Category: Books

Review: The Beginner’s Bible All About Jesus Sticker and Activity Book

You all, I’m such a sucker for these things.

First, there was the Easter one… and then the Princess one (okay, so TWO of those). And now the All About Jesus Sticker and Activity Book (Zonderkidz). My kids just eat these up because they are fun and they love learning more about God through puzzles and coloring and drawing.

It’s no secret that we like the Beginner’s Bible around here. It’s our go-to Bible for kids 3 and under. The fact that this sticker book includes frames from that Bible, as well as the overall illustrative style makes this line of sticker books ALSO a favorite.


In this particular book, kids learn about Jesus’ life through doing the various activities. It includes one full spread page where kids can color a picture of Jesus and the children, learn about how much Jesus loved to spend time with children and also get to play a little find and seek game (can they find all twelve squirrels hidden in the picture)?

So, while kids aren’t digging into the Scriptures or anything like that, working through this book is a great way for parents and kids to have conversations.

  • Had you heard about the story where Jesus tells his disciples that he loves when the children come to hang out with him?
  • What does it mean for Jesus to say that big people need to become like children to enter God’s kingdom?
  • Do you feel loved by our church community? By our family?

All About Jesus is geared toward the preschool crowd for sure. The activities consist of a lot of coloring, basic counting, super easy mazes, and matching. It’s priced at $3.99 (actually, it’s $2.13 on Amazon right now…), making it a very affordable resource! (Did I mention it has a big ‘ol page of (reusable) STICKERS??!!!)


Thanks to Booklook Bloggers for providing a free book in exchange for an honest review. 

Review: NIV Faithgirlz Bible

As I’ve written about before, I’m on the hunt for a full-size Bible for Aly.

I didn’t become a Christian until middle school/junior high, and I was all into my teen Bibles. They helped make the Bible more interesting to me because the sidenotes and extra articles helped me to see how the Scriptures were relevant to my real life.

I’m hoping to find something like that for elementary kids too.



Review: Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World

When Ada was born, we gave her a middle name that is a bit unusual. She is only recently enjoying it.



We named her after Henri Nouwen, a man who, through his writings, has deeply influenced Jake and I’s spiritual journey. The first book we read by Nouwen was Compassion, which is about our call as Christ-followers to be compassionate (suffering with), instead of seeking to gain more power and more control over both our own lives as well as others.

Of course, it’s not enough to just talk the talk, but to also live it out in real life. In another of his books, In the Name of Jesus, he shared a little bit about how he lived out compassion when he moved from working in Ivy League schools to serving those in the L’Arche community, a community for people with intellectual disabilities. He spent the last 10 or so years of his life living and serving in this community.

It seems weird, doesn’t it? A brilliant man decides the next best thing was to live and serve those whom our society pretends doesn’t exist. How’s that for a smart career move?


Review: Called for Life- How Loving Our Neighbor Led Us into the Heart of the Ebola Epidemic

I remember when the Ebola outbreak began. I’d visit CNN daily to learn about the updates on the situation, as well as any news about Americans catching this awful, awful disease. I remember hearing about Kent Brantly, the American doctor who contracted Ebola while working in Liberia– how he was flown to the United States for treatment- and how scared some people were. I didn’t quite understand the fear at the time because I didnt really quite understand the disease. It wasn’t until we had a scare here in Madison that I understood why people might feel nervous about a person in their city having Ebola. For a few days the city awaited the test results of a person suspected to have Ebola in a nearby hospital. At the time Jake was using public transportation everyday, and we talked about what we’d do if Madison experienced an outbreak (which, in case you want to know, was to go to one of our hometowns to ride it out in the rural countryside ;)). We let out a collective sigh upon hearing the test was negative.


Perhaps my mild obsession with this worldwide event made this book, Called for Life, an I-can’t-put-this-down-even-to-eat-or-sleep kind of book. Written by Kent and Amber Brantly themselves, it’s a riveting story of how this couple ended up in Liberia, their experience while they were there, and also what battling this awful disease looked like.


