Esther is a fourteen year old orphaned Jewish girl who is kidnapped by soldiers of King Xerxes of Persia, and taken to his harem in the palace. It isEsther is a fourteen year old orphaned Jewish girl who is kidnapped by soldiers of King Xerxes of Persia, and taken to his harem in the palace. It is there she must learn to protect herself against the vicious concubine who has been scheming for years to become queen. After a year of preparation, she is presented to the king. Esther manages to capture his heart and attention and is made queen. Now she must watch out for herself more than ever, as she has fallen for one of the Immortals, an elite soldier of the king. Her cousin Mordecai is the king’s accountant and he warns her about Haman. He is the king’s most trusted advisor, who plots the downfall of the Jewish people to increase his own power and prestige. Will Esther be strong enough to risk her life to defeat Haman and save her people? Find out in this lushly described tale of one woman’s journey to greatness. 3-1/2 stars.
I’ve always been fascinated by the story of Esther but never knew much about it, so I figured this book was a good way to get a glimpse. The book does remind me of Tosca Lee’s "The Legend of Sheba", another religious fiction ARC about a strong female lead. I love books that are well-researched and pay close attention to detail, and with this book, the reader could really imagine themselves as a young girl surving in Xerxes’ palace. It makes me want to read a biography of the king. I must say that the whole time I was reading it though, I kept picturing him as Rodrigo Santoro, that Brazilian actor who starred as the king from the movie "300". It’s kind of hard to believe that all the events in the story happen in little over a year, as it seems like much longer because so much happens to the unlikely heroine. The time she spent in the harem were particularly fascinating, and I enjoyed learning about all the intrigue and backstabbing. It’s crazy to think that any woman would wait a year to get ready for a man to have sex with them and this act alone would determine their fate. I’m guessing the author put the Esther-Erez romance in to counter the transaction-like relationship between the queen and Xerxes. While I enjoyed that part of the story, it does kind of take the attention away from the Biblical tale. Overall, I liked the book but it did drag a bit.
Disclaimer: I received this book, from the publisher Howard Books, in exchange for my honest review.
Maviah is the daughter of a Bedouin (or Bedu as they are called in the book) shiekh, Rami bin Malik. She was exiled to Egypt after being born illegitiMaviah is the daughter of a Bedouin (or Bedu as they are called in the book) shiekh, Rami bin Malik. She was exiled to Egypt after being born illegitimate, and sold into slavery. She has reluctantly come back to live in her father's household after becoming pregnant out of wedlock. Despite the fact that the Bedu are traditionally nomadic people, her father has settled down in the city of Dumah. Rami's wife, the niece of the Nabataean (Southern Jordan and Syria) King Aretas, is dying and in revenge, a rival Bedu tribe (authorized by King Aretas) has come and devastated the city of Dumah. Maviah is tasked with seeing King Herod and getting the support of the occupying Romans to get rid of the rival tribe and King Aretas, after offering the Bedouin trade route through the desert as compensation. She is accompanied by Saba, a powerful but silent black warrior and Judah, a Jewish Bedu. They have to journey through the perilous Nafoud desert to get to Sepphoris in Judea and the palace of King Herod. It is on this mission that Maviah first meets Jesus (called Yeshua in the book) and discovers his teachings, which will forever alter her life and thinking. 3-1/2 stars.
