The Princess and the Warrior: The Tale of Two Volcanoes / Duncan Tonatiuh

Christian Library Journal – 
Online: June 7, 2017

Pura Belpre (Illustrator) Honor Books
The Princess and the Warrior: The Tale of Two Volcanoes  / by Duncan Tonatiuh.
Abrams     ISBN 9781419721304
PRI     PK–Grade 3     Rating: 4

Children will love the lore that author and illustrator Duncan Tonatiuh shares in his Pura Belpré award-winning book, The Princess and the Warrior: The Tale of Two Volcanoes. The origin story of Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl, two volcanoes that overlook Mexico City, is a tragic love story.

This story begins with the Aztec princess Izta and a common warrior, Popoca. While the princess has many suitors, Popoca is the only man who understands her love for the common people. The two are supposed to be married after Popoca defeats the neighboring kingdom’s ruler. In a cruel twist of events, Izta is tricked into believing her lover is dead and drinking a sleeping potion to ease her pain. When Popoca returns, he cannot wake his princess.

Children in Mexico are still told this story today to explain why only one of these volcanoes erupts: Popocatépetl is still trying to wake his dormant lover, Iztaccíhuatl.

While the story of Izta and Popoca draws on Atzec history, Tonatiuh discusses in his author’s note that the historical events as depicted in the legend may be inaccurate. Oral tradition has influenced this story enough that Tonatiuh chose to share his own variation of the events.

Tonatiuh enhances the interest of his story by using some Nahuatl words. This language would have been the language originally spoken by the Aztec people and has influenced much Spanish today. Children can visit the glossary in the back of the book for translations and pronunciation help, or they can find context clues in the illustrations to discover the meanings for themselves. The unique and colorful illustrations were inspired by those on Mixtec codices, giving this story the feel of an authentic legend.

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The Girl From the Train / Irma Joubert

Christian Library Journal – January/February/March 2017
Online: April 19, 2017

Christy Award: Historical Finalist
The Girl From the Train / by Irma Joubert.
Thomas Nelson     ISBN 9780529102379
Adult Fic     Rating: 5

Little Gretl must never cry or tell the truth. That’s what her sister and Oma said. Gretl isn’t allowed to tell anyone that she’s a German Jew, especially not in Catholic Poland. With her entire family taken from her, Gretl’s only hope lies with a young Polish rebel named Jakob.

Jakob planted the bomb that killed most of Gretl’s family. How could he have known that an unscheduled train would take those tracks before the Germans? Jakob takes the orphan in, and he knows one thing for sure: she’s not Polish. With the rebellion going on, he has little time to think of his orphan until a serious injury sends him home. He becomes dependent on her, but his family can’t afford another mouth to feed. To give Gretl her best chance, Jakob must send her away with even more lies. Will he ever see Gretl again or will time and war take their reunion from him too?

Beginning with a girl falling off a train, readers are immediately thrown into the action. Even in the slowest moments of the novel, Irma Joubert gives energy and motion to the scenes. All her characters feel real. Each new character introduces new lessons, is chased by their pasts, and begins viewing God in new ways.

This Christy Award Historic Finalist allows readers to walk in the shoes of a curious young refugee and a guilty soldier post-WWII. Gretl and Jakob mature in their narrative and develop new perspectives throughout the story. Readers will love watching these broken humans’ stories intertwine. Experience the heartbreak of a little girl as she tries to force away all the nightmares of her past. Share in her love for language and learning as she begins to heal and embrace her identity as an Afrikaner- and Polish-speaking Jewish-Christian German.

Readers will experience a range of emotions as they delve into the many themes of The Girl from the Train: love, war, learning, deception, family, mourning, and death. This piece of historic fiction focuses on the tensions between religious groups and ethnicities, including stories of the Jewish concentration camps.