Review: Keep Your Love On

Jake and I aren’t really marriage book kind of people.

It’s not because we don’t need them (I’m sure we do).

It’s not because we don’t value our relationship (it’s an incredibly important priority).

It’s mostly because we don’t find marriage books to be very… well, interesting, and also because they tend to be fairly predictable. I’ve read a couple since we’ve been married, mostly during the first year and what I’ve found is that they generally have more of a role of cheerleader than provide sizable amounts of new information.

I received an email a few weeks ago about reviewing Keep Your Love On: Connection, Communication & Boundaries by Danny Silk, leader at Bethel Church in Redding, CA. At first I was going to say no, because, well, I was reading Harry Potter, and we’ve already established how I generally feel about marriage books.

But then I said yes.

Maybe because I hadn’t read a marriage book in a while. Maybe because this book had been out for only a month and it had a crazy number of amazon reviews. As I’m writing this, it already has 493 reviews on amazon, 93% of them being five stars. This impresses me. It’s not easy to get that many amazon reviews so quickly. So I gave it a chance.


Keep Your Love On! is a book that focuses solely on keeping the relational connection between the husband and wife strong. And while each person has a indispensable role, this book focuses on what the reader can do, despite how the other person responds or doesn’t respond. Danny helps the reader understand what keeps the connection strong, and also what weakens the connection.


Every relationship has one of two goals: connection or disconnection.

In relationships, we choose to behave and speak in ways that foster connection, or in ways that distance ourselves from others. Most of the time we don’t realize what we’re choosing. Sometimes, well, a lot of times, we do what we’ve learned. How our parents treated or didn’t treat one another is a huge influence in how we’ll react towards our spouses. Danny shares some helpful stories and walks us through some important questions to help us understand how all of that plays out in our lives. One of the key points throughout this section is we can only control ourselves. How we respond to our spouse is of utmost importance in our connection.


Danny opens up this section by explaining the 3 styles of communication: passive communication, aggressive communication and passive-aggressive communication. Knowing how you communicate is the key to learning to communicate better, with a focus on keeping the connection between husband and wife strong. He then builds from there, discussing how to have an effective conversation, what the goals are, what needs to be in place for both parties to feel understood and also to “keep the love on” during all of it.

This section was full of really insightful pieces of information that I somehow didn’t ever learn or perhaps learned and then forgot. Jake and I don’t do disagreements well. We both are so hard-headed and sometimes choose the desire to be right and “win” the conversation over the common good of the relationship. Some of you are laughing. Big shocker, I know ;).

One concrete thing I’m taking from this section is being applied to all my relationships, including my kids. Say what you need. And ask others what they need. My kids are totally passive, which probably reflects my passiveness at times. I would rather hint at what I need “Wow, I’m tired.” instead of “Jake, do you mind if I take the next 30 minutes off to read in a quiet place?”. Or, one of the kids will say, “I guess I’m just going to have to walk around like this all day (with her pajama dress stuck on top of her head).” and I’ve been a broken record saying, “Can you please tell me what you need?” instead of just helping her take it off. It sounds little, but I think it’s important to realize that I can’t read their minds, and that they can’t read mine, so it’s better for all of us if we’re explicit with our needs. I feel like this would probably solve half of the world’s problems. 🙂


Finally, Danny finishes up with a section on boundaries- basically choosing who you share what level of intimate information with as well as with who you spend how much time.

Overall, good book! Easy read, not too fast, no fluff. My only dislike about the book is the underlying goal of the reader to become a “powerful person” by choosing to be and do various things throughout the book.  I think he is using it in a “powerful in self-control” way, but the whole power metaphor sits wrong with me.

Anyway, If anything else, this title is a fantastic one to throw out there when you and your spouse are in a little tiff. Just look at them, smile warmly and say, “Hey baby, let’s keep our love on.” 🙂

Review: To The Sea {Graham Blanchard board book}

Graham Blanchard is a publishing company that focuses solely on the spiritual formation of kids. Over the past couple years, they’ve put out a whole slew of books surrounding the ideas of learning about God, forming their identity (absorbing the truth of who God says they are) and praising God.


