Bach, Legos and Andrew Peterson

This is the story…
behind the video…
behind the book review…
behind the coveted Wingfeather picture…

Our family spent the better part of last year studying the life and music of Johann Sebastian Bach.  Together, we journeyed through his childhood, his family, his character, and his music.  We discovered that his family was so well-known that it was common to be said of excellent musicians, “He’s quite a Bach.”  Branding at it’s best in the 1800’s.

If my children remember one thing from our study, I hope that it is the signature with which Bach signed his music.  “Soli Deo Gloria” To the Glory of God Alone.”  My youngest used the phrase for copywork.  We all memorized it, and spent a fair amount of time discussing how those words translate into everyday life.  For each child, there was a thoughtful application.  I’d like to share with you what it meant for one child in particular.  And then I invite you to consider what it may mean in your life.

Will, my 12-year-old, has always been an old soul.  He read The Chronicles of Narnia at a young age, and was eager to explain that the books were “really about God and Jesus in a fun way.”  His interests are distinctive.  Will devours books, often spends his hard-earned money on beakers (and copper wire, pvc pipe, you get the picture) for science experiments, has the mind of an engineer and the heart of a musician.  It’s quite a combination.

Last spring, the majority of his energies were focused on learning, practicing, and perfecting 3 pieces of Bach to be played at his sister’s wedding.  Quite an undertaking and somewhat of a stretch.  In the early, somewhat painful, stages of learning the music, he was convinced that he couldn’t do it.  Too much, too hard, too little time.  We pressed on, cheering “Soli Deo Gloria.”  Real world translation:

Perfect performance isn’t the goal.

Pouring out our talents and gifting for God’s glory is.

We’re called to humility in giving rather than pride in accomplishment.

In addition to the world of Bach, Will spends a fair amount of time in the world of Legos.  Stop-motion videos, to be precise.  I wish that I had the attention to detail and patience that are required to produce a 2 minute stop-motion video.  I don’t.  But Will has spent numerous hours in perfecting his technique.  Scenes from Star Wars, the Wilderking Trilogy, and various robberies have been immortalized in the form of Lego videos.  Soli Deo Gloria… how in the world does this phrase apply here?  It feels like a stretch at best.  Not quite of the magnitude of a shepherd boy spending years perfecting his shot with a sling…  but a stretch.

Then came the Andrew Peterson’s unexpected announcement that there would be a contest for bloggers reviewing his latest book, The Monster in the Hollows.  Let me admit that we’re serious fans, and that the children have been indoctrinated accordingly.  So knowing that the contest would most likely be entered by adults who were “real writers”, we chose to believe that it was true, regardless of the outcome:

Soli Deo Gloria. 

God doesn’t call us to be like others. 

He calls us to use our individual gifting to His glory.

When the reviews came pouring in, I allowed Will to read through a few.  “I can’t do that” was his response.  No, he couldn’t.  But he could give out of what he had.  He mustered up the courage to hope, and days later, he had created a video for The Monster in the Hollows.  He then wrote a review that came straight from his heart.  To my knowledge, he was the only child who entered the contest among many adults.

Weeks later, the big day came.  The announcement was made.  The family celebrated.  Will’s younger brother literally jumped up and down while he cheered, and his little sister threw her arms around his neck and rewarded him with her infectious kiss.  The coveted award to the winner was an original Wingfeather Saga drawing.   Will was able to choose his favorite character or scene from the book, and Andrew would get to work drawing.

After months of anticipation, I’m grateful to report that Andrew delivered the drawing and it will soon take up permanent residency in our home.  The jury is still out regarding its chosen location – either in our family library or in the boys’ room.  Here’s a peek:

On the back of the picture is the following inscription:

 

As summer fades into fall, and months compound into years, the excitement of winning the contest may lose some of its luster.  My hope is that as we continue to enjoy the drawing so generously crafted for Will, it will be a tangible memorial stone for our family.  It will serve as a reminder that yes, it is true:

When we offer our gifting, passions and desires back to the Great Creator to use for His glory, He can and will use anything to accomplish that purpose. 

Even little boys who likes to read clever books and create with Legos.

The Great Library at Ban Rona in it’s most likely spot – over Will’s library.

