Monday, May 30, 2016

Intellectuals

Intellectuals
by Paul Johnson
Recommended Ages: 14+

My ex-boss gave me a copy of this book years ago. I read only bits of it here and there until recently, when something about it seized my fancy. It couldn't have been the cover, which (in the edition I read) consisted mainly of the author's name and the word "Intellectuals" in large black capitals on a cream-colored background, plus a few indifferently enticing endorsements such as, "Author of A History of the Jews and Modern Times: A History of the World from the 1920s to the 1980s." Maybe it was just the right time to read it, a time when intellectuals and purveyors of millenarian dogmas are closer than ever to unleashing a tribulation on our society, the likes of which have already left an indelible mark on a great part of the world. Maybe it was a sense of helplessness in the face of cold, inhuman ideologies that drove me to seek an explanation for where they came from. And so I dug up Paul Johnson's 1988 set of biographical sketches of the inventors of much that is current in present-day political, social, and economic thought. And at the end of the book I find his conclusion inescapable: "Beware intellectuals."

Johnson's main targets include Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Karl Marx, Ernest Hemingway, Jean-Paul Sartre, Leo Tolstoy, Henrik Ibsen, Bertolt Brecht, Bertrand Russell, Lillian Hellman, and Edmund Wilson - leading idea-men (and women) who popularized ideas that are now inseparably, even if invisibly, welded to the way we think, write, and vote. In less depth, he also explores the legacies of many others, from Ralph Waldo Emerson to George Orwell, Norman Mailer and Noam Chomsky. He examined not only the impact their ideas have had on our world, for good or ill, but also the foundation on which they built them, and their credibility as sages to enlighten these latter times. He exposes not only the flaws in their personal character, but their hypocrisy and the willful blindness of the generations that held them to be qualified to dictate how we should order our lives. He chronicles their lust for power, their morbid narcissism, the disorder of their personal lives, and with only a few happy exceptions, their disregard for the truth. He shows nearly all of them to be people who, while professing to love mankind, showed little or no concern for any particular specimen of it. He points up the "heartlessness of ideas," the unsystematic and even irrational basis even of ideas pitched to the public as paragons of pure reason, the impulse to recommend (if not actually commit) violence in pursuit of their ideals, and the sordid results when they placed themselves above or outside regular morality.

They were, with amazing frequency, tax dodgers, bad debtors, adulterers, neglecters of their own children, incapable of tolerating any point of view but their own. They viciously turned on friends who had done them nothing but good. They excelled at autobiographical fiction (I should even say "autohagiographical," if that were a word), made all the more plausible by seemingly frank admissions of their own faults. As marital adventurers, they undertook small-scale social-engineering experiments whose lack of success ought to give pause to anyone willing to try out their large-scale theories. As legitimate geniuses in the field where they found fame, they continually blundered into other areas where their belief in their own expertise was tragically unfounded. They left behind pages, nay chapters, nay volumes of history spattered with the blood of the victims of ideas they were unqualified to bestow on mankind, and that they sometimes sold at the price of intellectual fraud. They are people who believe the only way to fix the world is for everyone to accept their ideas with the same sort of devotion they criticize in the adherents of any other belief system (and militant atheism also seems to be a defining characteristic of their class). They are, in short, experts at blowing up the way things are; yet decades, if not centuries, of attempts to rebuild the world on the bases they propose have resulted in disaster upon disaster. Beware, indeed!

I enjoyed Johnson's presentation. It was enlightening to see where some of my society's, and even my own, unexamined ideas originated, and to challenge their right to remain unexamined. It was also, I must admit, fun to learn the low-down on the R-rated side of some of our culture's gilt-edged icons. I laughed and laughed when I read that Hemingway called his Spanish-Civil-War groupies "whores de combat." And I was intrigued by the occasional crossover between these historic figures and the author's personal experience. If we weren't talking about irrational, unfalsifiable beliefs, I would even look forward to rolling out some of Johnson's evidence (well-supported by bibliographical citations, mainly of very reliable sources). But I can already hear my debating opponent's sneer, "Oh, that stuff!" My only quibble with it is that Johnson sometimes assumes I am better educated than I am, and requires me to look up Latin and French phrases I have never read before; he also likes to use words like, to give only one example, "metier." Oh, well. He can write a book like this; I can't.

As for those of us who are ready to read "that stuff" before we dismiss it, Johnson (b. 1928) has written a lot more of it. His books include biographies of Churchill, Darwin, Elizabeth I, Edward III, Pope John Paul II, Pope John XXIII, George Washington, Napoleon, Socrates, and Christ himself ("a biography from a believer"). He has written A History of Christianity as well as histories of the Papacy, England, Ireland, ancient Egypt, the holy land, the Renaissance, and the American people; several books on art and architecture; memoirs, novels, and travel books; and a personal account of his Christian faith. But mainly he is known for his penetrating works of historical and political research, including Enemies of Society, The Recovery of Freedom, The Birth of the Modern: World Society 1815-1830, Creators, Heroes, and Humorists. There's also a collection of his critical columns in "The Spectator," titled To Hell with Picasso & Other Essays. I am acquainted with several of these books through the ex-boss I mentioned before. Maybe I'll prevail on him to loan me a few more.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Avion My Uncle Flew

The Avion My Uncle Flew
by Cyrus Fisher
Recommended Ages: 10+

John Littlehorn, the youthful narrator of this story, is a fine example of a character who grows through his experiences. He becomes a little more admirable as he learns to enjoy himself and to act like less of a spoiled child. And though his attitude toward foreign languages and customs, especially those of his mother's native France, is depicted with a lightly satirical touch, he also learns to love France, and to speak French in a "see Spot run," boy's-first-reader sort of way. The cleverest thing is how he brings his non-French-speaking readers along for the trip, teaching them about as much of the French language as he learns during his two-month adventure in the mountains of south-central France.

At first, however, Johnny is not so very admirable - as he admits himself, with shame. He lets himself become a pampered invalid after a fall from a horse messes up his left leg. He becomes jealous of his mother's attachment to his father when the latter returns from World War II. And he digs in his heels when his parents take him to Paris to have his leg operated on and, on a doctor's advice, to send him upcountry with his uncle Paul Langres, a veteran of the French resistance who wants to see what became of his ancestral village, and perhaps build and test-fly an experimental aircraft there.

Some of John's resistance turns out to be based on real terror, inflicted by a Nazi official who has his own sinister plans for the Langres estate. But as no one ever seems to see or hear the things that keep giving John fits, he himself begins to doubt their reality and starts to enjoy his stay in the otherwise pleasant village. He makes a couple of friends his age, starts learning the language, and works on strengthening his leg in order to earn a bicycle promised by his parents if he recovers his ability to walk, and learns to speak French, by the end of the summer. He gets into just a little bit of trouble over his belief that a Nazi is still hiding out on the mountain - just a small matter of accidentally shooting the mayor's pig with a German pistol that nobody afterward can find. But it's when he hatches a really dubious scheme to persuade the townspeople to search in earnest for the hidden Nazi that Johnny blunders into heroism.

His uncle does fly the avion (French for airplane, but really a glider). But first Johnny takes a wild ride of his own, getting into some really thrilling scrapes and solving a mystery bigger than he realized he was dealing with. Meanwhile, every time he learns a new French word or phrase, he uses it instead of the English counterpart, until gradually the book progresses from 100 percent English to several pages of unbroken, but very easy, French. In between it is mostly told in a whimsical blend of the two languages, showing Johnny to have an unusual and often hilarious way of thinking and expressing himself.
In fact, as the night - la nuit, as they say, if you want to be fancy about it - as la nuit endured and hung on, the hours going slower and slower, in my judgment French trains weren't worth the powder to blow them off the track. And my opinion of the French idea of being comfortable dropped down lower than gravel.
In brief, I learned; I laughed; I had a great time.

This book, based loosely on its author's experiences as a Franco-American youth visiting France between the World Wars, won a 1947 Newbery Honor award. Cyrus Fisher was a juvenile-fiction pseudonym of author Darwin L. Teilhet (1904-64), a prolific author of mostly detective stories, often co-written with his wife Hildegarde Teilhet. Some of his other books were published under the pen-names William H. Fielding and Theo Durant. Among his other titles written as Cyrus Fisher are Ab Carmody's Treasure (set in Guatemala) and The Hawaiian Sword.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Useful Hymns: Tune Meter Index

Traditional hymnals also tend to contain a helpful index allowing you to look up a tune by its meter (in case you need to find a hymn but can't remember its tune's name or how the first line goes; or in case you want to look for an alternative tune for a hymn). Mine is organized a little differently than most, in that I actually organized the tunes into separate categories according to how many lines (of poetry) or phrases (of music) each stanza represents. After that the meters are kind of alphabetized by a string of numbers representing how many syllables are in each line. It would be nice if all tunes with the same pattern of syllable counts were interchangeable, but unfortunately, this list does not distinguish between tunes written to different patterns of syllable accents. So in a strict sense, it doesn't index the meter of the hymns, just the relative lengths of the lines in each stanza. Did I mention this is complicated?
2 lines
88
...Ich wollt, daß ich daheime wär...33

3 lines
777
...Heilger Geist, du Tröster mein...63
...St. Philip...63

4 lines
5565
...Year of Grace...200

6565
...Sælir eru trúadir...196

6666
...St. Cecilia...161

SM (6686)
...Aber...102
...Ephphatha...67
...Sandford...163
...Swabia...88

7676
...Rorate...28

7777
...Höchster Priester (1)...58
...Höchster Priester (2)...86
...Horton...85
...Jesu, kom dog selv til mig...170
...Schönste Sonne...201

7778
...Eleutheria...173
...Uns ist g’born ein Kindelein...205

7787
...Eleutheria...133

7997
...Wohlauf, die ihr hungrig seid...60

CM (8686)
...Burford...52
...Nun sich der Tag geendet hat...112
...Preschool Song...199
...Pruning...171
...Song 67...174
...Wolverhampton...130

