Posts Tagged ‘Christian Perspective’

First of all, unlike the Amulet series, it’s important to note that this book isn’t written by Kazu Kibuishi. He is the editor, not the author (although one of the stories is his). Explorer follows the style of his Flight graphic novel project, which is a collection of short stories written by different authors.

Story overview:
With box as the theme, seven different stories are compiled into this one book. The first (Under the Floorboards, by Emily Carroll) is about a young girl who finds a clay doll in a box that comes to life. The second (Spring Cleaning, by Dave Roman & Raina Telgemeier) is about a mysterious cube found in a boy’s closet that is apparently coveted by every wizard. The third (The Keeper’s Treasure, by Jason Caffoe) is about a young explorer who seeks for lost treasure.

Then we have The Butter Theif, by Rad Sechrist, which tells the tale of a spirit that tries to capture the thusela–otherwise known as butter–from the house of a young girl. Next is The Soldier’s Daughter (by Stuart Livingston with Stephanie Ramirez): after her father dies, Clara goes after the evil Captain Vaal to exact revenge.

The sixth story, Watzit (by Johane Matte with Saymone Phanekham) is about a young alien who sorts a group of boxes containing a complete solar system, but in the process he is ambushed by a dark and troublesome creature. The final story is by Kibuishi (The Escape Option), where a young man is abducted by an alien who says the earth will end someday. He is offered the chance to leave and live on the alien’s home planet or to stay and wait for the destruction of the world.

My thoughts:  
I thought this was much better than Flight. The stories were less works of art and more focused on the tales themselves. The drawings were more cartoonish as well, which better fits the style of the Amulet. I wouldn’t call this a must read for Amulet fans, but it’s a lot closer to it than the Flight books are, and well worth a look.

Things to consider:
This collection is a lot more age appropriate than Flight. No sexual situations, extreme violence, or foul language. I’d recommend it for preteens and older. For those sensitive to references of evolution, in Kibuishi’s story, there is mention of the earth being billions of years old, but otherwise, I didn’t see anything questionable.

Opportunities for discussion:
It’s hard to come up with a single point, as each story is very different. But since the theme here is boxes, one can easily relate them to secrets. Boxes can be used for many things, such as transportation and storage, but they can also be used to hide things. Ask your youth if they have ever hidden something in a box, and if so, what. Better yet, tell them if you have ever hidden anything before you ask them (be honest). Share the difference between hiding good things and bad things. Good things like praying to the father in secret (Matthew 6:6) or giving to the needy without recognition (Matthew 6:3-4). Or bad things like hiding sins and lying to cover them up (Proverbs 12:22). God sees everything done in secret, as Ecclesiastes 12:14 (NIV) says, “For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”

On a trip to Chicago, Kingsley took a set of mythology books with her. The stories she read from Jason and the Golden Fleece to The Trolls of Norway were so vivid and beautiful that they inspired her. On New Year’s Day of 2004, she sat down to collect her thoughts of what became Erec Rex. As she plotted the series, bits of mythology wove their way into her ideas, and, on April 7, 2009, the first book was published.

Story overview:
Twelve-year-old Erec Rex lives as one of several adopted children–moving from one place to the next–supported by a woman (who he calls his mother) with little income. His biggest problem is a strange voice that makes him do odd things. Thankfully, so far, the things have all been good.

Shortly after the story begins, the voice sends him out to seek for his mother, who had been missing since the morning. After meeting a strange girl, Bethany, he is lead down a mysterious stairway and into a magical world.

Coming across unusual characters, Erec is directed to a meeting place where a large group of children are preparing to complete in a set of games. The games are being held to determine who will replace the current rulers of Alypium, Ashona, and Aorth. As Erec searches for his mother, he finds himself caught up in the events of this magical world.

My thoughts:
I absolutely loved this book. I know it’s dreadful to say, but I liked it better than Harry Potter. There were a few things borrowed from the Potter world, such as the games (particularly the one which requires an underwater goal), but as many experts say, imitation produces great results. Then again, since the author heavily researched mythology before writing this tale, there’s a good chance she didn’t borrow from Potter at all. Regardless, I highly recommend this story. So far, it’s my best read of the year.

Things to consider:
No sexual or romantic scenes. No foul language that I remember. The action violence is fitting and non-gory. For those who are sensitive to chiromancy, there is an old woman who reads the protagonist’s palm. Personally, I found nothing offensive–it’s a wonderfully creative world. Great for ages 12 and up.

