Thursday, October 17, 2019

More Bible-Based Fiction for Kids {A Secret of the Hidden Scrolls Review and Giveaway}

Which books have been keeping my youngest child smiling and turning pages?

The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Shepherd’s Stone (Book 5), and The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Lion’s Roar (Book 6) by WorthyKids Books - two books we are reviewing today and - at the bottom of this post - sharing a giveaway for.  (Actually, the giveway includes ALL the books in the series to date!)

The Best of Both Worlds

Because of the way The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Shepherd’s Stone (Book 5) and The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Lion’s Roar (Book 6) are written, they can be read as stand-alone books or read in order of the series, which means you get the best of both worlds depending on the type of reader you are - a good single read or a whole series to enjoy!Like other books in the The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls series, Books 5 and 6 are also filled with adventure, fun, and Bible history - making another "best of both worlds" a reality: the fun of fiction with the truth of real Bible story facts!

This two-in-one plus is actually the mission of The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls author M.J. Thomas.

As the true story behind the fiction stories goes: Thomas is a dad who could not find a book that balanced faith, adventure, and education. So, he decided to begin writing his own time-travel adventure stories for his son in order to help him and other children discover the Bible and grow in faith while immersing themselves in engaging fiction.

The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls series that resulted, Thomas certainly met his mission! My youngest child thoroughly enjoyed when we read Books 1, 2, 3 and 4 together in the past and was excited to read Books 5 and 6 on his own!

Ideal for Children to Read to Selves or for Families to Read Together

The books are perfect for kids like my son to read on their own (as happened for my son this time) or for families to enjoy as read alouds (which has happened for us with earlier books in the series.)

Each softcover book is about 120 pages long and divided into 14 chapters. The font is a decent size and black-and-white illustrations help children imagine the characters and plot as they read along.

The books also each contain a page that refers you to where in the Bible you can read about the things that occur in the book and are good at weaving fiction together with true Bible stories.

My Son's Thoughts

Here is what my son had to say about the books:

I wanted The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls, because I have read the rest of the series and liked it. Mom used to read them to me, but now I read them to myself. They are easy to read.

In Book Five: The Shepherd's Stone Peter, Mary, and their dog Hank find a map of their Uncle's house and go into a throne room that they had always thought was a pantry. There, they find a crown in a harp.
Uncle Solomon comes and the crown fits on Peter, because it was the crown of David who was also a kid. So, Peter, Mary, and their dog put the crown and harp in their adventure bag and hear a lion's roar. They go and unlock the door where the lion is and get a scroll.
Then, they go back in time where there are three wolves. So, Peter and Mary climb up a tall tree and Hank stays behind.
David gets the wolves away with his sling. Then, they introduce themselves and Peter and Mary sleep in David's tent.
They wake up the next morning and hear a horn. David knows what it means and goes home, because his parents want him to send food to his brothers. 
Peter and Mary go with David and also meet his other brothers who are mean to him.
David goes to the battlefield, and they want to take a shortcut. So, they do, but it is through a valley of darkness and death. There, they meet a bear an scare it off.
David gets to the camp and gives his brothers food.
Then, there is Goliath, and David wants to fight him. He goes to the king's house, tries on the king's armor, and it does not fit.
David is going to fight the next day, and Peter and Mary see a man in black and go spy on him. They find out that he's going to sneak up on David and attack him when he's focused on Goliath. So, they were going to go warn David, but the archangel tells them that they cannot, because they cannot change history. So, they don't tell him and plan to fight him (Satan) themselves.
So, David fights Goliath. He kills him. Then, Satan sneaks up behind David and more adventure continues.
In the end, like in all the books, the kids solve the mystery of the scroll and go back to modern times.

(I dare say, my son's narration of Book 5 was one of the longest narrations he has ever offered me.)

He also said:

In Book Six: The Lion's Roar, Peter Mary, and Hank are at their Uncle Solomon's house. In the house, there is a weird lion that roars and the kids grab a scroll and go back in time to ancient Babylon.
They get there and they see an idol - a fake god. They go into the place and a crow squawks, "Bow." Then, the high priest walks in and tells them to bow. They don't, so he goes to throw them in jail, but Michael the Archangel comes down to protect them.
Then, Peter, Mary, and Hank are chased down by the high priest, and they run to the hanging gardens to meet Michael. After they meet him, they also meet a person who is an Israelite.
Peter, Mary, and Hank go back to the Israelite's house and meet Shadrach. Then, they meet Daniel, and he gets thrown into the lion's den, because he was praying to someone besides the king.
At night, Peter and Mary try to push the rock that covers the den aside to see if Daniel is okay, and the high priest comes and pushes them in. 
Michael the Archangel is down there and protects Peter, Mary, and Daniel.
In the end, they figure out all the words to the scroll, and the kids get teleported to modern times.I liked this story, because it was entertaining. I knew the Bible story already and liked seeing how the author told it. It stayed true to the Bible while making it eventful and fun.  It also reminded us to trust God.

