My First Brian Jacques Book: “Castaways of the Flying Dutchman”

While thrifting (shopping local thrift stores for used books) this Spring I stumbled on a Brian Jacques book with which I was unfamiliar.

Of course, those who know this author know him for his famous Redwall series, which my youngest sons read in their youth and now some of my grandsons are doing. I have seen those books but never read any myself.

castaways-jacques-2001But then I came on Castaways of the Flying Dutchman (Philomel Books, 2001) and I was drawn in. Since I needed a new “light reading” book and I enjoy sailing stories, I dug in. I just finished it tonight, and I must say, if this is typical of Jacques’ writing, I am hooked! Though this fictional title is designed for young teenagers, I would say, it makes a fine read for adults too. It simply is a great story told extremely well. The author’s style is very descriptive, perhaps because, like his Redwall series, this too was written for blind children in a school for whom he delivered milk.

In any case, here is the publisher’s description as found on the author’s website linked above:

The Flying Dutchman! The legend of the wind-tattered ghost ship and its mad sea captain, cursed to sail the seas forever, has been passed down throughout the centuries. But what of the boy and his dog who were trapped aboard that ship? What was to become of them?

Sent off on an eternal journey of their own by an avenging angel, the boy and dog roam the earth throughout the centuries in search of those in need. Braving wind and waves and countless perils, their travels lead them to Chapelvale, a sleepy 19th-century village whose very existence is at stake. Only by discovering the buried secrets and solving the dust-laden riddles of the ancient village can it be saved. This will take the will and wile of all the people – and a very special boy and dog.

What surprised me was the countless biblical and ecclesiastical references scattered throughout the story. In fact, the main part of the story centers on rescuing the town mentioned above, with clues involving the four gospel writers!

Below is just one example of the type of biblical references one finds in Castaways:

It was cool and shady in the old, low-beamed farmhouse, with its white washed walls, tile floor, and little bull’s-eye-paned windows. Will’s mother, Sarah, sat installed in her wing chair by the fireplace, a Bible upon her knee, listening carefully until Ben finished talking. She was a bright, alert little woman, quick and bird-like in her actions.

Drawing a knitted black shawl close around her narrow shoulders, she shook her head disapprovingly at Jon and his three young friends and tapped the Bible meaningfully. ‘Place named after the rock?’

‘Hah, I can tell you haven’t read your scriptures properly. But that’s no surprise. Most folk these days don’t seem to have the time to heed the word of the Lord!’

Will chided her gently. ‘Now now, Ma. Don’t take on so. Just ‘cos folks don’t study scripture all the time, doesn’t mean they ain’t good people. Look at me, I don’t read the Bible a lot, but I’m honest and hardworking.’

His mother gave him a hard stare. ‘Ye’d be a lot better if ye did, Will, an’ your friends, too. They should know what the Lord said to his disciple, “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church”! ‘Tis written here in the good book. So then, tell me, what’s the name o’ the church atop of this hill?

Will blurted out, ‘St. Peter’s!’

The old woman could not help looking slightly smug as she sat back, patting her Bible. ‘Tell me the rest of your puzzle.’ [pp.188-189]

There are some rough parts to the beginning of the book as Jacques tells the story of the Flying Dutchman and its Captain Vanderdecken, who trying the sail around Cape Horn in ferocious storms, curses heaven and earth (all part of the legend). But the book settles down nicely, focusing on Ben(jamin) and his faithful companion (dog) Ned.

Highly recommended. A great summer read – or any time of the year.

Published in: on June 10, 2017 at 10:45 PM  Comments (2)  

WORLD Magazine’s 2017 Children’s Books of the Year

170429 Cover

The latest issue of World magazine (vol.32, No.8) is a special one, calling attention to their 2017 children’s books of the year.
Below you will find a brief note that came with the email notice, which includes links to the three categories of books that were awarded.
This can be an excellent means to discover good books for your younger and older children. As always, discretion is assumed.
Visit the link below the find other headline news in this issue of the Christian news magazine.
2017 Children’s Books of the Year
WORLD’s selection of 2017 Children’s Books of the Year spans three categories: picture books, middle-grade novels, and middle-grade nonfiction.

Source: Vol. 32, No. 8 | WORLD News Group

Published in: on April 18, 2017 at 10:29 PM  Leave a Comment  

Little Golden Books – 75 Years Old!

Do you remember these classics from your childhood? I do! And from our children’s. And guess what, we still have some, stored away in boxes now.

