I had the privilege of interviewing Gloria Furman, author of Glimpses of Grace and Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full (among others), for the Deeply Rooted blog! While writing a review of Glimpses of Grace and preparing to interview her, I really got to bond with Gloria Furman’s books—and that’s an experience I recommend. Her answers to the interview questions are just as lovely and life-giving as her books.
When you’re assigned a book review for the book that you’re currently reading, you know you’re the right girl for the job. Or you know that the book is the right book for the job. Or that—never mind. What I’m trying to say is that I had the privilege of reviewing Gloria Furman’s book, Glimpses of Grace, for the summer issue of Deeply Rooted. (Of lesser importance is the fact that I got to use the word “rhinoceri” in the review.)
Deeply Rooted Magazine
Issue 6: Light (Summer 2015)
Glimpses of Grace
Gloria Furman (2013)
“Don’t judge a book by its cover.” That old adage isn’t really about books, I know. But at its simplest level, where it is about books, I don’t like it, because I do judge books by their cover. Every time I pick up an unknown book in the bookstore or click through to its listing on Amazon, I do it because the book’s cover caught my eye, because something about it piqued my interest enough that I wandered over to that shelf and picked up that book (and not the one next to it). From there, I can judge the book by its book reviews or blurb or even content, but if I don’t connect with the cover then I won’t make it as far as the table of contents.
The cover of Music from Our Lord’s Holy Heaven had that tractor-beam affect on me when I saw it at the library. I may have dropped another book rather abruptly in my compulsion to pick up this one, I don’t remember, but it seems likely. I have long admired Jerry Pinkney’s illustrations (and have already featured his book, Noah’s Ark, here on the blog), so that was part of the cover’s pull—once you’ve encountered his distinctive illustrations, it’s hard not to recognize them when they cross your path again—but I was also intrigued by the book’s byline:
“Gathered and Sung by Gloria Jean Pinkney * Art by Jerry Pinkney, Brian Pinkney, and Myles C. Pinkney * Prelude by Troy Pinkney-Ragsdale.” Clearly, there is more to this book than story and pictures, and the making of it was a family affair.
I brought the book home, we loved it, and I later purchased a copy of our own. Music from Our Lord’s Holy Heaven is a richly illustrated collection of African-American spirituals, presented alongside photographs of families worshiping together and verses that relate to each song.
The book comes with a CD of Gloria Jean Pinkney singing the songs, simply and in a rich alto, so the girls love listening to the songs in car while taking turns holding the book. We recognized many of the songs as hymns sung in our own church, but there were plenty of new songs to learn and the girls jumped into them with gusto, singing “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho” with hearty enthusiasm, while marching around the kitchen (or walking down the block, or sitting on the couch . . . ).
For all that, though, what I like best about Music from Our Lord’s Holy Heaven is the fact that it gives a clear picture of how one family uses music and art to worship the Lord together. From their involvement in the making of the book to the closing essay by Gloria Jean Pinkney about her own history with music, how she grew up with it and shared it with her children, the book is a testament to the idea that worship is something a family does together—music is a way that we can come alongside each other and rejoice in the Lord through housework or hardship. It is a way that we can rejoice in the Lord on on a daily basis—not just on Sundays—and it is a way that we celebrate holidays like this one, raising our voices together to sing his praise.
Music from Our Lord’s Holy Heaven
Gloria Jean Pinkney, Jerry Pinkney, Brian Pinkney, Myles C. Pinkney, Troy Pinkney-Ragsdale (2005)
In honor of Good Friday (and because I can’t get enough of making little playlists for you), I put together a short playlist of some of our favorite Good Friday and Easter songs. The first three are songs that we sing together as a family and church body on Good Friday; the last is the one that I blast through the house every Easter morning. Enjoy!
In a previous post, I reviewed the charming and concise book, What is the Church? I overlooked the rhymed couplets because I was so taken with the well-answered question at the heart of the book; I saw what the authors were trying to do, and as a parent and a Christian, I loved them for tackling a big question in a way that satisfies even the littlest reader (three-year-old Sarah was the one most taken by the book in our home).
What is the Gospel? takes a similar approach to an even bigger and more challenging question, and the result is a deeper, richer book.
Mandy Groce leaves the rhyme scheme behind and instead uses the narrative of a young boy questioning various family members about the gospel (I love the mother’s response) to reveal various aspects of the gospel before the boy’s conversation with his father brings everything together at the end.
What is the gospel? This book is small and cheap and worth the cost when it comes to explaining the gospel to children and understanding it better ourselves. With this book, the authors have assured my loyalty: I shall henceforth be on the lookout for any remaining or forthcoming books in the series, so expect to see more of them reviewed here.
What is the Gospel?
Mandy Groce, Tessa Janes (2012)
Today’s Post Brought to You By:
Mitch’s thirty-fifth birthday! This guy picks water lilies for his girls when he goes kayaking and grows sunflowers nearly twice my height (note the minivan for scale):
It’s not uncommon to find a little girl on or around him, perhaps because he pushes them way higher than I do on the swings and cuddles with them while reading about church history:
I have known and loved this guy for a long time now and am a better woman for it, so it is with a certain exuberance that I say, “Happy Birthday, Mitch!”
Last week, I voiced some rather strong opinions about Bible stories that put peripheral characters in starring roles, but after rereading Petook to my children and preparing to review today’s book, Peter’s First Easter, I realized that I stand rather firmly corrected.
You see, all three of my Easter 2014 reviews feature books that are fantastic examples of how well a simple shift in perspective can refresh a story: in Petook, we saw the event of the Crucifixion through the eyes of a rooster, who stood, in a way, for creation; in The Donkey Who Carried a King, we followed Davey, the donkey; and in Peter’s First Easter, we leave the farm animals behind and read about the last week of Jesus’s life through the first person account of Peter (as envisioned by the author).
Let me tell you one thing up front: Peter’s First Easter is a deeply moving book. You (if you’re That Sort of Person—I am) will probably cry. You see, Wangerin puts the reader right in Peter’s shoes, describing his love for Jesus, as well as his shock at some of Jesus’s pronouncements—the ones we take for granted, as part of a well known story, but that must have sounded dissonant and strange the first time they were voiced.
This is my body. Take and eat.
And what must Peter have felt after that third denial of Christ? Wangerin presents a beautiful and believable story that allows us to view the Crucifixion through the eyes of one who is painfully aware of his own brokenness and who fears that nothing will ever be strong enough to restore him—even as he watches the very event that will restore him.
Despite Wangerin’s use of past tense, there is an urgency to both the language and the illustrations that brings the story near to us, the readers. Tim Ladwig respectfully avoids showing Jesus’s face and uses unusual perspectives—strong diagonal compositions, showing characters in profile or from above—to achieve a sense of inclusion: as the crowd thrust their fists in the air, screaming, “Crucify him!”, the people are depicted at such an angle that we seem to be standing among them with our own fists in the air. And he has a knack with facial expressions: the tears welling up in Peter’s eyes, his expression of wonder at Jesus’s words, the joy and laughter on the disciples’ faces as they meet Jesus, resurrected, for the first time—Ladwig captures them all perfectly.
This is a lengthy picture book, divided into ten short chapters, so you can read it all at once or in stages—a chapter or two per day throughout Holy Week, perhaps. However you do it, though, don’t rush! This is a book to be savored, one to linger over and explore with little ones.
Peter’s First Easter
Walter Wangerin, Jr., Tim Ladwig (2000)