Category: Book Review Page 1 of 2

Combat! A Teen Review by Ethan Blair

While a touch ponderous at times, Dennis Peterson’s Combat! Lessons on Spiritual Warfare from Military History gives a good overview of military history with a strong spiritual explanation of how God’s hand has shaped history. The book takes a deep look at historic battles and shows the ways that those victories (or defeats) can teach us how to better lead Christian lives. Peterson then goes on to talk about the most important parts of military strategy (open lines of communication, support troops, supply lines, etc.) and connects those ideas with maintaining a good Christian walk.

This book is for teens and adults. While those groups could probably get a lot from its messages and connect interest in the history of war with Christianity, I don’t think the language and style of writing are best fit for teenagers, and only somewhat for adults. Even though they would understand the concepts on a higher level, there is nothing in the book that restricts it to older groups.

I would recommend Combat! for boys between the ages of 8 and 13 who are interested in military history.  Parents could read it aloud to their children. The only trouble with this book is that Peterson goes a little too far with trying to make Christianity sound cool to children. It certainly is important and right to do that, but this lowers the age of the reading base. Aside from this tendency, the book is compelling and carries a good message. Overall, I would recommend this book with an 8 (on a scale of 1-10) to a younger person, and perhaps a 6 to a teenager; though the message of the book is essential to everyone.

I would also suggest this book to those with only a slight knowledge of history, especially Bible history. If you are very familiar with the history of Israel and how they conquered the land, it can feel a bit repetitive. But, if that is a new thing to you, it would deepen the intrigue and be a helpful second resource. This book would be perfect for young children who are reading through the Old Testament for the first time and could read Combat! at the same time, for a more personal look at the battles and principles behind them.

Combat! would be a great book for a young reader who treated it more like a devotion to be read each day, learning each day a new way to apply military strategy to their lives. It is clear that Peterson did a lot of research and has a deep understanding of both military and war history, and a solid understanding of the Bible. It is a good read overall and Peterson does a good job of calling to the forefront the possible weaknesses of a person’s spiritual walk, and showing how everyone could improve their relationship with God and the strength of their walk.

****

Ethan is an 18-year-old recent high school graduate, currently looking to major in physics. He enjoys kickboxing, running, and playing League of Legends. He has been a Christian his whole life and was raised in the church.

The Land Beneath Us: Book Review by Teen Blogger, Kathryn Dover

The Land Beneath Us is the third and final novel in Sarah Sundin’s Sunrise at Normandy series. I have read numerous Sarah Sundin novels and enjoyed them all; her stories are the perfect balance of romance and mystery in a well-researched historical environment. Sunrise at Normandy follows the stories of the three Paxton brothers, Wyatt in The Sea Before Us (my favorite!), Adler in The Sky Above Us, and Clay in The Land Beneath Us, who are divided after a tragic incident at home and are reunited at the Battle of Normandy in World War II.

The prologue of The Sea Before Us introduces the incident that is the basis for all three novels. Wyatt and Adler are in love with the same girl, Oralee. They have a fight which leads to Oralee’s death. Adler, who was engaged to Oralee, blames Wyatt for the argument and tries to kill him. His brother Clay stops him, and Wyatt runs for his life. Wyatt takes Clay’s life savings and joins the Navy. Clay also threatens to kill Adler, and Adler leaves and joins the Air Force. Clay, stripped of his family and money, joins the Rangers. With the prospect of death looming near, Wyatt and Adler reconnect and make efforts to reconnect the whole family, but Clay’s fate at Normandy is uncertain until this novel. Clay is the key to the family’s being reunited. But will he live long enough to make it happen?

Each brother meets a woman throughout his military career that helps him grow in his faith. During training in Tennessee, Clay meets Leah, a librarian and orphan who is searching to discover her identity (orphans endured much prejudice in the 1940’s). The story’s mystery arises when someone assaults Leah: a mysterious attacker is targeting young women. However, I found this mystery to be much less intriguing than the previous two novels. Sundin focuses more on the romance between Clay and Leah than on the mystery of Leah’s attacker.

The characters are realistic, and each has internal struggles with his faith that Christians can identify with. Also, the story contains many biblical allusions and parallels. Clay compares himself to Joseph’s being cast in a pit by his brothers. Like the elder brother in Luke 15, the parable of the prodigal son, Clay is loyal to his father and works for him, while Wyatt and Adler are the prodigal sons who squander their lives and come back to their father.

