Title: Second Son
Author: Margaret Clemens McDowell
Illustrator: Jeanyee Wong
Reading Level: 7-8
Star Rating: ★★★
If I selected my books based upon the cleanliness of their covers, this one would have been burned… #usedbooks
Segundo. That is his name. But what can such a name mean? Ah, it has a special meaning – it means ‘second son’. For all of his life, Segundo will be known as the second son, because his father’s first son was lost to a vicious hurricane which swept their Philippine island. Even though that son is lost, he is forever a part of Segundo’s life, because of the name.
Not that Segundo minds. No, he does not mind – but he wishes that his older brother had lived so that they could have been playmates and friends. As it is, Segundo spends his time riding the family’s water buffalo and playing with his pet monkey. That is, until the missionaries arrive.
Segundo is excited to help Mr. Marks, the American missionary who is teaching in their village. But he is even more excited to spend time with Carlos, a Filipino boy who works as Mr. Marks’s assistant. He is a loving, gentle young man, and Segundo comes to love him dearly. If only Carlos were his older brother!
When Carlos tells Segundo the facts of his childhood, Segundo begins to wonder – perhaps Carlos really is his brother!
The theme of Second Son consisted mainly of two points – missionary work and family relationships. The entire family still mourns the fact that their firstborn was lost, but they all work and play together. As was hinted at in the above synopsis, Carlos turns out to be the missing son. When they discover this, the entire family is overjoyed to receive back home their long lost boy. It is a sweet theme.
The Christian content of Second Son is very clear, but it is also a mixture of good and bad doctrine. Mr. Marks tell the villagers about Jesus, God’s “best gift to us” and how he loves people, but he uses pictures of Jesus to help get the message across. He also thinks that organizing a vacation Bible school for the village children is the best way to evangelize the village. When one of the mothers objects to sending her child to this school because she holds to a different religion, Carlos responds by telling her that “We all worship the same God.” The children eventually put on a Nativity play as part of the class, in which a doll plays the part of Jesus. At the end of the story, the people decide that they want to build a church in their village and have a permanent teacher (who incidentally is not ordained, but who will hold church services every Sunday).
Mr. Marks leads his family in Scripture reading and prayer in the evenings.
One thing that I really liked about the story was Carlos’ influence on Segundo. Segundo has an interesting relationship with his friend Ramon – they play together and have fun sometimes, but they are usually very angry with one another. On one occasion, when Ramon has played an embarrassing prank on Segundo, Segundo avers that he will get even with him. Carlos recommends to Segundo that the best way to get even with Ramon is to do something nice to him and turn him into a friend. Later, Segundo remembers this and saves Ramon’s life.
In one scene it is said that Carlos took off his clothes to go swimming. Nothing suggestive. One of the illustrations is of several boys standing around shirtless. There isn’t much detail.
Conclusion. Much more sober and innocent than most children’s stories. You as a parent will have to decide which doctrines you want your children to be thinking through at this age.
Review © 2013 Laura Verret