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Ælfred Rex Bible Story Book–outstanding Bible curriculum

Ælfred Rex Bible Story Book

by Nelda Hoyt Banek

Ælfred Rex Bible Story BookThe chronological scope of the Bible is huge, spanning approximately 4,228 years.  Have you ever wished for a collection of Bible stories that covers that length of time completely and deals with the complexities of the Bible in an understandable way? Obviously a labor of love, the Ælfred Rex Bible Story Book by Nelda Hoyt Banek is just such a book. At 649 pages, it is a large volume containing 312 stories and over 270 incredibly detailed engravings from 19th century folios. Until you actually examine the format, it can seem overwhelming, but it has an exceptional structure which can be used by individuals, in family units, or by schools as a complete curriculum. Parents who homeschool could use this for the Biblical portion of their curriculum. If the book is used cyclically as children mature, students will glean new knowledge each time they are exposed to the stories and discuss the truths found therein. 

The introduction provides tips for sharing the stories with preschoolers in a family setting. A special mark divides longer stories into two more manageable pieces. Families can expect to read through the book in two years. Classrooms could cover the material in three years of 36 weeks per school year. In both instances, the pace would be one section every day for four days a week.

I have been personally studying the story of Joseph’s life, so I chose to closely examine those passages in the Ælfred Rex Bible Story Book. The dysfunctional family story and the first mention of Joseph are found in story #21, but the first story that focuses on Joseph is #25, “Joseph Sold into Egypt,” based on Genesis 37. The Scriptural reference for each story is noted at the beginning of the account. A handy, but not intrusive, pronunciation guide is included at the bottom of pages for each story. There are eight stories dealing with Joseph. They are all well-written and true to the Scriptures from which they are drawn in Genesis.

Because the storybook is arranged chronologically, the next story concerns Job and is taken, of course, from the book of Job, but also from Ezekiel and James in an effort to place this account in the larger context of the whole Bible. The next story returns to Exodus with the tale of Moses’ birth.

Aelfred WorkbooksIn order to create a full curriculum for Christian schools or Sunday Schools, Nelda Banek has also created a series of workbooks for student use. The workbooks for grades K5-3 are called Bible Story Lessons. Scripture Studies are intended for 4th grade through adult learners. Upon examination of the workbooks, you can see that the curriculum is, indeed, rich and the lessons could be repeated in a two or three year cycle. There are six workbooks for each age range.

I am pleased that the student workbooks include both the story and the followup questions for discussion that comprise the large hardback storybook. That inclusion adds a lot of flexibility and support to teacher and learner. The activities in the appropriately named Scripture Studies are, as they should be, more advanced and complex than those found in Bible Story Lessons. I do think the teacher of younger students within both age ranges for each workbook would need to provide some support in completing the activities while the older students in each age range would be able to work more independently depending on their reading levels and experiences with Bible study. 

My survey of Bible Story Lessons (Book A: Creation to Sinai and Job) revealed a variety of interesting activities. As an example, the workbook activities for the Joseph stories are a dot to dot, word search, matching descriptions with pictures, hidden words, fill in the blanks, secret letter puzzle, and color by description. All would serve to reinforce the information provided by the stories.

Looking at Scripture Studies (Book E: Nativity to Zacchaeus), I surveyed the activities for the first six lessons which cover Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2. Activities for these older students send the learner to the Bible to explore the original text for a variety of interesting fill in the blank activities. These activities help the student to delve more deeply into the Scriptures as the source of information and to understand the theological implications of the stories. The illustrations found in the hardback book are also included in the workbooks and sometimes are a part of the activities.

The end of Ælfred Rex Bible Story Book includes notes, a chart of the kings and prophets, index of proper names, timeline of Biblical history, illustration of the Tabernacle, the marching order of the tribes and depiction of their camping locations, four maps, and a list of resources. All of these are helpful aids for students of God’s word. According to the author in  describing the curriculum: “Teacher’s guides are available for each book in these series, containing instructions for pacing the curriculum, the reprinted stories, an answer key to the student worksheets, discussion and short-answer review questions, review game ideas, and memory work suggestions.”

