The Green Ember

Green Ember

Here we have the gripping adventure that begins with oppression and the fight for freedom. In this tale of three books (more coming), the ravens and wolves have commenced an all-out attack on the rabbit kingdom, and the rabbits must fight for their lives, their freedom, and their children. The story of Picket and his sister Heather will be eagerly followed by readers, as very short chapters move the plot quickly along.

It is a rousing tale to read or listen to with your older children as themes of loyalty and treachery, family ties, faithfulness and sacrifice, oppression and persecution, truth and corruption are right there to be talked about. For kids studying history and time periods like the World War II, the third book in this series provides an excellent way to delve into the themes of government and the individual, treason and forgiveness, trust and regret, bringing home the terrible circumstances and difficult choices individuals had to make, while maintaining some emotional distance by the format of a fictional adventure.

The audio book is very well-read but a caution regarding the series over-all would be for violence. The author does a good job of not being graphic in his depiction of violence, especially in the first and second book where in battle he keeps description cryptic, simply saying things like “he swung his sword and cut him down.” But as the horrors of slavery in the third book come to light, our heroes are at different points struck in the head, kicked in the stomach, burned with a piece of iron, and threatened with a burning iron. The grim reality that young siblings are fattened and taken away for the enemy’s table also comes to light, making this series more appropriate for older children than young. Readers familiar with church history and current events, however, will quickly draw lines between the story and persecution today.



Ages: 10 or 13 and up.

Titles in the series so far: The Green Ember; Ember Falls; Ember Rising

Reviewer: Doreen

Ember Falls

The Little White Horse


By Elizabeth Goudge

A fairy-tale for middle graders, this chapter book tells the story of a girl who is determined to suppress evil and restore peace to the valley of her forefathers. Goudge was high-church Anglican and brings a strong respect for the church and one’s service to God. For Protestants, there is reference to a statue of Mary and the old traditional prayer times of the monks, but these are elements that can be taken in context of the fairytale as a whole. With little to no magic, except the sea horses which come rushing through the woods one night, the heroine proceeds with courage, discovering her own weaknesses and resolving not to fall into the old family ways of pride and bitterness. A strong sense of home and family and the sanctity of marriage are conveyed throughout the book. For preteen girls who still want to read fairytales, here is one that remains wholesome.

Chapter book

Ages 10-13

Available from public libraries

Reviewer: Doreen

Poetry Books


Favorite Poems Old and New selected by Helen Ferris

A thick volume of poems for children that is sure to contain many old favourites, plus introduce some new friends. The word “wholesome” comes to mind.

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The Children’s Book of Virtues edited by William J. Bennet

This large (not thick) richly illustrated picture book contains about 20 short stories and 10 well-chosen poems.

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Leaves from a Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson

With illustrations by Donna Green

Stevenson’s poems are almost a must as a first introduction to poetry for kids. There aren’t many full colour illustrated copies of his work available, that I know of, and so I appreciate these illustrations by Donna Green.

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The Random House Book of Poetry for Children: A treasure of 572 Poems for Today’s Child  selected by Jack Prelutsky

Mostly humorous poems, but some gems hidden in between. Kids will laugh and learn to love the rhythm and rhyme of poetry through some of these pieces. The illustrations are aptly silly.

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A Child’s Book of Poems  by Gyo Fujikawa

For those who find the book above a disgrace to all serious poetry, here is an alternative. About half as thick, this picture book is full of gems with a few humourous poems hidden in between. The illustrations are simple in colour and line.

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The Ideals Treasure of Best Loved Poems

Contains many classic favourites for teens and adults; is fully illustrated throughout with photographs from nature.  A good variety of well-known poems.


Poems for Children: A Delightful Collection for Boys and Girls

A slimmer picture book, illustrated in an old-fashioned style that matches the tone of these old classics for children. This volume has fewer (if any besides R.L. Stevenson) modern poets than the others.

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When We Were Very Young

And Now We are Six

Or compiled in one volume as The World of Christopher Robin

By A.A. Milne

Very true to the style of the original Winnie-the-Pooh books. These poems are a light and over-all fun read if you enjoy that whimsical ho-hum what am I thinking of train of thought…  A thick volume with line illustrations on each page.

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The Complete Book of the Flower Fairies

By Cicely Mary Barker

A volume that contains the flowers of each season, then the flowers of the garden, trees, and wayside, and lastly the flower alphabet. Each page introduces another flower or two.

With children dressed up with wings on each picture, this is an odd place to turn for nature study, one would think, but Cicely Barker’s beautiful paintings have realistic flowers that are accompanied by just as realistic poems that tell one or two striking characteristics for each flower.

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Out and About: A First Book of Poems

By Shirley Hughes

I was a little disappointed in this thin picturebook. The pictures and topics are very suitable for kids, but although I know poems don’t need to rhyme or have rhythm, I did miss it throughout, and I think kids would too.