My son then concluded his thoughts as follows:

I have a question for the author: When will the series end? When will they meet their parents again? 
I recommend these books for kids from second to fourth or fifth grade to read on their own or for families to read together. They are family friendly.
You can learn about the Bible and history and have fun reading. I want to read more in the series! 

As you can tell, the books engaged my youngest son, and he remembered a lot after reading them. Thus, I would recommend them to others.

In fact, my daughter is not reading Books 5 and 6, and a friend borrowed earlier books in the series from me. 

The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Shepherd’s Stone (Book 5), and The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Lion’s Roar (Book 6) are like other books from the same series by WorthyKids Books: engaging and educational, mixing adventure-filled fiction with true Bible stories to bring Bible history alive in a wholesome way for today's kids.

Learn More

Books 1 and 2

See what we thought about other books in the series.

Books 3 and 4

Enter to win sign copies of the entire books series!

Enter here!

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Read the reviews!

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Engaging Entertainment without Electronics! {A Brain Blox Review}

Open-ended play. Brain teasers. A way to keep hands busy while listening ears tune into read alouds and audiobooks. We have appreciated 
Brain Blox Wooden Building Planks by Brain Blox as a way to enjoy all of these things and more since receiving an awesome 200 plank package of them for review. 

We've also gone straight to the ceiling with fun!

What Are Brain Blox?

Brain Blox, in a nut-shell, are child-safe and environmentally-friendly, open-ended blocks that use balance, friction and your creative brain to build structures, create designs, and solve puzzles.

More specifically, they are inviting New Zealand pine wood planks that are:

  • 100% natural
  • non-toxic
  • free from stains, paints, dyes, and chemicals
  • precision-cut
  • sustainably-sourced

Plus , they require no magnets nor connectors of any kind and are just plain old fun!

Why Choose Brain Blox?

Brain Blox foster smiles, imagination, and learning as they provide countless hours of engaged play and STEM activities.

From our experience, Brain Blox encourage kids and adults alike to build towers...


 and more... 

With Brain Blox, you can create chain reactions, make mazes, meet challenges, and solve brain teasers... 

You can imagine something and, then, build it!

All the while, 
Brain Blox can help strengthen your brain's development by naturally incorporating hands-on math, physics, and engineering concepts into building while encouraging problem solving and reasoning abilities and improving dexterity and spatial awareness.

When you are using Brain Blox , you inevitably get creative, test ideas, experience cause and effect, strengthen perseverance, and let loose your imagination.

Plus, if you use 
Brain Blox with others, you tend to build cooperation and social skills while you're having fun!

So, yep, though seemingly simple, 
Brain Blox are brilliantly designed to encourage you to turn off screens and engage in hands-on, constructive, imaginative play and learning! 

What Did We Think of Brain Blox?

Since our Brain Blox arrived in our mailbox, they have taken up regular residence in our living room, and my children and I have been reaching for them regularly.

My oldest son, 13, said:
I enjoy Brain Blox. I think they are good for children of all ages, because they are enjoyable and can be used to create structures. I especially liked trying the brain teasers.

As you can see from the photo above, he also liked helping spot his baby brother as his brother tried experiments!

My 12-year-old daughter said:

I liked Brain Blox for playing when my mom was reading boring stuff and when we had Together Time. 

What did I do with them? I did a couple challenges, but mostly just built - even to the ceiling!

I like Brain Blox because they are sturdy, they are made of real wood, and they come with a bag to carry them.

You don't have to do a certain thing with them, but can use them for whatever you want.

I also like the pirate video that has one of my favorite pirate songs in it.

My youngest son, at nine, has a blast building. He said:

I liked Brain Blox because they are very good when you are listening to something being read or to just do something with your hands. 

I did challenges and built ships. I especially liked stacking them up high.  We touched the roof! 

I think children from ages 6 to 13 - like my older brother - would enjoy them. They would be safe for little kids, too, because it would be pretty hard to choke them. 

I will add that adults like Brain Blox, too.  At least I do!

I appreciate their simple yet inviting design, how they keep hands busy during read together times, and also, how they inspire imaginations during open-ended play.  

I also love how 
Brain Blox can be used for brain teasers with free ideas online.  

Further, I have found them quite handy to grab as an educational manipulative when reviewing multiplication and other concepts and love how they bring my kids together!

So, in summary, I'd say:

Brain Blox may seem like just a box of wood at first glance, but there is just something about the precision-cut planks that captures imagination, invites play, and encourages engagement. In a word, I think Brain Blox are brilliant! I'd recommend them to anyone.