I taught in a Christian school for two years before I entered the public school arena. I would have loved to use this curriculum with my students. Having taught grades K-adult in my thirty-four years as an educator, I can attest that this is a well thought out curriculum by an author who is both a Biblical scholar and professional educator. More importantly, as I peruse its pages, I can tell that it was prayerfully constructed to provide teachers and parents with a tool that lays out the whole story of mankind in a Biblical perspective from the creation and fall of humanity to redemption through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I highly recommend the Ælfred Rex Bible Story Book for anyone wishing to read an easily understandable overview of the Bible through engaging stories or to teach Biblical truths to others in the same way. The workbooks are an excellent addition to help students focus on the facts of the stories and dig deeper into the Scriptures.

I would like to extend my thanks to the author, Nelda Hoyt Banek, for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Nonfiction, Christian, Religion, Theology

Notes: 1. For best pricing, I suggest you contact the publisher at www.aelfredrex.com.

  2. Suggested ages:

Ælfred Rex Bible Story Book—all ages

Bible Story Lesson (workbook)—Ages 5-9

Scripture Studies (workbook)—Ages 9-13

Publication:   September 1, 2014—Ælfred Rex Publications

Sample Quotes Taken from Joseph’s Story:

As they ate, they saw a caravan of Ishmaelite and Midianite traders coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing spices, balm, and myrrh to sell in Egypt. Judah said to his brothers, “What do we get out of killing our brother secretly? Let us sell him to the Ishmaelites. He is our brother and our own flesh. Let us not hurt him ourselves.”

Then Potiphar was angry, and he put Joseph in the king’s prison. But the Lord was with Joseph there, too, and caused the keeper of the prison to look on him with favor. The prison keeper gave Joseph charge of all the other prisoners. He did not have to check up on anything that was in Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with him. Whatever Joseph did, the Lord made it prosper.

Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World

Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World

by Max Lucado

anxious for nothingWritten and published three years before the Corona Virus pandemic, Anxious for Nothing reads like it was penned for these desperate times. Author Max Lucado, by his own admission, is not perfect; he has experienced many of the same problems you have. You will enjoy his writing style which is simultaneously down to earth and exquisite in his turn of phrase. This book is filled with Scriptures that will encourage you during life’s difficult times. In it you will find examples from Lucado’s life and encounters with others in the form of anecdotes that illustrate Biblical principles. There are many references to the wisdom and guidance found in  the book of Philippians in the New Testament, but Max’s wording makes them easy to remember. He shares them as practical steps that will lead to a life with more calm and less chaos.

If I had to choose one book I would encourage everyone to read this year, it would be Anxious for Nothing. I usually include in my blog posts three memorable lines from the books I review. Never have I had a harder time including only three. Having heard Lucado’s online video study of this book, I can mentally hear him patiently, enthusiastically, and with understanding encouraging his readers. I can see the twinkle in his eyes as he shares one of his “secrets”: “God’s anxiety therapy includes a large, delightful dollop of gratitude.” I am grateful for the opportunity to share this book with you. 

Rating: 5/5

Category: Christian, Nonfiction, Self-Help

Notes: Included at the end of the book are “Questions for Reflection” which could be used for individual or group study. There is also a useful guide that includes, by chapter, the Scriptures that are referenced by Lucado in the text. It would be very handy to use it to bring to mind God’s promises and truths as you are working through your personal times of chaos and daily struggles.

Publication:   September 12, 2017—Thomas Nelson

Memorable Lines:

The Lord is near! You are not alone. You may feel alone. You may think you are alone. But there is never a moment in which you face life without help. God is near.

Find a promise that fits your problem, and build your prayer around it. These prayers of faith touch the heart of God and activate the angels of heaven. Miracles are set into motion.

No more “if only.” It is the petri dish in which anxiety thrives. Replace your “if only” with “already.” Look what you already have. Treat each anxious thought with a grateful one, and prepare yourself for a new day of joy.

