Introducing bite-size book reviews of kids’ books to inspire your child’s summer reading!
I hope when my kids are all grown up and think back to their childhood, books will line the halls of their memories. We are a book-loving house. We have books laying on nightstands, piled on end tables, and stacked (sometimes two layers deep) on bookcases. We even have a new member of the family, a rescue dog named Samwise the Brave, who likes to devour books. Only he actually devours them.
One of my great joys as a parent is watching my children light up whenever they read a really good book – to see them treasure it for themselves because of something it touched deep within them. I’ve loved watching them come alive when they read. Sometimes, a good book just changes you.
So we’d like to share some of our favorites with you (alongside a few more additional entries from our Cultivating Kids team)! We hope you’ll find these Book Bites* helpful and perhaps consider adding them to your collection – if you haven’t already.
Mother to a 15 yr old, 13 yr old, 11 yr old and 7 yr old.
(*Thanks to Women in Apologetics for this excellent idea)
Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan
Summary: Percy Jackson and the Olympians is a five-book series about a teenage boy who discovers, not only that Greek myths are actually real, but that his true identity is the demigod son of Poseidon. Throughout all five books Percy and his friends battle monsters, complete quests, and recruit other demigods, all while battling the ultimate evil: King Kronos himself.
What I Like: I love this book series because the characters are so relatable, and I love watching them grow older together and mature as people. Percy and his friends’ courage is remarkable when facing formidable monsters, like Daedalus’s Labyrinth, and many more. The way Rick Riordan writes keeps me on the edge of my seat, even though I have read the series at least three times! One of my favorite things about the series is how effortlessly it taught me extensive knowledge on all the Greek gods and heroes, without even feeling like I was learning anything! The book is targeted for ages 12 and up, so if these books fit your reading level, I strongly suggest you head to the library and read them for yourself.
- “A hero can go anywhere, challenge anyone, as long as he has the nerve.”
- “There is always a way out for those clever enough to find it.”
- “With great power… comes great need to take a nap. Wake me up later.”
- “If my life is going to mean anything, I have to live it myself.”
- “Even strength must bow to wisdom sometimes.”
- “Getting something and having the wits to use it…those are two different things.”
- “Being a hero doesn’t mean you’re invincible. It just means that you’re brave enough to stand up and do what’s needed.”
-Mackenna, 15 yrs old
Dream Traveler’s Quest by Ted Dekker
Audience: Ages 7-12
Summary: The Dream Traveler’s Quest is a series about a fearful boy named Theo Dunnery who travels through a book into a different world. This new world is full of many strange and unfamiliar creatures, such as the fun-loving Roush and the evil Shataiki. Theo soon discovers he must complete five different quests to obtain the five Seals of Truth about the mysterious and unknown, Elyon.
What I Liked: I liked this book because I loved imagining what this mysterious world and its creatures might have looked like. I liked all the crazy and dangerous things Theo had to do on his quests. I read these books at a time when I was feeling very anxious and afraid, and I liked that Theo also had to battle a lot of fear and anxiety. It reminded me a lot of myself. The Quest ultimately helped him become brave because, even though he was terrified, he moved forward anyway. Learning more about Elyon helped give him strength because it taught him that someone was protecting him. Even if something bad were to happen, he knew he would always be with Elyon no matter what.
- “Fear had made its return, creeping through him, but he knew who he was. He was the one who knew four seals – white, black, green, and red. He could not forget!”
- I am the light, and the light does not fear the dark. I am the son of Elyon. Elyon cannot be threatened. Surrender is the way to see the light.”
- “Theo felt absolutely complete in this one moment. He knew it wouldn’t last forever, but for now he drank in the feeling of being fearless and of swimming in the light of love.”
- “Theo grabbed Danny, pulling him up on the platform, and pointed. But Danny was looking at another mirror, arm extended and trembling. He followed Danny’s finger to a man standing behind the mirror – a man with no eyes.”
- “Light burst from the inside. It pulled them through, wrapping them in its warmth as they fell freely into the light.”
– Garrett, 11 yrs old
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
Summary: The Phantom Tollbooth is a book about a boy named Milo who enters a strange and perplexing world. In this strange world, Milo is called to a mission: he must rescue the two princesses, Rhyme and Reason. Along his journey, he meets all sorts of strange characters, one of which is a watch dog who travels the entire journey with him and helps him along the way. The Phantom Tollbooth is a wonderfully written book, full of puns and clever word play that makes it enjoyable and easy read.
What I Like: I really liked this book because of all the mysterious places Milo goes. At one point in the book, Milo ends up on an island called Jumping to Conclusions. As you might imagine, you go to this island whenever you make the mistake of jumping to conclusions. Once there, the only way to escape the island is to swim through the Sea of Knowledge. Of course, some are not brave enough to face the Sea and are trapped on the island forever. Though Milo faces a lot of opposition on his journey, his courage helps him stay the course.
