Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Evangelizing our Children

The Baptist & Reflector, the TN Baptist paper, last week ran a brief article I wrote on presenting the gospel to our children. The article grew out of an earlier post here on John Brown’s book of questions and answers on the Westminster catechism. The article does not say anything all that earth shattering. I simply wanted to show people the forthrightness which used to characterize the way believers explained the gospel to their children. Brown is so clear in presenting the desperate plight of lost humanity and just as clear in presenting the glories of the gospel. May we do the same with our own children.


Monday, October 22, 2007

With Wolfe in Canada

With Wolfe in Canada, Or the Winning of a Continent, G. A. Henty
(Blackie and Son, 1886; Preston/Speed Publications, 1999)
Hb., 353 pp.
Ages 11+

I am a Henty fan having enjoyed a number of his books (I have commented on our experience of reading one previously). However, this one was disappointing on several levels. The story meanders seeming as if he wanted to include too many different things. Several chapters do not really discuss the main character but pause to tell the history. Of course part of what I want is the history but detaching the history from the character makes the history more detached. These portions then read more as compilations of data rather than an engaging retelling of the historical story. With so many unusual names of people and places it is hard to follow. It was hard for me to follow so I was pleased with my boys’ perseverance just to hang in there. The fact that there are good adventure moments helped. Such moments are just too few. The book could probably be helpfully abridged.

The title is a bit misleading also since Wolfe only shows up at the end. The main character spends more time in America and Britain than in Canada. He does drop in at key historical events so he is with George Washington during Braddock’s disastrous defeat as well as being involved in various other battles of the French and Indian War.

There are good morals found in the story particularly courage, honesty, and mercy towards those who wrong us. One of the best episodes is early on when the main character James defends a young girl by trouncing a bully who knocked the girl down. My boys still talk about that scene. So the book is helpful in this way, but there are other books that do this as well with stories that are more compelling. I could not help comparing this book with Douglas Bond’s Crown and Covenant Series. Bond is far superior not only in quality of story but even more so in showing the faith as an integral part of the life of the characters.

So, we would not really recommend this book. It is not as good as many other Henty novels. Older readers can appreciate it and learn much history along the way.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Ballad of Matthew’s Begats

The Ballad of Matthew's Begats: An Unlikely Royal Family Tree , Andrew Peterson
(Thomas Nelson, 2007)
Hb., 32 pp.
Ages 4-10

Andrew Peterson’s Christmas CD Behold the Lamb of God has been a favorite of our family’s for some time. Among other things he does good biblical theology in the songs. So, when I saw that he had put the lyrics of one song into a children’s book I was intrigued. This book basically pairs the lyrics to his song on the genealogy of Jesus at the beginning of Matthew with fun illustrations. If you have not heard the song you might wonder at a song- much less a children’s book!- on a genealogy. But Peterson has done a good job with it, having fun and highlighting how it points to Christ. This book then is a fun, useful book for younger children.
In addition to the song lyrics Peterson includes “Did You Know” facts about certain individuals in he genealogy. This is a further help in teaching children about biblical characters. One small critique here is that the book, like most treatments, points out the great wickedness of Manasseh but does not mention his late repentance.

We enjoy and recommend this book.

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Books that Build Character

Books that Build Character: A Guide to Teaching Your Child Moral Values through Stories, William Kilpatrick and Gregory and Suzanne Wolfe
(Simon & Schuster, 1994), pb., 332 pp.

This is a great book that we have found very helpful in finding good books for our children. It is one I would heartily recommend for all parents. It contains five chapters on issues in reading, books, and children and then a 200+ page annotated list of recommended books arranged by genre and age level. My assessment is not always the same as theirs, but the authors are by and large kindred spirits. They are right on the important role of stories in shaping the imagination and character of children (and adults as well!).

Here are a few quotes:

“there are thousands of finely crafted stories for children that make honesty, responsibility, and compassion come alive. But they are not always easy to find. Concepts such as virtue, good example, and character have been out of fashion in our society for quite some time, and their absence le guidebooks to children’s literature.” (17)

“Try to distinguish between issues and virtues. Many contemporary children’s books focus on trendy issues rather than character development. You should be looking for books that reinforce courage, responsibility, and perseverance rather than books that offer prepackaged opinions on divorce, euthanasia, and the like. You want your child to acquire strengths of character before he acquires a lot of secondhand opinions. It’s one thing to have an opinion on an issue such as immigration, and quite another to develop a habit of helping those you have an opportunity to help. Having enlightened opinions is no substitute for having character.” (55)

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