At home, or out and about with the included carry bag, 
Brain Blox are loads of fun!

Learn More

If you ever run out of ideas for Brain Blox, there are loads of FREE PRINTABLES and ideas available to jump start you in continued fun!

Fifty-five Homeschool Review Crew families have been getting creative with Brain Blox. Find all of our reviews, including some video reviews.

You might also enjoy clicking over to the Brain Blox website, where you will find free kids' journal printables, videos, and freebies. You might also enjoy our recent review of another Brain Blox product: Fun Family Chess.

Plus, of course, you can connect on social media:

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Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Who Wants to Play Fun Family Chess? {A Review}

If you are looking for a way for both the beginning chess players and also the practiced ones in your family to enjoy a one-on-one game together, Fun Family Chess by Brain Blox could be just what you seek!

What is Fun Family Chess?

Fun Family Chess is a color-coded, learn-as-you-play educational game that can easily teach children and adults how to play chess using a specially designed board game that involves rolling a chess cube, matching the piece shown on the cube and your own playing piece, and moving the way a reference card shows you to do so.

The chess set can also be used for standard chess play, which means everyone in the family can enjoy it no matter what their chess skill level is!

Fun Family Chess set includes:

  • a cloth lined, hinged wooden chess board

  • 32 painted wooden chess pieces in soft pouches 

  • a chess cube

  • 2 reference cards

  • a full-color chess book with instructions for the learn-to-play game and traditional chess.

The Fun Family Chess instruction book makes playing the roll, match, and move learn-to-play chess game simple and fun for new players while also challenging practiced players with an outside-the-chess-norm combination of luck and strategy.

If you are not an instruction book sort, you can also learn how to play both the beginner version of chess and standard chess on the 
Brain Blox chess videos page.

What did we think of Fun Family Chess?

Our Fun Family Chess set has gotten plenty of use since it arrived in our mail.

My middle child was the first to play Fun Family Chess with me. She said:

I liked it. It was a lot more difficult than I thought it would be, because you cannot strategize the same way as when you are playing chess, because you do not know which piece you will be allowed to move next. I felt like this made the game a bit more about luck, but it also made you think differently.

She also said:

If I was a new chess player, I think it would be a helpful game, because it shows you how each piece can move and helps you practice that... I also played regular chess... I really like the darker pieces. I think the color looks nice. I also like the bags the pieces go in and the lining the box. I think the game set would be good for people who are beginning to learn chess and people who just want to have a new chess board.

My youngest child, nine, who also already knows how to play chess, willingly played the learn-to-play game with his sister and with me just to see what it was like. 

He said:

It is actually good for beginners, because it teaches them the basic moves, and I also think it is good for people who have played it for a while, because it is actually harder in a way if you know actual chess, because you have to roll the cube to move a player, which makes you plan a different kind of strategy.

Like his sister, my youngest also played traditional chess with the set and thought it was "pretty normal. It's a good beginning chess set, but, don't use the cube on pavement, because it may get chipped." (Yes, he learned that through experience, but chipped cubes and ripped pant knees are par for the course with this sometimes rough-and-tumble, sometimes cuddly-and-more-sedate child!)

My oldest child, thirteen, did not want to play the learn-to-play game with me, because he already knows chess and said, "It's lame." (Yep, he's so very thirteen!)

Thus, when my oldest child tested the game with me, he purposely tried to lose, but, then decided to go for the kill at the end with just three pieces, taking me by surprise!

My oldest is the only one among us who does not think the learn-to-play game would be the best to teach new players, because, he says,  "it could be confusing for people to move from luck to strategy." That said, he agrees that "the game board is well-designed and sturdy... and can travel well."

So, overall, Fun Family Chess by Brain Blox has been a welcome addition to our family's game stash. We have found that even as a family with some chess experience, the beginner game challenged us to think and experiment with new strategies to account for the luck quotient and that we believe the specially designed game could help new players learn how each piece in standard chess moves before worrying as much about strategy. Thus, I would not hesitate to recommend Fun Family Chess to any family looking for a way to introduce chess to new players while keeping practiced players playing, too.

Learn More

 Read the reviews.
Read the reviews.
We're not the only ones who have been trying out Fun Family Chess. You can find all 57 reviews at the Homeschool Review Crew, including some video reviews.

You might also enjoy clicking over to the Brain Blox website, where you will find free kids' journal printables, videos, and freebies related to Brain Blox, another cool product I will be reviewing soon!

Plus, of course, you can connect on social media:

Whatever you do, if you're looking for a simple, fun, affordable way to teach young and old alike how to play chess - or just to enjoy a traditional game of chess - it's all there with the Fun Family Chess  set! 

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