Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard

Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard
by Jonathan Auxier
Recommended Ages: 12+

In this companion book to Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes, the greatest thief in the world returns with one hand (the other having been replaced by a sword), two eyes (albeit covered by a blindfold, to keep his senses sharp), and his faithful cat/horse/human friend Sir Tode. Peter offers protection to a girl who doesn't think she needs it, as she is about to be swept up in an adventure that will determine the fate of her entire world.

Sophie Quire is a talented bookmender and the daughter of a bookseller in the hinterlands city of Bustleburgh, where a grand inquisitor named Prigg is waging war against "nonsense" - magical creatures and artifacts, and especially stories. As Pyre Day approaches, when all the city's storybooks are due to be burned, Sophie comes in possession of a marvelous book that comes to life to answer any question beginning with "Who." The Book of Who is part of a quartet of books, called the Four Questions, that had something to do with the death of her mother when Sophie was a tiny child. As the last Storyguard, it is up to Sophie to reunite the four books before Prigg puts an end to all the magic in her world - which, according to Peter's friend Professor Cake, would spell the end.

But while the girl and her (at first) unwelcome guardians search for the books of What, Where, and When, others are on the scent after them: a brutish mercenary named Torvald Knucklemeat; an unnaturally well-preserved woman named Madame Eldritch, who deals in drugs, poisons, and other oddities; a tuberous man called Taro, grown from a mandrake root; a silver tigress who has sworn to murder the Storyguard who betrayed her mistress; and various other strange and often menacing characters.

Sophie's quest comes to a climax as full of danger, death, and large-scale property damage as anything in young adult literature. The bowstring of suspense is stretched to an unbelievable degree of tension. And the charms of the characters, often endearingly humorous even amid very serious events, makes one care about what will happen. In particular, the clash between the juvenile cuteness of, say, the chivalrous but silly Sir Tode, and the maturity of the material surrounding them (like a description of a towerful of wild beasts "eating and defecating wherever they pleased"), raises up feelings of protectiveness toward the hero characters. And the solution to their problems is elusive; it comes any way but easily, and demands that they grow as characters.

Canadian-American author Auxier is also the author of the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award-nominated The Night Gardener and of The Burning Tide, one of the books in the "Spirit Animals: Fall of the Beasts" series.

A Grimm Warning

A Grimm Warning
by Chris Colfer
Recommended Ages: 12+

In this third installment in the "Land of Stories" series (after The Wishing Spell and The Enchantress Returns), twins Alex and Conner are separated by a barrier that should be sealed forever - the portal between this world and the Land of Stories which their grandma, the Fairy Godmother, sealed between them at the end of their previous adventure. But now there's a chance that barrier may come open again; and although the twins miss each other a lot, that's not good news. As Alex comes into her full power as the Fairy Godmother's heir and experiences her first stirrings of romantic love, Conner and his sixth-grade crush Bree run away from a class trip to Europe in a race to find out whether a warning, hidden in a never-before-read Grimm fairy tale unearthed after 200 years in a time capsule, means grave danger is imminent for the fairy-tale world.

You see, thanks to some quick thinking by Mother Goose, an army of thousands is caught in the middle of a portal to the Land of Stories, thinking they're going to conquer it in the name of Napoleon Bonaparte. What Mother Goose didn't count on, 200 years ago, was that the twins' grandma would begin to die - or, in fairy terms, return to magic - right at the expiration date of the Grand Armee's interdimensional exile. With her dies the magic that keeps the portal closed. And once the French soldiers arrive, they immediately threaten all the kingdoms of the fairy-tale world, including the fairies themselves. Worse yet, they have allied themselves with the most villainous villains in the land, including a certain masked man who claims to wield a weapon guaranteeing the fall of the Happily Ever After Assembly.

Back together again, Conner and Alex must dare much, including trying to make alliances with creatures who have never been friends of the fairies before. Among them are elves whose awesome tree kingdom is seen all to briefly, and the "troblin" queen Trollbella, who tends to carry on one-sided love affairs (hint: she still calls Conner her "Butterboy"). The tale builds up to a climax that threatens to tear the Land of Stories apart.