What They Meant for Evil: How a Lost Girl of Sudan Found Healing, Peace, and Purpose in the Midst of Suffering

What They Meant for Evil: How a Lost Girl of Sudan Found Healing, Peace, and Purpose in the Midst of Suffering

by Rebecca Deng with Ginger Kolbaba

What They Meant for EvilWe hear reports on the news of massacres of innocents in various countries around the globe and stories of displaced men, women, and children who become refugees and try to survive in crowded refugee camps. Those stories are usually sound bites, quickly discarded for the next big story. Rebecca Deng, a survivor of the horrific Bor Massacre of 1991 in Sudan, gives us the perspective of a six year old girl in What They Meant for Evil. We see her confusion as she flees with family walking through the wilds. She becomes an orphan as those she loves most are killed and grows up in a refugee camp. The UN provides a small amount of maize, without seasoning, to sustain the population. The bathroom is an open area on the other side of a dry riverbed with nothing to provide privacy. I had always imagined a refugee camp as a temporary facility, but Rebecca lived in Kakuma Refugee Camp in northern Kenya for eight years before she benefited from a special program that relocated her to the U.S. and placed her with an adoptive family. Many of her Sudanese relatives remained in the camp long after that.

In the latter part of the book, we learn of Rebecca’s life as an adult and her spiritual growth as she comes to terms with her identity and the trauma of her past. She uses her education, her experiences, and her faith in God to help other refugees recover as she sees God’s plan unfold to bring good out of what others intended for evil.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Faith Words for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating:  4/5

Category: Christian, Memoir, Nonfiction

Publication:   September 8, 2020—Faith Words

Memorable Lines:

That was what the war did to the tens of thousands of innocent children who lost everything—it took their childhood, their innocence, their families, their homes, even their lives.

More crowds meant less food for everybody. And less food meant more violence. Crime seemed to be everywhere. People began bullying other people, stealing their food, and beating and raping them. These things were unheard of for my people before coming here. My language doesn’t even have a word for rape.

…I had learned that God doesn’t always keep us from experiencing trauma, but his unseen presence is with us, strengthening us.

But there’s another aspect of forgiveness that we too often forget or neglect, and that is forgiving ourselves. If we want true forgiveness, we must forgive ourselves for the ways in which we have failed ourselves. We do more damage to ourselves when we believe the lies others have said about us and the lies the enemy whispers into our minds—the lies that tell us we are no good, we are worthless, we can never experience true freedom or true love.

The Wall: Rebuilding a culture of LIFE in America—and ending abortion as we know it

The Wall: Rebuilding a culture of LIFE in America—and ending abortion as we know it

by Kirk Walden

The WallIf you want to know more about what you can do to help rebuild “a culture of LIFE in America—and ending abortion as we know it,” then read The Wall by Kirk Walden. Written to encourage people to give of their resources—money, time, labor, and more, The Wall is informative, practical, and inspirational. Using the story of Nehemiah rebuilding the long destroyed wall around Jerusalem as a model, Walden shows how we can rebuild the broken culture as a loving people, giving options to those who find themselves in a crisis. 

Pregnancy crisis centers can help in so many ways, from showing parents their unborn child using ultrasound to counseling men, encouraging them to step up to be dads. They can provide medical and physical support, abstinence and parenting education, post-abortion recovery counseling, and so much more. To provide all of these services, funds are needed, and all donations are important whether it is a small, but sacrificial donation of ten or twenty dollars or the rich person’s spare $50,000. If we create a culture that values life, abortion clinics will close their doors from lack of clients and profits. Give this book a read if you want to know more about pregnancy crisis centers and what you can do to help.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Christian, Nonfiction, Social Issues

Notes: short, inspirational read about providing real choices to those facing the real challenges of an unplanned pregnancy

Publication:   August 4, 2013—LifeTrends

Memorable Lines:

Our Wall is going to be strong, and we will stand on that Wall. And we will invite inside our Wall the hurting, the fearful, the desperate and the destitute. We are not going to back down. And we are not going to back up or let up.

It’s a Wall of protection for those facing the cultural temptations and battles of today, and for their children waiting to be born; wanting nothing more than to celebrate their first smiles, their first steps, and their first birthdays. Once we get started, once we take our stand on that Wall, there is no limit to what God can do with each of us.