Opportunities for discussion:
It’s easy to doubt the ones you love when it appears as if they have been misleading you. But sometimes trusting family is more important than knowing all the facts–Erec learned this lesson when his mother was held captive. On the flip side, sometimes parents need to be more open with their children. Ask your youth if they ever felt like Erec, not knowing certain truths about their lives. If so, ask them what they’d like to know, and then make a decision to share if that’s the right thing to do.

On the long list of British children’s authors is Jenny Nimmo. In 1986, she began The Magician Trilogy, which was completed in 1989. From there she wrote several miscellaneous works before starting The Children of the Red King. This series went on for eight books, beginning in 2002 and ending in 2009, with an extension written in 2011 called The Secret Kingdom.

Story overview:
10-year-old Charlie lives in a house with his mother, two grandmothers, and uncle. His father supposedly died in a car accident when Charlie was still an infant. With his father’s side of the family known for their dark and shady ways, Charlie prefers to be more like his mother.

In fact, Charlie is content with being an average boy. He wants nothing to do with his crazy aunts or their power. But when a magical ability surfaces from within him, he can no longer stay in the background. The label, endowed, is bestowed upon him as his tyrannical grandmother, Grizelda Bone, forces him to attend Bloor’s Academy—a school for the gifted. But not before Charlie learns of a missing baby, now a girl his own age. With determination, Charlie makes it his mission to find her.

At the school, he meets kids who wish to help his cause, while others go out of their way to create obstacles to interrupt his mission. Yet help from unexpected places aids him and his friends as they seek to save the lost girl.

My thoughts:
There are some books where it takes me a few chapters to get interested. Midnight for Charlie Bone wasn’t one of them; I was hooked after the first few pages. The characters are dynamic and believable, the plot development is flawless, and the story itself was an enjoyable read. It’s written in a mixture of third-person omniscient and limited. Where the author does switch character heads during a scene, it happened so smoothly that I didn’t find it jarring like so many other books I’ve read. I look forward to continuing this series down the road, and recommend it [so far] as a great read.

Things to consider:
I found nothing questionable in this story. No foul language or sexual scenes. There are a few violent situations, but not many and nothing I’d consider inappropriate for this age group—9 and up. Good for both boys and girls, but perhaps a little more geared toward boys.

Opportunities for discussion:
Charlie’s uncle, Paton, is a man who kept his head down. In a family with dominating—and wicked—women, all he wanted was to be left alone. It wasn’t until Charlie drew Paton out of his small world that his eyes began to open. And once they were, he finally made a decision to step into action. Ask your children if there was ever a time where a friend or someone they cared about was being mistreated. Find out what they did or didn’t do about it and how it made them feel. There are times when it’s best to leave things alone, but there are other times when one must make a stand against a wrong. Share Paton’s story with them, and remind your children that ignoring problems may seem like a good solution, but in the bigger picture, doing so will only makes matters worse.

Story overview:
After defeating the gaichuu, Lag gets a glimpse of Hunt’s and Sarah’s old memories. Apparently they came across the real “man who could not become spirit,” who had happened to meet up with Gauche during a fight. This man represents the anti-government organization, Reverse, and he wants Gauche to join them.

Having falsely taken this man’s identity, Hunt and Sarah see the horrible results of their crimes. Yet, because of them, Lag was able to get another hint as to the location of his dear friend.

To Lag’s great surprise, his current letter delivery leads him to the source of his quest. Yet what he finds puts him into a deep state of despair.

My thoughts
Because of the time gap between reading volumes 4 and 5, I was a little confused as to what was happening when jumping back in, but after several pages it came back to me. I was pleasantly surprised at the advancement of the plot in this volume–so unlike the filler episodes of the anime. After reading this I’ve determined that I’m pretty much done with the anime; the manga is way better (since it moves forward so much faster). I even thought this volume was better than the last two, and nearly as good as the first.

Things to consider:
I found nothing questionable or unfitting for preteens and older. Good for both girls and boys.

Opportunities for discussion:
When Niche fails to protect Lag, she struggles with feelings of inadequacy. She even goes so far as to run away. Lag, on the other hand, doesn’t care about her failure. He only wants her to come back, and so he searches far and wide to find her, his dear companion. I think so often that we don’t feel we are good enough for God’s love. In one sense, we aren’t, but ultimately God has extended his forgiveness to us anyway, and, like Lag, acts as a Shepherd, searching to bring back His lost sheep.

