Friday, March 24, 2017

Percy Jackson

Percy Jackson

This review is by Miss 11 (almost 12).

This series of 5 books starting with Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan, are for ages 11 and up and are very good!

Percy Jackson thinks he is a regular boy until he finds out that he is half Greek god and he needs to stop Kronos, the Titan Lord from rising and taking over the world. The series is based in modern time, eg, to get to Olympus you must take the Empire State Building elevator to floor 600.

In the first book, Percy goes to a camp where half-bloods are trained to fight monsters, receives weapons, tests his powers and finds out which god is father is. He also makes friends with Annabeth and Grover the satyr (half goat and half boy) and they go on a quest to return Zeus’ stolen lightning bolt to him.

In Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters Grover’s goal in life (like all satyrs) is to find the great god Pan, the Lord of the Wild. However, he’s lured to an island where he’s captured and asks Percy for with Annabeth and a new friend Tyson, a Cyclops.

In book 3: Percy Jackson and the Titan’s Curse, Annabeth goes missing after she, Percy, Grover and Thalia (new friend) are tasked with bringing two new half-bloods safely to Camp. Percy is desperate to find her, however the goddess Artemis is also missing, and her followers, the Hunters of Artemis, are the one tasked to save her.

In Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth, Percy, Annabeth, Grover and Tyson adventure into the Labyrinth, a maze full of traps and try to find Daedalus, it’s creator. In the end, monsters invade the camp and must be stopped.

The fifth and final book Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian, Percy and the camp must protect the city of Manhattan from Kronos’ army, and so the final battle begins.

There are no Christian references, because the entire premise is based on the Greek gods, such as Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, Apollo, Ares, Aphrodite, Hera, Artemis and more.  

One of my highlights was when a quest was issued, the leader is given a prophecy to help them.  The main prophecy from the series is:

A half-blood of the eldest gods, shall reach sixteen against all odds,
And see the world in endless sleep, the hero’s soul, cursed blade, shall reap
A single choice shall end his days, Olympus to preserve or raze


Miss 11 also loved the next series of five books: The Heroes of Olympus.  Mr 13 has also devoured all of them, and pretty much anything else by Rick Riordan.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017


As Easter is approaching, you might like to consider how to celebrate it with your family.

Every year we have two weeks of bible readings that we do together, as well as things to discuss, prayers and also optional inserts for openable eggs.  It's been a great way to focus our attention on Jesus’ final week and reflect upon his death and resurrection as a family.

If you would like to use them for your family, both are available as pdf files via the resources tab.   Note the start and finish dates are different for each so that the events of the Easter weekend itself line up with the readings.

Preparing for Easter with your family: Readings from the Gospel of Luke

  • Aimed at more primary aged kids, although flexible and adaptable.
  • Print in format needed (Acrobat Reader allows you to print as a booklet)
  • Start on the Wednesday nine days before Good Friday (April 5 in 2017) and go through until Easter Tuesday.
  • If you want to use my inserts which include the titles of the days, the bible verses and some suggestion for pictures, they are also available on the resources page.

Preparing for Easter with your family: Readings from the Gospel of Matthew

  • Aimed at younger families, although flexible and adaptable.
  • Print in format needed (Acrobat Reader allows you to print as a booklet)
  • Note: this is exactly the same material as in previous years, it has just had a format update.
  • Start on the Monday 11 days before Good Friday (April 3 in 2017) and go through until Easter Sunday.
  • If you want to use my inserts which include the titles of the days, the bible verses and some suggestion for pictures, they are also available on the resources page.

For other ideas of how to celebrate Easter, books to read, and things to try – read through the Easter posts of the past. There is a lot in there!

We still have a simplified Passover meal and watch the Prince of Egypt on Thursday night.   We still have hot cross buns on Friday morning and a little egg hunt on Sunday morning.   These have now become firm traditions, which makes them all the more special.