8886
...Caergybi...193
...Rok nový...193

LM (8888)
...Agriculture Hymn...188
...Beatus vir...71
...Bloomington...18
...Constance...167
...Erstanden ist der heilig Christ...135
...Five Thousand...43, 82
...Four Thousand...62
...Herrnhut...166
...Ich heb mein Augen sehnlich auf...147
...Ich komm aus fremden Landen her...150
...Lob sei dem allmächtigen Gott...71, 203
...Nun lasst uns den Leib (1)...157
...Nun lasst uns den Leib (2)...176
...Refreshment...2
...Rex Christe, factor omnium...37
...Rockingham...151
...St. Crispin...165
...Tallis’ Canon...172
...Vexilla regis...109
...Vom Himmel kam der Engel Schar...141
...Windham...21
...Wir danken dir (1)...175
...Wir danken dir (2)...22

8 10 8 10
...Exsurgat Deus...119

9898
...O lad din Aand...103

9999
...Committal...159
...Engagement...183

10 8 10 8
...Venite...120

10 10 5 10
...O wie selig (1)...189
...O wie selig (2)...15

10 10 10 10
...Cleansing...126, 217
...Consecration...155, 219
...Duncannon...198
...Farley Castle...126
...Inventor rutilis...4

11 10 11 10
...Liebster Immanuel...57

11 11 11 5
...Die Nacht ist kommen...20
...Lobet den Herrn und dankt...31

11 11 11 11
...Easter Hymn...46, 83
...Es jammre...27

5 lines
76 766
...O Christe, Morgensterne...29

7878 4
...St. Albinus...64

865 76
...Jesus Christus, unser Heiland, der den Tod...208

8787 7
...Reece...136

87 887
...Trefoil...55, 68

87 888
...Ach wie nichtig...139

887 87
...Thanksgiving...23

88 848
...Ich hab mein Sach...184

8888 4
...Erschienen ist...206
...Gelobet seist du, Jesu...190

8888 6
...Amen, Amen...16

8888 8
...Amen, Amen...81
...Park Street...161
...Wir wollen alle fröhlich sein...32

10 888 10
...O Jesulein süss...204

10 10 10 10 10
...Old 124th...156

11 9 11 9 9
...Der mange skal komme...41

6 lines
665 D (665 665)
...Mein Jesu, der du mich...25

6666 66
...Gottes Sohn ist kommen...202

HM (6666 88)
...Croft’s 136th...137
...Dolgelly...77
...Laus Regis...137

667 D (667 667)
...Aspice Protector...187, 216
...Nunc dimittis...182

6686 86
...Dwelling Place...186

7676 76
...Wir hatten gebauet...127

775 D (775 775)
...Bridegroom’s Bread...115

7777 77
...Nicht so traurig (1)...179
...Nicht so traurig (2)...123

7878 77
...Jesus ist mein Aufenthalt...10
...Meinen Jesum lass ich nicht (1)...75
...Meinen Jesum lass ich nicht (2)...10
...Meinen Jesum lass ich nicht (3)...75

8686 68
...Come, you thirsty...124

8787 87
...Finnish Song...65
...Parresia...74, 222
...Sinner-Saint...185

CPM (886 D, or 886 886)
...Immanuel...78

887 D (887 887)
...Heut singt die liebe Christenheit...56
...Paa sit Kors...73

88 8686
...Der Kluge auf den Felsen baut...221
...Stuckwisch...221

888 886 or 8888 86
...Remnant...128
...Trinity...54

LPM (8888 88 or 888 888)
...Danket dem Herrn...48
...Heut triumphieret...131
...Holy Family...91, 164
...Iron Hub...125
...Leicester...95
...O Herre Gott, in meiner Not...158
...Presence...104
...Sei gegrüsset, Jesu gütig...26
...St. Petersburg...105

977 D (977 977)
...Dedication...129, 191

9897 88
...Inheritance...116

9898 88
...Amberg...51, 218
...O dass ich tausend (1)...50
...O dass ich tausend (2)...7

10 10 5558
...Deus fortis...107

10 8 10 8 10 10
...Das neugeborne Kindelein...11

10 10 10 D (10 10 10 10 10 10)
...David...143
...Seven Churches...154
...Song 1...35, 110

7 lines
664 6664
...Malvern...79

7676 876
...Wenn meine Sünd (1)...80
...Wenn meine Sünd (2)...80
...Wohl denen, die da wandeln...30

7788 787
...Nolite solliciti...70

8686 886
...Laurinus...99

8686 887
...Oxenford...213

8787 337
...Meine Hoffnung...61

8787 775
...Quare data est...118, 181

8787 887
...Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt...192
...Dilexi quoniam...121
...Es spricht der Unweisen Mund...209
...Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut...97
...Holy Body...92, 195
...Ich steh an deiner Krippen...12
...Unction...13, 220

887 8887
...Eighth Day...8

8888 886
...Mixolydian Tune...111

8 lines
6666 D (6666 6666)
...Courage...197
...Healing...160

6666 6686
...Crosby...106
...Deerwood...106

SMD (6686 6686)
...Ich halte treulich still...40

6688 6666
...Oculi...42

6766 6676
...Oligopistoi...34

6767 6666
...Ich freue mich in dir...9
...O Gott, du frommer Gott...142

7676 6676
...Terre Haute...212

7676 D (7676 7676)
...Bona patria...24
...Den Blomstertid nu kommer...108
...Ich freu mich in dem Herren...76
...Ich weiss, woran ich glaube...93

7676 7776
...Affliction...194

7676 8787
...Humility...72

7676 8876
...Hvor det blir godt å lande...168
...Isaiah...146

7676 8877
...Confitemini...122

7775 D (7775 7775)
...Crucifer...5

7777 D (7777 7777)
...Christe, wahres Seelenlicht...53
...Onesimus...153

7777 7788
...Elijah...144, 148

7878 D (7878 7878)
...Holy Desire...96

CMD (8686 8686)
...Passover...14, 17

8686 8886
...Hvor salig er den lille Flok...59
...Vocation...134

8787 7787
...Holy Day...19, 90
...Youth...152

8787 D (8787 8787)
...Durch Adams Fall...138
...Genesis...87, 114

8787 8877
...Ermuntre dich...94, 207

8787 8887
...Holy Name...89, 140

8887 7787
...Advent...3, 177

LMD (8888 8888)
...Erbarm dich mein...1
...Judica...44, 47
...O grosser Gott...132

9696 7777
...Holy Baptism...101

9797 7878
...Palmarum...45

10 7 10 7 D (10 7 10 7 10 7 10 7)
...Holy Angel...100

10 88 10 88 10 10
...Eyn Sämann gienge auß...38
...Yes of God...38

10 8 10 8 D (10 8 10 8 10 8 10 8)
...Threefold Office...117

10 10 10 10 D (10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10)
...Fruit of the Spirit...69

