Monday, August 20, 2012

Crew Review: Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers

One of my "goals" for this new school year, was to be more intentional about including music in our curriculum. Part of that was taken care of when MiniMe decided to take piano lessons, but I still wanted to include some learning about the stories behind some of the hymns and biographies of hymn writers and such. So, it fit in beautifully with my plans, when we were asked to review Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers from Christian Liberty Press.

Written by Douglas Bond, Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers is the first in a series of books about hymn writers. In this book, 2 American children are frustrated with being "stuck" in a small town in England for the summer, until they meet the church organist, known by all as Mr.Pipes. Over the course of the summer, he takes them on all kinds of adventures, while telling them stories about many of the famous British Hymn Writers, and leading them closer to God in the process.

We received the ebook (.pdf) version of this book to review. I read it as a read aloud to the girls either during our morning school time, or as a bedtime story, depending what else we were doing that day. It is a pretty long book, 298 pages, but held the girls' interest throughout and they are already asking when we can read the rest of the series.

The ebook is $8.79, the print book is $9.89. Christian Liberty Press lists this as being for grades 7-10. Honestly, I don't understand the grade level. . . my girls are roughly 3rd-4th grade level and they loved the story. I think by grades 7-10, some would find the story too "young". While the information about the hymn writers is valuable and age appropriate for the older children, the story seems written more for 3rd to 6th grade. I'm not good at gauging reading level, my girls read anything and everything, they would have been able to read the book as an independent reading book, without any problem, though the long chapters and length of the book overall, would have been daunting for MiniMe. As a read aloud, it worked wonderfully for their age, and accomplished exactly what I was hoping, taught them (and me) about some hymn writers (it should be noted that this book focused on the writers of the "lyrics", often originally written as poetry, and later put to music, not the people who wrote the music itself) and whetted their appetites to pay more attention to the hymns we sing in church. MiniMe, especially, has been asking her piano teacher to help her learn some of the hymns that we have learned about in this book.

I would recommend this as a read aloud, it could be a wonderful family bedtime read aloud or even used for family worship, for families with children of all ages. I think, while they might not have understood it all, even age age 5 or 6, my girls would have enjoyed this story if we'd broken it down and read it in small pieces. I enjoyed it myself, so, other than teens who think stories about "little kids" are beneath them, I think this would work up through adult.

As I mentioned, the girls enjoyed the book and immediately asked when we can get the rest of the series. In some places, I felt like there was too much detail, which I tend to notice more when I'm having to read out loud LOL, but the girls didn't seem to mind. I find it cumbersome to read .pdf format ebooks, either on my phone or on the computer. And with the print book being only a couple dollars more, I'm not sure it would be cost effective to buy the ebook and then print it out. One nice thing about the ebook, given MiniMe's interest in learning to play the hymns mentioned, was that I could print out the hymns (which are included, with music, at the end of each chapter) and not have to have her trying to play them out of the book itself.  The one thing I would love to see is an accompanying (or included) CD or mp3 of the hymns. I was able to hunt some of them down on you tube, and many of them were hymns that I was familiar enough with, to be able to sing the words enough to give the girls the general idea, but having a good version (with you tube, you never know which one is going to have understandable words and such) right at my finger tips on a CD or mp3, would have really enhanced the learning aspect of it for us.

In addition to this book, and the rest of the Mr. Pipes series, Christian Liberty Press carries a wide selection of books for families and homeschoolers, be sure to check them out! Also, don't forget to see what my fellow Crewmates thought of this book. You can read their reviews, here.

Editing to add: Over the last couple of years we've purchased and read the rest of the Mr. Pipes Series. While I found book 2 to be quite similar to the first, books 3 and 4 seemed to slip progressively into the specific doctrinal beliefs of "Mr. Pipes", much more legalistic than I believe. There was also some "bashing" of modern praise music, which I found disturbing. Additionally, it seemed like less hymns were presented in these books. So I'll stick to my recommendation of the first 2 books, but if I had it to do over, I personally wouldn't purchase the last 2.

Disclaimer: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received the above mentioned product in exchange for writing an honest review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are those of myself or my children, as stated.

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