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Book: Hymn Stories for Children: Special Days and Holidays

Phyllis Vos Wezeman and Anna L. Liechty. Grand Rapids: Kregel Resources, 1994. 72 pp., $7.99.

The authors have taken a very simple approach to teaching children the backgrounds to thirty hymns. The hymns themselves are not included; rather, two pages are devoted to each hymn story, including a craft idea to prepare ahead or to involve children in a class or home activity.

The order follows a combined "Hallmark" calendar and liturgical year, beginning with New Year's Day ("O God, Our Help in Ages Past"), Ephipany ("We Three Kings"), and Valentine's Day ("My Jesus, 1 Love Thee"); then come six hymns for Lent, and on through the year, ending with Christmas.

This resource does not provide any ideas to teach the hymn itself; rather, it teaches something about the hymn, relating it to a given calendar day. Some choices are excellent, but there are many surprises; for example, "Beneath the Cross of Jesus" (for Lent), and "In the Hour of Trial" (for Maundy Thursday). Those texts are hardly accessible to children. The book also includes only one twentieth-century hymn ("Lift High the Cross), and only one that is not European ("Were You There").

In spite of these drawbacks, I am glad to see another resource that will help children learn about the historic hymns of the faith. (And adults may well gain as much if not more than children from this resource.) But keep in mind that there is no substitute for teaching the songs themselves and then helping children understand and appreciate what they are singing—and that if you follow that agenda, some of the hymns in this collection are not appropriate.