Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Chop, Chop

Title:  Chop, Chop
Author:  L. N. Cronk
Approximate reading level:  Junior High

Summary:  David and Laci have known each other since pre-school.  When Laci gets her hair cut short to donate it, young David is not happy.  They grow up going to the same church and the same school.  However, as they enter junior high, they're friends--not very close, but not enemies, even though David still doesn't like Laci's grow-it-out-to-cut-it-and-donate-it hairstyle. When Greg moves to town, they both develop a friendship with him, and grow closer to each other as well.  The three grow closer to God as well, through trips and activities with the youth groups led by Greg's parents.  But shortly before Christmas their senior year, tragedy strikes.  His experience with death causes David to sink into an emotional numbness.  What will it take for David to let go of the hurt and open his heart to anyone again?

Review:  This book has a Christian background.  All of the main characters (including the narrator, David) attend church, and there is a lot of discussions about God.  However, being a Christian does not mean having a perfect life, and that fact comes through in Cronk's writing.  Dealing with the violent death of his friend is a struggle for David, and it may also be difficult for some readers.  Even in his numbness, however, David is sometimes still able to recognize that God is helping him through the prayers of others. 
This book does contain some objectionable elements--namely, a school shooting in which a student and teacher are killed.  However, the event is not described in detail, as the narrator does not witness the event. 

I loved reading this book!  I found it through an e-mail I've signed up for that lets me know about free and discounted e-books.  Even with low finances, I can afford a free book!  (By the way, the Kindle edition is still free on Amazon.)  I didn't realize it was the first in a series until I finished and saw the next book mentioned at the end.  As soon as I can, I plan on reading the rest of the series.
*****Five stars

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Chronicles of Narnia: The Last Battle

There's been a few family crises recently that have kept me from posting, but here's the last review of the Chronicles of Narnia series.  I hope to post more regularly, but my family is keeping me busy. :)

Title:  The Last Battle
Series:  The Chronicles of Narnia
Author:  C. S. Lewis
Approximate reading level:

Summary:  There is trouble in Narnia, and Aslan is supposedly behind it. But would Aslan really command the magical, living trees to be cut down and sold, killing the dryads and other tree spirits? Would he really sell the talking beasts, dwarfs and others into slavery? But who would dare to do such a thing without Aslan's approval? The king is confused and calls for help from the “kings and queens of the past” to help deliver them. Narnia has survived many attacks, but it may have now brought about its own destruction.

As evidenced by the title, this is the final book in the Narnia series.  It is somewhat emotional, as those who truly love Narnia fight against those who only want what will benefit them the most.  Aslan rescues those who truly fight for the good, while allowing others to have what they want--even if it's not what is best for them.  This can be a good example of how we can sometimes want things that can be harmful to us.  Battle scenes may be disturbing for some readers, but they are necessary to the plot. 
Enjoy all seven books in the Chronicles of Narnia series.  **** 4 stars

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair

Title:  The Silver Chair
Author:  C. S. Lewis
Series:  Chronicles of Narnia
Approximate reading level:  9th grade

The story begins at Eustace's school, where he finds a schoolmate named Jill crying because of the bullying of other schoolmates. He begins telling her about Narnia, when they hear the bullies returning. They run towards a door in the wall around the school, hoping to find it unlocked so they can escape the bullies. Instead, they find their way into Narnia, where they meet Aslan, talking owls, Marshwiggles, giants, and more. Aslan sends them on a quest to rescue Prince Rilian, giving them four signs to guide them along their way. They explore more new areas of Narnia and meet more Narnians that previous explorers from other books never knew about. The success of the quest depends on Jill's remembering the signs given by Aslan at the beginning of the quest, which she does as long as she follows his instructions.

A magical enchantment and the threat of the main characters being eaten by giants may be disturbing. The importance of following instructions is seen when Jill forgets Aslan's signs because she does not follow his instructions to remember them. An evil witch also turns into a snake—the same snake which killed the queen earlier in the story. This is another great story in the Narnia series containing examples of bravery and forgiveness. Another great read for older children and adults and a great listen for younger children.
****4 stars

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Title:  Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Series:  Chronicles of Narnia
Author:  C. S. Lewis
Approximate reading level:  7th grade

Lucy and Edmund are again called to Narnia, this time with their cousin Eustace rather than Peter and Susan. They enter through a picture into the ocean and are pulled aboard King Caspian's best ship, the Dawn Treader. King Caspian and his shipmates are traveling east from Narnia, seeking the seven lords who were lost when sent exploring under King Miraz's reign. Some of the seven lords have died, and some have been enchanted. As always when in Narnia, the children have many adventures and meet many new and wondrous creatures. Before the children reach the end of the world and return to England, Eustace is profoundly changed by his part in the adventures.

