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The Heart Changer

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Can an Israelite captive, wrenched from all she loves, serve the very man who destroyed her village?

Miriam is asked to do the impossible: serve the wife of Naaman, commander of the Syrian army. Clinging to treasured memories of home and faith, Miriam faces captivity with worry and bitterness. Little does she know the Heart Changer is wooing and preparing her for a greater mission far beyond what she could imagine.

This middle-grade historical novel reflects the heartache and angst of a young refugee in a foreign land where all hope seems lost.

112 pages, Paperback

First published April 26, 2019

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About the author

Jarm Del Boccio

1 book29 followers
Jarm (’J’ pronounced as a ‘Y’) Del Boccio finds her inspiration in everyday life, but in particular, when she travels the globe, observing the quirky things that happen along the way, as she slowly checks off destinations on her bucket list.

Being a former teacher and librarian, Jarm’s passion is to breathe new life into the pages of history. She believes with inspiration from the past, children can be the hero of their own stories.

Jarm is content with the journey God has placed her on, and lives with her husband, adult daughter and son (when he lands at home) in a tree-lined suburb of Chicago. The Heart Changer is her debut novel

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Displaying 1 - 29 of 29 reviews
133 reviews2 followers
April 23, 2020
As an adult who really enjoys reading children's books, I have to say this was such a wonderful book! The author is a friend of mine and it was exciting to read this, her first published work. It really brought the story of Namaan and the little Israelite girl to life and testified to the power God has to change hearts. We loved having Jarm visit us here in England and speak to our homeschool co-op group about her book and her journey to becoming an author. My 8 year old daughter has read and re-read this book with delight!

Here's my 8 year old daughter's review: :-)

The Heart Changer is a story about a girl who was captured from her village in Israel and taken to a big city in Syria. There she was made a personal slave of the wife of the great warrior Namaan. Through many difficult circumstances, she found out that God is in control of everything and that what seemed very bad could actually turn out for good. I liked that the author started with some excitement and it made me want to keep reading to find out what happened! At first, I wasn’t too sure it was the kind of book I would like. But when I read it, I found out it was a book that would be great for all ages. And just a few chapters in, I was sure it was a great book! It’s one of those books that I want to keep reading again and again. The author put a lot of details in the book that helped me imagine the story. I also thought it was cool that the author based the book on a story in the Bible - especially one that I wouldn’t have thought about too much. The author inspired me to imagine the back stories of kids from the Bible. This is one of my favourite books I’ve ever read!
Profile Image for Suzie Waltner.
Author 7 books107 followers
May 19, 2019
I adore books for young readers that carry the message that, no matter what age we are, our actions, decisions, and reactions are noticed—and often influence—others. Jarm del Boccio takes it a step further by introducing young minds to a Bible story they may not have heard or paid a lot of attention to before.

When young Miriam is taken captive and put to work as a slave girl, she’s understandably angry, wondering how a loving God could tear her away from her family and deposit her in a new land with strangers. That anger is something she struggles to overcome throughout The Heart Changer. But this girl is also compassionate, caring, and courageous.

Del Boccio invites readers into an ancient place and time with her descriptions while delivering a story that draws readers in as they journey with young Miriam who is learning every day to lean into her Jehovah.

Disclosure statement:
I receive complimentary books from publishers, publicists, and/or authors, including NetGalley. I am not required to write positive reviews. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.
1,289 reviews27 followers
May 1, 2019
Finding freedom in captivity

The Heart Changer is a very touching and believable account of a twelve-year-old girl who has been torn from her home and forced to serve as a slave for the wife of the man responsible for her slavery and the destruction of her village. Written for a younger audience, there is not a great deal of violence, yet Miriam's agony is clearly felt. I love the way she learned to adjust to her new environment and the struggles she experienced as she sought to trust God even in a foreign land.

The author did such a fantastic job of making me consider what it might have been like. She cleverly included details from other details of Elijah and Elisha's lives and ministries and had set Miriam's former home in Shunam, the site of the home of the widow whose son Elijah raised from the dead to better incorporate them into the story.

Despite my idealized version of this girl who so willingly shared the healing power of God with her enemy, the author more realistically showed her struggling against anger, resentment, and unforgiveness. And even when she had given them over to God, she continued to struggle. Does that sound like anyone you know? It sure hits home for me!

