Sunday, January 25, 2009

Among the Camps

Among the Camps : Young People's Story of the War, by Thomas Nelson Page
(Reprinted by Sprinkle Publications, 1995)
Ages 6+

This is a sequel to Two Little Confederates and is very similar. It does not continue with the same family, but is actually a collection of four different stories all of young people during the War Between the States. In each story the children show spunk. Like the previous book, this one gives a view of life during this time.

Probably my favorite of these four stories is the first one where a father who is in the Confederate army manages to visit his family on Christmas and promises specific gifts for his children the following year. During the year, the family’s plantation ends up behind enemy lines. The story of the father’s persistence to uphold his promise and the faith and perseverance of his children is powerful.

This is another fun story with good lessons and historical awareness.


Friday, January 23, 2009

Two Little Confederates

Two Little Confederates, by Thomas Nelson Page
(originally published by Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1888; republished by Sprinkle Publications, 1994), hb., 156 pp.
Ages 6+

Thomas Nelson Page was descended from two of the most prominent families in Virginia. His grandfather was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and his family features prominently elsewhere in Virginia from colonial days on. He was a boy during the War between the States and eventually served as U. S. Ambassador to Italy under Woodrow Wilson.

This book is historical fiction drawing largely from the author’s own experience of the Civil War as a boy. The story follows the exploits of two young brothers as their father and older brothers go off to fight in the war and the rest of the family deals with the increasingly difficult war-time conditions- from thieves, to deserters, Yankee raiders, food shortages and other circumstances.

This is an enjoyable book and we often found ourselves laughing loudly at the exploits of the boys. Even with the lightheartedness the author deals with many serious situations which faced Virginian families during the war. This book gave us a feel for what life was like for the families left behind by soldiers in the South. It also breathes the air of nobility, courage, respect and honor which is so often missing today. It was often challenging to be reminded of the level of responsibility often borne by young boys at this time.

We commend this book to you as an enjoyable way to learn and be challenged.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Keeping Holiday

Keeping Holiday, Starr Meade
(Crossway, 2008), pb., 192 pp.
Ages 6+

I got a copy of this book several months ago but waited for Christmas to read it to my children. We enjoyed it. It is sort of a “Pilgrim’s Progress meets Christmas.”

In the story Holiday is a resort where many families come for vacation. The people who come to Holiday enjoy it very much. The main character, Dylan, has always enjoyed his family’s visits to Holiday. One year, however, he discovers that the Holiday he knows is only an image of the real Holiday which is greater, deeper and more wonderful. This leads him on a quest with his cousin, Clare, to find the real Holiday. Along the way he learns about the Founder of Holiday and the more he learns he begins to long to know this Founder even more than he longs to enjoy the blessings of Holiday.

Holiday in the book is easily recognizable as Christmas and the real Holiday is a relationship with Christ and ultimately heaven. The story is then a parable of the process of conversion as Dylan discovers the reality of Holiday and then begins searching for it (thus the comparison to Pilgrim’s Progress). Many good points are made along the way such as the difficulty of pursuing salvation, how others will seek to dissuade you, the fact that you can’t earn salvation, the depth of sin in our hearts (no better than others), our need for grace, and the reality that individuals experience this journey differently (though the gospel is constant, conversion experiences vary widely).

Human responsibility is affirmed while also holding up the sovereignty of God. As Dylan learns that only the Founder can authorize him to be a part of Holiday, he longs to find this Founder. Along the way he often expresses his desire to find the Founder only to be told, by various individuals:

You can’t find the Founder,
He finds you.
He’s not just the Founder,
He’s the Finder too!

This ditty is repeated often so that it becomes humorous, while affirming a key truth.

This is a fun story with a good message. It calls children to Christ without reducing conversion to artificial steps. It affirms our need of grace while also calling for response. We gladly recommend this book to you.

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Saturday, January 03, 2009

A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
Ages 7+

This year for the first time we read A Christmas Carol together as a family as we approached Christmas. I was reminded again of what a great story it really is. When I first read it a few years ago I realized how much better the actual book is than any adaptations I had ever seen. The book has a strong Christian basis and reminds the reader that the “joy of the season” is rooted not in circumstances but in the gospel. There are poignant reminders of the importance of caring for others, for making the most of life and other key truths.

Two things make it difficult to include younger children though. First, some of the ghosts are intended to be frightful and they are at times. Dickens tells his story well, but probably beyond what many younger children are ready for. Second, the language and concepts are difficult at many places. This is due to the age of the book and to the fact that Dickens was not targeting young children. Various aspects of life which Dickens mentions are no longer common, and thus can be confusing. I found myself often rewording as I read and pausing to explain. My son who turned 9 while we read this book said he enjoyed the book though he did not understand all of it- even with my explanations.

In the end, I would recommend A Christmas Carol for family reading, especially for those with older children and with parents taking time to explain. Children will catch the main points and they will be introduced to a classic to which your family and the child individually can return often in years to come.

(My link above takes you to a listing of various editions. You can find very inexpensive editions.)


Friday, January 02, 2009

Baby Bible

Baby's First Bible
(Thomas Nelson, 2008), hb

This is a Bible intended as a gift for baby showers, baptisms, etc. Here are some quotes from the publisher’s promotional material:
“Here’s the first baby keepsake Bible with the ‘AWW’ factor! The flocked packaging and Bible cover with the precious duckie designs … will keep recipients enchanted for years to come.”

“Receive God’s promises as you follow the captivating critters on the artistically designed pages.”

One of the key features listed is the “fuzzy duck on cover and box.”

This is really sad. I am not looking for a Bible for my children that has the “AWW” factor. I am looking for awe, of God that is. This approach, though no doubt well intended, is misdirected. The promo lit seems to suggest that if children like the cover and occasional color page of “critters” they will be drawn to like the Bible. While we never know what God might use, we are to depend on proper means. What will draw children to love the Bible will be reading it (when they can) and having it read and explained to them by adults who love them and love God.

It is a good thing to desire to give a shower gift (for instance that is Bible related). Giving a Bible that will probably never be used is not the best use of funds though. The child will not be able to read this text for sometime, and once he or she is able to read, this design will likely be too childish. Instead give a good Bible story book that parents can read to the child. Some of my top recommendations are listed on the left hand side of this site. Then, if the child does not have a Bible once he or she can read, then give him a standard Bible.