reviewed by Jim Romahn
On Monday, Feb. 6 at 10 p.m. (EST), PBS will air a documentary on the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer—the German theologian who actively opposed Adolf Hitler. Producer/director Martin Doblmeier juxtaposes black-and-white clips of Hitler’s speeches against interviews with Bonhoeffer’s friends and relatives, who recount his courage and his pioneering theology. Because Bonhoeffer felt Hitler was fashioning himself into a national idol and challenging the authority of God, he secretly joined his brother-in-law, Hans van Dohnanyi, in plotting Hitler’s assassination—a turning point that moved his thinking and writing away from legalism towards a faith that informs responses to the situation at hand. Airing in conjunction with the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Bonhoeffer’s birth, this is a program with special appeal to academics, theologians, and those who survived Hitler. (Journey Films)
Fiction for Adults
The Time of the Uprooted
by Elie Wiesel
translated by David Hapgood
reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema
Gamaliel Friedman’s family flees from Czechoslovakia to Hungary in 1939, where his mother entrusts him to the care of Ilonka, a Christian cabaret singer. Ilonka instructs the boy to disguise his Jewish identity. When he objects, she says, “The day will come when you’ll take off your mask and everything will be the way it was before.” But Ilonka is wrong. Life is never the same for Gamaliel. Separated from Ilonka, he becomes an uprooted refugee, wracked with questions. Years later while living in New York, Gamaliel’s friend asks him to visit an elderly Hungarian woman. He fervently hopes that she is Ilonka because he knows that “the elusive, nebulous answers that he seeks lie somewhere in a memory not his own, and that he cannot die in peace until he knows.” This fascinating novel captures the soul of a person desperately trying to find roots in a world that has destroyed his moorings. (Knopf)
How the Bible Was Built
by Charles Merill Smith and James W. Bennett
reviewed by Wayne Brouwer
Many view the Bible as having magically appeared without history or development. Smith sought to remedy popular ignorance by penning this brief and very accessible overview after his granddaughter Julia asked questions that couldn’t be answered easily from existing books (Smith’s project was completed after his death by Bennett). Smith pictures the Bible as a large house with two wings (Old and New Testaments) connected by a passageway (Apocrypha). Although the image is visually gripping, it doesn’t help explain why the books of the Bible are there at all. There is good basic information here, especially on the various versions and translations. But Smith’s review of the actual writing of Bible documents is fuzzy, theologically dated, and tends to imply that the Bible is merely the evolving reflections of an emerging religious tradition. A better introduction is still needed. (Eerdmans)
Fiction for Kids
The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs
by Betty G. Birney
reviewed by Kristy Quist
Young Eben McAllister has itchy feet. After reading about explorers and the Seven Wonders of the World, farm life seems boring. Pa challenges Eben to find seven wonders in Sassafras Springs. If he can, Pa will send him on a train to visit his aunt in Colorado. Eben discovers more in his small Missouri hometown—and its inhabitants—than he thinks possible. Part Little House and part tall tale, Eben’s findings include a table that floated through a graveyard, a singing saw, and a loom that speaks the truth. Looking for a read-aloud book? Check out this little wonder.
reviewed by Cara Daining
What happens to the $100 million that U.S. taxpayers provide for congressional research? Opencrs.com strives to answer this question by providing the public with over 9,000 Congressional Research Service reports. The site features five different report collections that deal with everything from the environment to homeland security. Visitors to the website can search by keyword or title to view the summary or full text of a report and may also acquire information on how to obtain a currently unreleased report from a congressional representative. The site is easy to navigate and full of worthwhile information concerning current events and U.S. government action.
reviewed by Kristy Quist
Have you ever found yourself at the movie store, staring vacantly at rows of DVDs, unable to remember the titles you wanted? Have you found yourself constantly re-shelving that lame, media-hyped children’s movie your 7-year-old says she just has to see? Then try Netflix, an online service that mails you up to three movies chosen by you from a huge online database. Return the movies and Netflix sends the next titles on your prioritized list, which arrive in two to three days. The monthly fee isn’t cheaper than regular rentals, but you save time and avoid the frustration of shopping at your local movie store. You’re also likely to choose better films. Best of all, you can choose your kids’ movies without them nagging you to rent Barbie: Fairytopia.