Youth Book Review – Blotch: A Tale of Forgiveness and Grace

blotch book coverElise, a 9th grader from Element youth group, Gracepoint Berkeley church‘s youth ministry, recently read and reviewed a new children’s book by Andy Addis called Blotch: A Tale of Forgiveness and Grace

Here’s Elise’s review:

Blotch was a very entertaining read and definitely a good conversation starter for young readers with spiritual questions. The story about the boy looking for a way to get rid of the stains on his skin is a very relatable one, and touches on the different ways that people try to hide their sins. The main character in the story, named Blotch, gives a clear picture of the humble seeker, who gets to experience the truth that no matter how much you try to put away the “stains”, or sins of your life, they are always still there. I personally found it fun to read about how the author presented each character in ways I would never imagine. It’s an exciting adventure, filled with creative illustrations, that draws attention and gives much insight to problems many people don’t know how to face, and is definitely a recommended read to young and old readers alike.

Addis includes discussion guides at the end of each chapter. This parable was designed for parents or older readers to have conversations with children about the gospel and to make connections to their own lives. It would be a great book to read aloud during family times. I know Bibliopolis will be buying a copy today!

Here is a video trailer for the book:

Have you read Blotch? Share your experience reading this for yourself, or with a child in your life!

When is My Child Ready for Chapter Books?

One concern parents have is transitioning their children to chapter books. When parents ask me when their child is ready for chapter books, I tell them, “When they’re ready for chapter books.” I know that’s not so helpful, but it’s the truth! There’s no formula, and truly, each child is different. Just as they have physical growth spurts, and this happens at different times, they also experience different cognitive growth spurts.

For example, Nikki from Gracepoint San Diego church, is only 1.5 years, but she’s a really advanced reader. She’s not only reading The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee, she’s doing it while operating a vehicle. At least she waited until she was stopped at the intersection before reading, because as we all know, multi-tasking is a myth!

“I’m only 1.5 years old, and I’m almost done with this book. What have *you* been reading?” 🙂

But Nikki isn’t the norm. Most children will naturally gravitate towards chapter books around 2nd grade, but it could be earlier or later depending. The more challenging aspect about chapter books isn’t so much the lack of pictures — in fact, many chapter books incorporate pictures — but staying with a more complex set of characters who live in a world that the author builds over time. Some will struggle more than others with this, but the important thing is to continue to foster positive associations with books, so that they are curious and drawn towards books and story in general.

Do you remember when you started reading chapter books? What were some of your favorites? Let’s take a stroll down memory lane!


Books as Gifts: Easier Said Than Done

The most popular question I get from people at Gracepoint Berkeley church, and our church plants, is about a recommended reading list. And even more so, since it is Christmas time, and people are trying to buy gifts for nieces, nephews, cousins, and other friends and relatives.

But are you surprised by the title of my post? The reason is because it’s really hard to know if the person 1) already has the book, or 2) will like the book! So this requires you to know the person’s reading tastes and history fairly well. In fact, I have gotten several book donations to Bibliopolis from patrons who received books they already had as gifts from relatives, as well as books they received that they didn’t like.

Another thing to consider is that other people might get the same book for your friend/relative. How many of you received several copies of The Return of the Prodigal Son for your baptism? 🙂 An amazing book, but you end up with multiple copies that you feel like you can’t give away, because people have written personal notes at the front of the book!

So if you are positive person X wants a certain book because it’s on their wish list, or her mom told you, then go for it! If you’re not sure what to get for person X, but you know they don’t read all that much, so you’re pretty sure anything you buy will be new to them, then maybe you’ll find my recommended reading list as a useful starting point. I’d been working on a list, but realized it’s never going to be “ready” or finished. It is going to be forever in progress, so I decided to just share what I have so far. I invite you to help me add to it as well.

If you’re not sure what to get your person X who is an avid reader, or who has very particular reading tastes, then I really do think a gift card to a local book store, or online book seller is ok! Of course with a card from the big-A, you can’t prevent person X from buying toys or a juicer, but one can hope!


Do you buy books for people? Do you have go-to books you gift? Any favorite books you received? Or stories about bad book gifts? 🙂

God’s Story & The Jesus Storybook Bible

At Gracepoint Berkeley church, we are still very full from the spiritual feast we experienced this past weekend at our annual Thanksgiving Retreat! We’re praying for all the church plants, who are having their retreats this weekend (and two weeks from now for our church in Taiwan). The theme of this year’s retreat was about God’s Story, and how each of our stories are like threads woven into this larger, grand tapestry God has been weaving since the beginning.

jesus_storybook_bibleI don’t want to give away too much for the readers who are from the church plants, but wanted to give a little plug for The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones (2007), from which we excerpted some text for…a special something. 🙂 The book draws from key Bible passages to present God’s Story in a seamless whole.

The full title of the book is The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name. Each story from the Old Testament links to the larger arc of God’s salvation plan, foreshadowing and linking to Jesus. And as I’ve observed the kids in Bibliopolis reading to themselves, to one another, and discussing with each other, I’ve noticed that they are “getting it.” For example, as they read and asked questions about Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac, they made the connection that it was like how God gave Jesus, his son as a sacrifice. And if you notice, there is continuity in the artwork, and that helps them make this connection as well.

It’s a wonderful book to read aloud with kids. It’s very reasonably priced at, and just in time for Christmas presents for cousins, nieces, nephews, family friends, or whoever! Even if you don’t have kids of your own, it’s a great book to have at your house for when kiddos come over as well.