Past reviews in this series:
1) Tegami Bachi (Volume 1)
2) Tegami Bachi (Volume 2)
3) Tegami Bachi (Volume 3)
4) Tegami Bachi (Volume 4)

Story overview:
After becoming an official Letter Bee, Lag Seeing learns that Gauche Suede has disappeared. Since Gauche was the reason that Lag sought to become a Bee, this news devastates him.

Remembering images from Gauche’s heart, Lag seeks out Gauche’s sister, Sylvette. Being the same age as Lag–after a rough start–the two of them form a bond with one main goal: to find out what happened to Gauche.

In the meantime, Lag leans the ropes of being a Letter Bee while helping Sylvette to pay rent by becoming her roommate. In the process, Lag learns more about Aria (the woman who Gauche was supposedly in love with) and how Gauche lost a part of his heart during the “day of the flicker,” where his mother was taken from his memory.

My thoughts:     
After reading Volume 2, I was a little worried that the story would become overly cheesy, but, even though Lag is often seen as a crybaby, it has become apparent that he has a good heart. I continue to enjoy this series and hope others will give it a try.

Things to consider:
Rated for teens, I see very little that’s inappropriate for that audience. Even the violent scenes are without gore. I would recommend this for boys and girls in their preteens and older.

Opportunities for discussion:
In the “Special Chapter: A Bee and His Dingo” we learn that even in death close bonds cannot be broken. Discuss what it means to develop a close bond and why such things are important.

Past reviews in this series:
1) Tegami Bachi (Volume 1)
2) Tegami Bachi (Volume 2)

In book one, Into the Wild, a house cat finds adventure when he enters the woods. Joining ThunderClan, he (Firepaw) finds it difficult to make friends, including with Tigerclaw, the #2 in command. However, Bluestar (the head of the clan) takes him in under her wing. It isn’t until Firepaw proves himself that he finds more acceptance, yet Tigerclaw still isn’t one of them. Firepaw learns that the vicious warrior murdered Redtail (another ThunderClan warrior) and is waiting for the right time, and cat, to share this news with.

Story overview:
Having been promoted to a warrior, Firepaw takes on the responsibilities of his new name, Fireheart. Keeping one eye on Tigerclaw, he begins to question the validity of the claim against the warrior. In the meantime, Fireheart is given charge over his own apprentice.

Longing for his old life, Fireheart sneaks back to his old neighborhood. In doing so, he comes across a familiar cat. After sneaking back for countless visits, he begins to question his new lifestyle in the clan.

When his best friend, Graystripe, becomes infatuated with a female cat from another clan, Fireheart wonders about his friend’s loyalty. Yet this problem only escalates when RiverClan teams up with ShadowClan in order to take out the weakened WindClan. Conflicted between his friend, old life, duty as a warrior, and suspicions over Tigerclaw, Fireheart battles to live up to his name and protect that which is most important to him.

My thoughts:
Like the last book, this one was easy to read and pulled me into the pages. I enjoyed continuing along with the characters and experiencing the situations they were put into. My biggest complaint was the ending, which didn’t feel like an ending at all–it left too much unexplained. Of course, that was done on purpose–so the reader would be suckered into getting the next book in the series. Well, it worked. I will be obtaining a copy in the near future and write a review of it here once I have completed the reading.

Things to consider:
There is a ferocity that accompanies this tale as would be appropriate for a nature show. I can see this being disturbing for younger children. No sexual situations or foul language. I would age appropriate this to preteens and older. Also enjoyable for adults who like fantasy stories such as Redwall.

Opportunities for discussion:
Loyalty. That is one of the biggest themes I recognized in this tale. We all know that loyalty is a good trait, yet sometimes, in life, we struggle to know what exactly it is we should be loyal to. This is a part of the growing process as we learn who we really are. Ask your children what they devote themselves to the most, and then share with them this verse: Proverbs 21:21 (ESV), “Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness, and honor.” If their loyalty doesn’t follow along this path, perhaps it’s time to do a little redirecting.

Past reviews in this series:

1) Into the Wild (Warriors, Book 1)

After having read the first three books in The Bartimaeus Trilogy, I just had to check out this recent prequel. I remember reading references to Solomon in the first three books, where Bartimaeus often boasted of his time during Solomon’s reign. Now we get to learn why.

Story overview:
As a slave in Jerusalem (950 BC), Bartimaeus is forced to search for relics for King Solomon. His master is a careless wizard who learns a hard lesson when falling for one of the djinni’s tricks. As punishment, Bartimaeus finds himself under the rule of a more terrible wizard named Khaba.