I continue to enjoy this series by one of the former stars of the TV series "Glee." It's a wholesome, thrilling entertainment that honors the tradition of fairy tales, with the added twist that they are based on true events in an alternate dimension. The dialogue is perky, the characters are well-developed, and the writing bears evidence of an a very intelligent young writer with a rich sense of humor. I particularly enjoyed Conner and Bree's adventure across Europe. The one thing I found disappointing was the way Bree's character seems to be pushed to one side after they land in the Land of Stories; I sensed potential in her, and her relationship with Conner, that went somewhat unfulfilled in the latter part of the book. Nevertheless, the book as a whole takes one on a delightful and well-paced journey; a few bumps in the road, style-wise, may be taken as a sign an ambitious and fearless author is at work. And the ending is a definite hook to draw readers into the remaining books in the series, Beyond the Kingdoms and An Author's Odyssey.

Colfer's other work include several companion books to this series: The Mother Goose Diaries, Queen Red Riding Hood's Guide to Royalty, Trollbella Throws a Party, The Curvy Tree, a picture-book based on a fictitious Grimm fairy tale, and A Treasury of Classic Fairy Tales, in which Colfer retells 35 of his favorite stories. His standalone novels include Struck by Lightning and Stranger Than Fanfiction.

Friday, November 25, 2016


Temperament: How Music Became a Battleground for the Great Minds of Western Civilization
by Stuart Isacoff
Recommended Ages: 15+

The spine of this book has been staring me out of countenance about a decade from the "books about my favorite subject (music) that I've been meaning to read" shelf. The guilt finally became too much for me to bear, so I finally fitted it in between a couple of books borrowed from the public library, which I was going to have to renew anyway. Astoundingly fast, I found myself caught up in the book's compelling historical argument, and in spite of a busy week of long work-days and evening engagements, I knocked it off in about two nights of staying up later than I should have.

The "temperament" of which Stuart Isacoff writes is a system of tuning the strings (or pipes) of a keyboard instrument so that music sounds pleasant and in-tune. If you thought this would be a simple matter of making sure notes a fifth apart are perfectly in tune, rinse and repeat around the whole circle of fifths, you might be a follower of the Greek philosopher Pythagoras, whose followers considered the concept of irrational numbers a thought-crime worthy of death. The practical reality, however, is that tuning perfect fifths all the way around the circle results in an out-of-tune octave, and that a tuning system that keeps octaves, fifths, and fourths perfectly in tune excludes music featuring the popular intervals of thirds and sixths.

It would be a much shorter and happier history if it had been ruled by the practical necessity of allowing keyboard players to stay in tune with singers and other instruments without constantly having tuning problems, or by the artistic imperative of composers to explore more complex harmonies and far-flung tonal areas. But for centuries, during the middle ages and straight through the Renaissance, western art music was plagued by conflicts - conflicts between notes that produced "wolf sounds" (ugly intervals), and conflicts between philosophers, scientists, theologians, and music theorists. Some wanted to hold music to sacred ratios that bore witness to divine order in the universe, and that produced perfect consonances, albeit in music of a limited range. Others foresaw that nothing short of equal temperament - with the octave divided into 12 evenly-spaced half-steps, and the small acoustic compromises that entailed - would allow a smooth transition between any two keys, a necessary condition for keyboard instruments to come into their own.

The battle was ideological as well as technological. The mathematics of an equal 12-note tuning were a long time in the finding, not only as a theoretical ratio of powers of the twelfth-root of two, but also as a practical matter of how to produce that tuning on an actual instrument. But as Isacoff shows, the battle was fought on the plane of theory, between intellectual hosts including some of history's greatest minds - many of whom were not known for their ear for music. Sharp words were thrown. Even deadlier weapons, at times, were drawn. Discoveries in other areas were called into evidence, bearing witness to the truth or falsehood of ideas long cherished.

