Heroes of Faith Challenge Winners (Get Inspired!)

The Heroes of Faith Spring Reading Challenge at Gracepoint Berkeley church is officially over. In all, we had 14 people finish, with some people completing twice.

Here are some noteworthy statistics/awards:

  • Most favorited Heroes of Faith: George Mueller (Christian Heroes Then & Now) and Corrie Ten Boom (The Hiding Place)
  • Post-College finishers: 5
  • College Student finishers: 7
  • Elementary Student finishers: 2!
  • Female finishers: 12
  • Male finishers: 2
  • Most represented ministry: tie between Klesis and Koinonia Berkeley with 3 each.
  • Double finishers: Seniors Emily Rah and Krystal Han, from a2f Berkeley and Koinonia Berkeley respectively
  • Most senior finisher: Sarah Kim (?? years old)
  • Youngest female finisher: Julia (9 years old)
  • Youngest overall finisher: Wesley (8 years old)

With their permission, I am featuring our youngest finishers and their mini-reviews. I hope you’ll be inspired to pick up some more books!


 

Julia (holding her favorite biography) celebrating her completed bookmark with two of her friends!

Hi, my name is Julia. I’m 9 years old and in 4th grade. The heroes of faith book I liked the most is about William Wilberforce. I liked that book the most because when he really starts to understand the true meaning of what it is like to be a Christian, lots of people are asking him to present a bill against slavery to Parliament. After like a week he finally decides that he will present the bill. He decided to do that because this guy named Thomas gave him a copy of his essay to read. After he read all those words he started studying slavery. He learned all of these crucial facts about what people were doing to slaves, and that is what led him to the point when he presented the bill to the others.

Throughout half of his life he fought for others to have their freedom even though people kept on rejecting the bill. He still persevered, he brought up the bill several times, and had lots of supporters too. He eventually succeeded and it became a law officially.

This inspired me because he was a really bad person before. He would never study and his tutor would make fun of him if he studied or went to church or even read the Bible, so William would just gamble away and drink a lot. But when he met his old friend Isaac, he turned into a Christian and wanted to help all slaves get their freedom.  I would highly recommend this book to anyone.


 

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Wesley not only reads Heroes of Faith biographies, but plays baseball too. 🙂

Wesley is 8 years old and in 3rd grade. Here is his mini-review of his favorite book from the challenge:

 

My favorite Christian Heroes book I read is about Jacob Deshazer because he was stuck in jail for many years and then he told a lot of people about God in China. When he was in jail for many years, he got to read books and one of them was the Bible. He read it 15 times before he gave it to someone else. This is how he became a Christian. I also thought it was cool that he was part of the Doolittle Raiders who first attacked Japan with a B25 bomber.

 

 

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!

Youth Book Review: A “Wonder”-ful Companion Novel

It’s been a spell since our last Youth Book Review, which was a smash hit, and lots of people ran out and read Wonder by R.J. Palacio. Since writing the novel in 2012, Palacio has written several shorter pieces that were previously only available in e-book format. Earlier this year, all three “chapters” were published together in the form of Auggie & Me.

If you’ve already read the e-books, you’ve already read Auggie & Me. 🙂  Just to clarify, this is *not* a sequel. There’s a whole ‘nother thing that has emerged in the book publishing world, in the form of the “companion novel”. It’s set in the same world, and in roughly the same time period as the events of the original novel, but tells the story from another character’s point of view, or the fuller story of a supporting character who was in the original book, as a sort of parallel story. Its close cousins are the 0.5 story (prequel), or the 1.5 story (the story published as an e-book while you wait for book 2 to come out in a series). But I digress.

Today’s book review comes from a 7th grader from our Gracepoint Los Angeles church. As she is the sole 7th grader at our LA church plant, her identity is not a secret. Nevertheless, because pen names make everything more fun (see: Mr. Sketch), she writes under the nom de plume Number Two, which is a literary allusion to Pencilla’s code name in The Mysterious Benedict SocietyGet it? Number Two…Pencilla?

Number Two’s natural ebullience* comes through in her review, and it makes me wish that I had added my name to the Book Waiting List for the book before setting it loose among the Bibliopolis middle school patrons!

auggie and me coverI wanted to read Auggie and Me by R.J. Palacio because I absolutely loved Wonder. When I saw that there was another book relating to it, I immediately wanted to read it. In the three novellas, Auggie is more of a side character than the main man. The three main characters are Julian (the bully), Christopher (Auggie’s old best friend), and Charlotte (Auggie’s “welcome buddy”). Each story is told from one of their perspective.

