Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Graphic Novel on Greek War for Independence

Sons of Chaos, Chris Jaymes
Illustrated by Ale Aragon
IDW Publishing, hb., 192 pp

When I received an email about this book I was intrigued. I obviously did not read closely enough. The comment, "perfect for fans of Game of Thrones" should have tipped me off.

The book is attractively made, large size, with nice artwork. It tells part of the story of the Greek war to throw off Ottoman rule in 1821. This is a story with which I am not very familiar, so I thought this might be a good way to learn. Good, historically accurate graphic novels can be very useful (and I have reviewed some others on this site). However, I cannot recommend this one.

First, since I had missed the Game of Thrones reference, I was surprised by the scantily clad women and portrayals of orgies and rape. The book is also very graphic in detailing violence with, for example,  numerous severed heads with gaping moths, etc. The storyline itself is simply twisted and depraved. Someone might simply respond, that I misunderstood the audience for this book. That is certainly true, though these things were not crucial for the story and were not edifying for me as an adult either.

Secondly, and perhaps more centrally, the story telling is obscure. I had difficulty following the flow of thought and catching the connections between characters. It was often difficult to follow. Related to this, I am not sure of the accuracy of the account. I looked into the history after reading (partially because it left me unclear), and at least the account here is significantly truncated. It does not, in fact, tell the story of the Greek war for independence. It gives a certain version of the beginnings of the uprising.

So, sadly, this is not a great resource. There was promise here, but it seems the interest was more in telling a sordid tale than in relating history.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Renegade: A Graphic Novel of the Life of Martin Luther

Renegade:Martin Luther, The Graphic Novel, by Dacia Palmerino and Andrea Grosso Ciponte
(Plough Publishing House, October 2017), pb., 156 pp.
Ages 14+

This is an engaging and fairly detailed graphic novel on Martin Luther covering his entire life, from birth to death. It was originally written in Italian and translated into German before coming into English this month. The authors clearly know the Luther story well and seems to be aware of some of the different debates on Luther. They do have Luther giving his defiant response at Worms on the first day he was questioning rather than on the second after asking for a day to consider the demand to recant, but this does not negate the good work throughout.

The artwork is edgy, capturing well the darkness Luther grappled with and other situations like the peasant revolt and the Black Death. This is a great tool to help people encounter Luther afresh or to engage them for the first time. I am glad to see this coming out just as we approach the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

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Monday, October 23, 2017

Portrait of a Father

I am currently reading to my younger children Chuck Black’s book, Kingdom’s Dawn. The book parallels the biblical story in a medieval setting where a usurper has sought to wrest a certain area from the true King, who represents God. In that setting we meet the main character as an older boy on the verge of manhood being trained by his father. This statement from the boy to his father is surely what every dad wants his son to be able to say.

“No, I have not met the King … but you have. I have learned from you, I have questioned you, but most of all I have watched you. I know you Father. There is not another man in the kingdom more honest, generous, compassionate, or courageous than you. If the King deserves the complete loyalty you give Him, then I do not need to see Him face-to-face to know that He is worthy of my complete loyalty as well” (33).

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Nice book about Martin Luther's Wife

(Unbroken Faith Productions, 2017), hb., 52 pp.

As we approach Reformation Day in this 500th anniversary year, this is a nicely produced book on Martin Luther’s wife, Katharine von Bora. Luther commented on how much he owed to his wife, and his deep love for her was evident. Luther once commented, “I would not trade my Katie for France or Venice.”

The authors do a good job of telling the story of how Katharine was sent to be a nun as a young girl, later escaped the convent (along with other women) after embracing Luther’s teachings, and eventually ended up marrying Martin who had not been thinking of marriage. The Strackbeins continue the story telling us about the Luther family as it expanded with children. This is a great story that children and adults should know. Martin Luther loved his wife and children and rejoiced in them. The Luther marriage and family transformed Protestant thinking about Christian homes since for centuries pastors had not been allowed to marry.

The book is amply and nicely illustrated which enhances its usefulness with children.

