Friday, March 26, 2010

Gigi's Hugest Announcement by Sheila Walsh

In Sheila Walsh’s animated video Gigi’s Hugest Announcement, Gigi is an adventurous little girl somewhat reminiscent of the beloved childhood character Pippi Longstocking. However, instead of having a monkey for a sidekick, she is attended by her beautiful, well-fed cat, “Lord Fluffy.” In this lively story, Gigi is a princess, a child of the heavenly King. Being a princess, however, does not guarantee that her life will be free of problems or that she will have everything she wants.

Young girls will surely be able to identify with the less-than-perfect Gigi, whose value is not based on how well she performs or on how perfect she is in appearance but on the fact that she is a child of God. These stories teach fundamental values that are nearly nonexistent in our culture as Gigi models an attitude worthy of a princess in her kindness and loyalty to her best friend, Frances. The animations in this dual collection are absolutely charming. Stories like these are long overdue and will surely be instrumental in helping girls and women alike to value themselves as God values them.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Flowering Cross by Beth Ryan, illustrated by Renée Graef

The Flowering Cross, written by Beth Ryan and illustrated by Renée Graef, tells of a grumpy old man who is transformed by the love of God and the kindness of a little girl. “Mean Old Jack” is feared by all of the neighborhood children except for Katie and her brother, who shower kindness on the old man and come to know him as “Papa Jack.” After rejecting their many invitations to attend church, Papa Jack surprises Katie one Easter morning by announcing his intention to join her for the worship service.

This delightful children’s book is sure to appeal to 4-8 year olds. It contains fourteen charming illustrations and nine Faith ImprintsTM, which capitalize on events in the story to teach children about topics such as obedience and the love of God. The message of the story is clear: children are often able to share the love of God in a way adults cannot. Unfortunately, Bible verses are not quoted from the King James Version, a translation I love for its beauty, accuracy, and simplicity; however, parents may appreciate its uncomplicated quotations from the International Children’s Bible. In addition, I was disappointed that some of the illustrations show Katie in pants and her mother with very short hair, giving the book a modern feel. Despite these objections, I heartily recommend this book.

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Critical Review of Don Quixote of the Mancha (Books I-III), by Miguel de Cervantes

Don Quixote of the Mancha, by Miguel de Cervantes, is a fictional book relating the unfortunate adventures of the mad knight-errant for which it is named. Although the characters in this book are not proper role models, it served the author's of ridiculing the popular romances about knighthood and certain passages of the book still provide quite wholesome entertainment.

The protagonist, Don Quixote, left his business and sold much of his estate in order to acquire a library of some three hundred books pertaining to knights and knighthood. He pored over these books night and day; and (as the author makes mention) "in the end, through his little sleep and much reading, he dried up his brains in such sort as he wholly lost his judgment." After this misfortune, he began believing himself to be a knight. So Don Quixote persuaded the ignorant and fearful Sancho Panza to serve as his squire on adventures in which he entered some righteous and some unrighteous causes, always touting his most illustrious Lady Dulcinea of Toboso.

Both Don Quixote and his squire have obvious weaknesses that make them unfit role models. The book mentions that Quixote was in the habit of cursing and swearing, although the author was decent enough to omit the actual words. Sancho Panza was no better: in fact, he had two great faults. He left his family to fend for themselves while he went traipsing around the countryside; and his reason was also faulty, being that he was eager to acquire an island to rule. However, these imperfections were not entirely useless. They helped many people to see the ridiculousness of fantasizing knights and castles when they were not even still in existence. Thus, Miguel de Cervantes aptly performed his task of satirizing the popular reading of his day. Soon after the publication of Don Quixote of the Mancha, the popularity of its many silly predecessors began to decline; yet Don Quixote remains popular today due to the hilarity of several escapades, the most notable of these being his fight with the windmills.

Overall, the primary purpose of this book expired soon after it was written. I would not recommend that others read the entire book since it does not have beneficial morals incorporated into each adventure. That is not to say, however, that none of it should be read. There are several passages that should continue in popularity due to the moral lessons hidden within their chaos.

Critical Review of Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen

Mansfield Park is a fictional book published by Jane Austen in 1814. It tells the story of Fanny Price and her observations of the true colors of the characters, including her friends, Henry and Mary Crawford, and her cousin, Edmund Bertram. Mane Austen accomplished her purpose for the book in subtly conveying to the reader that not all character flaws are readily recognized.

One of the people subject to observations was Henry Crawford. He was most often regarded as a polished gentleman because he dressed correctly and drove the correct rig. However, in her innocent way, Fanny Price sensed flaws in his character that few would notice. Mr. Crawford showed rebellion in his eagerness for playacting when Mr. Bertram was known to be opposed to it. He also was later proven immoral when he ran off with Fanny's recently married cousin, Maria.

Next to be mentioned is Henry's sister, Mary. At first glance, she seemed to be a lively, young girl whose primary influences had not always been to her betterment. She even, at times, seemed to be particularly kind, friendly, and helpful. However, her true nature was not all so beautiful. She was just as rebellious as Henry, not only in the matter of acting, but also in her attitude toward Christianity. In addition, her willingness to overlook her brother's immorality (not to mention her flirtation with Edmund) cast grave doubts on her own moral character.
Edmund Bertram is the last and most important of Fanny's three friends. He was more of a man than Mr. Crawford was even though he did not drive the fanciest carriage or have the knack for turning every female head in the area. Edmund also treated Fanny better than any of her other relatives did, since he did not always feel it necessary that she remember her place as a poor relation. Another of his many attributes is that he was conscientious in all that he did. He also was a sincere Christian who wanted to do God's will by becoming a clergyman. However, Edmund did have one large fault. He was terribly naive, especially concerning Mary Crawford. He did not see her conniving ways or that her pleasantness to Fanny was only a way to blind him to her true character. His blindness was not permanent, but it might well have been had he not had such high moral character.

The quality I admire most in this book is not the ability Austen had to accomplish what she intended, even though that is quite admirable. I think that Mansfield Park gains the majority
of its value from the fact that it is a realistic portrayal of life. Each of us must be careful in the choice of our friends because villainy can hide behind the brightest smile of them all.