Barbour Publishing has been in existence since the early 1980's. The company's Christian books share the message of Christ. It is able to proudly say it has shipped over 100 million books to date and releases over 150 titles per year. Our family had the opportunity to review one such book, Diary of a Real Payne Book 1: True Story.
As a Mom, I try to seek out and choose books with which my children can relate. In the case of this review item, Diary of a Real Payne Book 1: True Story, it was I who could truly relate. Having grown up in small towns, the setting of little Spooner, Wisconsin sounded all too familiar. I recall dreaming often of growing up to finally find "bigger" and "better." I wanted "more" and craved the experiences that my hometown could never offer. For this reason, I identified with the main character, 10 year old Emma Jean Payne.
Within the 192 page paperback, EJ dreams up some wild and crazy adventures including: being a queen, professional racecar driver, astronaut, circus performer, and a salon owner. She also references book characters (think Anne of Green Gables - yay!) frequently. This wild imagination often leaves her misunderstood and in a bit of trouble. Well, that paired with her dealings with her brother... referred to as The Space Invader. Ha! I grew up with one of those :-)
By the book's end, EJ comes to the realization that you can "bloom where you are planted"... even in small, boring Spooner. She's encouraged not to constantly live in her dreams for she will miss out on opportunities to love, serve, and care for those in need around her. These are absolutely ideas I want my children to embrace.
I love that EJ's parents, her father a minister and mother a teacher, play an active role in the book. We also see other caring adults invest in and guide her. They speak truth and encourage her. Biblical ideas and themes are key factors in the development of the story, but it never feels contrived. Instead, there is a very natural retelling of the story of Esther, the Christmas story, nativity scene, etc.
Since this book is recommended for ages 8-12, I chose to use it as a family read-aloud. My 7 year old daughter and 8 year old boys all enjoyed the story. They were attentive, engaged, and quite entertained by EJ and her antics. We were all even known to get a case of the silly giggles on a few pages. In addition, the kids were touched by the spiritual life lessons EJ learned and embraced the real life application. Based on their reactions, I'd say it is safe to say they will desire to read this series in its entirety. The second book in the series, Church Camp Chaos, releases in March 2014. Our family will be on the lookout!
In my opinion, for $5.99, this book is definitely one to add to your home library. Even better... Barbour Publishing's books are all currently 25% off sale, so you can snag it at a discounted price. WooHoo!
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