Monday, December 29, 2014

Review of "Jotham's Journey"

I know it's not very helpful when a blogger posts a review of a book for Advent after Christmas, but I'm going to do it anyway. I had been eyeing Jotham's Journey: A Storybook for Advent, by Arnold Ytreeide, for a couple of years now, but knew my children were too young to sit through a serial story without pictures. A family tradition of reading together, an idea promoted on the back of Ytreeide's book, is something I hope to incorporate into every holiday season. Because things get really busy with all the trappings of Christmas in our consumer culture, it wasn't easy to carve out time each night to read to the boys, and only my 6-year-old stuck through to the end of the story. But he did enjoy the story of a little 10-year-old shepherd boy who gets separated from his family after an impulsive act of defiance. Throughout the nightly chapters, Jotham gets stalked by wild jackals, sold into slavery, rescued by an Essene scribe from Qumron (the place where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered), and chased all over Israel by a menacing villan named Decha of Megido. He also crosses paths with Elizabeth and Zechariah, Simeon and Anna before finding his parents in Bethlehem, where his family has returned to register for the census. I think you can guess who Jotham meets in the final chapter.

The chapters take about 10 to 15 minutes to read aloud. Both my husband and I, who took turns reading the nightly installments, modified the language of the book, which I found to be a tad too graphic for little kids in some places and too flowery in most places. The writing is geared toward children 10 and up, but the action-packed plot and closing cliff-hangers kept my son's attention. As historical fiction, the story brings the culture of the time of Christ's birth to life. As a devotional, the book includes brief passages for reflection at the end of each chapter. I didn't always read these segments, but I'm glad they were there and I can see myself including them in future years as my boys' attention spans and comprehension grow. Additionally, Jotham's Journey is the first of three books Ytreeide has written for Advent. The other two focus on other children Jotham met on his journey. We enjoyed Jotham enough that I plan to purchase the other two and rotate through these three books each Christmas season.

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