Sunday, June 20, 2010

Does God Exist? TrueU DVD Set

Reviewed by: Shawna
Title: Does God Exist? Building the Scientific Case (TrueU)
Primary Audience/age group: 15+
Genre: DVD series
Producer: Focus on the Family
Year of Release: 2010
Rating: 5 (View Scale)
Recommend? Yes

Description: Does God Exist? is a series of DVDs that focus on apologetics curriculum. It was designed to help high school students have the resources to defend their faith as they enter college. The curriculum comes in a set of 2 DVDs and an informative guide. The DVDs are broken down into ten 30-minute lessons led by Dr. Stephen C. Meyer, Ph.D. He uses a step-by-step approach to answer the question “Does God exist?”

Review: It was as-if I was a student in a college class room listening to a professor. And, I did take notes. Dr. Meyer challenged me by asking questions about the meaning of life. Questions such as, “Is there purpose in the universe?” As well, each lesson added a building block to the foremost question “Does God exist?” Dr. Meyer debated the four present worldviews of how the world began while he systematically built his case with scientific evidence and Scripture that says “Yes, God does exist and He did create the world.” He also pointed out which well-known scientists came to believe in God as a result of evidence supporting that the world does have a Creator. The DVD set is an excellent resource for high school and college students looking for reasons that defend their faith against those who oppose their views. It is great for individual study or in a group setting.

Rating: 5

Positive: Dr. Meyer presents his points as an argument for Creationism. He allows the students in the class on the DVD to ask questions. His goal is to show the reasons why Creationism is the best possible worldview and is in fact supported by much scientific evidence.

Spiritual Elements: Dr. Meyer uses Scripture along the way.

Violence: none

Language: none

Sexual Content: none

Other: none

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Black As Night

By Reviewer: Amy Jane
Title: Black as Night: A Fairy Tale Retold
Author: Regina Doman
Primary Audience/age group: 14+
Genre: Modern Fantasy
# Of pages: 294
Publisher: Regina Doman
Year of Release: 2008
Part of a Series? Yes, 2 of 4
Rating: 3 View Scale
Recommend? Yes

Description: Blanche Briar takes refuge with 7 friars in what used to be her old high school. Her peaceful and non-confrontive nature make her vulnerable to what at first seem like accidents, and her almost-boyfriend, Bear, goes nearly crazy with worry trying to track her down before a burly stalker finds her first.

Review: Dark, heavy, and influenced by the Disney version, this modern retelling of Snow White builds on the family of characters introduced in Doman’s first work, The Shadow of the Bear.

Rating: 3 for violence and peril elements.

Positive: Bear’s devotion to Blanche, and his brother Fish’s devotion to him.

Blanche is genuinely interested in the wellbeing of the many she serves. The dignity and value of human life is emphasized, along with maintaining healthy awareness and boundaries in male/female relationships.

[SPOILER]: Blanche genuinely believes her family and friends don’t know she’s in danger. She’s not trying to make their lives terrifying by dropping off-grid.

Spiritual Elements: Blanche plays the role of the Virgin Mary in a reenactment of a famous visitation. Many elements of religious life are referenced.

Violence: Increases as the book progresses. Beginning with an attempted mugging, it progresses to attempted murder, poisoning and a premeditated hit-and-run.

Language: Very controlled.

Sexual Content: Sexuality is described by a negative character as the way women get whatever they want. A character discusses catching his father in adultery. Some skin baring outfits are referenced. A kiss is shared.

Recommendation: As with her first book, Doman has created an action-packed story that hits all the major points of the original. The action may be a little intense for younger readers, and the deepest theme (about the conflicting ungodly roles young women should avoid) may not be caught by all readers, but if you’re comfortable with the Catholic references you will enjoy a engaging story with a solid moral compass.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The King of Mulberry Street

By reviewer Greta Marlow
Title: The King of Mulberry Street
Author: Donna Jo Napoli
Primary Audience/age group: 10+
Genre: Historical fiction
# Of pages: 245
Publisher: Yearling
Year of Release: 2005
Part of a Series? No
Rating: 4 (View Scale)
Recommend: yes

Description: (from School Library Journal) “When Beniamino, a nine-year-old Jewish boy from Napoli, is smuggled aboard a cargo ship heading to America in 1892, he assumes his mother is onboard, too. Soon realizing that Mamma isn't with him, he makes the best of his plight, but his goal is to return home as soon as possible. Landing at Ellis Island, he evades good-hearted people who would send him to an orphanage and patrones who would put him to work begging on street corners. Assuming the name Dom Napoli, he sleeps in barrels and under bushes, and he quickly learns the lessons of the street: think fast, watch what's going on, and find friends who will help you. With the aid of two other streetwise urchins, he sets up a profitable sandwich business and eventually realizes that he likes New York and that his mother sent him there to make a better life for himself.”

Review: I had never read a story about the immigrant experience in New York, so this book was educational for me as well as entertaining. I couldn’t believe a mother would send her young child off to another continent alone, but it must have happened, because the book is based on the experiences of Napoli’s grandfathers. Desperation makes for desperate choices, I guess.

Rating: 4, for some violence and a little implied sexual content

Recommend: yes

Positive: Dom treats others fairly and with kindness, even when his actions are met with suspicion and even when others treat him badly. His insistence on treating others well helps him build a network that allows him to survive and even thrive in an impossible situation.

Spiritual Elements: Dom is Jewish, and his heritage is important to him. However, he has to hide his background to avoid persecution. Although he’s in a world where he’s isolated from other Jews, Dom tries to hold on to his faith and traditions. He is forced to go to a Catholic service by one of his friends and he later finds a Polish synagogue to attend. After a couple of times, however, he decides it is too different from what he is used to.

Violence: One of the friends Dom makes (Tin Pan Alley) is a slave in the padrone system. Tin Pan Alley is practically starved, and he is beaten if he doesn’t bring in the amount his padrone demands after a day of begging. Dom goes to try to rescue his friend and is severely beaten.

Language: There might be an objectionable word or two, but I don’t remember any.

Sexual Content: Dom is illegitimate, and his family makes no effort to hide that from him. Also, I don’t know if younger children would pick up on this, but it is implied that Dom’s mother uses her body to bride a sailor to keep Dom as a stowaway on the ship headed to America.

Other: The different immigrant groups had a lot of prejudice toward each other. Of course there was prejudice between groups from different countries, but I was surprised by the prejudice Dom’s friend Gaetano had toward other Italians from different regions. I guess every group, when put into a situation where someone looks down on them, finds someone to look down on.

Rating: 4, for violence, and implied sexual content

Recommendation: Yes, I would recommend this as historical fiction about a time period we don’t hear about a lot and as a story about taking initiative to make things better for yourself.