That is what I found when we were given the opportunity to read Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers. This book is the first in a four book series written by Douglas Bond for a suggested reading age for those in grades 7 - 10. This book is available in both an e-book format ($8.79) or as a paperback ($9.89) from Christian Liberty Press. The other books in the series - Mr. Pipes and the Psalms and Hymns of the Reformation; Mr. Pipes Comes to America; Accidental Voyage: Discovering Hymns of the Early Centuries - can be purchased individually ($9.89) or as a complete set ($38.99).
Before I go on to tell you about how we have enjoyed this book, let me tell you a little more about the book itself. It is a story set in Olney, England, where two young children, Annie and Drew, are 'stuck' on vacation for the summer while their mother works. (A place I would love to be stuck.) While wandering the old, lonely town they meet Mr. Pipes - called such because he plays the enormous organ pipes in the church.
Annie and Drew are drawn to spend more time with Mr. Pipes and while they do he tells them stories of old - stories of the first British hymn makers like Thomas Ken, Isaac Watts, John Newton, William Cowper, and many others. He even includes some Scottish hymn writers and woman hymn writers among his stories. His stories tell about the history of how the hymns were created, by whom, and why. Knowing these facts really help the music and the lyrics come to life.
Interspersed in the book are beautifully etched pencil drawings as well as some of the hymns that are being discussed. Their inclusion just adds so much to the reading then in a normal book. And because this book is in PDF format I was able to add it to my Tablet with great ease so we can be sure to carry it with us wherever we go.
My eldest daughter, Arianna, really loves reading and to be read to, so when I called her and Audrie together for a 'reading session' she came with bells on! Audrie sometimes gets a little bored when being read to, but I think that is more because she doesn't like to sit still much. This book seemed to capture her attention especially after she saw the first drawing. That gave her something to "look" on while I continued reading.
I'm glad I had decided to read this as a family read aloud. Although I know that Arianna would have been able to read it on her own, she probably would have skipped over the larger unusual words (like grandeur, Anglicans, among others) and continued on with the story. Plus if she read alone she wouldn't have gotten much of the history out of the story either.
So we have been reading this as a family read aloud and everyone has loved it - including me. Mr. Bond is an excellent reader who captures the attention of the readers as well as listeners by painting a clear picture with his words. The lively adventures and excursions that Mr. Pipes takes Annie and Drew on while enlightening them to the church history that went along with the hymns being written, along with the other characters in the story are truly a masterpiece!
The chapters are a bit on the long side, but they do have built in break points where you can take a break from reading. But if your family is like mine, they never want to stop. ;) It would be a good idea to have a notebook or even some index cards and write down the pertinent information about the different writers as well as when you come across words that you may not know. That way you can look up the definition after your reading. You can also find most of the hymns on You Tube and let your children listen to them. We've done this for a few of the hymns we have encountered and it really helps cement them in their noggins'.
I really liked what I have read so far in this book. Because it is close to 300 pages we have been taking our time getting through the chapters. Plus when you add on doing some extra research on the hymn writer, doing some copywork of a portion of the hymn, vocabulary, etc., it take a bit to get through. ;)
I can't wait to get the rest of the series and I've already added it to our Christmas list. I may even ask for the print versions. ;) If you like reading and like history, you will really enjoy this story. Make sure you read what other Crew members thought just by clicking the banner below.
*** I am a member of The Old Schoolhouse 2011-2012 Crew and receive free products and services in exchange for a thorough and honest review. Though I am compensated with free products (and a one year premium membership to this program), I am not compensated in the form of money for any of my reviews. My reviews will always reflect my honest opinions, findings, beliefs and experiences with the products and services that I receive.***