DECEMBER 2018 BOOK REVIEWS

Books

The Visual Christmas Story 
My First Christmas Activity Book 
And the Star Shone Brightly
Bible Puzzles for Fun 
Really Useful Guides: Colossians and Philemon 
Follow the Star
Christian Music – a global history (revised and expanded)
The Last Journey – reflections for the time of grieving
God’s Biker – motorcycles and misfits
My Country Wept
The Season of Singing Has Come

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The Visual Christmas Story
by Ian Long, BRF, £6.99

This is the Christmas story told as a visual expression, or in ‘blob style’.  It can be enjoyed by readers and non-readers alike, but is particularly helpful for those who find reading difficult.

The Bible text appears opposite colourful verse-by-verse illustrations that encourage engagement with the story.  It will be a useful creative resource for various groups of all kinds.

As the author explains: ‘We remember only 10% of what we hear, while we recall 40% of what we see. This is a “visual translation” to accompany the words of the Bible and to open it up to a wider audience.’


My First Christmas Activity Book 
by Bethan James, Authentic, £3.99

You can help your children to prepare for Christmas with this fun-packed puzzle book.  The story of Christmas is introduced at the beginning of the book, and then it is explored through fun activity pages, so the child is able to engage with the story.


And the Star Shone Brightly
by Sally Ann Wright, Authentic, £4.99

Mary had a baby boy in a stable in Bethlehem on that first Christmas day. His mother loved Him, angels sang for Him and the stars shone brightly when Jesus was born. Now Christmas is celebrated all over the world because Jesus was born on that very first Christmas day.  This story for youngsters aged 4 – 7, to help them discover how the story of the First Christmas unfolded as the star shone brightly above Bethlehem.


Bible Puzzles for Fun
by Tony Spiller, BRF, £8.99

This collection would make a good stocking-filler. It is packed full of biblical brain-teasers – clever crosswords, tantalising anagrams, word searches, mazes and magic squares.

The puzzles have been compiled to show how people worked, lived and died in the Middle East over 2,000 years ago.  All the clues are linked directly to a verse in the Bible.

Tony Spiller spent most of his career teaching technical drawing, maths and religious studies at a secondary school in Manchester. To encourage pupils to read the Bible, he started inventing puzzles to teach them to look up the reference. He sadly died shortly after completing this book.


Really Useful Guides: Colossians and Philemon
by Derek Tidball, BRF, £5.99

This is the first New Testament title in a very useful new series of short, accessible guides to books of the Bible. Each Really Useful Guide focuses on a specific biblical book, bringing it to life for the reader, enabling them to understand its meaning and apply its truth in their day-to-day lives.

Neither commentary nor introduction, each volume offers valuable background and context, along with a user-friendly summary of the key messages of the text in question.  Aimed at the general Christian reader, the easy-to-read format has clear headings and bulleted lists.


Follow the Star
by various authors, CHP, £1.50 single, see website for multiple orders

 Follow the Star is a pocket-sized booklet inviting you to travel in the footsteps of the Wise Men this Christmas to meet Jesus.  It contains 14 daily reflections, one for each day from Christmas Eve throughout the 12 days of Christmas, ending with the Epiphany on 6th January.

Each one includes a picture, a short Bible passage, a simple prayer and a challenge to reflect or act differently. Together, they form a journey through Jesus’ early life – a journey that will help you take the joy and wonder of Christmas into the year ahead.

 #FollowTheStar is the Church of England’s Christmas campaign this year. Find out more and join in atwww.churchofengland.org/Christmas 


Christian Music – a global history (revised and expanded)
by Tim Dowley, SPCK, £14.99

Hillsong’s celebrity-filled services have recently brought attention to the denomination’s contemporary style of worship, with Christian thought and practice having a resurgence in Hip Hop and Grime, with rappers such as Stormzy and Chance the Rapper drawing upon gospel roots. But what is the musical legacy that led us here?

Tim Dowley traces the story of Christian music from its earliest Jewish origins, through the Renaissance, Reformation and up to the present day, discussing various liturgical traditions as well as non-liturgical sacred music. He covers the fascinating story of hymns, sacred songs, Christian expressions in modern jazz, folk, rock and pop. This comprehensive book ranges widely, with specialist chapters on Christian music worldwide, and covers such varied topics as Christmas carols, the music of Handel and Bach, spirituals and the blues, medieval polyphony, Hildegard of Bingen and contemporary Christian music.


The Last Journey – reflections for the time of grieving
by John Bell, SPCK, £14.99

 The need to express grief, to sing our sorrow, is as old as humanity. The book of Psalms, side by side with expressions of deepest praise, contains cries of unfathomable despair. Both are not only acceptable to God, but essential for our mental and spiritual health.

In The Last Journey, John Bell explores the myriad emotions that accompany loss, offering the reader a way to grieve, to search through the struggle before them – and perhaps enabling them to find the courage to face the world with a renewed sense of hope.


God’s Biker – motorcycles and misfits
by Sean Stillman, SPCK, £11.99

‘Zac’s Place’ is a church in Swansea. It is a small chaotic community of Jesus followers where the most fragile of life’s walking wounded try to work out their faith, because they quite simply wouldn’t fit anywhere else. It’s also the spiritual home for the local chapter of the motorcycle club God’s Squad.

‘Zac’s Place’ was founded in 1998 and for nearly 20 years has been led by Sean Stillman – a “painfully shy, nervous preacher’s kid”.  In Zac’s Place, chaos and disorder sit alongside community and grace in an environment that sometimes resembles an AA meeting mixed with a casualty department. This is Sean’s personal story of a transformed faith alongside the broken, the story of the church he started and the European-wide growth of an unlikely bunch of biker missionaries.


My Country Wept
by Jessica Jess Komanapalli, Authentic, £9.99

This autumn saw the 25th anniversary of the outbreak of the Burundian civil war.  This is one man’s amazing story of how God protected and provided for him in the midst of the Burundian civil war and brought him to a place of grace, forgiveness and restoration.

Theodore Mbazumutima was forced to flee from his native Burundi when tensions between Hutus and Tutsis increased after the death of Hutu President Ndadaye. His dangerous and incredible journey fleeing civil war is told in this page-turning, gripping account of God’s miraculous intervention, protection and guidance.

Theo is now Director of Rema Ministries, which has established itself as a peace-building organisation committed to the rights of people in forced displacement situations, particularly refugees, the internally displaced and returnees.


The Season of Singing Has Come
by Shaadia Firoz, Authentic, £9.99

Russian born Shaadia Firoz grew up in a Muslim family, afraid of her drunken and abusive father. Finding fame as a singer did little to fill her sense of emptiness, and a desperate search to fill this longing had her looking for love in all the wrong places. But everything changed when she encountered Jesus and she finally experienced unconditional love.

Through health scares and healing, threats and potential relationship wrong turns, Shaadia has continued to follow Jesus, and now passionately lives out her calling to preach the gospel, even in the most costly or dangerous situations.