This year these “golden” classics are celebrating 75 years! That’s right, they were introduced in 1942, at the time of WW II, in part to provide comfort and calm to children (for more on that watch the video below).

For more on these classics and their 2017 anniversary visit the Golden Book link below. As you see the covers, you will bring back fond memories from your youth. And, hopefully, stir up some desire to share these books with a new generation.

Happy reading!

Source: Little Golden Books

Here is a video that explains a bit of the history of these childhood treasures.


Published in: on February 3, 2017 at 5:04 PM  Comments (1)  

100 Great Children’s Books – The New York Public Library

borrowers-nortonIf you are looking for help with children’s books, let me recommend this great list of 100 best children’s books over the last 100 years. It will serve as a good guide (with discretion) for building a family library of classics, with multiple age levels in mind.

Below is the introductory note that goes with the post, then a sample of a few titles from the “B” section (the list is in alphabetical order – a pdf is also available for easy printing and future reference).

Great stories never grow old! Chosen by children’s librarians at The New York Public Library, these 100 inspiring tales have thrilled generations of children and their parents — and are still flying off our shelves. Use this list and your library card to discover new worlds of wonder and adventure!

100 Great Children’s Books has been published on the occasion of The New York Public Library’s acclaimed exhibition The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter, on view at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. The list was selected by The New York Public Library’s Jeanne Lamb, Coordinator, Youth Collections, and Elizabeth Bird, Supervising Librarian.

And here are a few samples from the “B” section:

The Birchbark House

by Louise Erdrich (1999)
A warm family story, rich with fascinating details of traditional Ojibwa life, in which 7-year-old Omakayas and her family grow food, hunt, and face a time of transition.

The Book of Three

by Lloyd Alexander (1964)
The heroic adventures of Taran, Assistant Pig-Keeper in the mythical kingdom of Prydain.

The Borrowers

by Mary Norton, illustrated by Beth Krush and Joe Krush (1953)
A small world is perfectly created in this fantasy about the miniature people who live beneath the floors of quiet old houses.

Source: 100 Great Children’s Books | 100 Years | The New York Public Library

Published in: on December 3, 2016 at 10:33 AM  Leave a Comment  

Reformation Books for Children

after-darkness-calvin-tbToday we highlight a few Reformation books for children, hoping that this will encourage parents and children alike to read about this important period of church history and the great Reformers God raised up.

We start with the TrailBlazer series, which includes books on John Calvin and John Knox (ages 8-12).

A brand new one not yet listed on Grace & Truth Books but available on Amazon is Ulrich Zwingli: Shepherd Warrior by pastor William Boekestein.



About this title we find this description:

By the end of his brief life Ulrich Zwingli would change the religious landscape of his home and the world. It wasn’t until the last few years of his life that he became a reformer. He fought for truth and righteousness with his mind and pen, he fought for lost souls to hear the good news of Jesus Christ, and at the age of forty-seven, as an army chaplain, he was killed on the battle-field. The Shepherd Warrior, Ulrich Zwingli, fought the good fight.With his last strength he voiced his victory: “They can kill the body but not the soul!”

luther_scarrNext we may mention the excellent books by Simonetta Carr, published by Reformation Heritage Books here in Grand Rapids, MI. She has well-written and beautifully illustrated books on Luther, Calvin, Knox, and Lady Jane Grey.

Concerning her title on Luther we find this description and contents:

Five hundred years ago, a monk named Martin Luther wrote ninety-five questions, hoping to start a discussion about sin and repentance at the University of Wittenberg in Germany. In a few months those questions had stirred the nation; a few years later, the continent. Today we know that those questions changed the course of both the Western church and world history. In this volume for children, Simonetta Carr tells the compelling story of this father of the Protestant Reformation, tracing his quest for peace with God, his lifelong heroic stand for God’s truth, and his family life and numerous accomplishments. The Reformer’s greatest accomplishment, she writes, “has been his uncompromising emphasis on the free promise of the gospel.”

Table of Contents:


1. From Law Student to Monk

2. Looking for Peace with God

3. A Powerful List

4. A Reluctant Rebel

5. Starting a Reformation

6. Raising a Family

7. Ready to Die in the Lord

Time Line

Did You Know?

jknox-bondFinally, we may also mention the historical novels on various Reformers by Douglas Bond. This Christian church history teacher has written titles on Calvin, Knox, Wycliffe, and the Huguenots.

