Monday, September 1, 2014

The People of Ancient Israel (Angelico Press)

The People of Ancient Israel is the shortest book in Dorothy Mills' six volume history set, spanning only 210 pages. The book begins by describing the land of Palestine, including its size, terrain, vegetation, and climate. Ms. Mills then briefly details both the Hebrew Scriptures and "tales" such as Creation, the Flood, and the Tower of Babel. She points out that the world owes a great deal to the Hebrews, because they taught the world about God in their writings.

After these few brief chapters, we reach the main focus of this book - the people. Of course we start with the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Included in this section is a lot of what you would find in Scripture. However, there is also some personal commentary on certain topics, like why Abraham would listen to God and agree to sacrifice his son Isaac. Her reasoning and viewpoint seems centered on cultural reasons for this near-sacrifice and that Abraham obtained the idea from culture and not from God. She also doesn't say that God sent an angel to stop the sacrifice, but that Abraham reached a level of understanding that this sacrifice would not be pleasing to God. That is definitely one way of looking at it, but not how I would teach it.

After the Patriarchs is mention of Joseph and Moses. Following Moses, we begin to see the nation of Israel take shape with their wandering in the desert. The reason for this is because they were issued the Law (or the Ten Commandments). The nation finally gets roots with their conquest of Canaan, and leaders (also known as Judges) ruled over the people. Ms. Mills talks about several of the more famous judges, primarily Samson and Ruth. The nation then becomes a kingdom under Saul, who was followed by David and then Solomon. The most interesting sections to me dealt with the Divided Kingdom, Israel's fall, and their time in captivity.

The book then ends with "In the fulness if time, the Teacher came. At Bethlehem, in the days of Herod the King, seventy years before the destruction of Jerusalem, Christ was born, who by his life and teaching made possible the fulfilment of the ancient visions." I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, Dorothy Mills does a nice job making history interesting and come alive. On the other hand, there are a few troubling statements in the book. Overall, I would give this book 4 stars.

This book was provided to me for free by Angelico Press in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Prayers to the Holy Spirit (Word Among Us Press)

Prayers to the Holy Spirit is a pocket-sized book that is near 200 pages, but doesn't feel like it. It spans 75 chapters and contains both reflections and prayers to help you grow closer to the most neglected member of the Trinity - the Holy Spirit. In the Introduction, he explains to us who the Holy Spirit is, when we received Him, and what He does in our life. The subsequent chapters then contain a brief Scripture passage; a reflection (meditation, Church teaching, or personal experience); an application on what you read; a "May you" blessing, which asks for graces; and a prayer starter. Each chapter is approximately two pages, and if you read one a day, it can get you through two-and-a-half months.

The book was a very good introduction to the Holy Spirit. I really appreciated the reflections from Church Fathers, Saints, and Popes. The personal reflections also give you some insight into the author, Bert Ghezzi, and his life. The book, however, was not what I was expecting. I don't know why, but I was expecting a big list of prayers to the Holy Spirit that Mr. Ghezzi gathered throughout the centuries. There is a brief section at the end that does contain actual prayers to the Holy Spirit, but unfortunately it is very brief and only contains four prayers. Overall, I'd give this book four stars.

This book was provided to me for free by The Word Among Us Press in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Into the Unknown and The Story of Buildings (Candlewick Press)

I find myself scouring Amazon at least weekly, sometimes daily for quality hardcover children's books. At times, it feels like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Sure, there are a lot of older books that fit the bill. However, the newer releases are mostly shallow and not worth reading. It feels like we're setting up the next generation to be dumber, or at the very least be less interested in books. I have recently found two books that are both graphically appealing and educational, both are illustrated by Stephen Biesty and both are published by Candlewick Press.

Into the Unknown is an elaborately illustrated children's book, which chronicles fourteen famous journeys in history. The book begins in 340 B.C. with Pytheas the Greek sailing to the Arctic Circle and concludes with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landing on the moon in 1969. Several other famous journeys detailed in this book are Leif Eriksson's, Marco Polo's, Christopher Columbus', and Edmund Hilary's. In addition to receiving a summary of the journey and illustrations on every page, one feature of this book sets it apart from all others. FOLDOUTS!

Each of the fourteen journeys has a unique foldout section that details something significant related to the journey. Pytheas' foldout shows how to build a curragh (the ship he sailed on) as well as what went into travelling on this type of ship. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin's foldout was the most awesome. It shows all the parts of the Apollo module, the journey to and from the moon, and what happened to the Apollo module at every stage of the journey. Even the cover expands and folds out into a world map to show the path of all fourteen journeys. The only negative of the book is the sturdiness of the book. The inside of my copy split at the front seam, and will have to have paper glued over it to repair it. For that reason, I am taking away 1 star. I still think this was an awesome book worth buying. It would make a great supplement to a history class or homeschool curriculum.

The Story of Buildings is a gorgeous hardcover book that measures approximately 12" x 10". Picking it up for the first time, it looked a bit like a coffee table book for kids, which I guess it could be used as such. The book begins with a chapter on building a house. The author, Patrick Dillon, describes how people used to live in caves because it was the most logical shelter choice available, but eventually developed tools and learned how to make homes. According to him, this is the story of buildings. He then goes on to show how dwelling places have changed both over the years and depending on where one lived. After this other types of structures came into being, like barns, factories, places of worship, etc. He stresses that "Every building has a story to tell." We then dive into the heart of the book.

The remaining chapters focus on a particular building, starting with the Pyramid of Djoser and ending with the Straw Bale House in London, England. Each chapter tells background information on the place the building is located, the culture/people, and the building itself. A large foldout 2 page illustration is then provided to show finer details of the building itself. The book has a nice flow to it, because it's like reading a linear evolution of buildings. He starts with Egypt, moves to Greece, then Rome, etc. and manages to paint a beautiful picture with words to accompany the many beautiful illustrations by Stephen Biesty. This is a great book for children and adults alike and reminds me of David Macaulay's books. This is a great book for getting kids interested in architecture and engineering.

These books were provided to me for free by Candlewick Press. If you found these reviews helpful, click here and/or here and hit Yes!