Monday, 22 August 2016

Happy Birthday to You - Michelle Medlock Adams

 About the Book:

Jam-packed with all the elements that make birthdays so special, a new musical board book from WorthyKids/Ideals captures the excitement little ones feel on their birthdays.

Happy Birthday to You! is aimed at children aged 2 to 5. Illustrations by Sandra Rodriguez depict birthday ingredients such as balloons and presents, while cheerful verse from Michelle Medlock Adams bubbles with childlike enthusiasm:
Let’s bake a cake and decorate! 
Let’s celebrate this special date!
                                                     With bright balloons and streamers too,
                                                This birthday party’s just for you!

Birthday boys and girls can press the music button to sing along with the birthday song and can personalize the book by placing their photo in the pocket provided.

With a trim size of 7 x 8 inches and durable, board book pages, Happy Birthday to You! will withstand wear and tear for many birthdays to come. 

About the Author and the Illustrator:

Michelle Medlock Adams began her career in journalism; but when she had two children of her own, she quickly turned to writing children’s books, including the successful What Is . . . series for WorthyKids/Ideals. Michelle has two grown daughters and lives in Bedford, Indiana, with her husband, Jeff.

Sandra Rodriguez grew up in Mexico in a house with a big garden. From doodling her way through math class to playing with her dogs, her creative spirit was evident. Rodriguez’s illustrations are inspired by simple, everyday life: children playing in the park, people walking their dogs, families interacting after school. Rodriguez favors watercolor because it allows her to transmit the movement and emotion of life into her illustrations.

My Thoughts:

This title has all the elements of any favourite children's book - it's written in catchy rhymes, has a sing-a-long button, a place to insert a picture and delightful illustrations. It would serve well as a birthday card, as it has a To and From spot in the back of the book. I showed the book to one of my nephews and he thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the music button. 


In exchange for an honest review Worthy Publishing Group provided me with a complimentary copy of this book. 

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Hutterite Diaries Review by Leonard Gross

I'd like to share a recent review of Hutterite Diaries, written by Leonard Gross, author of The Golden Years of the Hutterites.  It was first published in the Mennonite Quarterly Review. My sincere thanks to Leonard Gross for taking the time to write this beautifully detailed and insightful review, and for granting me permission to post it on my blog.

 Leonard Gross, a Mennonite, has long held deep interest in Hutterian history and faith. His book, The Golden Years of the Hutterites, was first published in 1980, and is still available as a paperback. He also co-authored Selected Hutterian Documents in Translation, 1542-1654, a reprint of which is also again available from the Baker Colony Bookstore. His numerous articles on the Amish, Hutterites, and Mennonites have appeared over the decades in North American and European scholarly journals. He and his wife, Irene, live in Goshen, Indiana, and are parents of two grown daughters, Suzanne and Valerie, and three grandchildren. Leonard appreciates the many fine visits he has had among all three Hutterian groups, and also the visits of those who have come his way to Goshen, Indiana.

Hutterite Diaries: Wisdom from My Prairie Community. By Linda Maendel. Harrisonburg, Va.: Herald Press. 

Since the time of their arrival in North America in the 1870s, Hutterites have produced little in the way of analytical interpretive history or other writings depicting their faith and life. Such was not always the case, as can be seen in the large array of Hutterian handwritten codices, extending all the way back to the 1530s, and continuing throughout the Hutterites’ European sojourn. This vast Hutterian literary production included chronicles, correspondence, theological treatises, prison epistles, hymnody, and sermons. Much of this corpus, found in leather-bound codices, is still extant. Indeed, virtually all Hutterite preachers yet today continue to preach verbatim from the sermon booklets of yore, with a repertoire of well over 500 such sermons (Lehren and Vorreden) from which to choose.

Published interpretation of the Hutterian way, then and now, has for the most part resided in the hands of outsiders, whatever the language. This has included volumes on history, theology, and culture, and on the intersection of faith and life. (An early exception is Paul S. Gross, The Hutterite Way: The Inside Story of the Life, Customs, Religion, and Traditions of the Hutterites, 1965.) Outside interpretation, however, has its limitations, as Hutterite writer Linda Maendel notes in her book, Hutterite Diaries: Wisdom from My Prairie Community: “When others write about us, things tend to get twisted, either intentionally or because the author couldn’t grasp certain aspects of our communal life” (13). Maendel attempts to set the record straight by describing in broad strokes the Hutterian life, faith, and history of her own people. In her endeavor, she succeeds superbly.

Maendel’s volume comprises twenty-two stories, grouped into four sections: fellowship; celebrations; values; and heritage. But these stories are sandwiched between an extensive prefatory description of the life of one person during a typical day, “A day in the life of the author,” and a well-rounded epilogue containing “FAQs about the Hutterites: The Author Answers.”