9 lines
8787 87468
...Ich ruf zu dir...145

8888 8888 8
...Ein neues Lied...39

10 lines
6666 7777 86
...Mein Schöpfer, steh mir bei...36, 162

7676 7676 88
...Four Angels...149

777 777 7777
...Quicunque...98

8888 8888 88
...Bartz...180

11 lines
7676 866 86
...Spirit of Christ...66, 214

847 847 44447
...Mag ich Unglück nicht widerstahn...49

12 lines
6373 7776 7766
...Grundtvig...211

887 887 888 887
...O Mensch, bewein...84

13 lines
887 887 8873 877
...Ylvisaker...6

10 10 9 10 10 9 10 6 10 6 8 8 10
...Thee and Only Thee...178

15 lines
8888 888 10 6 10 12 4 998
...Come to the feast...215

Useful Hymns: Tune Name Index

So, here is an alphabetical list of the hymn-tunes in my developing book Useful Hymns. Most hymnals contain a similar index, which is helpful, though it is aitch-ee-double-toothpicks keeping track of the names of the literally thousands of hymn-tunes in existence. With the same entry format as the first line index (each tune is followed by its author or source, and then the hymn number(s) where it is used, set off by ellipses), it's a slightly shorter list because some of the tunes are used more than once. But then again, some of the hymns have more than one tune. I guess it shows there are more instances of tunes used twice than hymns with two tunes.
Aber...Monk...102
Ach wie nichtig...Gotha...139
Advent...Fish...3, 177
Affliction...R. Mayes...194
Agriculture Hymn...J. Mayes...188
Amberg...Fish...51, 218
Amen, Amen...Fish...16, 81
Aspice Protector...Fish...187, 216
Bartz...Fish...180
Beatus vir...Samotulský...71
Bloomington...Fish...18
Bona patria...Bristol...24
Bridegroom’s Bread...Fish...115
Burford...Chetham...52
Caergybi...Roberts...193
Christe, wahres Seelenlicht...Halle...53
Cleansing...Fish...126, 217
Come to the feast...Fish...215
Come, you thirsty...Fish...124
Committal...Fish...159
Confitemini...Fish...122
Consecration...Fish...155, 219
Constance...Gauntlett...167
Courage...R. Mayes...197
Croft’s 136th...Croft...137
Crosby...Fish...106
Crucifer...Fish...5
Danket dem Herrn...Schütz...48
Das neugeborne Kindelein...Vulpius...11
David...Fish...143
Dedication...Fish...129, 191
Deerwood...Fish...106
Den Blomstertid nu kommer...Stockholm...108
Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt...Wittenberg...192
Der Kluge auf den Felsen baut...Carver...221
Der mange skal komme...Stockholm...41
Deus fortis...Norwegian...107
Die Nacht ist kommen...Nigidius...20
Dilexi quoniam...Fish...121
Dolgelly...Welsh...77
Duncannon...Potterton...198
Durch Adams Fall...German...138
Dwelling Place...Fish...186
Easter Hymn...Fish...46, 83
Eighth Day...Fish...8
Ein neues Lied...Luther...39
Eleutheria...Fish...133, 173
Elijah...Fish...144, 148
Engagement...Fish...183
Ephphatha...Fish...67
Erbarm dich mein...Scheidt...1
Ermuntre dich...Schop...94, 207
Erschienen ist...Hermann...206
Erstanden ist der heilig Christ...Bohemian...135
Es jammre...Hintze...27
Es spricht der Unweisen Mund...Wittenberg...209
Exsurgat Deus...Fish...119
Eyn Sämann gienge auß...Carver...38
Farley Castle...Lawes...126
Finnish Song...Finnish...65
Five Thousand...Fish...43, 82
Four Angels...Fish...149
Four Thousand...Fish...62
Fruit of the Spirit...Fish...69
Gelobet seist du, Jesu...Erfurt...190
Genesis...Fish...87, 114
Gott hat das Evangelium...Alber...210
Gottes Sohn ist kommen...Weisse...202
Grundtvig...Fish...211
Healing...Fish...160
Heilger Geist, du Tröster mein...German...63
Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut ...Dresden...97
Herrnhut...Gesius...166
Heut singt die liebe Christenheit...Nürnberg...56
Heut triumphieret...Frankfurt a. O....131
Höchster Priester (1)...Basel...58
Höchster Priester (2)...Halle...86
Holy Angel...Fish...100
Holy Baptism...Fish...101
Holy Body...Fish...92, 195
Holy Day...Fish...19, 90
Holy Desire...Fish...96
Holy Family...Fish...91, 164
Holy Name...Fish...89, 140
Horton...Wartensee...85
Humility...Fish...72
Hvor det blir godt å lande...Norwegian...168
Hvor salig er den lille Flok...Lindeman...59
Ich freu mich in dem Herren...Helder...76
Ich freue mich in dir...German...9
Ich hab mein Sach...German...184
Ich halte treulich still...Leipzig...40
Ich heb mein Augen sehnlich auf...Schütz...147
Ich komm aus fremden Landen her...German...150
Ich ruf zu dir...Klug...145
Ich steh an deiner Krippen...Bach...12
Ich weiss, woran ich glaube...Schütz...93
Ich wollt, daß ich daheime wär...Strasbourg...33
Immanuel...Löhe...78
Inheritance...Fish...116
Inventor rutilis...plainsong/Fish...4
Iron Hub...Fish...125
Isaiah...Fish...146
Jesu, kom dog selv til mig...Lindeman...170
Jesus Christus, unser Heiland, der den Tod...Luther...208
Jesus ist mein Aufenthalt...Lüneberg...10
Judica...Fish...44, 47
Laurinus...Stockholm...99
Laus Regis...Fischer...137
Leicester...Bishop...95
Liebster Immanuel...Leipzig...57
Lob sei dem allmächtigen Gott...Crüger...188, 203
Lobet den Herrn und dankt...Crüger...31
Mag ich Unglück nicht widerstahn...Senfl...49
Malvern...The Hallelujah...79
Mein Jesu, der du mich...Darmstadt...25
Mein Schöpfer, steh mir bei...Meyer...36, 162
Meine Hoffnung...Neander...61
Meinen Jesum lass ich nicht (1)...Darmstadt...75
Meinen Jesum lass ich nicht (2)...Hammerschmidt...10
Meinen Jesum lass ich nicht (3)...Ulich...75
Mixolydian Tune...Fish...111
Nicht so traurig (1)...Crüger...179
Nicht so traurig (2)...Ebeling...123
Nolite solliciti...Fish...70
Nun lasst uns den Leib (1)...Hermann...157
Nun lasst uns den Leib (2)...Wittenberg...176
Nun sich der Tag geendet hat...Krieger...112
Nunc dimittis...Geneva...182
O Christe, Morgensterne...Leipzig...29
O dass ich tausend (1)...Dretzel...50
O dass ich tausend (2)...König...7
O Gott, du frommer Gott...Braunschweig...142
O grosser Gott...Stuttgart...132
O Herre Gott, in meiner Not...Reimann...158
O Jesulein süss...Köln...204
O lad din Aand...Lindeman...103
O Mensch, bewein...Strassburg...84
O wie selig (1)...Crüger...189
O wie selig (2)...Stötzel...15
Oculi...Fish...42
Old 124th...Geneva...156
Oligopistoi...Fish...34
Onesimus...Werner...153
Oxenford...Fish...213
Paa sit Kors...Zinck...73
Palmarum...Fish...45
Park Street...Venua...161
Parresia...Fish...74, 222
Passover...Fish...14, 17
Preschool Song...Fish...199
Presence...Fish...104
Pruning...Fish...171
Quare data est...Fish...118, 181
Quicunque...Fish...98
Reece...Fish...136
Refreshment...Fish...2
Remnant...Fish...128
Rex Christe, factor omnium...Plainchant...37
Rockingham...Mason...151
Rok nový...Závorka...193
Rorate...Fish...28
Sælir eru trúadir...Bohemian...196
Sandford...Stephenson...163
Schönste Sonne...Enckhausen...201
Sei gegrüsset, Jesu gütig...Leipzig...26
Seven Churches...Potterton...154
Sinner-Saint...Fish...185
Song 1...Gibbons...35, 110
Song 67...Gibbons...174
Spirit of Christ...Fish...66, 214
St. Albinus...Gauntlett...64
St. Cecilia...Hayne...161
St. Crispin...Elvey...165
St. Petersburg...Bortniansky...105
St. Philip...Monk...63
Stuckwisch...Fish...221
Swabia...Spiess...88
Tallis’ Canon...Tallis...172
Terre Haute...Fish...212
Thanksgiving...Fish...23
Thee and Only Thee...Fish...178
Threefold Office...Fish...117
Trefoil...Fish...55, 68
Trinity...Fish...54
Unction...Fish...13, 220
Uns ist g’born ein Kindelein...German...205
Venite...Fish...120
Vexilla regis...Hampton...109
Vocation...Fish...134
Vom Himmel kam der Engel Schar...Gotha...141
Wenn meine Sünd (1)...German...80
Wenn meine Sünd (2)...Prætorius...80
Windham...Read...21
Wir danken dir (1)...Erfurt...175
Wir danken dir (2)...Wittenberg...22
Wir hatten gebauet...German...127
Wir wollen alle fröhlich sein...Spangenberg...32
Wohl denen, die da wandeln...Schütz...30
Wohlauf, die ihr hungrig seid...Bohemian...60
Wolverhampton...Redhead...130
Year of Grace...Fish...200
Yes of God...Fish...38
Ylvisaker...Fish...6
Youth...J. Mayes...152

