So Many Books, So Little Summer

Mixed Media
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Three Cups of Tea

by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relinreviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema

Mortenson’s failed 1993 attempt to scale Pakistan’s K2 peak led him to examine reality on the ground in a region where day schools were virtually nonexistent and where Taliban madrases educated young terrorists. His promise to return and build a school there changed the course of his life. Believing that education was the key to fighting terrorism, Mortenson and others established the Central Asia Institute, which has since built more than 55 schools. Though Mortenson disowned his Christian roots and embraced Islam, clearly God has used him to accomplish much good. (Penguin)

Song Yet Sung

by James McBride
reviewed by Otto Selles

Just before the Civil War, Liz Spocott escapes from a band of brutal slave traders. Liz has the chance to join the “freedom train” to the North, but hesitates as she is wracked by prophetic dreams of the hard future faced by contemporary African Americans. While McBride’s editorializing would better suit a nonfiction work like his celebrated memoir The Color of Water, this novel—inspired by the life of Harriet Tubman—offers a very engaging tale of courage. (Riverhead)

Is Your Lord Large Enough? How C. S. Lewis Expands Our View of God

by Peter Schakelreviewed by Wayne BrouwerWalter Hooper called Schakel “the wisest and humblest of C. S. Lewis’s commentators.” Schakel’s new book only adds to that reputation. Easily accessible to book clubs and general readers, Schakel’s latest probes spiritual themes (grace, prayer, pain, church, etc.) by drawing on his vast knowledge of Lewis’ writings. The point of it all is to enlarge our understanding and awe of God. As Aslan told Lucy in Prince Caspian: “Every year you grow, you will find me bigger.” (InterVarsity)

Home of the Brave

by Katherine Applegatereviewed by Kristy QuistKek, a young, possibly orphaned refugee from Sudan, comes to America to join his aunt and cousin. As he adjusts to his new life, he finds comfort in spending time with an old cow who reminds him of his cattle-herding childhood, because “for a moment I hold/all I’ve lost/and all I want/right there in my hand.” Both spare and satisfying, this free verse novel will give young readers insight into the plight of displaced people. (Feiwel and Friends)

People of the Book

by Geraldine Brooksreviewed by Sonya VanderVeen FeddemaRare book expert Hannah Heath is given the task of analyzing and conserving the Sarajevo Haggadah—one of the earliest illuminated Hebrew books. Readers are drawn into her life and into the lives of “the people of the book, the different hands that had made it, used it, protected it.” This thought-provoking novel, based on a true story, masterfully shows how “the very artifact that was meant to stand for the survival of our multiethnic ideal” was repeatedly threatened by intolerant societies. The book contains some profanity and sexual scenes. (Viking)

Toy Boat

by Randall de Séve, illustrated by Loren Longreviewed by Sandy SwartzentruberToy Boat, Ms. de Sève’s first book, has all the earmarks of a classic. It’s the story of a boy and his deep attachment to a boat he made from “a can, a cork, a yellow pencil, and some white cloth.” When the boat’s string breaks, it embarks alone on perilous high-seas adventures, but returns against all odds to the safety and love of the waiting boy. The text reads aloud beautifully, and the illustrations are a warm-hearted complement to this touching story. (Philomel Books)

So Brave, Young, and Handsome

by Leif Engerreviewed by Sandy SwartzentruberIt’s 1915 and writer Monte Becket is sweating bullets to repeat the stunning success of his first novel (a struggle to which author Enger can perhaps relate). When Monte befriends reformed outlaw Glendon Hale, the two embark on a quest for redemption that takes Monte—a self-described “well-meaning failure”—to cowboy country far from his family and his usual code of conduct. Though the story lags in a few spots, it brims with the same warmth, loveable characters, and brilliant description that made Peace Like a River such a hit. (Grove Press)