One essential part of the larger account of a people is story and history from the inside—what “we” think and believe, what the vision toward which “we” aspire entails. Linda Maendel possesses the gifts and education to accomplish this task. She is a superb storyteller, one of the few Hutterite storytellers, currently, whose works are published. She writes: “while other Hutterite women love to sew, I would rather write. It’s not something I have in common with many of my fellow Hutterites, but I’m fine with that” (56).

Several stories are historical in nature. One such story, “The Amana-Hutterite connection” (131-135), describes the support the Amana colonies granted to the Hutterites during the 1870s, through their first decade of existence as refugees and immigrants in South Dakota. Along with providing financial support, the Amanas also sent supplies, including bolts of black fabric laced with white polka-dots. And so began a new tradition of polka-dot Tiechlen(women’s head coverings), which up to that time were solid black. The same story recounts how a Hutterite, Michael Hofer, whose eyes were severely damaged in a dust storm, traveled to see an Amana doctor, who successfully treated Hofer—who then, instead of returning to the Hutterites, became an Amana member. Maendel notes that Hofer “chose to stay and made Amana his home, thus leaving one Christian community for another one” (133).

We gain insights into how Hutterites view those who leave in another story, “Two Empty Chairs” (61-63).A family left the colony, and the next day, in school, as a consequence, there were two empty chairs. Maendel’s interpretation of how this affects Hutterites is worth quoting:

Even though we don’t advocate staying if the heart is somewhere else, this
does not lessen the pain when people choose to leave. We’re together on a
daily basis: we worship, work, eat, play, travel, learn, relax, and visit in big
or small groups, year in, year out. Therefore, when someone forsakes the
colony, they leave an ache that is unlike any other—and hard to explain to

In her last story, “Love without End,” Maendel underscores the deeper significance of a shared love and life. The sharing on all levels of life bridges past with present, which all Hutterites experience; this is “another reminder of how invaluable multiple generations are to our communal life. In working together, tenets of our faith, values, work ethic, culture, and heritage are passed onto our children” (154).

Maendel writes experientially, weaving into her gathered stories many strands of what, together, constitute Hutterian faith and life. The reader thus comes away with the feeling of having experienced the Hutterian way where faith, theology, and history each finds its place, interwoven existentially into everyday life. Maendel somehow is thus able to integrate various components into a larger whole, each of which is seen as an essential part of the total Hutterian reality, without which the whole would fall apart. For the Hutterites, home and vocation, and faith, family, and friends are seamlessly intertwined and correlated with each other, resulting in a degree of fulfillment socially and culturally rare in Western human history. Maendel is a master in her capacity to describe this seamless way of life.
This volume of stories is already making its rounds. Melodie Davis, syndicated columnist, reproduced Maendel’s Christmas story (75-76) in the Goshen News(December12, 2015), introducing it as follows: “There are stories that grab us and stop us in our tracks to say, yes, yes, this is what Christmas is truly about.”

Educated and well-traveled, Maendel represents a growing number of Hutterite women from the progressive faction within the Schmiedeleut group. But her experience is not shared by most women living among the more conservative Lehrer and Darius groups. Nevertheless, at its foundation her description of the Hutterian “way” rings true for all Hutterites, centering as it does in having all things common.

It is said that we need the Amish to remind us of what simplicity can be. We also need the Hutterites to remind us about the richness and depth of what the gathered community, as the Body of Christ, can be.

Goshen, Indiana LEONARD GROSS (author of The Golden Years of the Hutterites)

Saturday, 6 August 2016

God Made You Just Right - Jill Roman Lord

About the Book:

Here is a message that every parent will want to share with his or her child: “You’re brilliantly created and there’s no one else like you!” In a manner that even the youngest child will understand, Jill Roman Lord shares the message that God created each of us in just the right way. Bright and engaging illustrations from Amy Wummer pair perfectly with the text.

About the Authur and Illustrator:

Jill Roman Lord won her first writing contest in first grade, and she’s been writing ever since. Some of Jill’s titles include One Night in Bethlehem and If Jesus Lived Inside My Heart. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, three children, and their golden retriever.

Amy Wummer has been illustrating children’s books for 18 years. Her playful watercolor illustrations evoke the wonder of a child’s delight in the world.

My Review: 

My favourite part about this beautiful board book are the delightful illustrations -- there's joy bursting from every page. Because it's written in rhyme is another reason this book will appeal to young children: "He gave you such a gentle heart, with so much love to share. You find the kindest words to say, to show how much you care." I hope this book finds its way into the hands of many children.


In exchange for an honest review, Worthy Kids Publishing provided me with a complimentary copy of this book.