"This isn't a phone; this is a duck."
It's not the most relevant piece of dialogue in this audio production – the bulk of the story is set in pre-phone feudal times. But this bit of goofiness, popping up in the opening couple of minutes, serves as a pledge of sorts that what's coming is going to be fun. And that promise is kept!
Sir Malcolm is actually a story within a story. The "outer story" involves a harried businessman Thomas arriving at a mysterious bookstore looking for a phone. His car won't start, his cellphone is dead, and he needs to call for a tow truck. The kindly shop owner, Finnian, is happy to direct him to a duck-shaped phone, and then, as Thomas waits for his tow, Finnian helps by asking the businessman some pointed questions about just why he is so harried.
It turns out Thomas has a rebellious teen son back home. And Thomas feels too overwhelmed at work to do much about it.
That's when the story within the story begins: Finnian hands him a book called Sir Malcolm and the Missing Prince and from then on we jump into the soon-to-be missing prince's world. The young Prince Hubert has no respect for the peasant people he will one day rule, so the king turns to his most trusted advisor, the wise Sir Malcolm, to devise a plan. And quite a plan it is. Sir Malcolm is convinced that the prince could learn to sympathize with the peasants' plight if he was forced to live as one!
The king loves his son but he loves his people too, and knows that something must be done to refashion this unworthy prince. So, reluctantly, the king hands his son over to Sir Malcolm.
The fun begins when the spoiled Prince Hubert is dropped at the doorstep of a quiet, and quite poor, peasant woman named Dame Martha. There is fish out of water scenario: Hubert doesn't know a thing about living in such humble surroundings. When he won't do his share of the chores – due in equal parts to his arrogance and to his general cluelessness about what hard work really entails – Dame Martha doesn't push him or punish him. But as he sees her working hard, and as the boys his own age shame him for his laziness, the boy prince does start taking some tentative steps to becoming a servant king.
That's the gist of the story, but it doesn't capture the wonderful production values. This is Lamplighter Theatre’s very first audio production and they went all out for it, even enlisting John Rhys-Davies (Gimli from Lord of the Rings) to serve as the host. The story is based on Sidney Baldwin's 1931 children's book Young Prince Hubert, which has been wonderfully updated here.
The only caution I can think to add is that in the story that surrounds the story, Thomas is encouraged to fight for his son. This is only a couple minutes worth of content in the two hour production, but it is content aimed at parents, rather than children. And it isn't so much problematic – it won't do children any harm to hear parents encouraged to make time for their children – as it is just somewhat odd to have this bit of parental encouragement inserted into a children's tale.
We were so delighted with this audio adventure, we went looking for other Lamplighter Theater (Lamplighter.net) material at our local library. While the production values were always high, and the morals were what we'd hope for (Lamplighter Theatre does seem to be a Christian company) we haven't found another one of their stories that really grabbed our girls like this one did. I suspect that when they get older (our oldest is just 8) that might change.
But family members of any age will be able to appreciate Sir Malcolm and the Missing Prince. Two very enthusiastic thumbs up!
Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Friday, September 14, 2018
127 pages / 2008
In ten short chapters, Thabiti Anyabwile lays out ten marks of a “healthy church member.” His list is one well worth considering.
The first three marks Anyabwile discusses parallel the Belgic Confession's statement that Christians must submit to the instruction of the church. Anyabwile focuses on healthy members being:
- "expositional listeners" (taking seriously the expositional preaching of the Word)
- "biblical theologians" (studying the gospel systematically)
- "gospel-saturated" (orienting our hearts and lives around the gospel)
In breaking these three points down, Anyabwile outlines: four benefits of expositional listening, seven ways to become a Biblical theologian, and five ways to saturate ourselves in the gospel.
Anyabwile's next three points compel us to consider whether we are merely nominal members of our church or true Christians:
- Are we genuinely converted?
- Do we earnestly desire others to be converted?
- Are we committed to God's people?
Like a good, hard sermon, Anyabwile may thus make us profitably uncomfortable and provoke necessary repentance.
Anyabwile then deals with some major ways to demonstrate our commitment to our local church: seeking discipline, and being "growing disciples" and "humble followers." Finally, Anyabwile deals with what the Heidelberg Catechism calls "the most important part of our thankfulness" - being "a prayer warrior," discussing why, how, when, for what, and for whom we pray.
The only caution I can think of relates not to this book itself, but to another in the same "9Marks" book series. Anyabwile's What is a Healthy Church member? is a response and continuation of sorts to an earlier book in the series called What Is a Healthy Church? by Mark Dever. While the series is written from a broadly Reformed perspective, Mark Dever's What Is a Healthy Church? makes mention of the author's opposition to infant baptism, and it also endorses a congregationalist style of church government. As well, readers should note that Dever's list of characteristics of a healthy church corresponds only roughly to the marks of a true church listed in the Belgic Confession.
Any one of these ten chapters repays careful study, as they are filled with strong Scriptural backing and life-changing, practical, wisdom. The ten together would make excellent training both for those who are thinking of becoming church members and for long-time members who are willing to examine themselves. If you believe that Anyabwile's book can help you be a healthy member of your own congregation, you can get it here, and here in Canada.
Friday, September 7, 2018
by Sharon Creech
Joanna Colter Books,
2001/ 86 pages
Joanna Colter Books,
2001/ 86 pages
A review of a read-aloud book, to be read aloud
As I started reading the very first page of this book, I thought it was dumb. I’ve never been a fan of poetry, particularly if it was the type of poetry that didn’t even rhyme. And that’s what was in this book.
But I kept reading and found out, on that very first page, that the author agreed with me! The book is by Jack, a boy in elementary school, who doesn’t like poems either. Each day he writes a journal entry, for his teacher Miss Stretchberry, and there on the very first page, in his first entry, he tells her his thoughts on the poem they have just read in school. He writes:
If that is a poem
about the red wheelbarrow
and the white chickens
then any words
can be a poem.
You’ve just got to
It was a book of poetry, by a boy poet, who didn’t like poetry!
So I kept reading, and I started learning. Jack’s teacher showed his class poems. Some did rhyme, some were by famous writers, and some weren’t very good at all. But I started learning, along with Jack, that poetry doesn’t always have to rhyme, or even have a set rhythm. Sometimes it can just be a different sort of way to express your thoughts, to lay them out, so people understand them better. Poetry can be easier then teachers sometimes make it. And it can be powerful. And it can make you cry.
I started reading this book, about a boy learning about poetry, and making poems, and expressing beautiful thoughts about his beautiful dog, and by the time I got to the end of it I realized it wasn’t dumb at all.
Love that book.
You can get a copy of at Amazon.com by clicking here.