Useful Hymns: First Line Index

Here is a list of the hymns in Useful Hymns, alphabetized by the first line of Stanza 1. Kind of like, you know, the "text index" of an ordinary hymnal, only after each first-line entry it names the author or source. The number at the end of each entry is the hymn number (as opposed to a page number). When there is a slash between two author or source names, the names identify original author-slash-translator. If my name (Fish) isn't anywhere to be seen, it probably means I just wrote an original tune for somebody else's hymn. Whew. This is complicated. In the book layout it is easier to read because instead of ellipses ("...") there are tab characters that space the information into columns, although the spaces are filled with dots.
“A little while,” said Christ in grace...Fish...49
A prophet meek and lowly...Fish...146
A remnant, Lord, in mercy save...Fish...128
A song of thanks to God we raise...Fish...180
A sower went abroad his seed to sow...Fish...38
A stable lamp is lighted...Wilbur...212
Alas, Lord! See Thy kingdom’s course...Fish...21
Almighty God in lowly form...Fish...169
Almighty God, unto Your flock...Fish...132
“Amen, Amen,” the Savior said...Fish...16
Amen, Lord Jesus, to Thy Word...Fish...172
As with one voice we praise the Lord...Fish...135
Awake, my soul, take wing and soar...Sacer/Fish...207
Behold! The weak and the afflicted...Fish...191
Beloved, ask not what to do...Fish...68
Blessed shall all kindreds call her...Fish...19
Christ, faithful Witness, Firstborn from the dead...Fish...154
Christ my Savior, God and Man...Fish...170
Christ, Mediator, intercede for me...Fish...178
Christ, pitying the multitude...Fish...134
Christ, rise without delay...Fish...79
Christ, shine Your light on those who delve...Fish...150
Christ, the Father’s faithful witness...Fish...89
Christ, to serve all men You came ...Fish...153
Christ, we thank You for each other...Fish...73
Christ, when Your parents to the temple brought You ...Fish...31
Christ, who was tempted as are we...Fish...166
Christ, who Your kingdom once compared...Fish...82
Christ, whose pulpit was a boat...Fish...60
Christ, You owned no resting place...Fish...96
Christians, for the strife alarming...Fish...177
Christians, in your daily need...Fish...70
Christmas with gladness sounds...Grundtvig/Aaberg...211
Come, let us all confess our sins to God...Preus...219
Come, let us sing to the Lord God of Hosts...Fish...120
Come, sing the praise of God the Father...Preus...218
Come, Lord Jesus; come with haste...Fish...179
Come, you thirsty, to the water...Fish...124
Crucified God, my Righteousness...Fish...165
Cry the captives at the river...Fish...3
Dear Christians, be not unaware...Fish...37
Dear Father, bless this holy space...Fish...111
Dear heavenly Father, hear, as sinks life’s day...Fish...155
Dear Lord, bend down Your ear...Fish...163
Dear Lord, whose presence fills the heart with joy...Fish...198
Disciples, why gaze up in awe?...Fish...18
Drop down, drop down you heavens...Fish...28
Ere Adam’s seed was sown...Fish...40
Eternal, sole-begotten Son...Fish...91
Fare well, in Jesus’ name...Fish...182
Fast, dear children, mourn and tremble...Fish...13
Father, behold my Shield...Kornacki...216
Father, who has spread a feast...Fish...115
Father, whose beloved Son...Fish...10
Father, with Your children playing...Fish...139
Fools may profess the Christian faith...Luther/Fish...209
For Matthew’s faithful witness...Fish...149
For Your word’s sake, according to Your heart...Fish...143
Go in grace, dear sisters, brothers...Fish...87
God bless, uphold the faithful lives...Fish...151
God gave the gospel so that we...Alber/Fish...210
God, who called the light from darkness...Fish...114
God who is Father, God the Son...Fish...54
God, who forgave our debt...Fish...77
God, who once by Joseph’s brothers...Fish...140
God, who sent the twelve of old...Fish...148
God, whose labor set the planets spinning...Fish...189
Good friends, we greet you this new day...Fish...199
Hail, O rising Star of David...Fish...6
Hark, children, at the word...Fish...142
He has done all things well...Fish...67
He who would be saved must hold...Fish...98
Hear this promise spoken plainly...Rosenkoetter...222
Hear, you who trust your rightness...Fish...66
Heavenly Father, as dawn spreads her light...Fish...100
Heavenly Father, God and Lord...Fish...201
Heirs of God’s realm, be not discouraged...Fish...35
Hold fast, younger sisters, brothers...Fish...152
Howsoever you be gifted...Fish...65
“I am,” said God, “the God of Abraham”...Fish...126
I come unto Thee slain...Fish...102
I know that my Redeemer lives...Gerhardt/Oxenford...213
I love the Lord, for He has heard...Fish...121
If I must have some sign or norm...Fish...174
In His Word the Lord has plainly stated...Fish...107
In peace let us honor the One who gives peace...Fish...83
In the world’s tumult and snare...Fish...123
In Your name, Christ, we honor...Fish...24
Jesus Christ, our Savior glorious...Luther/Fish...208
Jesus, strength of all the living...Fish...74
Jesus, weighed with sorrows deep...Fish...5
Jesus, whose tears were not in vain...Fish...71
King of heaven, who by grace ...Fish...75
Let all beware who seek to judge...Fish...59
Let all the nations rage and roar...Fish...125
Let God arise! He routs the foe...Fish...119
Little children, be alert...Fish...63
Little ones, when signs awaken...Fish...26
Living God, whose straying fold...Fish...144
Lord, Abram’s Shield and great Reward ...Fish...138
Lord Christ, made known in being kind...Fish...193
Lord Christ, whose reckoning sublime...Fish...62
Lord God, who once brought Israel out...Fish...14
Lord Jesus Christ, Thy flesh and blood...Fish...104
Lord Jesus, graft us into Thee...Fish...175
Lord Jesus, heal our scaly eyes...Fish...56
Lord Jesus, when You test us...Fish...30
Lord, from the shadow of toil and pain...Fish...183
Lord, hear our cry of prayer and pain...Fish...52
Lord, how Your visage shone...Fish...36
Lord, now let Your humble slave...Fish...86
Lord of truth, whose Scripture is not broken...Fish...15
Lord, on the night You were betrayed...Fish...17
Lord, we rejoice and sing with jubilation...Fish...27
Lord, what visions You have granted...Fish...181
Lord, when You call us to feast at Your table...Fish...57
Lord, when our voice to You we raise...Fish...23
Lord, who in Christ has punished sin...Fish...55
Lord, who led Jacob’s seed...Fish...187
Lord, who once gave the breath of life to men...Fish...156
Lord, who would spare for ten men’s sake...Fish...192
Man and woman You created...Fish...195
No greater prophet has ever declared...Fish...117
O blessed birth, Love’s condescension...Fish...7
O body of death, old Adam’s seed...Fish...185
O Bread of those who falter...Fish...168
O bride of Christ, O holy line...Fish...32
O Bridegroom, I await Your feast...Fish...167
O Christ, our theme of highest worth...Fish...1
O Christ, the church’s Head ...Fish...196
O Christ, the Light of all the saints in heaven...Fish...20
O Christ, the unknown God...Fish...88
O Christ, to whom all love is due...Fish...97
O Christ, to whom all things belong...Fish...94
O Christ, who art the church’s Life...Fish...171
O Christ, Word all-creating...Fish...108
O Christ, You are the Bridegroom...Fish...93
O Christ, You know: to live...Fish...161
O faithless generation...Fish...76
O Father, who once claimed me as Your child...Fish...110
O give thanks unto the Lord...Fish...122
O God, at work in words and signs...Fish...145
O God, who mourns with those who mourn...Fish...190
O God, whose word like living seed...Fish...188
O Heaven, heal our hearts...Fish...160
O holy Love, who gave Yourself for all...Fish...69
O Jesus, Passover of God...Fish...43
O Jesus, so sweet! O Jesus, so mild...German/Fish...204
O kingly Love, that faithfully...Franzmann...215
O Lord, in whose mysterious ways...Fish...158
O Lord, our Dwelling Place...Fish...186
O Lord, our Strength and Song...Fish...197
O Lord, whose great and awful day...Fish...131
O lovely Jesus, Gift of love...Fish...39
O the joy that shepherd knew...Fish...58
O Word eternal, found in time...Fish...9
O you of little faith...Fish...34
On God I rest my hope and trust ...Fish...184
Once God destroyed mankind...Fish...137
Once on the journey to Jerusalem...Preus...217
Our heavenly Father, unto Thee...Fish...99
Our salvation is God’s will...Fish...173
Ponder, heart, this table of fellowship and grace...Fish...106
Praise be to Thee, almighty God...Weisse/Fish...203
Pray, Christ, whose sprinkled blood lifts up...Fish...95
Purify this child, O Holy Ghost...Fish...101
Rejoice, O holy city...Fish...29
Rejoice, you righteous, in the Lord...Fish...48
Remember Your goodness and mercy, O Lord...Fish...41
Root-stock of David, heavenly Vine...Fish...175
Salvation unto Israel...Fish...12
Sing a new song! Sing, all creation...Fish...50
Sing, you worthy Christian host...Fish...53
Son from on high, of all things the heir...Fish...116
Son of God, Your human nature...Fish...92
Son of Man, as Lord of Sabbath...Fish...90
Soul, declare: The Lord is great...Fish...85
Soul, why doth God tender...Weisse/Fish...202
Speak out with sounds of joyful singing...Fish...51
Spirit of Christ, once hovering...Carver...214
Stir up my still heart, Lord, to pray...Fish...2
Suffer every son and daughter...Fish...136
Take heart, dear lambs! Our friend today...Fish...157
Tell this to captive Israel...Fish...78
Thank God, His word shall never fail...Fish...109
Thanks to Christ our Savior be...Fish...133
The faithful in a faithless age...Fish...147
The Son of Man will come with might...Fish...81
The stone by men rejected...Fish...127
The wise man on the Rock has built...Carver...221
This day, child of God...Fish...200
Thou holy Christ, my soul’s own Liege...Fish...164
To Christ, by men rejected...Fish...194
To earth we commend in grief our friend...Fish...159
To God we lift our song of praise...Fish...84
Today we bless the holy name...Fish...8
United by one truth, confessed...Fish...130
Unto us is born a Child...German-Latin/Fish...205
Wake, Zion! Recognize...Fish...25
We are forgiven in Christ Jesus...Fish...129
We bless You, Christ, for making blest...Fish...22
We bless You, Spirit of the living Word...Fish...113
We praise You, Israel’s God and Lord...Fish...141
We sing, Immanuel, Thy praise...Gerhardt/Fish...206
We welcome You, who humbly enter...Fish...45
Were Christ not arisen, how falsely they preach...Fish...46
What is the bread on which we feed...Fish...105
When Christ our high priest had come forth...Fish...44
When snares bestrew my way...Fish...42
When the stewards of God’s word...Fish...64
When tribulation rises...Fish...80
Whose work can surpass the measure...Fish...61
Why, Saul? Why, Saul, do you persecute Me...Fish...11
Why then has the light been given...Fish...118
With heavy heart I kneel before You...Fish...103
With her cruse of alabaster...Grundtvig/Aaberg...220
With thankfulness give thanks! Rejoice with joy...Fish...4
Would that all Christians felt their need...Fish...47
You who exalt the humble...Fish...72
Your grace alone, O living Word...Fish...112
Your will, Christ, made the leper clean...Fish...33

Useful Hymns: Contents

So it's all over but some final touches, and obtaining permission to reprint two copyrighted texts: I have reached my goal for a super-sized, second edition of my book of (mainly) original hymns, with a few translations and whatnot. Here is a list of the hymns by title, numbered in the order they will appear in the book (not according to their numbering in this blog). In a later post, I will hurl some indices at you, as a taster of what's inside - in case this blog hasn't already completely spoiled it.

USEFUL HYMNS for Worship, Prayer, and Instruction in the Lutheran Home, School, or Church

