Some Books for the Summer

Summer is my favorite season of the year for reading.  With no schoolwork and fewer extra-curricular activities, it’s the perfect time for me to do what I like best: sit in a nice cozy place with a good book and read.  I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite books as suggestions for what you might read in the months ahead.  For more book ideas, try The Book Tree: A Christian Reference for Children’s Literature by Elizabeth McCallum and Jane Scott or volumes 1 and 2 of Who Should We Then Read? by Jan Bloom.



Amelia Bedelia / Peggy Parish (illustrated by Fritz Siebel)

Amelia Bedelia

Babar’s Anniversary Album

Babar's Anniversary Album

Big Red Barn / Margaret Wise Brown (illustrated by Felicia Bond)

Big Red Barn

McDuff Moves In / Rosemary Wells (illustrated by Susan Jeffers)

Books 002

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel / Virginia Lee Burton

Books 004

My Very First Mother Goose / edited by Iona Opie (illustrated by Rosemary Wells)

My Very First Mother Goose

On Market Street / Arnold Lobel (illustrated by Anita Lobel)

On Market Street

The Fire Cat / Esther Averill

The Fire Cat

The Indoor Noisy Book / Margaret Wise Brown

The Indoor Noisy Book

The Very Little Boy / Phyllis Krasilovsky

The Very Little Boy 002



Anne of Green Gables / L. M. Montgomery

Books 014

Bluffton / Matt Phelan


Mirette on the High Wire / Emily Arnold McCully

Mirette on the High Wire

Moccasin Trail / Eloise Jarvis McGraw

Moccasin Trail

Secrets at Sea / Richard Peck

Secrets at Sea

The Chronicles of Narnia / C. S. Lewis

The Chronicles of Narnia

The Hobbit / J. R. R. Tolkien

The Hobbit

The Middle of Somewhere / J. B. Cheaney

The Middle of Somewhere

The Mysterious Benedict Society series / Trenton Lee Stewart

The Mysterious Benedict Society

Whalesong / Robert Siegel



High School

39 Steps series / John Buchan

The 39 Steps

Ivanhoe / Walter Scott


Jane Eyre / Charlotte Bronte

Jane Eyre

Little Women / Louisa May Alcott

Little Women

Okay for Now / Gary D. Schmidt

Okay for Now

Pride and Prejudice / Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice

The Eagle of the Ninth (Roman-Britain Trilogy) / Rosemary Sutcliff

The Eagle of the Ninth

The 100 Cupboards series / N. D. Wilson100 Cupboards


The Ashtown Burials series / N. D. Wilson

The Dragon's Tooth

The Hiding Place / Corrie ten Boom

The Hiding Place

The Lord of the Rings / J. R. R. Tolkien

The Lord of the Rings

The Screwtape Letters / C. S. Lewis

The Screwtape Letters

The Wednesday Wars / Gary D. Schmidt (companion to Okay for Now)

The Wednesday Wars

The White Company / Arthur Conan Doyle

The White Company

To Kill a Mockingbird / Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird

Some Music for the Summer

Chances are you may not have heard of either Josh Garrels or Shai Linne, but both of these artists (along with Lecrae, see previous post), have become some of my recent favorites. If you are looking for some good music to listen to over the next few months of summer, whether it be during some down time, or just as some background music, then give them a shot. Following is a brief synopsis of the two musicians:

Josh Garrels

Josh Garrel’s style of music could probably be best described as folk. With accoustic guitar, a haunting voice, and a variety of accompanying singers and instruments, his music has a soothing but also emotionally charged quality that makes it ideal for casual listening. However, the lyrics of Garrel’s songs are not shallow, and offer the more attentive listener a wealth of poetic lyricism. Although his albums have strong Christian themes and tones, the lyrics of Garrel’s songs are nothing like the mainstream Christian scene. He typically chooses more symbolic and poetic ways to communicate Christian ideas without ever stating them explicitly. In fact, Jesus’ name is only mentioned once in the entire album. With a soothing sound, emotive vocals, and poetic lyrics, Josh Garrels is an enjoyable listen and offers lyrical depth and creativity -none of which cannot be said of much modern music.

