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71vtwf4jx0l-e1452271560982I am delighted to have a copy of Laura Alary’s book Make Room: A child’s guide to Lent and Easter for a giveaway, courtesy of Paraclete Press. [Update: This giveaway now is closed.] Last February I borrowed Make Room from a friend, and I posted a review on this blog. For convenience, I have copied that review (with minor changes) in this post.

If your family observes Lent, you will be very glad to see this book, which has beautiful, clear writing and gorgeous illustrations from Ann Boyajian. An excellent addition to a home library or church classroom, Make Room will have children feeling enthusiasm for this very special church season.

With language that is both practical and poetic, Alary’s book satisfies the need families have for literature that inspires excitement about faith. The language is simple, leaving space for parents to expand as a child questions and grows. Yet the writing communicates its messages clearly, providing words for experiences that often are hard to articulate.

Why do we observe Lent? What is the purpose of this season? In Alary’s words,

“During Lent we make time to be with God.
Every day we talk with God in different ways.
Sometimes we pray with words.
Sometimes we sing or listen to music.
Sometimes we get out paints and crayons and create many-colored prayers.
Colors are like a different language we can all speak
Even when we have no words.
God understands.”

I highly recommend Make Room for the young people in your life. Whatever books you choose for your family, may this season bring blessings of peace and prayers into your home.

[Update: the giveaway described below closed on 2/24/17.]

How can you win a copy? Click on the rafflecopter giveaway below. You will be asked to comment on this post sharing something that you plan to do during Lent this year. Entries will be accepted until February 24.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

One winner will be selected via Rafflecopter and notified by email. The book will be sent from the publisher, so in order to receive your prize you will need to provide an address. Addresses will be used one time only, for mailing of prize, and never shared or used for solicitations.

Disclaimer: The book is provided by Paraclete Press in exchange for my offering this review and giveaway. I have received no fee.

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71vtwf4jx0l-e1452271560982The new book from Laura Alary, Make Room: A child’s guide to Lent and Easter, has beautiful, clear writing and gorgeous illustrations from Ann Boyajian. An excellent addition to a home library or church classroom, Make Room will have children feeling enthusiasm for this very special church season.

With language that is both practical and poetic, Alary’s book satisfies the need families have for literature that inspires excitement about faith. The language is simple, leaving space for parents to expand as a child questions and grows. Yet the writing communicates its messages clearly, providing words for experiences that often are hard to articulate.

Why do we observe Lent? What is the purpose of this season? In Alary’s words,

“During Lent we make time to be with God.
Every day we talk with God in different ways.
Sometimes we pray with words.
Sometimes we sing or listen to music.
Sometimes we get out paints and crayons and create many-colored prayers.
Colors are like a different language we can all speak
Even when we have no words.
God understands.”

I highly recommend Make Room for the young people in your life. Whatever books you choose for your family, may this season bring blessings of peace and prayers into your home.

Disclaimer: This review is freely give, based on a loaned copy of the book. No fee was received.

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For those who are beginning their journey into motherhood, Helen Good Brenneman provides tremendous encouragement with Meditations for the New Mother. Each of thirty selections includes reflection on a scripture and a comforting prayer.

Readers receive a reminder that empowers anxious mothers: our God is the same God who gave courage to Mary the mother of Jesus, and who answered the prayer of Hannah the mother of Samuel. Strength and comfort can be drawn from the knowledge that mothers throughout the ages have turned to God, and we can do likewise.

These pages brim with hopefulness and gentle encouragement. Helen Good Brenneman guides readers to notice that the tasks of daily caregiving provide opportunities to turn our hearts toward God, to lean on God, to offer praise. In one prayer we read:
“Dear God, in view of all that is expected of a mother, I would feel most inadequate were not my hand in yours. I thank you for entrusting me with a living soul. Help me to bring out the best that is in my child by teaching that above all things we are to live, move, and have our being in you.”

Some of the meditations would resonate best with mothers who have birthed their children and who are married. However, other titles in the meditations series, forthcoming later this year, will better meet the needs of adoptive parents and single mothers.

Herald Press also has reissued Helen Good Brenneman’s Meditations for the Expectant Mother and Meditations for New Parents by Sara Wenger Shenk (president of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary) and Gerald Shenk.

Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review purposes. No fee was received.

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As a parent longing for a more peaceful world, I find myself hungry for inspiration. Activist and author Frida Berrigan has written a soul-nourishing book, It Runs in the Family: On being raised by radicals and growing into rebellious motherhood. She describes her upbringing in Jonah House in Baltimore as the child of peace activists, and how her values and hopes inform her choices as a parent.

Reading Frida’s story we witness an unusual upbringing amidst a family dedicated to peacebuilding and social justice. As in any family, some things worked out well and brought joy, while other choices were more burdensome. Nothing is perfect, and hearing this story will help encourage parents who strive to raise their children to have a sense of our role within a global, human community. I do not want merely to talk about a better world, but for my daughter to witness and to work alongside me, contributing to a better world with our daily choices. As I strive to do this, honest stories from other parents brings tremendous refreshment.

