Today is release day for Lions to the Rescue and Mystery at Crooked Tree Woods. I am delighted to recommend these excellent books for middle grade readers an I am happy to offer these latest releases, plus some fun freebies, as a giveaway. (Thanks to the author and publisher!)
Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate…
Jack attends a Christian school, so the adults on campus pray before classes and games. At the game, the coach doesn’t pray that the team will win, just that they’ll play their best. There’s a reference to a verse about friendship in Proverbs (18:24), quoted on a banner. Jack’s dad talks about how the Lord will provide, and about God working everything together for those who have been called according to His purpose (Rm. 8:28).
There’s also some content that affirms the importance of justice (like the Amos verse), which I discuss in depth in the “Representation” section.
What I Liked
This is definitely my favorite book in the series. In my review of book two, I talked about how I enjoyed getting to know the characters better, since first books need a lot of exposition. This is even more true in book three, as Jack’s relationships with the characters are even more solid, and the reader gets even more insight into the experiences of the side characters. And, like in book two, there are even more new characters.
I really enjoy school stories. Honestly, I’ll read school stories even when they aren’t very well done, but this is an example of a quality school story, with a bit more depth (like Andrew Clements’– what a great author! or even R.J. Palacio, although a bit lighter).
After reading two summertime stories, I was excited to join Jack for the beginning of the school year. Even though he’d been in the new community for two books, this felt like more of a “new kid” story, since Jack was unwilling to make friends in book one, and only now made an active effort to meet new people. I do like new kid stories, because they ‘re stories about people who feel like they’re on the outside, which is a universal experience for children and adults.
Jack and Ellison join a library club, which I really enjoyed, being a library professional, myself. I also really liked Mr. Simpson, the school librarian.
Ellison is now my favorite character, followed by Midge. I really relate to his preference for books over adventures. I enjoyed getting to know Ellison in a new way, this time, and it was SO NEAT to see how he advocated for literary representation in his neighborhood.
Midge continued to wow me with her scientific knowledge. I feel like she should be working in a laboratory, somewhere.
As with the other books, the characters contribute fun and educational tidbits of information. But this time, there were joint notecards. For example, we get “Ellison and Roger’s Bookish History,” and “Jack and Midge’s Science of Sports.”
As much as I enjoyed the storyline and narration, in general, my favorite part hands down was the REPRESENTATION theme. Ellison, an African American character, is an insatiable reader. During Lions to the Rescue, he reads Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred D. Taylor, and declares it “the best book [he’s] ever read.” According to Jack, that’s something Ellison often says, but this time, he means it in a new way. “Stories like this help me understand where my family came from,” he explains.
The plot also illustrates how books like Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry can combat racism. And, at the end of the book, there’s an appendix, Ellison’s Unbeliebable Unlibrary Recommendations, with books Ellison would recommend, including various titles by black authors.
It is so refreshing to see this theme, not only in a Christian book, but in a Christian book for children. Cultural representation does matter, because our country is founded on oppression. Christian children need to read books that advocate for social justice, and I’m delighted to recommend a title that raises social justice questions in a gentle way, without the deplorable content you’ll find in many mainstream books, even for kids.
I’m also happy to see this theme in a book from Moody Publishers. One of my favorite childhood series (from Moody_ was published in the same time period this series is set. However, as I reread it, I realized that there’s some content, pertaining to different cultures, that I can’t uphold. So, I do want to commend Moody Publishers on this new title!
This is a chapter book, so there are just a few illustrations. However, I do want to note that these are great! I like the visuals of the characters– and of Midge’s zany costumes/outfits.
There’s one use of the phrase “Lord knows.”
Jack “jokes” that you can read, even if you can’t see.
Minor discretion for the above content, but this is a book I would highly recommend. I am so delighted to see a Christian children’s book that discusses the importance of representation in literature! The book is also a fun read, and I would recommend it for home, church, or school libraries.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the book from the author. Opinions expressed are my own.