Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Book Review :: Just Sayin' and Dare U 2 Open This Book by Carol McAdams Moore

Just Sayin' and Dare U 2 Open This Book are two new devotionals by Carol McAdams Moore for tweens/teens. Because these devotionals follow a very similar format, I will review these together, but will highlight the differences between the two books. 

Let's start by looking at the basic framework of both Just Sayin' and Dare U 2 Open This Book. Each book has 90 devotions with large, easy to read text. Each devotion is numbered and starts with the words "Seriously? Let Me See That!" followed by a Bible quote. (Most quotes are from the NIV, some are from the NLT.) Some of the verses are followed by encouragement to read more (with reference to a particular Scripture location), and I really appreciate this. 

The remainder of the 2 page spread for each devotion is a variety of activities: prompts, fill-in-the-blank, doodle areas, etc. There are also some short prayers included on some of the devotionals (not all). The prompts are varied and are not overwhelming (the spaces for doodles are not huge), so this seems very approachable for kids. The prompts are often reflective ("Think of a time when...", "Ever do ____?", "What do you do when...?", etc.). Some of the prompts seem to be a bit lacking and could have definitely benefited from a more "full" explanation, but in general they are self-explanatory. 

These books are meant to be written and doodled in. Some of the prompts (particularly in Just Sayin') call for the use of glue, but these are just normal book pages and I don't feel they would hold up well with liquid glues. I would recommend dry adhesives such as tape and/or stickers. 

Each of the devotional page spreads in Just Sayin' and Dare U 2 Open This Book are laid out differently, all in an appealing "doodle" style. The pages are greyscale (no color), but are still visually interesting. 

I love the idea of these devotionals - study & worship combined with art. With the rising popularity of Bible journaling, I think these books are a great jumpstart for young ones.

Even though these books are very similar, there are some differences between the two, so let's look at Just Sayin' and Dare U 2 Open This Book individually now:
From the pink cover to the fluffy dog, you can judge this book by the cover -  Just Sayin' is definitely aimed at a female audience. 

One thing I noticed right off the bat about Just Sayin' is that the verses are often left at just that - verses. Where in other devotionals you would most likely find an explanation of the verses or at least a few thoughts about them, Just Sayin' generally doesn't have that. (This is something my 11 year old daughter noticed right away, too. We both would like to see more.) There are some specific times when an explanation and/or context would be very helpful, and I think the lack thereof really hurts the fantastic possibility of this book. For example: Devotional #4 references Zechariah 13:9, which feels very out of context. The page prompts for this particular devotional (#4) focus on gold, silver, and "bling", but a quick look at the verse context seems to show that this verse is talking about a remnant being refined and tested, not just glitz and glamour. 

As you will find with many tween books these days, the language in Just Sayin' often falls victim to the dumbed-down approach to vocabulary. Words (if you can call them that) like "vacay", "prob", "fave", peeps", and "fab" make frequent appearances, as do abbreviations like "U R" (rather than "you are") and "R U" (rather than "are you"). I feel like this approach to tween/teen books isn't giving today's youth (or the information in the book) enough credit. I would have much rather seen whole words and quality vocabulary.

Even with those areas where I wish there had been some improvement, I can see this being my daughter's most effective (or at least one of the most effective) and engaging devotionals. (She has already asked me multiple times when I would be done reviewing it so she can get started on it.) 
Although Dare U 2 Open This Book seems to be more geared toward a male audience, I can see this being a fantastic devotional for girls as well (it is not overly "male", where I would say Just Sayin' is definitely a "female" book).

I feel like Dare U 2 Open This Book has more explanations for the verses than I found in Just Sayin'. I still would have liked to see a bit more, though.

I felt like Dare U 2 Open This Book fell victim to the same dumbed-down approach as Just Sayin' as far as the vocabulary is concerned. Dare U 2 Open This Book had terms like "deets", "dude", "jot yur thots", "kicker" (for shoe), etc. Again, I feel like this approach to tween/teen books isn't giving today's youth (or the information in the book) enough credit. I would have much rather seen this book written with whole words and quality vocabulary. 

All things considered, I am excited for my son to get started on Dare U 2 Open This Book. I think it will be a fantastic way for him to reflect on his own actions and to think about God. 

I think both Just Sayin' and Dare U 2 Open This Book would make great gifts. I think they would be particularly great when given as a kit - including the book, some colored pencils, journaling pens, and maybe even some stickers.
FTC Declaration: The publisher has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book or advanced reading copy. This does not change the fact that I will give my honest opinion in my reviews.

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