Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers Review

Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers is a charming chapter book, the first of many in a series by Douglas Bond. Published by Christian Liberty Press, the series follows the affable Mr. Pipes and his young American friends as they journey through the fascinating history of Christian hymn writers.

I was privileged to read Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers as part of the HomeSchool Review Crew this summer. I received a PDF version of the book that I read aloud via iPad to my 13 year old Fashionista each evening at bedtime. The book itself is quite long – 242 pages – which offers quite a few pages to each chapter, so some nights we read only a portion of a chapter.

Annie and Drew, the main characters in the story, are spending the summer in a small English village of Olney, while their mom is behind the setting working on research. To fill their days, Annie and Drew fortuitously bump into the endearing Mr. Pipes, a man full of faith and a sagacious sense of adventure. Each day while fishing, sailing, horseback riding, visiting London or the like, Mr. Pipes shares the story of a great hymn writer of the past, such as Thomas Ken, Isaac Watts, Charles Wesley, John Newton, and many others.

The Mr. Pipes books are written for youngsters in grades 7 though 12, and Douglas Bond’s writing style reminds me of Jan Karon’s Mitford series. Mr. Pipes is like Father Tim for teenagers, with a Mitford-esque, slow, easy-going setting where a rewarding adventure is carrying on just below the surface.

Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers is garnished with generous dollops of witty British humor that I just loved. For example, early in the story Mr. Pipes takes Annie and Drew fishing for the first time in their lives. As Drew boldly takes his place at the oars, he threatens the stability of the crew.

Drew! You’re going to sink us!” cried Annie, gripping the gunwale.

“We’ll be bathing – not fishing – if you keep that up, Drew,” said Mr. Pipes… “I dearly love the river, mind you, but I prefer our relationship as it is–me dry and on top, the river wet and underneath. It is entirely in the prepositions, my boy.” (28)

Oooh hoo! Now that is the way to an English teacher’s heart! NerdGirl and I laughed for days on that one.

Bond cracked me up again a few pages later as Mr. Pipes described the rigors of the preparatory school that Thomas Ken attended.

“Discipline was strict, and students were expected to ‘disci, discedi, aut devincitur–‘”

“Huh?” said Drew.

“Latin for ‘Learn, leave, or be licked,'” went on Mr. Pipes. “Quite a school motto!” (33)

Humorous moments like these, as well as the smoothest and most relaxing cliffhangers I have ever read, make this book a great nighttime read. Thanks to Mr. Pipes’ story about Charles Wesley, we even learn why the English drive on the other side of the road! You can preview the table of contents and sample chapters here.

Although my daughters weren’t big fans of Mr. Pipes as a family read aloud, they both said that as a living history textbook, they would enjoy it immensely. Miss Fashionista remarked that if she was younger and was still learning the basic tenants of her faith, she would enjoy the books more because Mr. Pipes teaches Drew and Annie so much about the foundational principles of the Christian faith as he shares the hymn writers’ stories. I didn’t find any study or companion activity guides, but if they are out there, the Mr. Pipes books would make a wonderful 18th century history study curriculum.

For those that like quality, Biblical narrative books for family devotionals, Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers would be an excellent selection.

The PDF version of Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers is available at this time for $8.79. However, as I’ve said before, I will always favor a physical paper book whenever possible, and thankfully that is available for just a dollar more, $9.89 at the Christian Liberty Press Shop. For the size and scope of this living-history textbook, that’s a great price.

Want to learn more about Mr. Pipes? Click the image below and see what’s buzzin’ in the rest of the crew bonnets about Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers:

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Disclaimer: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received this product at no cost to me in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are mine alone.

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