Isacoff relates the battle over temperament to other developments in religion, philosophy, politics, and especially art, drawing a remarkable parallel between the rediscovery of realistic perspective in painting and the slow advance toward equal temperament in music. And while he finally draws an ambiguous conclusion, he makes a pretty convincing case that much of the great art music you and I love could not have been without some approximation of equal temperament.

This review is based on the 2003 revised paperback edition of a book originally published in 2001. Among the changes in the 2003 edition is an added afterword, responding to criticism of the first edition which makes it sound as though the temperament tempest has not yet passed from the teapot. Isacoff is a pianist, composer, lecturer, and writer whose other work includes the 2011 book A Natural History of the Piano.

BBC Radio's Lord of the Rings

During a recent vacation, I beguiled parts of my drive to South Dakota, northern Minnesota, and back to Missouri by listening to the 1981 BBC Radio full-cast dramatization of The Lord of the Rings - the trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien that I have read several times in book form (and reviewed here), and once in a 1979 full-cast recording produced by U.S. National Public Radio (reviewed here), besides viewing not one but two film adaptations. The story needs no more reviewing, but I just wanted to comment on the BBC Radio version a bit, for the record.

BBC Radio's production features Ian Holm, who played hobbit Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson's film trilogy of The Lord of the Rings, as Frodo Baggins. The character actor who played Bilbo in the BBC version was John Le Mesurier, whose voice sounded remarkably like the one Holm gave Bilbo in the films. My local public library furnished me with the "U.K. version," with Gerard Murphy as the narrator. Also in the cast was Bill Nighy, who played Rufus Scrimgeour in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I, in a spot-on performance as Sam Gamgee. A beautiful musical score was provided by film and opera composer Stephen Oliver, the late uncle of comedian John Oliver, and an entire disk of the set I borrowed was devoted to his music.

Of course, it was a condensed version of the trilogy, with many details left out and some of them changed to fit the format. But of all the adaptations I have seen and heard (after Tolkien's original), I strongly feel this was by far the best. It kept the most beautiful lines of dialogue and passages of description; it conveyed the dramatic power of the whole book; it included favorite things that no other adaptation has ever bothered with, such as the Houses of Healing scenes, and the palantir factor in Denethor's motives. It was definitely better, by a long road, than the NPR version, which (unlike this one) preserved the Tom Bombadil passage, but did so badly. And it devotes more time than any of the other versions to the part of the story that happens after Frodo and his companions return to the Shire.

In spite of cheesy sound effects and battle scenes that didn't quite gel, I recommend the BBC Radio version of LOTR before all other adaptations - including, I'm sorry to say, Peter Jackson's film trilogy. It's surprising at times to hear certain words put back into the mouths that originally spoke them, according to Tolkien's canonical text - like Glorfindel the elf, whose part was usurped by Arwen in Jackson's recension of The Fellowship of the Ring, and Treebeard the ent, who actually said the words Jackson has Galadriel say in the opening narration of the trilogy. The fact that the story allows you to forget who Arwen is until she shows up to wed Aragorn is another typical Tolkien touch, for better or worse. It delivers the delicious "Voice of Saruman" scene that was the reason Christopher Lee agreed to be in the films, though it ended up being deleted from the script.

The BBC Radio dramatization, produced and co-directed by Jane Morgan, structures the break between The Two Towers and The Return of the King so that Sam's realization that Frodo is still alive comes closer to being, as it should be, the cliff-hanger ending of the middle volume. And it features Peter Woodthorpe as Gollum, recreating his role from the 1978 animated movie by Ralph Bakshi, which is one of the few but significant counts on which Bakshi's film adaptation was better than Jackson's. Woodthorpe's Gollum is feral, crafty, and psychologically tormented all at the same time, to a degree that leaves Andy Serkis' latter-day portrayal far behind. The Bakshi and BBC Radio versions also share the casting of Michael Graham Cox as Boromir.

