Books

Book Review of Before Green Gables

WARNING: Reading this article may give away things in the stories ranging from unimportant to plot turners.

Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson

Type: Historical Fiction, Prequel

Basic Plot: It is a prequel to Anne of Green Gables. Anne’s different homes, her temporary “families,” and her education are imagined and explained beyond Anne’s few paragraphs in Anne of Green Gables.

Quality

Plot: 3½/5 Above Average: The plot starts with Anne’s mother becoming pregnant and tells about the life of Anne and the others around her until she gets adopted. It tells about the places Anne said she lived in that were mentioned in Anne of Green Gables and all of the detail is given. There is a lot more added than what was said by Anne, of course, but there was only one think that I believe she forgot to put. In Anne of Green Gables, Anne says she does not pray because Mrs. Thomas had told her it was God’s fault she had red hair. In the book Before Green Gables, Anne gives up praying because she believes God does not answer her prayers whenever she asks Him something. Otherwise it was very faithful to even small details.

Writing Style and Setup: 4/5 Well Done: If you are expecting it to be like Lucy Maud Montgomery’s books you will be disappointed, but it was still well written. I think I actually prefer when an author uses their own style rather than try to copy the original series creator, because even when they try to copy it, it will not be the same. In the end it will probably sound awkward and fake. The style was descriptive (and sometimes a bit over descriptive), as well as having the same kind of cozy feel you get from looking at a picture of a country kitchen.

One of the things I liked that she did with the characters was that the characters were neither perfect, yet still had a conscience. Many books have the antagonist cast as evil, heartless people, even when the character is merely that mean teenage girl in school. In this book the people that did hurtful things had a desire to do well and sometimes did do well, but in the end they gave in to temptation or bad choices. People’s motives and desires are made more known, so that there is more reason to a boy being a bully besides the fact that he just is one.

Moral: 3/5 A Good Moral: The book had the moral that even if things are horrible, there are some positive things to look for. Anne had a lot of sad things in her life, but she still was usually able to be happy about something. On the rare times when she was completely sad she was sometimes reminded that her life would not always be horrible but would improve. This is a good moral. Earth is horrible now, but one day Jesus will return for us and even now we can try to enjoy what God has given us to a degree.

Overall: 3½/5 Above Average: The writing style was very good, but the story without its well done support would collapse if a person who never heard of the series read this. Ms. Wilson was limited because she had to write what Ms. Montgomery laid out. I believe she did a very good job for what she could do, but those limitations make the story less interesting, as the story could not have all the extraordinary things a traditional book in the Anne of Green Gables series. Quality wise I think older preteen, teenage, and adults that enjoy the original series that are girls, will like this best.

Moral Content

Sexual and Inappropriate Content: 2/5 Suggestive: There are references to the menstrual cycle. A woman lightly hints that her husband is only romantically affectionate when they are having physical relations. It mentions how several mothers breastfeed, though there is nothing in detail. A woman hides money in her corset. Some angels clothing is described as being revealing.

Violence: 2½/5 A Lot of Light or Slightly Mild Violence: It is mentioned that a man once shot a calf. A woman smacks a child’s hand. A woman hears violence going on in a house. A man breaks some glass. A man hits his wife several times when he is drunk. Sometimes it is mentioned, sometimes it is shown happening. It also mentions he hit his son. As a result one his children are violent and wrestle, hit each other, throw things at Anne, and it mentions they have hit her. Anne is afraid once when he is drunk he will hit her with a hammer. He doesn’t. He does hit a table with his hammer. Anne is aware that a boy is physically stronger than her and that he could attack her if she provoked him. A man is hit by a train and dies. There is a snowball fight. A woman asks her daughter if her boyfriend is physically abusive. A boy is afraid that Anne may be violent if provoked and throw things. Anne imagines various violent ways some orphans’ parents may have died. Things in the book, including Anne’s home are described as “violent” and descriptions that include violence like “bloody war,” “murdering,” and “murderous” are used.