Empty Nest, Full Life: Discovering God’s Best for Your Nest

Empty Nest, Full Life: Discovering God’s Best for Your Nest

by Jill Savage

Empty Nest Full LifeParents, but mothers in particular, spend almost twenty years preparing their children to fly out of the nest and into the world of adulthood. It turns out that the releasing can be as hard as the preparation. There are issues of control, especially if you have boomerang kids. Mothers are good at piling guilt on themselves when things don’t work out perfectly or as expected for their kids. Grandkids are a blessing, but they come with their own set of issues. The list goes on and on.

Jill Savage, a speaker and teacher of the Bible, who has endured her own personal trials, shares Biblical wisdom and personal anecdotes to illustrate her viewpoints on various subjects related to the “empty nest” in Empty Nest, Full Life. The first half of the book is entitled “Let Go!” and discusses the problems encountered during the empty nest season. It speaks of letting go of expectations, guilt, opinions, traditions, your child’s problems, and your own idols (the things that steal your attention away from God, the things you use to identify yourself). Part Two is called “Hold On!” and within that section lie ideas for what to actually do during that season of the empty nest. Savage encourages you to grab hold of a new mission field, passions, and friendships. She encourages you to revitalize your marriage and your relationship with God.

Each chapter closes with a truth from the Bible, an action step, and a prayer. The book itself ends with encouragement for the next season, a list of questions to help you identify current or past baggage that has affected your marriage, reference notes, and a discussion guide for a leader to use in a small group setting.

My personal nest has been empty for a number of years so I am not approaching or in the middle of an empty nest crisis. I would imagine, however, that this book would be helpful for those wondering how to deal with their new found “freedom.”

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Moody Publishing for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Christian, Parenting and Family

Publication:   August 6, 2019—Moody Publishers

Memorable Lines:

Expectations will get us in trouble every time. They set us up for disappointment and leave us feeling disconnected.

Studies indicate the brain isn’t fully developed until the age of twenty-five. Yes, that means that our kids are now setting their own priorities when they’re not actually fully equipped to do so.

My friend Becky says that when she’s tempted to address something with her adult son, she tries to think of how she would address it with a friend. Most of the time she realizes she wouldn’t address it with a friend at all! This helps her find self-control and pray instead.

Eats MORE, Shoots & Leaves: Why, ALL Punctuation Marks Matter!

Eats MORE, Shoots & Leaves: Why, ALL Punctuation Marks Matter!

by Lynne Truss

illustrated by Bonnie Timmons

Eats MORE, Shoots & LeavesHaving enjoyed the adult book Eats, Shoots and Leaves years ago, I knew I would love Lynne Truss’ book Eats MORE, Shoots & Leaves: Why, ALL Punctuation Marks Matter! It is written and illustrated appropriately for children but could also be helpful for teenagers and adults who just don’t understand that a few tiny punctuation marks can change the whole meaning of a sentence. Bonnie Timmons’ drawings are hysterically funny and illustrate so well the concepts.

The pages are set up so the differences in meaning are clear. On one page, for example, the words are “Eat here, and get gas.” The illustration shows cars getting gas at a place that also sells food. On the facing page, the reader is admonished: “Eat here and get gas.” with the illustration depicting a restaurant where a patron flies through the air with a tremendous burp. (Now what grade school boy is not going to laugh at that?) Under each picture, upside down, is an adult explanation of the effect of punctuation or lack of it. The inserted punctuation is always clearly indicated in red. This book is a winner. It achieves its purpose of explaining why punctuation is so important. Who knew grammar could be so funny?

