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Notable Books

Books | Four character-building picture books

Issue: "Effective compassion," July 27, 2013

Steam Train, Dream Train 

By Sherri Duskey Rinker

Sherri Rinker follows up her 2011 surprise bestseller, Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site, with another boy-pleasing bedtime book. What boy doesn’t love trains? The pages show a furry and scaly crew loading boxcars, reefers, gondolas, and hoppers with dream freight (i.e., paint, sand, toys, ice cream) before their train steams rhythmically into the sunset. The irresistible rhymes will lull the most sleep-resistant child, but a subtle work ethic underpins both of Rinker’s picture books. Whether busy construction vehicles or busy yard crew, her characters put in an honest day’s labor before settling in for a well-deserved rest. Tom Lichtenheld joins Rinker again for this second outing, his rich sunset colors casting a glow over bedtime.

Mary Wrightly, So Politely

By Shirin Yim Bridges

Mary is one of those quiet little girls you’re always telling to speak up! So far she hasn’t had much to speak up about: As an extra-polite child, grown-ups and peers alike tend to treat her as courteously as she treats them. But occasionally there comes a time to assert oneself, especially when the perfect gift for one’s baby brother is at stake. The simple story shows when it may be necessary to raise one’s voice, such as when others get caught up in their own business and aren’t paying the attention they should. But even yelling can be done politely. The illustrations are soft, bright, and deeply textured.

Building Our House 

By Jonathan Bean

The author wasn’t yet born when his parents and two siblings left the city to build their own house in the country. For five years (here condensed to one and a half) they homesteaded in an old Airstream trailer while digging, rock-laying, flooring, framing, plumbing, and roofing their dream home from the basement up. Even the little ones pitched in where they could. Young builders will be fascinated with the process captured between the two endpapers: one showing empty fields and the other the newly finished house, already looking as if it belongs. This book is a labor of love from a son who honors his parents and their self-reliant, can-do spirit.

Scaredy Squirrel Goes Camping 

By Melanie Watt

Scaredy Squirrel, as the reader will guess, is afraid of lots of things. In this latest outing of the series, his fear list includes loud noises, skunks, the dark, penguins, and zippers. So camping is not a favorite activity, but in keeping with the summertime spirit he decides to watch TV shows about camping. Problem is, he can’t plug in his new TV, and the closest outlet happens to be in the nearby campground. So he takes an outdoor expedition with an extra-long extension cord. It will come as no surprise that Scaredy changes his mind about camping after an adventure in the wilderness. Preschoolers may find some reassurance about their own fears.


How do you know whether you’re sad or depressed? How can doctors tell the difference? What is manic depression and is it the same as bipolar disorder? In Good Mood Bad Mood (Shepherd Press, 2012), medical doctor Charles Hodges lays out current theories, explains how medications work, and shows how subjective the diagnostic process is. Using examples from his practice, Hodges shows how doctors and patients can unwittingly make things worse by using medications to diagnose problems. He asks important questions about the role of genetics and whether people can change. As he explores the difference between ordinary sadness and depression, Hodges shows the role that worldview plays in interpreting events. He says that as we’ve become a more secular nation, “we have lost the assurance that our current setbacks are temporary and our future eternal.” Without a biblical perspective, we fail to see how God uses sorrows to change us. —Susan Olasky

Janie B. Cheaney
Janie B. Cheaney

Janie lives in Missouri, is a columnist for WORLD, writes novels for young adults, and is the author of the Wordsmith creative writing series. She also reviews books at Follow Janie on Twitter @jbcheaney.


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