About the work on Knox the publisher has this to say:

John Knox, the Thundering Scott, lives a life of adventure and danger in turbulent, corrupt sixteenth-century Scotland. Finding himself a wanted man, Knox is besieged in a castle by French soldiers, seized, and made a galley slave. Yet he is unflinching in his stand for the gospel, even in the face of assassins and death, and even when his fiery preaching makes him an enemy of Mary, Queen of Scots.

Told from the perspective of a young student resolved to protect Knox no matter the cost, Douglas Bond’s thrilling biographical novel provides a look at the harrowing life story of a giant of the faith. Discover the fascinating story of a timid man transformed by the grace and power of the gospel into one of the most influential figures in Scottish history.

Blessed, happy Reformation reading!

Published in: on October 6, 2016 at 6:48 AM  Leave a Comment  

The World’s Most Valuable Children’s Books – Do You Have One?

The world’s most valuable children’s books – do you own a copy?

That’s the way Abe Books introduced a recent feature on valuable children’s books. Even if you don’t have one of the priciest copies, perhaps you do have a less expensive copy in your family library. In any case, here are some great ideas for books for your children.

Guess which one is#1! Here you go:

Top of the pile is The Hobbit – the book that launched the entire fantasy genre – and we’re talking about the 1,500 first edition copies published in the UK on 21 September 1937 by Allen & Unwin. These copies are hard to find and most now reside in personal collections around the world. If you discover one then it’s the equivalent of Bilbo Baggins finding Gollum’s ring in the depths of the goblin mountain. The novel was a smash-hit from the start and Peter Jackson’s movies have only increased interest in Tolkien’s work in recent years.

Most expensive copy to sell on AbeBooks – a 1937 first edition sold for $65,000 in 2003.

Affordable alternative – The Harry Abrams 1977 deluxe illustrated edition, with artwork from Arthur Rankin Jr and Jules Bass, is gorgeous, and prices range from $35 to $450.

Find the others at the link below.

Source: The World’s Most Valuable Children’s Books – Do You Have One?

Published in: on June 3, 2016 at 6:20 AM  Leave a Comment  

AbeBooks: Pop-ups & Movable Books: The Art of Paper Engineering

HobbitDo you remember your first pop-up book? Unfortunately, I do not. But I do know that our own children had several and they (and I!) always found them fascinating – some of the most looked at books in our home – to the point of being worn out!

Abe Books features special collections of books from time to time, and recently they included this one on pop-up and movable books. I think you will find this an interesting “Friday Fun” item, so go and explore some of these collections – from animals to The Hobbit to Alice in Wonderland. And, yes, you may actually buy some of these classics! 🙂

This is Abe’s introduction to these special books; find the link to the actual collections at the bottom:

Paper engineering is the cutting, gluing and folding of paper to create books and ephemera with pop-ups, pull-tabs, flaps and a variety of other moving parts.  Pop-up and moving books are most commonly associated with children, but some of the earliest movables were academic titles that used the technique to explain anatomy and astronomy.

It wasn’t until the Victorian era that publishing pop-up books became more affordable and they were marketed toward children.  Much of their popularity can be attributed to Ernest Nister or Louis Giraud.  Nister worked in both Germany and England in the 1890s and his publications became well known for the high artistic quality of the pop-ups and illustrations.  Nister introduced many techniques including three-dimensional scenes that lifted into view with the pull of a tab – he also held a patent for the revolving picture mechanism that first appeared in Twinkling Pictures in 1899.

By the 1920s, Giraud burst onto the pop-up scene in Britain.  He had been working in the Daily Express book department where he produced its Children’s Annual, which contained popular cartoons as well as nursery stories and, of course, moving pictures.  Seeing the success of books with spring up models, he formed his own publishing house that would produce the highly successful Bookano series (a combination of Book and Meccano).  Bookano combined popular children’s stories and nursery rhymes with the same pop-up illustrations from the Daily Express annuals.  Like Nister, Giraud’s greatest success came with movable books, but his crowning achievement was producing the Bookano series at affordable prices that would appeal to a mass audience – he pretty much defined the modern children’s pop-up book. We recommend browsing the pop-ups offered by Columbia Books of Missouri for a fascinating selection of moveable books.

Source: AbeBooks: Pop-ups & Movable Books: The Art of Paper Engineering

Published in: on May 20, 2016 at 6:33 AM  Leave a Comment  

New Library at Adams Christian School

Last week Wednesday morning my wife and I attended the annual Grandparents’ Day at Adams Christian School, where two of our grandchildren attend.