Forced into a dangerous mission, Bartimaeus comes across a girl named Asmira who was sent by the Queen of Sheba to assassinate Solomon. It wasn’t until later that Bartimaeus learned of the girls mission, but by then it was too late—he was already under her spell.

Being more skillful than the average djinni, Bartimaeus works to bring his new master to her goal. When things begin to unfold, the assassin learns there is more to the story of her mission than originally thought. Including the true powers of the ring (worn by Solomon) and the true colors of the evil wizard, Khaba.

My thoughts:
The Ring of Solomon contains much of the same whit and character twists that The Bartimaeus Trilogy did. It was refreshing to continue in the realm of this fictional world, even if there are only two characters (Bartimaeus and Faquarl) from the original series.

Things to consider:
There are many Christians who will be offended that Solomon was used in this book. At first, even I found offense at the way he was portrayed. I know this is fictional and not meant to be taken literally, but historically he was a man of God (at least, in the beginning). Now, I didn’t give up on the book just because of this and I am glad I didn’t. Without giving away too much of the plot, know that it comes out better in the end. The biggest negative here is that the author made magic the source of Israel’s prosperity (during Solomon’s rein), not God. This, even in a fictional sense, can leave a negative impact on the believer. Still, if you can see past this as I did, you won’t be disappointed. There are no sexual situations or harsh language, however there are some disturbing situations and concepts that were portrayed in a humorous light (such as djinni discussing the best way to eat humans). I would recommend this for teenagers, both boys and girls.

Opportunities for discussion:
A key question proposed in this story is that of slavery. Whether it’s slavery in the traditional sense, or that of a deeper level—often unknown to the person who’s bound. The Bible tells us not to be slaves of this world. Be it addiction, negative habits, insecurities, material goods, money, lust, dependency, or obsession. All these things can end up controlling us, rather than us controlling it.  Read this verse to your children and ask them what it means to be transformed rather than conformed: Romans 12:2 (New American Standard Bible) “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Past reviews in this series:

1) The Amulet of Samarkand (The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Book 1)
2) The Golem’s Eye (The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Book 2)
3) Ptolemy’s Gate (The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Book 3)

Ghosthunters And The Incredibly Revolting GhostPublished in 2006, Ghosthunters And The Incredibly Revolting Ghost is the first of a four book series by Cornelia Funke. For those of you not aware, this is the same author who wrote the Inkheart Trilogy, The Thief Lord, and Igraine The Brave (all formerly reviewed on this site).

Story overview:

Nine year old Tom lives in an apartment complex. A new resident recently moves in, but unlike the typical occupant who rents an apartment, this one is a ghost (named Hugo) who haunts the cellar. At first Tom is scared away, but his Grandmother’s friend, Hetty Hyssop, tells him that the ghost is just an ASG (Averagely Scary Ghost)—which is mostly harmless.

When Tom confronts Hugo, he finds that the ghost was chased out of his former home by an IRG (Incredibly Revolting Ghost). Thankfully for both Tom and Hugo, Hetty Hyssop is an expert ghost hunter.

After collecting supplies, the three of them set out to chase away the IRG so that Hugo can have his home back. Once they arrive at the old house, Hetty Hyssop quickly discovers that this IRG is the most powerful one she’s ever dealt with.

My thoughts:

I enjoyed the lightheartedness of this story. Funke creatively uses objects to fight against ghosts, such as eggs, graveyard dirt, and mirrors. Keep in mind that unlike her other works [mentioned above], this one is geared to a slightly younger audience.

Things to consider:

There’s no inappropriate language, violence, or sexual situations. However, if taken in the wrong light, situations such as the IRG removing its head might come across as slightly disturbing to some children. Overall I’d say this is a safe read and one good for children ages seven to preteens.

Opportunities for discussion:

Some Christians get overly protective whenever a story contains ghosts. Please remember that this is a work of fiction, and not meant to be taken literally. Explain to your children what the Bible says about ghosts (which, if memory serves, isn’t much, if anything at all), and ask them if they believe ghosts are real. Explain to them your beliefs on the topic, but be careful not to put them down if they say something you don’t agree with.

Since I greatly enjoyed reading Stroud’s Bartimaeus Trilogy, I was excited to see that Heroes of the Valley was his latest book.

Well, maybe not latest latest, as it seems he’s coming out with a fourth Bartimaeus novel (The Ring of Solomon), but that has yet to be released (release date: November 2, 2010). So in the meantime, let me tell you about Halli Sveinsson.

