HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Henry’s Red Sea
Author: Barbara Claasen Smucker
Illustrator: Allan Eitzen
Publisher: Herald Press, 1955
Language level: 1 (nothing objectionable)
Reading level: Independent reading ages level 8-12, but suitable for anyone
Rating: 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Smucker, Barbara Claasen. Henry’s Red Sea (published in 1955 by Mennonite Publishing House, Scottdale, PA 15683). We picked this book up a few years ago when visiting Amish/Mennonite country in northern Indiana. Since then, I have seen it listed in at least one homeschooling catalogue, and we did it as a family read aloud. Following World War II, twelve-year-old Henry Bergen, his mother, grandmother, sister Tina, and “adopted” brother Rudy, a cripple boy whose family had been killed, had to flee the Soviet crackdown on the Mennonites of the Russian Ukraine, during which his grandfather was shot and his father was sent to Siberia, are all refugees in the American sector of Berlin. Will they be able to make it through the Communist controlled territory of East Germany, as the Israelites escaped from Egypt through the Red Sea? If so, will they be able to find a new home since most countries like the United States and Canada would not take sick or crippled refugees? And will they ever see his father again?
While those of us who are not Mennonites may not necessarily agree with all the statements in this book, one cannot help but appreciate the trust in God and determination to persevere that are demonstrated by the characters of this story, which highlights the work of the Mennonite Central Committee to find homes for the refugees. I assume that the relief workers Peter and Elfrieda Dyck in the book were historical figures. I do not wish to take away from the suffering of the Jews during the Holocaust, but it is nice to read a book about other people of faith who suffered greatly during the World War II period. It has some very touching scenes and in spite a little sadness along the way does end triumphantly.