TABLE OF CONTENTS

DEDICATION
1. Hymn for Christ-Centered Hymnody
2. Hymn for a Replenished Prayer Life
SEASONS OF THE CHURCH YEAR
3. Advent Hymn
4. Christmas Season Hymn
5. Passion Hymn
FEASTS OF THE CHURCH YEAR
6. Nativity Hymn
7. Christmas Hymn for the Unborn
8. Circumcision and Name of Jesus
9. Epiphany Hymn
10. Baptism of Jesus
11. Conversion of St. Paul
12. Presentation of Jesus
13. Fasting Hymn (Ash Wednesday)
14. Passover Hymn
15. Annunciation Hymn
16. Holy Week Hymn
17. Maundy Thursday Hymn
18. Ascension Hymn
19. Visitation Hymn
20. Reformation Hymn (1)
21. Reformation Hymn (2)
22. All Saints Hymn
23. Thanksgiving Hymn (or 14th Sunday after Trinity)
24. Commemoration Hymn
SUNDAYS OF THE CHURCH YEAR
25. Hymn for the 1st Sunday in Advent
26. Hymn for the 2nd Sunday in Advent
27. Gaudete Hymn (3rd Sunday in Advent)
28. Hymn for the 4th Sunday in Advent
29. Sunday After Christmas Hymn
30. Sunday After New Year Hymn
31. Christ Among the Doctors (1st Sunday after Epiphany)
32. Cana Hymn (2nd Sunday after Epiphany)
33. A Double Miracle (3rd Sunday after Epiphany)
34. Storm Hymn (4th Sunday after Epiphany)
35. Tares Hymn (5th Sunday after Epiphany)
36. Transfiguration Hymn (Last Sunday after Epiphany)
37. Septuagesima Hymn
38. Sower Hymn (Sexagesima Sunday)
39. Agape Hymn (Quinquagesima Sunday)
40. Hymn for Invocavit (1st Sunday in Lent)
41. Reminiscere Hymn (2nd Sunday in Lent)
42. Oculi Hymn (3rd Sunday in Lent)
43. Feeding the Five Thousand (Laetare, 4th Sunday in Lent)
44. Judica Hymn (5th Sunday in Lent)
45. Palm Sunday Hymn
46. Easter Hymn
47. Quasimodogeniti Hymn (1st Sunday after Easter)
48. Misericordias Domini Hymn (2nd Sunday after Easter)
49. Jubilate Hymn (3rd Sunday after Easter)
50. Cantate Hymn (4th Sunday after Easter)
51. Rogate Hymn (5th Sunday after Easter)
52. Exaudi Hymn (Sunday after Ascension)
53. Pentecost Hymn
54. Trinity Hymn (1)
55. Trinity Hymn (2)
56. Lazarus Hymn (1st Sunday after Trinity)
57. Feast of Love Hymn (2nd Sunday after Trinity)
58. Finding the Lost (3rd Sunday after Trinity)
59. Judging Rightly (4th Sunday after Trinity)
60. Fishers of Men Hymn (5th Sunday after Trinity)
61. Righteousness in Christ (6th Sunday after Trinity)
62. Feeding the Four Thousand (7th Sunday after Trinity)
63. Against False Prophets (8th Sunday after Trinity)
64. Stewards of the Word (9th Sunday after Trinity)
65. Spiritual Gifts Hymn (10th Sunday after Trinity)
66. Pharisee and Publican (11th Sunday after Trinity)
67. Ephphatha Hymn (12th Sunday after Trinity)
68. Good Samaritan Hymn (13th Sunday after Trinity)
69. Fruit of the Spirit (14th Sunday after Trinity)
70. Worry Hymn (15th Sunday after Trinity)
71. Nain Hymn (16th Sunday after Trinity)
72. Hymn for Humility (17th Sunday after Trinity)
73. Psalm 122 Hymn (18th Sunday after Trinity)
74. Paralytic Hymn (19th Sunday after Trinity)
75. Feast of Justification (20th Sunday after Trinity)
76. Healing the Official’s Son (21st Sunday after Trinity)
77. Hymn for a Forgiving Heart (22nd Sunday after Trinity)
78. Vocation Hymn (23rd Sunday after Trinity)
79. Help in Affliction (24th Sunday after Trinity)
80. Last Days Hymn (25th Sunday after Trinity)
81. Sheep and Goats (26th Sunday after Trinity)
82. Wise and Foolish Virgins (27th Sunday after Trinity)
LITURGICAL HYMNS
83. Hymn to Enter
84. Te Deum Hymn
85. Magnificat Hymn
86. Nunc Dimittis Hymn
87. Hymn to Depart
CATECHETICAL HYMNS
88. First Commandment Hymn
89. Second Commandment Hymn
90. Third Commandment Hymn
91. Fourth Commandment Hymn
92. Fifth Commandment Hymn
93. Sixth Commandment Hymn
94. Seventh Commandment Hymn
95. Eighth Commandment Hymn
96. Ninth Commandment Hymn
97. Tenth Commandment Hymn
98. Athanasian Creed Hymn
99. Lord’s Prayer Hymn
100. Morning and Evening Prayers
101. Baptism Hymn
102. An Anatomy of Penitence (Confession and Absolution)
103. Confession Hymn
104. Presence Hymn (Sacrament of the Altar)
105. Lord’s Supper Hymn (2)
106. Lord’s Supper Hymn (3)
107. On the Efficacy of God’s Word
108. Word Hymn
109. Law and Gospel Hymn
110. Sacraments Hymn
111. On Worship: A Hymn
112. Sola Gratia Hymn
SCRIPTURAL MEDITATION
113. Inspiration Hymn
114. Creation Hymn
115. The Royal Wedding Feast
116. Inheritance Hymn
117. Prophet, Priest and King
118. Job 3:20-26 Hymn
119. Exsurgat Deus (Psalm 68)
120. Venite, Exultemus (Psalm 95)
121. Dilexi Quoniam (Psalm 116)
122. Confitemini Domino (Psalm 118)
123. Proverbs 30:5 Hymn
124. Isaiah 55 Hymn
125. Micah 7 Hymn
126. On John’s “I Am” Christology
127. Scandal of the Cross Hymn
CHURCH AND MINISTRY
128. Remnant Hymn
129. Mission Statement
130. The Confessional Church
131. Hymn for the Word of Life (The Holy Ministry)
132. Citadel Hymn
133. Stewardship Hymn
134. Pastoral Call Hymn
135. Wedding Hymn
136. The Child in Christ
HEROES OF FAITH
137. Noah Hymn (A Type of Baptism)
138. Abraham Hymn (For Justifying Faith)
139. Jacob Hymn (Wrestling with God)
140. Joseph Hymn (Blessing Through Affliction)
141. Moses Hymn (Strength in Weakness)
142. Joshua Hymn (For a Devout Heart)
143. David Hymn (The Gift of Penitence)
144. Elijah Hymn (Strength for Faithful Ministry)
145. Elisha Hymn (Trusting God’s Means)
146. Isaiah Hymn (For Christ-Centered Ministry)
147. Daniel Hymn (For Faithful Testimony)
148. Minor Prophets Hymn (Warning and Promise)
149. Four Evangelists Hymn (Power of the Gospel)
150. Twelve Apostles Hymn (For the Apostolic Faith)
151. Women of the Faith
152. Timothy Hymn (For Faithful Youth)
153. Onesimus & Philemon (Honor in Humble Service)
154. Seven Churches of the Apocalypse (For Perseverance)
COMFORT AND ENCOURAGEMENT
155. Hymn for Evening or Dying
156. Burial Hymn (1)
157. Burial Hymn (2)
158. Burial Hymn (3)
159. Burial Hymn (4)
160. Burial of One Whose Spiritual Condition Is Unknown
161. Hymn of Grief
162. Hymn for Stronger Faith
163. Prayer Hymn
164. Hymn for Patience
165. Cross-Bearing Hymn
166. Hymn in the Hour of Temptation
167. Hymn for the Struggle Against Sin
168. Hymn of Hunger and Thirst for the Sacrament
169. Humiliation Hymn
170. Cleansing Hymn
171. Pruning Hymn
172. Amen Hymn
173. Freedom Song
174. Sign or Norm
175. Grafting Hymn (1)
176. Grafting Hymn (2)
177. Hymn for Spiritual Warfare
178. Hymn for the Mediation of Christ
179. Hymn for the Second Coming of Christ
180. Stewardship Hymn
181. Angels of the Lord Hymn
182. Farewell Hymn
183. In the World, but Not of the World
184. A Confession of Faith
185. Psalm of a Sinner-Saint
CARE OF THE COMMUNITY
186. Disaster Hymn
187. Journey Hymn
188. Agriculture Hymn
189. Labor Hymn
190. Mental Illness Hymn
191. Disability Hymn
192. For the Body Politic
193. Intercession for the Sick
194. For the Despised and Rejected
195. For Troubled Families
196. For Healing of Division
197. For Courage
198. For a Cheerful Heart
HYMNS FOR CHILDREN
199. Opening and Closing of Preschool
200. Baptismal Birthday Song
201. Table Grace Hymn
TRANSLATED HYMNS [My translations of other authors' hymns]
202. Weisse’s Advent Hymn
203. Weisse’s Hymn to the Incarnation
204. A German Christmas Cradle-Song
205. A Latin-German Christmas Carol
206. Gerhardt’s Christmas Hymn
207. Sacer’s Christmas Hymn
208. Luther’s Easter Hymn
209. Luther’s Paraphrase of Psalm 14
210. Alber’s Hymn for the Coming Judgment
ORIGINAL TUNES TO EXISTING HYMNS [My tunes to other authors' hymns]
211. Grundtvig’s Christmas Carol
212. Wilbur’s Christmas Hymn
213. Gerhardt’s Resurrection Hymn
214. Matthew Carver’s Pentecost Hymn
215. Franzmann’s Hymn for the 2nd Sunday after Trinity
216. Alan Kornacki’s Hymn for the 5th Sunday after Trinity
217. Mark Preus’s Hymn for the 14th Sunday after Trinity
218. Mark Preus’s Hymn for the 15th Sunday after Trinity
219. Mark Preus’s Hymn for Synodical Delegates
220. Grundtvig’s Anointing at Bethany Hymn
221. Matthew Carver’s House on the Rock Hymn
222. David Rosenkoetter’s Baptism Hymn

201. Women of the Faith Hymn

With this hymn I surpassed my goal of 200 hymns planned for the "expanded edition" of my book Useful Hymns, with a "heroes of the faith" topic I have been planning to write on for a long time. The tune I picked for it is ROCKINGHAM by Lowell Mason, 1830. It's an attempt to make as much as possible of the contribution of women to the Bible's salvation history without sliding into the "let's ordain women" error, which is unfaithful to the Bible. Excuse it for being long. Believe me, it could have been longer.
Hymn for Women of the Faith

1. God bless, uphold the faithful lives
Of mothers, daughters, sisters, wives,
Whose love at home, at work, abroad,
Upholds the church and blesses God!

2. For even Eve, when You had sworn
A Savior would through her be born,
Shrank not from childbirth’s dreadful pain,
Inventing motherhood with Cain.

3. Though Sarah laughed to hear the word
Her dry womb was to be restored,
Your promise was what made her say
The handmaid’s son must go away.

4. While Leah’s sister hotly strove
To grasp their husband’s tender love,
In her sons’ names we see her trace
Her fruitful bearing to Your grace.

5. Tamar and Rahab both bore fruit,
And though they were of ill repute,
You turned to them a pard’ning face
And knit them in Your line of grace.

