Friday, March 08, 2013

McGrath's Children's Series Disappoints

Darkness Shall Fall, Alister McGrath
The Aedyn Chronicles, Book Three
(Zondervan, 2011), pb., 214 pp.
Ages 10-15

I have previously listed the first book in this series as one of our “Best Reads” in 2011.  In that post I noted that the second book in the series had been a disappointment. This third book was better than the second, but not as good as the first. It was another disappointment.

In this book Peter, Julia & Louisa complete their task of helping of protect the people of Aedyn and finally make it home. There is some good adventure as they hide from the vicious Gulnog and try to survive while looking for a way to defeat the Shadow. They await the arrival of help from the Lord of Hosts and are duped by an evil one who claimed to be a messenger from the Lord of Hosts. In the end deliverance comes from an unlikely source, and back in our world their fractured family is made whole.

What could be wrong with a story like that? First, let me hasten to say there are good things in the book to notice and enjoy. We had a good time reading portions of it. However, in order to enjoy it together I had to do some careful editing on the fly since the younger children were listening. Some scenes were particularly gory or intense. The book was not as sophisticated as what my older boys would typically enjoy, but it was more brutal than what I want for my younger ones. The worst example of this was the description of the family at the end of the book. The description of this dysfunctional family and the brutal beating the father gives his son was disturbing to me. I know these things happen and can deal with reading reports of such, but, this is not what I want in a book for my children.

For example, at the prospect of the father beating the older son, the younger son “rubbed his hands together greedily” and after the first strike the younger son claps and says, “Look Mother! He drew blood with only one strike! Hit him again, father!” The Stepmother is also described as eagerly anticipating the beating. Repentance and reconciliation does come, but this perverse portrait was not what we needed or desired.

So, we cannot recommend this book to you. Its positive aspects are outweighed by the negative and the overall story is only fair. There are plenty of other compelling stories to choose from.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Child Identity Theft: What Every Parent Needs to Know

(Rowman & Littlefield, 2013), hb., 207 pp.

Unlike most books reviewed here, this is not a book for reading to your kids, but it is one to talk about with your kids. I suppose we have all heard about identity theft, but when I saw this book about child identity theft and noticed it was written by a decorated officer who has worked extensively in this area, it caught my attention.

Thieves are often particularly interested in stealing a child’s identity because they have no prior credit history and illegal activity on a child’s identity can go on undetected much longer. Chappell cites examples where this has occurred and gives wide ranging advice on how to protect your family from this sort of theft.

Chappell does not write in inflammatory tones or use scare tactics. I really appreciated the no-nonsense, common sense approach he used. Furthermore the book is laid out as a series of questions and answers making it very user-friendly, allowing you to go straight to the information most relevant to you.

Many who read this blog will be in families, like ours, who are nowhere close to some of the high risk behaviors mentioned in the book. Many, like us, will already have guidelines in place concerning internet usage and will generally be cautious about important items. However, if you appreciate the value of preparedness and carefulness, then you want to pay attention when a qualified person gives you further information and warnings. And, though we try to be quite careful, this book showed me areas where we needed to improve and things I needed to talk about with my kids.

I was unaware of the variety of programs available to thieves for tricking anyone, including our children, into giving sensitive information over the phone- free apps, for example, which allow you to disguise your voice and to disguise the number from which you are calling. I have seen how easy it is to be tricked by phishing scams online, but had not yet thought to warn my children about these. I also found helpful his warning about carrying in your purse or wallet more personal information about your kids than necessary.

Chappell also discusses potential vulnerabilities when travelling and issues concerning the safety personal records at schools 9which could apply to day-cares & churches).

After reading this book, I called together my older kids and went over some of the things mentioned here making sure they were aware and knew how to respond. I recommend this book to families, schools & churches as one more tool in doing what we can to be wise and careful.