Nonfiction for Tweens = Great Christmas Gifts

Are there book-loving tweens on your Christmas gift list this year? Help them know God better and enjoy a great read at the same time with any of these four new nonfiction titles.

      

Cold-Case Christianity for Kids and God’s Crime Scene for Kids: Investigate Creation with a Real Detective, by J. Warner Wallace and Susie Wallace (David C. Cook). by J. Warner Wallace and Susie Wallace (David C. Cook).

Between the ages of 8 and 12, kids often start to wonder if the Bible is true. In these books, real-life detective J. Warner Wallace helps tweens learn how to think rather than telling them what to think.

Both books read like novels as a team of junior police cadets train as detectives. The simple mysteries they attempt to solve lead them to much more important investigations—Does God exist? Was Jesus really the Son of God? Did God really create the world?

A Kid’s Guide to The Names of God, by Tony Evans (Harvest House Publishers).

With my books I AM: 40 Reasons to Trust God and I AM Devotional, you know I’m all about kids learning to love and trust God more as they learn about his names. So I am glad to see this one for tweens now available.

Ten chapters each spotlight a different name and give kids understanding of the name plus practical application to their own lives. Writing spaces in each chapter help kids process the information as they read.

Indescribable: 100 Devotions About God & Science, by Louie Giglio (Tommy Nelson).

Fun and fascinating facts about space, Earth, weather, animals, the human body paired with   Scripture teaching and encouragement give kids an in-depth look at God’s indescribable power, love, and creativity.

Colorful illustrations and a cool design paired with the text make this devotional one that tweens will look forward to opening up each day!

Which one of these new books will end up under the tree at your house?

– Diane

Children’s Books for Advent and Christmas

Books should be part of every child’s Advent and Christmas, whether you give them as gifts, stuff them in stockings, or pile them under the tree to enjoy throughout the season. Here’s a look at some of this year’s new Advent and Christmas books for the kids on your list.

Snuggle Time Christmas Stories, by Glenys Nellist, illustrated by Cee Biscoe (Zonderkidz).

Introduce all the characters in the Christmas story to toddlers and preschoolers with this one. Short, sweet rhyming verses and cute artwork tell the story and explain that Christmas celebrates Jesus’ birthday and Jesus is the best gift.

The Littlest Watchman: Watching and Waiting for the Very First Christmas, by Scott James, illustrated by Geraldine Rodriguez (The Good Book Company).

Like the other Watchmen in his village, young Benjamin watches for the sign of the arrival of the Maker’s promised King—a new branch coming from the stump of Jesse. Watching and waiting are hard, and Benjamin’s about to give up, until one night on the Bethlehem hillside, everything changes!

The author’s note, “You Can Join the Watch,” helps children sort out the facts and the fiction in the story, and encourages them to watch and wait for Jesus to come again with excitement every day.

An Advent calendar coordinated with the book also is available, and includes a booklet with kid-friendly family devotions for December 1-25, each one planned to help children watch and wait!

Look! A Child’s Guide to Advent & Christmas, by Laura Alary, illustrated by Ann Boyajian (Paraclete Press).

This thoughtful book with lyrical prose looks back at people in the Bible who for God, looks around at our world and what needs to change, and looks ahead to Christmas and what happens whenever we say yes to God. Savor this one and enjoy the wondering!

One illustration includes prayer beads, which you might want to explain if that’s not your tradition.

That Baby in the Manger, by Anne E. Neuberger, illustrated by Chole E. Pitkoff (Paraclete Press).

How can children understand that Jesus came for people of all races and ethnicities when the baby in the church’s nativity scene doesn’t look like them? A first-grade class figures it out with help from a kind old gentleman and the parish priest.

Twas the Evening of Christmas, by Glenys Nellist, illustrated by Elena Selivanova (Zonderkidz).

This time it’s sleeping, dreaming stable animals who are startled awake by the unfolding events of Christmas Eve. Rhyming text (with a nod to Clement C. Moore) and amazing illustrations bring Christmas close in this beautiful, jacketed hardcover picture book.

I prefer not to see the wise men at the stable, since they arrived much later, but I do love these three!

See some of my other Christmas favorites in my post
The Twelve Books of Christmas.”

Next week I’ll highlight giftable Christian nonfiction books
for elementary and middle grades.

Thanks for reading! If you know someone who would like to know about these books for kids too, please share this post with them.

