Thursday, November 23, 2017

Come before His presence with thanksgiving

Psalm 100 King James Version (KJV)

1Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.

Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.

Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.

For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

A Cooked-Up Fairy Tale by Penny Parker Klostermann and illustrated by Ben Mantle

Random House Publishing
ISBN: 9781101932322
Hardcover $17.99
My thoughts: There seems to be a lot of interest in the writing world to take classic fairy tales and make them over, weave them together, or piggy back them on stories not even relative to the genre. Folks are calling these "fractured" fairy tales.

So the author of A Cooked-Up Fairy Tale has taken a contemporary boy, placed him in the land of fairy tales, given him a love of cooking and stirred the pot to have his ingredients include items from fairy tales.

This is a cute story and fun to read. The illustrations are cute, colorful, and replete with lots of expression and action.

Now if you, the parent, know your fairy tales, you'll get the gist of things. If your child isn't up to "snuff" in his or her knowledge of all things fairy tales, he may miss the connections. So some of the connectivity will be lost and leave the child muddled as they try to reason matters out. But of course, we don't want to "overthink" a picture book written for youngsters.

So how does Chat With Vera actually feel about A Cooked-Up Fairy Tale? Well, I like it and I don't like it. So given that those feelings hit both ends of the spectrum, I'm thinking perhaps this is a 3 out of 5 star rating. But given the illustrations are quite good in a cute way, I'll say a 4-star rating. And given the fact that the scene about Cinderella's pumpkin chariot being a pumpkin pie because our contemporary kid had baked the pumpkin into a pie was so roll-over-on-the-floor funny, I'd say definitely a 4-star. The only downside was the fact that little kids might miss some connections.

So go ahead and check one out at the library and enjoy. Well, just go ahead and buy one because when were fairy tales so funny?

About the book: From the creators of There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight comes a fun fractured fairy tale about an aspiring chef who mistakenly turns story ingredients into delectable dishes. . . . Uh-oh!

In the magical land of fairy tales, William doesn't quite fit in. He'd rather poach pears than pursue princesses, and he values gnocchi over knighthood. . . .

When he stumbles on a delivery of food destined for Fairy-Tale Headquarters (a pumpkin, apples, and a few measly beans), he decides to spice things up and whips the paltry ingredients into delectable dishes. But as you might have guessed, Snow White's wicked stepmother doesn't exactly want her magic apple baked and drizzled with caramel.

The team that brought you There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight delivers a hilariously fractured, whipped, and souffleed fairy tale that is chock-full of delicious details and jokes to satisfy every appetite!

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from the publisher to facilitate a review of this cute, funny, tickle-your-funnybone picture book. Opinions are just mine, alone and are freely given.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Christmas time is music time: The Twelve Days of Christmas: Pop Up and We Wish You a Merry Christmas [Review & Giveaway - USA/CANADA]

Through the years, I think my favorite "feel good" part of Christmas is the beautiful music. I prefer the classic music of the season - secular and religious. First of all I love the beautiful Christmas carols that tell us the story of the birth of the Saviour, Jesus Christ. And then I love the haunting and yet cheerful music that the secular world has enveloped the holidays in.

Children relish the opportunity to joyfully sing all these wonderful songs.  Here are a couple of books that bring some of the fun, joyful singing to the season.

The Twelve Days of Christmas (Panorama Pops) - Candlewick Press

My thoughts:  This is such a charming little treasure. The way it is designed is really unusual in that it unfolds like an accordion with the first six "days" on side one and the days seven through twelve on the reverse. Each day has a cute cutout that lifts as the page is turned or the accordion fold spread out. The pictures are beautifully drawn and painted lending a quality that spans the years in which you can treasure the little book.

Small and compact at approximately 4"x4" with its protective sleeve, this is a fun book to own and keep for enjoying year after year.

About the book: Enjoy gorgeous art by an award-winning illustrator in this enchanting 3-D rendition of a beloved Christmas carol.

On the first day of Christmas
my true love sent to me . . .