Callie Grant, founder of Graham Blanchard, has written a new book for the Praise Collection called To The Sea. A small boy takes a day trip to the beach, where he experiences all the wonders of the ocean- mighty waves, fizzling sea foam, salty water, and the fresh breeze. He also experiences the effects of the sea– his sand castle gets washed away- but he rebuilds it on higher, sturdier ground. Perfect for summer and perfect for infants-preschoolers, this book is written in rhyme and the illustrations (done in oil paintings) are EXCELLENT.

ToTheSea_SpreadOne ToTheSea_SpreadThree

To learn more about this book or to download the parent guide that goes with it. visit Graham Blanchard’s website. Also on the website, feel free to poke around, check out the prayer wall and sign up for their newsletter and receive A Parent’s Guide for Children Growing Up in God.

If you’re interested, you can read my reviews on some of their other books:


Review: Princess Joy: Sticker and Activity Book

A couple weeks ago I reviewed another sticker and activity book in this series (Princess Charity). I decided to review another one for a couple reasons:

1. The girls both wanted a book and because they are pretty thin, they aren’t the easiest book to share.

2. I wanted to see if they were so similar that if you had one, would it be worth getting another?


So, Princess Joy Sticker and Activity Book (The Princess Parables) came in the mail yesterday, and in it we’re told about a Princess named Joy. The book is birthday themed: Joy invites the reader to help her decorate her birthday party invitation, her family decides to throw her a birthday party, and at the end, Joy decides that instead of getting gifts on her birthday, she’s going to give gifts to others. I don’t think I picked up on it last time, but apparently Joy and her sisters are a one parent family (her mom isn’t in the picture).

example page

The book includes many of the same activities as the other I reviewed: a small maze, some coloring and sticker pages, finding the difference between 2 pictures, and a word search. It also includes a “breaking the code” page and a counting page. I’d still say that this book is more for late preschool or early Kindergarten.


If your child liked the Princess Charity sticker book, I think that this is different enough that she would enjoy this one too. I appreciated the simple message on generosity- it’s one of our family values!



Review: Searching for Sunday

I’ve been reading Rachel’s blog from the early days. I mean, probably not the EARLY early days, but as soon as her first book came out, I was subscribing. I mostly started subscribing because I was then friends with a guy who was friends with her in college, and he insisted on how great she was. Okay, I’m in.

I think her blog’s content has really evolved from when I first began reading. The topics got a bit weightier, she became more vocal in what she was for and what she was against. I know from personal conversations that some of you really enjoy her blog, and others of you really don’t. I think that’s fair. Either way. This book.


Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church interweaves Rachel’s navigation of church life through the lens of the sacraments: baptism, confession, holy orders, communion, confirmation, anointing of the sick, and marriage. In some ways I felt like I was reading two separate books: one about her relationship with the local church and one about the relationship of the local church and the sacraments.

Rachel shares her story of how her relationship to the body of Christ changed as she went through a faith shift. What was once fantastic now annoyed her. What was once secure now unsettled her. Growing up in a fundamentalist church, Rachel began to push back, ask questions, and eventually realized that the faith of her childhood was no longer the faith that she could own anymore.

I thought this passage was hilarious, because THIS IS MY MIND. I’ve been getting a lot better about trying to tame it, but it will rear it’s ugly head if I let it:

On Sunday mornings, my doubt came to church like a third member of the family, toddling along behind me with clenched fists and disheveled hair, throwing wild tantrums after each offhanded political joke or casual reference to hell…

‘America is a Christian nation,’ said the man making the announcements.

Is it?

‘Those who do not know Christ will be separated from God for eternity in hill,’ said Pastor Doug.

Will they?

‘If the Bible is the inspired Word of God then we must accept this as historic fact.’

