Wednesday, April 23, 2014

"A Promise In Pieces" by Emily Wierenga

A baby quilt touches many hearts as it travels from family-to-family and through generations.

After the end of World War II, Clara Kirkpatrick returns from the Women's Army Corp to deliver a dying soldier's last wishes: convey his love to his young widow, Mattie, with apologies for the missed life they had planned to share.
Struggling with her own post-war trauma, Clara thinks she's not prepared to handle the grief of this broken family. Yet upon meeting Mattie, and receiving a baby quilt that will never cuddle the soldier's baby, Clara vows to honor the sacrifices that family made.
Now a labor and delivery nurse in her rural hometown, Clara wraps each new babe in the gifted quilt and later stitches the child's name into the cloth. As each new child is welcomed by the quilt, Clara begins to wonder whatever happened to Mattie---and if her own life would ever experience the love of a newborn. Little does she know that she will have the opportunity to re-gift the special quilt---years later and carrying even greater significance than when it was first bestowed.

 Clara is one cool character who truly grows into her own in A Promise in PiecesThough rather timid and shy in the beginning, a series of choices leads her across the Atlantic, where she finds herself alone but determined to help soldiers in need.  This determination creates a strong character who only grows more beautiful with time.  I love the way that she craves but shuns love in the beginning only to find herself strong in love near the end.  

Actually, that transformation is a major theme in this story.  In friendships, in love, in parental relationships, and in material possessions Clara grows, matures, and transforms.  Sometimes there's a change, and sometimes a replacement, but that strengthening and blossoming process is beautiful to see.

The quilt made a fascinating backdrop for this story.  I love the way that Mattie factored into the quilt origins, and the way that the quilt became the basis for Clara's new purpose later in life.  

I think that this was the best Quilts of Love book yet.

Learn more about this book and the series at the Quilts of Love website.

Emily Wierenga is a former editor, ghostwriter, freelance writer and staff journalist, a monthly columnist for The Christian Courier, and the author of Save My Children (Castle Quay Books, 2008), Chasing Silhouettes (Ampelon Publishing, 2012) and Mom in the Mirror (Rowman & Littlefield, 2013). Emily resides in Alberta, Canada. This is her first novel.

Learn more about Emily at:
I received a free copy of A Promise in Pieces from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

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"Callie's Contest of Courage" Review & Giveaway

I'm always on the lookout for positive, adventurous books for my kids - especially ones with characters who possess a strong and growing faith.  Unfortunately, those are not very easy to find.

But recently I hit the jackpot.

Jan May sent me a copy of her newly released book, Callie's Contest of Courage, and I was most impressed.

Callie's Contest of Courage is the story of Callie, a tween girl who loves animals, runs her own website, and wants to enter a photography contest in the hopes of winning an internship to work with animals.  Unfortunately, her dad serves in the military and is sent away on active duty while she's preparing.  When the news reports heavy action from his area and he stops communicating, Callie must exercise her faith to stay strong - especially when even the little things in her life seem to go all wrong, too.

Callie is the kind of character whom your daughter will want to befriend and you'll be happy to have her imitate.  She's strong, smart, and kind, and she obviously is a kid with a strong faith of her own.  She reads scripture, knows scripture, and thinks about scripture - which is not to say that she's perfect.  She has her typical dramatic episodes and selfish moments, but she deals with the aftermath of her emotions in a wise, mature way - at least, she does that eventually.  Kids will be able to relate to her turmoil and selfishness and will learn from her revelations and apologies.  

Most kids like animals, and Callie's interaction with the animal kingdom keeps the reader entertained throughout the story.  From cute lambs to wild bears, there are fun stories and useful, educational information.  This adds an element of kid-friendly excitement to the story.

I especially enjoyed the military aspect of the story.  While children of servicemen or women might be able to relate to this story very well, it also opens up an avenue of conversation with our kids about these people who are serving our country despite the danger and hardship - and what their families might experience while they're deployed.  The book also contains service project ideas, so you can take the whole story a step further and do your own mission project - or organize one on a larger scale.

And that's not the only extension activity possible in the book.  May includes other types of activities, as well, that would be great for any kid to do.  If your child is in a book club, however, you could plan the meeting with some of the activities found in the back of the book and be done - the work has been done for you!  The ideas are creative, fun, and use common household materials, so while they do vary in scale, the variety ensures you'll find something you can do.

This is definitely going on the list for my daughter's book club next year.  I am very impressed with the creativity, independent spirit, and faith of Callie, and I'll be looking into Jan May's other books.  This is the kind of story I want on my daughter's bookshelf - and I'm sure you will, too.

So sure, in fact, that I was excited when May offered to give away a copy of Callie's Contest of Courage here!  You can enter using the widget below.  Good luck!

I received a free copy of  Callie's Contest of Courage from Jan May in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, April 21, 2014

A Little Break ...

We're taking a break over the next few days to celebrate a birthday and enjoy some time off together.  I'll be back on Wednesday with a review and a fun giveaway, though, so be sure to hop back over.

We had a chance to visit Duke Gardens on Friday, and I played with the camera and the kids amidst the tulips - my very favorite flower!  A few people I know are growing up much too quickly - hence the need for our short break.