This account stayed true to the Biblical narrative and gave some interesting details about the setting of this story. The city of Damascus came to life and colorful descriptions of foods and customs enhanced the reading. While not described in detail, hints about some of the potential ways Naman and his wife might have entreated their gods were mentioned. Enough so as to give an idea of the horrible cost those idols required without becoming overly gruesome or inappropriate for children.

Another thing I appreciated about The Heart Changer is that the author didn't dumb down the language for the intended younger audience. Even as an adult, I am sometimes insulted by the way middle-school and young adult authors simplify the language as if these readers can't handle big words. Not so with Jarm Del Boccio

While the target audience is middle-school-aged readers, I can also see older elementary, high school and adult readers enjoying it as well.

I highly recommend this lovely story of changed hearts, and will be watching for more books from this gifted author!
at Among the Reads""


I was given a copy of this book. I was not required to give a favorable review nor was any money received for this review. All comments and opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Nay Denise.
1,518 reviews82 followers
October 23, 2019
Received a copy from the publisher for review.

Beautiful MG biblical fiction. Definitely enjoyed this. Wish there was more to it.

Full review to come...

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This was such a beautiful read. I have never read a MG-based biblical fiction novel so this was sort of new to me. I didn't go in expecting to enjoy my reading experience as I would adult biblical fiction, but I did! I loved the writing. The chapters were short, but they were packed with essential moments, conversations and insights. The use of OT scripture was well-down as well!

Miriam was such an authentic girl to me. I could relate to her anger and bitterness, but I could also relate to her shame she had for being angry and bitter. At 12, she was kidnapped from her home in Shunem and taken to serve Naaman, Commander of the Syrian armies. Her new role would be assistant and servant to Adara, Naaman's wife. Miriam was a strong girl. Through all the hurt and pain she managed to make it through to the end. She was snarky, she was quiet, but she was also bold when it came to talking about God. I loved seeing her growth in her own personal faith and relationship with God. Her experience, though heart-wrenching, helped her to grow closer to God and to be used for purpose. Seeing her go from stubborn to open was beautiful.

Adara, Naaman's wife, seemed to be a bit pushy at times, but I loved her inward desire to grow closer to Miriam and learn more about God. She was kind to her servants and though she didn't believe in becoming friends with them, she treated them like humans and not lesser beings.

Naaman was an interesting man. You would think he'd be evil, but he, like his wife, had a nice heart. He was caring and protective. He was stubborn too. Seeing his inner "battle" with the prophet Elisha's request was funny.

Rana was a broken girl that just needed to be shown the light. I enjoyed seeing her go from angry to all smiles. Vashti was a cutie pie! I wish there was more of her, but with the direction the story took I'm glad she was away for safety!

Overall, this was amazing and would definitely recommend it to younger MG readers.
Profile Image for Nay Denise.
223 reviews75 followers
October 23, 2019
Received a copy from the publisher for review.

Beautiful MG biblical fiction. Definitely enjoyed this. Wish there was more to it.

Full review to come...

--------------------------------

This was such a beautiful read. I have never read a MG-based biblical fiction novel so this was sort of new to me. I didn't go in expecting to enjoy my reading experience as I would adult biblical fiction, but I did! I loved the writing. The chapters were short, but they were packed with essential moments, conversations and insights. The use of OT scripture was well-down as well!

Miriam was such an authentic girl to me. I could relate to her anger and bitterness, but I could also relate to her shame she had for being angry and bitter. At 12, she was kidnapped from her home in Shunem and taken to serve Naaman, Commander of the Syrian armies. Her new role would be assistant and servant to Adara, Naaman's wife. Miriam was a strong girl. Through all the hurt and pain she managed to make it through to the end. She was snarky, she was quiet, but she was also bold when it came to talking about God. I loved seeing her growth in her own personal faith and relationship with God. Her experience, though heart-wrenching, helped her to grow closer to God and to be used for purpose. Seeing her go from stubborn to open was beautiful.

Adara, Naaman's wife, seemed to be a bit pushy at times, but I loved her inward desire to grow closer to Miriam and learn more about God. She was kind to her servants and though she didn't believe in becoming friends with them, she treated them like humans and not lesser beings.

Naaman was an interesting man. You would think he'd be evil, but he, like his wife, had a nice heart. He was caring and protective. He was stubborn too. Seeing his inner "battle" with the prophet Elisha's request was funny.

Rana was a broken girl that just needed to be shown the light. I enjoyed seeing her go from angry to all smiles. Vashti was a cutie pie! I wish there was more of her, but with the direction the story took I'm glad she was away for safety!

