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Day at the Museum A gift that keeps on giving

Mixed Media

Looking for a stocking stuffer that will bring your family together this holiday season and inspire everyone’s creativity? Give one and all—including grandpa and the toddlers—a ticket to a museum.

According to education experts, exposure to both creative arts that reveal the past and innovations that give glimpses of the future is critical to our learning and creativity. At museums and art galleries we see the world through other lenses and juxtapose our worldviews with diverse ideas.

Museums and art galleries are full of possibilities. The way a sculpture has been “freed” from a block of granite; the way color and contrast give us a picture of a landscape as it was 100 years ago; the way an artist from the 1600s interprets the crucifixion. Possibilities also abound at museums where models of high-rise urban farms are on display or genome exhibits inform us about our DNA.

Walking around a museum is like looking through a microscope at God’s fertile imagination.

In recent years children’s museums have popped up in cities across the globe in an attempt to expose kids to art, history, and innovation. Since children are kinesthetic learners, good children’s museums are heavy on play. Take your young ones to children’s museums often.

In the past few months I have visited several museums and art galleries. The Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto offers a fantastic mix of historic art and new media. The Museum of Modern Civilization in Ottawa allows visitors to experience Canadian history firsthand and is also home to one of the best children’s museums I’ve visited. At the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, my family was blown away by visions of the future and technology.

Earlier in the year I visited both the Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Natural History in New York City. Some of the great works of art are on display at MoMA, while the MNH is fantastically three-dimensional and the inspiration for the popular children’s movie Night at the Museum.

While not everyone can get to New York City, you can find museums and art galleries in most cities. Do a bit of research. Find the museum or art gallery that best matches your family, and treat yourselves to the best of the past and the future.

A Few of Our Favorite Things: 2009 Gift Ideas

Strength in What Remains: A Journey of Remembrance and Forgiveness

by Tracy Kidder
reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema

A Burundian Tutsi who escaped genocides in both his native land and Rwanda, Deo arrives in New York City and ekes out a living in a place where “you were simply not a human being.” Contact with a church community eventually led him to caring people who assisted him in returning to university, to medical school, and, finally, to Burundi to build a clinic. By turns horrifying and hopeful, Deo’s story, told by Kidder (author of Mountains Beyond Mountains) is a testimony to God’s providential care in his life. (Random House)

The Girl in the Orange Dress

by Margot Starbuck
reviewed by Sandy Swartzentruber

As a girl, Margot Starbuck was immune to pain. She claimed to have no feelings about being relinquished by her birth parents, adopted into a family affected twice by divorce, and ignored by her rediscovered birth father. But when Starbuck started her own family, she learned just how deeply pain and rejection had rooted themselves into her life and her faith. In this bittersweet memoir, Starbuck displays a refreshingly quirky sense of humor as she chronicles her search for human connection and divine love. (InterVarsity Press)

An Altar in the World

by Barbara Brown Taylor
reviewed by Joyce Kane

In her latest book, Barbara Brown Taylor shares her belief that when we pay “exquisite attention” God is found not only in church but also in living real human life in the real world. She reminds us that God “shows up in starry skies, burning bushes, and in perfect strangers.” With her unmatched honesty, wit, and wisdom, she offers 12 practices “that help us wake up to everyday mysteries and to the deep understanding that faith is a way of life.” (HarperOne)

The Knight

by Steven James
reviewed by Jena Vander Ploeg

FBI agent Patrick Bowers tracks serial killers. But this time he’s the one being hunted—by someone gruesomely recreating scenes from an ancient manuscript. Bowers faces trouble on the home front, too, in his tenuous relationship with his whip-smart, motherless teenage stepdaughter. Knight is the third installation in a first-rate, edgy Christian thriller series (which is best read in order). More of a Clive Cussler-type beach read than a book club pick, Knight is tightly woven and keeps readers guessing till the end—wrestling, along the way, with the good and evil dividing all our hearts. (Revell)

Shaun the Sheep

reviewed by Lloyd Rang

A massive hit internationally when it debuted in 2007, Shaun the Sheep (from Nick Park, creator of Wallace and Gromit) is only now making waves in North America. The latest DVD release is Shaun the Sheep: Volume 3—Sheep on the Loose. Young children will love these stop-motion animated, dialogue-free shorts that are heavy on slapstick and light on conflict, and parents will enjoy the inside jokes and witty visuals. This one really is fun for the whole family. (Lyons)

