Book Review: The Call of the Swamp, by Davide Cali and Marco Somà

The Call of the SwampThe Call of the Swamp by author Davide Cali and artist Marco Somà is one of the most down-to-earth-fantasy children’s books I’ve ever read. Let’s be honest; most children’s books are fantasy—intentionally or not—whether in characters and environment, story, or both. We often offer children encouraging illusions (delusions?) of grandeur and present everything with a happy ending tied up in a pretty bow of one’s choice color. While The Call of the Swamp is certainly fantasy—a kid with gills is picked up in a swamp and adopted by a couple that can’t have children—it leaves plenty of room for personal experience and inquiry. Not all lives are the same, and this simple story doesn’t try to force all adopted kids into one box. Cali tells a story of a child who looks different from his parents and who eventually recognizes his differences in a real way and longs to discover and experience his past. And while he eventually makes his way back to his adoptive parents, there is no clear answer for how one must feel or what one must do. Like I said, it leaves a lot of room for adopted kids and parents to talk and wrestle with their context. Wonderful.

Somà’s artwork is brilliant and will spark the imagination of older children who will recognize things not to be as they really are but represent something much bigger. Again, we have here further fodder for conversation.

I certainly recommend this one.

 

*I received a temporary, pre-published digital copy for review from Eerdmans Books for Young Readers via NetGalley.

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Book Review: Practicing Christian Education: An Introduction for Ministry, by Mark A. Maddix and James Riley Estep, Jr.

Practicing Christian EducationIn Practicing Christian Education: An Introduction for Ministry, authors Mark A. Maddix and James Riley Estep, Jr. appear to be primarily concerned with Wesleyan tradition and ecclesiology in combination with a business model ecclesiology. While the stated purpose(s) of the text are unclear and sometimes contradictory, it is apparent that the book is geared toward those who are looking to be paid “Education Ministers/Pastors” in large congregations who fit the stated models with significant budgets. The book is not about Christian education in a broad sense (e.g., teaching various subjects from and with a Christian manner and perspective), and many will likely find it confusing and unhelpful if looking to it for any purpose other than that stated above.

Assessing it for what it is, and not for what I thought it might be, the text falls short of being very helpful. Disjointed, redundant, contradictory, and unclear throughout, I would not recommend it for the seminary students the authors hope will read it. While there are certainly helpful moments, largely by way of quoting others’ material, I do not find them to be justifiable reasons for wading through the whole. If I had not agreed to review the book, I would have stopped reading after chapter six (out of seventeen) because it felt like I was simply being taken for a ride with no purpose or destination in sight—it didn’t get much better.

While I concur with the authors that churches need to take seriously what, how, and when they teach so that all can (and will!) mature in their faith and life in the kingdom of God, I did not find this book as a whole to be a clear and helpful tool for educating those leading, guiding, and/or undertaking that task.

 

*I received a temporary, pre-published digital copy for review from Baker Academic via NetGalley.

Book Review: As Kingfishers Catch Fire: A Conversation on the Ways of God Formed by the Word of God, by Eugene H. Peterson

As Kingfishers Catch FireAs Kingfishers Catch Fire: A Conversation on the Ways of God Formed by the Word of God is a collection of sermons presented to Christ Our King Presbyterian Church (UPCUSA) in Harford County, Maryland, by Eugene H. Peterson between the years of 1962 and 1991. While these sermons have been organized according to their relation to major biblical authors (Moses, David, Isaiah, Solomon, Peter, Paul and John of Patmos), they are completely separate sermons with no real connection to one another—neither chronologically or contextually—and no dates are given for their original presentation. This lack of context can make reading a little strange when events are referenced in relative terms (e.g., “A little more than a year ago, three men were orbiting the moon in a space capsule,” [p.8]), some being easier than others to determine the general time of writing. Each sermon is only around six pages long, making them quick and easy reads without too much depth and generally a single overarching point to be made at the end, and the lack of any real connection of one to another easily lends themselves to being chosen and read according to title and/or scripture reference listed in the Contents pages. I imagine some will find this to be very helpful, while others like myself will be left wanting more substance. In my opinion, this could and should have also been released as a series of blog posts free to be read online.

 

*I received a pre-published, uncorrected proof of this book from Blogging for Books for this review.