Our 2019 Children’s Books of the Year stand out from an increasingly troubling crowd
The Fellowship of the Ring
British author Tolkien published The Fellowship of the Ring in 1954 as the first book in his Lord of the Rings trilogy. In this epic fantasy, hobbits band together with others in Middle Earth to destroy an evil lord’s ring of power. Free audiobook versions abound on the web, though some listeners may prefer Rob Inglis’ simple narration of the unabridged text from 2012 ($38.49 on Audible.com). Those who want to dig deeper into Tolkien’s use of Biblical Christology can pair an audio version with Philip Ryken’s 2017 book, The Messiah Comes to Middle Earth.
The God Who is There
In 1965, Christian apologist Francis Schaeffer gave a 10-part address at Wheaton College. The talks touched on philosophy, art, science, and culture, as Schaeffer applied the Biblical worldview to modern challenges. Three years later, Schaeffer turned those talks into The God Who Is There, now available from Blackstone Audio with narration by John Lescault. While hearing Lescault’s voice can’t match hearing Schaeffer himself (Schaeffer apparently shone brightest in person), the audiobook includes James W. Sire’s 30th anniversary introduction.
The Valley of Vision
Bennett, an English-born minister, drew from Puritan writers including John Bunyan, Isaac Watts, and Charles Spurgeon to create this book in 1975. Dwelling on themes of God’s sovereignty and man’s humility, Bennett compiled or wrote more than 150 prayers for the project, including titles like “Praise and Thanksgiving” and “Mortification.” While Banner of Truth Trust offers at least two print versions, audiobook fans may enjoy the dramatic intensity of Max McLean’s Listener’s Valley of Vision, available from Ligonier Ministries.
Here I Stand
Bainton’s classic work from 1950, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther, remains a popular biography of the Reformer—and for good reason. Bainton exhibits a scholar’s grasp of the theological issues at play, combining insightful analysis with extensive historical footnotes. He paints a sympathetic portrait of Luther, with an emphasis on Luther’s stand for Biblical authority at the Diet of Worms. Bainton also acknowledges some of Luther’s shortcomings, including anti-Semitism. Tom Weiner’s 2011 audiobook version by Blackstone Audio captures the story with deep resonance.
Students of the classics may want to take note of two additional resources. First, Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style (Pearson, 2000) turns 100 this year. A primer first composed in 1918 by Cornell University professor William Strunk Jr., the book gained new vitality when essayist and kids’ book author E.B. White (Charlotte’s Web) edited a version in 1959. Today, the book’s basic grammar rules and composition guidelines continue to benefit budding writers.
Second, in the first season of his Open Book podcast released this year, Stephen Nichols interviewed pastor and teacher R.C. Sproul, who died last December. In each interview, Sproul recommended books that profoundly influenced him spiritually, including works by Roland Bainton, Benjamin Warfield, Herman Melville, and Thomas Aquinas. —E.W.