Do you have any stories to share about reading The Jesus Storybook Bible with your kids? 

Reading Testimonial: My Mom Read My Book!

love aubrey coverDuring my time with the Tigers (4th-5th girls), we were talking about Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur. It is a middle grade book in the realistic fiction genre, and it really tugs at your heart. Aubrey is 11 years old, and living on her own. I’m not going to tell you much more than that! Though given that “What are SpaghettiOs?” was the most frequently asked question of the girls who have checked out the book, I’ll help you out with that link. 🙂

I think that all, or almost all of the 4th-8th grade girls have torn through this book. It is on our Favorites shelf, though it never stays long before someone else checks it out. It turns out that they’re not the only ones getting into the book. Here’s a true story from one reader. We’re leaving it anonymous to protect the identity of the mom. But if you read closely, you can pick up the not-so-anonymous clues*.

I was reading the book, and started explaining it to my mom. And I said, “Mommy, doesn’t that sound sad?” Then she said, “Here, let me read a little.” So she started reading. And she kept reading it.

When I asked for it back, my mom looked up, and she was crying. I said, “Haha, you’re crying!!!” Because I’ve never seen her cry like that**. And she said, “It’s sooooo sad. Taylor, go get me a tissue.” And then I said, “Mommy, give the book back.” And she said, “OK, fine,” but I could kind of tell she wanted to keep reading it!

Then later, again she asked, “Can I read it?” and she kind of took it from me. And then started reading it. We went back and forth, taking turns reading it for a while. But then later she said, “Go brush your teeth, and then I’ll give it back.” I didn’t want to, but she kind of said she wouldn’t give it back if I didn’t go brush my teeth!

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Mr. Sketch has started a trend of using IKEA pillows to remain anonymous!
 After she told us this story, the rest of the girls started in with their stories of, “ME TOO!” with their moms and various books. And that led to other related stories. It reminded me of Sara getting Jonathan to check-out Gregor the Overlander for her. It was pretty awesome and heart-warming to hear the girls tripping over one other to tell stories about times spent with their parents, siblings, and friends around shared books. This story and others like it show how reading is as social and community-building an activity as it is a solitary one. Let’s continue to create positive reading memories with those the closest to us!

Are there books that you loved reading together and talking about with your family and friends? Have you ever had to battle your parents for one of your books that they started reading? If so, who won? 🙂

*It may appear that a disproportionate number of posts are starting to feature my friends, but it’s entirely coincidental. I’m just a (wannabe) beat writer, reporting the good reading stories as they come, you know?

**I did confirm this fact with the mom in question. When I asked her how she liked Love, Aubrey, she responded, “It’s such a tear-jerker.” 

Being “All There” When Reading with or to Your Kids

In our go-go-go, “Always On” kind of society, having real quality time with the people we care about most in our lives is a rare thing. Studies show that our kids are being shortchanged the most in all of this. Sadly, they are growing up in a world where to expect face-to-face conversation that is unhindered and uninterrupted by devices, even or especially with their parents, is considered “too much” and unrealistic.

Before I get too carried away with this topic — I want to save it for a review of an amazing book I’m reading right now about this very issue — I will do the “picture is worth a thousand words” thing. I’ll even throw in a video, so that must be worth a few more words! 

There’s a way in which we can turn reading to our kids into a task, something good we know we should do but only one in a long list if things we need to “get done.” We might even have our phones out and check them on the sly. But our kids notice everything. And when we do this, we forfeit a wonderful way to relate with and have a conversation with our kids, and reinforcing this way of always being “somewhere else,” even with our kids, whom we love very much.

Truly reading with or to your kids is an activity that requires a lot of care, wouldn’t you say? (I’m finding a way to connect each week’s photo challenge to reading!) Here’s a picture of Pastor Ed Kang reading to the kiddos during he and Kelly’s recent visit down to our Gracepoint Riverside & Irvine churches.

Photo and video credit to Kelly Kang, who you can tell from the video is trying to get some love from Kaylee on behalf of Anna. 🙂
And here is a video of the actual “slightly” paraphrased reading from Shel Silverstein’s classic The Giving Tree.

The Giving Tree – as read by Uncle Pastor Ed from hemilykim on Vimeo.

I know we all live busy lives, but when you set aside some time to spend reading with or to your kids, I want to encourage you to be *ALL THERE*. That means you’ll have to put away your devices and open yourself to the possibility of some conversation! I promise, your email and text messages will still be there afterwards. 🙂

Do you have any fond memories of reading with your kids? Or being read to by your parents, or others? How about thoughts on The Giving Tree…do you think it deserves all the hype? Share your thoughts!

Blog Rec: Breakpoint’s Youth Reads

Many parents throughout our Gracepoint churches ask me about social issues in books, what age is appropriate for a specific title, and so forth. Part of my job is to stay up on these things and communicate with you regarding new books* and trends in youth literature and culture. But for some of you who are interested and have the time to read up on your own, I will recommend websites and blogs from time to time.

Today I want to let you all know about Youth Reads, a column housed on the Breakpoint website.


There you’ll find reviews, recommendations, and polls, and more.

You may have read or heard the recent Breakpoint Commentary by Eric Metaxas. In it he references a book that was reviewed on Youth Reads. Reviews do consider things like sexual ethics, mental health issues, religion and worldview issues, and diversity in YA literature from a Christian perspective.

*Yep, I am aware that the new Rick Riordan book comes out tomorrow. I will do my best to read it super fast so I can provide a review of what will hopefully be an original series that doesn’t merely graft his character archetypes into the next mythology (this time Norse).