In this episode we discuss a wonderful novel for older elementary through young adult ages. It is included in this month’s book club featured in our monthly newsletter. If you do not receive our newsletter, you can join our mailing list in the column to the right of this post.
Book Discussed in This Episode:
Transcript with Links:
Welcome to “Books That Spark,” a podcast for parents and caregivers, celebrating books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion, leading to teachable moments with our kids. Today, I’m excited to share with you a book from this month’s book club. We have a book club that we’ve started that started in August, and we have our team reads the books, vets the books for you. And then we suggest a book for every person in your family, from a board book for your youngest children up through books for your oldest adult children, or for yourself and parenting books as well. But there’s this one book that I read that is on the list for this month, and I rarely spend a whole episode talking about one book, but you know how sometimes there are books you read that just really hit you in a place you needed to be challenged, and this book did that for me. And this is a book my daughter has tried to get me to read for years, and I’ve always been too busy. And I’m so thankful that I stopped and took the time to read this book. The book is called A Wolf Story. It’s written by James Byron Huggins. It is a Christian book and it is a novel, but there is so much truth woven into this book that it just hit me right between the eyes. It is so, so good. It is about wolves and hares, so every character in the story is an animal and they do speak, but it is the gospel and the Bible written from an animal’s perspective as they are living out persecution, and it brings spiritual warfare into focus very well, not in a heretical way, not in a fantastic way, but in a really gut-wrenching, real way. And this book is just amazing, it really is amazingly well written, and in this story, you see very clearly the battle between good and evil. Now, this book, because it is dealing with such important spiritual things, such as the fight between good and evil, I would not recommend this for your young children, of course, but for your middle grade, if they do not get too emotional about stories that are emotional, because there is death, there is fighting in this book. So my daughter read it when she was in middle school and she loved it. She said it is a little dark, but she loved it. So I think that most middle schoolers for sure can handle this and high schoolers. And I think even up through adult would enjoy this. I know that I certainly did. It was published in 1993, so it’s been around for a while.
But in this story you have one of the main characters is a hare and he is battling the wolves who follow the evil one. And then you have the wolves who follow the light bearer. So you see that battle between some of the wolves who are following God and the others who are working for Satan. And they use different names for the characters in the book, but it’s obvious who it is. But one of the things I really love about this book is the way the writer has woven scripture throughout the book without you even knowing its scripture. I mean, if you don’t know the scriptures, you wouldn’t know you were reading biblical truth. It is so well done in that way. And you see the creatures as they are in the middle of this battle and the mocking of the evil ones who are enslaved by Satan.
They are mocking those who are following the light bearer, following God. You see the strength in the ones who are following God and the strength in their calm, peaceful, demeanor in the midst of a battle, their calmness about facing death. And it reminded me of part of a book I read, I think it was Bonhoeffer, but it was, or it may have been another missionary who was martyred. It was someone who was martyred. And it talked about how, when you’re not afraid to die, they have nothing they can hold over you, because when people are persecuting Christians, you know that you’re either going to be imprisoned or killed or whatever, but when you aren’t afraid to die, it’s hard for them to intimidate you. Well, in this book, we see that played out and we see these creatures stand up for real faith, even though they know they may lose their lives, and some do, not all, but some do, and they’re willing to sacrifice their lives for the cause of Christ. It is powerful. The only criticism I have of this book honestly, is I wanted to edit a few of his word choices, because I feel like he overuses some of his adjectives and because they are very unique adjectives and he uses them so often, they’re just noticeable. Instead of staying in the text, you wind up kind of being pulled out of the story, going, “There’s that word again.” But that really is a minor thing, and it’s the only thing that I have to say that I didn’t like about this book, and that was just a couple of the options for adjectives that he’s used. Other than that, his writing is amazing, the story is so well woven together that you don’t want to put it down. Seriously, you don’t want to put the book down. You want to read the whole thing in one sitting, it is so good. And it challenged me in my faith and in my walk with God, and for a fiction book about animals to do that, that’s pretty remarkable. This book was so good that I recommended my husband read it after I finished it. My daughter was so excited that I finally read it and enjoyed it as much as she did, and I am so happy that we have included it in this month’s book club. If your family has older children, you might even want to read it together, as a family. We used to do that, and it was so much fun to bring my nearly adult children together and, a couple evenings a week, we would just before bedtime gather in the living room and read for a few minutes together, and it was so much fun just to go through a book together like that. Not that we do it all the time, but it is fun to do every now and then. And especially when you have a book that’s so compelling, like this one is. The subtitle on this says a novel of savage conflict and desperate faith, that’s a good description. They really do show what true faith is, and, you know, when I was a little girl and we were preparing, I knew eventually I was going to be a missionary, and even as we were adults preparing to go overseas, my mom always said, the safest place for you to be is in the center of God’s will, and she’s always hung onto that. She held onto that as we went overseas and took her grandkids and moved away. But I think sometimes we think by saying the safest place, that that means we’re not going to be challenged, we’re not going to have difficult times, or even risk our lives.
