Tuesday, June 29, 2010

June Book Reviews

June was a busy month for us, what with moving into the house we bought, our church's Vacation Bible School, and a trip to visit my family in Colorado. So, my reading log for this month is much less than usual. In June I read:

 - Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe.

 A classic of American literature, with important historical significance, this book is a must read for any American that wants to consider themselves well read. This was in a box of old books someone gave me, and since I hadn't read it yet I decided it was about time. 

Parts of Uncle Tom's Cabin read as a great novel with characters that are easy to connect with, either positively or otherwise.  However, other parts read as a written sermon. Much as Mark Twain did a couple of decades later, Stowe would stop the narrative of the story to directly speak to the reader. "And Oh!, mother, that reads this...", she asks in chapter IX. Her purpose, stated clearly in the preface, is to "awaken sympathy and feeling for the African race", and she doesn't take the risk that the narrative will make her point by itself. Throughout the book Stowe addresses the reader, preaching her message, giving real life examples of similar events, and otherwise arguing her point. 

Uncle Tom's Cabin is an interesting and thought provoking read, but it isn't an easy one. This book is better taken in little amounts at a time, and while I typically read a book straight through in just a few days it wasn't so with this one. I didn't start this book in June, although I finished it this month.

 - Revolution in Missions by K.P. Yohannan 

 This book was being given away for free at the Arizona Families for Home Education (AFHE) Convention last year in July. I took it home with a bunch of catalogs and other stuff handed out and promptly forgot about it. When we moved I came across it and decide to give it a read. 

The focus of this book is on rethinking how missions are supported, specifically that a native missionary can not only reach more of his own or nearby people more easily, because he doesn't have the cultural barriers, but that a native missionary can do it for much less money than a foreign missionary. Brother Yohannan's challenge to North American Christians is to support the native missionary movement.  

Overall, this book was convicting and full of thought provoking views of our culture from an outsider's perspective. However, large amounts of it were repetitive and about half of it could be edited out without harming the book's impact or message. I recommend reading this book, but don't feel bad about skimming through the last half of it or so. You too can get this book for free from Gospel for Asia.

 - The Rat Catcher's Son and Other Stories by Carolyn London

 This is one of the Readers from Sonlight's Core 5, Eastern Hemisphere. While Sonlight's Instructor's Guides makes pre-reading the children's Readers unnecessary, I enjoy Sonlight books so much that it is a pleasure to do it.

The Rat Catcher's Son is of an African grandfather telling traditional stories to his grandchildren. This concept, of an elder relative telling cultural folktales, has been done many times with many cultures, and this book isn't remarkable in its delivery. Still, between the interactions of the grandfather and his grandchildren and the tales themselves, the book does give a nice insight to the culture. It was an easy and quick read, pleasant but it won't make the top five faves from Core 5.

 - Star of Light by Patricia St. John.

 This is another Reader from Sonlight's Core 5, also set in Africa. However, unlike The Rat's Catcher's Son, this one may be destined for the Core 5 favorites. Star of Light is a riveting book that I couldn't put down. Hamid, an eleven year old boy, sets off across county on an adventure to save his baby sister and ends up finding a way to save himself as well.

Many Christian books contain great stories poorly told, or will have a well told story and then simply tack on the gospel as an after thought. Star of Light does neither. A great story superbly told, and the gospel message is vital to the tale. 

However,  I have one gripe with this book. The cover. The protagonist of the story is eleven year old Hamid, an Islamic Moroccan boy. The cover, however, shows a boy that would be at home in the hills of Scotland. Reddish hair, blue eyes, and pale skin in a native of Morocco? Ummm, not likely. What were the publishers thinking?