Swearing and Using the Lord’s Name in Vain: 2/5 Some Swearing: “Gee” is used once. “Bloody” is misused twice. Forms of “damn” are misused three times. “Hell” is misused twice. God’s name is misused three times. It mentions swearing though it is not said what words it was. Considering the size of the book though, (nearly four hundred pages) it was not very much swearing.

Emotional, Intense, and Disturbing Content: 2/5 Emotional Content: A lot of people either die or it mentions them having died in the past. This could be by disease, a weak heart, or an accident. A little boy gets outside in a snowstorm and almost dies. A woman in the book goes through depression and shock from having a lot of children in a short time. This increases when her husband dies.

Religious Issues: ½/5 Slightly Suggestive: The book compares the reverence that Anne uses when walking to a woman “as one would a queen or a goddess.” “Reverend” is used to refer to religious leaders no matter the denomination. Anne believes that omens are real. It compares a girl to “a devilish demon,” and Anne imagines her looking like one. When Anne asks a man if angels are real, he implies that they aren’t but that people like to think of them as being so. It mentions Anne’s mom having occasional “visions” about the future.

Magic: 1/5 Slight Reference: Anne imagines and thinks about dragons, fairies, a ghoul, magic, wands, and wizards. “Magic” and “magical” are used to describe things a lot. “Ghostly” and “bewitched” are used to describe things. Anne is sometimes called rude things that have to do with witches such “the witch girl.” No magic is done in the book.

Others: A man in the book is a drunkard and goes through phases of being sober and drunk throughout the book. A man walks in a drunk manner at least once. The book mentions beer, bootleggers, hangovers, rum, and tobacco. A woman asks her daughter if the man she is courting drinks, and Anne asks a woman if her husband does. A little girl wants Anne to someday come to her home to play house and have them be parents of the same children. It describes a girl attempting to make Anne her friend as courting her.

Overall: 2½/5 Almost Child Appropriate: I think it would be more appropriate for teenagers and adults then children. I believe twelve is a good minimum age for the book.

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Movies

Movie Review of God’s Not Dead

WARNING: Reading this article may give away things in the stories ranging from unimportant to plot turners.

God’s Not Dead by Michael Scott, Russel Wolfe, and Anna Zielinski (Producers) and Harold Cronk (Director)

Basic Plot: Josh Wheaton attends a class for law that is taught by an atheist that insists that you confess on paper that “God is dead.” Refusing to compromise his beliefs, Josh makes a deal to prove God is alive to his classmates. If he fails to do so though, he will fail his class.

Quality

Plot and Story Organization: 4/5 Well Done: The main plot was thoughtful and not at all boring, and there were many smaller plots that went with the main one. They were there to either emphasize the moral or make the plot more interesting. It was not just one long scientific debate, but had a story and development as well, so as not to bore people.

Acting and Scenery: 3½/5 Above Average: The acting was natural, but was not extraordinary. It was realistic and the actors were able to bring out the spirit and attitude that you usually feel from people in real life.

The filming and scenery were good. It did not look cheap at all, and looked professional. It did not have the fancy, almost animated feeling some secular movies have, but it still was good quality. The sets had a more realistic feel with its lighting and setup than a feel of a fantasy world, but this was good for the type of movie it was.

Moral: 5/5 Excellent Application: The main moral of the movie was to stand up for God and Christian principles even if that means being ridiculed and mocked and even if it comes from other Christians. The moral is shown in several; ways, the main being the young man standing up tot his atheist teacher rather than saying “God is dead.” Another is when a Muslim girl refuses to deny Jesus is God to her father. Other Christians are shown willing to have God as a main priority and not afraid to stand up for Him, throughout the movie.

