16 May

"I Wonder What the King Is Doing Tonight"

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 05/16/04

The legends surrounding the figure of King Arthur are compelling and exciting, and their origins and evolution are intriguing. MARS HILL AUDIO attends to these legends through an interview with novelist Stephen Lawhead and an essay by Jonathan G. Reinhardt.

The legends surrounding the figure of King Arthur are fascinating on many levels. The stories themselves are often compelling and exciting. But the origins and evolution of the stories are also intriguing. In some of the accounts, pre-Christian elements shaded with Christian concerns, in others the Christian element dominates with echoes of a pre-Christian past. Themes of redemption and justice are commingled with expressions of treachery and revenge. On Volume 27 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, Ken Myers interviewed Stephen Lawhead about his retelling of the Arthur story; to revisit that subject, we are now making available on-line an essay called "The Matter of Britain: An Introduction to Arthurian Legend," written by Jonathan G. Reinhardt who worked with us in the summer of 2003. Jonathan's essay looks at the ideas that are associated with the Arthur myths, as well as the many sources that combined to form a memorable and evocative body of stories.

30 Apr

Islam's Interpreter

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 04/30/04

Professor Bernard Lewis has spent several decades studying the Middle East and Islam, and Oxford University Press has recently published several of his essays on these subjects in From Babel to Dragomans: Interpreting the Middle East. The publication of the collection is the occasion for an interview with Lewis in the Atlantic Unbound (the April 29, 2004, edition) in which Lewis offers his thoughts on the region's future, particularly regarding how America is handling its involvement in Iraq: "I'm cautiously optimistic about what's happening in Iraq. What bothers me is what's happening here in the United States." The interview, conducted by Elizabeth Wasserman, is available on-line .

Lewis discussed one of his more well-known works What Went Wrong: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response on Volume 59 of the Journal. MARS HILL AUDIO published a full-length version of the interview as Conversation 19, "The Crisis of Islam and the Crisis of the West." [Posted May2004, ALG]

29 Apr

Christian-Muslim Dialogue

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 04/29/04

In an effort to meet some of the questions coming from the increasing interest in education and encounters between Christians and Muslims, The Institute on Religion and Democracy has published "Christian-Muslim Dialogue: A Guide for Churches."

"Within the Church, Christian-Muslim relations have been largely the concern of a small group of specialists. All that changed on September 11, 2001." In an effort to meet some of the questions coming from the increasing interest in education and encounters between Christians and Muslims, The Institute on Religion and Democracy has published "Christian-Muslim Dialogue: A Guide for Churches." The brochure, the contents of which were originally printed in the summer 2003 issue of the Institute's Faith & Freedom magazine, divides its guidelines for dialogue into two categories: appropriate and necessary subjects and means of communication; and inappropriate and damaging subjects and means of communication. Suggestions in the former category include: "Make sure that the Christians entering into dialogue with Muslims have a firm grasp of an orthodox faith in the mainstream of the Christian tradition." Suggestions in the latter category include: "Play political games inside the Muslim community, elevating leaders that we Christians favor and ignoring those that we dislike." To order "Christian-Muslim Dialogue" brochures from The Institute on Religion and Democracy, call (202) 969-8430 or e-mail

The Institute for Religion and Democracy describes itself as "a non-profit organization committed to reforming the Church's social and political witness and to building and strengthening democracy and religious liberty, at home and abroad." Diane L. Knippers, Alan F. H. Wisdom, and Steve R. Rempe are among those who run the Institute. For more information, visit the Institute's web pages. [Posted April 2004, ALG]

19 Apr

My Favorite Newbery Winners

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 04/19/04

Patricia Owen, a guest on Volume 73 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, offers a list of her top ten favorite Newbery Medal winners.

List courtesy of Patricia Owen.

1928—The Trumpeter of Krakow: A Tale of the Fifteenth Century, Eric P. Kelly

In 1461 the 15 year-old Joseph and his family make their way to the Polish city of Krakow after their farm is burned by bandits. Inspired by a 200 year old legend, he and his father take on the job of playing the trumpet every hour from the tower of the Church of Our Lady Mary. Alchemists, Tartar bandits, a lovely orphan and a beautiful musical piece, the Heynal, all come together to make this a riveting story full of courage and loyalty. Avid readers 9+

Illustrations by Janina Domanska

1932—Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze, Elizabeth Foreman Lewis

Set in pre-revolutionary China of the 1920's, this is an absorbing tale of a boy who moves with his mother to the big city of Chungking and is apprenticed to Tang the coppersmith. Young Fu's vitality and humor shine out as he encounters all kinds of characters and undergoes all kinds of experiences in the process of coming of age and learning what really counts in life. Avid readers 9+

Introduction by Pearl S. Buck. Excellent glossary and historical notes.

