Tuesday, June 05, 2007

What Our Family is Reading, Listening To, and Watching

A few more recommendations for your enjoyment, in no particular order...

Comus, adapted and illustrated by the magnificent team of Hodges and Hyman, is a retelling of John Milton's Comus: A Masque Presented at Ludlow Castle, which itself was an adaptation of an old English Faerie Tale, Childe Roland. I recently read the original Comus by Milton and this adaptation by Hodges is very faithful, but written on a level for children to enjoy (it does, however, downplay the allegorical references to chastity that were so integral to Milton's version). Anything by these gifted ladies is highly recommended.

The coolest new book to come along in a good while. This book shows boys how to do so many of the things that are defining to boyhood, but neglected in our current prissy, safety-obsessed, politically-correct culture. Here's just a sampling: coin tricks, making the perfect paper airplane, hunting and cooking a rabbit, famous battles, making a battery, books every boy should read, making a bow and arrow, finding north in the dark, and bunches more. A must for every father with young sons.

Still trying to read through the Potter books before Book VII comes out, though I won't make it (a little Potter goes a long way for me). I'm about halfway through this one (Book IV). One thing I remember from the ending is the Black Mass in the graveyard with its perversions of both Baptism and the Lord's Supper, pointing out that the Evil characters in the story are particularly at war with the Christian faith.

Along those lines, John Granger has written a helpful book explaining the Christian significance of these books. The updated paperback edition has a chapter on Half Blood Prince and musings on possible outcomes for Book VII, Deathly Hallows. My interview with John is on the right under 'Key Articles.'

Just checked this out from our church library. Filmed during the Bach Revival of the 1970s and hosted by Brian Blessed (Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves, and Hamlet, among many others) who also plays the part of Johann Sebastian Bach, this is a wonderful introduction to this greatest of composers. My children (ages 6 and 3) loved it. We're going to look into getting the DVD. The film shows a variety of different performances of Bach, by choirs, soloists, and street performers, as well as talking a lot about Bach's life and faith. They do not shy away from the point that Bach's faith in Christ drove everything he did. Highly recommended.

Debut novel for young readers from N.D. Wilson, son of Reformed minister and author Doug Wilson (click here to read Doug Wilson's blurb for my book, Talking of Dragons). This is a really well-done adventure story, and, as nearly every reviewer points out, draws inspiration from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Odyssey, and Robinson Crusoe, among others. The themes of true and false fatherhood are nicely explored as well. This is what Christian literature ought to be these days. Please skip Left Behind and read something like this instead.

I'm always amazed at how many people these days have never seen a Marx Brothers film, or (worse yet) never heard of them. My kids love these films, and so do I. My two oldest children often just call them 'the funny guys,' which says it all, I suppose. Best one of this batch is A Night at the Opera, but they're all worth the time.

From John Milton's Complete English Poems, I have just finished reading (as mentioned above) Comus: A Masque Presented at Ludlow Castle. The Everyman's Edition, which I picked up cheap at a second-hand shoppe, is outstanding and beautiful.

We have several of the Classical Kids CDs, but this one is our favourite. Introducing children (and most adults who hear it, I daresay) to Early/Pre-Baroque/Medieval/Renaissance music through the story of a prince and princess who must seek the aid of Merlin to cure their sick mother, The Song of the Unicorn is wonderfully effective. Listeners learn about the history of music, the various instruments of the era (lyre, lute, recorder, etc), as well as the relationship of this era to later classical composers. Also, most importantly, they hear the music itself, and the selections here, which range from Gregorian chant to Celtic harp to Tallis, are outstanding. Other good Classical Kids CDs would include Mr Bach Comes to Call and Mozart's Magnificent Voyage.

Also started re-reading this one for the first time in a long while. Tom and Huck were certainly among my top literary favourites when I was a boy (I once read Huckleberry Finn in a single day when I was in bed sick all day). One of the scenes I love the most, and always have, is the one in which Tom and Joe Harper are playing 'Robin Hood.' Twain tells us that they played it 'by the book,' which meant that they actually quoted passages from the text and allowed for no variation from the canon when it came to what actually happened. When Joe, playing Guy of Gisborne, wants to kill Robin Hood for once, Tom refuses with the all the enthusiasm of a Bible-thumper:
By and by Tom shouted:
"Fall! fall! Why don't you fall?"
"I sha'n't! Why don't you fall yourself? You're getting the worst of it."
"Why, that ain't anything. I can't fall; that ain't the way it is in the book. The book says, 'Then with one back-handed stroke he slew poor Guy of Guis- borne.' You're to turn around and let me hit you in the back."
There was no getting around the authorities, so Joe turned, received the whack and fell.
"Now," said Joe, getting up, "you got to let me kill YOU. That's fair."
"Why, I can't do that, it ain't in the book."
"Well, it's blamed mean -- that's all."
"Well, say, Joe, you can be Friar Tuck or Much the miller's son, and lam me with a quarter-staff; or I'll be the Sheriff of Nottingham and you be Robin Hood a little while and kill me."

It don't get much better than that.