Overall: 4/5 Well Done: A lot of people dislike this movie and label it as “propaganda” and “biased” but I don’t think it is as much as people say. Though it is true not all atheists are bad people, the spirit and attitude of people that are atheist is well caught in the characters playing them. Another complaint was how a Muslim family was portrayed, but if you see the family is shown to be not the average Muslim family, but more Orthodox, and the there are many Orthodox Muslims (again not the average Muslim) that believe hitting woman is something their religion permits.
Overall the movie was a good movie and has a good lesson. It offers answers to questions and statements people who support atheism have, though did not go very deep. It covers the good basics of fighting atheism. I recommend it for families and especially teenagers. This is a good movie for teenage Christians and non-Christians to watch, as it encourages one group in their faith and introduces new ideas to the other group. Another good group to watch this movie is new Christians so that they can learn some sound arguments against atheism and it can prepare them for when they must face ridicule or persecution as a Christian. This movie is not as recommended for adult atheist, because they may be looking for more than the movie has to offer and are more deeply rooted in atheism than the movie had time to cover.

Moral Content

Sexual and Inappropriate Content: 1½/5 Suggestive: Some of the shirts on the women are slightly low and there was at least once on a woman some shorts, but the clothing is not to immodest. It probably is what you would see more contemporary Christians wear on a daily basis. There is a brief picture in his demonstration of the man reaching out to God, and Adam is naked, though no “inappropriate” body parts are there.

Violence: 2/5 a Few Short Light Violent Scenes: A man compares entering a certain class to the Roman coliseums. A man slaps his daughter twice. A man gets hit by a car.

Swearing and Using the Lord’s Name in Vain: 0/5

Emotional, Intense, and Disturbing Content: 2/5 Emotional and Slightly Intense: A woman has an emotional breakdown because she has cancer. When a man finds out his daughter is a Christian he smacks her and drags her out of the house.

Religious Issues: 1/5 Slightly Suggestive: The big bang is not disproved or proved, but is shown in the light that if it did happen it makes sense that God caused it. There is a Muslim family in the movie, but the beliefs are not really said.

Magic: 0/5 None

Others: A boy has a cross necklace on once. Two men have hair that is long. Contemporary Christian Music is played occasionally in the movie and almost all of the main characters go to a Christian rock band. This music includes drums as an instrument. Alcohol and wine are mentioned and two or three times shown or drunk.

Overall: 1½/5 Almost All Ages Appropriate: The worst part of the movie was probably the emotional things and slightly suggestive clothes and art. The movie is recommended for children ten or nine and older content wise because of some of the emotional scenes.

Books

Book Review of Why I Left the Contemporary Christian Movement

Why I Left the Contemporary Christian Movement by Dan Lucarini

Type: Christian, Music, Non-Fiction,

Basic Idea: Dan Lucarini explains that we should and why we should leave the Christian rock and pop movement in favor of traditional hymns.

Quality

Information and Applicableness of the Lessons: 4½/5 Very Good Application: Mr. Lucarini explains why rock, pop, rap, hip-hop, country, and all other secular Christian music should not be played in church. He shows how the Bible disagrees with it and how “worship” is often greatly misunderstood and misused. Many questions and ideas that people have about secular music are answered and intelligently challenged with either personal experience or the Bible. The principles he uses can also be used to stand up for other standards a person has.

Reliability of Information: 5/5 Very Reliable: Dan Lucarini uses either experience or the Bible. Experience comes from being both deeply involved with rock music and bands before salvation and being a worship leader afterwards. He shows where in the Bible that CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) principles greatly conflict with what God says, and he also shows what words mean by using Greek and Hebrew roots. (He does not ever belittle the English translations as he does this though.)

Writing Style: 4/5 Well Written: The author had a colloquial style. He was not harsh, self-righteous, or unkind at all in is writing. He was and the message was not indirect, but he explains the reasoning in a calm and Christian manner. It was not hard to read and did not have an awkward or improper writing style or syntax.

Overall: 4½/5 Very Well Done: If you are wondering why you should not have CCM in church, should not listen to it on a regular basis, or how to defend you standards I highly recommend this book. The sources are reliable and the information useful and applicable. The principles can be applied and were made for either gender.

