Monday, November 28, 2016

The Sweet Taste of Providence

74 Devotional Episodes from History
by Christine Farenhorst
2016 / 296 pages


When Christine Farenhorst comes out with a new collection of short stories, the big question I have is, how many can I look forward to? And in The Sweet Taste of Providence she has given us an impressive 74.

These short stories are packaged as 4-5 page devotionals. They take no more than 5 minutes to read out loud, and end with a couple of questions for discussion. That makes this a great book to read with your kids, maybe 8 and up, before bed…or a little earlier, because this might get them discussing and dissecting right when you want them calming down. The short story length could also make this a good, ahem, “bathroom reader.”

What we see in this book is Christine's love of history, and the lessons that can be learned by looking backward. The slices of history she shares are most often bits most of us will never have run across before, so there is always something fun to learn. But she is after more than just fun. Since it can be easier to see God's hand in things when we’re looking at what's happened than when we’re looking around in the present (yes, God will turn even today’s evil to our good – Romans 8:28) these stories are maybe first and foremost a wonderful dose of encouragement – our God continues to uphold His people!

But The Sweet Taste of Providence is also just a fun read. It's meant to be read to children, but mom and dad will enjoy reading it too.

Pick up a copy at through this link or here, and Amazon will send us a small tip at no cost to you. And it's also available at Sola Scriptura.

In the interests of full disclosure I should note I've known Christine Farenthorst for years, (though I've not had the chance to meet her in person). She writes for Reformed Perspective and has been doing so from even before I started there as editor 17 years ago. 

RELATED REVIEWS: Christine's other short story collections

Monday, November 21, 2016


by John Patrick Green
88 pages / 2016

This would be a great book for any reluctant reader in grades 1 or 2. For some children good comics can be a gateway to reading in much the same way that pictures books are for others.

Hippopotamister isn't strictly a comic or a picture book – it is as much the one as the other – but regardless, it sure is fun. Hippo and Red Panda live in the City Zoo, which is falling down around them. Not only are the gates and habitats falling apart, the lion's mane "wasn't very regal" and "the walrus's smile wasn't very bright."

So Red Panda decides to leave the zoo and get a job among the humans. And every now and again he comes back to the zoo to tell Hippo that "Life outside the zoo is great!"

An observant child is going to notice that while Red Panda is always enthused, he's also always holding a different job whenever he reports back. It turns out, as we learn when Hippo finally decides to join him on the outside, that Red Panda is great at lining up new jobs, but not so great at holding on to them. So every day it's a new job and a new hat, and a new and funny way for Red Panda to mess up and get himself and Hippo fired once again.

Hippo, though, turns out to be quite skilled at all sorts of jobs, and after trying on all sorts of hats, realizes that he might be just what his failing zoo is looking for. Maybe he can run it!

The story concludes happily, bringing Red Panda back home, too, with a job that suits his own unique talents.


The only possible caution I can think of is that at one point Red Panda, instead of catching fish, ends up with a topless mermaid, with arms strategically crossed (see the picture). This is the only picture that is even mildly risqué.


Hippopotamister is a sweet funny story that any child in the early grades will enjoy, and it might be just the thing for a reluctant reader.

Buy Hippopotamister at using this link or at here and Amazon will send a tip our way at no cost to you.

Related reviews: other picture book/ comic book crossovers great for reluctant readers

Monday, November 14, 2016

Saint George and the Dragon

by Edmund Spenser,
adapted by Sandol Stoddard Warburg,
with illustrations by Pauline Baynes

134 pages / 1963

More than three years ago, my brother reviewed a beautiful picture book version of the tale of Saint George and the Dragon, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman (even though I read it to my kids first!). We agree that it is a great way to introduce kids to the grit and glory of resisting "this present darkness" (Ephesians 6:12); however, as Jon mentioned, "Saint George and the Dragon" is actually part of a much longer story, The Faerie Queene, an epic poem by Edmund Spenser. Any younger reader who has been introduced to George's exploits through the picture book may want to know more, and that's what this adaptation provides.

Spenser's The Fairie Queene is actually a poem of six books, and Saint George's quest to defeat the dragon fills only the first one. Each book has twelve sections called cantos (several hundred lines each in the original), and Sandol Stoddard Warburg has made each canto a chapter of her version.

The picture book focuses on the fight with the dragon, but Stoddard's adaptation is closer to a campaign than a single battle. In George's travels with the princess Una (who represents the one true united church), she is impersonated by a false princess (really a witch named Duessa, representing false doctrine and the false church), who becomes George's companion. Even though he is deceived by her, he's still smart enough to fight against evil in the person of such revealingly named knights as Sans Foi (faithless), Sans Joi (joyless), and San Loi (Lawless). He is almost trapped in the House of Pride, but also gains the help of Prince Arthur (before he becomes the legendary king). Exactly how he is reunited finally with the real princess, and the evil sorcerer Archimago meets his fate - all before the climactic battle with the dragon - is what makes this retelling so intriguing.