The first story is “The Julian Chapter”. If you have read Wonder, you know how Julian is like. He’s the kind of kid who doesn’t like changes, so he tries to turn things back to normal by making Auggie feel ashamed of himself, in hopes of him leaving the school. In Wonder, I really didn’t like Julian at all and he just made me so mad. But in this chapter, Julian finally comes to his senses and realizes what he has done to Auggie. His big realization comes when he says that sometimes we hate the things that we’re afraid of. For him, it’s Auggie. Over the summer after thinking a lot, he finally decides to apologize to Auggie and wants to start things over with him. He makes a precept that says: “Sometimes it’s good to start over.” Towards the end of this chapter, I kind of felt for him more and could see what he was going through.

The second story is called “Pluto”. It kind of peeks into Auggie’s life before the events of Wonder, when he still had his best friend Christopher, before he moved away. When Chris moved, he and Auggie slowly grew apart. Before reading this I didn’t really know how Chris was like but as I continued to read it, he became a very relatable character especially since he is in middle school. When he went to his new school he realized that it’s hard to have a friend that looks so different. So Chris decides to find some normal friends who people won’t stare at all the time and ignores Auggie for a little while. But then something happens (you’ll have to read it to find out what!) and Chris realizes that having a true good friend is worth the extra effort.

The third and final story is “Shingaling”. It’s based on the perspective of Charlotte Cody. She is the “welcome buddy” for Auggie and is kind of known as a “goody-goody”. I remember I didn’t like her that much in Wonder because she seemed “too nice”, but as she enters middle school she struggles with popularity and friend problems and I was able to understand her a little better. As she continues to try to help Auggie out and be a good friend to him, she encounters problems of her own (which you’ll find out about when you read!). Through all this she realizes that doing what is right is not always popular. This novella was probably my favorite because I was able to relate to it most.   

As you can see, through the three characters’ different perspectives you get to see how they feel about Auggie. I really liked this book, because it described some things that I would’ve never known was going on in their lives. After I finished reading, I felt like I finally understood everyone’s background and was able to understand more of them rather than making quick judgments by the little that I heard in the previous book. I would recommend this book to “Wonder lovers” or anyone in 6th grade and up**. This book shows that being a good friend is hard but is worth it. And even though you may encounter problems, just stick through and if you have a good friend to rely on it will make it so much more easier. Like Charlotte says: “It is not enough to be friendly. You have to be a friend.”

Have you read Auggie & Me, or any of the stories separately? If so, which is your favorite? 


*ebullience (n): the quality of being cheerful and full of energy; exuberance.

**All of the Bibliopolis middle schoolers who have read this thus far say that it’s definitely for middle and up. I trust them!

Youth Book Review: What a Wonder!

Today’s Favorite Friday post is a Youth Book Review written by Abby, who is a 6th grader from our Gracepoint Minneapolis church. She writes newspaper articles under the pen name Mr. Sketch (you’ll have to ask her why).

wonder book coverWonder, by R.J Palacio. This book truly lives up to its name. Wonder is a book that you can never put down. I recently just read it again and it reminded me how well it was written and how it’s so true to real life.

The book is unique in the way that it switches from different people’s points of view. In this book a boy named August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity (known as Treacher Collins Syndrome). Auggie’s condition is like a 1 in 50,000 chance of being born with it. When he finally goes to school with other kids for 5th grade, he faces big problems. Bullies are a HUGE one. Yet, he’s kind to everyone (even bullies who threaten to hurt him) and really tries to shrug off the taunts and teases. He goes through so much and he reminds us to persevere and never give up.

There are many supporting characters in the book. Jack Will is Auggie’s new best friend. He is challenged by going from being in the popular and “cool crowd” to hanging out with Auggie, which is lower than uncool. He’s brave and I admire that about him. He chooses to be with Auggie and even punches a bully because he was teasing Auggie. Summer Dawson is a girl who sat at a table with Auggie on the first day of school and has been every day since. She would fit perfectly into the” cool crowd” and they even ask her to join them. She says no because Auggie needs a friend. She takes a stand for what’s right. Julian Albans, popular kid, in the “cool crowd” bullies August Pullman. Julian is Auggie’s biggest bully. He calls him names and make the whole grade turn against Auggie. But when it starts to get old and nobody likes him anymore, things change.

Auggie’s English teacher, Mr. Browne, has a precept for his class every month. A precept is like a motto. One of his precepts that constantly appear in the book is: “When you have the choice to be right or kind, choose kind.” And to all those kids and people who were kind to Auggie, they truly took that precept seriously.