Shai Linne

Shai Linne is a reformed Christian singer. With such albums as “Lyrical Theology Pt 1” and “The Attributes of God”, his views on life are no secret. Shai Linne is a rap artist, and as such the lyrics play the prominent role in all of his albums. Unlike Garrels mentioned previously, Shai Linne is not good for casual listening, but only for listeners who are willing to pay close attention to the words of the song. The main album I have listened to of Shai Linne’s is “The Attributes of God”, but I have also listened through “Lyrical Theology Pt 1” at least one time. Unlike Garrels who subtly weave themes into his music by being symbolic in his wording, Shai is much more direct. However, this is not a bad thing because Shai’s music largely deals with explaining Biblical theology to Christians. Many of his songs communicate Biblical truth in a powerful way, and he does an excellent job of expounding upon the Bible, God, grace, and man’s condition. Having someone from the reformed camp writing Biblical concepts has helped me to better appreciate Biblical truth and see things in new ways. While not for someone looking for some casual listening, Shai offers engaging vocals, deep lyrics, and the chance to learn some theology.

Whether you’re looking for the poetic lyricism and soaring vocals of Josh Garrels, or the dense poetic theology of Shai Linne, both offer a listening experience unique to themselves, praising and serving God with the gifts he has given them. Have a blessed week!


Note: All images were taken from the artists websites:

Josh Garrels:

Shai Linne:

The Pieces and the Players

“Now don’t move,” rumbled Gary. Gary had been looking forward to this match for weeks, and he didn’t want a mere pawn ruining his strategy because it couldn’t be relied upon. He placed the miserable looking little goblin down upon the board, holding it by its dirty tunic between two of his sharp black talons. A waft of smoke drifted lazily from his nostrils as he looked up at his opponent. “Your move, Alan.”

Alan smiled. “Quite gracious of you, Gary. Your wings are looking well, and I see your mound of riches has increased. Been out raiding, have you?” Alan made these comments as he scanned the chessboard, searching for his knight. Alan’s pieces were better looking, in his opinion. They had voluntarily joined the giant, as Alan had struck a bargain with their township for protection and made good on his end of the deal on many an occasion. In return, they provided him will good land for hunting and herding, and occasionally would indulge him in these little games with Gary.

Gary considered himself to be the last of the “civilized” dragons, He still behaved by a certain code that sought to put limits upon raiding and hunting capacity. It managed to keep things relatively peaceful and stable for all the kingdom’s populace. That didn’t mean that all the inhabitants appreciated the code, however. Gary couldn’t help but notice some of the angry glares he received from Alan’s pieces.

“Yes. And judging by your bishop’s gaze, he doesn’t approve of the ceremonial items on display.”

Alan nodded. “Anger can be a strong motivator. However, that’s not why my men are here.” The giant placed his knight, then ceded control of the board to Gary. The dragon considered his friend’s bearded, bald countenance for a moment before scanning his pieces again.

“I see,” said Gary, shifting his weight. “Why do you suppose that your pieces have agreed to come with you?”

“Gratitude, and to a certain extent loyalty,” replied Alan. “I find that those are very strong motivators.”

“Noble sentiments, to be sure.” The dragon moved his rook forward. “I find that fear is a very worthwhile motivator for my pieces. These goblins know that I would have eaten them, had they refused to play for me.”

Alan thought as he sought his queen. “Fear and hatred will work for a while, but as soon as the fear or hatred is gone so is the resolve. A group built upon hate and fear cannot exist in their absence.” He moved the queen into the perfect position. “Checkmate.”

Gary’s eyes widened as he saw the trap Alan had laid for him. There was no getting out of it. He chuckled darkly to himself. “Well, there is one advantage to my method,” Gary said.

“What’s that?” Asked Alan.