Overall, this was amazing and would definitely recommend it to younger MG readers.
Profile Image for Jane.
840 reviews12 followers
May 19, 2019
I enjoy Biblical fiction, especially when the main character is a little-known Bible character. This type of situation gives the author room to allow their own imagination to develop a story for that character. I have no problem with this concept as long as it doesn’t change what we do know from Scripture.
Jarm Del Boccio tells a delightful story of Miriam, the captured Israeli girl who becomes the slave to Naaman’s wife. I love how Miriam grows in her faith of Jehovah as the story progresses, as well in her love for her master.
While author Jarm Del Boccio states in her author’s note that she attempted to stay true to Scripture, I found several things that did not ring true to Scripture for me. The first item is King Ben Hadad sending a letter to the King of Samaria while Naaman waited in Syria and then sending a second letter when Naaman actually went. The Bible only talks about the letter Naaman delivered to the King of Samaria. The story also indicates that Naaman knew before he left home that he was going to be asked to dip in the Jordan River. Another item is Naaman’s wife and servant girl traveling with Naaman to Samaria - I find no evidence in Scripture to support this.
I think books like this one are good for middle grade readers to be exposed to as long as they are true to Scripture. I wish that The Heart Changer didn’t attempt to change the Scriptural story. Because I do not believe this one to be true to Scripture I am not sure I will be placing it in my K-12 Christian School library. I will say that if used as a read-aloud in a classroom, the teacher could do a compare and contrast with I Kings 5 to find the similarities and differences between Scripture and Jarm Del Boccio’s story.
I want to thank the author and JustRead Tours for the complimentary e-copy of The Heart Changer.
179 reviews3 followers
May 2, 2020
I have read the story of Naaman’s healing in the Bible many times, and heard the story told in Sunday School as a child. I was always amazed that Naaman was able to be healed of his leprosy by bathing in the Jordan River seven times. However, I never really thought about the little details of the story. Naaman was the commander of the army of Syria. After he became ill, his wife’s servant girl, an Israelite, is the one who told him to go to the prophet Elisha for healing. We know little about this girl, but this book made me realize that this girl helped one who may have forcefully took her from her home, fought against her people, or at the least, kept her from going home.

The Heart Changer is a fictional account of this servant girl. I was captivated from the start. The girl, Miriam, was captured and taken to serve in the home of Naaman. She was to serve his wife. Miriam was treated well, but longed for her family and the life she knew. At first, her heart is bitter and she does not want to forgive her captors. However, as time goes on, God begins to soften and change her heart. When she finds out that Naaman has leprosy, she knows what she has to do to help.

I read this book in one afternoon. I appreciated that the book was only about 120 pages, so it gave enough details for me to be invested in the story, but it also made it an easy read for this busy mom. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and would recommend it to anyone who likes reading Biblical fiction!

I received a copy of this book from Ambassador International, in return for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Becca Rae.
528 reviews25 followers
May 8, 2019
The Heart Changer is a Middle Grade fiction read appealing to adults as well. It could have easily been turned into a full-length novel, but I recognize the intended audience which makes the length more appropriate. I often find that middle grade fiction feels more choppy simply due to reading level of the audience. Instead I was pleased that this story flowed quite smoothly and was highly capable of creating vivid imagery in my mind. Having said that, it may be better suited to more advanced middle grade readers due to some of the more advanced vocabulary woven into the piece.

This book follows Miriam, a young girl taken from her family and turned into a servant for Namaan's wife. Hopeful of being reunited with her family in the future, she willing submits to her new authority. One thing that I love about this story is that it shows young kids that God can work through even children. Even though she had her own struggles with the Lord following her capture, she couldn't shake His presence with her. Both afraid to speak and afraid not to speak, she trusted in God and His will. It was evident that God was with her and worked through her even at such a young age (12).

I personally enjoyed this story, and consider it an intriguing read for young tween/teen girls along with adult women. This is the author's debut novel but I will certainly be keeping my eye out for more from her in the future!

*I received a copy of this book through JustRead. Thoughts and opinions expressed are mine alone.
Profile Image for Chris.
Author 4 books33 followers
July 14, 2019
This is my first Jarm Del Boccio book. I read it as an ebook. She begins The Heart Changer - a story for children of all ages - in a burst of activity which immediately tugged at this reader’s heart. With vivid descriptions of sights and sounds that enlivened my senses, I quickly felt sorry for the main character, Miriam's trials and traumas as a pre-teen separated from her family. I loved feeling the impact of a compassionate smile when everything is scary and unfamiliar. And now have a better connection to the story of Namaan in my imagination.

