Monday, April 24, 2017

Alabaster by Chris Aslan

Alabaster  -     By: Chris Aslan

Have you ever wondered about the background of sisters Mary and Martha?  What events and struggles may have shaped their personalities?  Chris Aslan has created a fascinating back story for these sisters (Marta and Mariam in his retelling) and their brother, Eliazar. Alabaster immerses the reader in the life, culture and some of the struggles of women in Bible times.

In Aslan's book, sisters Marta and Mariam have grown up without their mother, having only the woven rugs she created to remember her by. Managing the household included weaving and selling rugs as well as taking care of the family's olive grove. Until the fateful day when their father must choose between compassion and self-preservation. The decision he makes alters the course of their future.

Meanwhile, their brother Eliazar does little to offer any practical help. Immersed in his studies and all too quick to point out his sister's failures to uphold every last part of the law, a wedge begins to grow between the family. Eliazar is soon drawn away from home leaving his sisters without male protection.  As a result, Mariam falls prey to the unwanted advances of a young man in her community.

The despair, poverty and lack of options for young women of the time is truly heart-breaking. In the midst of their struggles, the sisters meet the gentle, wise and loving teacher, Jesus.  A man so unlike any other they have met. Marta and Mariam learn about a heavenly Father's love for them and that changes everything.

Alabaster offers a fresh perspective on the ministry of Jesus and his impact on those around him, I highly recommend this deeply moving book!  As a word of caution, I would suggest an adult audience due to references to marital relations, domestic abuse, and violent forms of punishment for law breakers (accurate for the time period, but disturbing nonetheless).

Disclaimer: I received a copy of Alabaster from Kregel Publications for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Circle C Stepping Stones Series by Susan K. Marlow

Susan K. Marlow has created another link her chain of adventure novels featuring Andrea Carter. Many children's books feature a widower raising kids on his own. Circle C is the opposite, with Andi's mother managing their ranch with the help of her sons. Mrs. Carter is a great example of an intelligent, hard working and successful woman who has raised hard working
and competent young people. Mrs. Carter is also a caring mother who runs her business and her family on Biblical principles.

The Stepping Stones books I had the opportunity to review are geared for 7-10 year old readers. In the first book, Andi Saddles Up, the book opens on Andi's 9th birthday. Andi (as she typically goes by), has been dying to take her horse Taffy out on her own. With three older brothers "watching out for her" she feels as though she has no freedom. She's hoping that being 9 will usher in more independence!  Andi soon learns that she still needs her family to help her get out of a scrape or two.

In the second book, Andi Under the Big Top, the circus comes to town and Andi is fascinated with the animals, the exciting posters and all the interesting sights. She quickly learns, however, that all that glitter is not gold!  Readers will enjoy the excitement of the big top and being a part of Andi's adventures.

What I love about the Andi books is that readers will identify with her thoughts and feelings and while she often makes mistakes, her family helps  guide her through each misstep. The books are a wonderful glimpse at how a Christian family faces challenges through prayer and Biblical wisdom.

Marlow has a fabulous website devoted to the series. You can read a sample of the books, find coloring pages and activity pages. If you want to go further into historical depth, you can also purchase an accompanying lapbook. Honestly it's one of the best book sites I've come across.  The series can grow with your child with books at a variety of reading levels. Check out all the books in the series at Circle C Adventures.

Watch for books 3 & 4 coming out November 2017 and books 5 & 6 coming out July 2018!

Disclaimer: I received copies of Andi Saddles Up and Andi Under the Big Top from Kregel Publications for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received.