- “People who don’t pay attention often get stuck in the Doldrums.”
- “They can never see what they’re in too much of a hurry to look for.”
- “There’s a lot to see everywhere, if only you keep your eyes open.”
- “There’s always something to do to keep you from doing what you really should be doing.”
- “So many things are possible just as long as you don’t know they’re impossible.”
- “The most important reason for going from one place to another is to see what’s in between, and they took great pleasure in doing just that.”
- “If something is there, you can only see it with your eyes open, but if it isn’t there, you can see it just as well with your eyes closed. That’s why imaginary things are often easier to see than real ones.”
-Grayson, 13 yrs old
Book Title (series):
The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
Audience: children 6-10
The many adventures of Henry, Jesse, Violet, Benny and their dog Watch were a favorite of mine growing up. The Alden children are mystery-solvers, but they also engage in the holy work of renewal and restoration. The first book introduces us to the four children while they are on the run, and they soon find refuge in an old, abandoned boxcar in the woods. They turn the boxcar into a home with things they find and ‘redeem’ from a garbage dump nearby, giving new life to what others saw fit to throw away – things like rusted silverware, a stray dog, and a cracked pink cup. The home they make beautiful is a foretaste of what’s to come. Relationships, like rusted silverware, a stray dog, and a cracked pink cup, can also be restored and renewed.
What I liked:
The golden thread of God’s story runs throughout each redemption and reunion. In a world with much that is broken, the cracks begin to fill with the four idealistic, industrious children seeing through the cracks, to the potential that still exists. I couldn’t get enough of this series as a kid. At the time, I simply enjoyed the story: four kids living in a boxcar, solving mysteries, and always having an adventure. However, I believe what made these stories last with me, whether I knew it or not, was the hope of the restoration and renewal of all things. A great part about being a dad is sharing things I loved as a kid with my own kids, and this series is no exception. It is stories like these that can give the hearts of our children courage that God is making all things new and has asked us to participate. May we see His workings in our families, in our communities, in ourselves, in the world around us, and even in cracked pink cups.
- “One warm night four children stood in front of a bakery. No one knew them. No one knew where they had come from.”
- “Benny had found four wheels just alike and laid them to one side. Now he held up a pink cup. There was a big crack in it, but it had a handle. ‘This will be my pink cup,’ said Benny. ‘I hope it will hold milk,’ said Jessie, laughing. ‘It’s a beautiful cup, Benny.’
- “ ‘Where have you been living?’ asked Mr. Alden at last. They all looked at each other, even Dr. Moore and his mother. Then they all laughed as if they never would stop.”
Father to a 7 yr old, 6 yr old and 1 yr old
Book Title: “Found” by Sally Lloyd-Jones and Jago
Audience: children 1+
Summary: A beautiful interpretation of Psalm 23, this little board book masterfully conveys the scriptural concept of God’s identity as our shepherd by isolating the Psalm’s key components and transforming them into words and phrases that resonate with a child’s heart.
What I like: Though a lot of people consider Psalm 23 to be a Psalm of comfort, this book (while certainly conveying that virtue) also imbues the reader with a sense of courage. The author affirms the notion that a Shepherd dedicated to his sheep will be always present, always there, always prepared to give his little lamb what he/she needs and find him in the darkness of the storms to bring him back into the brilliance of the light.
But I think the real power of this book lies in the illustrations; the compassion the illustrator infuses into the Shepherd’s face moved me as a mother to my children, and as a child of my God. As I read this book to my children, I began to feel that the emotions were meant for me, too; that the great Shepherd of my soul loved me with abandon and would be my great Protector, my friend, and my comforter. As I read this little book I remembered that, in my shepherd’s love, I could find strength and courage to step out of myself and into my identity as God’s beloved child. So that’s what I found myself praying over my children as I read them this book; the prayer that they, too, would feel like beloved children of God – ever loved and ever emboldened to step into that compassion and put on the armor of light over robes infused with a great, great love.
- “Even when I walk through the dark, scary, lonely places, I won’t be afraid. Because my Shepherd knows where I am. He is here with me.”
- “He keeps me safe. He rescues me. He makes me strong and brave.”
- “Wherever I go I know… God’s Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love will go, too!”
Mother to a 5 yr old and 3 yr old
The featured illustration is courtesy of Jordan Durbin and used with her permission for Cultivating and The Cultivating Project.
Nicole Howe is a writer, speaker, Bible study teacher, wife, and homeschooling mama to four kiddos. She serves as editor and regular contributor for the quarterly publication, An Unexpected Journal and holds a Masters Degree in Cultural Apologetics from Houston Baptist University, where she discovered the power of the imagination to restore awe and wonder to her floundering faith. Drawing deep insights from her ordinary experiences, Nicole is passionate about helping others discover the Truth, Goodness, and Beauty of Christ in broken and unlikely places. When she’s not devouring books, Nicole loves singing, pretending to be a chef, and performing Improv at her local theater.