Monday, March 20, 2017

How to Raise Selfless Kids in a Self-Centred World

How to Raise Selfless Kids in a Self-Centred World, Dave Stone

With a title like this, who isn’t interested?  We know our world is increasingly self-absorbed and also that with our own sinful nature we always want to be first above all others. 

As parents, we long for our children to learn selflessness: how to care about others first, how to help, how to be generous, how to include others and how to love people who are different to us.

This little book deals with topics including greed, hospitality, grace, serving others, and seeing people without prejudice.  It’s full of tips and anecdotes to encourage you to teach your children how to love and serve others in various creative ways.

With 150 small pages, it’s only a primer for this topic.   All the examples and teaching points were delivered through examples and stories.   Some people find this a great way to learn and if that’s you, you’ll probably find it very helpful. I tend to prefer a more logical, structured format that goes into more depth, and I found it a bit light.

This is recommended for those who don’t like a lot of reading or don’t have time for it, but would still like some good ideas for ways to encourage your kids towards becoming ‘godly, generous, giving people’ (p14) who are other-person oriented.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

This movie, filmed and produced in New Zealand, is a funny, offbeat yet poignant story about city dwelling, foster boy Ricky Baker and the rural couple who care for him, Bella and Hec (Sam Neill). 

Ricky has reached the end of the line of foster carers, and is known by authorities as a “bad egg”.   Bella, with her patient, loving, no-nonsense care slowly develops a loving relationship with Ricky, while Hec watches from the sideline.  Tragedy strikes, leaving Hec and Ricky to fend for themselves. 
Ricky decides he’s not going back to the foster care system and runs away.   Hec finds him but a broken ankle forces them to camp in the bush for six weeks.  Upon their return, they realise they are the object of a major manhunt, with Hec assumed to have kidnapped Ricky. 

We watched it as a family, and reflected that Miss 9.5 was probably too young for it, she didn’t grasp the story, didn’t really get the humour and found some of the subject matter a bit confronting.   Miss (almost) 12 enjoyed it and Mr (almost) 14, like us, thought some parts were hysterical, and they also grasped the depth of what was happening. 

There was a fair bit of low-level language (bastard, sh*t, etc), several references to the (mistaken) assumption that Hec has molested Ricky, and some violent animal death scenes (hunting wild pig). Unfortunately, the only reflection on Christianity was a very incompetent minister at a funeral.   The characterisation of the foster care worker is very funny, although not particularly complementary to those who work in the system.  So, discretion is clearly needed with this one and which children you would show it to.

For families with young teens this could be a good, quirky choice about real people with real issues, from a mostly light-hearted point of view.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Ranger’s Apprentice – The Early Years

This family are all solid fans of John Flanagan’s Ranger’s Apprentice and Brother Band books, so we all quickly turned to these two new books set about 15 years before the Ranger’s Apprentice books.   For those who have come to love the story, characters and writing as we have, they do not disappoint.   They fill in some of the gaps of the younger Halt, with the first book The Tournament at Gorlan, showing how he came to be a Ranger and the early story of how Morgarath tried to steal the throne.  It also follows on from a shorter story found in Book 11:  The Lost Stories.  

The second book The Battle of Hackham Heath, continues to fill in the story of Morgarath and the Wargals, laying the groundwork for understanding more of books #1 & 2 of the original series.   

Flanagan writes a great story, and he appeals to 9/10-year olds right up to adults.  Almost all the kids we know who like these books have parents who also like them and seek them out to read on their own – high praise indeed and not always a given.   His writing is witty, accessible, intelligent and not condescending.   Upon re-reading them to Miss 9, I have been pleasantly surprised to rediscover the wide range of vocabulary he uses - it will definitely extend your kids!  So, if your kids (or you) haven’t tried them yet, it may be time.  I’d still suggest starting with Ranger’s Apprentice #1 – The Ruins of Gorlan, and then look forward to 20 books awaiting your reading pleasure!  I reviewed them about 4 years ago when we first discovered them, and since Miss 11 has devoured them (at age 9-11) and as I said, Miss 9 is now just discovering their delights for the first time.