Story overview:
A world once ruled by heroes is now the peaceful home of fifteen-year-old Halli Sveinsson. The heroes now long dead, their stories still resonate amongst the Twelve Houses, which have control over the valley. Of course, each house places their founder as the top hero in the tales, but one thing remains consistent: they all worked together to rid the valley of the evil Trows.

A short, stumpy boy, Halli finds himself getting into trouble more often than not. His mischief isn’t appreciated by his older brother nor his mother and father, but there is one person who motivates Halli to aim towards the level of the founders. His uncle. One evening when his uncle ends up having too much to drink, he offends one of the other Houses and ultimately is killed in the process.

On a quest to avenge his uncle’s honor, Halli seeks to bring justice to the murders. In his journey he finds that his childhood tales were not all they were made out to be, and in the process he ends up causing trouble to his House, which leads him to search for a way to restore the order.

My thoughts:

Where I don’t rate this as high as Bartimaeus, I did enjoy the tale. A little slower starting than I like, but overall well worth the read. As always the characters are sarcastic and witty, and I like Stroud’s ability to have them interact in a believable manner. I saw a little bit of Kitty in Halli’s female companion.

Things to consider:

It’s a little crude in places, but overall, nothing I’d consider inappropriate. I’d age rate this preteen +. Good for both girls and boys.

Opportunities for discussion:

The word boundaries comes to mind. To keep the Trows out of the valley, the heroes of old put up boundaries to prevent them from getting in. However, the boundaries also kept all the people from getting out. No one but Halli and his friend seem to question this. And when they did, they found that the heroes were not all they were cracked up to be. Children need boundaries to protect them. However, teaching them to mindlessly following boundaries is not a good idea. Ask your children if they know the difference between good boundaries and bad ones. If they say a good one is bad, be sure to explain, in full detail, why they are in place.

The next book in this exciting manga series continues after Kaguro’s attack against our favorite Kekkaishi: Yoshimori and Tokine.

Story overview:

The General Manager of the Kokuboro (the bad guys), Byaku, sends some of his team members to track down the current Master of the Karasumori site (the school). This leads them to Lord Uro, but not only are they unable to get to Lord Uro, they discover that he is the master of the land just outside of the Karasumori site, not the master of the site itself.

In the mean time, Gen and Yoshimori continue to strengthen their bond. Yoshimori meets Gen’s “tamer” from the Shadow Organization, Atora, who is a young and spunky lady that manages to keep Gen in check—in the process she greatly embarrasses the poor boy. In an attempt to improve the teamwork of Gen and the two Kekkaishi, she challenges them to catch her in the time of an hour. They were able to meet her demands and so she goes back to the Shadow Organization satisfied that they will work well together.

Yoshimori’s grandfather becomes worried about his friend (a seventy-year-old retired university professor), who may have dug a little too deep into the Kokuboro. Sure enough, they sent an assassin to kill the old man. It seems as if the assassin succeeds, but he secretly escapes by fooling everyone with an Ayakashi in human skin. Having thought to succeed, the Kokuboro are not done with their plans. They intend to take their princess to the Karasumori site in order to save her life.

My thoughts:

We are thrown a clue about the Kokuboro being run by the “Monster Fox of the black pampas grass.” More mysteries are unfolding, including the fact that it is the land itself that choose a Master to coincide with. If the land suffers, then the master will die, but if the master suffers the land will chose a new one (but it seems there’s a time limit before the land cannot survive without one). This is why the Kokuboro plan to bring their princess to the site; in hopes that the land will accept her as its new master. Interesting approach to the story. Watching the plot unfold is exciting, and as always, the character interaction is superb.

Things to consider:

Nothing really questionable. The series rating stays consistent at ages thirteen plus. A few minor curse words and action violence. And these are well placed; not gratuitous.

Opportunities for discussion:

The bond between Yoshimori and Gen has increased. They are in the process of becoming good friends, yet both would probably not admit it. Friendships are important in life, as no one is an island, but there is little else out there that can influence your teen in a positive or negative way. Talk to your teen about the difference between destructive friendships and ones that mutually benefit each person. Then ask them if they have any friends they think could be one or the other.

Past reviews in this series:

1) Kekkaishi (Volume 1)
2) Kekkaishi (Volume 2)
3) Kekkaishi (Volume 3)
4) Kekkaishi (Volume 4)
5) Kekkaishi (Volume 5)
6) Kekkaishi (Volume 6)
7) Kekkaishi (Volume 7)
8) Kekkaishi (Volume 8)