The Island at the Center of the World

by Russell Shortoreviewed by Wayne BrouwerThe Dutch got shortchanged, according to Shorto. Not only did multiple conspiracies wrest away their New Amsterdam colony, but historians ignored and belittled the huge impact that the colony had on shaping American culture and national identity. Shorto’s well-researched tale of the Manhattan Island community that became New York City reads like a novel as it illumines the complex relations between Europeans and the “Indians” they displaced, as well as the intercolonial intrigues. Especially fascinating is the role of religion through it all! (Vintage Books)

Crazy for God

by Frank Schaefferreviewed by Robert N. HosackIn this controversial memoir, the son of evangelical legends Francis and Edith Schaeffer tells their story—the nonfiction side of Frank’s Calvin Becker fiction trilogy. Those nurtured by the elder Schaeffers’ writings and L’Abri ministry will be jolted by Frank’s introspective coming-of-age story. He grows up neglected by his parents in idealistic Swiss L’Abri, eventually adopts his father’s “work,” hobnobs with the early Religious Right, and settles in to an adult crisis of faith, leaving his evangelicalism behind. (De Capo Press)

Helping Our Children Grow in Faith

by Robert J. Keeleyreviewed by Otto SellesHow can we get young people, from tots to teens, excited about church? Keeley argues for a balance between programs creafted for kids and activities that draw together an entire congregation. By following the developmental patterns of a child and also creating ties between young and old, the church can nurture a faith that moves head, heart, and spirit. This clear and concise book is important reading for ministry committees, small groups, and all those interested in fostering a vibrant church community that spans the generations. (Baker Books)

28: Stories of AIDS in Africa

by Stephanie Nolenreviewed by Jim RomahnThere are few better ways to learn about HIV/AIDS than these 28 stories, one story per million infected Africans. “We have 28 million reasons to act,” writes author Stephanie Nolen. Twenty billion dollars is needed; less than half of that is available. Many communities have no teachers or nurses left, and hard-won community development gains are being lost. The people Nolen chose to profile are victims, yet heroes. They jump off the pages and into our hearts, urging us to respond. The CRWRC is providing opportunity to do so via its first-ever fund-raising campaign, EMBRACEAIDS. (Walker)

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

by Brian Selznickreviewed by Elizabeth GonzalezNewly orphaned 12-year-old Hugo fixes the clocks in the Paris train station by day, hiding from inspectors by night. While working to uncover the secrets behind his uncle’s disappearance and to fix his father’s final machine rescued from the museum’s ashes, his notebook of drawings is stolen by the peculiar keeper of a toy shop. Written like a novel with illustrations to advance the plot like a film, Caldecott medalist Selznick defies genre, weaving his compelling narrative around the fictional Hugo. (Scholastic)

Bifocal

by Deborah Ellis and Eric Waltersreviewed by Ron VandenBurgThe students, staff, and community of a Canadian high school don’t know what to think when a student is arrested for suspected terrorist involvement. In this novel for ages 9-12, author Deborah Ellis takes the perspective of Muslim student Haroon, and Eric Walters writes through the eyes of football star Jay. Each boy struggles against others’ opinions, prejudices, and hatred, while coming to an understanding of what the school and our world could actually be. (Fitzhenry and Whiteside)

The Lowdown

We checked around to see what church book clubs are reading. Here is a sampling of clubs and the last three books they’ve read:

Calvary CRC—Pella, IowaThe Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan

The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seirstad

Under The Banner of Heavenby Jon Krakauer

Eastern Avenue CRC—
Grand Rapids, MichiganBorn Again and Again by Jon M. Sweeney

Suite Française by Irene Nemirovsky

The Island at the Center of the World by Russell Shorto

The River CRC—
Redlands, CaliforniaPeace Like a River by Leif Enger

My Grandfather’s Son: A Memoir by Clarence Thomas

Twice Adopted by Michael Reagan

For the Journey: The Emmaus Readers: Listening for God in Contemporary Fiction offers insight into, and discussion questions for, 12 novels. Edited by Calvin College professors Susan M. Felch and Gary D. Schmidt, this book will enhance book club discussions and individual reading. Just beware of reading the plot synopses before you finish each book! (Paraclete Press)

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