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The Five Times I Met Myself / James L. Rubart

Christian Library Journal – January/February/March 2017
Online: April 13, 2017

Christy Award: Book of the Year and Visionary 2016 Winner
The Five Times I Met Myself : a novel / by James L. Rubart.
Thomas Nelson     ISBN 9781401686116
Adult Fic     Rating: 5

Brock knows life isn’t perfect but hopes that his rut is just a phase. He’s lost the effort behind his relationship with his wife, Karissa; he holds a flame for his high school sweetheart; and he struggles for power against his brother in their father’s coffee company. After dreaming about his late father, Brock digs into his past. Brock takes control of his dreams and talks to his younger self to remember who he was. When Brock wakes, however, his conversations with his past-self changes his present. Brock sees an opportunity to rekindle the flame with his wife and reconnect with his family, but everything goes horribly wrong.

Young Brock is wary of the older man claiming to be him. But everything the man shares is true. He knows too much to not be Brock. But the more he follows Future Brock’s advice, the more Future Brock says goes wrong. How could his life, that’s going so well, suddenly change for the worst?

Journey with Brock as he relives the pivotal moments in his past and tries to create a brighter future–without destroying his life.

The Christy Awards’ Book of the Year and Visionary 2016 winner, The Five Times I Met Myself, is an addictive read. James L. Rubart’s use of sensory detail is impeccable and will weave readers into the book’s pages. While this story begins slowly, readers will be eating up this wellwritten story by the end. This story adds a new twist on Charles Dickenson’s A Christmas Carol as Brock goes back and forth between the past and the present to see how his actions shape his future.

While this book toys with the fantastic, it realistically depicts how the real struggles of marriage, kinship, crime, and separation destroy a person. It also shows how finding yourself starts with forgiveness and getting right with God.

While some may consider this book preachy, the use of biblical examples and Christian language packs a punch for this book’s message: prayer and surrendering all to God will lead Christians to God’s perfect plan–not always a perfect life

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The Great Shelby Holmes / Elizabeth Eulberg

Christian Library Journal – January/February/March 2017
Online: March 14, 2017

The Great Shelby Holmes / by Elizabeth Eulberg.
Bloomsbury    ISBN 9781681190518
MS    Grades 3-7    Rating: 4

Army brat John Watson thinks writing fiction was more exciting than his life–until he moves to Harlem and meets Shelby Holmes. After Shelby’s science experiment interrupts John’s moving day, his curiosity and desire for friendship get the better of him. After tagging along with Shelby on an errand, John realizes that his scientist neighbor is actually a junior sleuth–and no amateur at that. It seems like all of New York City knows her name!

Because of Shelby’s reputation, it’s no surprise that when Daisy (the award-winning dog) goes missing, Detective Holmes is on the case. Shelby is no people-person, and Daisy’s family’s emotions are running high before the next competition. She needs outside help to solve the case. But Shelby doesn’t have friends; she has contacts. Can Shelby find the pooch on her own before the big show? Or will she need to trust John in order to break the case?

Children of all ages will love Elizabeth Eulberg’s version of Sherlock Holmes. With a new twist on the classic story, Eulberg comedically sends these two characters to middle school. Just like Sherlock, Shelby is socially awkward and likes to work alone. John, like Dr. Watson, follows the detective out of curiosity. Their adventure leads them to the truth of friendship.

Thanks to John’s personal and journal-like tone in narrating the story, kids will get to experience the case and the peculiar Shelby Holmes up close. Kids can follow John’s thoughts and guess who was the pup-snatcher. The only problem is that Shelby is way more perceptive than John, so readers won’t get all the clues. But it’s still fun for them to guess who the culprit is based on the clues available.

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The Art of Writing: Satisfaction in the Blogosphere

The PWR Lounge: Taylor University’s Professional Writing Blog
Online: March 13,2017

I’ll admit it: I was nervous when the big assignment for my Author Platform class was creating a blog. While I’d been in the PWR major for three years, my specialty had always Light blulbbeen editing. Not writing. I’d tried a writing blog once. Little stories that came to my mind. No one seemed interested.

