Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Sterling North’s Rascal


Ages 6 & up

This is a beautiful story, compelling and moving, one that makes you ache in just the right way. I remember my mother reading this book to me as a child, so I recently read it to my younger children. I was able to read it to them using the copy my mother read to me, which was a copy my father received and read when he was a boy (in the photos)

The story chronicles a year in North’s boyhood (1918-19) in Wisconsin when he raises a wild raccoon as his pet. As I read the book I found myself saying that it made me long for a simpler, better time. Only later did I discover the subtitle which I had overlooked, “A Memoir of a Better Era.” That aptly describes the story in which boys can roam free in the woods without worry, father and son can camp along a roadside, and generally no busybodies hyperventilate about some adventure and mishap.

We thoroughly enjoyed the story with the antics of Rascal, the adventures of North and his friends and the great outdoors. It made me long for more time outdoors myself. There were also poignant moments when the specter of the War (World War I) loomed and Sterling hoped for the safe return of his older brother. I loved the initiative, spunk, and hard work seen in North, the main character. He persevered wit building his own canoe, found odd jobs to pay for supplies, raised his own garden, cared for his various pets (raccoon, skunks, crow, dog and others), built an enclosure for Rascal and many other things. Even though his mother has died and his father is sometimes away, there is a strong family connection as well.


We heartily commend Rascal to you!

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

How Fiction Makes Our Brains Better

In posts at this site I encourage the reading of good fiction, and, of course, one of my purposes in providing reviews is to help point people to good fiction.Reading has many benefits, and I was quite interested in this video which was pointed out to me by one of our favorite authors, Douglas Bond.

This is well worth the three minutes to watch:

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

N. D. Wilson on Darkness and Children's Stories

N. D. Wilson has a really good, brief article in the latest issue of Christianity Today on the place of evil and pain in children's stories. It is well worth reading and will be helpful as you consider books for your children.
Wilson argues that we ought not give children only books where all goes well. Instead they need stories where evil is encountered and dealt with appropriately. He quotes G. K. Chesterton: "If the characters are not wicked, the book is." Wilson's point is well made:

"Childhood is the time for truth, and adulthood is the time for a deeper understanding of the same. To seed courage, we must show fear. To reveal triumph, we must build enemies. To tell the truth about what it means to be heroic, we must spin a fiction full of danger."
Wilson appropriately notes that the issue is dosage. Children don't need to face the full onslaught of human depravity but good stories prepare them for encountering evil and overcoming. I encourage you to read the full article.

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Friday, December 06, 2013

How Can I Help? God’s Calling for Kids

How Can I Help? God’s Calling for Kids, by Mary Moerbe with Gene Veith
Illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin
(Concordia Publishing House, 2013), hb., 32pp.
Ages 3-8

This is a fun, beautifully illustrated little book which focuses, in simple terms, on how children can serve God by helping those around them. The text tends to go back and forth between ways people help children and ways children can help in return. The simple, everyday focus of the book is its strength. It aims to show children they do not have to wait until they are adults to serve God. They do not have to do “big” or “adult” things in order to serve God.

In fact this little book, along with the opening “For Parents” section by Gene Veith, can be a helpful, eye-opening resource for parents. Veith explains the biblical idea of vocation which was recovered at the Reformation and applies this to children. Thus, “Being a child is a vocation, a calling from God.” Veith draws from Martin Luther’s teaching that a little boy obeying his parents or a little girl doing his chores is doing a holier work than the strictest of monks or nuns. For many adults this will be new information, which only increases the value of this little book.


My children enjoyed it and I was glad to have a resource which reaffirms what we are regularly teaching: that they have a calling just like mom and dad, and their calling begins with obeying at home and extends to helping and serving others. This will make a great gift.

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Sunday, November 03, 2013

"10 Books Children Should Read"

Last month this article appeared, “10 Books Children Should Read.” The author briefly encourages parents to give some leeway in books their children read while also providing direction. Then she recommends ten books.
I agree with the general advice she gives on parental involvement. We need not allow only classics to our children, but we definitely must shepherd them in the choice of books. What you read shapes your thinking which shapes your living, so parents ought to guide their children in reading wholesome and helpful things.
Her list of ten books is interesting. We haven’t read all of them, but she lists some we have appreciated, including Little Britches and Tale of Desperaux. We have read Gordon Macdonald’s At the Back of the Northwind, which she lists, but didn't enjoy it as much. We much preferred The Princess and the Goblin.

I pass on this article and her list, not because I can recommend all the boos myself but because I found it useful in finding recommendations from someone else.

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Monday, October 28, 2013

Resources for Reformation Day


Pictured here are a few of our family’s favorite books related to the Reformation. As we approach Reformation Day, I thought it might be useful to recommend some books that will help you remember and celebrate this important time with your children.
A couple of years ago I gathered into one post links to some of the best books we had read up to that time on the Reformation. That post contains links to more complete discussions of the books with further links to where the books can be purchased.
When the Morning Came (in the photo above but not in the previous post just mentioned) is a great story set in the Netherlands during the Reformation. This is a part of the Reformation which is typically not as well known among us.  This book is a long standing family favorite for us and there are three later books which continue the series.
Then, I have included in the photo, Duncan’s War, a story of the Scottish Covenanters from the 16th century. This is a century later and a second wave of the Reformation. This book by Douglas Bond and the two books which followed to complete the trilogy are among our all-time favorites.

I hope these books might be a blessing to your family as they have been to ours. We are grateful to have the Bible in our own language. We are grateful to have the clear gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone proclaimed around us. We are grateful to God for renewing his church in the Reformation.

(Sorry, the photo for some reason will not stay vertical!)

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

C. S. Lewis, Children, Property & Justice

Here is C. S. Lewis dealing, parenthetically, with an issue which parents often ask about. I think he is exactly right.
“The question whether the disputed pencil belongs to Tommy or Charles is quite distinct from the question which is the nicer little boy, and the parents who allowed the one to influence their decision about the other would be very unfair. (It would be still worse if they said Tommy ought to let Charles have the pencil whether it belonged to him or not, because this would show he had a nice disposition. That may be true, but it is an untimely truth. An exhortation to charity should not come as rider to a refusal of justice. It is likely to give Tommy a lifelong conviction that charity is a sanctimonious dodge for condoning theft and whitewashing favouritism.)”
-          C. S. Lewis, Reflectionson the Psalms (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World, 1958), 17-18.

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