Saturday, September 29, 2007

Traitor, the Case of Benedict Arnold

Traitor: The Case of Benedict Arnold, Jean Fritz
(Paperstar, 1981), pb., 192 pp.
Ages 10+

This presents the biographical data well, though it is not a real exciting read. It is solid as a biography goes, but the blurbs on the back which describe it as “a thriller” and “highly entertaining” really overstate the case. We had to push our way through most of the book. There was a bit more adventure towards the end. In spite of all the battles earlier in the book this story focuses more on the thoughts and character of Arnold than the action. That is why I have rated this for older children.

The discussion of Arnold’s character does provide for good discussion. My boys knew of Arnold’s treachery already but said, we always thought Arnold was just good up to the point he turned traitor. They had known of some of his battlefield bravery (which is also in this book), but did not know of Arnold’s self-centeredness, vanity and money hungriness that was evident from an earlier time. This led to good discussions on the point that great sins do not just occur in a vacuum. Smaller, earlier decisions shape character which leads to the big actions whether of treachery or nobility. Also anything which highlights the evil of betrayal is worthwhile.

Lastly, though, I was surprised to find several incidences of profanity in this book. This makes no sense to me in a book aimed at children. As I read I just edited these statements since the profanity, as typical, was really unnecessary for the point. Thus, my age recommendation refers to the age group for this book to be read to. If you are thinking of the child himself reading, a higher age would be in view.

Labels: ,

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Baby is Here!

Timothy Van Neste made his appearance this morning at 8:16 am. He weighed 9 lbs 5 oz and was 20.5 inches long. He and mom are both doing very well.

Brothers and sister got to come visit and were delighted with him.

Yes, I am cropped out of the picture!

We are grateful to God for our new little boy, and his and Tammie’s good health through it all.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Minute Boys of Bunker Hill

The Minute Boys of Bunker Hill, Edward Stratemeyer
(1899; Lost Classics Book Company, 1998), pb., 316 pp.
Ages 7+

This is the sequel to The Minute Boys of Lexington and Concord following the same characters through the tense days following the battles of Lexington and Concord, trough the Battle of Bunker Hill to the end of the siege of Boston. This book is the same in feel and style as the previous volume. My boys (ages 11, 9, and 7) loved it. There is plenty of action and suspense, and courage, perseverance, nobility and other virtues are assumed and often explicitly commended.

Literary critics would slight this book and its predecessor. Parts of the story stretch credulity (Roger the main character seems to be very ‘lucky’), and similar things recur. However, it works well as a fun story which encourages character and also faithfully tells the history of the time. These do not rise to the level of Allen French or Douglas Bond, but they are good books.

This volume includes, like the previous one, a glossary to explain unusual words.

We have heard of a third volume and my boys are eager o find it, so we would commend this one to you.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

John Brown on Catechizing and Evangelizing Children

Questions & Answers on the Shorter Catechism, John Brown of Haddington
(Reformation Heritage Books; pb., 356 pp.)

John Brown of Haddington (1722-1787) was a giant in the land. I first read of him in A. T. Robertson’s grammar where Robertson recounts the amazing story of Brown teaching himself Greek as a young man. Some years later I picked up a reprint copy of his Systematic Theology. I have just recently been perusing this new reprint form Brown, in which he walks straight through the Shorter Catechism raising and answering various questions arising from each catechism question. This reads essentially like his notes from teaching catechism classes to children. As such it is a helpful guide for using the catechism with your children (and others!) today.

His “Address to Young Readers” which opens the book is well worth reading itself for its earnestness and directness as he appeals to children for the salvation of their souls. There is no banter here. He reminds them that they possess
“immortal souls, worth inconceivably more than ten thousand worlds; souls that are capable of enjoying an infinite God as their everlasting All in All; souls which must and shall, before long, enter into an eternal state of either inconceivable misery or happiness.”

He reminds them of their state in sin before God.

“Having no holiness, you have no hope and are ‘without God in the world.’ Being children of the devil, your heart is filled with all unrighteousness, pride, deceit, malice, and hatred of God.”

He elaborates this point for almost a whole page quoting scripture after scripture driving home in no uncertain terms that they are alienated from God, culminating in this:
“eternal destruction is ready at your side. God is angry with you every day; His wrath rests on you; His sword is drawn and His arrows are set to destroy you. The sound of your approaching condemnation roars loudly at every warning of His word, if only you had ears to hear it. Even while you read this, hell stands open to receive you, and devils stand ready to drag you into everlasting fire.”

Brown does not end with the warnings of Sinai, however. Having clearly made the point of our desperate condition, he turns to the remedy of the gospel (much like Paul’s pattern in Rom 1-3) pleading in glowing terms from the children to repent and believe.

The call to faith makes much of what their parents have found to be true of God.
“My dear young people, know the God of your fathers …. We parents tell you, our children, that this God is our God, forever, and that He ‘will be our guide even unto death.’ We never found him a barren wilderness or a land of drought. We have found infinitely more satisfaction in this God, given to us in His Word, than could balance all the pleasures, all the wealth, all the honor of ten thousand worlds. … There is none like the God of Jeshurun, who pardons iniquity, transgression and sin, and who delights in mercy. … If wisdom’s ways are so pleasant even on this sinful earth, what will it be like to enter the joy of our Lord forever! … ‘Come, taste and see that our God is good.’
Isn’t this how Christian parents should address their children? Of course our wording may be different, but these truths with this passion must be communicated. We need to be able to present to our children that we have in our own experience found God to be faithful. They need to see in us people who find their delight in God.

This is a helpful book in various ways. It is worth buying simply to read this opening address and to be challenged by it in speaking the gospel to our own children.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Minute Boys of Lexington

The Minute Boys of Lexington, Edward Stratemeyer
(1898; Lost Classics Book Company, 1996), pb., 306 pp.
7 and up

This is a fictional account of the battles of Lexington and Concord. The main character is a fictional 16 year old boy who has organized a group of friends as “minute boys” to work alongside the minute men. The story covers just over two days and is jam packed with adventure, danger and bravery. My boys loved it!

The 19th century language has been slightly edited but it can still be a challenge in places. I think it is important- in order to be able to read such books to your children- to be able to update language or substitute words as you go. The book contains a 14 page glossary that is also helpful and is a way to build vocabulary. This can present a bit of a challenge in reading, but it is slight and worth it. The dialogue of two characters is also written in dialect which can be a challenge, but we find it fun.

This is a fun way to get a feel for the beginning of the Revolutionary War. This book is also an example of those books from the past which are intentional in encouraging character, nobility, etc. We enjoyed it and commend it to you.