But, for the grade, I had to do it.

I figured I’d probably delete my blog after the class.

I scrounged around for a topic – called a friend, called my mom, called my sister – but it wasn’t until my roommate started talking about how lost she would be as an “adult” that I got my idea. I’d spent a summer on my own and would be graduating a semester before my friends. Maybe I could share my “adulting” stories online and teach teens and twenty-somethings about how to be real-world adults.

I thought, “If I could just impact one life with this blog, then it would be worth creating.”

Thus, Extraordinary Young Women was born.

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I sat down that night and brainstormed Post topics. Perhaps it was too easy. I knew that night that I would fall in love with blogging and not be able to quit. I hit 183 ideas before I stopped consciously thinking about it….

But the ideas didn’t stop there. I still have 200+ ideas in my “Brain Bin” with new ideas surfacing every day.

When I started writing, I quickly noticed blogging wasn’t like other writing styles. Posts Content Management System Cms WordPress Blog Postwere 300 to 500 words, plus media. They didn’t take hours to perfect. My posts became advice letters to my readers. I could be open and honest and be my quirky self. I could be a friend.

And friendship is what I got.

My first week I had 36 visitors – 36 people whom I could impact. Soon, people started engaging. Now, I have a fellow blogger, friend, and graduate who comments weekly on my posts. We’re doing a blog swap next week, and I’m super excited.

Writing a blog boosted my confidence as a writer. I’m not afraid to take on new assignments because I know I can write on a consistent deadline. Blogging helped me find Becca Professional Shotmy voice and discover more about my identity. My friend constantly says she loves my blog because it’s like I’m sitting there talking with her. Finally, my blog has kept me writing and doing what I love after college. It’s easy to slack off and say you write enough at work, or say you’ll get around to writing “someday.” I get to share a piece of myself weekly, and it is the most rewarding experience.

Writers (and non-writers too!), if you are debating about starting a blog, stop procrastinating and just do it. Don’t worry about Followers or Stats. Instead, care about your message and what you can share with the world.

What’s the Buzz?

Zoo News Blog, Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo – February 2, 2017

On Wednesday, January 11, the Federal Register and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service labeled the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee (Bombus affinis) as an endangered species. It is the second bee and the first bumble bee to receive this kind of protection under United States federal law.

The rusty patched bumble bee is an important pollinator down the East Coast and across Midwest, populating 13 states, including Indiana. Since the late ’90s, the native bee population has declined nearly 90% (from 926 to 103 populations) due to environment destruction, pesticides, and diseases.

Because of their large and long bodies and dense hairs, these bees are able to stay active in cool temperatures and high Appalachian altitudes. This also allows this species to be one of the first native bees active in the spring and last active in the fall. Its ability to stay active makes it a great pollinator, along with its “buzz pollination” technique. Unlike honey bees, bumble bees cling to a variety of flowers through prairies, woodlands, marshes, fields, and parks and vibrate its muscles to gather pollen. This technique makes this bumble bee, known for its pollination of wildflowers, a variety of berries, apples, alfalfa, tomatoes, peppers, and many other crops, worth over $3 billion to farmers.

Rusty patched bumble bees are one of nearly 50 bumble bee species in North America. Like many other bee species, a rusty patched bumble bee colony has a single queen, male drones, and female workers. This species has a large colony compared to other native bees. A healthy colony size would be 1,000 workers. The workers collect food, care for young, and defend the colony; drones help in reproduction. Worker and drone rusty patched bumble bees uphold their species name with black heads and red patches in the center of their abdomens.

How can you help protect this endangered species? Plant a pesticide-free garden with native flowers that bloom in the early spring and last through the fall, such as columbines, hairy sunflowers, cardinal flowers, heath asters, showy goldenrod, spiderworts, and pale beardtongues. Build a safe place for bumblebees to build nests and stay over winter.

