Monday, March 26, 2007

Voyage to Freedom

Voyage To Freedom: A Story of the Atlantic Crossing 1620, David Gay
(Banner of Truth, 1984), pb., 149 pp.

We have a couple of books on the Pilgrims but opted to begin with this one. It was not a great choice. The style of the book is ponderous, and the vocabulary is difficult. It was frustrating reading. It seemed the author overdid it in an attempt at an elevated style. He would move into personification of the ship or storm in ways that were unclear and seemed forced. There was also a large amount of repetition. At points it seemed that almost every statement was repeated. Even where you might expect someone to say something twice for emphasis, it would be stated four times! This was annoying as I tried to read.

My boys especially like stories that incorporate children as main characters in the midst of historical events. The fact that this story was written from the perspective of a brother and sister provided some interest. There was a good example of forgiving enemies, some examples of earnest prayer, and a sobering account of a man who died rejecting God.

In the end we would not recommend this book. There are too many good books to be bogged down with one that is so laborious to read. The story of the Mayflower crossing can be told in a much better way.

UPDATE- While reading our next book on the Pilgrims, we have discovered some historical problems with this book. First, and most problematic, is the discussion of William Butten as a sailor who cursed the pilgrims and eventually died. Our current book says William Butten did indeed die of sickness on the voyage but he was a servant of one of the Pilgrims. Some searching confirmed that Butten was a servant and not a sailor. There apparently was a sailor who cursed the Pilgrims and then died, but he was not named William Butten.
Second, the book makes the point that no Pilgrims died on the voyage. This can be regarded as techincally accurate, but it is misleading when you make a point of God's protection from this. William Butten, a servant boy of one of the Pilgrims, did die on the voyage. You can get around this by saying he technically was not a Pilgrim himself. This seems a stretch. Then four other Pilgrims (including the wife of Williamd Bradford and one of the signers of the Mayflower Compact) died on board the Mayflower during the months of stay on board before a suitable dwelling was built on land. This signals less than careful handling of the facts.
Lastly, I should have mentioned this before, but the author often referred to the Pilgrims as Puritans. They were in fact Seperatists.


Saturday, March 17, 2007

Along Came Galileo

Along Came Galileo, Jeanne Bendick
(Beautiful Feet Books, 1999), pb., 95 pp.

The next book after a string of really good books tends to be judged hard- and the Mr. Pipes books were really good! Therefore, it was with some uncertainty we moved to this book on Galileo. It is a brief book, so in our first reading we covered three chapters. After we finished my straightforward nine year old said matter-of-factly, “Well this book is neither exciting nor interesting.” We persevered, but it never really improved. Not only was it not very engaging, it was unclear what age group was its target. The writer paused to explain that a Grand Duke was a really important person (a painfully obvious thing to my 10, 9 and 6 year old), but discussed without any nuance the fact that Galileo was not married but had children with his companion (which was not at all clear to my boys!). All of a sudden I had to explain how this could be so.

Furthermore I was not pleased with the description of Galileo’s conflict with the church. There was conflict, and we have discussed how the church had some wrong ideas at this time (why Luther led a Reformation, etc.). The relation between science and faith is an important one that I want to present well to my children. It does not come across well in this book. Galileo is presented as arguing “that there must be two separate languages- the language of the Bible and the language of science” (64). This may be the way Galileo expressed it (I don’t know), but in a book pitched to children this deserved better handling since a “two languages” approach is often taken today in a way which marginalizes the testimony of Scripture.

In the end we would not recommend this book. It was not engaging and you could get the valuable information from an entry in an encyclopedia. The value of a book treatment is supposed ot be in expressing such information in a way which appeals to the children and thus heps them to remember it.

Labels: , ,

Friday, March 16, 2007

Hymns for a Kid's Heart

Hymns for a Kid's Heart, by Bobbie Wolgemuth & Joni Eareckson Tada
(Crossway, 2003), hb. 92 pp.

As the previous posts should attest, I love hymns and want my children to do so as well. Thus, this title appealed to me about a year ago when I saw it. However, I was disappointed with the book. It did not approach the Mr. Pipes books.

The book focuses on 12 hymns, three each in the following categories: Hymns about God, Hymns of Truth from the Bible, Hymns about Christian Living, Hymns of Prayer for Our Country. The lyrics and music of each hymn is given. For each hymn Mrs. Wolgemuth has written a brief story about the author as a child usually relating to the song. Then Mrs. Tada writes a brief reflection relating generally to the point of the song. The full text of the hymn is provided along with the music, a memory verse and a prayer. The book also includes a one page glossary. Then a CD is included with all the hymns from the book sung by a children’s choir.