I was contacted by the author's marketing department to review this book after they saw my review for Tosca Lee's fabulous book "The Legend of Sheba: Rise of a Queen". As I later discovered, Lee and Dekker had worked together on a book series. I looked at the book blurb and it looked fairly intriguing, so I said yes. The author, Ted Dekker, is known for his "Christian" fiction thrillers. I put Christian in quotes because I read an interview on the author and he doesn't seem to think of them as Christian per se, but that is what they are labeled. I'm not a huge fan of Biblical Fiction, although I have enjoyed a few of those kind of books in the past. First off, I would like to say how much I liked that the author did his homework in relation to the historical events of the book and overall I enjoyed the story. I really liked Maviah's story and especially (surprisingly for me, as I'm not very religious) enjoyed the parts relating to her musings on faith and what it means to be faithful, and how that connected with her role as woman and mother. However, the book majorly dragged in the beginning and middle sections, so much so that I several times wanted to stop reading but had promised to write a review and so had to continue. The beginning of the book was rather violent and a bit off-putting to be honest, then the book severely dragged when they were in the desert, then got interesting again at King Herod's palace and her first meeting with Yeshua, then dragged again when she met King Aretas, and so forth. And then when I was really getting into the story at the end of the book, he suddenly ended it and there will be a sequel (entitled "A.D.33"). This made me a little upset because the book was already long and it wouldn't have taken much to finish it up, and therefore not that many more pages, instead of a whole separate book. That is why the book earned 3-1/2 stars instead of 4.
Disclaimer: I received this advanced reader’s copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review....more
Set in tenth century B.C.E., Bilqis is the daughter of one of the most beautiful wives of the King of Saba, also known as Sheba (located in modern-daySet in tenth century B.C.E., Bilqis is the daughter of one of the most beautiful wives of the King of Saba, also known as Sheba (located in modern-day Yemen). After her mother passes away, she is targeted by the new wife and forced to flee to her mother’s homeland of Punt (the actual location is disputed, but we’ll say that it is in modern-day Ethiopia). She takes on a new identity and becomes Makeda. Once she becomes eighteen and her father is gravely ill, she is taken back to Saba and successfully regains the throne. King Solomon of Judea, famous for his hundreds of wives which provided many alliances and his wealth, starts up a correspondence with the Queen and this continues for awhile until he demands she send an emissary. Lonely and intrigued by this man, she decides to go herself to see him. What happens next is written in the Bible, the Qu’ran and other texts.
I will admit that I originally picked up this book after reading Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimaeus book The Ring of Solomon, which briefly mentioned both King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Also, I did an art talk on Ethiopian Orthodox art and happened upon the origin story The Glory of the Kings, which describes the Ethiopian kings being descended from the mythical Queen of Sheba and King Solomon, made me curious to know more about her. It reminded me of something of both Ancient Egyptian history and the Arabian Nights. I love books about strong historical women and this book did not disappoint in that regard. I love that she conquered Solomon with her words and by not revealing her face for most of the storyline! I was glad that she managed to find some true love, despite the tragedy in her life. I think I liked and respected her more because she did not grow up a privileged brat but rather had to fend for herself and fight to be independent as a ruler and lover. Highly recommended, 5 stars.
Disclaimer: I received this advanced reader’s copy book via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review. ...more
I will say that this was a very long book to read aloud, with not that many illustrations, but the ones it did have were pretty detailed and spectaculI will say that this was a very long book to read aloud, with not that many illustrations, but the ones it did have were pretty detailed and spectacular! Finding out that this author was the same author that did another Caldecott Honor winning book "Journey Cake, Ho!" makes more sense, as this was another odd duck book. The parts of the story that I didn't get were in relation to St. Lucy's Day, where Anna chases chickens around a yard and sings a song while doing it, to encourage to lay eggs throughout the year. It just seemed out of place. Plus there was that whole thing with the talking dog on Christmas Eve.