Mystery Highway

by Phil Keaggy and Randy Stonehill
reviewed by Robert N. Hosack

CCM music legends Keaggy and Stonehill, almost 40 years into their respective careers, team up for the first time for a full-length studio album of original music with this new indie release. The result is an enthusiastic collaboration from the 50-something rockers featuring winsome, reflective lyrics and a celebration of ’60s British Invasion power pop. Keaggy’s nostalgic electric guitar riffs echo the best of the early Beatles and Cream. Boomers will enjoy hitchhiking down Mystery Highway, while younger listeners will be introduced to two of the pioneers of “Jesus music.” (Oddbody Music)

Flesh on Steel

by Isobelle Gunn
reviewed by Ron DeBoer

Flesh on Steel is the debut album of Isobelle Gunn, an award-winning Canadian trio whose sound and style evoke comparisons to Sufjan Stevens and Emmylou Harris. The lyrics peel back the surfaces of things and are sung in beautiful harmonies that settle deeply into the listener. Themes range from abuse and break-ups to a vision of heaven in “Silver,” the album’s final song: “The day is over, my pain is older / and to my Savior do I ride.” Isobelle Gunn performed at the Canadian Country Music Awards in September and will be playing several venues in southern Ontario in December. (

Toby Alone

by Timothee de Fombelle
reviewed by Kathryn Hoffman

Toby is a boy who stands 1.5 millimeters tall. He lives in the Tree, a world remarkably like ours but on a smaller scale. When Toby’s scientist father discovers a new way to use the sap that is the life-source of the Tree, it is up to Toby to protect this resource from exploitation. Described as eco-satire, Toby Alone is a comedic and insightful (if rather dark) look into how we live in community with each other and the world. Ages 9-12. (Candlewick)


reviewed by Ron VandenBurg

After nine straight hit feature films, Pixar’s Up tells the story of Carl, a widowed former balloon salesman who rigs his home to fly off for a long-deferred trip to South America. Enter Russell, the 8-year old Wilderness Explorer who happens to be on Carl’s front porch when the house lifts off. Together, they and Pixar thrill audiences with flightless birds, talking dogs (“Squirrel!”), and a long-lost explorer. The opening vignette showing the 60-year love affair between Carl and his wife, Ellie, is a film unto itself worthy of an Academy Award. (Disney)

All God’s Critters

by Bill Staines
reviewed by Kristy Quist

Kadir Nelson’s rollicking picture book interpretation of Staines’s folk song is delightful. Nelson’s bright and boisterous animal illustrations paint a joyful vision of a diverse world singing in harmony. The music for the song is printed in the back of the book. Pair it with Staines’ fun family CD The Happy Wanderer, which includes a recording of the song on which the book is based. Ages 4-7. (Simon and Schuster)

All-Star Superman, Volumes One and Two

by Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely, and Jamie Grant
reviewed by Phil Christman Jr.

When Superman is injected with deadly radiation, he discovers he has only a year to live. So what does he do? Well, he arm-wrestles Samson; saves the Earth; meets his real-life creator, Joe Schuster; and gives Lois superpowers, for starters. This series’ writers apply the same inventiveness to the task of reconstructing superheroes that has long been devoted to deconstructing them, and the result is a masterpiece, restoring luster to a mythos that itself seemed half-dead. Ages 13 and up. (DC Comics)

The Lowdown

Christmas Gift Edition

Letters of Joy: Out of My Bone is a collection of the letters of Joy Davidman, the wife of C.S. Lewis. Edited by Don W. King. (Eerdmans)

Up from the Ashes: Steven Curtis Chapman’s new album, Beauty Will Rise, is a collection of songs written in the wake of his young daughter’s accidental death. (Sparrow)

Getting Closer: The latest book from Richard J. Foster and coauthor Gayle D. Beebe is Longing for God, which offers “seven paths of Christian devotion.” (IVP)

Good St. Nick: VeggieTales adds to their prolific DVD collection with Saint Nicholas—A Story of Joyful Giving. (Big Idea)

A Few More Favorites

What do the movie The Soloist, the book The White Tiger, and the album You Are Here by thenewno2 have in common? They’ve each been selected as a “Favorite of the Year” by Banner reviewers. To see all of their top picks, go to

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