Thursday, October 17, 2013

Wise Words, by Peter J. Leithart

The kids and I recently finished reading through Wise Words: Family Stories That Bring the Proverbs to Life, by Peter Leithart. I picked this up at a conference a year ago but we just got around to using it.

Wise Words is a collection of eighteen fairy-tale style stories which each have their own moral, based on a Proverbs (from the Bible). Each story is roughly 3 pages long and is full of princesses, kings, peasants, jewels, wizards, apples and nuts. Both my four year old and my six year old really got into these stories and would enthusiastically ask me to read more than one in each sitting. I managed to hold them off, only reading one a day. Each story was interesting.

If you are looking to teach your children morals through stories, this is a collection you might consider. Just as the Book of Proverbs assures us, all stories do not have a happy ending and this book follows that reality. The characters within who make foolish choices, or who are full of pride and arrogance, meet difficult to doomed endings. Those that seek to do right meet with success and their own happily-ever-afters. The stories are not neat and tidy and, I would say, are rather on the edgy side. I would liken them more to Grimm than you'll find in most picture books these days but I did not mind this as it kept my children in rapt attention. They were not able to relax in any one particular story because you were never sure of the ending. Wickedness is described and wickedness is not pretty. It is not supposed to be. Sin is not a happy thought, especially that which is not confessed and dealt with!

At the conclusion of every story there is a moral in the form of one verse from the Book of Proverbs. For example, the story of The Fragrant Garden teaches that a false witness will not go unpunished (Prov. 19:5), The Monster's House teaches that a man's ways are ordained by the Lord (Prov. 20:24), and A Cloud of Birds teaches that wealth is fleeting (Prov. 23:5).

Our reading of this book was interrupted by a family vacation. Before we left, I would read them a chapter of the real Book of Proverbs along with a story every day. Upon our return I just finished the book. I prefer reading Proverbs alongside as it makes the truths stand out a little bit more. But either which way, it does make for an interesting read because it uses stories to communicate truths which I sometimes think works better than lectures. Wise Words doesn't come across as "preachy" in the least, as many devotional type books do. (Unless, of course, you are talking about the moral.)

As we would read a story we would try to guess at what might happen. The stories are surprising enough that we seldom guessed correctly and that was entertaining to us as well. Plus, it is just enjoyable reading fairy tales, all which (whether they be Grimm, Anderson or Leithart) teach us something of ourselves, the decisions we make, and the passions of our hearts. I'm a huge fan of fairy tales and so it should come as no surprise to hear that I liked this book. I plan to re-read it with my kids again in a few years.

If you are looking for a different sort of devotional and have an interest in working through the Book of Proverbs with your kids, this might be one that you would want to consider. It's definitely a bit off the beaten path but the journey is surprising and fun.


Barbara H. said...

This sounds like a great resource!

Shonya said...

Hmmmm, that sounds interesting. So many books like this are boring (to both me AND the kids) because they lose the story in the preaching. And I like that it accurately shows that life doesn't always have a happy ending when there isn't repentance.

Sky said...

sounds interesting!

Bluerose said...

It seems as though I can't control myself with taking on devotional books for the boys. I still haven't even made it(other than maybe one)into a devotional I bought for them. That said, this one looks great, and I'm still adding it to my list! :)

Cassandra said...

Do you think this book would work with a kid newly learning English? Our daughter will know very little English when she gets home but I'm looking for ways to teach her about God and the Bible as soon as we can communicate well enough to do so.

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