– Diane

A Thanksgiving Time Line and Cast of Characters

Painting by Jennie A. Brownscombe

Brush up on your understanding of the roots of Thanksgiving Day. Does anything here surprise you?

The Cast of Characters, Major and Minor Roles

King James I … he’d been persecuting the Separatists because they wanted to leave the Church of England.

Separatists … not to be confused with the staid and drab Puritans, who didn’t arrive in the New World until ten years later.

Christopher Jones … captain, or “master,” of the Mayflower and its crew.

Pilgrims … the term first meant the Separatists because of their wanderings in search of religious freedom, but today it’s applied to everyone on the Mayflower.

William Brewster … leader of the group of Separatists who sailed on the Mayflower.

The “strangers” … others who joined the Separatists on the Mayflower.

Oceanus … the baby boy born to Stephen and Elizabeth Hopkins during the voyage.

John Carver … first elected governor of the Plymouth colony.

Miles Standish … led an exploration party onshore before the Pilgrims disembarked.

Samoset … native American of the Wampanoag tribe who brought Squanto to help the Pilgrims.

Squanto … his perfect English and knowledge of fishing, planting, hunting, and trapping saved the Pilgrims who had survived the first harsh winter.

Massasoit … chief of the Wampanoag tribe, who signed a peace treating with the Pilgrims.

William Bradford … the colony’s second governor, who instituted the three-day feast we call the first Thanksgiving in order to acknowledge the blessings of God.

A Thanksgiving Time Line

1524-1614. European explorers visited the Cape Cod area.

1611-1614. A total of 32 native men were captured and kidnapped to be sold as slaves. Among them was Tisquantum (Squanto), who went first to Spain and then to England, where he learned the English language.

1616-1620. European diseases, for which the native people had no immunity, hit the northeast. So many from Squanto’s village of Patuxet died that the village was abandoned.

1618. Squanto came back to his homeland and discovered his village was gone.

September 6, 1620. Just over 100 men, women, and children—including a group of English Separatists—set out from Holland on the Mayflower, a wooden cargo ship no more than 150 feet long. Holland offered them freedom of religion but they feared the effects of living in a materialistic culture. Although they intended to sail to the Hudson Bay area, a storm blew them off course during their difficult, unpleasant 66-day journey. They reached land on November 11, 1620.

December 11, 1620. The Mayflower anchored at what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts. The travelers went ashore on December 16. All around them looked like wilderness, but it was actually the lands of Patuxet, Squanto’s abandoned village.

Winter, 1621. The Pilgrims experienced severe sickness, starvation, and exposure. Nearly half of the Mayflower settlers died.

March 16, 1621. Samoset visited the colony. Soon after, he brought Squanto, who agreed to live with the colonists and teach them how to survive in his homeland. The Wampanoag chief Massasoit and John Carver, the English governor, formed an alliance.

Early fall, 1621. The colony had a successful harvest. William Bradford, then the governor, called for a feast to celebrate and to acknowledge God’s blessing. The feast might have taken place in October. Some say the colonists invited some Wampanoags to join them; others say the native Americans came to investigate the gunfire they heard as part of the Pilgrims’ festivities. However it happened, 90 Wampanoags, including Massasoit, ended up joining the three-day celebration and provided five deer for the meals.

November 1, 1777. The Continental Congress called for the first national day of Thanksgiving on December 18 to commemorate victory over the British at the battle of Saratoga.

October 3, 1789. President Washington proclaimed a national day of thanksgiving for the United States Constitution.

1846. Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, began to campaign for an annual Thanksgiving holiday.

1863. President Lincoln called for two national days of thanksgiving, one in August after the battle of Gettysburg, and one in November to give thanks for “the blessings of the fruitful field.” The idea of an annual day of thanksgiving caught on.

November 26, 1941. President Roosevelt signed a bill making the fourth Thursday in November our national Thanksgiving Day.

 

– Diane

Teaching Children to Be Thankful (and a Conversation About Poop)

Thank You for the world so sweet,
Thank You for the food we eat,
Thank You for the birds that sing,
Thank You, God, for everything.

Do you remember learning this little rhyme? I do. And children still learn it and use it as a table grace. One of my pre-K grandsons recited it just the other day.

A Focus on Thanksgiving

November’s arrived, and that means “the holidays” get underway too. A focus all month long on thankfulness, and then figuring out how to carry that over into the plans and dreams your kids have for Christmas, right?

How DO we teach children to be thankful? Grateful even? Not entitled?

You can find a lot of good advice if you go looking. Just today I discovered this post from Tyndale House Publishers, with a new book about raising grateful kids at the end.