“They’re not surprised when I do this.” In a fluid motion, the red dragon snapped his head downward and devoured his king piece in one gulp.

Justice and Opportunity

Many in my generation tend to be pretty cynical when it comes to the American Dream, the federal government, and our ability to change anything. If the government and other people would leave us and our paychecks alone, and everyone minded their own business, we’d all be better off, right?

I recently read two titles that reminded me the federal government can be a force for the individual’s and the communities’ good, that Americans really do have more opportunities than many acknowledge, and that justice in this lifetime is not a lost cause.

The first book is Freedom Summer: The 1964 Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi. Author Susan Goldman Rubin recounts the murders of three civil rights workers and the fallout for both a small town and a nation.  Rubin has meticulously researched all her sources and refrains from overgeneralizing or sentimentalizing anything.

The CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) members and host families were incredibly brave and committed to non-violent change. Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner may have been the only members murdered, but every person expected to be harassed, jailed, and abused. Most of them were.

What impressed me is how trapped everyone was in rural, segregated Mississippi. Black people may have been citizens on paper, but very few had the right to vote. Even those who could vote had no expectation of justice. When the local law enforcement officers and Ku Klux Klan members are one and the same, where could they go? Mississippi had not convicted a white person for murdering a black person ever. The Freedom Summer murders became news only because two of the victims were white and their families refused to stop pestering the federal government to investigate.

White people in rural Mississippi were just as trapped. Sympathetic white people knew if they were seen driving with a black person or talking to a white federal agent, they would be the next target. Some did help investigators, giving their statements and pointing out the local KKK members, but others begged them to leave for the investigators’ safety.

I was also struck by how driven the black children, teenagers, and many of the adults were to learn once given the opportunity. They worked together with the volunteers to create Freedom Schools and then focused on learning to read and learning the law. Many of the children are now professors or lawyers. You can read about individual stories here.

The second is Hidden Girl: The True Story of a Modern-Day Child Slave. Shyima Hall recounts her captivity, eventual liberation, and  readjustment to freedom. At eight years old, her Egyptian parents sent her to work for a family of six. She never went to school, never received medical attention when needed, never ate during the day due to her overwhelming work demands, and was repeatedly physically abused.

At twelve years old, agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement rescued Shyima from her owners’ California home and spent the next six years prosecuting her captors and helping Child Protective Services keep her safe.

As in rural Mississippi in the 1960s, everyone in Shyima’s Egypt seems so trapped. Poverty and lack of education keep the lower classes stuck in terrible living conditions. Her parents genuinely believed she was better off as a domestic slave, and I can see their point. If her owners had worked her twelve hours every day instead of eighteen, she would have had a better standard of living.

The Muslim men’s arrogant and pervasive demand for their wives’ and children’ respect while doing nothing to earn it keep the women and girls scared and dependent and teach the boys to be abusive. Shyima carefully notes that she no longer believes Islam itself is the problem, but she offers no examples of good Muslim men – only abusive and/or dictatorial ones.

Once liberated, Shyima spent hours upon hours trying to catch up academically in a completely foreign language. Students who refused to study and work baffled her. They were being offered the opportunity to make a better life for themselves, and they didn’t seem to care.

Shyima worked hard. She graduated high school, became an American, and now supports herself. She took advantage of the opportunities and now speaks to raise awareness about human trafficking.

These books are painful to read, but also incredibly hopeful.  Once given justice and an opportunity, an American CAN improve his/her lot in life with enough drive and determination.

Despite all the problems, despite all the frustrating bureaucracy, despite all the bad politicians, despite large corporations and lobby groups pressuring officials, I’m blessed to be where I am and when I am. May I always be mindful of that and, as a Christian, may I always

  • seek justice,
  • correct oppression;
  • bring justice to the fatherless,
  • plead the widow’s cause.        -Isaiah 1:17

Never! (Till I Feel Like It) (Part 2)

Chapter 2: The Middle

The day after Odyssey’s threat, the king waddled out into the garden for a noontime stroll. He sighed, removed his bulky crown, rubbed his bald head, and stared at the ground. Gradually, he became aware of strange, small shadows flitting across his path. He glanced up and saw an army of crows circling high above. He shuddered. He had once dreamed that a legion of birds had pounced on him and pecked at his ears.

