Thursday, August 23, 2012

Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers (Schoolhouse Crew Review)


It's probably no surprise that my family and I love Christian music. We spend much of our time listening to contemporary Christian artists, but I still love some of the classic hymns. At one of our previous churches, there was a man that sang with Tim and Addison on the praise team who was a wealth of knowledge about hymns and the people that wrote them. I find it fascinating to learn the background story for the songs that I've sung for so many years.

PhotobucketChristian Liberty Press has a series of books designed to share these inspiring stories with young people. We've been reading Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers by Douglas Bond this summer. In the story, Annie and Drew, two American children, travel to England to spend their summer vacation. In the small village where they stay, they meet Mr. Pipes, a kind elderly gentleman who takes them under his wing, teaching them about sailing, famous hymn makers, and Christianity as a whole.

I enjoyed reading the book, and I loved learning new facts about hymns that I know by heart. I was surprised to find out that the doxology we often sing at my parents' church is actually the sixth verse of a hymn Thomas Ken wrote in the late 1600s. I was amazed to learn Isaac Watts wrote nearly 700 hymns, and a few chapters later I was even more impressed that Charles Wesley wrote more than 6,500 hymns. He was so busy writing hymns that his brother John Wesley published most of them. At the end of each chapter, the author includes the music for several of the more famous songs from the hymn maker we just read about. I found many favorites -- "Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah" by William Williams, "Amazing Grace" by John Newton, "Holy, Holy, Holy!" by Reginald Heber, "All Things Bright and Beautiful" by Cecil F. Alexander, and many more.

After reading about so many great hymn writers, I thought that Addison would love this book. Unfortunately, she did not. She says she would've have rather just had the information about the hymn makers. She didn't particular care for the story about Annie and Drew, and she was annoyed by the seeming disconnect between parts of the story. The scenes on the boat with Mr. Pipes or in his cottage on a rainy day remind Addison of a time similar to Anne of Green Gables, and we both agreed that the illustrations in the book remind us of "Leave it to Beaver." The actual story takes place in modern times -- approximately 1990s, based on the references to Drew's CD walkman. During our discussions of this book, we noted that it really doesn't tell a story because there isn't any conflict that the characters must overcome. It is perhaps best described as a journal describing the events of the children's summer vacation in the English countryside.

Christian Liberty Press offers four books in the Mr. Pipes series. Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers normally costs $10.99, but is currently on sale for $8.79 for the ebook and $9.89 for the textbook edition. The other three books cover the Hymns of the Reformation (16th Century), American Hymns, and Hymns of the Early Centuries. All of these books have a suggested age range of 7th - 10th grades, but I think they could be used as a read aloud with younger children.

Disclaimer: I received an electronic copy of Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers as a member of the 2012 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, and I received no other compensation. In return, I agreed to give an honest review of the materials and how they worked for my homeschool family.


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