Unfurl a delightful accordion-fold book to find a turtle dove rising on the wing, a sprightly lord a-leaping from the page, and many more elements of the familiar seasonal song. Featuring the captivating art of Grahame Baker-Smith, this Christmas keepsake tucks back into a slipcase until the next holiday season.

Sing Along With Me! We Wish You A Merry Christmas - Nosy Crow Publishing

My thoughts: Charming! Sweet! Moveable tabs on each page allow child interaction. While the music isn't with the book, you can scan the QR Code that takes you right to the sweet rendering of the song on the Nosy Crow website.

This is a sturdy board book suitable for ages 2-5 and delightfully illustrated. The folks at Nosy Crow know children and children's books!

Watch the short video below to get an idea how charming the book is.

2 Winners each win a set of 2 books
Begins November 22
Ends December 8 @ 12:01 a.m. EST
Open to USA and CANADA addresses
NO P.O. Boxes, please.
a Rafflecopter giveaway 
DISCLOSURE: I received complimentary copies from Candlewick Press to facilitate this review. Opinions are my own and are freely given.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Getting ready for a "Geographic Bee"? Check out "How to Ace the National Geographic Bee" from National Geographic [Review & Giveaway]

Many years ago when I was a secondary school student, yep a long time ago, they taught geography as a class in school. I loved geography and maps and learning about people, places, and pretty much everything global. But I didn't enjoy giving oral reports which were required weekly. Reports on countries, weekly reader (our news source) reports, etc. This always caused moments of dread and insecurity.

So I offer real heart-felt praise to kids who not only have the knowledge of world geography to head for a Geography Bee (think "spelling bee" on steroids) but the personality to actually stand in front of people - large groups of people - and be judged for their knowledge.

I also offer real thanks to the National Geographic Society for getting schools and private entities involved in the instruction of students in the subject of geography. For awhile, this was not available to students in schools and was a real deficit.

Part of this renewed interest in the subject and focus on geography has been the annual National Geographic Bee. And students are preparing for this entertaining and challenging local, state, and national competition. Students in grades 4-8 who have amassed a lot of world geographic knowledge will compete. To prepare they not only pay close attention to what they learn in school, they glean knowledge from other sources as well. One of the best to ready them for this challenging competition is the How to Ace the National Geographic Bee. The book is packed with a plethora of maps, charts, pictures, statistics, and pertinent information bites that will most certainly prepare the most avid student for being an astute student of geography.

Quite frankly, I am literally amazed at the amount of information this little book contains on this world, the countries, their capitals, the people, the land masses, the populations, etc. A real educational treasure.

Begins November 21
Ends December 11 @ 12:01 a.m. EST
Open to USA addresses only
a Rafflecopter giveaway

How to Ace the National Geographic Bee, 5th Edition (ages 9-12) 

This book is the only official study guide available and is chock full of tips from previous finalists, past questions, a country index of vital stats, and recommendations for the best study tools.  The Bee is designed to engage students in diverse ways, challenging them to memorize geographic knowledge, synthesize it, and apply it accurately, compellingly, and creatively.  How to Ace the National Geographic Bee is specifically written to prep the aspiring champion with not just facts, but thought-process as well.  It offers a top ten list of study tips – “learn the language of maps” (latitude and longitude, meridians and Mercators) and “choose your tools” (a large world map, an atlas, and satellite images are a must!) – and advice from past finalists, including “trust your gut,” “be passionate,” and “take the opportunity to learn.” A comprehensive list of sample questions range from “Harry [Potter] catches the train to Hogwarts at Kings Cross station in what major European city?” to “What landlocked country is located farther from an ocean – Paraguay or Kazakhstan?”

About the National Geographic Bee:  

The Bee involves more than 10,000 schools and millions of students from the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. territories, and Department of Defense Dependents Schools overseas. After passing their school’s Bee which occur in the Fall, the online qualifying test, and State Bee, the 54 “state” champions receive an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. for the National Championship May 20-23, 2018.  After a preliminary competition on May 21, the top 10 students will compete in a televised final round on May 23, vying for a $50,000 college scholarship, a lifetime membership in the Society, including a subscription to National Geographic magazine, and an all-expenses-paid Lindblad expedition to the Gal├ípagos Islands aboard the new National Geographic Endeavour ll. Travel for the trip is provided by Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic. Second- and third-place finishers will receive $25,000 and $10,000 college scholarships, respectively. The program will be broadcast on the National Geographic Channel and Nat Geo WILD, and later on public television stations nationwide.