Suddenly, the crows, with a mighty caw, dived down, straight at him, just like in his dream.

“AAAAUUUGGGHHHH!” the King screamed as the crows tore at his ermine cloak and pecked at the blood-red rubies adorning his waistcoat. “AAAAAUUUUUGGGGGHHHHHHH!” He flapped his arms wildly. He fled from the garden and through the palace halls, still pursued by the birds. Servants and courtiers scampered out of the way.

Finally, just as the crows succeeded in stealing his sapphire seal ring, help arrived. “I SHALL DELIVER YOU, MY SOVEREIGN!” cried the Head War Leader, brandishing his sword. Waving the weapon about, he nearly lopped off the King’s head and managed chopped a marble effigy of Jack the Giant Killer right in half. The crows retreated, comparing booty and cawing disappointedly to each other how “The good times never last.”

The King and Head War Leader, breathing heavily, watched their enemies depart. “That…puff…that…pant…Queen…huff…sent them!”

The Prime Minister cautiously approached. “Um…very-disturbing…um…are-you-all-right-your-majesty?”

The King had only time to gasp, “Yes,” before each of them started. Odyssey had appeared round the corner. She looked upon them almost pityingly before demanding:

“Art thou prepared to accept my mistress’s suit?”

“No…puff…thank…huff,” said the King.



“Very well,” said Odyssey. “Thou shalt assuredly be visited again.” She disappeared to whence she came.

The next morning the King awoke with dread clutching his heart, caused by the screams filling his ears. He quickly slid out of bed and…

Crunch (splat).

The carpeted floor was swarming with cockroaches.

The King joined his voice to the chorus of yelps echoing through the Castle.   He had developed a fear of cockroaches ever since they had infested his bathroom. They had popped out of drains, scuttled under floorboards, and lurked in drawers, nearly driving him insane with paranoia. But he was king. He must be brave. He began making his way precariously from chest, to table, to chair, to desk, to couch, to stool, to wardrobe where he drew on a pair of silken slippers. Then, chomping his lip at every crunch (splat), he courageously investigated his home. There were cockroaches everywhere. The Prime Minister was cowering under the covers, eyes wide and teeth chattering. The Head War Leader was frantically trying to hack the tiny, nimble insects to bits with his huge, clumsy blade and making no headway.

All through that horrible day, most people, including the cook, refused to budge from their beds. Those who stirred discovered that cockroaches had completely swamped the gatehouse. The drawbridge couldn’t be lowered. Everyone was stuck in the castle, where the everlasting rustle of cockroach limbs played havoc with their nerves.

Finally, at ten o’clock that night, the Prime Minister, carried in a sedan chair, entered the throne room. The King was attempting to hold court and failing miserably.


A fabulously shrunken hag hobbled in, clutching a bulging sack in one claw and a twisted cane in the other. “We have a cockroach problem,” she observed.

“Yes, Madame,” the King replied.

“Well, I can do away with them, for a price,” she offered.

“What will you charge?” the King asked.

“Twenty-thousand crowns,” the crone stated matter-of-factly.

That was an insane price. But no one gulped when the King declared: “Agreed.”

The unsightly woman drew a plain brown rock from her bag and placed it in the center of the Throne Room. She retreated ten feet and began slowly circling the stone, all the time drawing strange patterns in the air with her finger. She chanted:

Áyla ńyla éya súil.

Cóka Róka súil a rún.

Éka brán. Éka brán.


The old woman threw her arms in the air, pulled her hair, and jumped up and down. With each thump the cockroaches scampered further away. At last they disappeared altogether. Joy flooded the castle. The King, Prime Minister, and Head War Leader began laughing in relief…until they saw Odyssey enter the Hall. “Art thou prepared to accept my mistress’s suit?” she demanded.

