Just a note to thank you for your remarkable book, Christmas Object Lessons. During the 40 years I spent in academic life, I was asked many times by publishers to review a book they had just published. By in large, the instructions from the publishers were pretty much the same:
1) Is the writing level appropriate for the audience for which it is intended?
2) Are the writer’s goals clearly stated?
3) Does the writer use understandable examples to clarify the content?
4) Is there a need for this kind of book for the audience this book hopes to reach?
I’ve reviewed so many books over the years that, without even consciously thinking about it, I find myself guided by those four points when reading instructional books. And so it was with your “Object Lessons.”
1) Is the writing level appropriate for the intended audience? The writer seems to have clear understanding of the comprehension levels of 6 – 12 year olds, the ages she hopes to reach with this scripture-based book. Verna has a keen grasp of what kids in this age group are able to understand and uses the limits of their knowledge to present interesting explanations of how each scripture verse can be applied to their own lives.
2) Are the writer’s goals clearly stated? Yes. Easily located on the back cover of her book one finds Verna’s goals succinctly spelled out, which, in a nutshell, are to provide a fun, easy-to-use, kid-focused book for kids, teachers and families to use as a way to remember what Christmas is really all about. This lets the reader know what to expect. Verna clearly does that.
3) Does the author use understandable examples and illustrations to clarify the content? There are many examples of Verna’s ability to do this. Two stand out for me: One is the object lesson on pp. 50-51 related to being strong. This is cleverly illustrated by an icicle metaphor which shows that though one may, like an icicle, begin strong, it is a strength that melts away when one makes poor choices or disobeys parents or others in charge, and that it is with God, through prayer, that one can remain strong.
The other metaphor that stands out is the one using pine needles, pp. 62-63, which, like certain words and behaviors one uses, can cause pain to others. The age group Verna is aiming for will quickly understand this, particularly when it comes to poking fun at or teasing others in cruel ways, and to begin to think ways to accept others rather than being like pine needles that can hurt.
These are just two of the clever metaphors that Verna uses to drive home the main theme each object lesson. I say clever because each takes something they already know about and connects it to what they are learning about in scripture.
Brandee Smith’s cute art work is a clever way of connecting the object of each lesson to the text.
4) Is there a need for this kind of book in the field this book addresses? Children are probably never more impressionable than they are in the 6 – 12 year ages that Verna’s book addresses. It is a time in life when basic values and beliefs are established, when children are most amenable and open to the world around them and to what adults have to teach them. Children are more likely to learn positive values, right from wrong , when they feel what they are being taught is meaningful and connected to their lives. And for sure, they are a lot more likely to assimilate positive values when when they don’t feel lectured to. Verna consistently avoids this trap with short, to-the-point passages in each object lesson.
This is a fine book, one that both Sunday school teachers and parents will find helpful to have in their arsenal of teaching tools.