Monday, April 28, 2014

Book Review: A Family Journey with Jesus through Lent

by Angela M. Burrin

I bought this book at a going-out-of-business sale at a bargain and decided to give it a try this Lent. It has readings for each day of Lent (Ash Wednesday through Holy Saturday, but not for Sundays which are technically part of Lent). Every reading is based on a Gospel passage and is narrated by a child or a disciple. The concept allowed the child narrators to share bits of life in Israel at Jesus's time which might be new to readers, but it was confusing because the narrators would switch between children and towns. I was surprised to see a reference to eating "popped corn." Because corn is a New World crop, they would not have eaten actual popped corn and the insertion of something weird like that made me question all of the details.

My biggest disappointment was the language used to retell the Bible stories. This is probably a symptom of my studies of Charlotte Mason's works and those of Sofia Cavaletti, both of whom argue we should read the actual words of Scripture to our children (albeit sometimes abridged to shield the littlest ones from violence or adult themes). The retellings seemed more than anything to be a weak substitute for Scripture itself. Quite a few of the stories also included wording like "this story means" or "this story teaches us." Words like that insinuate there is only one layer of Scripture. It's so much more beautiful to read Scripture with children and then wonder together about what it means, as Sofia Cavaletti suggests.

After the Gospel story each day, there is a section called "Jesus, Speak to Me" in which children are admonished by Jesus to pray or serve their family or trust him. There was nothing wrong with this section except that it sometimes seemed forced. A few of the activity suggestions almost made Kansas Dad and me groan as we read them.

I suppose this book might be good for a family without a history of reading Scripture or praying together because it gives a structure, but I'm sure there are better books available. Next year, I'm choosing something else.

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