? What is the process and plan? Hard work involved; Plus – What support do you need? Who can Help? I use this process to empower learners of all ages to be successful and inspired to keep learning.


5. What other points in your life have competed with the high of representing your country at the Olympics?


I was 15 so it was a much different experience then adult experiences. Other major high points in my life include traveling and working around the world in over 40 countries, becoming a mom at 41 and publishing my very own children’s book that I can hold and read to my son!


6. What advice would you give other budding kids authors?

If you have a story idea there is a way to do it! I think what really helped me was to imagine reading my book to actual kids and parents, educators, coaches, etc, - real people in real time. Imagining my son’s reaction was a big motivator, I want him to know that his mom did it, and you can do it too. Stay the course when the going gets tough; people are waiting for your story!


7. What is your next book project?

I am definitely thinking about a follow up to Kika the Upside-Down Girl! Many people have asked me what happens once Kika finds her “home” in the Gymnastic Emporium – now what? I am currently brainstorming ideas about what challenges, adventures and successes Kika might explore next…I also have a vision of writing an adult picture book on resilience so we will see!



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The Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway



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