My one piece of advice is simple: Direct your child to the Giver.

A Conversation About Poop

Just today (after he had a ginormous poop), that same pre-K kid wanted to know WHY we poop.

“Well,” I said, “it’s from the food you eat. The part of your food that your body doesn’t need becomes your poop. God made your body to work like that.”

“Yeah,” he said, “and my body gets well. Like that scratch I had on my leg. It’s gone.”

“Yep.”

“Why did God make my body like that?”

“Because He loves you!” I said, with a hug for emphasis. I should have added, “Thank You, God!”

See, even a conversation about poop can become a time for turning a child’s thoughts to God and His great love for us, for which we are thankful and glad.

Growing in Gratitude

As children grow, projects like a Gratitude Jar or a Thankfulness Journal (or even a Thanksgiving Cootie Catcher!) can help children focus on their blessings.

So can sponsoring a child in poverty through a Christian organization as a family, or giving away possessions to benefit others.

The important thing, I think, is to direct your thankfulness to God.

It’s good to be thankful for beauty, for kindness, for fun, for family and friends. But all those things come from God, so focus on that with your child in all you do, in conversation, prayers, and songs. In big and little things, easy and hard things, be thankful to God.

I grew up singing the Doxology every Sunday:

Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him all creatures here below.
Praise Him above ye heavenly host.
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

I actually haven’t thought about those words or that tune for a long time, but both are there, stored in my memory by their repetition, and floated to mind as I sit here writing this post.

A good reminder that our being thankful should begin and end with God.

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– Diane

4 Easy Ways to Show an Author Some Love

Photo, Morguefile

I wouldn’t want to be “lost” in a corn maze. That feeling that your friends are somewhere, but at the moment you’re alone.

Being an author can feel like that. Writing a book is solitary to begin with. You know your readers are out there, but where? How do you find them?

Authors reach out to readers with newsletters, social media, speaking appearances, book signings, launch teams, and contests. But it’s still a lonely trek through a corn maze unless readers reach back in return.

Want to show a favorite author you’re out there? Want to reach back? Here are four easy ways.

1. Sign up for the author’s newsletter.

Did you know that with Facebook (and other social media), authors have no guarantee their posts will even show up in your news feed? That’s all controlled by the social media platform. But an author can communicate directly with readers with a newsletter!

2. Like and follow the author on social media.

Christian authors, especially, try hard not to measure their success by the numbers. But we’re all human, and creating and curating content to share with you on social media takes time. Let us know you’re out there and interested!

But just hitting Like or Follow on an author page isn’t enough (although we appreciate it very much!). Which leads to the next point …

3. Like, comment, and share the author’s posts.

Publishers do watch the numbers, by the way, so the number of people following an author does matter. But engagement matters even more. Authors care about what you think about what we’re doing and posting, and publishers care that we’re connecting with you.

In addition, responding to an author’s posts ensures that you’ll actually get to see most of them in your news feed. It only takes a few seconds to hit Like or Share or leave a quick comment. The more you do this, the more posts from that author you’ll see—the more often the author gets to connect with you on that particular social media platform.

Your responses share author posts with your friends … letting them know about your favorite authors and their books—a win for everyone involved.

4. Let the author know that you or your children have enjoyed a book.

Here are two easy ways to do this.

One is to write a short review on an online site. Don’t let the word review scare you. Just a sentence or two about why you like the book is all you need.

The other is to communicate directly with the author. Yesterday a friend posted a photo on my Facebook page—two little boys she cares for sitting side by side, one with an open copy of my Say & Pray Bible and the other looking at Say & Pray Devotions. Along with the photo, she wrote, “These two have been ‘reading’ your Say & Pray books for over 20 minutes!!!”

That kind of encouragement feels just like finding a friend when you’re lost in a corn maze. Finally,  you round a corner and see a friend up ahead. Relief!

Now, if you’d like to show this particular author some love today:
Sign up for my newsletter using the box on this site.
Like Diane Stortz Books on Facebook (help me reach the 600 mark!).
Go to amazon or christianbook.com and leave a short review.

Thanks SO much, and let’s stay connected!

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– Diane

“Thinking Bigger” at the Ark Encounter

Photo, Ark Encounter

“Think Bigger.” Last month I obeyed the ads and finally was able to visit the Ark Encounter theme park in Williamstown, Kentucky.

At the center of the park, of course, is a life-size Noah’s Ark, built according to the dimensions given in the Bible.

