Friday, June 11, 2010

Ten P's in a Pod

Ten P's in a Pod : A Million-Mile Journal of the Arnold Pent Family, by Arnold Pent III
(Vision Forum, 2007), hb., 208 pp.
Ages 8+

Though this book has been reprinted by Vision Forum it was originally self-published by the Pent family in 1965. It is a first-hand account of the Pent family (mom, dad, and eight children) as they travelled over North America singing, quoting scripture and presenting the gospel. The book was compiled from the journals of the third son of the family, Arnold Pent III, written when he was age seventeen to nineteen. Thus, it has a homey, 1950’s feel.

It is comical to hear about various situations such a family could find themselves in as they travelled often not knowing where they would stay or where their money would come from. Thus, this is a challenging narrative of faith and strong example of the leadership of a godly father. It is clear that the family was shaped by a vision coming from the father as he impressed a variety of habits on his children including regular exercise. The primary theme of the book and of the ministry of the family, though, was devotion to the Scriptures. Each family member was required to spend a specific amount of time reading the Bible each day before breakfast (), and then the family studied the Bible together for 30 minutes three times a day, after each meal. The family devotions are described as often consisting of each family member quoting a chapter of the Bible! In fact, they read the Scriptures so much that by early ages each of them could quote full chapters. One son was able to quote any verse in the New Testament. And, they did not focus on memorization. They just read the Scripture so much that it began to stick in their minds.

This was an encouraging and challenging read causing us to say we wanted to be more diligent in our own reading individually and corporately. Occasionally, the young author comes across sounding a bit proud when criticizing. However, it seems just to be understandable exuberance of a young man with a clear vision of life.

Read this with your family and be challenged to focus on the word of God.

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Monday, June 07, 2010

Benjamin Franklin on Reading History

“The general natural tendency of reading good history must be to fix in the minds of youth deep impressions of the beauty and usefulness of virtue of all kinds, public spirit, fortitude, etc.”

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Friday, June 04, 2010

Hostage Lands

Hostage Lands, by Douglas Bond
(P&R Publishing, 2006), pb., 234 pp.
Ages 8+

If you have read much on this blog you will know that my family & I are big fans of Douglas Bond and his books (see discussion of other Bond books). Earlier this year we finally read this one, Hostage Lands. The style and approach are recognizable from other books we have read, for example the ancient story comes to us as a modern person reads an account.

The story begins with a modern boy in Britain living near Hadrian’s Wall. This boy, Neil, is not very interested in school and does not see the value of Latin, though he picks up the language well. Along the way he discovers an ancient manuscript in Latin which he translates with the aid of his teacher. In this story we enter the world of Roman Britain, the tension between Rome and local tribes, conflicting loyalties, questions of honor and the claims of Christ vis-à-vis the claims of other authorities in our lives.
As always Bond tells a good tale with action, adventure and intrigue. He also gives you a good feel for the history and life in Roman Britain. It is a great way to learn while having fun. We warmly recommend this book.

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Thursday, June 03, 2010

Shakespeare's Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare
(Oxford School Shakespeare Series), pb., 160 pp.
Ages 12+

As another part of our study of literature and history around ancient Rome, my boys and I read this edition of Julius Caesar. Of course it is as much interpretation as history, but it was useful to discuss Shakespeare’s interpretation and his view of human nature.
The reading was challenging but this edition has very helpful annotations in the side margins explaining archaic phrases. The use of language, humor and powerful rhetoric were very worthwhile. I did not realize how much Shakespeare liked puns! Then the portraits of uninhibited pride (Caesar) and torn conscience (Brutus) were also striking and sources of good conversation.
I heartily commend this edition.

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Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The Twelve Caesars

The Twelve Caesars, Suetonius
(Penguin Classics, 2007), pb. 398 pp
Translated by Robert Graves, revised by James Rives
Ages 15+

My boys and I set out to read this classic piece of Roman history between 120 and 130 AD as part of our study of ancient Rome. It is a recommended part of Veritas Press’s Omnibus curriculum.

The book covers the lives of the first twelve Caesars beginning with Julius and ending with Domitian. Written at such an early date it is invaluable historically and provides some fascinating background for the New Testament since all the of the New Testament is written during the time covered here (Revelation was probably written during the reign of Domitian).

However, I stopped having my boys (ages 10, 12, 13) read this book after the first two chapters (Julius and Augustus). It is fairly difficult reading, but that is not why I stopped them. I stopped because it describes with frankness the wickedness of these men. My boys did not even know (thankfully) what all was being referred to. The book is in many ways a study of depravity, depicting what happens when men have no restraint- spiritually, legally, politically or economically- on their behavior. Cruelty, greed and sexual perversion were foremost. This behavior is not celebrated but is discussed.

So, while the book is valuable historically, parents need to be aware of what is in it, and plan accordingly. A good way to check out this book (and many other classics) is by downloading free audio of it at

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