I did not purchase this book because I recognized the author’s name (although this shall be the case with any other Marguerite de Angeli book I see from now on), but because it was published by Sonlight, a Christian literature-based curriculum.
Eli Shrawder and his family have just moved from Germany to the new colony of Pennsylvania. They are happy, excited, and relieved; now they may follow their consciences and worship God as they choose!
For the first week, Eli is kept very busy helping his Pop build the farm and carve the furniture. And a right handy workman he is, too. But soon, his parents decide that he should attend Master Christopher Dock’s school. Eli is nervous. Will he be able to learn how to read and write? Will the other students like him? And will he ever achieve the greatest honor of the school – reading the Scriptures before class starts?
The style of the story is very sweet. The Shrawders have recently moved to Pennsylvania from Germany, and Ms. de Angeli reflects this change in their dialogue.
“It wonders me what he is going to do to me!” Eli thought. [pg. 25]
“What makes,” said Pop, “that you stand and wiggle so?” He looked into Eli’s face.
“Ach so!” he said. “I see by your eyes that somesing makes wrong. What iss it?” [pg. 44]
Darling isn’t it?
But what I loved most about this story was the plethora of Scripture verses scattered through its pages. Eli’s schoolteacher, Master Christopher is a very devout and Biblically literate man who often uses Scripture passages to instruct and correct his students. He also prays for his students. One of the greatest honors at school is to be asked to read the Scriptures before the morning classes. The entire story is, in fact, soaked in Biblical principles and references.
On several occasions, Master Christopher was forced to scold Eli. Instead of flying into a rage or declaring that Master Christopher was unfair, Eli received these corrections meekly and felt badly that he had vexed Master Christopher.
The only reference to a particular church denomination occurs in the first chapter.
The Shrawders and many other families had left Germany together to find new homes where they could worship God in their own way. They called themselves Mennonites after their leader, Menno Simons. [pg. 14]
This is the only mention of a particular church denomination in the entire book.
One man declares that now will be a good time to set fence posts because the crescent moon is on its back. Eli recognizes this as a superstition. Later, Eli himself accidentally puts on a stocking inside-out, but leaves it on because it “meant good luck”.
Eli sometimes pulls the little girls’ hair and pinches their necks. He knows that he is being mischievous and is sorry for it.
Conclusion. A very, very sweet story about a principled and skilled young boy.
Review © 2012 Laura Verret