Thursday, October 21, 2010

Lest we forget

by Mandy R. Evans
Andrews Univ Press
287 pages / 1991

Mandy Evans was only seven when the German tanks rolled into the Netherlands, so her first reflections on the war are the simple ones of a child being shielded by her parents from too much information. But Mandy is Jewish, so it’s impossible for her parents to shield her for long. She can’t help but notice when she and her siblings are banned from attending public school. When the neighborhood policeman, who used to smile at her as he biked by, grabs her rubber ball and tears it to shreds, there’s no ignoring his stark change of attitude. And when she’s separated from her family, and forced to hide in one home after another, there’s little her parents can do to shield Mandy.

Because I got this book from the Reformed online bookstore I was initially disappointed to find nary a Calvinist within: Mandy is Jewish and her rescuers are primarily Roman Catholic or humanist. But my disappointment was soon quelled – this is a great book. Though Mrs. Evans wrote it years after the fact, as an adult, there is a compelling naivety to this wartime biography because she recounts the events just as she knew them as a child. This is the Nazi occupation as seen through the eyes of a confused, questioning, Jewish young girl.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Afterwards I knew

by Christine Farenhorst
CF4K, 2010, 208 pages

When it comes to this author, I am not an objective reviewer – I love every story Christine Farenhorst writes. But this is something special and I would buy this collection of stories just to have the very first one, The Hound of heaven, so I can read it to my children. It is about a German, who was a soldier in the Second World War, explaining to his grandson that he was once a very different man, a mean man, running from God. But God was faster still.

In the third story, Feed my sheep, a Dutch pastor living under Nazi occupation is confronted with the reality that what he knows to be true, and what he is willing to do are two different things; he does not have the courage of his convictions and his own sermons condemn him. I think I found this story particularly gripping because this pastor's doubts and his attempts at self-justification struck me as dreadfully familiar. But we are blessed to serve a God who, when we admit our weakness and turn to Him, is ever eager to carry us, and offer His strenghth.

In total there are seven stories, and one poem here, all about Christians who lived through the First or Second World Wars and while all are excellent, the first, and the third are among the most beautiful stories I have ever read. Afterwards I Knew would make an excellent gift for anyone 14 or older.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Hostage Lands

by Douglas Bond
P&R Publishing, 2006, 235 pages

“When am I ever going to use this?” It’s a question that comes up frequently in classrooms around the world. And it’s a question Neil Perkins, a British lad, is asking about his Latin class. But while some students have to wait years to put the lessons they learn to practical use, Neil only has to wait until later that same day.

On his way home from school he takes a nasty spill off of his ATV, creating a small crater where the machine lands. It’s in this crater that he discovers the leather -wrapped  tablets that are the focus of the majority of this book. These tablets are covered in Latin, so Neil, with the help of his underappreciated Latin teacher , starts translating them. He soon finds out they comprise a story told by a Roman centurion who lived two thousand years ago!

Douglas Bond’s Hostage Lands is really two stories in one. The first is a short story about a boy named Neil who doesn’t like Latin, and doesn’t talk much with his dad. This accounts for only 6 of the book’s 37 chapters, serving mostly as an introduction and conclusion to the larger story about Roman Centurion Marcus Aurelius Rusticus. The Centurion’s story starts with his account of what he suspects will be a suicide mission into the lands north of Hadrian’s Wall, the territory of the savage Celts. Rusticus only manages to escape death with the help of a friendly Celt, Calum, who he soon discovers is a very different sort of man, for Calum is a Christian.

I don’t want to give too much away about this book but would like to strongly recommend it. This is Douglas Bond’s very best book so far. Christian fiction is too often celebrated for the great message contained in the book, even when the artistry, the actually writing is poor. Bond’s book has a strong message – in it the Christian worldview is contrasted with worldviews that elevate power, the State or maybe honor to be supreme. However it is also a wonderfully written, thoroughly engaging story.

I would think this is primarily a boy’s book, in the ten to early teens range, though a father may want to pick this one as a read aloud book because he’ll probably enjoy it too.

You can get a copy at by clicking here.