HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Joel, a Boy of Galilee
Author: Annie Fellows Johnston
Publisher: Lamplighter Publishing, 1998
Related website: www.lamplighterpublishing.com
Language level: 1 (nothing objectionable)
Reading Level: Ages 9-12 but suitable for all ages
Rating: 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
Johnston, Annie Fellows. Joel, A Boy of Galilee (published in 1998 by Lamplighter Publishing, P. O. Box 777, Waverly, PA 18471). For a number of years, Mark Hamby and Lamplighter Publishing, a division of Cornerstone Family Ministries in Waverly, PA, have been quietly reprinting a number of “Rare Collectors” series of classic books, “family Christian literature from the 16th, 17th, 18th, & 19th centuries,” primarily didactic and fiction works written for children which were wildly popular in their day but are practically unknown today. The enterprise undoubtedly takes its name from The Lamplighter, a book by Maria S. Cummins written in the 1800’s which they have reprinted.
Hamby writes, “Literature that instructs, inspires, and influences the way we think or act, particularly Christian literature, is often difficult to find. When found, however, it is a rare treasure that enriches one’s life more than silver or gold. Here at Cornerstone Family Ministries and Lamplighter Publishing, it is our goal to find not only literature that is rare, but literature that will significantly make an impact on one’s relationship with Jesus Christ. To enable God’s children to be transformed literally through the renewing of their minds so that they might love Jesus Christ with all their hearts, is our desire. Many have asked what criteria I use when choosing a book. Simply, the book must draw me closer to my Savior. I am looking for literature that I can give to others with confidence and know that the book will make a difference in their life for eternity.”
Some of the reprints in this “Rare Collectors” series include Titus: A Comrade of the Cross by Florence M. Kingsley, and its sequel, Stephen: A Soldier of the Cross; Christie’s Old Organ by British author O. F. Walton, and its sequel, Christie: the King’s Servant; and several books, such as The Basket of Flowers and The Inheritance, by Christoph Von Schmid, who is often called one of the greatest authors of inspiring children’s literature of the 1800s. All these books are printed in an attractive hardbound collector’s format and most cost anywhere from $11 to $16. In addition to yearly catalogues listing the books which they have published, along with other materials that they sell, there is a free publication, “The Lamplighter Newsletter” which is available on request.
A number of years ago, I purchased some of these books and read Joel, A Boy of Galilee, as a bedtime read aloud for our two boys. The author was Annie Fellows Johnston, who also wrote the “Little Colonel” series upon which was based a well-known film starring Shirley Temple. I do not know exactly when the author lived or when Joel, Boy of Galilee was first published, but Lamplighter’s first reprinting was in 1998. The theme is overcoming bitterness and unforgiveness. The catalogue says, “This is a story about a crippled boy who must decide whether to hold on to the Healer of Nazareth or the traditions that foster bitterness and revenge. This is a treasure you will talk about for years.” Our then eleven-year old would agree with that assessment; he said that it was one of the best books that I have ever read to him.
We might call the book “historical fiction.” Joel was a boy who lived in Capernaum during the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry, death, and resurrection. While the events in his personal life are fictional, there are interwoven among them many of the events from the life of Jesus that are recorded in the gospel ac-counts of His life. In fact, at one point, while I was reading, Mark (the then eleven-year old) said, “I can see where this is going,” and sure enough the account led up to one of the well-known miracles of Jesus. I will not spoil the book by telling you what happens to Joel or how the story ends. But I will say that the author has a wonderful way of telling the story that may occasionally bring tears to the eyes. The book costs $16, but it was truly a great story! I am looking forward to reading some of the other books that I purchased from Lamplighter, and will undoubtedly buy even more. I also have told several people that Joel, Boy of Galilee is absolutely one of the best books that I have ever read.