And to me, I never understood that to mean when she said the safest place for you to be- I didn’t take that as, :Oh, nothing bad is ever going to happen to me.” I definitely don’t want people to misunderstand when I do say the safest place for anyone to be is the center of God’s will, because what I mean by that is spiritually we are in the right place and spiritually, it is the absolute safest place to be. And when we faced trials and when we faced difficulties, and even when there was a terrible, terrible earthquake when we first moved to Taiwan, and thousands of people died, and yet I knew we were in the center of God’s will, and I knew that’s where we needed to be. God gave us peace, and that’s what I mean by the safest place, because spiritually I knew I was in the right place. So whatever happened to me, I knew it was because it was God’s plan. It was His will unfolding in our lives, and it wasn’t something I brought upon myself because of my disobedience or my rebellion or my sin. And when you’re in that place, then even when you’re faced with trials, even when you’re faced with losing your life, if you know, you’re where you’re supposed to be, you know you’re safe with God, you know you’re pleasing to him, and you know that whatever is happening is because He has willed that this is what He has for your life, rather than I have caused trouble upon myself, because I’m not doing what God wants. So when I think of the safest place for me to be, it doesn’t mean I’m always going to be without trials, without trouble, without persecution, without even facing death. We never know when those things are going to come into our lives, when we’re going to be called upon to take a stand for our faith and even face up against those who are mocking Christ and mocking our faith.
But we are safe in his hands. We are safe in his peace and his joy, his peace that surpasses all understanding, cause it doesn’t make sense logically. And his joy that fills us even in the midst of sorrow. And that’s where I want to be. That’s safety. That’s that fortress and refuge that the Bible talks about, that we can find our safe place in Christ, because we know we are where we need to be. This book really drives that home to me as these animals realize they must fight against the evil ones who are trying to destroy everything that God stands for. They had to take a stand, and when their homes were attacked, they stood their ground. You know, they did what they had to do to protect the little ones to help the colony survive, and so it shows a lot of selfless sacrifice.
It shows a lot of faith in the midst of some of the most horrific situations, and it also shows how palpable evil can be when you are in the presence of evil. And it just made me think of it when we were in Taiwan and we were driving down this road one night and we hit this one area and all of a sudden, you just felt like a black, it was nighttime, but it felt like a black cloud, a dark, something shroud came over the whole car. It just felt evil. You could feel it something. And I didn’t know where we were, I’d never been there before, I just sensed that something evil was around there. Well, we turned a corner and here was this whole monastery and all these statues. And I don’t remember if there was what all was over there, but you couldn’t see it real well in the dark.
You could see all of these idols that were everywhere and it was some sort of a religious monastery, either Daoist (Taoist) or Buddhist or one of those. You could sense the evil even before we saw where we were, you could sense this darkness that was there. And so I was glad to move on and not hang out there. But that’s what I sensed. You could understand in this story when they were in the presence of those who were truly evil, truly trying to fulfill the plans of the evil one to thwart God’s plans, wherever possible and how deceived they were. And even these animals who were being attacked, whose lives were in danger, they still felt sad for those animals who were deceived. They knew they were deceived. I loved that as well because that’s what we need to understand. Our battle is not against flesh and blood.
It is about a battle that is spiritual, and when we have someone who is mocking us, persecuting us, trying to cause harm to the Church of God, or even just tearing down the Church of God on social media, we know that they have been hurt, that they have been deceived. Maybe they’ve even been abused by some church that was off track, but we have to stand firm and we have to pray for those who persecute us, to love our enemies and pray that they can be saved, that they can find the truth and they can understand what the truth is. And so this book just really challenged me in a lot of these areas. The one thing I loved too, cause one of the things I think of is I can get afraid of what might happen, of what it would be like to be, be arrested for my faith or to be persecuted, because we do travel, we do missions, this could happen. And even in the U.S., I suppose it could happen at some point, but I don’t want to worry about that. And in this book you see, especially in the one hair, I can’t think of his name right now, but he’s an amazing character. And he doesn’t last through the whole story, but he’s very powerful throughout the whole story because of his influence and his testimony. But as he is facing death, I mean he has been injured, he’s been attacked, he’s run and run to try to distract this wolf that’s trying to destroy his whole colony, and so he gets this Wolf to chase him. Well, anyway, he comes to the end of his life with peace and with grace and with dignity, he’s not afraid. He is not afraid in the least to face death, even in his last breaths, he’s encouraging and teaching a young wolf who is new to his faith and helps him to find the courage he needs to live out his faith and to face some terrible times ahead.