And it is BIG.

510-feet-long-85-feet-wide-51-feet-high-BIG.

According to the Ark Encounter website, the ark is “the largest timber frame structure in the world, built from standing dead timber.”

I had anticipated this visit a long time, and I expected the ark to overwhelm me at first sighting. But it didn’t.

My husband in front of the ark

Yes, it is impressive. And did I say it’s BIG? The closer you get, the more you know that.

But something other than size impressed me even more.

The “doableness” of the ark.

Building it, stocking it, filling it, living in it—all doable! The three decks inside show you how.

Photo, Ark Encounter

From how the animals were housed, to living quarters for Noah and his family, even to how waste could have been disposed of—doable.

I’ve always believed it. But now I can visualize it. And I was reminded of this verse in 2 Corinthians:

“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ.”  2 Cor 1:20 NIV

One of my favorite exhibits inside the Ark Encounter ark is Noah talking to visitors and answering questions. He’s animatronic, not an actor, but so realistic that was hard to remember.

Another area reminds visitors that God himself is the one who shut the door to the ark after everyone was in, and that just as the ark served as the door to safety from the destruction of the flood, Jesus is our door to eternal life with God.

As we headed back to our car, we spotted my friend Jenna, who lives nearby and now works at the ark, answering questions from visitors about the exhibits.

“I love it,” she told us. “We ‘have church’ up there!”

If you have the opportunity, visit the Ark Encounter, and take your children! Older kids and teens can enjoy many of the exhibits inside; with younger ones you’ll probably need to keep moving and pass up taking in all the information that’s available.

But that just means you’ll want to go back again.

 

– Diane

Praying for California

The devastation of the California fires this week shocks me. Have you seen the images and listened to peoples’ stories in the news and social media?

Photo, The Digital Story

I grew up in Anaheim, ten minutes from Disneyland, where eerie orange glowing skies and falling ash taunt the theme park’s “Happiest Place on Earth” slogan.

Two agents and a staff member from Books & Such Literary Management, including my own agent, Janet Grant, evacuated their Santa Rosa homes earlier in the week. Agent Rachel Kent’s husband is one of the firefighters bravely battling the flames. Assistant and author Michelle Ule has two adult children who live in homes in the affected neighborhoods as well—one of them in the house he was raised in.

Will they will lose everything or return to their homes? It’s impossible to know. So they wait.

Needless to say, the authors in the agency are praying. And watching Facebook for updates.

These three women aren’t just agents and office staff. They are their clients’ friends.

Would you take a moment to ask the Lord to comfort and sustain them? To calm the wind, and even to send rain? To ease the suffering throughout the state? To strengthen those fighting the flames?

Thank you!

– Diane

Here’s How You Can Help Houston

Texas Military Department via EPA

I keep wondering how it would feel to be a mama or grandma in Houston today, needing rescue or shelter, food and necessities. How grateful I’d be for that bottle of water or box of diapers, and for the people who provided it.

People I’d probably never meet. Strangers “out there” who simply care.

But since I’m here and not in Houston, I’ve got to be one of those who simply care, and show it.

I’m pretty sure you feel the same way.

So if you’d like to join me in making a difference, here’s a list of organizations I’m aware of that are hard at work in Houston and welcome your help. Just follow the links to donate.

American Red Cross
You also can text HARVEY to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Samaritan’s Purse

Salvation Army

Matthew 25 Ministries

Catholic Charities USA

Houston Food Bank

Galveston County Food Bank

Texas Diaper Bank
This news article tells about the work of this group.

SPCA of Texas

Austin Pets Alive

“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:10

We have opportunity, friends. If you have other suggestions for how to help, please share in the comments.

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– Diane

Living a Godly Legacy—Part 4

In this series I’ve said that how we live every day becomes our legacy, that God instructs us to communicate faith in Him to the next generation, and that He tells us how. We’ve also looked at specific ways to help our kids and grandkids experience and grow in faith by how we bring God and His Word into the family activities we’re already doing day by day.

Here in the series conclusion, I want to encourage you. You can do this! Here are some important reasons why:

God cares about your legacy. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs express general principles, not promises. So this famous proverb isn’t a guarantee, but it does tell us that God cares about your efforts to train your children for Him and that you can expect your efforts to have a good result.

Children of believers are set apart. First Corinthians 7:14 says, “The unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.” This isn’t a promise of salvation, but it does indicate some kind of special concern in God’s heart for the children of believers.

