Three Books to Tickle Your Toes
Reviewed by Michele Ashman Bell

Rules of Engagement by Stephanie Fowers

Published by Covenant Communications, 266 pages

Every once in a while you run across a book that is so fresh and so clever and so doggone funny you want to tell every you know to read it.  Well, I just happened to find such a book.

 Click to Buy
Rules of Engagement, by newcomer Stephanie Fowers, is a delightful book that pokes fun at singles wards, college dorm life and dating.  College co-eds going through the college experience will relate to the characters in this book, and even moms whose college days are long gone will remember the crazy, frustrating and even wonderful experiences of roommates and college dating. 

Samantha Skyler and her roommates are at a loss when it comes to playing the dating game.   Their singles ward has no shortage of hot guys to date.  The problem is, how do they find out which one is Mr. Right – and once they do, how do they snag him for eternity?

The answer comes in the form of a proper English chap named Harrison Bean who, after observing the game, has figured out a set of rules that can help any girl go from single to engaged in no time at all. 

Harrison claims that since the girls are basically on a mission to get married, he will be the girls’ district leader.  And so begins the “rules of engagement” complete with district meetings, a mission statement, and periodic reports of their contacts and dating statistics.

Samantha is a delightful main character who represents all of us when we’ve had awkward moments in our lives.  I mean really, who couldn’t love a main character who has ADHD hair?   

She soon learns that even knowing the rules doesn’t necessarily make the dating game easy or fun.  In fact, at one point, Samantha has a dating meltdown when Harrison informs her that the only reason she’s not getting married is because she’s desperate.  Samantha’s response:

“What?” I shrieked.  I couldn’t help but give a good reaction, and it always proved my undoing, but he was using that “desperate” word again.  Harrison smirked at my scowling face.  “Maybe you’re right,” I said.  “I shouldn’t date.  I should just give up and become a Mormon nun.”

I’m convinced that even readers who don’t usually read chick lit, young adult lit, or humorous books will enjoy this book.  The dialogue is witty and crisp, the characters are quirky and very human, and the plot is simple yet captivating.  Plan on at least one chuckle per page and several laugh aloud moments along the way.

If you’re in the mood for fun and entertainment, this is your book.  If you want a book you will recommend to all your friends after you read it, this is definitely your book.  If you want to read the same old stuff you’ve been reading for years, then this isn’t your book.  Get it, read it, and love it! 

Elder Teddy and his First Companion by Nephi Oliva, with illustrations by Jerrod Maruyama

Published by WindRiver Publishing, 32 pages

>Elder Teddy is a delightful storybook about a young teddy bear looking for someone to be his missionary companion.  He goes through each of his toys to see if they are the right fit, but each toy seems to have something about them that makes them not quite right. 

After all of his searching, Teddy gets very frustrated until his mother suggests he pray and ask Heavenly Father to help him.  Teddy gets a warm feeling inside and knows that Heavenly Father heard his prayer.  When he goes to church his Primary teacher introduces him to his new companion, who is… the reader!  Teddy invites the reader to join him in all of his missionary adventures. 

The illustrations for this book are colorful and fun, and young children will enjoy seeing each of Teddy’s toys as he tries to discover if any of them could make good missionary companions. 

The Carpenter of Galilee and The Welcoming Door by Kenny Kemp, with art by J. Kirk Richards

Published by Alta Films Press, 57 pages.

   Click to Buy
I wasn’t quite prepared for this book when I first sat down to read it.  The depth and beauty of the original oil paintings by J. Kirk Richards immediately drew me in, inviting me to experience the story, a retelling of the parable of the prodigal son. 

The story begins with a humble, young man, Jeshua bar Joseph, a carpenter who has been hired to repair the door of a rich man’s home. He discovers that the door cannot be repaired but needs to be replaced, which will cost more and take longer. The rich man, Eli, isn’t happy about the project becoming more costly and more time-consuming but allows Jeshua to continue. 

As Jeshua returns each day to Eli’s home, he interacts with members of the household and learns that Eli’s son, Reuben, has taken his inheritance and gone out into the world, only to squander away his riches.  The oldest brother, Simeon, is bitter about his brother’s choices and that his money is gone.  Simeon has spent his life being obedient and honoring his father.  He begs his father to reject Reuben and cut him off to protect their family name.  Eli just can’t bring himself to turn his back on Reuben, in spite of his choices and lifestyle.

In his gentle, loving way, Jeshua imparts wisdom and understanding to each family member, which in turns prepares them for Reuben’s return.  And when that day arrives, their joy overflows and charity, love and forgiveness abound.

This story is masterfully written and exquisitely illustrated.  Jeshua’s qualities of unconditional love and humility create an awareness of the Savior’s interaction with his followers.  Adults and teens will appreciate the universal struggles within families as children grow and struggle for independence, some even to the point of rebellion.  Yet, just as our Father in Heaven loves us, even when we make mistakes, earthly parents love their children and pray that they will return to the fold.  Even young children will appreciate the story, enhanced by the amazing artwork.

The Carpenter of Galilee and the Welcoming Door would make an ideal book to read alone, or as a group for Family Home Evenings.  It would also be perfect as a gift, especially during the Christmas season.