And so that was so amazing. The way the writer, James Huggins, the way he writes that is so beautiful and can really help us to understand what it means to stand up for Christ and to not waver in our faith. I don’t know if you know the history or the story of James Byron Huggins, but he has been in places as a missionary where his life was in danger, and he has had an amazing life, amazing experiences, and his biography is very interesting to hear. So I highly recommend this book, I hope everyone reads it. He has a lot of books out mysteries and different legends and stories, and I haven’t read those. I’ve bought a couple that I’m going to read, but I haven’t read them yet. But A Wolf Story is really geared more toward your younger adults, middle school and higher, and is just a tremendous read, and I know you won’t be disappointed if you read it. And then the other books we have for this month for the rest of the family are all about faith. I thought since we were featuring A Wolf Story, that it would be a good topic to talk about as we start this school year, that we can walk by faith and help our children walk by faith as they go out into whatever realm God has led us into, whether we’re homeschooling or going to private school or public school, we’re going to face challenges wherever we go in our world today. They call it a “post-Christian generation” and we definitely are having our challenges, and I don’t think they’re going to get easier. I think it’s going to get harder as time goes by, so we need to be equipped with the word of God and ready for battle in a way that honors God, and that is to love the people around us, whether we agree or disagree with them, to pray for those who persecute. Pray for our enemies, love our enemies. And therefore we can win some, because they see that there is a difference in our lives. Not because we are all special, but because of what God is doing in and through us, we have an amazing opportunity to share Christ with a world that does not know Him, and it is an amazing blessing to share the Gospel with someone who has never heard anything about Jesus, and we are in a generation that is like that. And for some of us, that may be the first time this has happened because we’ve grown up in areas where there are lots of Christians, but there are many people, even in the most saturated parts of America that do not have a clue of who God really is and who Jesus really is. And so we have an amazing opportunity. I just pray that God uses us to bring glory to his name and honor Him, and that He will give us opportunities to share the Gospel and that we will step up and share the Gospel boldly with love, and dignity, and with all the beauty that that story is. Take a look at our newsletter, if you’re not on my mailing list, you can sign up simply by going to TerrieHellardBrown.com and signing up for the mailing list. Each month I send out a newsletter, like I said, in each newsletter, we have our book club and we now have a little devotional that goes along with a picture book for each month as well. And in there we also have writer and illustrator birthdays for each month. We have a little message to just kind of encourage you in your walk with the Lord and in your parenting with your children. I try to fill the newsletter with as much good stuff that you can make it worth your while to read it. And so, like I said, it comes out once a month, feel free to unsubscribe at any time, if it’s just not what you need or what you want. I have no problems with that, but we would love to have you try it out and see what you think. You also get notifications. When we post a blog post or an episode of Books That Spark, you get an email that says there’s a new episode out or a new blog post, but I don’t try to overwhelm your inbox. I just want to let you know what’s going on so you can keep up. And then also right now this month we have the small kids, small talk texts, and you can sign up for those by going to my writer page on Facebook and I’ll have the link in the show notes.
And in that you can put text in a comment on my page and it will automatically take you over to the dialogue to make sure that you really want to join the texts. And with the text, you get a text in the morning that gives you a prayer prompt to start the day with your kids, and you get a text in the afternoon with a discussion prompt. And some of them are fun, some are silly, some are very serious and thought provoking, but they’re all meant to get you talking, to get your kids to open up and really share their hearts with you each day. And I know during the first month of school and the end of school, which was the last time we did these, we’re busy and we’re trying to get used to the new schedule. And we all feel like, well, I always felt like we were running around chasing our tails because there was so much to think about with the start of school and the end of school. So that’s why I do these texts at those times, so that when we’re busy, we still have time for each other. So as you’re commuting to school or to ballet or to piano lessons or whatever, you can spend some time in prayer in the car while you drive, and when you pick them up, you can spend some time in a fun conversation. And so that’s the purpose behind them, and that’s why we’re doing those at the busiest times of the year. If this goes well, we will probably do them again at Christmas because that’s another busy, crazy time for our families. Let me know what you think, we would love to hear from you in the comments on the show notes, you’re welcome to post questions or comments. Thank you for joining us for “Books That Spark,” a podcast, celebrating books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussions as we disciple our children and help them follow Christ with their whole hearts. We’re so thankful you’re here. If you enjoyed this episode or any of our episodes, please like, and share and let other people know we’re here. We appreciate you, and we hope you have a wonderful day.
Your Host: Terrie Hellard-Brown
Terrie Hellard-Brown writes and speaks to help children and adults find God’s purpose and plan for their lives. She teaches workshops and writes devotional books, children’s stories, and Christian education materials.
Her podcast, Books that Spark, reviews children’s books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids. Her podcast posts each Tuesday morning.
Her blog posts discuss living as a disciple of Christ while parenting our children. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to walk by faith in obedience to Christ and to use the nooks and crannies of our lives to disciple our children.
Terrie uses her experiences as a mother of four (three on “the spectrum”), 37 years in ministry (15 in Taiwan), and 32 years teaching to speak to the hearts of readers.
Her motto is “Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be WONDERFUL” and keeps her childlike joy by writing children’s stories, delighting over pink dolphins, and frequently laughing till it hurts.
September Giveaway and Welcome!
First, we want to welcome those who are new to our podcast. We had a booth at MOMcon this past weekend and met many wonderful moms who are listening in. Welcome! We hope you are blessed by this podcast. Remember, everyone can comment or ask questions below.
Each month we have a giveaway. This month’s giveaway is Llama, Llama, Rojo Pijama (Llama, Llama, Red Pajama in Spanish) in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month. I will include the devotion from our newsletter in Spanish as well. To enter, comment below or in our private Facebook group that you’d like to enter the drawing.