What’s more fun than discovering a new author? Finding a publisher with new authors and new books you’d like to explore! You may already be familiar with Sparkhouse Family (a division of 1517 Media). I discovered them through their twitter account where I spotted the cover of the first book I’m reviewing today. They were very gracious to agree to my review request for two titles. Yay!
Do you love pop-up books?
I’m a little obsessed with them. I bought our son his first pop-up book as soon as I saw two pink lines. They are magical! Open one up and before you even begin reading the story you’ve captivated your audience.
Appearance & Quality
The first words out of my daughter’s mouth were, “I like all the colors on the trees.” I hadn’t even opened The Life of Martin Luther and she had already taken an interest. The cover draws the eye, followed by the POP! of the first page. Paper engineering provides depth (3 1/2″) and drama to the opening scene of Luther in a lightning storm. Little hands are going to want to touch these pages, so it’s good to note here that the pages are about the thickness of a dime. Our collection has a few pop-up books which have been brought back to life with tape and the quality construction will probably give this book more of a fighting chance.
Luther’s life and ministry are portrayed in 7 scenes accompanied by 7 concise paragraphs. He makes a promise in the storm, keeps his promise and discovers good news (we are saved by faith alone), posts his 95 theses, stands before Rome, hides away, goes to print, and inspires future Christians. This memorable little book would be a great addition to your home library or a Sunday School classroom. It’s a great resource for explaining who Martin Luther was and how his ideas changed the church, especially as we prepare to celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation (October 31st, 2017).
While searching out the details about The Life of Luther, I noticed how the books in the Sparkhouse Store are separated by age range. I clicked the 9-12 bracket, which encompasses both of our children, spotting Grit and Grace for my girl.
I selected Grit and Grace by Caryn Rivadeneira for our 9 year old who is headed into the 4th grade. This selection is on par with her reading level and is written in a first person point-of-view. Usually, the character is telling her own story directly to the reader, yet in two instances it’s through a journal/prayer journal, and once in dialogue (Ruth and Naomi).
As I read I picked up on the following themes: God sees me, God can use anyone he chooses, God gives life, God gives strength, Jesus spoke to women, and women/girls have value to him. Even more, He invites us to sit at His feet and learn about Him. I liked all of these messages even if I didn’t always agree with the way the author told each character’s story.
I’ve long been a fan of biblical fiction for the way it provides a view into the culture and traditions of a time period. It does get a little sticky when an author attempts to capture the motives of a biblical character when they are not explicitly stated in scripture. The waters are further muddied when creative license deletes parts of the story (Esther), makes Mary Magdalene’s father out to be a drunk or suggests that The Samaritan Woman became a preacher. Do “Some people believe [The Bleeding Woman] followed Jesus to the cross and wiped his forehead as he was dying” as stated in the “Fast Facts” (pg 110)? I hadn’t heard this and it certainly isn’t in the footnotes of my study Bible. I’m also not a fan of books about heaven tourism and that’s the direction Rivadeneira takes Dorcas’ story. Lastly, who is Dorthy Sayers and what is her theology that the author should quote her so extensively?
Despite its beautiful cover and wonderful premise, Grit and Grace‘s execution left me with too many questions. It ventures beyond the bounds of a storybook and a little too far into fiction to be a solid devotional for our family.
“I became a preacher that day at the well. And from then on, nobody cared how many husbands I’d had. They wanted to know what it was like to sit with the Messiah, to have him smile at me and drink from my cup.” The Samaritan Woman
“And yet, I was dead. I knew that. If I would’ve opened my eyes in this new place, I would’ve been surrounded by light. A light that fired up all your senses. Because I could feel it.” Dorcas
The Dorthy Sayer quote used.
Once again, I am delighted by twitter’s power to connect readers to books. While my reviews were mixed, perhaps these books are a good sampling of what Sparkhouse has to offer—time will tell. I do have my eye set on an October release from Sparkhouse entitled The World Jesus Knew: A Curious Kid’s Guide to Life in the First Century. Not only does it sound intriguing to me, I believe it would appeal to our fact loving middle schooler.
Thanks to all of my loyal readers. If you are new here, welcome! I’m glad you’ve come and I look forward to your comments.
I received these books at no cost from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
The Life of Martin Luther is available now while Grit and Grace will release in mid-August.