I would like to extend my thanks to Edelweiss and to G.P. Putnam for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Children’s Nonfiction

Notes: Ages 6-9

Grades 1-4

Publication:  October 22, 2019—G.P. Putnam

Just in Case You Ever Wonder–created by God

Just in Case You Ever Wonder

by Max Lucado

illustrated by Eve Tharlet

Just in Case You Ever WonderA gifted storyteller for both adults and children and known as “America’s Pastor,” Max Lucado has a way with words and thoughts. In  Just in Case You Ever Wonder, Lucado has captured some of the most important truths of reassurance in the Bible in a book he wrote for and dedicated to his daughters many years ago. In this newly published version, Eve Tharlet created soft and welcoming illustrations that feature bears as the characters instead of people. I am enchanted by this book that talks about God’s love and the parent’s love for his child. It provides reassurance for a child that both God and the parent will always support and love the child through good times and bad. The bad times are age appropriate—monsters in the dark, bullies, and bad days at school. It skirts the issue of death while describing the promises of heaven. I think every home with small children should have a copy: it will indeed be a favorite bedtime story.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Thomas Nelson for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Christian, Children’s Nonfiction

Publication:   August 6, 2019—Thomas Nelson

Memorable Lines:

The same hands that made the trees and the moon and the sun made you. That’s why you are so special. God made you.

If you looked all over the world—in every city, in every house—there would be no one else like you…

I knew in my heart God had sent someone very wonderful for me to take care of.

You’ll Get Through This: Hope and Help for Your Turbulent Times

You’ll Get Through This: Hope and Help for Your Turbulent Times

by Max Lucado

you'll get through thisI have always been fascinated by the Biblical story of Joseph, from the coat of many colors to saving Egypt and his people from famine. The story includes pride and arrogance, bad parenting, attempted fratricide, slavery, temptations, false accusations, jail, forgotten promises, a rise to power, revenge, and forgiveness. Joseph’s life was a roller coaster ride. There had to be a lot of times when Joseph could have questioned God, “Why me?”

Max Lucado uses Joseph’s story to speak to those who are hurting, who find themselves in a pit of despair. In You’ll Get Through This, Lucado offers the hope found in the Bible that what was intended for evil can be used by God for good. Lucado is the ultimate storyteller, and he brings in stories of people he knows and those he has met to demonstrate his points. With chapters like “Stupid Won’t Fix Stupid” and “Is God Good When Life Isn’t?”,  Lucado’s book is Biblical, practical, and inspirational. I read it at the pace of a chapter a day with more than a few sneak peeks ahead, and I plan on rereading it. There is so much help and understanding rooted in its pages for both men and women who are facing life’s challenges. 

Rating: 5/5

Category: Christian, Nonfiction, Self-Help

Notes: To aid readers who want to use You’ll Get Through This for book or Bible study, there are added “Questions for Reflection” at the end of the book to accompany each chapter.

Publication:   September 10, 2013—Thomas Nelson

Memorable Lines:

You’ll get through this.

It won’t be painless.

It won’t be quick.

But God will use this mess for good.

Don’t be foolish or naive.

But don’t despair either.

With God’s help, you’ll get through this.

Gratitude gets us through the hard stuff. To reflect on your blessings is to rehearse God’s accomplishments. To rehearse God’s accomplishments is to discover his heart. To discover his heart is to discover not just good gifts but the Good Giver. Gratitude always leaves us looking at God and away from dread. It does to anxiety what the morning sun does to valley mist. It burns it up.

God is plotting for our good. In all the setbacks and slip-ups, he is ordaining the best for our future. Every event of our days is designed to draw us toward our God and our destiny.

The Ministry of Ordinary Places: Waking Up to God’s Goodness Around You

The Ministry of Ordinary Places: Waking Up to God’s Goodness Around You

by Shannan Martin

The Ministry of Ordinary PlacesWhere is a Christian’s mission field? You know, the ordinary person who has not been called to go to another country? Shannan Martin in The Ministry of Ordinary Places says it is wherever God has placed you. She doesn’t advocate passing out pamphlets, cornering people, or pushing invitations to come to church. Instead, we are to love people, listen to them, invite them into our homes, be available to them and to the opportunities to help them as God presents them to us.

As a rural introvert, Martin has had to change a lot in opening her heart, time, and home to her neighbors in a multicultural setting. She had to “choose the comfort of the past or the struggle of moving forward.” She learned that hospitality is not perfection in entertainment; it is extending invitations willy nilly, throwing together some tacos, and letting God take it from there. She has learned to receive kindness from others, understanding the cost of that kindness from someone who is down and out.