How to Ace the National Geographic Bee is the perfect resource to help millions of school kids prepare to compete in the Bee. It's also a fun and helpful resource for trivia buffs, challenge seekers, and college-bound test-takers.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from MMPublicity on behalf of National Geographic Kids to facilitate this review. Opinions are my own and freely given.

Really Woolly Christmas Blessings By DaySpring and Bonnie Rickner Jensen

ISBN: 9780718097417
Board Book $9.99

My thoughts: Grandmommies usually have a soft, warm-fuzzy spot for kiddie board books. Perhaps it began when our own children were young and had "cloth" books or the wide assortment of Little Golden Books. But back-in-the-day our little children didn't have good books that were charming, sturdy, and crafted with top of the line writing. I guess that tells how old this grandmommy is, but the truth of the matter is that I just love board books like Really Wooly Christmas Blessings.

This is a sturdy board book with slightly padded cover and sized just right for young (not tiny) hands to carry about. The sweet animals, angels, shepherds, and others with lovely colors are charming. Each two page spread is a story in verse and an accompanying Bible verse from the International Children's Bible. (Chat With Vera reader know my preference is KJV). There is a short prayer bringing an end to the reading.

The focus of this little book is blessings! The blessing of God's Plan. The blessing of baby Jesus! And on to the daily blessings of a friend, a song, light, etc. You can take a little one from Christmas time's wondrous story of the Saviour's birth into the child's daily life and teach him or her to recognize that there are blessings abounding all around us. The message of this book encompasses the might and power of the name of Jesus, His birth, His good news, His light. This is a powerful intro written in a sweet, heartwarming rhyme that will seat these truths into the heart and mind of a child.

Thomas Nelson Publishers and TommyNelson with DaySpring have produced a very nice little book for little ones. I highly recommend.

About the book: Christmastime is full of blessings, and the Really Woolly characters celebrate every part of the season—from time with family and friends, to sledding and decorating, to the joy of giving to others.

Cuddle up close with your little one, and enjoy the precious rhymes, meaningful Bible verses, simple prayers, and endearing illustrations that teach about the greatest Christmas gift of all—the birth of Jesus.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from the BookLook Blog Review program on behalf of Thomas Nelson Publishers and the author to facilitate this review. Opinions are my own and are freely given.

The Beginner's Gospel Story Bible by Jared Kennedy, Illustrated by Trish Mahoney from New Growth Press [Review & Giveaway]

My thoughts: I have found publications from New Growth Press to be Biblically accurate and well written. The illustrations chosen for each of the publications for children that I have reviewed have been different and quite interesting and appealing. Previous books I've reviewed were by Marty Machowski and well done. Mr. Machowski highly recommends Jared Kennedy's (MDiv, ThM) The Beginner's Gospel Story Bible saying, "...I will be placing a copy of this book in all our children's ministry classrooms and recommending that every family in our church with small children add it to their bookshelf." High praise from a pastor and children's book author.

This is a somewhat large book but not overly so. There are about 50 stories so you can do one a week or more - whatever suits your family schedule. The illustrations are graphic designs done by Trish Mahoney and very colorful in the primary color range. The people are stylized and not realistic looking.

A brief application is made with each story enabling parents to guide children in their thinking outside of the actual storyline.

With the assortment of Old Testament and New Testament stories, you can begin to teach your young child the beauty of knowing their Bible and the lessons it holds for everyone. I like that the stories in this compilation include Paul's missionary journeys and the promise of Christ's second coming.

About the book: Kids know the value of a promise. Through the gospel, our good and all-powerful God keeps his word and fulfills his promises to us better than we could have ever thought or imagined!