Though the actors are not the same, I appreciate both the Bakshi and BBC Radio versions' casting of Aragorn (because he sounded more mature, and could be more credibly described as one who "looks foul but feels fair" than the altogether beautiful Viggo Mortensen in Jackson's trilogy). I might also note that somehow or other, Michael Hordern's voice portrayal of Gandalf for BBC Radio could almost be dubbed over Ian McKellen's latter-day film portrayal without many people noticing. I thought Bernard Mayes was OK in the role in the NPR version, though his Tom Bombadil stank to high heaven (I might add, James Arrington was awful as Frodo in that version, which really killed it for me).

So, once again, BBC set the bar considerably higher than NPR's roughly contemporary radio play. As a complete adaptation of the trilogy, it achieves what Bakshi's blend of live action and animation could not (in case you missed it, Bakshi's film ends at the climax of the Battle for Helm's Deep in a cliff-hanger that was never followed up by the expected conclusion); and its cheap sound effects are easier for a present-day audience to forgive than Bakshi's primitive visual effects. As for Jackson's film trilogy, I maintain this audiobook version compares favorably, on the simple grounds that it does less violence to the source material, and is less patronizing to the audience. And finally, dammit, it had Ian Holm as Frodo. Born too soon to play him in Jackson's film, though not too late to channel Le Mesurier's portrayal of Bilbo (and though it might be argued Elijah Wood was born too late), Holm would have been perfect for the part in any format - as he proved in this production.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016


by Ernest Cline
Recommended Ages: 14+

In the follow-up to his debut novel Ready Player One, video-game maven and 1980s pop-culture fanatic Ernest Cline delivers a story that fulfills the deepest, darkest wish of every kid who ever made it onto the "Top Scores" screen of an alien-invader-blasting arcade game. It also fulfills the deepest, darkest wish of Zach Lightman, a high school senior from the Portland suburb of Beaverton, Oregon, whose father died at age 19 in an explosion at the local wastewater treatment plant. Among the relics he inherited from the father he never knew are an obsession with movies, books, and games about space invaders, and a secretly embarrassing journal of conspiracy theories suggesting all these films and games are part of a top-secret plan to prepare the world for real close encounters of the nerd kind.

His feelings about his dad's last notebook begin to change, however, when Zach looks out the window of his math classroom one day and sees an alien spacecraft, straight out of his favorite E.T.-slaying computer game, zoom past. At first, he thinks he must be going insane. It is isn't long, though, before he realizes there have been similar sightings around the world. In one incredible day, Zach learns that much of what he has been told all his life was a lie, and the aliens are real, as is their threat to wipe out the human race. And now, most improbable of all, he is among the very few top-scoring players of the companion games Terra Firma and Armada on whom the hopes of mankind depend.

Both games, made by a company called Chaos Terrain, feature realistic graphics and fighting tactics for an alien-invasion scenario in which both sides of the conflict are fought by remote-controlled, unmanned drones. Terra Firma, as the name suggests, spotlights the ground war between humanoid robots and drones shaped like spiders, centipedes, and insects. Armada focuses on the aerospace war, where pilots control their craft from virtual cockpits inside shielded bunkers deep underground. This allows ace pilots like Zach to take control of fresh drones as their previous mounts are shot out from under them. But when Zach and several of his fellow Top 10 Armada players are assembled on the far side of the moon to face the first wave of a massive, and probably unstoppable, tide of mechanized death, he must come to terms with finding his long-lost father, only to lose him again; falling in love with a girl with whom he may never have a chance to kiss a second time; and, most challenging of all, the realization that he must fight against both sides of the war to ensure the survival of the human race.

