Confronting the Horrors of Slavery: Slave Dancer

The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox

“I danced the slaves under Stout’s watchful eye…But in truth I was so agitated I could hardly make my fingers work on the fife…I could not help but see the wretched shambling men and women whose shoulders sank and rose in exhausted imitation of movement.”

Let me just start out by telling you that some literary critics believe that the book The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox is inappropriate reading for the Junior High grade level due to the violent nature of the story. The plot focuses on a disturbing topic and has some graphic images, therefore some discretion should be used. But I don’t believe that is sufficient reason for keeping the book out of the hands of students. I am, however, discussing this book as a work that would be best read as a literature study with the guidance of a teacher or parent and accompanied by thoughtful discussion. In my opinion, it’s not the kind of book you just give a ten-year-old for independent recreational reading. Continue reading “Confronting the Horrors of Slavery: Slave Dancer”

A Fresh Look at the Christmas Story: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

“Just suppose you had never heard the Christmas story, and didn’t know anything about it, and then somebody told it to you. What would you think?”

Before I talk about the book, let me just clarify something. I know that Jesus was not actually born on December 25, and possibly not even in the month of December. However, the birth of Jesus Christ is not only an historical fact, but arguably the most important event to ever occur in history (besides His crucifixion and resurrection). If people consider the births of other men, such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Lincoln, worthy of recognition (not to mention our own individual birthdays), then it is reasonable to choose a date to commemorate the birth of Christ. And yes, I am also aware that some of the traditions associated with Christmas, like the Christmas tree, have their origins in pagan practices. I see nothing wrong with borrowing practices from other traditions and assigning new meaning to them. So when I refer to the Christmas story, as this book does, I am talking about the birth of Christ as recorded in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is a hilarious but touching little story about a family of “hoodlums” that hijacks a Sunday School Christmas program.  Now I don’t mean just naughty, disobedient children who don’t listen. I’m talking about six loud, dirty, cigar-smoking, foul-talking, fire-setting vandals – or to put it in the words of the young narrator – the “absolutely worst kids in the history of the world.” All the other kids (and their parents) in the neighborhood  do whatever they can to avoid the Herdmans, so when they show up one Sunday at church looking for free food, no one quite knows what to do. And when they start volunteering to take the major roles in the annual Christmas pageant, everyone is sure the result will be nothing less than a disaster. Continue reading “A Fresh Look at the Christmas Story: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever”

The Heart of a Martyr, Part Two

This is a continuation from the article, “The Legacy of a Martyr” on the book Shadow of the Almighty: the Life and Testament of Jim Elliot by Elisabeth Elliot.

In her book Shadow of the Almighty, Elisabeth Elliot reveals much about the life and heart of her husband, Jim, through his journals and personal letters to family members and to herself. Jim Elliot (1927-1956) was one of five missionaries killed by the Auca Indians in Ecuador.

The following passages express Elliot’s observations and concerns related to issues that affect the life of the individual believer, the church of Christ, and the spread of the Gospel:

Regarding dating/courting:

No one warns young people to follow Adam’s example.  He waited till God saw his need. Then God made Adam sleep, prepared for his mate, and brought her to him. We need more of this ‘being asleep’ in the will of God. Then we can receive what He brings us in His own time, if at all. Instead we are set as bloodhounds after a partner, considering everyone we see until our minds are so concerned with the sex problem that we can talk of nothing else…It is true that a fellow cannot ignore women — but he can think of them as he ought — as sisters,  not as sparring partners!

Continue reading “The Heart of a Martyr, Part Two”

A Korean Boy and a Small Piece of Clay: A Single Shard

A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park

“It’s not my fault you lost your son, not my fault I’m an orphan! Why must it be father to son? If the pot is made well, does it matter whose son made it?”

A Single Shard is an engaging story about a 12th century Korean boy of twelve who is trying to find his way in life. The boy called Tree-ear does not have a comfortable home and lifestyle, and sheer survival is an issue he faces daily. Although an orphan, he is fortunate enough to have a father-son relationship with the elderly Crane-man, who has taken care of Tree-ear since he was a young child. I really liked the way Park depicted the relationship between these two “down-and-outers.” Continue reading “A Korean Boy and a Small Piece of Clay: A Single Shard”

Greetings, Readers!

Looking for something good to read? Well, you’ve come to the right place! I love reading, book lists, and recommending great books to others. Please accept my humble reviews and recommendations of Christian, Classic, and Children’s books. Check out my lists of “Books Every Christian Should Read,” and feel free to comment on my articles and to offer some of your own recommendations!

The Quaker Boy who became a Royal Painter: Benjamin West

Benjamin West and His Cat Grimalkin
by Marguerite Henry

This is a charming book about the real Quaker boy who became the royal painter to King George III. The story is set in mid-18th century in Pennsylvania. At this time, Quakers believed art to be worldly and vain. While Benjamin secretly practices his drawing skills, he is aided by local Indians who teach him how to make colors out of things found in nature. Benjamin also shows his resourcefulness and determination when he “borrows” fur from his cat’s tail to make paintbrushes. Benjamin respectfully works to persuade his parents and church to recognize his talent and to permit him to receive art training. Benjamin West became a famous and influential painter as a result and is known as The Father of American Painting. After reading this story, my kids were excited when we visited the Huntington Library in Pasadena and saw a couple of West’s paintings hanging in the art gallery. The story of Benjamin West encourages children to be persistent in developing their talents and not to give up on something if they truly have a passion for doing it. The story also lends itself to supplemental lessons or research about the Quakers, William Penn, and West’s art. Kids and adults of all ages will love this book!