There are fewer battle scenes in this book than in the other Chronicles of Narnia, but there are still some scenes that may worry some children. Eustace's hard-learned lesson about his bad attitude may be quite helpful for some children. Like the other books in the Narnia series, I think this book is good to read to young children who are unable to read it alone as well as for older children (or adults) to read on their own.
**** 4 stars

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Title:  Prince Caspian
Author:  C. S. Lewis
Series: The Chronicles of Narnia
Approximate reading level:  8th grade

Summary:  Caspian is the next in line to become king of Narnia--that is, until his uncle Miraz takes over.  So, when Miraz has a son, Caspian's life is in danger.  He flees, and eventually calls the High King Peter, and his brother and sisters King Edmund and Queens Susan and Lucy by magic back to help him regain his rightful place and to bring Narnia back to its former glory with talking beasts and living trees.  Although ages have passed in Narnia since they were last here, it's been only one year for the children in England.  But magic is magic, after all, and it doesn't take long for them to regain their royal abilities they learned earlier in Narnia. 

Review:  Some children may be disturbed or frightened by the account of Caspian's life being in danger at the hand of his own family.  As in other Narnian stories, there are battle scenes--however, they are not described in gruesome detail, again, like in the other books.  The book can be appropriate for older children to read on their own, or to be read to younger children. 
**** Four stars

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Chronicles of Narnia: The Horse and His Boy

Title:  The Horse and His Boy
Series:  The Chronicles of Narnia
Author:  C. S. Lewis
Approximate reading level:  8th grade

Summary:  Shasta overhears a conversation when he learns that the man he lives with is not his father and is willing to sell him to another man.  While wondering out loud what kind of man his new owner is, he finds a talking Narnian horse named Bree.  They decide to help each other escape a cruel master and begin a series of adventures that crosses multiple countries and the desert and brings them to meet many people, from royalty to a hermit.  Come along with Shasta and Bree and save a country, learn from Aslan, and find out Shasta's true identity.

Review:  More battle scenes may make this story intense for some children.  Also, although there are some important lessons learned--humility and concern for others among others--some are learned the hard way.  For example, Avaris (whom Shasta meets on his travels) suffers injuries equal to the ones she caused to be inflicted on a servant when she escaped.  Characters discuss the possibility of ghouls in the Tombs nearby one of the cities they must travel through, where they decide to meet if separated. 
I think the questionable elements are handled well and that this is another good book to read.  I think the Narnia series is also a great series to read to children younger than the approximate reading level--as long as the reader is sure the child(ren) can handle such items as the battle scenes and mention of ghouls.
**** four stars

Monday, February 25, 2013

Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe

I think this is the third time I've read The Chronicles of Narnia and I still can't put it down.  But finding the time to read (mostly in the car) is easier than finding the time to write.

Title:  The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe
Series:  The Chronicles of Narnia
Author: C. S. Lewis
Approximate Reading Level:  7th grade

Summary:  "Always winter and never Christmas."  This is the curse that Narnia is under when the children get there.  Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy are sent away during the war for their safety, away from the air raids that often happened in major cities.  While there, Lucy discovers a way to Narnia, although it isn't there all the time.  At first, the others don't believe, but when they travel to Narnia too, they have no choice.  While there, they help Aslan (the lion in the title) rescue Narnia from the White Witch.  They have many adventures and many trials, including a traitor among them.  How can they defeat the witch's magic and reclaim Narnia?  Will they ever be able to return to England?  You'll have to read to find out.

Review:  I love the way the Narnia series reads.  Lewis tells the story as though you're sitting next to him listening, rather than reading decades later.
Fantasy elements in the story include talking animals, a magical portal between worlds, and mythical creatures.  Battle scenes may be intense for some children.  A traitor is judged, but forgiven; and good triumphs over evil in the end.
****4 stars