by Tonya Duncan Ellis
GENRE: Children's (Middle Grade)
Forty days without video games? Oh no!
Sixth-grader Sophie Washington and her friends are back with an interesting book about having fun with video games while keeping balance. It’s almost Easter, and Sophie and her family get ready to start fasts for Lent with their church, where they give up doing something for 40 days that may not be good for them. Her parents urge Sophie to stop tattling so much, and encourage her second-grade brother Cole to give up something he loves most, playing video games. The kids agree to the challenge, but how long can they keep it up? Soon after Lent begins, Cole starts sneaking to play his video games. Things start to get out of control when he loses a school electronic tablet he checked out without his parents’ permission, and comes to his sister for help. Should Sophie break her promise and tattle on him?
Now that I am getting older and am in the sixth grade, I can understand more of what our pastor is saying in the sermons. Today, he was talking about how hard it can be to stay away from things we like that may be bad for us.
“Temptation is a daily struggle for all,” he preached.
“The struggle for me is staying awake for two hours,” complains Cole. “I wish I could have been with my friends in children’s church.”
Cole prefers going to the special service for kids, and was mad that Mom and Dad made us join them in the main church this morning.
“It’s getting closer to Easter, and I want you to get a better understanding of what the holiday is all about,” Dad explains. “In children’s church, all you pay attention to is the snacks.”
“Those donuts they bring in are good!” Cole exclaims.
“Maybe we can stop by the donut shop on the way home.” Mom squeezes his shoulder.
I roll my eyes. Since Cole is the youngest, he’s my mother’s pet.
“Have you kids given any thought as to what you want to give up for Lent?” Dad asks.
“What’s Lent?” questions Cole.
“Lent represents the 40 days Jesus was in the desert and the devil tried to tempt him, or get him to do things he shouldn’t do,” Mom explains. “During the 40 days before Easter, we celebrate Lent by giving up something we like to eat or do that keeps us from thinking of more meaningful things, just like Jesus did.”
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Tonya Duncan Ellis was born and raised in Louisville, KY. She loves reading so much that as a child she took books with her everywhere. She knew she wanted to become a writer after an article she wrote was published in her hometown newspaper when she was a teen. Since then, Tonya has worked as a journalist and freelance magazine writer.
She's an award-winning author of the Sophie Washington children's book series, geared towards readers ages 8 to 12. The books recount adventures of Houston, TX preteen Sophie Washington and her diverse group of friends. Each funny and heartwarming story teaches lessons about friendship, responsibility, truthfulness and perseverance. Books in the series include Queen of the Bee, The Snitch, Things You Didn't Know About Sophie, and The Gamer. When she's not writing, Tonya enjoys reading, biking, swimming, travel and spending time with her husband and three children. She lives in Houston, TX.
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4.75 out of 5 stars
Sophie Washington: The Gamer by Tonya Duncan Ellis continues the saga of sixth grader Sophie as she deals with things like sacrifices for Lent, sibling rivalry, trips to the dentist, and the ups and downs of friendship. I love the realism of this series, that shows a normal family against the backdrop of the horrific force of nature that affected Houston and the hard work that is required to maintain a professional service (dad is a dentist) and raise a decent family.
The kids struggle with the concept of sacrifice for Lent, especially when it involves giving something up that is precious. I was entertained by what her parents chose for Sophie to give up and the moral dilemma that it presented gave richness to the story. The jealousy of her friend Mariama’s celebration wasn’t quite addressed as well as I would have liked, but I love that Sophie had a chance to shine as a generous friend. The irony of a dentist’s children having issues with their teeth is entertaining and I enjoyed watching the family grow, both literally and figuratively.
I think this is a great series, both for the way it addresses common issues that children face and for the elements of diversity that accompany a glimpse into the lives of an engaging nuclear family. Each of the stories can stand alone, yet builds on events from the previous tale so that one will appreciate the lessons learned in each episode. I am delighted that there are multiple books in this series and look forward to watching Sophie and her brother continue to grow.
A copy of this title was provided to me for review.