Before I get into today's review, just a brief update on what's going on in our family! We are exactly one month away from meeting our newest family member, Anah Joy, from China! We are still madly purging, cleaning and organizing, but we are making good progress. We just purchased our tickets and will be taking off September 10! That's only a few weeks away! We'll be spending a few days in Beijing before traveling to Nanning, and then later, Guangzhou, to finalize all her immigration paperwork/visas. We will then spend about a day in Hong Kong before heading home on Sept. 28. For those of you who regularly read this blog, I wanted to give you a little glimpse into what is going on with us so you're not just reading reviews! If that's all you're looking for, then that's the latest. I appreciate your grace in allowing me time off from my regular blogging schedule to work on our home.
But if you're here for the review, then read on!
Company Information: Today's review is from Christian Liberty Press and is suitable for any family, homeschooling or not. This is a homeschooling curriculum company whose mission it is "to help parents fulfill their God-given responsibility to provide a Christ-centered education for their children." They provide Christian curriculum for kids from K-12. (This is not a review of the curriculum, nor have I used it. If you'd like more information, however, you can check out their home page.)
Product Reviewed: In addition to their standard curriculum, they publish the "Mr. Pipes" series by Douglas Bond. For this review, I was given the volume Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers in PDF form. In these stories, we follow the journey of two children and their elderly friend, Mr. Pipes, whom they meet as they live in England. Each chapter features one British hymn writer, woven into the children's larger story. I am assuming that as they meet Mr. Pipes in this book, this is the first in the series. Other books are Mr. Pipes and Psalms and Hymns of the Reformation, Mr. Pipes Comes to America, and Accidental Voyage: Discovering Hymns of the Early Church.
Price: $8.79 for the e-book. (FYI: Not all the Mr. Pipes titles are available in e-book form, but all are available in paperback.)
Age Range: the site says 7th -10th grade, but I am reading it to my 6th grader and he has no problem in understanding it. In fact, I think that when read aloud, children even younger can understand and enjoy it.
Parental Preparation: Aside from downloading the book onto your computer (I put it on my iPad), there is no preparation required.
How We Used It: One of the things that I have wanted to do was to expose my children to the great hymns of the faith. Aside from just sitting down and singing our favorites, I wanted to give my children a little background on their authors. I had seen the Mr. Pipes series before and was interested, but never got around to it. When the opportunity came to review one of them, I eagerly volunteered!
Far from being a dry book of facts, this well-written volume details the life and times of over ten different British hymn writers. Some of them we knew. Some of them we didn't. Throughout the book, we follow along with brother and sister duo Annie and Drew as they spend their summer in England while their mother does research. Just when they thought they would be bored out of their minds, they meet Mr. Pipes, the church organist. Mr. Pipes "adopts" them while they are in England, teaching them how to sail, drink tea, and taking them out on excursions to London.
We enjoyed the stories of Isaac Watts, Charles Wesley, and John Newton, each liberally sprinkled with little tidbits of British culture. (We even learned about Welsh Corgis!) I appreciated learning a little more of their backgrounds, which then influenced the hymns they wrote. If we did not know a particular hymn, we would stop and try to find it on YouTube (use your discretion) so we could learn the melody. If you are so inclined, the music for at least one of their hymns are provided at the end of each chapter. Print it out and try it out yourself!
After reading the chapter, we would read the words of the hymn and discuss what they meant. Many hymns are prayers set to music, so I was glad to introduce these to Matthew as another way for him to worship and commune with his Lord. My hope is that what we read will give these hymns a depth and meaning that will enrich his faith.
What We Liked: The storyline was simple, not too forced. It was engaging enough that we were left wondering why Dr. Dudley was so concerned about Mr. Pipes and his health. We spent about 20 minutes a day reading the book, finishing a chapter in about 2-3 days. Even though it was an e-book, I found it easy on the eyes to read.
What We Didn't Like: Not much! However, if you're looking for an adventure story, this is not it. However, that was not our goal, so for our purposes, it is an excellent and interesting introduction to the hymns of the faith. If your kids are wanting entertainment, then this may not satisfy them.
Overall Summary: Our children's spiritual education does not stop when school is out of session, nor is it limited just to Sundays. In addition to training my children in developing a Christian worldview, we also want to help our children grow in their worship. At our church, we do sing at least one hymn each week. I was so glad that many of the ones that we do sing are featured in this book. Just this last Sunday, we sang "O For a Thousand Tongues" by Charles Wesley. Matthew lit up as we sang it because now I know it means something to him. We had discussed the hymn and understand the significance of the prison imagery. It provided us good food for thought and discussion as well as time to pour into my son's spiritual life. I am planning to invest in the other books in the series as well for our family.
If you're looking for a way to feed and nurture your children's hearts with the truth of Scripture and the Gospel, check this series out. It can be a wonderful read-aloud alternative during family devotions. Yes, building a strong foundation of faith through Bible study and doctrine is important, but it doesn't just have to be through study and books. Learning the great hymns of the faith can do that just as well. In this way, we can live out Paul's admonition to "address one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart" (Eph. 5:19-20). With Mr. Pipes, we can make a joyful noise...and appreciate it so much more!
Disclaimer: I received a copy of Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers at no charge in exchange for my feedback. All thoughts and opinions are my own. If you'd like to read other reviews on this book, click the banner below!