Monday, October 26, 2009

The Tallest of Smalls by Max Lucado

In the town of Stiltsville the community is divided into two groups. Once group places themselves above the other standing on stilts. Ollie is a boy who sees himself as not special and desires to be valued by receiving the gift of stilts. When Ollie receives his stilts, his raised position above those on the ground does not last long and Ollie learns that his value is not in stilts but in his relationship with his maker and savior.

Overall this is a very cute book with great illustrations that help engage children to the text. My daughter pointed out visuals that corresponded with the story, furthering the experience. However, despite its cuteness the book does fall a little flat in some areas. The cover advertises a tie-in to the adult Lucado book Fearless. However, readers not familiar with that book will have a hard time connecting this children’s story with the topic of fear. Also in many ways this book feels like another telling if the Punchinello You are Special story which shares a common theme with this book, but Punchinello is more subtle and effective in execution.

Review Copy provided by Thomas Nelson

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Search for God and Guinness: A Biography of the Beer that Changed the World by Stephen Mansfield.

Stephen Mansfield in The Search for God and Guinness combines two topics that many may find opposed, beer and God. Mansfield provides an overview of the long holy history of beer and its importance from ancient to early modern society. He overturns the myth of the establishment of the Guinness brewery as a God ordained antidote to the social ills of 18th century Ireland, but instead shows the determination of one religious man in Arthur Guinness’ establishment of the St. James Gate brewery in 1759. Mansfield provides a history of the first Arthur’s decedents in three branches the brewers, the bankers and the “Guinness’s for God” focusing primarily on the brewers and those who made ministry their vocation. The Guinness family history ends with the end of a Guinness directly running the brewery and movement from a family brewery to a major corporation.

The history of the “Guinness’s for God” should be especially heartwarming to Christians. But more exciting is the history of the brewers. The Guinness Brewery is a story of a culture of generosity. It is a tale of care towards brewery staff who were better paid, better educated, better housed and generally lived better lives than their neighbors due to the loving spirit of the Guinness family. The positive effects of the brewery spilled into the streets of Dublin in the early 20th century to inspire social improvement and social justice. Mansfield is a historian who is able to successfully combine the historian’s craft with a heart for God. He tells a story that both challenges his and our views towards beer and shows what a legacy of love can do to impact the lives of others. His story is one that will make me less judgmental towards those sporting Guinness gear and one that makes we want to share the meaning of a powerful organization.