Moral Content

Sexual and Inappropriate Content: 2/5 Suggestive: Mr. Lucarini talks about the sexual influence CCM has on the worship team and congregation. He says that when he was a worship leader, he told Christians that thought the music was sensual, “Well, I don’t see any orgies breaking out during the worship set!” He also says before he was saved he had an immoral life in that way.

Violence: 0/5 None

Swearing and Using the Lord’s Name in Vain: 0/5 None

Emotional, Intense, and Disturbing Content: 0/5 None

Religious Issues: 1/5 Slight Issues: The NKJV is used and the NIV is quoted at least once. The Catholic religion is briefly mentioned once.

Magic: 0/5 None

Others: The author says he drank, smoked, and used drugs before he was saved.

Overall: 2½/5 Almost Child Appropriate: I recommend it for teenagers thirteen or fourteen and older, not because it is a bad or inappropriate book, but because parents may not want their children reading about the suggestive and slightly sexual issues that CCM has.

Movies

The Glenn Miller Story

WARNING: Reading this article may give away things in the stories ranging from unimportant to plot turners.

The Glenn Miller Story by Universal Pictures

Type: Biography, Music

Basic Plot: Glenn Millers wants to create a unique music style, but always ends up failing. Even though he keeps failing, his wife supports him and he eventually does succeed.

Quality

Plot and Story Organization: 3/5 Average: The plot covers Glen Millers life except for his childhood. He desires to have his own band and play a unique style of music, but has many trials before he finally is able to write and publish his own music. The plot has a slower pace, as it is an older movie, and does not have the action that modern movies do, so some may think it is boring. There is also a lot of music played through, and is what I think an instrumental musical would be like.

Music: 3½/5 Above Average: The music was jazz, blues, and ballads. There were a lot of musical numbers, and it was almost like a musical with no singing in some ways. A lot of songs were ones written by the real Mr. Miller. As music was a big part of the movie, it was well played. Personally I do not care for the style of jazz and blues, so if the score is lower than someone who does like it thinks it should be, I apologize, as someone who like the style may rank it higher.

Moral: 4/5 Good Application: The moral that you can see in Glen Miller’s life is to work hard and not give up on what you want to do with your life. It was discouraging for him, as it took years to even really start his goal, and even then had trouble throughout. He eventually becomes rich, has a family, and writes a music style he spent years to perfect. If we really want to do something or really know we are supposed to do it, we should not give up when it gets hard.

Overall: 3½/5 Above Average: The movie is good for either boys or girls and could be family movie, but adults might like it more than children. If you enjoy jazz, blues, ballads, and music similar to that, I can recommend this movie greatly as it is centered on that type of music. If you don’t have a preference of like or dislike for it, I can still recommend the movie, but some may find it long or boring, especially once Miller is in the army. If you don’t like that kind of music, I recommend you don’t watch this movie as it revolves around that style of music.

Moral Content

Sexual and Inappropriate Content: 1½/5 Sugestive: Some of the costumes the women wear when dancing are low on the top, are way to short, or have the back showing.  There is a picture drawn on the wall of a lady can can dancer. Some of the dancing in the show could be considered inappropriate.

Violence: 1/5 Slightly Violent: A bomb visibly explodes once. Warships shoot at the land in a war scene. It man cuts his lip on his instrument. No blood or gore is shown in any of the violence.

Swearing and Using the Lord’s Name: 1/5 A Little Misuse: “Gee” is used twice and “gosh” once. God’s name is misused once.

Emotional, Intense, and Disturbing Content: ½ /5 Slightly Emotional Content: A lady has a miscarriage, but it is not very emotional or dramatic. The warships fighting shooting may bother some people. At the end Glenn Miller dies and it is a little emotional for his wife.

Religious Issues: 0/5 None

Magic: ½/5 Slight Reference: A man refers to himself as an ogre. No magic is done in the movie.

