Monday, October 17, 2011

Books for Reformation Day

Reformation day is two weeks away. We always make a big deal of it in our house as it marks a point in history when the gospel was recovered and renewal came to the church. As a resource, in case you want some books for your family on the Reformation, here is a listing of book I have previously reviewed on this blog which connect to the Reformation (links take you to my reviews).

The two main names which people know of from the Reformation are Martin Luther and John Calvin.  In a recent post I summarized the different books I have reviewed on Calvin.  On Luther, Paul Maier’s Martin Luther: A Man Who Changed the World is an excellent, beautifully illustrated book.  Virgil Robinson’s Luther, The Leader is less engaging but solid. Most recently Luther: Echoes of the Hammer provides a factually solid telling of Luther’s story in graphic novel format.

Louise Vernon  has also written a biography of Luther as well as TyndaleErasmusGutenberg, and Wycliffe. These are good short introductions to each of these key leaders.

Diana Kleyn’s Reformation Heroes is a wonderful resource providing brief overviews of over 30 leaders, many of whom are often unnoticed (a full list of names is provided in the review). William Boekestein has written a nice biography of Guido de Bres, author of the Belgic Confession, for younger children.

Lastly, regular readers of this blog will know that Douglas Bond is one of our family’s favorite authors. Bond’s Mr. Pipes and Psalms and Hymns of the ReformationDescription: is great story and wonderful introduction to the songs which played a key part in the Reformation as congregational singing was recovered.

I hope these recommendations might help your family in remembering God’s mighty works in the past as we raise our children anticipating God’s work in the future.

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Luther: Echoes of the Hammer

Luther: Echoes of the Hammer (The Graphic Novel)
By Susan K. Leigh, Illustrated by Dave Hill
(Concordia, 2011), pb., 144 pp.
Ages 6+

Just in time for Reformation Day Concordia Publishing House has released this graphic novel of the life of Luther. Susan Leigh does a good job telling the story of Luther and the graphic novel format is engaging. The book works from Luther’s birth to his death and does a good job with details as well as the theological and historical issues.  Along the way sidebars (or full pages) are given to providing more information on other key people in the story from other reformers, political leaders and Catholic leaders.

This is an engaging way to get your children reading about this important man and event.

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

This Was John Calvin, a Biography for children

This Was John Calvin, by Thea B. Van Halsema
(Inheritance Publications, 2010; originally published 1959)
Ages 9-18

Reformation Day (Oct 31) is quickly approaching so I wanted to go ahead and commend this well done biography even though we have not yet quite finished it.

I have previously commented on several biographies of Calvin so let me first set this one in the context of the others (links take you to my review of each book). The main distinction between them is the age of the audience for which they are intended. Simonetta Carr’s John Calvin is the one most suitable to a younger crowd, starting perhaps at age 5. It is nicely illustrated, with large pages and simple writing. The next age group up (about 6-12) is addressed in Joyce McPherson’s The River of Grace: A Life of John Calvin. Then I have discussed two books which are aimed more at adults or older teenagers, Theodore Beza’s firsthand, The Life of John Calvin and Douglas Bond’s work of historical fiction, The Betrayal.

Mrs. Van Halsema’s This Was John Calvin would fit in that list right after The River of Grace. It is probably best suited for children ages 9-18 (though adults could profit greatly as well!). The River of Grace is a great book, but This Was John Calvin is more in depth.  In fact Mrs. Van Halsema displays an amazing knowledge of Calvin and his writings. She dedicated the book to her father, Clarence Bouma, “through whom,” she writes, “I met John Calvin.” This explains a great deal as her father was a prominent Reformed theologian who wrote on Calvin and the Reformation. She obviously learned well as she cites extensively not only from Calvin’s major writing but most often from his letters and tracts. Furthermore she weaves these quotes into a compelling narrative.

Thus, well-written and carefully researched, this is a great book to help you understand and appreciate the labors, sufferings, and intellect of John Calvin and how these all were given for the glory of God and the good of His church. Mrs. Van Halsema also connects Calvin’s story to the other key Reformation leaders of his time providing a good overview of what was going on in Europe.