This is a thrilling, funny, suspenseful, emotionally satisfying romp through the pop culture of the last generation or two, with plenty of explosions and other surprises to keep it lively. When I checked it out of the library before a long road trip, one of the local librarians saw what I was borrowing and enthused about how much fun she had reading it. It didn't hurt that the audiobook edition was read by Wil Wheaton, of "Shut up, Wesley!" fame. Although the main character's narrating voice often did sound a lot like Star Trek's Wesley Crusher, the big surprise was how many of the other characters had convincingly distinctive voices and accents. It became evident Wheaton has more voice-acting talent than I would have expected. This was the perfect book for him to read, and he was the perfect reader for it.

Cline is also a poet, the screenwriter of the film Fanboys, and the author of a non-fiction book titled The Importance of Being Ernest. If the four-year gap between Ready Player One and this book is anything to go by, we should expect something new from him by about 2019. I wonder, though. Will he really keep us waiting that long?

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette
by Jeanne Birdsall
Recommended Ages: 12+

In this second sequel to the National Book Award-winning tale of four sisters The Penderwicks, second-eldest Penderwick girl Skye uneasily assumes the role of S.A.P. (senior available Penderwick) when their father and new stepmother go to England for a honeymoon and eldest sister Rosalind is invited to the Jersey shore. Meantime, Skye, Jane, Batty, their dog, and their musically gifted friend Jeffrey share a two-week getaway along the coast of Maine, where the responsibility of keeping Batty from drowning or blowing up weighs heavily on Skye, especially after their aunt-chaperone badly sprains her ankle.

During their beach vacation, Jane obsesses over how to inject some romance into her series of novels about a life-saving sleuth. As part of her research, she gives her heart to an outwardly beautiful local boy, who turns out to be not so beautiful on he inside. Meantime Batty befriends the boy's little sister, and Jeffrey strikes up a friendship with the musician in the next bungalow over. But things take a serious turn when Jane observes an unsuspected family resemblance between Jeffrey and their neighbor. Their summer getaway develops into an emotionally wrenching, funny, touching, surprising mess.

Surprises there were, even after I spotted the answers to some riddles way ahead of the Penderwick girls. Their family group is growing up. Their relationship dynamics are changing. And some of them are handling this reality better than others. But it's all part of growing up Penderwick, which has so far never failed to be satisfying and entertaining to behold.

This is the third book in what is now a four-book series. Among the other titles are book 2, The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, and book 4, The Penderwicks in Spring. Massachusetts-based author Jeanne Birdsall is also an art photographer and the author of several children's picture books.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Saturdays

The Saturdays
by Elizabeth Enright
Recommended Ages: 10+

The four Melendy children - stage-struck Mona, 13; piano prodigy Rush, 12; aspiring artist Miranda ("Randy"), 10 and a half; and easy-going Oliver, 6 - are New York city-dwellers circa 1939. One boring Saturday, they decide to form a club called I.S.A.A.C. (read the book to learn what that stands for), based on pooling their allowances every Saturday - a total of $1.60 - and letting one of them spend it all on him- or herself, turn and turn about. During a succession of Saturdays, each of the children has an adventure that results, sometimes, in a touch of trouble for one and all. Randy goes to a museum to look at pictures, and ends up learning about the fascinating childhood of a deceptively crusty old lady. Rush goes to an opera, and brings home a new member of the family. Mona and Oliver have outings that give the family fits. Together and separately, the kids find new friends, experience wonderful sights and sounds, hear unforgettable stories, and brave perils that threaten their rickety old house.

The Saturdays is a book full of period charm, gentle humor, and friendly characters who seem to take you quickly into their confidence. A richly textured snapshot of early 20th-century urban culture, it has dashes of domestic lyricism and an occasional splash of striking description. It is a pleasant piece of nostalgia that does not get too lost in historical obscurities to speak appealingly to the young readers of today. And it advertises experiences children from places other than New York might like to imagine having even now. The world has changed a lot since the time in which this book is set, but the story has a winsome timelessness, with enough danger and emotional turmoil to avoid coming across as too light and easy. Basically, it's the perfect book for a kid spending a dull, rainy Saturday alone.

