Wednesday 23 March 2011

Mr Pipes and the British hymn makers

"Mr Pipes and the British hymn makers", by Douglas Bond, is a book which demands a review.

This is a fascinating book which describes a fictional boy and his sister, from the US, who spend their summer holiday in very English, Olney. They meet the elderly church organist who is known by his nickname, Mr Pipes.

Mr Pipes spends most of the summer with the children and in the process teaches them about British hymns and hymnwriters. This is done beautifully by little stories, about one or two writers per chapter. He also teaches the children clearly about the way of salvation, not in a dumbed down way, but in the words of some of the best British hymns.

Each chapter is followed by the words and music for the hymns which have been discussed.

I have read this book aloud to one of my children and my most voracious reader has read the book herself. Do we like the book? Well, yes.

It is always difficult to specify ages for a book. It is probably suitable for reading aloud from about age 6 and for an able reader aged 7. I enjoyed it as did our 15 year old although it didn't keep her occupied for long!

I have a couple of gripes about the book.

It would have benefitted by being proof read by someone who is English. There are a few cultural mistakes: tea is taken with milk not cream, "The London Times" doesn't exist as far as I am aware but "The Times", of course, does and the verb "to visit" is used by English characters in the American way, "visited with".

The doctor seems to be overbearing and certainly isn't careful about confidentiality, in advising his patient. Mr Pipes seems to be an active older man and I can't see why the doctor is so keen to restrict his activity. An appointment with the cardiologist might be more appropriate.

Aside from these points, I would recommend the book both for read alouds and for children to read alone.

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