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Winter Poems

Selected by Barabara Rogasky

I loved this book for the beautiful watercolour scenes that gave such a rich background to the winter season.  This book is intended for teens, however, I find, with more difficult language and the theme of death in one poem. Not as satisfying as some poetry collections, since for every classic favourite author, there were a few more stilted poems in between (personal opinion!)




by Phyllis Naylor

This boy and a dog tale is well-written in that it will bring you right into a back country culture and the dilemma of animals being mistreated. A lot of thought went into the book and various issues of conscience are brought to the fore, but I cannot say they are satisfactorily resolved. Besides some issues with language, there is the mention of Christianity and some church-goers’ habits in a very superficial, somewhat condescending, “old-fashioned” way. The author, in fact, seems to even question the foundation of what is moral and right, raising questions that are too complex for the intended audience to resolve without discussion.

Fiction, chapterbook

Not recommended for young readers.

Recommended only with discussion for young teens.

Reviewer: Doreen

William of Orange: The Silent Prince  


by W.G. Van de Hulst

Here we have the story of a Protestant hero told by a master story-teller. Sure to capture older children’s interest.

Ages 7 and up.

Available from Inheritance Publications, and Reformed Book Services


Reviewer: Doreen

In Flanders Fields


by Norman Jorgensen

This beautifully-illustrated picturebook provides a rather unsoftened look at war. Intended for older kids, it has somewhat graphic pictures in ink (some dead bodies, a skull, rats) which give a look at real life in trenches. The story follows an act of mercy and a brief glimpse of hope is portrayed by the bright bird and the Christmas carol with which it ends.



Ages 8 and up

Available from public libraries


Reviewer: Doreen



The Wind in the Willows


By Kenneth Grahame

These books are well-loved for their characters and setting. Grahame does a marvelous job of drawing you into Mole’s cozy home complete with simple comforts and carolers at Christmas; Ratty’s water world of “messing around in boats” and poetry-writing by firelight; wise old Badger who lives deep in the dark, forbidding woods; and, of course, Toad. Mr. Toad, with all his pomp and pride and falls. Mr. Toad who never learns and will always go on being the foolish toad that he is–as his friends pick up the pieces.


What more could you want? The difficulties, if they are such to you, is that the sentences are not simple and the language is difficult—definitely a vocabulary-stretcher!—making it a bit of a challenge to read aloud….that is where an audio version would be great. Another thing is the white buck that appears, seeming to protect the young lost otter, and worthy of the others’ reverence. This seems to jive with a Catholic understanding of saints and worship, but I could be mistaken.


For its keen insight into characters and the fleshing out of relationships; for its dry-your-eyes humour, triumph of good over evil, and folly reaping its own rewards: The Wind in the Willows is Recommended!


Chapter book, fiction

Ages 7 and up

Available from: public libraries

Reviewer: Doreen


The Gift of the Magi


By O. Henry

Illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger

The Gift of the Magi, a short story you need to read at least once in your life—and a story you won’t forget! Written for adults, teens will also enjoy the story, especially in this oversized picture book with very artistic, semi-developed pictures. Here is a beautiful printing of this wonderful story of love, sacrifice, and acceptance of one’s circumstances.


Short story in picturebook form

Ages: teen-adult

Available from: public libraries


Reviewer: Doreen



The Call of the Wild


By Jack London

I should begin by saying we only listened to the first third of the book. The Call of the Wild is a dog-story adventure set among the gold-diggers in Alaska. Perhaps this is a book for those who love the violence of a struggle for life and dominance among a pack of savage dogs and their rough and tough owners. There was so much beating and killing and tearing of flesh in the first third of the book that we quit. The violence was not redeemed by one moment of compassion, but perhaps that comes later in the book. The title, however, is fitting as the book tells the tale of Buck, a sheltered dog, who is stolen and forced into the world of a sled dog. Buck soon finds the call of the wild in his own character as he becomes hard and cruel himself, in order to succeed against nature and the other dogs who would kill him. There will be a further “call” though, as Buck encounters wolves.

If you have read or listened to the complete book and found the second half redeems the first half, please share in the comments below!

Ages 12-15

Available from public libraries

Reviewer: Doreen

Audio: read by William Roberts

The First Reformers

The First Reformers by Alie Vogelaar


With Reformation Day coming up next week I was looking for something that would present historical facts and keep four young children interested; not an easy feat. This book is actually the third of four novels written by Vogelaar that bring history alive by presenting it in story form.

Starting with Peter Waldo and the Waldenses the story follows a young French boy as he and his family flee to Switzerland where they continue to worship God in quiet freedom until even the Alps prove themselves too near the pope’s hateful rule. As time goes by the ambushes begin to lessen, as across the lands in England, John Wycliffe is busily translating the Bible from Latin into English. With another threat to his power the pope begins to focus his offences on the country nearer to him. But the ‘disease’ of the Reformation continues to spread and soon in Bohemia a pastor by the name of John Huss also begins to teach the people in their native tongue.  The story ends with the horrible martyrdom of John Huss by his enemies. Not a nice way to end a story perhaps, but as the great, church father Tertullian once said, ” the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”


Historical Fiction

Ages 5 and up

Available from Early Foundation Publishers

Reviewer: Meagan