After a wonderful chapel at nearby Bethel URC, we walked back to the school to visit our grandchildren’s classes and tour the school to see the fruits of its recent additions and renovations. The expansion and improvements are wonderful, and they were reflected in the excitement of both teachers and students!

Including a brand new library – crucial for learning and impressive indeed! I loved its layout, its warm and inviting environment, and its special effects. I took a few pictures – not the greatest since they were only with my phone – but enough to show you what I mean. You will find better ones at the link to the library given here.

Adams CS Library-2

Adams CS Library

Does not this library look to be a great place to grab a good book and do some reading and studying?!

Well done, Adams CS! May the library be at the center of the Christian education that takes place there! Keep reading, children! You too, Abbey and Gavin!

Published in: on October 19, 2015 at 9:07 PM  Leave a Comment  

Marie Durand: New Children’s Biography by Simonetta Carr – Reviewed by S.Meade

Source: Marie Durand – Reformation21

Marie-Durand-SCarrI have mentioned the fine children’s biographies by Simonetta Carr here before and we may do so once more, this time through a good review of her latest offering at the website “Reformation21.” The book is titled Marie Durand and the review is by Starr Meade, herself a fine author.

This is the brief description of the book as given by the publisher:

In 1730, nineteen-year-old Marie Durand was arrested and taken from her home in a village in Southern France for the crime of having a brother who was a Protestant preacher. Imprisoned in the Tower of Constance, Marie would spend the next thirty-eight years there. Simonetta Carr introduces us to the inspiring life of a woman who could have recanted her Protestant faith and gained release, but held fast to the truth and encouraged others to do so as well. Beautiful illustrations, a simply told story, and interesting facts acquaint young readers with the challenges facing Protestants in eighteenth-century France and show them that even a life spent in prison can be lived in service to Christ and others.

Below you will find a couple of paragraphs from Meade’s wonderful review of the book. Looks to be another title you will want to add to your family library, or give as a gift for your child or grandchild. Find Meade’s full review at the “Ref21” link above.

As Christian parents, however, we value quiet, everyday faithfulness. We hope our children will remain faithful, especially in relation to Christian beliefs and practice, all their lives. Most of our children will never do anything as earth shaking as inventing the light bulb or developing a system to enable blind people to read. But all of our children will be called upon to believe in Christ and to live out that belief, clinging to it even in the face of gale force cultural winds that seek to loosen their grip.
In Marie Durand, Simonetta Carr has given us a biography of a woman whose greatest achievement was just that–quiet, everyday faithfulness. Marie was a young Protestant Christian in southern France at a time when Protestantism was illegal. As a child and as a teen, she witnessed firsthand–and suffered herself–the persecution that has often come to Christians who want simply to remain faithful to what Scripture calls them to believe and do. Marie had just barely grown to adulthood when, as a teen bride of three months, she was arrested and imprisoned with several other women in a tower. Marie spent the next thirty-eight years of her life in that tower. Participation in the Catholic mass would have been the key to her freedom if she had chosen to use it, but she did not. Who knows? Perhaps, had Marie remained free, she might have achieved some great accomplishment that would have put her front and center on the Amazon page for children’s biographies, but all she ever did was to scratch “Resist” into the wall of the room she lived in for thirty-eight years. (Actually, we’re not even sure she was the one who did that).

– See more at:

Bedtime Stories for Young Brains – The New York Times

Bedtime Stories for Young Brains – The New York Times.

Reading 2 children-1And from this story in the New York Times comes more evidence that reading to young children is good for them (post dated Aug.17, 2015). While most of us may yawn at such reports because they state the obvious, in this age of declining reading we ought to be reminded of how important it is to read to our children – and to read in front of them as an example.

So, read on by visiting the link above – and then renew your commitment to read to your children and grandchildren. They – and you – will be better for it.

A little more than a year ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement saying that all pediatric primary care should include literacy promotion, starting at birth.

That means pediatricians taking care of infants and toddlers should routinely be advising parents about how important it is to read to even very young children. The policy statement, which I wrote with Dr. Pamela C. High, included a review of the extensive research on the links between growing up with books and reading aloud, and later language development and school success.

But while we know that reading to a young child is associated with good outcomes, there is only limited understanding of what the mechanism might be. Two new studies examine the unexpectedly complex interactions that happen when you put a small child on your lap and open a picture book.