I especially liked how Miriam chose to respond to her roommate who was a perfect villain at first. Del Boccio allows readers to sit for a while with Miriam’s bitterness, anger, and loneliness at being taken from her home. My heart warmed as I read how God transformed those emotions after she prayed a simple prayer for help. It’s a perfect story for those who’ve experienced trauma, displacement, and know (or want to know) people of another faith. And of course, for those who love to see the Bible come alive through fiction.

One reference in chapter eighteen to Miriam hiding her light under a bushel felt like a New Testament reference and pulled me momentarily out of the story. But the story and characters are strong. I was right back in it hoping and rooting for a miracle ending. What a great title and story. I highly recommend it. Well done, Jarm! I'm going for some water now. All those desert scenes have got me thirsty!
Profile Image for Candy Smith.
421 reviews36 followers
May 23, 2019
I absolutely enjoyed this Biblical Fiction story especially since it's such a small account in the massive book of countless stories that Miriam's story may often be overlooked, which makes me admire the author's ability to bring it to life! I'm always intrigued to see Biblical stories come to life in fiction even if they're not totally accurate, which is why it's "fiction", it helps open the eyes of the reader to whole new forgotten worlds of past peoples and culturals. The author did a fantastic job of doing this! I could relate to Miriam and her struggles with her feelings even at a young age. Though I'm an adult and struggle often with feelings of anger and unforgiveness even though I continue to lay it at God's feet, we sometimes forget that children and teens struggle with such feelings due to circumstances beyond their control. Be we have a Loving God who never leaves us or forsakes us and continues to work on changing our hearts, no matter how long it takes, just as He did for Miriam.
I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.
Profile Image for June Jacobs.
Author 28 books139 followers
May 11, 2019
This middle-grade historical {Biblical period} novel is filled with faith, forgiveness, love, and personal growth.

The author has done an excellent job of creating a story which would make an excellent family, classroom, or church school read-aloud.

I appreciated the poem the author included in the prologue, 'The Master Weaver', and the high-level vocabulary and sentence structure she used throughout the book. The story is filled with a wide range of emotions which draw a reader into the story from the first paragraph.

Recommended for fans of historical fiction, Biblical fiction, and middle-grade fiction.

I received access to a digital copy of this book for my own use. I was not compensated in any way to post my review here or on any other site.

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Profile Image for Rose (Adventurous Bookworm).
627 reviews87 followers
May 24, 2019
It's hard to keep my attention in a middle-grade novel. Normally. This book was an exception. I was hooked right from the start with the story and writing style.
Miriam jumped out of the page with her personality and tale. Miriam is a very likable character with her struggles and her journey to actually serving God with her life. While seeing life from her perspective, we get a deeper look into an Old Testament Bible story regarding Elisha and the man with leprosy.
I would recommend this story to all middle-grade kids and anyone else looking for a meaningful read.
Rating: 5 Stars
Content: 5 Stars
*I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author and JustRead Tours. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.
1 review
May 23, 2019
The Heart Changer takes you on a journey of a young girl who finds forgiveness and compassion and learns how to show it to those who have wronged her.

