These days, Christians are more often exposed to contemporary Christian music and simple "praise songs" than they are hymns. And while both contemporary and praise songs have their place, it's a great shame that the old, great hymns, filled with words of hope, encouragement, and biblical truth are falling by the wayside.
In Hymns for a Kid's Heart (Vol. 1) and Hymns for a Kid's Heart (Vol. 2) (shown here) Bobbie Wolgemuth and Joni Eareckson Tada attempt to change all that. These beautiful books each introduce 12 classic hymns, richly illustrated (on the two page spreads not featuring sheet music) by Sergio Martinez. For each hymn, we read an interesting story about the composer, then a story about the spiritual concept behind the song (think of it as a sort of devotional), followed by a page of sheet music and a variety of verses. If you can't read sheet music, never fear, for each book contains a nicely done CD of the hymns, sung by children. There's even a glossary of more difficult words (like "tempest," "sanctify," and "grace") in the back of the books, plus Bible verses for each hymn.
Volume One covers "Holy, Holy, Holy," "A Mighty Fortress is Our God," "This is My Father's World," "O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing," "How Firm a Foundation," "Amazing Grace," "The Lord is My Shepherd," "Rejoice, Ye Pure in Heart," "Take My Life, and Let it Be," "America, the Beautiful," "Our God, Our Help in Ages Past," "Enteral Father, Strong to Save," and "Do you Know What it Means?"
Volume Two covers "Praise to the Lord, Almighty," "Fairest Lord Jesus," "To God be the Glory," "Trust and Obey," "Wonderful Words of Life, " "Onward, Christian Soldiers," "When We All Get to Heaven," ""We're Marching to Zion," "Like a River Glorious," "God of Our Fathers," "Come Ye Thankful People, Come," and "My Country, 'Tis of Thee."
What I Like: There's nothing wrong with contemporary and praise songs, but they deal mostly with how humans feel about things. Hymns have that, also, but additionally, they are filled with the tenets of our faith. Therefore, I really appreciate these books and the beautiful way they introduce hymns to modern families.
Martinez' illustrations are just lovely; you'd think they came straight from the 19th century. They are filled with rich colors and compelling people. Too, the text that tells a bit of history about the hymns is actually interesting, and many of the true stories are inspirational.
What I Dislike: Nothing.
Overall Rating: Excellent.
Age Appeal: According to the publisher, 4 - 8, but younger children will appreciate the music CDs, and older kids (even adults!) will enjoy the entire package.
Publishing Info: Crossway, 2003 & 2004; ISBN: 1581345054 (Vol. 1) and 1581345828 (Vol. 2); hard back, $21.99 each.