In The Beginner's Gospel Story Bible, author Jared Kennedy traces God's perfect promises through fifty-two Old and New Testament stories, retold in simple and compelling ways with toddlers and preschoolers in mind. Each gospel-centered story highlights God's tale of redemption through Jesus and the unexpected and surprising ways that God's grace and mercy are revealed throughout the Bible. Children will hear the good news of God's love for them clearly expressed in ways that will speak to their young hearts. Brightly colored illustrations highlight the stories and add fun teaching elements of counting, opposites, patterns, and object recognition to keep even the youngest child's attention. Every story also ends with a question that parents and caregivers can use to further reinforce the message.
  • Through reading this book one chapter at a time to your children---or letting them read it to you!---even the youngest kids will come to know that God's promises are especially for them, and that God always keeps his promises.
  • Gospel-centered Bible stories expressed in ways that speak to toddlers and preschoolers.
  • Children will learn the good news of God's love for them.
  • Traces God's perfect promises through fifty-two Old and New Testament stories.
  • Brightly colored illustrations by Trish Mahoney highlight each story and add fun elements to keep young children's attention.
  • Each story ends with a question that parents and caregivers can use to reinforce the message.
More information, read a sample, and purchase a copy: here

Begins November 15
Ends December 1 @ 12:01 a.m. EST
Open to USA addresses only
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Author: Jared Kennedy, MDiv, ThM, is the husband to Megan and the father of three girls---Rachael, Lucy, and Elisabeth. He serves as Pastor of Families at Sojourn Community Church-Midtown in Louisville, KY and as children's ministry strategist for Sojourn Network. He blogs regularly at and is also the coauthor of Leadership Mosaic and two VBS programs, Proof Pirates and Clap Your Hands, Stomp Your Feet.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from Litfuse Publicity Group on behalf of the publisher and author to facilitate a review. Opinions are my own and freely given. Winner's copy is provided by the publisher and winner is selected using the Rafflecopter system.

VANISHING POINT (A Nikki Boyd Novel book #4) by Lisa Harris [Review & Giveaway]

My thoughts: Vanishing Point has a different "feel" to the story in that it doesn't have Nikki Boyd as the primary character. The plot involves the total career of the serial murderer that caused the death of the sister of Nikki Boyd, Sarah. This book takes the reader back to the investigation of cases prior to Sarah's and then leaps to current time when another young woman is missing.

The main characters of Vanishing Point are a local investigatory, Garrett, and Jordan an FBI agent who is called in to help with the local investigation. And coincidentally, Garret and Jordan were once an "item." They both still have feelings for the other but don't act on them, moving on.

But another case investigation brings them back together years later. Following accumulating clues in a series of murders and juggling their feelings toward each other, Garrett and Jordan encounter obstacles that test their fortitude and problem solving abilities.

Thought provoking references to the age old question of "Where is God when bad things happen?" are raised and conclusions worth considering for resolution to this issue are pointed discussions and thought processes in the story.

While written in a slow, steady pace in the early portions of the book, a rapid, nail biting suspenseful end wraps up the four book series and places the culprit squarely in the hands of officials.

About the book: During Garrett Addison's first week on the job as a criminal investigator for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, his team is called out to a murder scene of a young girl. She's the third victim in a string of disappearances with one thing in common--a Polaroid photo of each victim left behind at the crime scene.

The FBI is pulled into the case to help, and Garrett finds himself working with Special Agent Jordan Lambert, the woman he once loved. When yet another girl dies--number six--Garrett blames himself and believes he doesn't have what it takes to be an agent. What he'll discover is that, while he may be done with the killer, the killer is not done with him--or Jordan.

Bestselling and award-winning author Lisa Harris unveils an unforgettable story of a case that has haunted the public and law enforcement for more than a decade. Fans of the Nikki Boyd Files will thrill to finally discover what actually happened to Nikki's sister, Sarah. New readers will become instant fans after devouring this chilling tale. Universal Buy Link for Vanishing Point:
Begins November 20
ENDS December 11 @ 12:01 a.m. EST
Open to USA addresses only.
a Rafflecopter giveaway DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy to facilitate this review. Opinions are my own and are freely given. Giveaway is provided by the author or publisher directly to the winner.