Other: There is smoking in the movie occasionally and there is drinking at least once. There are drums used, but they are more like band drums then rock drums.

Overall: 1/5 All Ages Appropriate: The worst part of the movie was some of the clothes and dancing and the once misuse of God’s name. Otherwise it was clean. I recommend it, but cautiously, as the immodest dancing is short, but can make some people uncomfortable.

Books

Book Series Review of The Berenstain Bears

WARNING: Reading this article may give away things in the stories ranging from unimportant to plot turners.

The Berenstain Bears by Stan, Jan, and Mike Berenstain

Type: Animals, Children’s Book Series

Basic Idea: A family of bears lives in Bear Country and learns many things about how to behave and live in a way that is moral and godly and how to be brave when doing new or scary things.

Quality

Plots: 3½/5 Above Average: The plots are about a family of bears named Papa, Mama, Brother, and Sister Bear. The stories are usually things that happen to the every day family, like nail biting or being pressured to do things that are wrong. They then find a way to fix the problem. Though they are realistic, they aren’t boring, but are more so helpful for children that may want an answer to a problem they are having. In the later books these answers are backed up with the Bible.

Writing Style: 4/5 Very Well Done: The first few books have a very simple style. They are brief and have simple descriptions. After a few books, the stories have a lot more dialogue, have more creative examples, and more thorough descriptions. The style is like a story book in some ways, but in others has some of the characteristics of a regular fiction book, only shorter.

Graphics: 4½/5 Very Well Done: The graphics in the first books look hand drawn. The bears are drawn with long noses, more slender bodies, and a different fur shape than the ones later. Around book nine (The Berenstain Bears: In the Dark) the noses are shorter, the bodies are plumper, and the fur has a different look that was not there earlier. Most of the books are like the second description. After Mike Berenstain replaces his father, the book’s graphics look almost the same, but look painted rather than hand drawn. All of the books are detailed and colorful.

Moral: 4/5 Good Application: The morals are very good. They either teach a good character trait, good habit, or how to not be afraid when something new happens. The principles are usually biblical and the newer books are backed up directly with the Bible. One thing that is a good moral influence in all their books is the strong family bond and testimony they give. The children have respect and obedience for their parents and the wife often has respect for her husband. I like that though even Mama Bear was not a doormat; she was still respectful and would probably qualify as a biblical wife. She had a very good temperance as she is not a loud, stubborn, obnoxious woman, but she still has a mind of her own and will calmly tell Papa Bear what he or both of them are doing wrong. This strong family structure and good husband wife relationship is good for children to see, as often children in entertainment are bratty and women loud and rebellious. (See Isaiah 3:12) Papa and Mama are also ready to realize their own mistakes. Through the series, the children are held accountable for their misbehavior, but Mama and Papa will accept when they should have been better parents. It is good for children to have an example of taking responsibility.

Overall: 4/5 Very Well Done: I highly recommend the Berenstain Bears as a children’s book series. It is moral, well drawn, and is interesting for children ages four or five and older of either gender.

Moral Content

Sexual and Inappropriate Content: 1½/5 Slightly Inappropriate Situations: At Sister’s birthday party they play spin the bottle and Sister kisses Brother on the cheek. A baby sitter helps brother wash his back. Brother and Sister take a bath together at least twice in the series and it is mentioned in passing at least once. (In the books these things happen in, Sister is only supposed to be six and brother eight at the oldest.) It once shows Sister in the bath and once shows Papa in the bath. In one book it shows in the inside cover Mama and Papa chasing a naked Brother and Sister, though nothing “inappropriate” is shown. In the same book Brother and Sister start to take off their clothes for a bath in the hallway. In one book Mama is pregnant, and Sister asks some questions about babies. Nothing inappropriate is in the book and all that is said is that babies grow in the womb and are born through the birth canal. No illustrations are shown. In a book dealing with being careful of strangers, the advice for children warns about keeping your body safe.