1935—Caddie Woodlawn, Carol Ryrie Brink

This author writes the stories her grandmother recounted of her own pioneer childhood running wild with two brothers on the Wisconsin frontier of the 1860's. Full of fun and excitement for both boys and girls, with an interesting twist at the end. Great read-aloud, ages 6+

1973 edition with illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman

1946—Adam of the Road, Elizabeth Jane Gray

Adam, an 11 year-old boy walks the roads of England in 1294, in search of his cocker spaniel and his minstrel father. Adventurous and historically invigorating, with a timeless and universally interesting plot. A road's a kind of holy thing, said Roger the minstrel to his son, Adam. That's why it's a good work to keep a road in repair, like giving alms to the poor or tending the sick. It brings all kinds of people and all parts of England together. And it's home to a minstrel, even though he may happen to be sleeping in a castle. Ages 10 - Young adult

Illustrations by Robert Lawson

1949—The Door in the Wall, Marguerite D'Angeli

Set in medieval England, this story chronicles the development of character in Robin, a young nobleman's son who falls ill and loses the use of his legs. Beautifully told, the story weaves its way through frustration and pain to encouragement, resourcefulness and heroism as Robin follows Brother Luke's advice: Thou hast only to follow the wall long enough and there will be a door in it. Ages 9+

Beautiful illustrations by the author

1954—The Wheel on the School, Meindert DeJong

The little seaside village of Shora, in Holland, has no storks. Lina, and the five boys in her little schoolhouse wonder why and then put their heads together to remedy the situation. Humor, mischief, and a lovely intergenerational sympathy knit together an engrossing story of youthful resourcefulness. Great read-aloud. Ages 6+

1989—Number the Stars, Lois Lowry

When the Nazis occupy Denmark in 1943 and begin to round up the Jews, 10 year-old Annemarie's family takes in her best friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretends she is part of the family. Both girls have to learn new courage and resourcefulness as they live out this deception in a fear-filled society. The truths of the brutal regime are not spared, but they are dealt with in a way that is appropriate for thoughtful children and young adults. 12+

1993—The Giver, Lois Lowry

In a futuristic dystopic community where pain and sadness have been eliminated but also music and books and history, 12 year-old Jonas is picked to be the next Receiver of Memory; in daily visits with the Giver, the oral history of life and experience is transferred to him, enabling the community to remain ignorant, happy and productive. What happens when Jonas begins to think for himself for the first time makes for intriguing, thought-provoking twists of plot and growth in his character. A clear statement against both abortion and euthanasia, and one which raises a wide variety of moral and spiritual questions, this book is definitely for older readers and should be read by parents, grandparents, etc. as well as children. Ages 14+

2001—A Single Shard, Linda Sue Park

A spare but beautifully crafted story about a young orphan who has been nurtured and reared by a homeless cripple living under a bridge in 12th century Korea. The boy, Tree-Ear, longs to become an apprentice to a famous potter and in a long and difficult journey to deliver wares to the royal court, he learns much about courage, persistence, patience, and real love. One of the most subtle and deeply moving descriptions of mutual caring and sensitivity in all of children's literature. A must read for boys and girls 12+

2003—The Tale of Despereaux; Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread, Kate di Camillo

A fun, meta-fairytale in which Despereaux the mouse reads instead of chewing the book of chivalric tales in the palace and is then thrown into a series of adventures in the course of which he is challenged, disappointed, and then enabled by the very stories he has read. In spite of the rollicking, jocular tone, themes of forgiveness, true courage, and self-sacrifice emerge in the course of his quest which lend themselves to thoughtful discussion. Ages 10+ [Posted April 2005, ALG]

15 Apr

Monitoring Stem Cell Research

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 04/15/04

Since its inception in 2001, the President's Council on Bioethics has occupied itself with—among other tasks—monitoring the developments of human stem cell research. It has presented its findings thus far to the President and the public in Monitoring Stem Cell Research: A Report of the President's Council on Bioethics. The introduction to the Report states that, "[t]his report is very much an 'update.' It summarizes some of the more interesting and significant recent developments, both in the basic science and medical applications of stem cell research and in the related ethical, legal, and policy discussions." The Report is organized into four chapters—comprising the introduction, an overview of current Federal law and policy regarding stem cell research, a record of developments in ethical and policy debate on the research, and a record of developments in stem cell research and therapy—with a glossary of terms and several appendices of papers that the Council commissioned about various aspects of the research.

To read what others are writing about the report, see "No Decision on Stem Cells" by Eugene Russo, and "Reason as Our Guide" by Elizabeth Blackburn and Janet Rowley. Rowley, a member of the President's Council on Bioethics, is a professor at the University of Chicago and Blackburn, who was recently dismissed from her position on the Council, is a professor at the University of California, San Francisco. Russo is a contributing editor for the magazine The Scientist. [Posted April 2004, ALG]