Saturday, May 30, 2009

Phantom Island: Wind

Krissi Dallas has hit the road running with her debut novel, Phantom Island: Wind. It instantly found its way to the number one selling spot at as the word-of-mouth buzz about this page-turner spread like wild fire surrounding the novel's release. The novel is Young Adult fiction; it's full of drama, adventure, suspense, and romance. As a vested seventh and eighth grade teacher and the wife of a youth pastor, YA fantasy-fiction is something Krissi Dallas is an expert on and has a passion for. Her love and affinity for her students, as well as the openly autobiographical nature of much of the book, have allowed Dallas to "open a vein," and write from the depths of who she is, from the heart. This deep connection transfers itself to the reader. I found myself desperately curious; no, not just curious, committed and concerned about the characters. Reading until the end of the chapter wasn't enough: I had to find out what would happen next and would they be okay. I don't think I have ever read a book this size this quickly---not even any of the Harry Potter series... which I also toted obsessively wherever I went so I could read every chance I got.

Phantom Island: Wind is divided into three parts, and it's part two that really gets you. If you weren't addicted already in part one, you definitely will be when part two begins. This is also where the fantasy part of this fantasy-fiction novel really kicks in. You know how you can tell when you're reading really good fantasy-fiction? When you can't tell. If you ever find yourself questioning the reality the author's created, it isn't good fantasy-fiction. While reading Wind I never once caught myself raising my eyebrow thinking, I don't know about that. I was completely engrossed.

Wind is well written. Dallas has a captivating command of detail. Good literature is good literature, regardless of the target audience. Phantom Island isn't just for teenagers; it's for anyone who hasn't forgotten how to read -- how to imagine and empathize and create. The plot and character development; the intrigue, the tension, the romance, the journey, the discovery; every thing about the Island kept me turning pages when I should have been sleeping.

Wind is the first book in the Phantom Island series. Water, is scheduled to come out Summer 2010. It's always nice to have something to look forward to, especially the "small" things; I can't wait to find out what happens next. For more about Phantom Island visit

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Jesus Storybook Bible

I am so excited about this. It just came in the mail from Amazon, and I have been bringing it with me everywhere I go like show-and-tell because I am that pumped about it. Here's the thing; I started thinking about my first-graders and how I'd love to simply read a chapter book to them from week to week rather than individual stories. That got me to wondering if such a thing existed: a chapter-book version of the Bible. In my search, I stumbled across The Jesus Storybook Bible, which is pretty close. I love the byline: "Every story whispers his name." Every story in the Bible (even the Old Testament ones) whisper the name of Jesus, even all of the best faerie-stories we read in books and see in movies echo Jesus' story.

Listen to this excerpt from the introduction: read it out loud; it was meant to be read aloud:

No, the Bible isn't a book of rules, or a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a Story. It's an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It's a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne -- everything -- to rescue the one he loves. It's like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life!

You see, the best thing about this Story is -- it's true.

There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one Big Story. The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them.

It takes the whole Bible to tell this Story. And at the center of the Story, there is a baby. Every Story in the Bible whispers his name. He is like the missing piece in a puzzle -- the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together, and suddenly you can see a beautiful picture.

And this is no ordinary baby. This is the Child upon whom everything would depend. This is the Child who would one day -- but wait. Our Story starts where all good stories start. Right at the very beginning...
I'm impressed by the style and the quality of the writing and the art in this Bible. I'm impressed by the author's use of punctuation and parallelism and alliteration to make the story come to life. I'm impressed by the way she introduces ideas like God's "Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love," ideas like Home (and ontology), Good and Evil, and the Creation-Fall-Redemption narrative. Sally Lloyd-Jones acknowledges Tim Keller for "giving [her this] vocabulary of faith." I'm impressed by that too. It sounds a bit high-faluting when it's described by how it has impressed me; but I promise you, it is not. It's a children's book that young children can read themselves and enjoy. But like any good children's literature, it's a good read for adults too.

Literally every story in this Bible from Genesis to Revelation hints at Jesus, speaks to the Logos, the Center of God's Story (and ours). This children's Bible is creative; it's fresh; it's intellectually ingenuous. It's what we've been waiting for.
The Jesus Storybook Bible isn't a replacement for your Children's NIV, but it's a good place to start, and a good supplement --- for your personal Bible reading as well as your children's.