See you on Wednesday!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Book Club, Boys' Edition: "Shoeless Joe & Me" by Dan Gutman

Baseball season has begun, and so our boys chose to step up to the mound with this month's book choice.  They read "Shoeless Joe & Me" by Dan Gutman.

As always, we began inside by summarizing and talking about the book.  While the boys aren't usually particularly loquacious, they surprised me this month.  The book is about the fixing of the World Series in 1919 and Shoeless Joe Jackson's part therein.  The boys compared this scandal to current drug scandals, brought up whether gambling is moral even if legal, wanted to know about steroids, and other issues related to the game.  What a discussion!

Then we moved on to baseball cards.  Each boy had brought a collection, and they were eager to check them out, although they didn't all value the same types of cards.

Next we made our own peanut-free version of CrackerJack.  It was yummy stuff!

While the CrackerJack set up, the boys designed their own baseball cards ...

and showed them off a bit ...

before deciding that all of this talk of baseball necessitated a game.

Of course, all of that running around made them hungry, and so we broke out our CrackerJack.

So if you're looking for a good baseball book this season, you won't go wrong with Shoeless Joe & Me.  Just be prepared to grab some friends and go play afterwards - you won't be able to resist the crack of the bat.

What are your kids' favorite springtime reads?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Hearts for Home Blog Hop - April 17, 2014

Introducing ... the Hearts for Home Blog Hop!  A Nest in the Rocks is now one of the co-hosts for this weekly link-up, which means that every Thursday you'll find lots of great tips, recipes, and other family-friendly ideas listed throughout this post.  If you're a blogger, we'd love to have you link up your posts and join us.  You can find information about the other co-hosts of this hop here.

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The most clicked-on post from last week was Technology Tuesday.

Some of my favorite posts from last week were:

- King David lesson for kids

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Mid-week Missions: Resurrection Activities for Kids

Great activities abound at this time of year - and I think that when working with kids, the very best ones are those that point to the cross.  We need to be sure that our children are hearing the story of Jesus' love and sacrifice over and over, learning the layers and shades of meaning and great love that are woven throughout.

That means that this week we're having "Easter School" at our house.  Each day we're doing a different activity that points to the cross.  While I don't have finished pictures from all of these to share yet, I can point you to where I found most of these ideas, so here they are -our favorite Resurrection activities for Easter.

1.  Resurrection Garden - This has been making its way around Pinterest, and we decided to try it this year.  We planted it several days ago and hope that it begins to sprout by Easter - but if it doesn't, we'll enjoy it next week.  The kids loved planning the layout of the garden and finding the perfect rock to seal the tomb - and as the week goes on, we'll be adding crosses to our garden.

2.  Resurrection Eggs - Directions abound for what to put in these eggs if you choose to make your own, but I purchased mine years ago during an 'after Easter' sale at a local Christian book store.  I've been using these to tell the story to My Big Helper and My Little Man for about six years now, and they get excited each time we pull out the bright orange egg carton.  This is a great way to make the storytelling interactive, and the symbols help the smallest children remember the main points of the story.

3.  "The Crossmaker" by See the Light Shine - This set of Easter-centered art projects is awesome!  There are lessons using creative lettering - seen above and below - as well as chalk pastels, watercolors, a story, and some really neat bonus features.  We're having fun working through these lessons together, and I appreciate the way that the Bible stories are so well tied into art projects where the kids are learning and producing 'masterpieces' that I can display and keep for years to come.

4.  Easter Cards - We send cards to our extended family members every holiday season, big or small.  At least, we try to - it's one way that we try to stay in touch with people who are far away. This year the kids chose to make cards several different ways, so not everyone will be getting the same style of cards, but some will be receiving this one.

5.  Empty Tomb Resurrection Cake - I don't think that our cake is going to look quite like this, but I am excited about the idea of morphing our traditional Bunny Cake into a Resurrection Cake.  I think we're going to have fun building a sugary garden, too, and I love the meaning that we can build into that.

6.  Resurrection Rolls - This has been a popular side dish for years, and it never gets old around here.  We'll make and serve these at our Easter feast. 

7.  An "Easter" Seder Meal - We're actually doing this twice this week - once with our church and once with our school group, but it's a pretty exciting event.  At the first one there was a Jewish rabbi and a Duke Divinity Professor present, and while one taught us the traditions involving the Seder post-Temple, the professor pointed to how Jesus fulfilled those traditions.  It was a great experience that led to a rather deep discussion with My Big Helper upon arriving home.

8. Resurrection Cookies -  This is a really fabulous way for young children to understand the story of the Resurrection.  It takes two days to complete, and you'll need a Bible and some unusual cookie-baking ingredients, but it's well worth the time and trouble.  The directions for these cookies follow the Easter story so closely that the recipe consists of scripture - and you look up each reference and then do to the ingredients what it says.  Meaning that you'll taste the 'sour wine' vinegar that Jesus was given when He thirsted on the cross. You'll smell and taste and use all of your senses as you move through the story - and end up with 'empty,' hollow cookies at the end.

How will you point your children to the cross this week?