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On the First Day of Christmas: Giving the Gift of Reading

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By Gini Rainey 

It’s that time of year again. You know, the time when we are all scratching our heads and pondering the age-old question “What should I get them for Christmas?” First of all, remember to instill the reason for the season in the members of your family, no matter what denomination or walk of faith you follow: always, always remember the purpose behind the celebration. And then, if I might interject a bit of my own sense of sensibility, try to keep the KISS method prevalent in your motivations. There’s nothing better to receive at the holiday than a good book and new jammies. This was how I was raised, and a tradition I passed on to my daughters and they have passed on to their children. So I would love to share a few book ideas for giving: 

“Gracie Lou Wants a Zoo” by Shelly Roark 

Ms. Roark approached me recently to let me know that she had written a new book and wondered if I would like to read and review it. Well, of course I would! Ms. Roark has been writing professionally for almost 30 years and is presently a senior copywriter for “Focus on the Family.” I reviewed her debut children’s picture book, “The Bubble Who Would Not POP!” recently and was delighted, not only in her awesome positivity, but also in the lovely illustrations by Simone Krüger, a German-based illustrator. 

Now the two have paired up again to tell the charming story about a little girl who wants every animal around. Unfortunately, she and her parents live in an apartment that is just about the right size for the three of them, but not so for the elephant, giraffe, and more that Gracie Lou would like to have. Follow her journey to becoming her heart’s desire of what was always intended for her. 

Rating: 5 of 5, Copyright 2019 by Little Lamb Books 

 Ah, but (you say) that’s good for the littlest of the littles, but what about my older children or grandchildren? I have to tell you that in my opinion, books that delight and expand the imagination are what I think are the best. 

A few recommended series are “The Borrowers,” The Cherry Ames Series & The Hardy Boys plus “The Dangerous Book for Boys” & “The Daring Book for Girls.”

One of my favorite series of books when I was growing up was The Borrowers and features a family of tiny people who live secretly in the walls and floors of an English house and “borrow” from the big people in order to survive. This set consists of five books and was written by British author Mary Norton in the 1950’s and yes, I know there was a mini-series based on these books, but nothing will build your child’s imagination more than mentally visualizing the tiny world of this tiny family. For me, this series is a rating of 5 of 5 and well worth the investment. 

Another series of books that had a huge impact on my world was the Cherry Ames series. Written between 1943 and 1968 and originally published by Grossett and Dunlap, this series consists of 27 books and were written by Helen Wells and Julie Campbell Tatham (who also wrote the Trixie Belden series). Starting with Cherry Ames, Student Nurse,” these books follow Cherry’s adventures and misadventures all the way from nursing school to being a jungle nurse. This set might encourage your little ones to take a look at a medical career down the road. I also must give this series a rating of 5 of 5, and if you wind up with a medical professional in your family, well…there ya go…you’re welcome! 

For the young men in your family, you just can’t beat the Hardy Boys series. Written by Franklin W. Dixon and first published in 1927, The Hardy Boys books have sold over 70 million copies and feature Frank and Joe solving mysteries that have their adult counterparts stumped. Sleuthing through 190 mysteries from 1927 to 2005, this set of books has kept the imaginations of young readers jumping to conclusions for several generation. Without a doubt, this series deserves a rating of 5 of 5 also. 

One other set of books I would highly recommend would be The Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn and Hal Igulddon and The Daring Book for Girls by Andrea Buchannon and Miriam Peskowitz. 

Described as being for every boy from eight to eighty, covering essential boyhood skills such as building tree houses, learning how to fish, finding true north, and even answering the age-old question of what the big deal with girls is, the Igulddons tell it like it is in plain and simple, yet enjoyable language even grandpa can understand. 

Not to be outdone, the girls book is the manual for everything they need to know—and that doesn’t mean sewing buttonholes! Whether it’s female heroes in history, secret note-passing skills, science projects, friendship bracelets, double dutch, cat’s cradle, the perfect cartwheel, or the eternal mystery of what boys are thinking, Peskowitz tells it all! Rated 5 of 5, these are great books for young and old alike.

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Book Review: “The Blue Cloak”

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By Gini Rainey

The Blue Cloak by Shannon McNear

Set at the turn of the 18th century in Kentucky and Tennessee, The Blue Cloak is based on the true account of the Harpe family’s killing rampage along the Wilderness Trail.  McNear who is basically a Christian writer, struggled with the concept of the re-telling of such dynamically horrible events, but came to realize that this could become a story of redemption.

When Sally, the very young daughter of a Baptist preacher, marries the younger of the Harpe boys, many people have big misgivings about her choice of men, especially Sally’s best friend, Rachel. As Sally is leaving after the wedding festivities, Rachel hands her the gift of a packet that contains a beautiful indigo-dyed, woolen cloak. This cloak becomes a symbol of friendship, trust, and love throughout the book.

With an amazing skill for character development and research, McNear’s words succeed in weaving a tale filled with desperation, angst, deception, and ultimately forgiveness and love as the three Harpes, with their three communal women in tow, create murderous mayhem along the Wilderness Trail.

Although this book is not terribly long (255 pages) it is filled with more adventure and romance than books twice its length.  Definitely a page-turner, you might find yourself unable to put it down.

5 of 5 – Copyright 2020 – Barbour Publications

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BOOK REVIEW: Sentient Beings in the Kingdom of Bhutan

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Sentient Beings in The Kingdom of Bhutan by Laurie S. Chambers

By Gini Rainey

Chambers, who has spent over fifty years traveling the world seeking to understand the complexity of being human, has written a lovely book about the peaceful kingdom of Bhutan.  Located in the Himalayan mountains, Bhutan’s people have formed a unique relationship with the animals sharing their space in this beautiful area.

While the cover might lead you to think this is a children’s book, it is filled with the complexity of human/animal relationships.  In a place where all living things matter, Chambers has managed to capture the beauty of both the sights and principles of the Bhutanese and subtly implores that we all take on these loving and caring and grateful people.

And don’t be mistaken, there are at least three levels presented in her book.  One that appeals to the seeker of truth and peace, one that encourages the young child to live a life of appreciation and love, and one that captures the eye of the seeker of visual beauty.  This is not a book to be read straight through.  Rather, it would be a wise and intelligent thing to read each page for its own merit and value and digest and internalize the message that each one has to offer.

5 of 5 – Copyright 2019 – Balboa Press

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BOOK REVIEW: Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

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By Gini Rainey

Imagine, if you will, a shack in the middle of the backwater marshes of the Atlantic Ocean in North Carolina.  The setting is as raw as the story that Owens tells about the abandonment and coming-of-age of young Kya.

Left behind by her entire family at the age of six, Kya learns more about life and survival in a short time than most people learn in a lifetime.

Ms. Owens’, no stranger to the publishing community having several books in print, paints a world full of wonder and discovery as Kya explores the beauty of nature around her as she struggles to stay alive.

Living on the edge of a community that neither helps her nor understands her, she grows into a beautiful, highly intelligent young woman with the help of a young boy who was a friend of her brothers.

Expertly building characters you will come to either love or despise, Ms. Owens laces Where the Crawdads Sing with a hint of physical abuse, romance, and murder.

Owens has created a book that has everything necessary to keep the reader turning the pages to the surprise ending.

5 of 5 – Copyright 2018 – G. P. Putnam’s Sons

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