6. Naomi’s love for pious Ruth
Knit her into Your grace and truth;
And though she sprang from Moab’s side,
Boaz redeemed her as his bride.

7. Then Mary, when the time was ripe,
Became to them an antitype;
Of her, without a husband’s seed,
Was born the Savior all men need.

8. The first to greet the Christ with joy,
Elizabeth’s yet unborn boy
Leaped at the virgin mother’s voice;
She was the second to rejoice.

9. A certain Mary sat and heard
The word of God’s incarnate Word;
Another, at His last low bed,
First saw the Firstborn from the dead.

10. Give Annas, Miriams, and more,
Dear Savior, from Your mercy’s store,
Who will bear witness of Your love
To those who seek the realm above!

11. Should men their godly duty fail,
Raise up a Debòrah, a Jael,
To bear the banner of Your name
And put its enemies to shame!

12. Now, as with Lydia, dear Lord,
Our hearts prise open to Your word,
Whereby we take Your kingdom come
Into our ears, our mouth, our home!

13. As, clasping Lois’ faithful knee,
And Eunice’s, young Timothy
Was taught Your doctrine’s written norm,
Keep in our view the sound words’ form!

14. As with Priscilla’s counsel wise,
Correct false teachers who arise;
Lest from Your way we blindly swerve,
Let each within her calling serve!

15. At last, our Bridegroom strong and true,
Present us all as bride to You
In wedding robes of spotless good:
The perfect type of womanhood!

200. Isaiah Hymn

I think I worked on this hymn longer than any other poem I have ever written. Most of that labor, however, was done before I wrote a single word of it. It takes time to digest 66 chapters of prophetic poetry. The list of one-line abstracts of references I could have used in this hymn was longer than the hymn itself, so obviously selection and compression were key parts of the process. While writing it, I didn't consider what tune it would sing to; I was dismayed to realize afterward that my least objectionable choice was to re-use the Norwegian folk-tune HVOR DET BLIR GODT Å LANDE, which I never felt quite suited the last hymn I set to it. So I whipped up a quick, original tune...
Isaiah hymn, for Christ-centered ministry

A prophet meek and lowly
The Lord’s appearing saw;
The seraph-sung Thrice Holy
Isaiah heard with awe.
“Alas, I am undone,” he said;
An angel from the altar sped
To cleanse with unction coaly
His sin-polluted jaw.

His testimony binding,
He waited, Lord, on You,
The name “God-With-Us” finding
Both full of hope and true;
He hailed You Prince of David’s line,
And set Your virgin birth as sign
Through ages dark and winding,
To sages far and few.

Both Jesse’s Root and Scion,
Both David’s Lord and Son,
A Cornerstone in Zion,
A Savior, Mighty One:
Of You Isaiah sang, dear Lord,
In oracles so richly poured,
As if he trained his eye on
All that You since have done.

A righteous King expecting,
God calling God he saw;
God sending God, directing
That He should serve His law;
God serving God for sinners’ sake,
That we be healed, our stripes to take;
God dreadfully correcting
That Servant without flaw.

Thereby he saw You making
A covenant of peace,
Then to all nations taking
Redemption and release;
From sin and death a setting loose;
A world remade for holy use
Till, earth and heaven shaking,
You bid all striving cease.

Garb us, Lord, to receive You
In robes of righteousness,
And with that seer believe You
Accept such blood-stained dress;
Upon You train our hopeful eyes,
And through Isaiah’s word, the prize,
That though we sin and grieve You,
You will restore and bless!

Hosannah to the Holy,
The Holy, Holy Lord,
The God of hosts, whom solely
All angels praise accord!
Let all that was, is, and will be
To Three in One and One in Three
Be dedicated wholly
By all the ransomed horde!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

199. Sinner-Saint Hymn

This hymn was not part of the plan for my book (still in progress) of 200 original hymns. So I guess it will come out to more than 200. I started writing it in the middle of a sleepless night, with eight lines of unrhymed, meterless psalmody; Stanza 1 took its finished form in my head while I was walking to work yesterday. The remaining stanzas I wrote long-hand last night while lying on the couch after a long day. Note, in the opening line, I consider the "y" of "body" and the word "of" to be a single syllable. Fear not, I am still working on the promised "Isaiah hymn," but there's a lot of material to digest before I will be ready to write it.
Psalm of a Sinner-Saint

O body of death, old Adam's seed,
Your foul head daily rearing,
Why do you gloat upon my need
With glory sharp and searing?
The cross my hungry soul will feed,
More as my hour is nearing.

O cursing tongue, O lips that smile
At things unfit to mention,
Why do you swallow what is vile
And vomit forth invention?
Christ, whom no falsehood can defile,
With you stands in contention.

O worldly flesh, for vice a hide,
Why preen on your pollution?
Why laugh to turn the pure aside
And sneer at destitution?
By baptism drowned, with Christ you died,
Thrown down by absolution.

Deceitful heart, what you desire
Is ruined in the getting;
Of all things free and good you tire,
The pangs of envy whetting.
But now God's word a cleansing fire
In you, to you is setting.

Self-loving self, at last give heed
To God, His answer hearing:
For all who live by blood, His Seed
A victim's form came wearing,
For love of even you to bleed,
All sin, all justice bearing.

False heart, believe! False lips, confess
What Scripture here discloses!
You lawless limbs, don spotless dress
And work as God disposes!
For Jesus is your righteousness;
The maw of hell He closes.

No longer Satan's ridden steed,
Sin's chains no longer wearing,
You wear another tack and lead,
A better Rider bearing,
Who will His new creation feed
Out of His bosom caring.

Lord Christ, who only can retrieve
Our daily, hourly battle
With yet indwelling sin, relieve
Us till its dying rattle!
Help every sinner-saint believe
Despite the foe's vain tattle!

And when in victory You come,
Wake us unmarked from sleeping;
Give us at last a perfect home
Untouched by care and weeping,
With all whose beds in tears had swum
Your endless sabbath keeping!
EDIT: As usual, when writing this hymn text I never gave a thought to what tune it would be sung to. I was surprised, when I checked my metrical index of hymn tunes in anglophone Lutheran hymnals, to realize the stress pattern of this hymn would not allow it to go with any of the "8787 87" tunes I know of. It meant having to write another original tune, titled SINNER-SAINT. Like many of the hymn-tunes I have written lately, it revels in rhythmic palindromes.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Amulet

The Amulet
by Alison Pensy
Recommended Ages: 14+

People who have read Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - soon to be a motion picture - may know a little about Red Caps. As Faedra Bennett approaches age 17, it becomes urgent that she learn a lot more. Unknown to her until her 18th birthday, she has already been in peril more than once from the evil little creatures whose eyes glow yellow in the dark, and who (she learns later) never feel quite like themselves without a fresh coat of somebody else's blood on their caps. They're coming after her because, although she hardly knows it, she is descended from a line of humans who used to be fae, or fairies, and like her late mother, she is the custodian of an amulet that in the wrong hands could destroy our world, and other worlds besides.

About that "other worlds" bit - there are others, you know. They are linked by a series of portals, like the one near the church in Faedra's hometown, which leads to Azran, the world of fairies. Almost the moment she learns fairies are real, she also discovers that one of them has been sleeping by her side since the day of her mother's funeral 10 years ago. Her faithful Great Pyrenees dog named Faen is, in fact, a gorgeous, 200-ish young man named Faen. He actually has wings but is too shy to show them to her. He also has a sister who, when she isn't in the form of a border collie, is a lovely winged girl who guards the portal to Azran.

When autumn comes early everywhere, and all the plant life in the world suddenly starts to die, these three young (or young-looking) heroes travel to Azran to find out what's up. What's up is, someone has kidnapped the fairy king's daughter Vivianna and stolen the Book of Ahnos, which goes with Faedra's amulet and can be used to control the weather. They have to get it back before everything goes wrong. But to do that, they must survive a Red Cap trap at Faedra's birthday party (Surprise! Now die!), solve a prophetic riddle set by the forest god Kernunnos, and win a battle against superior numbers and (in Faedra's case) sword-fighting skills, against an enemy who has a mysterious, personal grudge against her.

It all goes very quickly. Faedra's discovery of her magical destiny is enough to make your head whirl, and though much of the fantasy takes place in the real world, it includes the interesting possibility of future adventures across several different worlds. Azran is interestingly depicted as a wonderful place that we first see on one of its worst days ever; you experience scenes of devastation and loss with a simultaneous sense of spectacular beauty and magical possibilities. There is a nice, juicy romance to enjoy, as well as some exciting combat action, a glimpse at the dietary problems that can come of developing a kick-ass magical power, and horseback scenes that actually show signs of being written by someone who has riding experience. All in all it is a well-paced and enjoyable adventure.

This is the first novel of the Faedra Bennett/Custodian quartet, whose other titles include The Emerald Staff, The Cypher Wheel, and The Ice Diamond Cuff. Their English-born author, who also writes adult romance novels such as A Summer Down Under under the pen-name Adrianna Blakely, lives just outside the small Missouri town where I live; in fact, I recently interviewed her for a newspaper story about the little farm she shares with her American-born husband. I don't know if it makes the world seem smaller, or my little community seem bigger, when I get to chat in person with an author who can write knowledgeably about both England and Australia (where she worked as a jilleroo, or girl ranch-hand, in her youth). She even prepared my tax returns for me this year, really a multi-talented lady! And while, like pretty much every self-published book I have read to-date, this book could benefit from the advice of a book editor (mainly on minor issues like punctuation and hyphenation), I think she has the concept of a fantasy novel pretty well sewn up. I bought the whole quartet as a "boxed set" on Kindle, so I plan to read them all.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Lucinda's Magnificent Secret

Lucinda's Magnificent Secret
by H. Ellison Fethke
Recommended Ages: 10+

City-girl Miranda's plans for the summer center on hanging out with her girlfriends, splashing in the neighborhood pool, and the like. So she isn't exactly thrilled when her parents pack her off to a dirty old farm to spend three weeks with her Great Aunt Lindy. Stepping off the plane, she is surprised to be met not by a blue-haired old lady, but by a stylish, petite blonde who drives a silver sports car. Instead of a boring time on a dirty old farm, she enjoys a chance to explore a big, comfortable farmhouse that dates back at least to the U.S. Civil War. And besides making friends with children her age, she also discovers secret rooms and finds a never-before-spotted clue to the fate of a jeweled locket that once belonged to her grandmother's great aunt Lucinda.