So, we warmly commend this book to you. In fact, I have ended up with an extra copy, so we will do another book giveaway! The rules are the same as before. You can be entered into the drawing simply by leaving a comment here. You can be entered twice if you pass along this post on your own blog, or via Facebook or Twitter. Just make sure I know that you have passed this along so I can count it. I will draw names for the winner next Wednesday, October 19.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Noisy Place, by Edgar Guest

I have for sometime enjoyed the poetry of Edgar Guest. His focus in simple rhymes on the beauty of everyday life and family is a blessing to me. This poem is a good reminder for me and fits the Children’s Hour theme well.

Noisy Place

It is difficult to read
When for candy children plead,
And I find it quite disturbing
When with shouts there is no curbing
They come bounding in the place
At a mad and merry pace,
Just as if the world and all
Had been made for children small.

It is difficult to write
When with innocent delight
And a joy no frown can smother
Lusty lungs are calling: “Mother!
May we go in swimming now?”
So I sit and mop my brow
And I push the work away
Till there comes a quiet day.

It is difficult to nap
When the screen doors bang and slap
And a most tumultuous riot
Shatters every hope of quiet.
For no youngster ever thinks
Father needs those forty winks,
Or respects the plea we make
To be still for mother’s sake.

But somehow it seems to me
That more difficult ’twould be
Could I sit and read whenever
Came the fancy, knowing never
Child o’ mine would burst the door
To disturb me as of yore.
I should oft’ be longing then
To be bothered once again.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Athanasius Book Give-Way Winner!

Thanks to all who participated in the book giveaway for Simonetta Carr’s Athanasius. There was a great response. This morning I compiled the names and with the assistance of Brian Denker had our drawing.  And the winner is:

Al Chandler!

Al, I will drop the book in the mail (still in shrink wrap!) soon. Everyone else, I would encourage you to get a copy of this great book for your family and for your church libraries.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

The Story for Little Ones: Discover the Bible in Pictures

The Story for Little Ones: Discover the Bible in Pictures
(Zonderkidz, 2011), hb.
Ages 3-5

Recently I received a review copy of this book along with some other materials related to Zondervan’s The Story project, an effort to help people see the overarching story of Scripture. I was pleased to see another effort aimed at helping people move beyond disconnected Bible stories to seeing how the Bible fits together as one major story of God’s work of creating a people for himself. And this initiative has books for little children, children, teens and adults. This is a good idea.

However, The Story for Little Ones is a disappointment, and I cannot recommend it. I decided to just jump in and begin reading it to my four and five year old children one evening. What immediately jumped out to me was that the story of the Fall was completely skipped. Of course in a summary of the Bible you have to pick which stories to include and which to leave out, but how can you leave out the Fall! This is one of the major movements of the entire story- Creation, Fall, Redemption, New Creation. After a happy creation, the story moves simply to God calling Abraham, “a good man who trusted God.” The burden of that story is Abraham trusting God to being him to a new place. There is no hint of sin, covenant, etc. In fact most of the Old Testament ends up as moralisms about being good without the dimension of our need of rescue from sin. Here is a sample of the bolded conclusions of each story which state the main lessons:
“Abraham trusted God. You can trust God too.”
“God gave these rules to help his people live good lives and be closer to him. God’s rules will help you too.”
“God had Rahab help his people. You can be a helper too.”
“Samson asked God to help him. You can ask God for help too.”
“Ruth was kind to Naomi, and Boaz was kind to Ruth. God smiles when you are kind”
“Nehemiah knew God was on his side. God is on your side too.”

In the New Testament there is improvement with it being clearly stated that Jesus came to save people “from their sins.” However, the lesson from Jesus’ baptism is “God’s power shows through Jesus. God’s power works in your life too.”

If you are looking, as I am, for resources to help your children grasp the overall story of God’s work of salvation, to grasp the heart of the Bible’s message, to point them to their need for Christ, this is not a great resource.

The next step up book, The Story for Children, a Storybook Bible looks to be much better- I noticed the fall is clearly dealt with. I have not had the opportunity to read more of it yet, though. I will plan to post more on it in the future.

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