A common misconception about missionary stories is that they're about stodgy people who have a rose-colored view of the world. As Paul White's Jungle Doctor proves, nothing could be further from the truth. There's a sense in which he refrains from too much description at times, but the series is for children and most parents wouldn't want their kids reading about some of the things he doubtless saw and sometimes hints at.
These aren't lighthearted romps. White himself (an Australian) was a missionary doctor in Africa, and these stories are based on his own experiences, adventures, successes, and defeats in the Tanganyikan jungles. Folksy humor is found throughout the series, but White battled the elements, rampant wild animals, unbelief, and witch doctors to bring the Gospel and modern medicine to a largely unreached people.
Often, a simple story about one of God's servants is enough to inspire piety and service in other Christians. This is the effect of the nineteen Jungle Doctor books. White doesn't get preachy, and he mostly lets the events and conversations speak for themselves. Although his writing style is simple and can be comprehended by younger readers, adults are likely to be just as fascinated by these accounts of Africa in the middle of the last century, when it was even more violent and chaotic than it is now.
Due to the content, the original Jungle Doctor books are probably best for kids in third grade or older; however, a newly reprinted series for younger readers called Jungle Doctor's Animal Stories offers a collection of fables that teach biblical truths through the adventures of jungle animals. These are more obviously didactic than the more autobiographical series, but they're fun and engaging.
For stories that balance carefully between character-building and gritty excitement, these are hard to beat. White was no Dickens, but that somehow makes the books better, or at least more realistic. He was simply a man of God who used his considerable talents and determination to do the work of Christ in a land largely abandoned by the church and the world alike.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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