Thursday, August 23, 2007

Tolle Lege

I just received the latest issue “Tolle Lege” the newsletter/catalogue of Reformation Heritage Books. This issue focuses on children’s books and is a great resource. RHB carries books you won’t find anywhere else- several that have been reviewed right here!.

Here is a good word from Joel Beeke from the cover of this issue. Whether or not you are in the Reformed stream of Christianity this is a good exhortation:

“Church growth books and manuals flood the market. Surprisingly few address internal growth through the Holy Spirit sovereignly blessing the raising of children in covenantal truth. Yet, historically, Reformed Christians have acknowledged that their most solid, genuine church growth has been through the conversion of youth reared in the church. Charles Spurgeon wrote to Edward Payson Hammond, author of The Conversion of Children, “My conviction is that our converts from among children are among the very best we have. I should judge them to have been more numerously genuine than any other class, more constant, and in the long run more solid.”

Andrew Bonar concurred. He also wrote to Hammond, saying, “In awakenings that have been given us, the cases of young people have been as entirely satisfactory as any cases we have had. If conversion be God’s work, in which the Holy Spirit reveals Christ to the soul, surely His work can take place in children as really as in the old.”

Children raised in the church need to hear the gospel, that is, the evangel, every bit as much as adults. They too need to be born again. They too need to be evangelized.”

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Mr. Pipes Comes to America

Mr. Pipes Comes to America, Douglas Bond
(Christian Liberty Press, 2001), pb., 194 pp.
Ages 6 and up

My boys were delighted when I told them we were reading another Mr. Pipes book. I have commented on the previous two here and here. In this one Mr. Pipes comes to visit Drew & Annie in America for Christmas. They do some sightseeing in New England and, of course, Mr. Pipes tells them more about hymn writers. A big issue in this book is the much anticipated meeting between Mr. Pipes and the children’s mom and stepdad. Annie desperately desires for her parents to share her faith and hopes Mr. Pipes will be more successful in talking with them than she and Drew have been.

Once again fun stories and history set the stage for substantial discussions of theology and hymns with commentary and critique on the current state of the church. I thought the hymns discussed in this one did not quite live up to those in previous volumes, but it was still a great book. I want my children to see the enduring value of hymns that are good poetry and have substantive, theological content focused on God rather than ourselves. These books are great tools to that end. In fact these books will be great for parents to read and then consider the songs sung in their churches.

We wholeheartedly recommend this book. It connected well with our current study of the Revolutionary War era since several of the early chapters dealt with hymn writers from that time.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

George Washington's World

George Washington’s World, , Genevieve Foster
Expanded Edition by Joanna Foster
(Beautiful Feet Books, 1997; original edition, 1941) pb., 357 pp.
Ages 7+

This book is written in the same way as The World of Columbus and Sons, commented on previously, and has many of the same strengths. It has been really beneficial for my boys to place the American Revolution in the context of other events in the world, not only Europe but also Africa and China. It is difficult still to keep up with all the different people mentioned. I asked my boys when we were about ¾ of the way through if they were able to keep up with the different people. They said it was difficult and began to mention the people they could identify. While some names were lost, I was quite pleased with the historical figures they could remember particular things about. Just recently as some of my boys lined up some armies of bottle caps, he said the leader of one of the groups was “Frederick the Great of Prussia”. There also was a good introduction to the French Revolution.

The presentation of the debate over the Constitution will provide some surprising information to many readers- Alexander Hamilton’s desire to establish the equivalency of a monarchy in America, etc. David Vaughan’s book on Patrick Henry, will be a good supplement here showing the reason why so many leading Americans were skeptical of the proposed Constitution.

The downside, however, is that there is so little of George Washington’s story in the book. The Revolutionary War is mentioned almost just in passing. I was expecting more about Washington. If you are looking for a book on Washington, look elsewhere. However, for a presentation of the broader world during Washington’s life, this is a useful book.

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Adventures of Pinocchio

The Adventures of Pinocchio, C. Collodi
Translated by M. A. Murray
(Grosset & Dunlap, 1965)
Ages 5 and up

My wife just finished reading this book with our boys. I had often heard that the book was significantly different from- and superior to- the Disney adaptation. Now the experience of my wife and boys and the portions I was able to hear confirm this. You cannot assume you know the real story simply because you have the Disney truncation.

This is a humorous, adventurous tale about the typical boyish temptations to disobedience and laziness. I came home often to hear my boys laughing at a portion of the story, or retelling me a part, or to my wife retelling a portion that spoke so well to our own battles with school.

There were good lessons for our boys. For example at one point as Pinocchio continued to run from school in pursuit of amusement someone said to him:
“Bear it in mind, simpleton! Boys who refuse to study, and turn their backs upon books, schools, and masters, to pass their time in play and amusements, sooner or later come to a bad end … I know it by experience … and I can tell you. A day will come when you will weep as I am weeping now … but then it will be too late!”
The burden of the book is to show the trouble that comes from avoiding responsibility, particularly school work. This is very applicable to our world!

One point we have often made to our boys is that when they are slow or resistant to doing their work, it negatively affects our whole family. Obedience in contrast blesses the entire family (things go well, there is peace, etc.). This story makes the same point when Pinocchio changes:
“Because when boys who have behaved badly turn over a new leaf and become good, they have the power of bringing contentment and happiness to their families.”

When Pinocchio changes to a boy, we even see a picture of repentance- which is an implicit call to repentance from the audience:
“How ridiculous I was when I was a puppet! And how glad I am that I have become a well-behaved little boy!”

Pinocchio’s change from a puppet to a boy does not parallel conversion but maturation. It is not an overt story about the need for a new heart (the root issue), but is a good story about the need to mature and take on responsibility (a key issue as well, particularly for boys).

We would commend this book to you as a fun and edifying read.

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