Wonder is an awesome book. It is currently my favorite book. After reading it the first time, I started writing out the book by hand. I loved it that much! I recommend Wonder to ages 10 and up, so like 5th grade and up.  5th grade is a really good time to read it because you can kind of relate to the characters in the book! I think the lesson I learned was that a person’s face does not mean that they’re different from everybody else inwardly. You will never look at a person with disabilities the same way again. I encourage everyone to read the book.

choose kindEmily here: As a teacher, I can echo Abby Mr. Sketch’s sentiments and attest to the power of Wonder. I loved it personally, but this is exactly the kind of book I’d love. But in the last few years, I have seen every kind of kid and adult, even the “I hate reading” kind, love this book. It’s been a “gateway book” for many. I agree that it is right for about 5th grade and up. And by “up” I do mean all the way up! It is definitely a book for young and old alike. This book speaks to the power of a human story. Kids are drawn to this story without knowing what empathy means, but so many take the “Choose Kind” pledge that has swept across schools and libraries. And it has opened up discussions in classrooms about kindness, and even impacted the way kids treat one another. If you have a 5th or 6th grader, it’s likely your child’s language arts teacher will do a unit based on the book. This is a wonderful novel for conversations about what it means to be a friend, what courage is, what it means to “be yourself,” what taking a stand is, and there are so many precepts sprinkled throughout the book that you can write about or discuss.

This book has become a “franchise” of sorts, with 365 Days of Wonder: Mr. Browne’s Book of Precepts; the Wonder Journal, filled with inspiring quotes to think about and respond to; and Auggie & Me: Three Wonder Stories, a combined book of 3 shorter stories previously only available in e-book format. They tell stories from the perspectives of Julian (the bully), Christopher (Auggie’s oldest friend), and Charlotte (a new friend from school).

Have you read Wonder? If so, what are your thoughts? Do you agree that it is as wonderful as Abby and I think? If not, has this review prompted you to give the book a try? 🙂 

Youth Book Review: Between Shades of Gray

We will have occasional book reviews written by Bibliopolis patrons themselves. Today’s review is written by Elise, who is an 8th grader in our Gracepoint church’s Element Youth Group.

betweenshadesofgray
This is the original cover art. See the updated cover at the end of the post.

So far this year, I was able to read 30+ books to enter the Summer Reading Camp (DANSE-PO NBA). Out of these thirty books, the one I enjoyed the most is a book called Between Shades of Gray, written by author Ruta Sepetys. After reading through this book, it became one of my favorites, and today I will tell you why.

First of all, this book was written from the perspective of a young teenage girl who’s struggling through the times of Stalin’s regime. The book starts in 1941 in Lithuania, and follows the characters to the Siberian work camps. I personally enjoy books written for that time, because such a historical time filled with such horrific memories creates tear-jerking and heart-warming stories. Anyways, because of the time period in which the story was set, it was made emotional, and I was, at some times in the book, moved to tears. (Which, I must admit, doesn’t happen to me often).

In addition, the main character, Lina, was an artist, which shaped her character in the story. In that way, I related to her well, and the ways that she pushed through the struggling times in the story through art was so understandable to me. I also really thought her as an inspiring character, because of her bravery, and her strength to survive. Personally, if I were in her shoes, I wouldn’t have wanted to even live anymore after just the first of what she went through. Instead, she found ways that she should live, thought things through, and cared so much for the people around her besides herself. Her family meant everything to her, and she did anything to keep them going, whether that meant working harder to get extra food and time to care for them, and even stealing.

Another character I really appreciated in the story is a boy named Andrius. Of course, you would expect Lina and Andrius to have some sort of romantic relationship, but I think it was more subtle than a typical teen boyfriend-girlfriend relationship. It’s more like a good friendship she needed during that difficult time. It must have been so much more strengthening to have someone by your side. Andrius was perfect for that position in Lina’s life. He really lifted her up and made her days less dark. He understood her, and was there for her, even when it seemed like no one was.

The events that filled every page made the whole book exciting. I just couldn’t put it down! The only thing that made the book a little less readable for younger people is for its few questionable parts. I was advised by an older friend to skip a chapter. Though questionable, I understand that some of those kinds of horrible events actually happened during those times, and more often much worse. Because of these certain parts, I would recommend this book to the age group of around 13 years old and older. And if you like tear-jerkers, this book is for you!

The ending of this book… [Emily has redacted portions of this review to avoid spoilers.]  In it is a short letter explaining [redacted to avoid spoilers]…bittersweet. And that is why I love this book.

 


betweenshadeseyecoverEmily here: To the left is the cover art for the paperback edition. Can we agree that the hardcover art is far superior? It is subtle and symbolic, with the sapling growing out of the snow, and the barbed wire lining the corners. This one with the eye is a bit…too close!

This is one of my favorite historical fiction novels, and about one of my favorite periods in history — the World War II era. I loved this book especially because there are so many books written about the Holocaust, but this one is about the horrors of the Balkan genocide under Stalin’s rule. Like Elise said, I would recommend this book for 8th grade and up. The chapter she was referring to contains some soldier brutality and alludes to abuse of the women (it is not graphic, though horrible).

This was Ruta Sepetys’ debut novel, and her story was influenced by a visit she took to Lithuania to visit her relatives.

Here is a video where Sepetys talks about her book and the story behind the story.

Ruta Sepetys discusses her novel, Between Shades of Gray from Penguin Young Readers Group on Vimeo.