Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Scout of Christiaan de Wet

The Scout of Christiaan de Wet, Lawrence Penning
(3rd volume in the Louis Wessels Commando series)
(Inheritance Publications, 2008; English translation), pb., 136
Age 10-15

This story is set in 1900 during the Boer War in South Africa. I don’t think you see many books in our area on this war- especially from the Boer perspective- so it is informative. The story follows Louis Wessels as he fights the British and travels behind enemy lines seeking information. Wessels is a scout for Christiaan de Wet who is a true historical character.

This book is set up to be exciting, but it was really disappointing. Probably the first difficulty with the book is our general lack of awareness of South African history. I knew who the Boers were, but the various names of groups were confusing and it is assumed that the reader will recognize the names of leaders on the different sides. Secondly the flow of the story is odd and hard to follow. It seems to jump inexplicably leaving us uncertain at times how pieces of the story connected. Then the writing was just odd at times. The author would occasionally focus on something tangential and at other times go into extensive gory detail when it did not serve the story. For example a leg amputation is described in gory, repetitive detail and then it serves no real purpose in the story.

We do not recommend this book. We were glad to be finished with it. Parts will probably need editing for a younger audience.
Get a copy of How Sleep the Brave instead!


Monday, August 25, 2008

How Sleep the Brave!

How Sleep the Brave!: A Novel of 17th Century Scotland, by J. H. Hunter
(Inheritance Publications, 2008), pb., 235 pp.
Ages 8+

This book has joined the list of our top favorites alongside books by C. S. Lewis, Douglas Bond and Allen French! This was a great story, full of action and adventure as well as good teaching. There was also a romance though for my boys that was a negative rather than another positive. :)

It seems to me that few people are aware of the Covenanters in 17th century Scotland, their sufferings and their perseverance, but we would do well to acquaint ourselves and our children with these brave believers. Douglas Bond's Crown & Covenant series is also set in this time period. I first learned of this period during our years in Scotland and have been fascinated with it since.

The story begins in 1685 in the western portion of Scotland around Culzean Castle. As persecution breaks out against the Reformed Protestant Covenanters the rightful lord of Fenwick Hall, Duncan Fenwick, is forced to live among the heather and caves along with many others. As the king’s dragoons harass, pillage and murder people simply because of their faith, Duncan Fenwick disguises himself as the “Black Avenger” and sweeps in thrashing the dragoons and rescuing the faithful. The Black Avenger is essentially a Scottish Scarlet Pimpernel, master of disguise, who overcomes the enemy with superior wit and brute strength. He makes a classic hero. It also adds to the story that one typically hears the Avenger playing his bagpipes in the area before he attacks!

We absolutely loved this story. There is good humor (I often had to quiet my boys so as not to awaken the babies!), rousing action and heroism, real nobility and good theology. It is also provides a good overview of the suffering of the people in this time. The description of the suffering is at times quite straightforward and blunt. Some local words were hard to understand and not included in the glossary, but this did not seriously detract from the book.

The examples of faithfulness in suffering was moving to me. The author includes Sandy Peden (often referred to as ‘Peden the Prophet’) in the story and the account (often included in books of Covenanter stories) prayer for deliverance from the dragoons and the miraculous answer. These are faith building stories to share with our children.

This is a great book which we would urge you not to miss.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Carson on a Spiritual Home

Over at my pastoral ministry blog I have commented a number of times on D. A. Carson’s book about his father, Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor. In the most recent Crossway book report Dr. Carson was interviewed about the book and I thought his comments were relevant to this blog. The main point of the book is chronicling his father’s simple, plodding faithfulness without fanfare or glamour. Talking about growing up in this home he stated:
“I’d be the first to insist that modeling Christian virtues, not least in the home, is of paramount importance. The worst sort of home to be brought up in is the one where spiritual pretensions are high and performance is low; the best sort of home is the one where spiritual pretensions are low and performance is high. That was the kind of home in which I was reared.”

May we provide such homes for our children.

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Inheritance Publications Free Shipping

For the month of August you can get free shipping at Inheritance Publications when you order six or more books. I have commented on a number of their books here, and we have particularly enjoyed a number of them. In the next few days I plan to comment on the latest book of theirs that we have read, How Sleep the Brave, which has become one of our favorites. Inheritance Publications provides some good historical novels which tell parts fo history you do not often hear about. I encourage you to check them out.