The is the first book in the Melendy Quartet, written between 1941 and 1951 by Elizabeth Enright (1909-1968), the author of the Newbery Medal winner Thimble Summer, the Newbery Honor book Gone-Away Lake, and its sequel Return to Gone-Away. Besides this book's sequels The Four-Story Mistake, And Then There Were Five, and Spiderweb for Two: A Melendy Maze, she was also celebrated as a writer of short stories.

The Jewel of the Kalderash

The Jewel of the Kalderash
by Marie Rutkoski
Recommended Ages: 12+

In the finale of the Kronos Chronicles trilogy, young thief Neel of the magic fingers becomes king of all the Roma - don't call them gypsies! But little in his experience has prepared him to survive repeated assassination attempts, heal the rivalries between the four Roma clans, and resolve the controversy over what to do with the twin Terrestrial and Celestial Globes, which control safe travel through a worldwide network of wormhole-like rifts. Meanwhile Bohemia's king, Prince Rodolfo - youngest son of the Hapsburg Emperor Karl - plots to put himself on the throne of much of Europe, even if it means murdering his father and two older brothers. John Dee, a magician and spy in the service of Queen Elizabeth I of England, maneuvers himself into a position of great advantage. And our strong-willed heroine Petra, who most unusually has two magical gifts (metal-magic and mind-magic), travels to a country where there is a price on her head, pursuing one desperate hope: that she can persuade the evil sorceress Fiala Broshek to restore her father, whom she has turned into one of Rodolfo's monstrous Gray Men.

These ingredients gel nicely into an adventure that buzzes with intrigue, chills with horror, squeezes the heart with grief, and sizzles with excitement. Author Rutkoski finally makes a virtue of the sometimes annoying aspects of Petra's character, as she knowingly puts herself in a danger that makes one's breath stand still, commits herself to an irrevocable sacrifice, and finds herself carried helplessly into a scene of astounding violence.

This is a story featuring youthful characters - several of them about 14 or 15 years old - but the danger, the carnage, and the truly sickening evil they must face, call for readers of a rather mature fiber. This book will be most successful, also, with thoughtful young readers, who might take an interest in whimsically re-mixed details of authentic 16th-century European history, with the most bizarre, quasi-magical threads in the storyline picked out in brilliant colors. Mystery, humor, espionage, warfare, political rebellion, the do's and don'ts of ruling a kingdom, and the charm of a talking mechanical spider have all their rich possibilities shaken out of them. But there are also some nasty shocks, which the reader will feel right alongside the characters who survive them.

Rutkoski is also the author of the "Winner's" trilogy and The Shadow Society. Judging by the publication dates of her books, she seems to have more teen-friendly fantasy adventures in her. Look out for them.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Bacon-of-the-Sea Melts

Today I made something for dinner entirely using ingredients and utensils that I had acquired for other purposes.

The skillet, sized to allow one to cook up a batch of Hamburger Helper, I mostly bought so I could fry eggs or make pancakes. I intended the spatula mostly for turning eggs or hamburgers. The bowl usually serves the purposes of eating breakfast cereal. Even the fork, usually employed as an eating utensil, did unusual service as a masher and puller-apart of a tinful of smoked herring fillets, like the one pictured here.

As for the ingredients, there were, of course, the kippers, which I meant to serve on crackers as a late-night snack. There was also a tin of tuna, purchased either to make tuna salad sandwiches or to add a bit of protein to a saucepan of macaroni and cheese. I sacrificed two eggs that had been bought with the promise of a morning omelette or a fried egg sandwich; some bread crumbs and powdered tomato bouillon, both bought with the intention of making a crust for fried chicken or pork chops; and the bread, mayo, and sliced kosher dill pickle that had come home from the store as companions to a package of bologna. Even the puddle of vegetable oil I started preheating in the skillet, before doing anything else, was acquired with other things in mind - such as that fried chicken again.

All right, so I started preheating the skillet with some vegetable oil on it. Meanwhile, I spread the mayo on the bread, and arranged a couple pickle slices and half a slice of sharp cheddar on one side of each sandwich-to-be.