Soli Deo Gloria.

 

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For more on the Wingfeather Saga (including Andrew’s upcoming book, The Warden and the Wolf King) visit here.

You can read Will’s review and watch the video here.



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Books for Boys: Why it Matters

 

Boys. Wow. They’re different. Having grown up in an estrogen-rich home with only one sister, I had a limited understanding of just how diverse the differences between boys and girls were. As a college student, I was stunned to see one of our male neighbors (we’ll call him “Hamilton”) drink directly from a carton of milk. Who ever thought of doing such a thing? I was shocked not only by the action, but also by my naiveté. At the wise old age of twenty, I apparently had a few things left to learn about the opposite sex.

When I married my husband, with him came Chapman, a charming blue-eyed little boy. This life change resulted in my immediate enrollment in “Boys 101”.  No more auditing. This was the real class. One of my earliest “boy memories” was created within the first few months of marriage. I was happily lost in the world of my latest book, when a sudden noise jarred me back to reality. It became repetitious. It was getting louder. In the corner of the family room, lounging happily on the floor, was a very content 4-yr-old Chapman. He had his matchbox cars lined up neatly in two rows. Every few minutes, after they had completed the requisite figure 8’s, one car from each of the rows would collide with great velocity into the another. Each crash came with impressively accurate sound effects.  Mystery of said noise solved. I leaned over and asked what I thought was a reasonable question. “Could you please be a little bit quieter when you do that?” He gave me a look that I will never forget.  It communicated something close to, “And what would be the point of that?” Hamilton’s milk carton sprang to mind. Boys.

Yes, boys differ from girls in a variety of ways. Unfortunately, the literacy rate for boys falling consistently behind that of girls is one of them. No doubt, there are a variety of factors that contribute to the problem, yet there is a consistent common denominator among researchers: Boys read far less than do girls.

Why aren’t our boys interested in reading? 

“Boys prefer adventure tales, war, sports and historical nonfiction, while girls prefer stories about personal relationships and fantasy. Moreover, when given choices, boys do not choose stories that feature girls, while girls frequently select stories that appeal to boys. Unfortunately, the textbooks and literature assigned in the elementary grades do not reflect the dispositions of male students. Few strong and active male role models can be found as lead characters. Gone are the inspiring biographies of the most important American presidents, inventors, scientists and entrepreneurs. No military valor, no high adventure. On the other hand, stories about adventurous and brave women abound. Publishers seem to be more interested in avoiding “masculine” perspectives or “stereotypes” than in getting boys to like what they are assigned to read.” Why Johnny Won’t Read (The Washington Post)

So what’s the response?  

We want our boys to want to read. Unfortunately, many publishers have attempted to solve the problem by “insisting that we must ‘meet them where they are’—that is, pander to boys’ untutored tastes.  For elementary and middle-school boys, that means ‘books that exploit [their] love of bodily functions and gross-out humor.’ AP reported that one school librarian treats her pupils to “grossology” parties. ‘Just get ’em reading,’ she counsels cheerily. ‘Worry about what they’re reading later.”  How to Raise Boys Who Read (Wall Street Journal)

One of the many problems with this approach is that the end-goal is rarely reached. Boys’ hearts and minds hunger for stories of substance. We spoil their appetite by providing them with a steady diet of intellectual junk-food. The “at least they’re reading” theory is a bad one. In dumbing down the books that we give our boys, we’re reinforcing destructive messages about reading, quality literature, and the intellectual capacity of our young men.

In this powerful 3-minute video, Sally Lloyd-Jones (author of The Jesus Storybook Bible and Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing) shares the importance of capturing a child’s imagination:

What can we do to help facilitate healthy appetites for great story?

~Be intentional. Have a standard and a plan – for books to purchase and for books from the library.  For each of my children, I’ve created a list of books that I would like them to read AND that I think they’d enjoy. This makes the quick trip to the library or the Christmas list for Grandma an efficient, pain-free way to obtain quality books for them.  Visit the Exceptional Resources for Children’s Books page.  Each book listed is filled with great recommendations.

~Put limits on “distractions” (screen time).  When left to our own propensities, we often gravitate toward that which requires less work. Reading is deeply rewarding, but it requires more work than do video games and the TV. The studies correlating literacy with screen time are staggering. Our boys are building life-long patterns. The everyday choices matter.

