A Heritage of Song
Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers by Douglas Bond (Christian Liberty, 1999) provides a thorough history of several major and minor British hymn writers. An organist tells the stories to two young American children, Annie and Drew, who find themselves stranded in the smallvillage ofOlney,England, for the summer. Bored, they wander into one of the local churches, where their summer takes a turn for the better.
The children befriend the local organist named Mr. Pipes, and he takes them on many adventures as the summer progresses. As he and the children explore the countryside, Mr. Pipes makes the old hymns and history come alive when he contextualizes the hymns and takes Annie and Drew to the homes, churches, and burial places of the influential writers while he weaves each tale.
This book includes the biographies of nine major hymn writers in eight chapters and background information for a few of the writer’s most popular hymns. Each chapter closes with the musical score of a select hymn. The stories teach children important and often-neglected pieces of history in a format that is interesting and enjoyable.
Children learn beneficial lessons as Annie and Drew learn patience, perseverance, and lessons about salvation, sin, and Christ’s redeeming love. Through the Howard family, Mr. Pipes’s British friends, Annie and Drew see the love of Christ displayed. Annie and Drew are also inspired to use their talents and gifts in the service of God through Mr. Pipes’s stories.
Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers clearly shows the power of words. In fact, the words of historical hymns are the focus of the book. Mr. Pipes shows Annie and Drew the truth, conviction, and inspiration held in the words of British hymns. Mr. Pipes also provides them with historical context for the words of the hymns, demonstrating the lyrics’ deeper and more personal meanings.
This book is a wonderful tool to teach children Britain’s religious, political, and cultural heritage. Children can read it independently with little difficulty, or it is a lovely choice for family reading.
Here are some comprehension questions that will increase your children’s understanding of the history in Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers:
- At what age did Isaac Watts begin formal schooling?
- What role did John Newton play inBritain’s abolishment of slavery?
- What other great hymn-writer was one of William Cowper’s close friends?
Here are some activities that will enrich your family’s enjoyment of Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers:
- Instruct each of your children to choose a hymn. Help them memorize its lyrics and music.
- Choose a hymn writer included in this book and further study his life and writings.
Other titles by Douglas Bond include these:
- Mr. Pipes and Psalms and Hymns of the Reformation (Christian Liberty Press, 2000)
- The Accidental Voyage: Discovering Hymns of the Early Centuries (Christian Liberty Press, 2005)
- Mr. Pipes Comes to America (Christian Liberty Press, 2007)
By Emily Adams
—Originally published in the “God’s Word Does Not Return Void” issue (May/June 2009) of Homeschooling Today magazine