The hidey-holes in the house are easily explained: during the Civil War, the area was overrun by bands of irregular troops called bushwhackers, who would often kill all the men on a farm and steal everything of value. So the Taylor family created hidden rooms behind the front and back stairs, with peep-holes looking out on the approaches to the house, so they could hide themselves and their most valued possessions if the bushwhackers came near. A sad mystery clung to the locket Lucinda was seen wearing in some old family photos: When the girl died before it could be retrieved from its hiding place, the locket was never seen again.

One clue leads to another, and Miranda eagerly pursues them, learning more and more about the history of the family farm and the contents of its buildings. The attic of an old carriage house furnishes Miranda with trunkloads of old clothes for a game of dress-up with her new country friends. The overseer's cottage turns up little more than the nest of a field mouse. Just as Miranda fears she will run out of time before finding the locket, a tip from a nearly 100-year-old man leads her to identify which of the farms many rectangular buildings was meant by the "roundhouse" mentioned in Lucinda's final clue.

I became interested in reading this book after I interviewed its author, Hazel Fethke, for a newspaper article about her daughter's death from complications of Lyme disease. Her eyes lit up with excitement when she talked about her writing, and I couldn't help being intrigued by a book taking place one county over from where I live. Mrs. Fethke told me the story was set in the adjacent county to the north of her family farm in rural Florence, Mo. The book's historical background of bushwhackers blazing a trail of terror across central Missouri is genuine. In fact, the town of Florence, then a thriving center of slave-owning southern sympathizers, was burned by Union forces during the war.

In today's political climate, it is a daring move to look back with any sympathy on the slave-owning side of that conflict; but it is important to remember that people's family history is what it is. Whatever good or bad was in them, whatever side of the conflict they were on, the Civil War was a devastating epoch in this region's history and in the lives of families who have, in some cases, passed down their story through the generations to this day. Readers who do not think they can ignore the political implications of a present-day girl making exciting discoveries about her slave-owning ancestors, may want to give this book a pass. Readers who can understand a child's excitement on making a personal connection with history - or, more to the point, with another girl who lived 150 years ago - and discovering the similarities and differences between their young lives - this book is a gift to them.

Just because I have met Mrs. Fethke in person and like her as a person, doesn't get her off a bit of friendly criticism. I think this is a nice book that may be of local interest, especially to kids with an interest in Missouri history. It is an easy-going, gentle, what-I-did-on-summer-vacation kind of book, somewhat in the tradition of Swallows and Amazons and the whole great tradition of "school holidays" books for children. It does not have high drama, fast-paced action, or expensive production values. It could, excuse me for mentioning it, be improved by the blue pencil of a good editor; the amount of easily-corrected punctuation and hyphenation errors that slipped by are a dead giveaway that this is a self-published book. And I'm not 100-percent convinced the dialect spoken by characters such as Big Abe and Old Joe accurately represents the local country-talk I have heard in the area; but I'll be the first to admit, Hazel Fethke has lived here longer than I have.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Witness

Witness
by Karen Hesse
Recommended Ages: 12+

In her 1997 Newbery Medal-winning historical novel Out of the Dust, Karen Hesse gambled on telling the story of the Oklahoma dust bowl in the form of poems by the main character. She raises the bet in this 2001 book, telling a story about racism in small-town Vermont, circa 1924, through poems alternating between the points-of-view of 11 different characters. And in case you don't notice how experimental this is, she does it entirely without capital letters.

I'm not sure what the lack of capitals accomplishes, but the result of the story being told in snippets of monologue and dialogue is a quasi-dramatic unfolding of the events and what the characters think about them. I could picture a theater company performing the book on stage, word for word - but with the exception of one married couple's back-and-forth banter, the characters do not actually talk to each other. I would visualize them all delivering "asides" to the audience. There's a newspaper editor, whose lines might be taken as excerpts from a series of weekly editorials; a preacher, whose bits seem to be fragments of his sermons, at least in his head; a town constable, who seems to be thinking aloud as he struggles with his conscience; a doctor, who might be penning his memoirs; and others who might even be imagined as telling their eyewitness stories to an interested writer. Exactly what these floating speech bubbles signify, seems to be up to the reader to decide. As you add up what all these narrators are telling you, you gradually put together a mental picture of just what happened.

What happened is, sometime during the presidency of Vermont's own Calvin Coolidge, the Ku Klux Klan tried to spread its movement of anti-Catholic, anti-black, anti-Jewish, anti-foreign "Americanism" to Vermont. Ultimately the organization was denied a license to operate there. But for a while, as this story dramatizes, one small town gets a big taste of what the KKK can bring. Some people are slow to see it for what it is. The newspaper editor, for example, vows to "remain neutral in the face of the klan question" (sic) until given reason to do otherwise; a shopkeeper ignores his wife's advice and tries to position himself as the KKK-friendly store in town; the constable and a local bootlegger both miss opportunities to do good because they aren't sure where their responsibilities lie. As a journalist, I am proud it's the newspaper man who grows the most in his understanding of what the KKK means:
persecution is not american.
it is not american to give the power of life and death
to a secret organization.
it is not american to have our citizens judged by
an invisible jury.
it is not american to have bands of night riders
apply the punishments of medieval europe to
freeborn men.

the ku klux klan must go.
Then, on the one had, you meet a revivalist preacher who has done many bad things, but currying favor with the KKK proves to be his fatal mistake, and a hot-headed youth whose racist sympathies almost put a noose around his neck; and on the other hand, a little Jewish girl who brings joy to a spinster farmer's heart, and an African-American girl whose anger against white people is cooled by her growing friendship with an old Civil War veteran.

This is a book containing some mature material, including a subtle depiction of a child-molesting minister, some violence, and a suicide. It depicts race-baiting language and behavior by KKK members and sympathizers, up to an attempted murder and a conspiracy to poison an entire family. It also features various characters' thoughts about such incidents as the Leopold-Loeb case, when two young men were tried for the thrill-murder of a 14-year-old boy. Above all, it is an unsparing look at the way everyone in a community, at whatever level of involvement in events, may share some responsibility for them. And it also illustrates some good examples of people saying No to the cult of hate.

In case this review gives readers a discouraging idea that this is simply a book of dry historical fiction, cloaked in weird poetry, and all advancing a political agenda, let me also mention it is very moving on a human level. The black girl's growing friendship with the old white man; the teenage yahoo's growing doubts about the rightness of his racist ideas; and especially the way the Jewish girl and her father grow on that lady farmer, provide more than enough warmth and joy to light you through this novel. And there's a macabre, perhaps even supernatural twist at the end.

Hesse's other young-adult novels also include Letters from Rifka, about a Jewish family emigrating to the U.S. after the Russian Revolution; Stowaway, about James Cook's 1768 voyage of exploration; Brooklyn Bridge, about the family who created the teddy bear; and most recently, the dystopian-future tale Safekeeping.

Out of the Dust

Out of the Dust
by Karen Hesse
Recommended Ages: 12+

This novel, written entirely in poetry, presents itself as the diary of a teenage farm girl in the Oklahoma Panhandle during 1934-35, when the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl combined to make life excruciatingly hard. It couldn't get much harder for Billie Jo Kelby without killing her. A tall, skinny, boyish-looking redhead, at age 14 she loves nothing more than playing the piano. She does it well enough to earn a little money that her taciturn, mildly disapproving mother stashes away for Billie Jo's college fund. Her father, meanwhile, struggles to grow anything in fields that aren't getting enough rain. Whenever the wheat seems to be perking up, another dust storm blows through and decimates the crop.

By age 15, Billie Jo's outlook is rather darker. She all but gives up playing the piano after an accident with a pail of kerosene left her hands burned, her mother and a newborn brother dead, and a silence between her and her father as suffocating as the dust that blows through the cracks in the house and gets into everything. Today's reader, who may not have experienced anything like the dust storms that repeatedly afflict Billie Jo's panhandle, will be amazed to enter this book's world of food made gritty by dust, of barns pushed over by drifting dunes, of a building that collapsed when its attic filled with dust, of a funeral procession that started on a clear sunny day and had to stop midway due to a cloud of dust that stalled engines and turned day to night.

It's no wonder Billie Jo would want to run away from it. The wonder is that she doesn't, or at least not for long, in spite of the apparent hopelessness of her father's farming methods, the silence across their kitchen table, and the shadow of blame on both of them for her mother's death. That such a story can have an uplifting ending, and not one based on the characters fleeing to California, is owed to several factors, but chief among them is a heart-moving realization both father and daughter arrive at by the end.

At times while reading this book, I wasn't quite convinced of the concept of a novel in verse; quite often it seemed to amount to prose with arbitrary line breaks added to make the paragraphs look more spread-out. Sometimes I noticed that the line breaks carried rhythmic suggestions for reading the book out loud. And then there were stretches of flat-out lyricism, like this:
I hear the first drops.
Like the tapping of a stranger
at the door of a dream,
the rain changes everything.
It strokes the roof,
streaking the dusty tin,
ponging,
a concert of rain notes,
spilling from gutters,
gushing through gullies,
soaking into the thirsty earth outside.
And then I was convinced...for a while. Billie Jo never explains why she is writing her diary in the form of poetry, or even refers to writing it at all. Telling stories from the characters' point of view, in the style of poetry, seems to be just a Karen Hesse thing. She does something similar, I find, at least in Witness, the book I read immediately after this.

This book won the 1998 Newbery Medal award and the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction, among many other honors. Hesse's other titles include Phoenix Rising (about life after a nuclear accident), A Time of Angels (about the 1918 influenza epidemic), The Music of Dolphins (about a girl raised by dolphins), Witness (about the KKK in 1920s Vermont), and more.