For more information on what you can do for these bees, visit the Xerces Society (an invertebrate conservation organization) website.

*Photo taken by Johanna James-Heinz and provided by Xerces Society.

From This Moment / Elizabeth Camden

Christian Library Journal – January/February/March 2017
Online: January 30, 2017

From This Moment / by Elizabeth Camden.
Bethany House    ISBN 9780764217210
Adult     Rating: 4

Artist Stella West has given up her dream of artistic success in London to hunt for her sister’s murderer in Boston. While the police and medical examiner swear Gwendolyn’s drowning was an accident, Stella insists on foul play. She goes undercover at City Hall to look for a man that Gwendolyn wrote about in her final letters.

Seeking the help of Romulus White, co-owner of the famous magazine Scientific World, Stella risks sharing her tale. As Stella reveals the tragedy of her sister’s death, confirmed bachelor Romulus sees an opportunity to trade his public influence for her artwork. Romulus is powerful, stylish, ornery–and handsome. Could Stella’s choice of involving him get in the way of finding the true killer?

Clues that indicate a cover-up surface, but the more Romulus gets involved with the whirlwind that is Stella West, the more trouble he encounters. If he pursues her wild story, it could mean the demise of his magazine and reputation. But if he doesn’t, Gwendolyn’s killer could return to finish off her sister.

Elizabeth Camden is a skilled writer who knows how to use her setting as a character. The ideas of the first American subway, snail mail, telegrams, and train travel play major roles in the plot of this novel. Her word choices fit the era, and her point of view changes between Stella and Romulus allow readers to see two unique perspectives as these characters come together to deal with their problems.

While the main characters both have bold and distinct personalities, their character development (apart from their affections toward each other) seems minor compared to the greater character arches found in the supporting characters, notably Romulus’s cousin Evelyn and her ex-husband. Readers will see multiple characters relying on God in their greatest moments of struggle for physical salvation and redemption of broken relationships.

Readers of romance, history, and mystery will enjoy the suspense of this dramatic narrative. As the plot unfolds, readers will love becoming pseudo-detectives with Stella and Romulus as they solve this murder mystery and deduce the killer’s identity.

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A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest & A Bird, a Girl, and a Rescue / J.A. Myhre

Christian Library Journal – October/November/December 2016
Online: January 18, 2017

A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest / by J.A. Myhre.
New Leaf Press     ISBN 9781942572084
MS     Grades 3-7     Rating: 4

A Bird, a Girl, and a Rescue / by J.A. Myhre.
New Leaf Press     ISBN 9781942572695
MS     Grades 3-7     Rating: 3

A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest tells the story of Mu, an orphaned school boy who is the laughingstock of his village because his uncle makes him do “girl’s work.” On his way to do a morning chore, he meets a talking chameleon. This creature tells Mu that his quest soon will begin and he will be free. When Mu is sold by his guardians, he must rely on his animal guide to lead him away from the dangers of the forest, animals, rebels, and himself. When the chameleon whispers truth in Mu’s ear, he must relinquish his plan to find the life he’s always dreamed about.

Kiisa grew up hearing the fantastic tale of her brother’s return to their family. In A Bird, a Girl, and a Rescue, Kiisa has her own animal-guided adventure. When she is sent to boarding school at a young age, her father hides a talking bird in her suitcase. The bird flies out of her suitcase and makes Kiisa the joke of the school. Kiisa tries to blend into the crowd, but when rebels come to the compound and kidnap a classmate, Kiisa believes she must charge into danger to save the girl who bullied her. Can she set aside her animosity, survive the jungle, and make it home to her family?

J. A. Myhre’s chapter books hold wonderful folklore-like adventures. Detailed plot sketches and descriptions of the landscapes allow elementary readers’ imaginations to run wild through the African forests and plains. With natural and supernatural danger leaving cliff hangers at the end of every chapter, children will be flipping pages until the end.