Readers can see Sarah Sundin does extensive research for her novels; they are all accurate, referencing real people, battles, ships, and elements of the home front. I enjoy the historical accuracy of her books because the characters and situations are even more real. While reading the Sunrise at Normandy series in order is not necessary, I highly recommend doing so.

I have always thought a good World War II story should end with the war’s end, and this series does. While I did not want the book to end, the ending is so complete that I felt satisfied. In addition, I have always thought a good story should span a long time, not just a few days. The Land Beneath Us encompasses two years, and by the end of the story, readers feel as if they know each character personally.

In all the novels I have read, I have rarely read anything as gripping, moving, and intriguing as these novels; I literally cannot put them down. The Land Beneath Us does not disappoint. I highly recommend this novel—and all other Sarah Sundin novels, especially The Sea Before Us—to teens and adults and promise you will not be able to put the books down!

***

Kathryn Dover lives in South Carolina with her family including her cats, Prince and Harley; dog, Lady; and two fish, Minnie, and Gilligan. She is a homeschool student and enjoys math, playing the piano, reading, and writing plays.

 

HOPE HEALS: Book Review by Teen Blogger, Kathryn Dover

My mother and I were surprised to see Katherine Wolf at a Going Beyond Live conference we attended last summer; we had never heard of her. We had gone to see Priscilla Shirer and had not expected any other speakers. At this conference, Mrs. Wolf told a short version of her story from her and her husband, Jay’s, new book, Hope Heals. Her story is astonishing. The book switches between Katherine and Jay’s perspectives; they relate flashbacks of their wedding and life until Katherine suffered a massive brain stem stroke nearly four years later. She was only twenty-six years old, had a six-month-old baby and was not expected to live.

Her husband was in law school taking his final exams and had come home to retrieve some papers when Katherine had her stroke. Katherine was taken to the third-best hospital in the country that providentially had a renowned neurosurgeon on staff. That surgeon saved her life by performing massive brain surgery most doctors would not have done. In order to save her life, the surgeon had to “sacrifice” many of her physical functions, such as her ability to swallow and to walk. Amazingly, she had just won fifty thousand dollars on a game show, and that money enabled her husband to take care of her without needing to work. In addition, he had just taken out a catastrophic life insurance policy. Her family, friends, and church rallied around her to care for her and her baby.

Her miraculous recovery was a long and overwhelming process. She was in ICU for forty days and was then transferred to an acute rehab facility at UCLA medical center. After that, she moved to a long-term rehab facility, Casa Colina. Before leaving UCLA, Jay returned to her ICU room and took a picture of it as a remembrance. They wanted to memorialize this part of her experience as a reminder of God’s grace and how far they had come.

After Casa Colina, Katherine lived in a house that was part of the facility with daily therapy. On Thanksgiving, as she sat watching her family eat and fellowship, Katherine had what she calls her “epiphany of hope.” She was despairing about not being able to partake in the festivities of her favorite holiday when she suddenly heard God speaking to her. Her stroke was not a mistake; God was in control. From that moment on, everything changed. While most of her life was out of her control, Katherine could make the decision to have hope: Hope Heals. Later during her therapy, she realized that her story could be an inspiration to others and began writing Hope Heals with her husband.

While she will never be the same, Katherine’s life is amazing. The most fascinating part is that after her recovery, Katherine was able to have another baby. It was one of her main hopes to have another child, and the fulfillment of this was a testimony of God’s providence. Katherine Wolf underwent eleven surgeries. Her circumstances are unimaginable, and clearly her faith is the only way she made it through. Hope Heals is a compelling, emotional story that leaves the reader hopeful and encouraged. Our troubles seem small in light of her devastating loss. Katherine Wolf’s incredible testimony reminds readers of God’s faithfulness and strengthens their faith. Indeed, hope is healing for anyone, and I believe every reader will be inspired by this extraordinary book.

******

Kathryn Dover lives in South Carolina with her family including her cats, Prince and Harley; dog, Lady; and two fish, Minnie, and Gilligan. She is a homeschool student and enjoys math, playing the piano, reading, and writing plays.

