Saturday, June 30, 2007

William WIlberforce, Children

At my blog on Pastoral ministry I have reviewed a great book on missions and am in the midst of posting some quotes from it. One quote fits particularly well here.
It comes from William Wilberforce, known for his crusade against slavery. In the midst of his busy life, he still could say:
“. . .the spiritual interests of my children is my first priority.”

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Drums of War series

Drums of War Series, by Peter Reese Doyle
Independence, Vol. 1, pb, 170 pp
Bunker Hill, Vol. 2, pb, 171
A Captive in Williamsburg , Vol. 3, pb,
(Providence Foundation, 1997, 1998)
Ages 6-12+

These three books of historical fiction are set in Williamsburg, VA as the Revolutionary War begins. So, we began reading volume one a day or two before we left for our visit to Williamsburg. We then read the first book while we were there and the next two after we got back home. It was a great combination!

The story centers on two families in Williamsburg, the Hendricks and Edwards. Fourteen year old Andrew Hendricks and his friend Nathan Edwards are the main characters. Their fathers are key participants in the patriot movement and the two boys are particularly keen on each others sisters. The books are intentionally written from a Christian worldview so the faith of the families is evident. There are good examples of faith, bravery, grit, resourcefulness, nobility and sacrifice. My boys (ages 7-10) really got into them. The books are not up to the level of Allen French, but they were good.

These books are great for learning. From our visit to Williamsburg I was struck about how careful and accurate these books were. Readers are introduced to key leaders who are not often talked about in other places as well key battles. I realized that the typical overviews of this era deal almost exclusively with the north once the War begins.

We particularly were excited by reading about Captain Innes in the books. While at Williamsburg we met and heard from one of the actors playing the part of Innes! We did not know if this character was a historical person or a fictional ‘typical’ character. Enough detail was given to him in some of the dramas that I suspected he was a historical figure, but we were delighted to encounter him in the book as the leader of the local militia. Here is a picture we took with Captain Innes- before we read about him in the books!

Many of the locations in Williamsburg are mentioned in these books so they are great to read in relation to a trip to Williamsburg. So we would highly commend both the books and the trip! Our boys loved Williamsburg and these books allowed us to keep thinking through all we saw there.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

The Hobbit, Audio

About a year ago I read The Hobbit to my boys and we all loved it. I recently found this audio version for a great deal (about $5!- not at Amazon). We have only listened to the first few minutes so far but we were taken with it immediately. The reading is really well done. My 9 year old checked yesterday to make sure I was not listening to it without them! He did not want to miss out on any of it.

Listening again to the introduction of Gandalf I was struck particularly by one line:
“Tales and adventures sprouted up all over the place wherever he went.”

I found myself thinking, I want that reputation with my own kids.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Susan Creek

Susan Creek, by Douglas Wilson
(Veritas Press, 2004), pb. 124 pp.
ages 8-12

For some reason- completely odd to me- Amazon does not even have a listing for this book. I hope they will remedy this soon, but my link above will lead you to Wilson’s own Canon Press where the book is available.

This is the sequel to Blackthorn Winter which I reviewed previously. Susan Creek is significantly better than Blackthorn Winter. The overuse of ambiguous proverbial sayings is gone and the action is increased. My boys early on in the reading said they liked the sequel better.

The story does not take up right where the last book left off. Instead, this story focuses on John Monroe, the son of Thomas from the previous story. Thomas has become a prosperous merchant in the colonies but expects his son Thomas to work hard as a regular sailor to learn his way before leading the family business. So, on a visit to Scotland John stumbles into intrigue and adventure which follows him back to America. Along the way he hears the preaching of George Whitefield and is challenged to live out his faith. Issues of justice, bravery, when to fight and when not to, and the basic issues of being a man all arise in the story. It also introduces readers to life in colonial America in the days of the First Great Awakening, prior to the Revolutionary War.

This was a fun and helpful read. It does not rise to the level of our favorites, but we commend it to you.


Monday, June 11, 2007

Outside Activity Books

How to Build Treehouses, Huts, & Forts, David Stiles (The Lyons Press, 2003), pb. 96 pp.

Backyard Ballistics: Build cannons, paper match rockets, Cincinnati fire kites, tennis ball mortars, and more dynamite devices, William Gurstelle (Chicago Review Press, 2001), pb., 169 pp.

The Art of the Catapult: Build Greek Ballistae, Roman onagers, English trebuchets, and more ancient artillery, William Gurstelle (Chicago Review Press, 2004), pb., 171 pp.

My oldest son bought these three books with some of his birthday money a couple of years ago- much to my delight! We have actually spent more time reading and looking at these books than building anything in them; but, we are finally in the midst of building a treehouse using the Stiles book. We have had a lot of fun looking through the book deciding which design would work best for us and roaming the yard looking for the best site for the treehouse. The plans given in this book are well done and easy to follow. They are even written to the boy rather than to the parent (a good touch). We are having a good time working on the project even though it is taking a while to get it done due largely to my needing to learn on the go- which is another benefit to me.

Another project we hope to take on this summer is to build a tennis ball mortar. We have been planning this since Christmas playing with an idea from a friend as well as the plans given in Backyard Ballistics. We may also attempt a sort of mini-catapult for water balloons! The Gurstelle books are great for explaining the science behind things as well as giving historical accounts where these contraptions were used.

These have been a lot of fun for us and we commend them to you.

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Monday, June 04, 2007

The Dangerous Book for Boys

The Dangerous Book for Boys, Hal Iggulden
(Harper Collins, 2007), hb, 270 pp.

A couple of weeks ago a good friend of mine, Joey Jenkins, sent me the Amazon linkfor this book suggesting it sounded like something my boys and I would enjoy. I was really intrigued- and the video at Amazon is fun. That same night we went to Sam’s to prepare for our trip and as the boys and I went to the book section (our typical hangout in Sam’s!) we found copies of this book! We spent a good bit of the time looking through the book and purchased it. I liked the book so much I wanted to write something about it before leaving town but did not have time. In the meantime I was scooped by Dr. Mohler and others! J

We took this book with us on our trip and have thoroughly enjoyed it. I am particularly taken with the overall vision of boyhood implied in the book. The call to active, outdoor play, activity and building is great and has been talked about in some of the other reviews. This is of course the heart of the book, but I was fascinated to see how this was integrated into a whole view of boyhood. Amongst instructions for fishing, making paper airplanes, tripwires, skipping stones, fireproofing cloth, etc. are also the stories of famous battles, identifying leaves, insects and stars, Latin phrases every boy should know, poems every boy should know, a sampling of Shakespeare, a list of recommended books for reading and several installments of grammar lessons, and the Ten Commandments. This is obvious the result of an intentional view of developing boys into men who can work with their hands and take risks while being articulate and thoughtful.

This comment from the introduction communicates the vision well:
“The stories of courage can be read as simple adventures- or perhaps as inspiration, examples of extraordinary acts by ordinary people. … They’re not just cracking stories, they’re part of a culture, a part we really don’t want to see vanish.”

We have enjoyed looking through various portions of the book (like the list of all the baseball MVP’s to the present), and have found the book to be useful in various pursuits of ours. While working on our treeehouse this past weekend, we used this book to see how to tie the required knots in our rope. Earlier the section on identifying insects was really helpful. My oldest son amused himself during part of our traveling by making his own secret code.

We highly recommend this book. In my next post I will plan to mention a few books similar to this one (at least in parts) that have not received as much attention but we have enjoyed.

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