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Johanna's Journey: Call to Freedom and Johanna's Journey: In the Shadow of the Mountain Review by Kemi Quinn

Cindy Murray Hamblen
Ambassador International
(864) 751-4844
411 University Ridge, Suite B14
Greenville, SC 29601

The idea for the Johanna’s Journey book series came to Cindy Murray Hamblen while searching for an engaging way to relate the Exodus story to young preteen girls. Remembering what it was like to be a young girl with questions on her mind, Ms. Murray penned these books and an accompanying Bible Study to help parents guide their young girl’s heart.

Johanna’s Journey: Call to Freedom is a paperback and book one of this new series. It relates the story of a ten-year old girl name Johanna who lives in Egypt during the time just before Moses comes on the scene. Johanna and her family are Israelites, and Johanna longs for what any young girl her age longs for—a best friend. God answers her prayers with the daughter of an Egyptian, and the adventures begin. Each chapter is a situation happening in Johanna’s life and the lives of her family members. Things like bullying, friendships, and having faith in the Lord are themes for the chapters. Meanwhile, the Biblical story of the Exodus plays out, and we hear about the events as they affect the lives of both girls.

Having the story written in third person but from the viewpoint of a young girl makes the Bible come alive for children in a similar age range, particularly for girls who might be going through some of the same situations as Johanna and her friend.

At the end of each chapter of Call to Freedom, there is a section called Life Tips. These tips offer a look back at the chapter and point out situations that the characters came up on. How they handled it. And how the reader might be able to handle a similar situation using accompanying Bible verses.

I especially loved the Life Tips section. Some were timely in that they addressed an issue my daughter was dealing with at the time. Johanna’s struggles, wishes, and fears could easily be that of a girl today. I know. I’m the parent of one.

While we used Call to Freedom for recreational reading, with the accompanying study guide, it could easily be part of a Bible curriculum, read-aloud, morning devotional, or girls’ Sunday School class. I was able to check out the Study Guide on the author’s website and found it a nice complement for the book. It’s only twenty pages long and not overwhelming.

Most importantly, my daughter really enjoyed Call to Freedom. There aren’t many fiction books for her age group that deal with Biblical times. Ms. Hamblen has done a nice job keeping the Bible details intact yet delivering an engrossing read. It’s nice to find an age-appropriate series set in Bible times for my young preteen.

Johanna’s Journey: Call to Freedom is mostly written for young girls, but young boys may find this book enjoyable also. This is a series I would definitely purchase for my daughter. And, actually, her friends too. I hope that tells you how much I liked this book and appreciate the detail that went into its writing. I plan on buying the rest of the books in the series as they become available.

Johanna’s Journey: In the Shadow of the Mountain, also by Cindy Murray Hamblen, is book two in the series Johanna’s Journey. Cindy Murray Hamblen wrote this series for young girls as a way to make the Bible story of Exodus come alive for young readers. She also includes a Bible Study, located on her author website, for parents to use along with the book.

In the Shadow of the Mountain continues the story of Johanna and her friend Kenyeh. The Israelites have left Egypt and are on their journey to the Promised Land. Johanna is now thirteen in this book, and the story deals with some of the changes that happen to young girls at this time. Puberty and various life lessons such as how to treat other people and what is really important in life are woven into the story. Kenyeh learns about the God the Israelites follow; meanwhile, the journey continues to the Promised Land.

There is a wedding midway through the book which causes Johanna and Kenyeh to talk about who they might marry someday. And they also talk of the different young men they are acquainted with. Girls married young at that period in time and Ms. Hamlen’s handling of the subject was done in an age-appropriate way for a young preteen.

At the end of each chapter in Shadow of the Mountain, there is a section called Life Tips. The Life Tips are usually issues in the story from the preceding chapter that might also plague a young girl of Johanna or Kenyeh’s age. Ms. Hamlen turns to the Bible, offering scripture reference on how to deal with these various life situations and tips to encourage the young reader. There are also discussion questions after the Life Tips. Sometimes these were similar to a Life Tip, but other times they asked the reader to think about things in the story with a Christian perspective or according to how God would have them to live, such as worshipping idols.

The main reader for this book was my daughter who is twelve years old. She read the book on her own since it is summer, but had it been during the school year, I would have used it as a read-aloud before starting the homeschool day. It could also be used in a girls’ reading club, Sunday school, or as part of a reading curriculum.

Being so close to the age of Johanna and her friend, my daughter found herself able to relate to many of the situations and learn some great practical information from the life tips and discussion questions.

I think this is a great series for young preteen Christian girls. I would definitely put it on my to-buy list as the mother of a young daughter. There are precious few books of this genre for young readers. And I actually enjoyed reading this book too. We’re looking forward to book number three in the series.

-Product review by Kemi Quinn, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, September 2017