When faced with the reality that she may never see her family again, Miriam is heart broken and feels only hatred towards her master and his wife. But over time, she learns the importance of learning to forgive those who have hurt her and trusting God to carry out His plan in the midst of her pain. She realizes that that only He can restore hope when there is none, and only He can bring true reconciliation and forgiveness out of a heart full of anger and bitterness.
It's a reminder to all of us that we need the Heart Changer to work in our own lives.
Profile Image for Pippa Chorley.
Author 6 books13 followers
May 27, 2019
The Heart Changer, attracted me because the title was so powerful and the front cover captivating. The setting and historical time frame was one I know little about but it definitely felt an authentic read and created vivid images in my mind of what it might have been like in those times. Jarm Del Boccio obviously researched widely for this book! Whilst the book is a fictional story, it tales the tale of a character taken from Biblical scripture and for many this will create a debate over accuracy and small details. I was able to overlook any discrepancies there may be and would recommend this book to middle grade readers. I found the overriding message of forgiveness and love made it a powerful read.
Profile Image for Nancy Sanders.
Author 116 books75 followers
August 19, 2020
I was so intrigued to read a retelling of the story of Naaman from the Bible and the young girl who recommended he look to the God of Israel to be healed from leprosy. As I read, it felt like the Bible came alive to me. The sights and sounds of young Miriam’s world, her capture and struggle in her new life away from family and friends, and her journey of faith all made this book a treasure to read. Perfect for middle grade readers looking to learn more about the Bible and what life was like living during Old Testament Times. Also a great way to grow closer to God…just like Miriam and eventually the great man Naaman, himself.
Profile Image for Connie Dow.
Author 3 books6 followers
April 29, 2019
The Heart Changer is Jarmilia Vicki Del Boccio's new middle grade historical novel, and is the retelling of an ancient story. The time and place (the Middle East) is evoked through the many exotic sights, sounds, foods, and situations the main character, Miriam, experiences in her time as a captured slave. Readers will enjoy this well-written and well-paced book, and the colorful and evocative glimpse into the past.
Author 8 books21 followers
September 15, 2019
Miriam is ripped from her life and family and made into a servant in the household of the very commander who's people stormed her village. Though she is angry and at times questions her faith. She strives to be good and to make the right choices, even when it is hard, and even though she knows it may not help her get back to her family. She finds forgiveness and peace in her new lot in life and, through her faith, becomes the catalyst for a miracle.
May 4, 2019
Interesting take on the story behind Naaman wife's servant and the events leading up to his miraculous healing by God via the prophet Elisha. The events were portrayed in descriptive detail and helped to make me feel likeI was actually there. Jarm Del Boccio does a nice job of setting the stage and driving home the key aspect of our need for a Heart Changer.
571 reviews13 followers
July 7, 2019
This is a short book that starts out with a bang and ends with a sweet scene. Young girls who enjoy historical or Biblical fiction will enjoy learning about the One who can change our hearts and make us into someone He can use. There were elements of this story which we found somewhat unrealistic, but overall it is a good story.
Profile Image for Tina Shepardson.
76 reviews4 followers
October 20, 2019
The Heart Changer is a middle-grade historical novel about a young refugee trying to find her way in a very difficult part of the world. Through many hardships she learns about forgiveness, compassion, inner strength, faith, hope and love. An excellent book to read aloud or together with an audience in school, home, or other location embracing the life lessons this story teaches us.

Profile Image for Jarm Boccio.
Author 1 book29 followers
Read
May 28, 2020
Although I can't give this a rating, because I'm the author, I do hope this story offers it's young readers heart, hope and a hero. It's not easy serving the man who destroyed your village. Eventually Miriam uses the only weapon she knows - forgiveness. And it changes the whole course of her life — she becomes part of a miracle!
Profile Image for A.D. Lawrence.
Author 1 book151 followers
April 10, 2019
Very interesting take on the story of Naaman's healing. Descriptive language helped me feel like I was present in the story. Very good :)
Profile Image for Erin.
1,425 reviews6 followers
June 29, 2019
My Thoughts:
I gave this book a quick read. By this I mean it only took me an hour or so to read. It's a great story for your middle-grade readers. The Heart Changer focuses on a young twelve-year-old who is captured by the Syrian army. Her captor sees something in her and offers her to Naaman as a house servant as his wife has been wanting a new one.

Miriam isn't sure if her family survived and doesn't know how she can do this. At first, she's mad at God and doesn't understand what's going on. She's bitter and doesn't want to let herself care about those around her.

As Miriam grows in both her faith and her new home she becomes bolder and helps her captors. By doing this she gets to go back to her homeland for possibly a glimpse of her family. She's so worried about them. But she's also found a friend or two in this new world and making a change in not only her own life but theirs as well.

I highly recommend this as a quick read for your middle school kiddos. It's a great book with a wonderful lesson.

An ebook copy of this book was given to me so that I could read and review. All thoughts and opinions are my own and not influenced in any way. I am not required to leave a positive review but rather only what I personally thought of the read.
Profile Image for Rinda Beach.
Author 3 books12 followers
Read
April 24, 2019
Have you ever wanted to know more about a Bible story, the back story? That’s exactly what Jarm did with Naaman and his leprosy, the Naaman from 2 Kings 5 in the Old Testament. In second Kings, we don’t know anything about the maidservant except for the important part . . . that she believed in Yahweh and that her faith helped Naaman into the River Jordan.

Jarm started there, by giving the servant a name and a story based on historical details from this time period. For me it made the story richer, and it gave me a greater appreciation of the journey Naaman took. He didn’t want to get into the Jordan River. He said it was polluted, but he did it because of the faith of a servant.
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