Discerning Reader Editorial Review
Reviewed 07/15/2011 by Mark Tubbs.
Recommended. Engaging embellishments of biblical narratives featuring lesser figures, ideal for youth or to read to older children.
Now that my older children are ages 6 and 5, I have been on the lookout for "chapter books" that deal with biblical and theological themes. Two excellent resources I have turned to for assistance include The Book Tree and Honey for a Child's Heart. They are very different guides and complimentary of one another. However, you won't find Rebecca Parkinson's Hidden Heroes series in either one - her books are too recently published. In the past few weeks my children and I have enjoyed Parkinson's narrative renditions of the smaller figures found in Scripture: the hidden heroes of salvation history.
Parkinson narrates the experiences and emotions of lesser scriptural figures with verve and vigour, suitable for a young audience - although I can imagine someone who doesn't read very often benefiting from reading this book as well. Named figures such as Eliezer, Hur, Bezalel, Mephibosheth, Barzillai, Obadiah the steward, Jehosheba, Meshach and Baruch are some of the featured characters, as well as unnamed figures including the widow of Zarephath and a soldier in Gideon's small army. King Josiah's story is also told, although I wouldn't consider him a hidden hero. I remember numbering Josiah as one of the great kings of Israel and Judah as a young Bible reader trawling the histories of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles.
The inevitable criticism from some quarters will be that Parkinson is embellishing on Scripture to a sinful degree, and Revelation 22:18 will no doubt be cited in ostensible support. I can't agree with this criticism for at least two reasons: one, that 22:18 applies to the prophecies of Revelation in particular, and two, that if Parkinson's published embellishments are sinful, then every parent who attempts to retell biblical stories by memory is in very great danger of sinning. Let's put this tenuous criticism to rest then, shall we?
Parkinson's turn of phrase is pleasant and measured, and her characters' dialogue is never stilted. I did feel at times that characters' thoughts and emotions were overly simplified, but one need only recall Parkinson's role as the leader of the youth work at her church. Doubtless most, if not all, of these stories were told to or read by members of her youth group prior to publication. The stories are designed to bring the book to life, not to be psychologically note-perfect.
My children look forward to reading a story every bedtime despite the lack of pictures or the five to six-page length of the stories. Each story ends with a few comprehension and application questions; since my children are fairly tired when we read this book, I choose one question per story. It's my hope that Twelve Hidden Heroes (OT) Book 2 will drive my children to find these figures in the Bible and place them in context in salvation history. You couldn't ask for much more from a 100-page chapter book!