There's a theory that suggests children (and adults, for that matter) can only learn virtue if it's explicitly demonstrated. This theory was particularly prevalent in the Victorian Era, and led to hundreds of books that sacrificed narrative or stylistic embellishment in favor of stories specifically designed to frighten children into righteous behavior.
Many of these books are being reprinted to influence new generations of readers. The Lamplighter Rare Collector Series has undertaken to offer a number of the better ones in handsome hardbound volumes reminiscent of the original editions. Texts are mostly facsimile reproductions, and include the original (often quite beautiful) black and white illustrations.
Stories like The Basket of Flowers and Hedge of Thorns feature near-perfect heroes and heroines whose earthly lives are beset by troubles, yet they endure all things and maintain unshakeable faith in Christ. They're always young (faith like a child), usually orphaned or missing a parent, and often fall extremely ill or are robbed by heartless thugs. Rum is the devil, and the world is a fierce and dark place with no rest for the good.
To be fair, there have always been faithful Christians who've been forced into dire circumstances through no fault of their own. But there's never been a perfect person besides Jesus Christ, certainly no one more perfect than Him, which is how many of the main characters of these stories are portrayed—if they do sport an imperfection it's usually something non-sin related, like a lame leg or a blind eye.
These are by no means the only types of stories available from Lamplighter Press, however. The book for which the company is named, The Lamplighter, avoids the unrealistic hyper-piety of other volumes and focuses on the Gospel itself—our salvation from sin through Jesus Christ. It's fairly well written, contains an engaging story, and shows people pretty much as they are.
Other titles, like the Boys of Grit books and Shipwrecked But Not Lost, feature heroes whose great virtue is faith and reliance on God, not simply adherence to their own code of morality. These stories are often adventurous, and the character building elements are believable and God-centered. We heartily recommend titles like these, especially for younger students not yet able to critique stories from a Christian perspective.
We believe our children need godly examples, not just in the pages of God's Word or at church, but also in the pages of the books they read and love. The children in these books are certainly good examples. The writing often leaves something to be desired, but the stories (while often not realistic) are compelling.
It took us awhile to decide to bring these in, but we feel we can offer them without too many reservations. Lamplighter Press publishes 8-10 books a year, but selects 2-3 as Books of the Year; we've begun by bringing in all the Books of the Year, and are growing our collection based on customers' recommendations of their favorites.
There's certainly nothing objectionable, inappropriate, or pernicious in these stories. Children with a taste for Shakespeare and Milton may find much to criticize, but in the end those criticisms are going to be fairly shallow, while the messages the Lamplighter books convey are deep and true.
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.
Did you find this review helpful?