Violence: 2½/5 An Average Amount of Light Violence: Sister hits Brother lightly on the nose. A woman gets hit in the head with a kite. Brother gets injured at camp in a wheelbarrow race. Some books show children getting it with a dodge ball. A doctor pinches Papa’s stomach in one book. Brother once wants to beat a mean boy and in another actually does try to, but doesn’t end up injuring him at all. In one book a boy likes wrestling and does some in gym. In one book Brother and Sister push each other and kick at each under the table. Sister and a friend fight on the ground for a stick. Brother and Sister get in a fight in one book and end up fighting in the ground. This is also shown on he book’s cover. One book shows David knock Goliath down with a stone. Some boys throw rocks at a hornets nest. Sister hangs on to a bully and he tosses her through the air, though she is uninjured from it. In one book some adults are mentioned, while waiting in line, to have started fighting a little. In one book children are injured in a soccer game from the violence of a team. Once Pap lets a ball hit off his head. In one book some people on TV doing slapstick comedy. In one book there are some video game covers with light violence on them. The most violent Berenstain Bear book is The Berenstain Bears: The Bully. In you see the results of a girl tripping and beating on sister. Brother wants to avenge her, but then find out a girl beat sister up and therefore doesn’t. Sister wants to get back though, so Brother teaches her basic punches and blocks as well as letting sister beat up a bag of beans. Though Sister does not beat up the girl, when she sees her throwing rocks at an animal she is threatened and defends herself. Her self-defense causes the other girl to get a nose bleed.

Swearing and Using the Lord’s Name in Vain: 1/5 A Little Misuse: “Gee” is used at least thirteen times and “gosh” one times. There is a book that deals with how people should not swear. Sister watches a movie with swearing and says one of the words later. They never say what the bad words are, just that they are said.

Emotional, Intense, and Disturbing Content: 1/5 Slightly Emotional: The most emotional book is the one called The Berenstain Bears: Lose a Friend. In it Sister’s pet dies and she and the family are sad about it. There is bleeding once in the series.

Religious Issues: 2/5 Suggestive: A radio is described to look like a “cathedral.” There are at least three books with Halloween mentioned in some way and one book is Halloween themed. In that book brother wears a monster costume that looks a little like a devil costume. “Mother Nature” is mentioned three times in the series. In one book there is a Native American style camp out and the camp counselor tells Native American myths. Evolution is suggested in at least one book when Papa says in passing how some dinosaurs did not live in the same era, but “millions of years apart.”

Magic: 1/5 Frequent Mentione: Descriptive words and phrases include “magic,” “magical,” “a spell,” “zombie,” and “wizard.” In one book it briefly shows that Brother wants to watch a ghost movie. In one book some of them watch a movie about a ballerina that believes she has magic shoes. A play that the children put on is “Grizzlystiltskin” which is originally from the fairy tale “Rumplestiltskin.” Grizzlystiltskin is called an “elf-bear.” In the story he disappears magically. One book mentions the tooth fairy and another one a version of Santa Claus. In one book Brother wants to read a fairy tale that has a troll in it. In one book, the children believe an old lady is a witch and that she uses a broomstick. She isn’t. The book also has references to Halloween things like jack-o-lanterns. Sister watches a version of Lord of the Rings under the name The Bear of the Rings. No magic is done in any of the books.

Others: There are references to popular cultures things only with like names (ex. are “The Beartles” for “The Beatles” or “The Bear Stooges” for “The Three Stooges.”) There are brief mentions of contemporary music. Some boys want to make a rap song for a talent show.

Overall: 1½/5 Almost All Ages Appropriate: There aren’t really any big bad things (except maybe Brother and Sister using the same bath once or twice) but a lot of minor things that might bother parents. One nice thing is that a parent can choose which books they prefer and which they don’t. If Halloween bothers a parent, they can skip that book. I recommend most Berenstain Bear books to children of any age, but some parents may wait for a child to reach a certain age before reading them the book, such as waiting until a child is in school before reading them The Berenstain Bears: The In-Crowd.