Martin’s story is engaging, and her writing style is excellent from the humorous “Go with God, good middle school bus driver. You are a rose among loud, hormonal, Hot-Cheetos-for-breakfast-eating, lanyard-flipping thorns” to sharp edged descriptions such as “She has known the desolate landscape of struggle. Hunger and wanting blow through her life like gale-force winds through a thin cotton jacket.” There is magic for the reader in words like these.

Martin does not believe in pushing Jesus down anyone’s throat; she makes her own heart accessible and invites others into her life where they not only see, but feel, the impact of Jesus on individual lives.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Thomas Nelson for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Christian

Publication:  October 9, 2018—Thomas Nelson

Memorable Lines:

Only as we engage in the hidden practice of listening do we learn about the struggles of others, gaining empathy where we one cast judgement.

It’s so easy to tip into judgment when we view the world through an us-them dichotomy. Sitting face-to-face, the problems loom larger and we have to contend with the sticky fact that there is simply always more to the story.

…we are all longing to be part of something bigger than ourselves. Sometimes we get so hung up on doing something great, we forget the best thing is often the smallest.

Late Bloomers: The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed with Early Achievement

Late Bloomers: The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed with Early Achievement

by Rich Karlgaard

Late BloomersI don’t think I have ever read an introduction as fascinating as Rich Karlgaard’s in Late Bloomers. With phrases like “trickle down societal madness for early achievement” he puts the reader into his world and his viewpoint. It’s not that he is opposed to the young people with scores of 800 on their SAT who create fantastic wealth in their early twenties. He does resent what our culture’s adoration of them does to the rest of us, those whose potential is downgraded because our star doesn’t rise at the same pace or shine as brightly. 

In Late Bloomers we are brought to an understanding of the history and psychology of the conveyer belt systems of education and business that have led us to the current sad state of affairs. Karlgaard explains how late bloomers struggle in this early achievement focused society and how society suffers for not valuing late bloomers. This book is replete with examples—J.K. Rowling, Einstein, and the author himself, to name a few—of late bloomers. It also carefully examines the available psychological research and what it tells us about late bloomers. A large portion of the book is devoted to sharing what late bloomers and society can do to make the whole system function more successfully.

As a teacher, I applaud Karlgaard’s revelation of the background of our harmful testing culture designed to create cogs in an industrial wheel. As a parent, I agree with his theories about development occurring in different ways and times for individuals. I am especially intrigued by the promotion of a “gap year” (or two) for young people, giving them extra time for brain development before they are expected to “adult.” I can see the need for viewing 18-25 as a stage of life when, for most, that important brain maturation in the prefrontal cortex is still in process.

The main body of the book is addressed to the late bloomer, which Karlgaard argues is most of us. It is full of research studies which interestingly support his advice to the late bloomer—how to survive in a world that disparages late blooming and how to, in fact, bloom despite a society that does not value late blooming. The introduction and first three chapters of this book should be required reading for every teacher, administrator, policy maker, business entrepreneur, parent, and concerned citizen. Did I leave anyone out? After that, most will want to finish the book. Especially the late bloomers out there, the ones who have not yet “found themselves” or met their full potential.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Crown Publishing (Currency) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Self-Help, Education, Parenting

Notes: Rich Karlgaard, self-proclaimed late bloomer, is the publisher of Forbes Media, an author, and the founder of several businesses.

Publication:   April 16, 2019—Crown Publishing (Currency)

Memorable Lines:

Being seen as a potential late bloomer was once a mark of vitality, patience, and pluck. Nowadays, more and more, it is seen as a defect (there must be a reason you started slowly, after all) and a consolation prize. This is an awful trend, since it diminishes the very things that make us human—our experiences, our resilience, and our lifelong capacity to grow.

Just when we should be encouraging kids to dream big, take risks, and learn from life’s inevitable failures, we’re teaching them to live in terror of making the slightest mistake.

…social media has now become our most toxic cultural mirror.

Reducing education to test preparation jeopardizes the quality of curricula and the craft of teaching. It drains education of humanity.

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