The Byzantium Bazaar

The Byzantium Bazaar
by Stephen Elboz
Recommended Ages: 11+

Bridie begins to worry when her Gramps fails to meet her at the train station. She has been sent to visit him while the aunt she lives with recovers from surgery. But not only is Gramps not at home when she arrives at his salvage yard in a depressed part of the city; his cats, hens, and donkey are gone too. The nasty Crickbone twins, Amos and Deakin, have taken the place over, and they throw Bridie out on the street, stealing her luggage into the bargain. She has nowhere to go but Soap Hill, where the city's street people congregate around fires, and begin asking if anyone has seen her Gramps.

While no one seems to know where the old fellow went, a young fellow named Branwell offers to show her where Gramps' donkey lives. He leads Bridie to the Byzantium Bazaar, a dilapidated department store that his mother, Mrs. Firbanks, has turned into a shelter for abused and neglected animals. Bridie becomes a long-term guest there, helping feed the hundreds of cats and all the other tasks that need doing. But when Omar, the king of the street people, locates her Gramps, Bridie finds herself at the center of a terrible conflict between the animal-loving Firbankses and the seedy, greedy Crickbones. The thrilling action includes a daring rescue from a scene of animal cruelty, a battle in a junkyard between gangsters and street people, and an awful deal with the enemy that puts Bridie in the most danger of all.

Like most Elboz books that I have read, this one fits a lot into a few pages: characters for whom readers will cherish strong feelings; a strangely charming picture of a city's underbelly; crises not only of personal safety but of conscience as well. It shows the urban poor in a sympathetic light, but it also depicts frightening villains. In the Crickbones it conjures loathesome figures for whom, at the end, one feels a throb of pity. In Omar, it creates an impressive, perhaps even mythically powerful figure. In Shah, the king of the cats, it furnishes Omar with a four-legged equal. And in Bridie, it has a heroine who is totally out of her depth, yet still overcomes; a girl protagonist whose flaws and weaknesses provide the humanizing touches of a character with whom we wholly sympathize.

Besides the Kit Stixby quartet and three other books I have already reviewed, Stephen Elboz has also written The House of Rats, The Bottle Boy, A Store of Secrets, and several other interesting titles that I guess would make excellent reading choices to take along on a trip when you have to travel light. He seems especially skilled at writing a richly furnished world into existence with an economy of words that never seems stingy, and at fitting a lot of fun into a few pages.

Ghostlands

Ghostlands
by Stephen Elboz
Recommended Ages: 12+

Amazon informs me I bought this book more than eight years ago, apparently when reading the Kit Stixby quartet kindled an interest in its author's other work. A sticker on its front cover lists the price at £--60, which I guess means I got it from a used-books dealer in the U.K. (If you're interested, used copies of this book are still available online.) Why has it taken me until now to read it? You wouldn't ask if you had any idea how rapidly I was acquiring books at that time; far faster than I could read them. It isn't that I wasn't interested in the book, or that I'm incapable of reviewing a book when it's hot off the press. Rather, let the fact I kept it through several changes of address bear witness that, despite a thousand other books to read, this has always been on my "to-read" pile. It's just a ridiculously tall pile. And then a Stephen Elboz book (The Prisoner's Apprentice) came up in the "what shall I read next" lottery, after which I had to ransack my shelves for anything else by him. So, with apologies for tardiness...

Ewan Niles isn't thrilled when his parents receive an invitation from his dad's godfather to send him for a visit. Only the rare luxury of a first-class train ticket softens his resistance. But at the other end of a tiring journey, the sight of Dr. Malthus' house, with its unkempt garden and its lack of modern comforts, immediately makes him regret coming. It isn't fun to be entertained by a host who has no interest in seeing him, leaving him under the tut-tutting housekeeper's supervision, and forbidding him to climb the one good climbing tree in the garden - the one planted in memory of the doctor's son Ziggy, who died when he was Ewan's age.

Just when Ewan writes a letter to his parents urging them to bring him home, odd things start happening that soon change his mind again. He begins to suspect the house is haunted. Soon enough, he knows it for sure, as Ziggy's ghost introduces himself and flies Ewan to the graveyard to meet all his friends. No sooner has Ewan made up his mind that seeing dead people is fun, than the needle on the adventure-meter swings over to "dangerous and scary," thanks to a local coven of witches whose powers are drawn from enslaved ghosts. Behind them, and behind a kitschy theme park that uses genuine ghosts to provide thrills and chills, something even more sinister is at work. Ewan must join forces with some unlikely allies to save Ziggy and his ghost friends.

This is not a particularly thick book - my edition of it weighs in at 119 pages, divided into 18 chapters. But it is packed with excitement and fun, populated by memorable characters, and oozes imagery that will delight all the mind's senses. While Harry Potter fans - always the set I have in mind when I review books like this - may wrinkle their noses at Mrs. Mulligan's view of witchcraft as a vice of idle, uppity women, Phyllis Flight and her cronies make it fun to share that view. Also, I think Elboz may have found a better use for an endearingly silly headless-knight ghost than J.K. Rowling did. But this book's biggest shock for Potterheads may be its depiction of a poltergeist as a figure of terror rather than mere mischief. It's a ghost story that talks you out of being afraid of ghosts, before presenting something much, much scarier. If you're ready for such a book, now you know where to find it.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Tower at Moonville

The Tower at Moonville
by Stephen Elboz
Recommended Ages: 10+

A mistreated orphan escapes from his mean uncle to go to an unconventional boarding school dominated by an adjacent astronomy tower... How can Harry Potter fans not be interested in this little novel by the creator of the magical Kit Stixby quartet?

To be sure, they don't learn magic at the Moonville school. They don't learn much at all. Run by a lax headmaster who seems to have no time for anything but his marital and financial troubles, the school is awash in unruly boys who scratch their names into the woodwork, gamble on frog races, and stay up all night hunting in the surrounding forest. The head boy posts a lookout so that, when Mr. Bentbeef makes one of his infrequent and brief appearances, the class can appear to be learning its times-eight tables or Latin declensions (bunk, bunk-off, bunk-up, bunkum...). It's pretty much every boy for himself.

But then, Nathan Wheatear isn't supposed to be there anyway. He ran away from his verminous vermin-catcher uncle Jago Blint, along with another orphan Jago had scrobbled on his way to catch the train to school. Young Sam Halliam would rather run away to the circus than go to school, so he proposes that Nathan go instead and pretend to be him. Nathan really wants to learn, though. So while his schoolmates horse around, he borrows books from Mr. Gentleman, the astronomer who lives in the tower, and who is in fact the school's landlord. The tower becomes his haven from the chaos of the school. And while Mr. Gentleman is away at a conference, Nathan assists him by continuing to fire nightly rockets off the tower roof, in the hope of communicating with extraterrestrial beings.

But then Uncle Jago finds him, and terrorizes Nathan into joining him in a series of thefts that leaves the boy tormented in his conscience. Then comes the fateful day when his best friend at the school is accused of attempting to burgle the Bentbeefs' house, and there's nothing left for Nathan but to show great courage, to make a daring escape, and to have one climactic adventure so wild and terrifying that it leaves circus-runaway Sam envious.

This short, fast-paced novel strains at the seams with vividly drawn characters, agonizing personal conflict, touching friendship, humor and action and thrills, ending with a spectacular bang and a flourish of weirdness. It echoes the moral crisis of the best part of Oliver Twist. It has well-described settings that light up the imagination, such as a wax-works museum full of ghoulish figures. It has villains pompous, coarse, and weaselish, all three. And it has representatives of certain boys'-school character types who will remind those homesick for Hogwarts of some students there. The idea of "escaping to school" is a funny sort of fantasy, but for some reason it has proven to work again and again. This book is another fine example of it.

Among other books that Elboz wrote are two that are next in line on my to-read pile: Ghostlands and The Byzantium Bazaar. I would also recommend his somewhat more substantial young-adult novel, The Prisoner's Apprentice.

The Prisoner's Apprentice

The Prisoner's Apprentice
by Stephen Elboz
Recommended Ages: 12+

Yanis is a boy who has lived all his life, so far, in a tsarist-era Russian orphanage where the children work as laundry drudges. Then a scientist named Dr. Gomarus shows up and chooses him as his assistant for a thousand-mile voyage to the village of Osva, to study the cranial measurements of convicts in a prison for revolutionary leaders. It's an opportunity that lights up the boy's gloomy life, enabling him not only to see more of the world and to meet strange and notorious people, but also to learn to read and develop photographs.

From their first moment on board the ski-ship that sails up a frozen river, Yanis is captivated by a beautiful young countess who has been exiled for displeasing the tsar. Once arrived in Osva, he similarly falls under the spell of a charming death-row prisoner named Nikolay Kolchak. Unwittingly, he becomes drawn into the middle of a secret correspondence between the two. Before he understands who should and shouldn't be trusted, he becomes entangled in a dangerous plot.

Unusual for young adult fiction in English, this story enters the perilous, conflict-torn world of the beginnings of the Russian revolution. It shows both sides in both a sympathetic and a critical light, from the paranoid repression of the tsarist regime to the cynical deceit and villainy of some revolutionary leaders. Characters of all classes show both attractive and repulsive features. The danger Yanis is in, and the developing beauty of his relationship with Dr. Gomarus, are both warmly felt. And the ending leaves the reader in the surprising position of having to finish the story for him- or herself.

This 2006-published novel is, with the exception of a chapter book titled Clever Monkeys, the latest book by the author of the four magical Kit Stixby adventures, the two Temmi books, two Kid Wonder books, The House of Rats, Games Board Map, The Bottle Boy, The Byzantium Bazaar, Ghostlands, The Tower at Moonville, and A Store of Secrets. It might be hard to find; Amazon doesn't seem to be aware it exists. But I found several Elboz titles through online used-book dealers, and after reading this book I moved the lot of them to the top of my to-read pile.