Thursday, August 23, 2012

Schoolhouse Review: Christian Liberty Press -- Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers

It is well, (it is well),
With my soul, (with my soul)

It is well, it is well, with my soul.

This has long been my very favorite hymn.  First, because I can sing it.  Second, because of the history behind it.  Knowing the heart of the author (Horatio Spafford) during the time he wrote the words to this hymn endears it to me.  I find the story behind the story to be intriguing.

Part of this year's school will be spent introducing the children to hymns and their histories.  That was already decided when Christian Liberty Press' Mr. Pipes came into our world.  A downloadable e-book for 7th-10th graders, Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers is the story of two siblings on vacation in England who get to know a kindly organist named Mr. Pipes.  {quite a fitting name for an organist, don't you think?}  

Special Note:  Although the book is written for 7th-10th graders, I have used it as a read-aloud with my Princess and Boy Scout each morning and they are 6th and 8th graders.  They have both found it easy-to-understand and enjoyable.  You can easily use it with younger students or older -- my Junior would find it interesting, too.

"Stuck" in England while their mother works, Drew and Annie find themselves wandering the streets of Olney looking for something to keep them busy.  When the children first meet Mr. Pipes, they have been drawn to music they hear coming from inside of the town church.  He is playing a piece on the grand organ entitled the Tallis Canon.  Footnotes explain the history behind the musical arrangement and Mr. Pipes himself tells us the piece is over 400 years old.  My children were amazed that the last verse in the Tallis Canon is the Doxology that we sing in our church even today.  Can you imagine, 400-year-old music that we still enjoy?  Wow!

This is how author Douglas Bond describes the children in this scene:

"The strains of the Tallis Canon, combined with Thomas Ken's poetry, made them feel smaller, then gradually, they didn't think about themselves at all.  They just wondered."  

Isn't that such a serene picture of GOD's grace as we gradually begin to wonder -- and not worry about ourselves at all.  Oh, that we would always be in wonder at the mighty power of GOD!

Mr. Pipes becomes a friend to Annie and Drew and provides opportunities for them to explore the world around them.  He takes them on their first boat ride, on their first fishing expedition and even on their first train ride.  As he entertains the children, he introduces them to a multitude of hymn writers and teaches them about both the hymns and the people behind them.  Through the pages of Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers, you learn about Thomas Ken, Isaac Watts, Charles Wesley and John Bunyan -- and many others as well.   You also have the chance to see the musical scores for yourself and sing the words together as well.

These musical arrangements woven throughout the reading encouraged us to head over to YouTube and listen to the musical selections as a family. This was a neat way to add music appreciation and history to our reading. It was fun to HEAR what we were reading about and listening to the hymns added a new dimension to our studies. My children wanted to hear each song in several different arrangements and I was happy to oblige.  We broke up our reading time by appreciating good music.

I especially like what Mr. Pipes told the children on page 40 of the book, "Many hymns are prayers that express our desire after GOD better than we can ourselves.  It is a glorious thing to worship GOD, and hymns will give you words with which to worship HIM."  I so desire for my children to be in complete awe and wonder of GOD.  I want them to worship HIM without reserve and to find themselves basking in HIS GLORY often.  I appreciate Mr. Pipes for reminding us to express our desire for GOD wholeheartedly through the words and music of hymns.

There is one thing that I would like to point out.  Because Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers was published in 1999 and technology is so rapidly changing, there are a few places that I had to explain to my children what the author was talking about.  {I guess this just further made me realize how OLD I am getting.}  In the beginning of the book a quaintly worded paragraph says that a "compact cd player hung on his jeans."  My kids had NO IDEA what that was.  Of course, the update would be there was a tiny iPod in his pocket.  There were a few other incidences of outdated terminology when the characters discussed floppy discs -- another thing our children have never seen.  Of course, these things did not impact our enjoyment of reading AT ALL.  {We've been reading the classics aloud and I find myself explaining things there, too.  Times they are changing -- and oh, so rapidly.}

Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers is a delightful book with sweet pictures to break up the chapters.  We have enjoyed learning more about the history of the very hymns we are singing in Worship and we have loved spending a few minutes each morning listening to them off together.  We've enjoyed searching for different versions of the hymns and comparing the sound.  Mr. Pipes has added an entertaining element to our day and has been an neat way to start our school mornings together.


I've known about Christian Liberty Press for a long time and have even used several of their history books with my curriculum over the years.  I had not had the privilege of meeting Mr. Pipes but am so glad to be introduced.  The first book in a series of four, Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers is available for  $8.79.  (There's a print version available for $9.89 if you prefer a book in your hand.)   It reads beautifully on my Kindle and has been a perfect addition to our studies.  The complete set is available for $38.99 -- and I'm already eyeing the next book.  I can't wait to learn delve deeper into the beautiful hymns that have been a part of my life for years.


~Disclaimer:  I was given the opportunity to read and review Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers published by Christian Liberty Press as a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew.  The opinions stated are mine and mine alone.  I was not paid to share my thoughts and feelings with you.  I received a pdf download in exchange for my honest review. You can check out the Crew Review and see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought of  Mr. Pipes  HERE.~

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1 comment:

  1. I just overlooked those 90 things. Now I think maybe I'm a decade behind.


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