Must we?

‘God has called us to pave the parking lot.’

Has he?


She also shares about how she’s grown. How her faith has become deeper, richer, and also more speckled with doubt.

This book is more than a memoir. It’s also a book about the Sacraments, and how these elements of our faith calls us to a deep, rich, holy relationship with Christ. I learned quite a bit in these pages.

I’ve read (and liked) all of Rachel’s books, and this is by far the most maturely written, both as a Christ-follower and as a writer. She shows her deep appreciation for the church that raised her and introduced her to Jesus. She also shows a deep appreciation for the variety of local churches who are doing things differently, experimenting with different ways of connecting with God in a way that makes sense to them. It’s a unifying type of book.

I think Rachel has an important perspective for all of us to listen to, whether we agree with it or not.


Thanks to Booklook Bloggers for the free book in exchange for an honest review! 

Cookbook Review: Cookie Love

Cookies are my absolute favorite thing to bake.

I can’t remember what age I began baking, but it was pretty early in life. My dad loves cookies, and I love my dad, so I would bake him cookies often enough to keep the cookie jar full. I started out by following recipes, and little by little, I would exchange this ingredient for that, and add a little bit of this to see what happened.

While I love making the classic cookies, I also enjoy cookies that are interesting, mostly ones that have an atypical combination of ordinary ingredients. Especially if they involve chocolate.


Cookie Love by Mindy Segal is a cookbook all about cookies- drop cookies, shortbreads, sandwich cookies, egg white cookies, twice-baked cookies, bars- they are all in there! Not only does she include recipes, but she gives away some of her tricks, hints, and tool recommendations to producing perfectly delicious cookies.


All of the cookies she makes in this book are gorgeous and interesting. Lemon Goat-Butter Tea Cakes, Graham Cracker and Passion Fruit Whoopie Cookies, and Smokey Bacon Candy Bar Cookies (oh yes, she went there!) are just a few of the cookies that I thought looked delicious!

Being a more common-ingredient kind of girl, I found that most of the recipes included items that I hadn’t really heard of (muscovado sugar, bacon-chocolate candy bars, passion fruit puree, valrhona dulcey, smoked sugar), so I must admit that, while all of these cookies sound AMAZING, they aren’t really ones I’m interested in making at this point in my life. I have little desire to spend my days dragging 2 little ones around from store to store looking for mystery ingredients. 🙂

But, if you’re up for something new, love to bake, and have some time to explore the underworld of speciality grocery stores, then this is a fantastic cookbook for you!

Thanks to Blogging for Books for this complimentary cookbook in exchange for my honest review! 


Review: Princess Charity (The Princess Parables Series)

Remember that one time when I said I like to review books for girls that aren’t about princesses.

Well, sometimes I like to review books that ARE about princesses, especially when they involve stickers. Isn’t it amazing how fun stickers are to kids?

princess charity

Zonderkidz has a new series of 5 activity books called the Princess Parables (aimed at 4-8 year olds). It’s about a family of five princesses, the youngest of whom is highlighted in Princess Charity Sticker and Activity Book. Princess Charity loves animals, especially her horse Daisy.


Mostly, this book is about the activities, not a real story, which the girls were totally fine with. I think they don’t have the expectation of a story when the do activity and sticker books. The book includes:

  • Stickers: 50 reusable stickers are included, and you can put them anywhere you like in the scenes of the book. The stickers are quality!
  • Coloring: there are a few pages to color, one of them is color by number and the others are not.
  • Puzzles: It includes one easy dot-to-dot, one easy word search, and one easy maze. I’d say these are late preschool/Kindergarten appropriate level puzzles.


As for the Christian aspect to the book, there are 2 mentions of God. One page talks about how God makes beautiful things in their kingdom, and then another page shares how the reader is a princess too because she is a daughter of The King.

If your daughter is into activity books, this would be one I’m sure she’d love :).

Thanks to BookLook Bloggers for the free book in exchange for an honest review!