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Notable books

Notable Books | An eclectic assortment reviewed by Susan Olasky

The Fortune Cookie Chronicles

Lee (whose middle initial is the numeral 8) begins this fascinating exploration of Chinese-American cultural interaction with an account of a 2005 Powerball Lottery anomaly: It had 110 second-place winners, meaning they had picked the first five of the six numbers correctly. Statistically the lottery had predicted three or four second-place winners. Fraud? Not at all: The winners had chosen numbers from fortune cookies.

From there Lee traces the origin of fortune cookies, chop suey, the white Chinese takeout box, and much besides. Although Lee has a light touch, she explores deeper issues surrounding the Chinese immigrant experience.

Psalms for Young Children

In this brightly illustrated book, Delval takes 40 psalms and reduces them to simply phrased ideas, pulling imagery most accessible to young children. The result is a collection that will encourage young children to actually pray the Psalms. Here are examples:

Psalm 51-"When I do something wrong, forgive me, God. I want to feel like I've just been washed in clean water. I want to be like brand-new snow. I feel so happy when you forgive me!"

Psalm 88-"God, please listen to me. I am full of sadness, I am crying. I feel lonely and scared. Do you really love me? I'm calling you, God. Please comfort me!"

The Translator

Daoud Hari, who served as a translator to journalists coming to describe genocide in Darfur, writes about grim subjects ("It is interesting how many ways there are for people to be hurt and killed") but finds humor in unexpected places. He effectively combines sensational facts with understated prose; for example, to lead up to the imminent attack on his village by armed helicopters and vicious raiders, he tells readers, "Women were getting their children ready for the long journey, and you may know what this is like, though it was probably more serious in this kind of situation." Hari regularly finds points of contact to help readers identify with and feel urgency about the people of Darfur.

Always with You

When Kim's village in Vietnam is bombed she is playing under the coconut trees. Her house is destroyed. Before her mother dies she tells Kim, "Don't be afraid. . . . I will always be with you." The attackers hit Kim with the butt of a rifle and leave her for dead. Although she lost most of her sight, soldiers rescued her and took her to an orphanage. "They brought me to Ông and Bà Jones. . . . Their hearts must have been as big as barrels and filled with every color of the rainbow."

Ruth Vander Zee writes a moving story of a child's suffering during the Vietnam War. Based on a true story, Always with You deals with fear, death, loneliness, and loss-and yet is always hopeful.

Spotlight

Two audio versions of the New Testament will appeal to different folks. I love Johnny Cash Reading the Complete New Testament: Collector's Edition (Thomas Nelson, 2007). He reads well, and his deep distinctive voice is a pleasure to listen to without being distracting. I found the Hollywood actors emoting on the Word of Promise New Testament, also by Thomas Nelson, a big distraction.

Running God's Way by Vicki Hartzler (Winepress Publishing, 2007) is a political primer for Christians considering elective office. Her book covers the steps from planning to fundraising and getting out the vote in a clear readable style.

The American Muslim Teenager's Handbook, written by a Muslim mother and her two children (Acacia Publishing, 2007), offers breezy advice about navigating the teenage years. It's intended to help Muslim teens cope with American culture. Christian kids will find they share some of the same problems-being modest in a coarse culture, for instance. The book mistakenly claims that the God of Islam is the same as the Triune God of the Bible. Nonetheless, this book provides a helpful look into a different culture that exists next door.

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