Tuesday, September 26, 2006

365 Bible Stories for Young Hearts

365 Bible Stories for Young Hearts
(Crossway Books, 2006), hb., 440 pp.

This is a nicely illustrated story Bible designed to cover the Bible in one year. Breaking it up into 365 stories is a helpful device for families. My wife has been using this book for our 4 year old when she has Bile reading time with the older boys. Our 4 year old can follow along to some extent.

The illustrations are nicely done. Many of them also appear in the ESV Children’s Bible. Alan Parry is one of our favorite illustrators.

As with most story Bible’s most attention is given to the narrative portions of the Bible. It is just more difficult to handle the letters in a story Bible. Still 4 stories are given to Paul’s letters, one to Hebrews and one to Revelation.

This is a good story Bile for use with younger children and the set up can be helpful for families in establishing a regular Bible time with younger children.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Brooks Robinson Bio

Third Base Is My Home, Brooks Robinson, as told to Jack Tobin
(Word Books, 1974), hb, 202 pp.

This is an out of print book I stumbled upon and read over one weekend. I did not read it to my boys. I read it myself, but thought along the way that this will be a good book to give them to read on their own. It is probably best suited for a boy around 10 years old.

I was really taken off guard by the “niceness” of the book. I did not expect anything bad, but the tenor of the book certainly took me back to a different day in professional athletics. Robinson was presented to me as a model by my dad when I came up playing third base. He’s defensive skill was held in high esteem and he was known baseball’s “Mr. Nice Guy.” So I was thrilled to find this book so interesting and so wholesome.

It reads like a fireside chat with Robinson, I assume as a result that it arises from Robinson recounting his story to Tobin. Robinson often pauses to encourage young players in mechanics as well as life lessons. There are many points of encouragement for hard work, discipline, perseverance, humility and the value of family. I have already recounted a story from the book to my boys to encourage them to more diligence in their school work.

Robinson also discusses his Christian faith in the book, which was an aspect I did not know about. This is good, though he also discusses his decision to become a Catholic in order to join his wife in her church. On the one hand this is a bit disappointing since significant theological issues are shrugged off. On the other hand, one ought not expect to get theology in a sport bio.

In reading this book I did find myself longing for a different day in professional sports. I am glad though to have a nice book I can give to my son who is particularly interested in baseball. Now some would not favor this book because it is not high literature. However, my wife and I see the value of a wide range of literature. My son’s reading of this book will not endanger his appreciation of The Chronicles of Narnia, for example. We do not mind giving them good reading as well as excellent reading.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Adventure in Roman Britain

The Eagle of the Ninth, Rosemary Sutcliffe
(Oxford University Press, 1954; reprint Sunburst edition, 1993), pb., 291 pp.

Along the way I want to go back and post about books we have read in the past but did not comment on (typically because we read them before the blog began). This is one such book. In the fall of 2005 we were studying the era of the Roman Empire and we read this book.

The story concerns a Roman Centurion who has grown up hearing about his father’s Legion and how they disappeared in the mist of what is now Scotland. They had marched out to deal with an uprising and were never heard from again. This was almost considered impossible given the size and might of a legion, so the question remained as to what had happened to this legion. What had happened? Had they been entirely decimated? Had some deserted?

The son eventually embarks on the very dangerous mission to seek to discover what had happened and to recover the lost “eagle” of the Legion. The recovery of the Eagle could rehabilitate the status of the lost legion as well as deprive the enemy of a powerful symbol of their capability to overcome Roman might.

As might be expected this is a tale full of adventure, suspense and action. However, it was a bit slow at several points and often not as readily understandable for my boys (ages 9, 7 and 5 at the time). I did a fair bit of editing on the fly and explaining. It does give a good bit of information on Roman life and customs along the way. This book is probably best suited to a slightly older audience. If you can edit as you go and your kids are willing to stick with a book, it can be quite an enjoyable read. My boys, unaware of the editing job, thought it was great.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Children’s Bio of Blaise Pascal

A Piece of the Mountain: The Story of Blaise Pascal
By Joyce McPherson (GreenLeaf Press, 1995), pb., 124 pp.

Blaise Pascal is another key figure in history that we would all want to introduce to our children. He was one of the most important scientists and mathematicians of the 17th century and after his conversion became ardent proponent of the faith. The author of this book has also written a biography of Calvin which has been reviewed previously.

As important as Pascal is, this book was not very compelling to my boys- ages 10, 8, and 6. Mrs. McPherson begins with his childhood and seeks to describe his youth as well as adulthood. The inclusion of children often helps with making a book interesting, but this one never really grabbed them. Describing for a young audience Pascal’s work with math and science is no doubt difficult. My boys would much rather hear about a battle or mystery. Some of the science work could, it seems, have been described in a way that would be more accessible to children though. Concepts- theological as well as scientific- were introduced with little explanation or clarification. For example Pascal’s involvement with the Jansenists figures significantly in the latter part of the book, but there is little explanation of what this movement was about.