Part of Frida’s story includes her exploration of the important place of religion in her life. I have experienced the need for a spiritual home that supports the call for peace and justice, and Frida’s words rang true for me:

“I’m not lapsed: I am a Catholic in waiting – waiting for the Church to remember the Gospels, to be a justice-and-peace-seeking community, to be fully inclusive of women and to be welcoming to people who are not heteronormative. Pope Francis is a step in the right direction, but there is a long way to go.”

While I know many activists find sufficient encouragement amidst a strictly secular community, that is not the case for me. I tried, but it was depleting. There was a crucial piece missing for me: a larger sense of love. I realized that my hunger for a more peaceable society is grounded in my belief that we were created to love one another and to help carry each other’s burdens. As I read It Runs in the Family, I witnessed that a sense of self, of connection to others, and of a loving God can weave together a fabric strong enough for building a joyful home.

Frida writes the column “Little Insurrections” for Waging Nonviolence, and serves on the board for the War Resisters League. I highly recommend following her work for a continual dose of inspiration and motivation as you parent toward a more loving society.

Disclaimer: This review is freely given, based on my own copy of It Runs in the Family. Frida Berrigan is a friend.

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Yesterday I sent my daughter to the garden, asking her to please see what’s for dinner. She returned with snow peas, kale, and turnips, and together we turned these into a satisfying salad. Thoughtful child that she is, she also brought in a branch of catnip for her cat.

Before deciding on a salad, my daughter paged through Simply in Season Children’s Cookbook for inspiration and ideas, noting dishes that might make great options for our next meal. We have had a lot of fun with this cookbook, which has colorful photos and recipes that are very easy to follow. I posted a review a while ago, but with the gardening season in full swing, I feel compelled to highlight this fun and inspiring cookbook. Whether you grow your own food, shop at a farmer’s market, or visit a grocery store, these recipes will help your children prepare easy, seasonal dishes.

I appreciate that Simply in Season Children’s Cookbook inspires children to make wholesome food choices and to develop an understanding of nature’s cycles. In our home, for example, strawberries become even more special when we remember they are an early summer treat.

In a time when too many things are instant or fast-paced, books like this can help families to live values of simplicity and stewardship. Simply in Season Children’s Cookbook would make a great gift not only for families with young children, but also for camps, libraries, and religious education programs.

I welcome your comments about websites and books that inspire your family to grow and prepare food together.

Disclosure: As mentioned above, a copy of this book was received for review purposes a while ago. My original review can be read here. No fee was received for the reviews.

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I apologize for the lack of reviews posted during the Spring. There were many things happening around home, including the birth of several goats and the hatching of chickens on our farm. Outdoor pursuits and homemaking tasks had to take precedence over writing.

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The choices we make as consumers can be powerful expressions of our wishes for peace and justice. One place in daily life where we can express our faith in beautiful forms is the kitchen table. Our food choices and our ways of preparing food can be nourishing expressions of our values. When we prepare meals with our children, they receive nurturing for both body and spirit. As you explore cooking with young people, I highly recommend Simply in Season Children’s Cookbook: Fun with food from garden to table, by Mark Beach and Julie Kauffman. This book would make an ideal gift to share with the children you love.

Planning meals, I confess, is not my favorite chore. Thankfully, when I enlist the help of my 8-year-old daughter, the task becomes much more fun. If she can choose a meal for us to make together once a week, I find my energy refreshed. My daughter was very excited to read Simply in Season Children’s Cookbook, and she declared, “The recipes all look interesting in their own way.” She loved the colorful photos and the fun facts (squash seeds found in Mexican archaeological digs!). We made immediate plans for pumpkin mini muffins and green monster soup. My daughter observed that the authors “give steps very well.” The recipes are written clearly and are easy to follow.

Part of preparing food with my daughter includes modeling gratitude for the food we are fortunate to have, and to think of ways to share with others. We greatly enjoyed the simple prayers and poems included in each seasonal section of the book.

I want to prepare healthy meals, and use locally grown produce whenever possible. I have learned from growing some of our own vegetables that the fresher the food, the more delicious. It feels right to eat foods at the time when nature produces them. (My significant exception is that I live in Pennsylvania, yet I’m very fond of mangoes and pineapple. I have to accept these, along with my olive oil and spices, as precious gifts from far away.) When my daughter saw a delicious-sounding peach recipe she asked, “Can we make this, when it’s the right season?” I felt proud that she has an understanding of where her food comes from, and the rhythms of nature that provide bounty for our table.

I know many people who are making a sincere effort to prepare whole foods for their families, moving away from prepackaged convenience foods and toward the nourishment, nutrition, and tastiness of natural foods. This way of eating is better for our local economies, can be more supportive of local farmers, has a lighter impact on the Earth due to lower consumption of fuels. If you have not visited a local farmer’s market recently, I encourage you to try it. There are winter markets in many cities and towns. You may be surprised at how many delicious foods are grown in your local area, and at the interesting conversations you can have with the people who grow your food.

Many children find it fun to see their food grow from seed (or young plant) to harvest time. If you are growing some of your own food, you will appreciate the seasonal garden tips. There is a simple discussion of growing herbs that would be suitable even for an apartment’s windowsill.

I highly recommend Simply in Season Children’s Cookbook for your kitchen library. Share copies with children you love, teachers, your public library. This book will help children learn how to prepare beautiful, nourishing meals while developing an understanding that food comes from the Earth that God has entrusted to our care.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. No fee was received in exchange for this review.

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