God’s Word achieves His purposes. Isaiah 55:11 says, “My word shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” Our job is to teach our children the Word. The results aren’t up to us, but the good news is the power and purpose of the Word always succeed.

Small beginnings please God. After seventy years of exile in Babylon, the Jews returned to Jerusalem to begin rebuilding the temple, but the work was slow and faced much opposition. The prophet Zechariah wrote, “Then another message came to me from the Lord: ‘Zerubbabel is the one who laid the foundation of this Temple, and he will complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has sent me. Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand’” (Zechariah 4:8-10, italics added).

Your efforts to live your legacy and teach your children and grandchildren about God may seem small to you right now, but they are a starting place. Or maybe you need to restart your efforts, or dive in for the very first time. The Lord rejoices with you to see the work begin. So begin, keep going, don’t stop. You CAN do this!

If you missed the previous posts in this series, you can find them here:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

– Diane

Living a Godly Legacy—Part 3

You want your children or grandchildren to know that God and faith are important parts of daily life, but sometimes it seems impossible, right? Getting everyone off to school or childcare and getting everyone to bed on time can seem like herding cats. How can you add one more activity to your family’s busy schedule?

The good news is, you don’t have to. Just bring God into the things you are already doing with your family.

Part 1 of this series explores what it means to live the legacy you want to give your children and why that’s important. Part 2 looks at the starting place—our own relationships with God and with our children—and what God’s Word tells us about sharing our faith with the next generation.

Here in Part 3, I’m sharing ways you can begin to live a faith legacy for your children simply by bringing God into more of your family’s activities.

Talk

Help babies, toddlers, and preschoolers begin to connect God with their expanding worlds. For example, at the zoo or the beach or the park, talk about creation and thank God out loud for making what you see. Make it natural—“God gave the giraffe such a long neck!” “Thank you, God, for the birds we hear.” (Yes, we can talk to God without bowed heads or folding hands!)

If a child is afraid of the dark, remind him God is always with him as you give a hug and turn on a night light. With children of all ages, talk about the things you do and why you do them—celebrating holidays, serving others, or going to church, for example.

Form the habit of talking with your children to show them who God is while they are young. Someday you will need to be talking to them about how knowing God relates to drinking and drugs, sex, abortion, evolution, and a host of other issues.

Share the Word

Your children won’t know the Bible is important to you unless they see you reading it. During a crisis one Christmas, a friend’s young daughter grabbed her mother’s Bible and sat down to “read”—although she didn’t know how to read yet. She had seen her mother go to the Word for help and decided help was needed!

Besides the traditional devotional time some families have with their children at bedtime, other parents read the Bible aloud at breakfast with their children, or do their own reading aloud as children play nearby. They won’t understand everything, of course, but you will be surprised by how much they do understand and remember.

What kind of music plays in your home and your car every day? Little ears (big one too) easily absorb God’s Word set to music. Try Scripture Lullabies at bedtime. We also love the CD included in My Sing-Along Bible by Steve Elkins for a musical journey through the Bible especially for kids.

Pray

We all learn to pray by praying, and children learn by hearing you pray and praying with you. So be sure to add prayer to the times you are already with your kids—meals, bedtime, and anytime you’re talking about a problem.

When my daughter Sheila was five or six, a neighbor boy continually pestered her. Finally we told her, “The next time he bothers you, tell him that if he doesn’t stop, you’re going to let hit him back” (and she did). That ended the problem, but at work I heard another mom telling how her first-grade twins were handling a bully at school. Each night, she was praying with her twins for the child who was bothering them.

Why hadn’t I thought to do that? Praying about problems hadn’t become a natural choice for me yet.

Accomplishments, disappointments, illness, pets, your family’s needs and the needs of others—show your children how to bring each day’s experiences to God.

Serve

Involve your children in service with you. If you make a meal for another family, take a child with you when you deliver it. Are you passionate about a cause? Let your children experience why. One of my daughters takes her children when she cares for the children of refugee women while they attend English classes. Her boys are learning to value caring for others who are different from them.

Find Christian community

Show your children that not only their own family has faith in God—others do too. Include friends from church in play dates and social events. If extended family members aren’t believers, look around for those who could be surrogate grandparents or aunts and uncles to your kids and get together with them for holidays and special events.

Sometimes we hear that faith is more caught than taught … but the truth is, it is both. And your example—your choices every day—can model faith and teach it too. Just choose to bring God in to the activities your family is already doing.

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– Diane