Some have really liked the book. I suppose the writing would be more suited to younger children. It is difficult to describe the impression the book left me with, but the best way to say it may be that the Mr. Pipes books were much more hardy and real.


Thursday, March 15, 2007

Mr. Pipes and Psalms and Hymns of the Reformation

Mr. Pipes and Psalms and Hymns of the Reformation, Douglas Bond
(Christian Liberty Press, 2000), pb., 240 pp.

This second volume of the Mr. Pipes books lived up to the standard set by the first volume. It was a great read which was eagerly anticipated by my boys each day and taught them great lessons.

The book opens with a little discussion of the change in Annie in Drew since their conversions while spending the previous summer with Mr. Pipes (from the first book). Bond describes their parents noticing a real change in the children though they did not understand the reason. This is a great point in a children’s book emphasizing the point that conversion results in tangible, noticeable change in everyday life.

Whereas in the previous book the children were in England with their mother, this time Mr. Pipes has asked them to come with him on a tour of parts of Europe visiting key places of the reformation and discussing the hymns written during that time. One of the fun parts of these books is that they describe vacations I would love to take! My boys felt the same- history, castles, cathedrals, fishing & sailing! I even paused in the description of one city (Strasbourg, I think) to talk with my boys about how neat it would be one day to be able to visit these places. They heartily agreed. I went on to tell them that most likely we would not get the opportunity to visit all these places together, but that I hoped maybe one day they might do so with their own children. I told them I expected them if they ever did make it to one of these places to call me while they were there and tell me about it. I look forward to that happening one day, where perhaps our shared enjoyment in reading might in the next generation become an actual visit and a continuation of our shared experience.

Mr. Pipes and the children visit sites connected with Luther and Calvin as well as eight other lesser known hymn writers. Along the way various lessons about the gospel and Christian living are nicely expressed. For example after learning and singing “Jesus, Priceless Treasure,” this conversation followed:

I think this one might come in handy,” said Drew. “I think it’d be a good one to memorize—you know, for if, well, if trouble ever comes to us.”
“Oh, not if, but when my boy,” said Mr. Pipes sadly. “This world is not heaven, filled with sin and sorrows and disappointment as it is.” (140)
This is a good and important lesson. Later, after singing “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” (one of my favorites), this is written:

“A thrill at God’s goodness and mercy filled Annie until she felt she might burst. And Drew thought of God’s marvelous wisdom making him—Andrew Willis—for a life of adoration and obedience to God. He wondered at the line: “…If with his love he befriend thee.” Right then, no task seemed too demanding when done in the service of the God of all the universe who had befriended him” (159).
Then they visited a French speaking Swiss family and found that Psalm singing was a regular aspect of family life After singing with them Psalm100 (“All People That on the Earth Do Dwell”), Drew’s experience is described this way:

“He felt his heart and faith strangely united with Christians living in another land and at another time, yet united by a common worship—a worship filled with music worthy of God in every place and throughout all ages” (216)
This is certainly one of the benefits of great hymns- knowing that you are joining your voice with many who have gone before you.

I cannot say enough good about this book. I will mention one place where I did some editing. The boy, Drew, typically responds to Mr. Pipes by saying, “Yeah.” That is not an acceptable response from a child to an adult in our home, but that is easily corrected in the reading.

This is a great book. Read it to your family and sing together. I’ll close with a quote that appears at the very beginning of the book:

“Godly families are different from the ungodly by openly singing the praises of God, when the others sing wanton and idle songs.” – Richard Baxter

Labels: ,

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

More Benefit from Mr. Pipes

This past Sunday during corporate worship one of my boys tapped my arm as the next hymn began. He pointed to the bottom of the page where there was written, “Author: William Cowper.” With a knowing look he whispered, “We read about him!”
As we talked about the service during lunch, my two oldest boys mentioned that they now look each time to see who the author is of the hymn is to see if it is one “we know.” This thrills me! It is another level of engagement in our worship and ownership of this grand corpus of hymns. Any book which heightens interest and excitement about our hymns in my children is “must have” for me.


Thursday, March 01, 2007

More Quotes from Mr. Pipes

At my blog on pastoral ministry, Oversight of Souls, I have posted some more of my favorite quotes from Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers.

Labels: ,