Next, I mixed some of the bread crumbs and a little of the tomato bouillon in the bowl, beat in two eggs, and added the canful of tuna, drained. (The cat enjoyed the tuna water in a saucer on the floor.) I started to think two eggs might have been one too many, because the tuna mixture was very thin; so I opened and drained the herring filets, then mangled them with the fork while stirring them into the mixture. I added a bit more of the bread crumbs to get closer to the consistency I wanted - basically, an oily, sticky mush.

I formed the mush into six balls, flattened them into disks a little smaller than my palm, and dropped them onto the hot, oily skillet. As they started to sizzle, it occurred to me that smoked herring should be called the bacon of the sea. It smelled that good.

I turned the patties after a while. When they were nicely brown on both sides, I took them off the heat. I wrapped up three patties for later and made sandwiches out of the other three. I recognized it would have been a good idea to melt the cheese right on the patties while they cooked, but it all ended up in the same place regardless.

At a certain point the thought crossed my mind, while I was scarfing down the second of my three sandwiches, "I'm not sure I'm going to have room for the third sandwich." Then I looked down at my plate and realized it was bare. I was already finishing my third sandwich. So I can verify that not only were they filling, but they were so absorbingly delicious that I lost a bit of time somewhere between the second and third sandwich.

So, there you have it. Bacon of the sea. Sandwiches. With cheese.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

204. Hymn on 1 Timothy 2:9-15

This hymn has been more or less commissioned by a local Lutheran pastor who is planning an Advent midweek sermon series based on 1 Timothy 2:9-15, broken up into four segments, each cross-referenced with an appropriate lesson from the Old Testament and another from the New. The varying emphases of the four weeks' messages sum up to the overall idea that we can learn a lot about being Christians from the Biblical portrait of womanhood. The structure I'm trying for is an all-purpose opening stanza, an additional stanza for each installment of the four-week series, and an all-purpose concluding stanza. It's a draft in progress, taking feedback from the pastor in question. The tune is the familiar MUNICH, from the Meiningen Gesangbuch of 1693; to the anglophone ear, it is best known as the tune to W.W. How's 1867 hymn "O Word of God incarnate."

Give heed, all saints, comprising
The Lord's accepted Bride,
To Him who, shame despising,
For Her sake bled and died!
By means of His devising
He knit Her to His side
And now, from death arising,
Presents Her justified.

1 Timothy 2:9-10; Ruth 3:1-13; Ephesians 5:25-27
Behold, what the believing
From womankind can learn!
As Ruth, her need perceiving,
Told Boaz her concern,
Redemption thus receiving,
So we to Christ shall turn:
Washed, clothed, anointed, cleaving
To Him who will not spurn.

1 Timothy 2:11-12; Luke 1:26-28; Lamentations 3:25-26
Behold, the bliss afforded
To them who meekly wait!
While precedents are thwarted
And subtle minds debate,
Her simple "Yes" accorded
To Mary's virgin state
The right to be recorded
Our Bridegroom's fleshly gate!

1 Timothy 2:13-15a; Genesis 4:1-15; Galatians 4:4-5
Behold, how in childbearing
Believing Eve felt mirth;
And God, through childbirth swearing
To ransom all the earth,
His only Son not sparing,
Brought life and light to birth,
With ev'ry mother sharing
A sign of priceless worth!

1 Timothy 2:15; Proverbs 31:10-31; 1 Corinthians 11:7-12
Behold, what gifts amazing
The Author of all good
Bestowed, while angels, gazing,
But partly understood!
And now, Her station raising
As but the Bridegroom could,
He comes, already praising
Her faithful womanhood!

O Christ, who have impressed us
With Your redemptive mark—
In holy splendor dressed us,
Saved through baptism's ark—
Cast all that e'er distressed us,
Our sins, into the dark—
As known and loved confessed us—
Your Bride salutes You! Hark!