The people and places named in Warburg's fuller version of the famous tale more clearly shows the allegorical nature of Spenser's poem. Spenser's story thus demonstrates the obstacles that the Christian encounters in life, so it's a great way to start conversations about the "spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places" that influence life here in earthly places.

There is one difference between Warburg's version and the picture book that seemingly works in favour of Trina Schart Hyman's version: Hyman's illustrations are definitely more intricate. Nonetheless, the artist for this version will bring back memories of favorite editions of Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. Pauline Baynes illustrated some of Tolkien's stories, as well as the whole Chronicles of Narnia. Her artwork here, in red ink, particularly the miniatures framing the covers, echoes the marginal illustrations of medieval manuscripts. As well as being a great read-aloud, this is a definite book-lover's treasure.

If you want your own step up into the world of the Faerie Queene, one that adults can enjoy on their own, as well as sharing with children, you can get a copy here.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

No Christian Silence on Science

by Margaret Helder
2016 / 110 pages

From the title onward, No Christian Silence on Science is a clarion call to Bible-believing, six-day creation upholding Christians to stand up and be counted. It's much more than that too. The author, Margaret Helder, has written for Creation Science Dialogue and Reformed Perspective (the magazine I edit) for years, and if you've read her there, then you know Dr. Helder approaches God and His creation with awe, and teaches us how to tackle evolution without fear. This book is very much an outgrowth of that work.

This, then, is intended to equip us, so we will be able to give a ready defense of our faith, and fortify us, so we will continue to trust in God, even when we face that attacks that will come in this predominantly Darwinist and secular field. 

That's a big task to tackle in a book that's just 110 pages. That's why, while this is a great book, it is no light read - there is a lot packed in here. In the five sections Dr. Helder addresses: 
  1. Science from a Christian Perspective
  2. How Design in Nature reveals God's Character and Work
  3. Christian vs. Darwinian Ethics
  4. The Christian Student: Meeting the Challenge of Secular Institutions
  5. Impact of Evolution Thought on Church and Society
My favorites were the last two. They are worth the price of the book all on their own, and if I was giving this to a university student I'd tell them to head to Chapter 4 first, to hear Dr. Helder's advice on how to interact with evolutionary-minded professors. At one points she gives an example of a find that seems to prove evolution, and she then shows how a Christian student could respond. She suggests students be ready to ask questions, and starting with the 5 Ws is always a good idea (in Science, and journalism too!). A question-asking student will often find that this new, exciting, revolutionary find, is being really over-hyped.

That's not to say creationists have all the answers. As Dr. Helder notes, in the early and mid 1900s Christians holding to a six-day creation had little supporting scientific evidence available to them, so it was only because they were so confident in the trustworthiness of the Bible that they weren't swayed by evolution. Today many problems with evolution can be pointed to, but there will still be occasions where a challenge to the biblical explanation is presented that we cannot answer. And perhaps we won't be able to answer it for several decades. But we, too, should hold to the Bible, because it is trustworthy.

Who should read No Christian Silence? This will be of interest to anyone, but for the young high school graduate heading into the Sciences this is a must. If they were to read it before heading to their first university science class, and really work through it slowly and thoughtfully, they would be well-prepared. There are other books they should read too, but this is a very good place to start because Dr. Helder covers all the key controversies, and gives good solid direction on how to meet and deal with the opposition.

No Christian Silence on Science is us available through the Creation Science Association of Alberta website or can be had by sending a $20 check ($14 for the book and $6 for shipping) made out to the CSAA, at 5328 Calgary Trial, Suite 1136, Edmonton AB  T6H 4J8. If you buy ten copies or more you can get them for $9 each, and the whole batch sent for just $6 shipping.

Related reviews: Other brief "overview" books on the origins debate

Monday, November 7, 2016

Lest we forget... it wasn't just Hitler

We raise our children to be obedient and to respect those in authority. But we must also teach them that God is a higher authority, and that even if it was their own mommy and daddy telling them to do something contrary to what God demands, then they would need to say no.

We need to teach them that a time may well come (doesn't it seem inevitable?) that their country, their boss, their co-workers, union, friends and maybe even their parents, may ask of them something that the only proper response will be "No, I cannot do that, because that is contrary to what God has said."

In his book Hitler, God, and the Bible the author notes that while Hitler was the leader, it was because he had so many willing followers that the was able to perpetuate the evil he did so effectively. As Ray Comfort explains,
Almost every part of Germany's bureaucracy had a hand in the killing process. Churches and the Interior Ministry produced the necessary birth records identifying those who were Jewish. The Finance Ministry confiscated Jewish wealth and property. The Postal Service delivered the notices of deportation and denaturalization. The Transportation Department arranged for trains to transfer Jews to concentration camps. Even the private sector cooperated in the efforts. Businesses fired Jewish workers. Pharmaceutical firms tested drugs on camp prisoners. Companies bid for contracts to build the crematoria. Universities fired Jewish professors and expelled Jewish students. It seems that the whole country unified to make the procedure work like a well-oiled machine.
So one of the lessons we must never forget is that it is no excuse to say "I was just following orders" when you know those orders are evil.