 

CAMP MAX – Book Review by Kathryn Dover

I enjoyed reading the delightful children’s story, Camp Max by Penny Reeve. The illustrations drew me into the book. The first page is an illustration of the main character, Tania Abbey, and several more exist throughout the book.

Camp Max goes beyond being a simple children’s story; it reveals powerful life lessons. Through Tania’s point of view, the reader observes her internal conflicts. In the story, Tania; her brother, Daniel; her friend, Emily; and Emily’s brother, Sam are planning to attend a summer camp, Camp Max. Tania and Daniel have been before and are excited to bring their new friends with them this year. In reality, bringing Emily is a solace for Tania, whose best friend, Sue, has moved away.

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hope and honesty

Barking with The Big Dogs: Hope and Honesty for Children

“It is necessary to be hopeful to write successfully for children, yes, because children themselves are generically hopeful, but the quality of hopefulness is not an immature quality.” -Natalie Babbitt ( pp 42)

Natalie Babbitt’s book Barking with the Big Dogs is a collection of her essays and speeches written over several years. In all the various topics she focuses on, from types of fantasies to critical thinking to childhood itself, there are two major themes that pop up repeatedly: hope and honesty.

Hope is woven into the very nature of children’s books. Babbitt kicks off with an essay on happy endings and explains that children’s literature contains a quality of joy adult fiction lacks. In fantasy for kids, the belief that the world can and will be better is proven true. What is a happy ending if not a proof of hope? The villain can be defeated, the ordinary child can be a hero, and the world can be saved. Hope and optimism reign in children’s literature.

Does this mean that children’s books must present utopias?

Absolutely not. Natalie Babbitt claims that when authors try to write perfect worlds, they instead create worlds that are, “patently artificial, a placebo, lacking. . . consistency with the author’s philosophy” (37). In order to escape the one-dimensional depictions of life, Babbitt explains that authors need to write with “as much honesty and skill as we can muster,” (40).

She argues that we need to write stories that have flawed characters and flawed worlds, because flaws are part of human nature. But she also writes that we need to write authentically within our worldview. If we try to write what we don’t believe, we rob our stories of depth.

Herein lies the important message for Christian authors. For Christians, a huge part of writing truthfully is writing hopefully. Hope and honesty go hand in hand for us.

Natalie Babbitt misses this connection between the two. She writes, “it seems a peculiarly contradictory thing for the Bible to say in one place that truth is liberating when in another place it puts hope on a level with faith and charity. . . For hope and truth don’t always go together” (108).

However, hope and honesty are inseparable.

As Christians, the truth we cling to is our hope. God overcomes our greatest fears with His power and promises. The hope of eternity stands in defiance to death, the promise of God’s provision quiets our daily worries, and prayer itself brings us to God’s throne when we face trials.

Babbitt views as a contradiction something she doesn’t understand. She doesn’t recognize a solid hope. Her hope seems to be simply defined as the belief in possibility. She writes, “Life is infinitely more interesting when we can believe in the possibility of something wonderful just over the next hill” (110).

For Christians, hope is so much deeper. We know that something wonderful lies over the next hill. We know that the God of the universe is sustaining His creation. The son of God came to bring us life, and He’s coming again soon. His resurrection is the promise that everything broken will be renewed. A new heaven, a new earth, and a life forever with Him. What greater hope could we ask for?

Therefore, since we have such hope, the only honest way we can write is with that same joy. Hope and honesty should define Christian fiction.

Perhaps more than any other authors, we have the ability to write happy endings authentically. We believe in the greatest happy ending the world will ever know. The ultimate defeat of evil, ordinary people chosen by God for great tasks, and the world forever saved.

As we enter Easter week, may we reflect on the incredible hope that Jesus has brought to the world. May our hope and honesty in our writing be a light in the darkness.

Book Review:

What about the book itself? Natalie Babbitt’s essay collection wasn’t what I expected. While the essays usually focus on discussions around children’s literature, they also tap into Babbitt’s philosophy on life. Her words are instructional at times, but are more personal at others. If you choose to read this book, pick it up as an opportunity to hear the perspective of a fellow author. You’ll learn far more from her words if you view it as a conversation rather than as a lesson.

Overall, I give her book 3  1/2 out of  5 stars. She makes some strong points, but there are still lulls in the book, as well as points that seem out of place or repetitive.

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