~Listen to their interests and look for books that would be engaging to them. One of my sons judges the quality of a book by the number of battles that occur within. His first literary love was the Dan Frontier series (Frontiersman and Indians). Then came Peter Pan battling Captain Hook, Robin Hood, and King Arthur. He’s also, shall we say, addicted to engaged in  all things Star Wars. Although I might not deem the Star Wars books as great literature, they do embody great story. Battle Boy’s brother has a keen sense of humor and is drawn to books that are clever. To name a few, he’s been absorbed in Edith Nesbit’s Complete Book of Dragons, Jonathan Roger’s The Wilderking Trilogy, and most recently, GK Chesterton’s Father Brown stories. The Chronicles of Narnia and Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga are forever woven into the tapestry of both of their childhoods.  Although we try to provide a “well-rounded meal” of different genres of literature, I always defer to their tastes when purchasing books for gifts or rewards.

~Read aloud.  And whenever possible, have Dad read aloud.  Consistently.  My husband, who is not necessarily a read-for-pleasure guy, has committed to read aloud to the boys at night before they go to bed. I do the research and supply the “boy books.” They’ve worked their way through most of the Ralph Moody Little Britches series, and the three of them have developed a “secret culture” of which I’m (happily) not a part. The characters have become their friends. Together, they’ve endured perilous adventures and explored foreign lands. They’ve experienced the joy of being swept up in story.

~Appreciate boys for who they’ve been created to be.  Have vision for who they can become. Look for books that affirm and inspire them. Look for books that delight the imagination. Begin with “the end” in mind. If you want young men who are thoughtful, intelligent, compassionate, brave, and of high character, give them a steady diet of books that will shape their souls in that direction.

More than the painting you see or the music you hear, the words you read become in the very act of reading them part of who you are, especially if they are the words of exceptionally promising writers. If there is poison in the words, you are poisoned; if there is nourishment, you are nourished; if there is beauty, you are made a little more beautiful. In Hebrew, the word dabar means both word and also deed. A word doesn’t merely say something, it does something. It brings something into being.”  Frederick Buechner

When you have a few quiet minutes, listen to this song by Steve Taylor (you’ll have to listen beyond the very 80’s synthesizer).  At its very heart is the power of the Greatest Story.

For our boys…

Hero by Steve Taylor
















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Will Proclaims the Latest Wingfeather… “A Winner”

The following review was written by a guest author, Will Silander (11 yrs).  Will is an avid reader who also enjoys strategizing and implementing various forms of battles, creating all things electronic, playing the piano, and spending hours in the creek behind his home in Charlotte, NC

A Critic’s Review of The Monster in the Hollows

Andrew Peterson is one of my favorite songwriters. I was SO excited when I found out that he did not only write songs, but was also an author and had written two books, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness and North! Or Be Eaten. These books, also called The Wingfeather Saga, were suspenseful, fast-paced, and cleverly written. I sped through both in less than a week. After reading the books, I had several unanswered questions, and was hoping he would write a third book that would answer at least some of them.

Andrew Peterson and the Silander kids at “Meet the Author”

This past spring, I was fortunate enough to meet Andrew Peterson when he came to Charlotte to speak about his writing. He showed some of the sketches he had made of various creatures, people and places from the first two books. The drawings of The Fangs (villainous reptilian creatures) looked almost exactly like I had imagined them from his description in the books. I was thrilled when he announced that he was almost done with a third book, and that it would be available in May.

The third book in the Wingfeather Saga, The Monster in the Hollows, was even better than I had hoped. It tied up many loose ends left dangling from the first two books, and also introduced some interesting new characters such as Guildmadam Olumphia Groundwich and Madam Sidler, the Librarian. This book is packed full of action, adventure, and suspense, while weaving humor and lighthearted fun throughout. If you like reading the books of C.S. Lewis, JRR Tolkien, or Edith Nesbit, I would highly recommend The Wingfeather Saga.

Will is also the creator, producer, and musician for the following promotional video:

Hop on over to www.rabbitroom.com to place your order!

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 For the rest of the story:  visit here



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