Music or rather hymns are an important part of Christian tradition. They are rich and full of theology and praise for God. The hymns may be different in different Christian traditions but the idea of teaching theology and worshiping God through music during the service is the same.
Recently my family had the opportunity to read an e-book (PDF)version of Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers from Christian Liberty Press. This book is the first book in the series. In this book, the author, Douglas Bond, focuses on British Hymn writers such as Isaac Watts, Charles Wesley, and John Newton as well as others including Scottish hymn writers and women hymn writers.
ABOUT THE BOOK: Two teenagers, Annie and her brother Drew, are spending the summer in a small English Village. They meet Mr. Pipes who plays the organ for the local Anglican church. He tells stories about different British hymn writers and shares a hymn or two from each composer. He also teaches them about “the value of traditional worship and praise.” The book is 242 pages long and available in e-book (PDF) format ($8.79) as well as a physical format ($9.89). There are 4 volumes in the Mr. Pipes series. Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn makers is the first book. A set of all 4 titles is also available.
How I would have used the book: Christian Liberty Press recommends this book for grades 7-10. I had my 8th grader, 10th grader and 12th grader read the book on their own. ALL of them said “Mom, I really think this book is meant for younger children.” I agree with my daughters. I think this book would be a great read aloud book for children in early elementary and a read alone book for upper elementary maybe middle school if middle school is 5-7th grades. If I’d had this book when my children were in grades K, 2nd and 4th, I would have read the book aloud and I would have made a point to play the hymns for my children and maybe even look them up in our hymnal. And if we happened to sing one of those hymns at church I would have leaned over and whispered to them about what we read.
I would have been very comfortable with the book back then as we were protestant (reformed Baptist) and so much of what Mr. Pipes talks about seems to be from a reformed perspective. We are Orthodox Christians now so I have not read the book aloud to Supergirl who is developmentally at a 1st grade level. I did not want to confuse her with the different theological view points. She loves these hymns and, because I was reading the book, we listened to several together. Amazing Grace is one of her favorites. Maybe because I sang it to each of my girls as a lullaby when they were babies and toddlers. I wish the book focused more on the stories of the hymn writers and less on explaining theology.
Both Turtlegirl (who falls in the recommended age range) and BooBear (admittedly a little old for even the recommended ages) both shared with me that they would have enjoyed reading this book themselves when they were perhaps 10. BooBear went on to add that she still would have been annoyed with the character, Drew, because “he is annoying and he didn’t like England and he got to go to England and I didn’t.”
Tailorbear said “I liked reading about the lives of the hymn writers but I didn’t like all the details. I didn’t mind the occasional ‘Drew fell out of the boat and swam back in’ or Annie paused to sketch something and I like Lord Underfoot, but it seemed to go on so long to tell the story of one hymn maker.”
While author Douglas Bond and I agree on the beauty of music and the place of hymns in Christian worship, we disagree on which tradition. We do not see eye to eye on matters of theology. So while I enjoyed reading about the lives of these hymn writers, I did not care for the theology lessons espoused through the character of Mr. Pipes. I would not recommend this book for Orthodox Christians as the hymns are protestant and the theology from a reformed point of view. I’m hesitant to recommend it for Catholic Christians or other Christians whose worship would be considered High Liturgy. I do however, think this book would be a welcome addition to the home school of families who use these hymns in their worship services. These hymn writers love God and their stories are fascinating. The hymns are beautiful. Though my theology is different today I still love Amazing Grace by John Newton and And Can It Be by Charles Wesley and I enjoyed reading about those two hymns in this book.
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Disclaimer: As a TOS Crew member, I received this PDF format e-book free of charge to review. I am required to write a review but I am not required to write a positive review. This review contains my and/or my daughters’ honest opinion with, hopefully, enough detail as to why I/ we liked or did not like a product so that my readers can make an informed decision. I received no compensation.
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