Friday, July 16, 2010

Henry's Red Sea

Based on an actual event that happened in Berlin in 1946, Henry’s Red Sea tells the story of a group of Mennonite farmers who fled the Russian Ukraine during World War II. Originally published in 1955, Henry’s Red Sea is a gently refreshing tale of suffering and deliverance. The adventure is told from the perspective of a boy named Henry Bergen who, since his father was taken prisoner for preaching, is now the “man” in a family that includes a mother, grandmother, sister Tina, and an adopted cripple boy named Rudy. At the start of the story, the reader hides out with the Mennonite refugees in a bombed out building in Germany. Many are starving and sick, are wearing threadbare clothes that scarcely fight off the cold, and are carrying their meager worldly possessions with them. Despite the sense of despair painted by their plight, hope soon appears in the form of Peter Dyck, a relief worker for the Mennonite Central Committee. Peter leads them to temporary housing in the American controlled section of Berlin. It is here that many of the children worship God openly for the first time. They stay long enough to celebrate Christmas—a portion of the story that’s so wondrously warm and joyous, it may give you a whole new appreciation for the holiday.

Throughout the story, the characters, especially Henry and his grandmother, show remarkable faith and determination. Though Henry battles his fear of being captured by spies, his fear for the safety of his father, and his worries over finding a new home, he never wavers in his implicit trust in God. So when the refugees learn they must travel through a Communist controlled territory to reach the ships that will carry them to new homes and freedom, he prays for a parting-of-the-sea type miracle. And, in the end, he gets it.

What I Like: The story moved at a nice pace and held my interest. The fact that this story was based on something that really happened made it even more interesting and powerful.

What I Dislike: This is not necessarily a negative, just something I noticed. The story had an old-fashioned feel to me because it had more formal speech patterns and what would today be considered stilted dialogue. While that gave it a somewhat Pollyanna tone, those same speech patterns and dialogue also lent the story authenticity.

Overall Rating: Very Good

Age Appeal: No age range is given, but I think it would appeal to kids ages 8-12.

Publisher Info: Mennonite Publishing House, 2006; ISBN:0-8361-1372-1; Paperback $7.99

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