Ruth Sawyer obviously researched quite a bit to create this book, which was about a Hungarian family during a war. This book won a 1945 Caldecott Honor. It explains a lot about the Christmas traditions celebrated in the Russian Orthodox Church, as carried out by Anna and her family. The story starts off with a visit from St. Nicholas himself, who asks Anna and her brother what they want for Christmas. Soldiers have already cleared out most of their harvest and food, and even though they don't have the ingredients, the one thing that little Anna wants for Christmas is a Christmas Cake. She finally gets her wish when her very own Christmas Anna Angel (who looks just like her except with angel wings) makes magical Christmas cakes for the whole family to eat. Recommended for ages 7-10, 3 1/2 stars. ...more
Normally I hate it when books like this and songbooks win the Caldecott, because there is usually not any skill involved, you are just selecting partsNormally I hate it when books like this and songbooks win the Caldecott, because there is usually not any skill involved, you are just selecting parts of other people’s work. Cases in point, anything selected by Marjorie Torrey and illustrated by Opal Wheeler. This book won a 1944 Caldecott Honor. However, like “Animals of the Bible, A Picture Book” illustrated by Dorothy P. Lanthrop, which won the very first Caldecott Medal in 1938, this had charming little illustrations done by Elizabeth Orton Jones. It’s not that I have anything against kids reading Bible verses (I read a toddler Bible to my son occasionally), but I feel that by selecting text from a pre-established source you’re taking away an award from somebody who actually came up with a real story from scratch. Rant over. Recommended for ages 2-7, 3 stars....more
I totally think this book should've won the Caldecott Award in 1967, instead of a Caldecott Honor. Of course, I'm a bit biased because I think "Sam, BI totally think this book should've won the Caldecott Award in 1967, instead of a Caldecott Honor. Of course, I'm a bit biased because I think "Sam, Bangs, and Moonshine" is one of the worst children's books ever written/illustrated. This book was way better illustrated, with beautiful whimsical woodcuts and pages in bright happy colors. The story is based off an African-American spiritual on Noah's Ark, and the song is included with music in the back of the book. Recommended for ages 2-7, 4 stars. ...more
I found this to be a really interesting look into Mexican culture at Christmas, even my son was fascinated by the pictures. The story was a little lonI found this to be a really interesting look into Mexican culture at Christmas, even my son was fascinated by the pictures. The story was a little long-winded in places and kind of went off-topic, but overall was well-done. It reminded me of Disney's "The Three Caballeros," as this tradition is mentioned in there. This book won the 1960 Caldecott Award. The story is about a girl in kindergarten named Ceci who is finally old enough to have her first posada, which is the search that Mary and Joseph take when looking for a place for Mary to have baby Jesus. After they do their procession around, they have a party and celebrate with a pinata full of candy, citrus and toys. Ceci picks a golden star-shaped pinata but is sad when her partygoers must destroy it. The star tells her not to be sad because it has turned from a pinata into a real star, and it is all thanks to her. Recommended for ages 4-8, 3 1/2 stars. ...more
I'm always on the lookout for Bible picture books to read to the kids in the Nursery and my son. It was interesting to find out that Katherine PatersoI'm always on the lookout for Bible picture books to read to the kids in the Nursery and my son. It was interesting to find out that Katherine Paterson was a missionary for four years, as well as being married to a minister and the child of missionaries before she became a writer, especially as her book "Bridge to Terabithia" has caused so much controversy for its subject matter. Anyways, the book is basically a well-done summary of the life of Jesus from conception to his death. The book is greatly enhanced by the gorgeous paintings of Francois Roca, who actually makes Jesus and the rest of the people in the book look like the area they came from and not lily-white like most stories like to portray him. Recommended for ages 3-8, 4 stars. ...more
The text, taken directly from the Book of Genesis of the King James Bible, is quoted at the top of the pages. The story tells about how God wanted toThe text, taken directly from the Book of Genesis of the King James Bible, is quoted at the top of the pages. The story tells about how God wanted to punish mankind but spared Noah and his family, as long as they built an ark to house two of every kind of animal/insect in the world. Paintings completely circle the text, then it is followed by several two page full-color spreads of incredible detail. The paintings are a mix of tempera, watercolor and pencil on watercolor paper. The back of the book features a blurb about the author and the story. I think my favorite illustration is of the building of the ark itself. Recommended for ages 3-7, 4 stars. ...more
This is a very short board book which explains the Christian prayer "Hail Mary", in a way that can be explained to young children. The illustrations aThis is a very short board book which explains the Christian prayer "Hail Mary", in a way that can be explained to young children. The illustrations are simple but effective in further breaking down the text. I am very interested in checking out the author's second book on the "Our Father" prayer as I think both of these books would be excellent to have in the Nursery at the church where I work. Recommended for ages 1-5, 3 stars. ...more