Our 2019 Children’s Books of the Year stand out from an increasingly troubling crowd
NEW YORK CITY-Greenwich Village is home to the White Horse Tavern, drinking hole of Dylan Thomas and other literary notables, and to coffee shops that birthed the careers of Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. It's where the gay-rights movement began following a bar riot in 1969. It isn't the most likely place to find a homeschooling family made up of a pastor, his petite wife with a yellow belt in karate, and their four kids.
In a 1,200-square-foot apartment in the heart of the Village live Sam and Mary K. Andreades, their three sons-Thaddaeus (16), Jeremy (13), and Enoch (8)-and their daughter, Veronica (10). Their two-bedroom, two-bath apartment is big by New York standards, but it takes some clever engineering to squeeze six (plus a church office located in half of the parents' bedroom) into the space.
The three boys sleep in the master bedroom. Each has an identical Ikea loft bed with a desk underneath. Their clothes reside under the desks in wire carts from the Container Store. On each desk sits a computer. Sliding, frosted glass doors carve a third bedroom for Veronica out of the dining alcove off the living room.
The living room's Victorian sofas and chairs frequently fill for a weekly mom-and-kids group, outreach book groups on topics like "Encountering the Bible for the First Time," and other church activities. "People in New York are understanding," Mary K. says about the crowds in her living room: "They don't mind being squished in." At other times the furniture is pushed to the side and the room becomes a gym where the whole family takes karate lessons.
People who imagine life in Manhattan often envision high style with two professional parents and one child cared for by nannies or enrolled in pricey private schools. The Andreades family, though, eats and entertains at home. Instead of paying to have her grandmother's Victorian sofa reupholstered, Mary K. is waiting to do it herself. Now it hides under a sheet. But people like coming, she says, because their apartment is "homey, and fun."
What about bad influences? The kids have friends at church and the family is just moving into the stage where they have independent friendships outside. So far they haven't had a problem. "But if the influence was going the other way, it would be a case-by-case basis," Mary K. says. "We pray a lot." She notes concerning people they meet, "I love it about New York that you have no motivation to pretend you're Christian if you're not. People who say they're Christian usually are."
Much of the Andreades family's homeschooling experience is similar to that of other Christians. The morning is for academic subjects, using materials from Veritas, Tapestry of Grace, and Sonlight. Afternoons include lessons, with each child playing an instrument-guitar, violin, harp, and piano. The children also participate in orchestra and ballet, and here's where a Manhattan advantage is apparent: The schedule would be daunting to a mom who had to drive everywhere, but the Andreades kids walk a few blocks one way or the other.
Some New York opportunities are unusual. Thaddaeus auditioned for and gained acceptance this fall to LaGuardia High, the school for the arts made famous by the movie and TV show Fame. He's involved in 3D computer animation and last year worked on a feature-length film. The kids danced with the nationally known Joffrey Ballet. They are a subway ride away from world-class museums and theaters.
Many churches in New York City are growing, and that has an impact on the Andreades children. Thirteen-year-old Jeremy told his parents that most of the kids-Christians-in the online philosophy/logic course he's taking assume that we live in a post-Christian culture. They are pessimists. Jeremy's experience is different: "We see types of people reached who haven't been reached before, and churches where there weren't churches before."
Go to the map
Want to learn about people in places far from you physically or spiritually? Worldmap.org, a project of the World Missions Atlas Project, is a user-friendly site that asks all of us to "pause and explore God's creation. You will find peoples and languages interwoven, producing rich cultures, all sharing a need for a Savior. God may lead you to pray, give, or go to a specific place."
If you are adept at using Google Earth and a spreadsheet, you can take the next step by creating new maps that display Christian needs and opportunities. Just as GoogleEarth can be used to plot the distribution of fast-food restaurants across the United States, so volunteers who go to christianitymaps.blogspot.com can now learn about and show the present day status of Christianity in different countries and cities: "We will provide the data, you provide the map in order to help others help the world!"
High-tech rescue attempt
Nicole Vienneau, 32, was an experienced traveler, so when she set out to travel from West Africa to Turkey by way of the Middle East her family was not concerned. But in April 2007 she didn't check in by phone as was her custom, so her brother Matthew, who was blogging about her trip on LiveJournal, grew concerned and pleaded with readers for tips on her whereabouts.
Since then LiveJournal has become "the command center" for a global search for Nicole, according to her brother, where "hundreds of volunteers have interviewed witnesses, checked hotel rooms, translated documents and websites from both Arabic and English, and made heartfelt pleas to the media for coverage." Matthew Vienneau told Wired News, "It's like I have physically had hands thousands of miles away in Syria. As I started having problems solved by people who had read the blog, I realized that it was an effective tool in finding out information the police were unable or unwilling to follow up on as quickly as I'd like."
The search shows the power and limits of technology. Information has accumulated, but Nicole is still missing.
Step by step
Need to lose some pounds after December eating? A cheap pedometer could help. Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine reviewed 26 studies of pedometer use that involved 2,767 people, mostly women who were overweight and largely inactive before they started their walking programs.
The result: Pedometer users walked 2,100 steps-about a mile-more each day than non-pedometer users. That was a 27 percent increase in physical activity. Pedometer users lost weight and body mass and decreased their systolic blood pressures. Since most of the participants in the various studies were women, more research needs to be done to see if men are as easily motivated.
Family values, sort of
Marketing gurus are talking about consumer uneasiness with an increasingly technological world full of online friends, social networking, kiddie cellphones and personal music players. One result, according to Advertising Age: Advertisers who used themes of family togetherness during the Christmas season will continue to push out such messages throughout the year.
Advertising Age cited brand consultant Joe Calloway: "It's a real trend, or maybe fad, in marketing right now." But family time in ads will have a twist, he added: It won't be families talking with each other or cooking together in the kitchen. It will be "let's watch TV, let's go to a restaurant, let's bring in takeout and pretend it's home-cooked family time."
Nor will the families necessarily be mom, dad, and kids: The new ads, according to another consultant, will be an opportunity to "highlight the different kinds of families beyond the nuclear family and map it to the products and brands. . . . It could get tired if the same kind of family is constantly portrayed."