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Tired of giving gift cards? Try our holiday buying guide

Gift-giving at our house always includes books — and sometimes we’ve resorted to the gift-card, that bland-but-convenient choice from a chain store. There is another way. For the adventurous shopper, the following books and gift items are a sampling of spiritual fare for this gift-giving season.
Items include some for old and young, for those interested in Bible study and for those who seek a more devotional or reflective mood. Most are from presses not associated with our fellowship.
Some good gift items also have been released this year by publishers associated with Churches of Christ. I quickly think of Walt McDonald’s Faith is a Radical Master, a poetry collection which includes the poem “Baptizing the Dog at Nine.” Or Darryl Tippens’ The Pilgrim Heart.
To shop such recently-reviewed books, go to The Chronicle’s reviews. These titles also will make good gifts.
Inside the Mysteries of the Bible: New Perspectives on Ancient Truths
. American Bible Society. New York: Time/Home Entertainment, 2006. ISBN: 978-1-933405-91-9; Teens and Young Adults; $19.95.
This large, soft-cover book explores the central narratives of the Bible with gorgeous color graphics, photography and fine art on each opening. The texts combine Scripture and editorial discussions which bridge between the Bible and references to contemporary culture.
The pop-culture references may be off-putting to some, but this book is a serious Bible-study tool, particularly for teens and young adults. For example, one opening called “A Life Foretold” provides a chart of messianic prophecy and fulfillments by Scripture references. Many other openings provide similar material, citations, and sources for further study.
The editorial matter provided by consultation with the American Bible Society will provide effective starting points for study.
Taylor, Barbara Brown. Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith. San Francisco: Harper Collins, 2006. ISBN 0-0060-7717-47; Adults; $23.95.
If you know an adult who likes Anne Lamott or Kathleen Norris, this book will be a welcome gift. Taylor offers a unique look at leaving her formal roles as an Anglican preacher, but finding new passion in serving as a university professor. Along the way, she comments on the “sex wars” in religion, the importance of the Bible, faith during times of conflict, and her quest for a renewed faith.
Taylor writes, “I had resigned with a mortgaged heart and a sense of defeat so great that I had no ready answer for friends who asked me why I left. The easiest thing was to tell them that I had always wanted to teach college, which was true, but behind that answer lay truths harder to confess. My quest to serve God in the church had exhausted my spiritual savings.”
Aronson, B.C. (ed.) Grace: Quotes and Passages for Heart, Mind, and Soul. New York: Random House, 2006. ISBN 0-375-42607-8; Adults; $14.95.
Inspired by Aronson’s volunteer work in a University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, this collection draws from a wide range of sources — from Winnie the Pooh to Ralph Waldo Emerson, from the Bible to the Talmud — but every passage illustrates how grace works in our lives.
Sally Lloyd-Jones. Little One, We Knew You’d Come. Illustrated by Jackie Morris. New York: Little, Brown, 2006. ISBN 0-316-52391-7; Ages 3-6; $16.99.
The voice of Mary narrates this verse Nativity story, which is told mostly by the illustrations. Rather than carry the details of the events, Lloyd-Jones’ words evoke the expectations of parents and their joy at the birth of a child. The refrain “Little one, we knew you’d come” is repeated on alternating openings and creates the mood for the illustrations.
The illustrations by Morris are vividly colored and provide an atmosphere of awe. Many openings evoke the work of William Blake in combining verse with sophisticated images. Sometimes the poetry is set off in a box bordered by a row of peacock feathers or a shower of stars. Angels spread their wings across some openings. Other openings provide a close-up view of hands and faces.
Lloyd-Jones is author of I Can Talk to God! Morris has illustrated How the Whale Became by Ted Hughes.
Elizabeth Van Steenwyck. Prairie Christmas. Illustrated by Ronald Himler. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2006. ISBN 0-8028-5280-7; Ages 5 and up; $17; (800) 253-7521.
Children and parents alike will be pleased by this story of a birth set in 1880s Nebraska. The narrator’s mother is a doctor called out on Christmas Eve to deliver a baby. The birth under harsh circumstances echoes gently the surprise and joy of the Nativity narrative, but focuses realistically on the self-discovery of the story’s 11-year-old narrator. Her growth makes the story charming.
Himler’s watercolor and pencil illustrations are rich with color and detail that reveal characters’ emotions or provide a sense of energy and motion.
Steenwyk is author of many books for children, including When Abraham Talked to the Trees and One Fine Day. Ronald Himler has illustrated books including Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr.
Sheila Walsh. Gigi, God’s Little Princess: The Royal Tea Party. Illustrated by Meredith Johnson. Nashville: Tommy Nelson, 2006. ISBN 1-4003-0800-3; Ages 4-7; $12.99.
Will: God’s Mighty Warrior. Illustrated by Meredith Johnson. Nashville: Tommy Nelson, 2006. ISBN 1-4003-0805-4; Ages 4-7; $12.99.
These two stories are designed to appeal to the pink and blue in every boy and girl by addressing God’s care for them in Scriptures and stories suited to the ages when they are discovering gender identities. Parents are present in each story, redirecting children toward God or Christian perspectives.
In Gigi, a little girl experiences frustrations and, finally, joy in getting to share her “royal” adventures with a friend who does not yet know she is God’s princess. The pink book jacket, whimsical illustrations and child-oriented details such as a pre-printed bookplate, this book is designed to appeal to girls who like exuberant girlishness.
In Will, Walsh creates a companion story for boys which takes the energetic and rambunctious Will from mock battle to understanding the “armor of God.” This book, awash in blue, also appeals to boys with companion features: cute illustrations through-out and pre-printed bookplate and scripture references inside the front and rear covers.
Walsh is a singer and songwriter. Johnson is an advertising art director and illustrator of books for children.
bEQUAL. The Bible DVD Game. Hosted by Jeremy Camp. Redwood City, Calif: bEqual, 2006. Ages 6-Adult; $29.99. (800) 233-0669 or www.bequal.com.
This line of DVD trivia games now includes a Bible knowledge game for up to four players. The technology automatically “levels” each player’s questions based on their previous answers to help keep the youngest players engaged, too. Content is drawn from Old and New Testaments, including Bible geography, narratives and people. Geographical and historical video footage is included. Video “extras” include music from instrumental musician Jeremy Camp.
Ray Nelson, Jr. Brain-Freeze: Drawing a Blank. Nashville: Tommy Nelson, 2006. ISBN 1-400-30732-5; DVD for ages 6-10; $14.99.
This follow-up to 2005’s The Horned Avenger: Battle Against Von Boredom, brings viewers a caped hero with a blend of humor, education, and spiritual insight. This time, the horned hero must battle Brain Freeze, a villain who seeks to take away confidence and creativity, by pointing to how we must draw strength and creativity from the Creator. The DVD includes bonus features such as “How to Draw” and Scripture pop-ups.
Nov. 1, 2006

Filed under: Reviews

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