With endorsements by leading scholars like Carl Trueman and Gene Veith, this is a great book to purchase for your family and to use as you celebrate Reformation day this year.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Ember Falls

Ember Falls (The Green Ember Series Book 2)
By S. D. Smith
(Story Warren Books, 2016), 234 pp.
Ages 7+

I had heard much about Book 1 in this series, The Green Ember, but had never read it. So, when I had an opportunity to get this book on audio I went for it. I am glad I did! This is an excellent story with grand adventure, heroism, nobility, courage and sacrifice. Since it was on audio I listened to it while travelling and am now looking forward to reading the first book to my children (ages 9 & 11).

The book has similarities to Redwall with rabbit good guys (some of whom are essentially monks) opposed by wolves and birds of prey. However, the moral dilemmas are even more distinct and intentional. In this story the good guys are fighting to preserve to line of King Jupiter and to restore justice to the Wood. The heroes not only battle the evil without but must master self-ambition and their desire to rescue their own families which can be at odds with the need of the entire group.

I finished this book longing for the sequel. This is a very promising series. 

Saturday, January 07, 2017

The Icarus Show

The Icarus Show, by Sally Christie
  • (David Fickling Books, January 2017), 224 pp., pb.
  • Ages 8-12

Here is another guest review from Luke Barnard, son of my friends Justin and Tracie Barnard.

Alex Meadows, an insecure elementary-schooler, has had an awful summer.  His best friend has moved to Scotland, his next-door neighbor dies and the other moves into a nursing home, his new next-door neighbor smells strange, and, worst of all, Alex has been sucked into a terrible conundrum.  Coming home from school one day, he discovers a mysterious note foretelling the flight of a boy.  Alex is faced with the question he is most afraid of answering.  React or Don’t React.  After some snooping, Alex uncovers an unbelievable secret about the “Icarus Show”.  Do you believe it?  Can you believe it?  Will you be there???

 All around, this is a good book.  The beginning gives a sample of the pace of the story.  Alex’s character is very relatable -- his insecurities are what some people face every day.  Bogsy was the best developed of all the cast, his overly independent and cynical spirit paints him in a very mysterious light, his mind might be a little out of whack, considering he plans to jump off a bridge.  Maisie, the sage of great age, Alex’s source of counsel, adds good dialogue to the book, especially in their conversations about the mystical Icarus and his unknown plans.  Alan Tydman, head honcho of Alan’s Battalion and class bully, sheds reality on the whole story, acting as the exact thing every single school seems to have: a big, hulking meanie.  His cruel techniques of extracting money from weaklings are a fact of life for many school-age students, no matter their age.

I didn’t understand some of the scenes in the school Alex attends (Probably due to my lack of experience, when it comes to British public schools), and, at the start, couldn’t tell where this book is set.  The ending lacked gusto, and was kind of confusing.  The book is humorous at times, has great character development, and an outstanding plot.  Do you believe it?  Can you believe it?  Will you be there???         

Monday, October 10, 2016

How Three Brothers Saved the Navy

How Three Brothers Saved the Navy, by Charles A. Salter
(The Kare Kids Adventures #3)
(Outskirts Press, 2016), pb., 111 pp.

Think of the Hardy Boys in a military family and you have a good idea of what this book is like. Three brothers- Matt (12 yrs old), Ryan (10 yrs old), and Jake (8 yrs old)- like to play like they are Force Recon Marines drawing from various things they have learned from their father who is a Captain in the U.S. Navy. In one of their adventures they stumble across a terrorist plot to destroy US aircraft carriers using HALO jumpers. In the ensuing adventure the boys display heroism, courage, teamwork and perseverance as they help to foil the terrorist attempt.

This was a fun read and my 10 year old daughter and nine year old son loved it. Some will probably scoff at the idea of boys this age accomplishing what is recorded in this story or even fret over suggesting to other children that they should seek to take on armed enemies. Such people will miss the point of the book. Is the accomplishment of these boys outlandish? Of course! But that is part of the point. It isn’t likely that any of our children will discover a new world in the back of one of our wardrobes or closets and become kings or queens of those worlds. Nor are we suggesting they find wolves or witches to kill. Rather we want them to be inspired by the courage, initiative and care for others demonstrated in these stories. Salter’s story succeeds well in this goal as he portrays hard working confident children who engage the outdoors, work together and are attentive to their surroundings.

We really enjoyed this book and commend it to you.

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