Delve into African (Luwendigo) dialect, culture, and legends with these tales. Throughout these stories, readers also will see reflections of biblical stories, such as the prodigal son, Joseph’s coat of many colors, and Jesus’ sacrifice. Dark presences of violence, death, and sin weave into these stories, but the animal guides help characters and readers learn biblical and moral lessons in spite of the evil forces.

Roommate versus roommate: Roommates go head-to-head over Christmas music

Opinion, The Echo (Taylor University newspaper) – December 9, 2016

Christmas should be “The Most Wonderful Time” of year. You’re supposed to “Deck the Halls” as a family and venture out on a “Sleigh Ride” with your “Santa Baby.”

And you’re more than welcome to do that—on Christmas.

Some may call me a Grinch, but I just don’t like Christmas music. My youngest sister used to play the same classic Christmas tunes around the house from October to February every year. It wore me out. By the time Christmas rolled around, I was completely out of the holiday spirit.

My roommate adores Christmas music. Perhaps even more, she adores annoying me. I often came home from work in the middle of September to find her listening to it.

My roommate doesn’t understand. Christmas should be a sacred time, and the music should remind us of that. You should be thrust back in time to visit our Savior lying “Away in a Manger.” If you play Christmas music all year, the songs lose that magic.

I want to wake up on Christmas Eve to snow and “Mary, Did You Know?” and feel like it’s time for celebration. I want to sing Christmas carols with my cousins, play festive music while I bake gingerbread cookies, and listen to music through my reindeer earbuds while I shovel snow. I can’t imagine waking up in the middle of summer to “Silver Bells” or “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.”

Sure, I may be dreaming about a “White Christmas” like the next student, but I plan to hold in my yuletide cheer until it’s actually Christmas.

“All I Want for Christmas” this year is for people to respect the sanctity of these holiday songs. They should be played at holiday events and, at maximum, a week before Christmas. Even if we should reflect on Jesus’ life all year, Christmas needs to be a special time when our Savior’s birth is in focus. Let’s save the songs for that.

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Holy Information

Arts and Entertainment (A&E), The Echo (Taylor University newspaper) – October 27, 2016

Who has more to say about racial reconciliation than a pastor serving in an urban community? Visiting Assistant Professor of Theology Andrew Draper published his book on the subject of race in late August 2016.

“A Theology of Race and Place” begins with studies surrounding racial tension, such as the Trayvon Martin case. He also brings his personal experiences of black and white relationships into the conversation. Draper sees the radical schism in the minds of his community members.

“Within rhetoric of ethics and beauty, the racial imagination has tended to align both criminality and immorality with blackness while aligning guardianship and goodness with whiteness,” Draper says on page nine of his book.

He identifies that this thought process may be a subconscious imprint left from the days of colonial slavery, but also that we need to reconcile those racist thoughts within ourselves and the Church because the effects have been devastating.

“Since Christian self-identity in the modern world tends to function within the trope of race, skin color is the assumed index of the distance one has had to travel to be grafted into the narrative of salvation,” Draper says on page 270.

Although the introduction and conclusion provide great insight and stir awareness within any reader, this book may be difficult for the average reader to understand—unless they have a theological background. The bulk of this book is a dense, academic study of racial reconciliation. Throughout the book, Draper evaluates the claims of theologians J. Kameron Carter and Willie James Jennings along with others. The information provided explains many theories about how we should seek truth as “architects of whiteness,” brothers and sisters in Christ, created beings and more.

Draper does a phenomenal job documenting the external sources and providing extensive footnotes to clarify concepts. He also recommends more theology books focused on racial reconciliation.

In his conclusion, Draper includes his view of how racial reconciliation should play out. He says it should be like people of all races are guests in each other’s houses. Draper says on page 312, “If Christ is the New Human who inaugurates a new way of being in the world for all peoples (a new theological anthropology) how can the Incarnation be embodied in anything other than a joined life?”

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