Pascal is an important enough figure that the book is worth reading if you can help your children to stick with it. Pascal provides a good example of one who worked hard at his school work for example. This application is not made in the book, but you can make it. Also, the end of the book is the best part. After doing secret writing on behalf of the Jansenists (some intrigue which peaked interest), Pascal and his friends must face the wrath of Rome. Pascal’s stand is worthwhile reading for one’s children. Still, your children may pick up (as at least one of mine did) that Pascal is still with Rome even after the Reformers have broken away. Children need explanation as to why one we are reading of as a hero continues with the group who so persecuted others we have held up as right. The book offers no such explanation.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Enjoying Books

For sometime now I have been wanting to write something on instilling a love for reading in your children. This is not that piece, but perhaps is a precursor.
Today we made an outing, partially to be a nice event after our son’s accident (and full recovery). We went out to eat and then to a used bookstore in town that we all like. At lunch, as we discussed going to the bookstore, my 10 year old looked up and declared, like a man stating his preference of the finer pleasures of life, “I like the smell of books, Dad.” I smiled, and inwardly rejoiced! Yes! Love books, my son, and you will be nourished in so many ways in life.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

A Prayer for Youth, by John Newton

A Prayer for Youth
John Newton

Bestow, dear Lord, upon our youth,
The gift of saving grace;
And let the seed of sacred truth
Fall in a fruitful place.

Grace is a plant, where’er it grows,
Of pure and heavenly root;
But fairest in the youngest shows,
And yields the sweetest fruit.

Ye careless ones, oh hear betimes
The voice of sovereign love;
Your youth is stained with many crimes,
But mercy reigns above.

True, you are the young, but there’s a stone
Within the youngest breast,
Or half the crimes which you have done,
Would rob you of your rest.

For you the public prayer is made,
Oh, join the public prayer!;
For you the sacred tear is shed,
Oh, shed yourselves a tear!

We pray that you may early prove
The Spirit’s power to teach;
You cannot be too young to love
That Jesus whom we preach.

Newton, John. The Works of the Rev. John Newton. Edinburgh: Thomas Nelson, 1841, pp. 574-575.

Quoted in Worthy is the Lamb, Puritan Poetry in Honor of the Savior
Maureen Bradley; Edited by Don Kistler and Joel Rishel (page 309)

Monday, September 11, 2006

The King's Book, a Story of the KJV

The King's Book, by Louise Vernon
(Herald Press, 1980), pb, 128 pp.

This is another of Mrs. Vernon’s historical novels (you can see reviews of other of her novels here- Tyndale, Luther, Erasmus, Gutenberg, Wycliffe, ). This book focuses on the translation of the King James Version in 1611. As usual in Vernon novels, the story centers on the adventures of a young boy. The boy in this novel, Nathaniel Culver, is the son of one of the translators. Nat watches the intrigue surrounding the work, the work of secret Catholic priests and their persecution, etc.

This story was more exciting and intriguing than some of the other Vernon novels we have read. However, the history (and even theology) is dubious and questionable. Much is made of Bacon being the final editor of the King James Version, a point which is not verified but shows up in various places including conspiracy theories of various sorts. It is also suggested, though slightly downplayed at the end of the book, that Bacon was actually the illegitimate child of Queen Elizabeth. This is again is without historical basis. Why this was necessary, beneficial or even appropriate in a children’s book is entirely unclear to me. Then, Mrs. Vernon seems to attempt to make some points on the power of words. However, what she is aiming at is never quite clear. At one point she introduces a Hebrew scholar who is a proponent of cabala, hidden teachings about symbolic meanings in the Hebrew of the Old Testament. Whatever Mrs. Vernon believes the story gives a positive impression of this esoteric teaching. Why introduce our children to this? Also the story points out some moral inconsistencies in translators and other characters. This could be appropriate to make the point that all are fallen. However, the story seems to minimize sin by equating gross wrongs and lesser failures. Further she appropriately points out the wrong of persecuting Catholics in England. However, the story seems to suggest that any sort of worship would be fine, downplaying the significant difference between Protestants and Catholics even in 1611.

My boys enjoyed the action, but I had to do a good bit of editing to get through it. I would not recommend this book. If you want to learn about the production of the King James Version there are better ways. I find myself wondering why this book, for example, is included in reading lists in such prestigious places as Veritas Press and others. I would be interested in an answer to this question if anyone has one. This is one reason I began these reviews, to give parents one family’s assessment of books as we seek good books for our children.