“No,” said the King.



“Very well,” said Odyssey. “Thou shalt assuredly be visited again.” Then she turned to the hag. “And thou shalt assuredly be punished for thy treachery to our common mistress. Thou shalt never live to see the full moon.” With that, Odyssey turned away and returned to whence she came.

The next evening, the King and his court sat at table. “When is the food arriving?” asked the King, his stomach growling.

“I beg pardon, you majesty,” entreated a nearby servant, “but the Head Cook fell asleep in the blackbird pie and we were unable to wake her. We had to call for the Assistant Head Cook who likewise fell asleep in the mutton stew and we were unable to wake her. We had to call for the Under Head Cook who likewise fell asleep in the roasted peacock and we were unable to wake…”

“CUT TO THE CHASE, LAD,” called the Head War Leader, “WE’RE STARVED!”

“The kitchen staff has been cut by more than half because they have all fallen asleep. Thus dinner preparation is behind schedule.”

“Asleep?” queried the King, nervously. “What do you mean?” It sounded unsavorily like the fable of his great-great-great grandmother, Aurora Rosebud-of-the-Briar. His mother had told him the tale, which he had never liked—all that pricking your finger and dying and falling irresistibly asleep. Then his mother had maintained that the only moral of the story was that you must always double-check your guest list and never skimp on price.

The lad intoned: “Asleep. Adjective. Thirteenth century. Being in a state of sleep. Dead. Lacking sensation: numb. Inactive, dormant. Not alert: indifferent.”

The king huffed. “Go and see what they are doing now, boy,” he ordered.

Shortly the servant returned, pale-faced, trembling, and panicking. “They are all of them asleep! Everyone! And they will not be waked!” He tripped on the Marquis of Carabas’ train, and landed sprawling on the feet of the King. The boy did not rise, and immediate investigation revealed that he was…asleep.

There was a general stampede for the drawbridge. They all ran for it, servants first, courtiers next, and King, Prime Minister, and Head War Leader last. But the first souls that set foot upon the drawbridge immediately fell upon the ground, overcome by weariness. The rest dared not approach the portal.

“Woe! Oh woe is us!” sighed the helpless multitude.

From then on, people began dropping off right and left. “Oh please, please accept that Queen!” pleaded one elderly dowager duchess, as she sank to the floor. The next thing out of her mouth was a snore.

“The-poor-boy!” The Prime Minister was in the Throne Room, sobbing over his softly breathing son. “Ahem….um….bewitched…um…by-a…um…witch.”

“MAN UP, MAN!” ordered the Head War-leader, “HE WAS BRAVE TO THE LAST!”

“How many are left?” asked the King.

“Ahem…um…counting-us…um…three,” said the Prime Minister.

The Head War-leader yawned, then started. “NO! YOU SHALL NOT HAVE ME, FOUL FIEND! SHOW YOURSELF!” He too toppled over.

“Actually, ‘tis much more to the enjoyment to torment people from a long ways off,” observed Odyssey, entering the Hall. “Art thou prepared to accept my mistress’s suit?”

“No,” the King staunchly declared.

“I…um…I-think-perhaps-it-would-be-best-if…um…you-acce…” The Prime Minister fell over the body of his son.

“Well?” demanded Odyssey.

“Well, um, no…”

“Thou art next,” she warned, “and the last.”

“I…um.” The King froze in terror. His eyes were becoming heavy. His mouth was a gaping cavern. But just as his limbs began to fail him, he summoned all his remaining strength and shouted: “YES!”

“Say: ‘I am willing to accept thy mistress’s proposal,” Odyssey said.

“Yes! Yes! I am willing to accept thy mistress’s proposal!” cried the King.

Odyssey knelt and rolled the Prime Minister’s body off his son’s. She planted one quick kiss on the Prime Minister’s son’s lips.   Straightway the spell was lifted and the King felt new life run in his veins.