Tuesday, July 24, 2012

When Zachary Beaver Came to Town – Kimberly Willis Holt

When Zachary Beaver Came to Town

©1999  Dell Yearling, New York

Sometimes you read a book and want to see the movie based on it. Sometimes you see the movie first. That’s what happened to me just a few weeks ago. The family and I were watching a really good family film based on Kimberly Willis Holt’s award-winning book. In this kind of scenario, I usually say that the book is better than the movie (when approaching Ernest Gaines’ The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, forget about Cicely Tyson’s career mistake and read the book) with an occasional hiccup where the movie outshines the book tremendously (What the Deaf Man Heard was much better on the screen than its counterpart, Whatthe Deaf Mute Heard). But sometimes, just sometimes, you encounter something that is worth your while in either format because one’s not better than the other – they’re just . . . different.

When Zachary Beaver Came to TownConsider the nice little film released in 2006 and starring Jonathan Lipnicky (et al). Here we have a superb family film about small-town Texas, and all the quirks that endear it to us—regardless of where we really live. It earned a PG rating for some mild language, but over all you can sit down with even your younger children and a bowl of popcorn and laugh/cry your way right along with the characters. The acting is pretty good. The characters are developed to a point of recognition from the moment they hit the screen. The story flows with most of the events from the book with a few major variations that don’t really damage the plot itself. Some anomalies that hit you over the head are the military involvement of the best friend’s brother, which misses the book’s 1970s setting, and the use of email where Holt’s characters wrote letters. I’d recommend the movie for all ages of film-watchers.

On the other hand, the book is recommended for the thirteen and older group. My ten-year-old daughter is an excellent reader and would sprint through this book like it was water. She’s even quick enough to catch all the nuances of what’s going on in the book. But some of the themes addressed by the book, well, I’m not ready for her to have to tackle them. Even so, this is a well-written, smooth reading book that the YA audience and adult readers alike would enjoy.

Antler, Texas is a widespot in the road where nothing ever really happens. Nothing until Zachary Beaver, the “World’s Fattest Boy”, shows up that is. Follow along with the adventures of Toby and Cal as they learn about love, hate, anger, war, and death, all in the matter of a couple hundred pages. If the development of the characters in this book has any fault it is that the support characters are rather flat and the narrator is too nice—but we’ve all been in his shoes.

Check this book out of you local library, or buy it for your shelf, or find it in e-form—you will want to read this book. You’ll see why it’s on virtually everybody’s reading list. Watch the movie, too. It’s great family fare. Just remember, even with their similarities, they are (almost) entirely different enjoyments. (In other words, if you’re one of those who waits for them movie to watch instead of reading the book—read the book; and if you’re a purist who says you only read the book and don’t like movies based on books—watch the movie. In either case, you’ll be glad you did.) Book and movie—neither is to be missed. Five out of five reading glasses (or popcorn bowls) all around.

—Benjamin Potter July 24, 2012

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Real Marriage – Mark & Grace Driscoll

Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together©2012 Thomas Nelson, Nashville 

In a society that is filled with preachers who are trying to re-invent church in order to appeal to a new generation, Mark Driscoll seems to have found a voice—at least in his home of Seattle where he leads one of the faster growing churches in one of the most un-churched areas of our country. The popular trend today is for some of these pastors to publish books based on their teaching concerning sex and marriage. So Mark and his wife Grace have teamed up to present their take on answering some of the formerly unaskable questions.

Quite frankly, the book does a good job of sticking with Scriptural basis for finding the answers to these questions. But also quite frankly, the authors sometimes deal a little more frankly than polite society would like for this topic to be dealt with. I think that there is an audience for this book, although it may not be the audience that the authors and the publisher thought of when producing and marketing this book.

It is not for the general public at large. I know that this is the way that it has been approached, but I believe that this book, along with others like it, will serve best as reference books in the hands of ministry leaders, Christian counselors and the like.

Even having said this, the advice they give concerning coming to grips with one’s physical past is sound, though sometimes over-generalized. At times the authors assume that every person inside and outside the church has some deep dark hidden sexual secret that must be exposed. The method of exposure advised is a “rip the bandaid off” approach that can lead to more scars than healing. Does such hidden past need to be brought out into the open? In most cases, yes. But this should be done with great care so as not to destroy the relationship that you are trying to heal.

Would I recommend this book? Cautiously. Do I think it could be helpful in certain situations? Probably. Do we need to use a “group study guide” to include this in our on-going church curriculum? I would advise against it. Therefore, I give this book 3.5 reading glasses out of five.

—Benjamin Potter, July 12, 2012

Illusion – Frank Peretti


© 2012 Howard Books, New York

I’m not always a fan of Frank Peretti. Some of his early, highly-praised work moved a little slow for me. But I do get excited when acclaimed authors who stand on their faith treat us to another story. And so I was excited when I got an invitation to review his latest work of fiction. The short version of the saga toward this review is that my review copy never showed up before the early March deadline. Consequently, I got an e-copy in mid-April and finally got a chance to read it.

The story follows the life of Dane Collins following the tragic auto accident that took his beloved Mandy’s life. After forty years of marriage, the two well-respected magicians were preparing to open a new chapter off-stage, and move into semi-retirement in Mandy’s beloved Idaho. Suddenly Mandy is whisked back to the fairgrounds where she first met Dane before they met and the whirlwind begins.

Any more of the story line would be filled with spoilers, so I’ll stop there and give you the review. The book starts slow, with some jumps and starts. But as with Peretti’s TheOath, you are soon so involved in the lives of the characters that you want to keep reading until page 500 rolls around. This is a well-crafted story that requires more than a modicum of suspended belief. That’s okay though, because of the genre.

Genre issues bring up some other questions though—what kind of book do we have? Which audience will love this tale best? The author himself has the same questions in a short afterword. Of course, most bookstores will place this in the Christian or Inspirational Fiction sections simply because of the author. I would have no trouble shelving it with the romance novels (because it’s a love story), in the suspense section (because it’s filled with mystery), or even with the Sci-Fi/Fantasy works (because of the need to suspend belief to get into the story). Does the author achieve his goal of painting a picture of the love that Creator-God has for His church? I think so, although one would not necessarily read that into the story unless they had a tendency to do it.

If you’re a Peretti fan, you’ve probably already read this book—and if not you’ll want to. It isn’t classic Peretti, but it does expand his horizons without departing from his original foundation. The book addresses Christianity without being preach-y (which I really like). If you haven’t read one of this author’s books, Illusionis a great introduction to him and his writing. Readers of romance, mystery/suspense, or fantasy books will all be happy with this book. I give him five reading glasses for this new novel.

—Benjamin Potter, July 12, 2012

[This book was provided by the publisher for the purpose of review. No compensation has been given for this review. The opinions expressed are those of the reviewer. This is a review of the electronic version of the book.]

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