Wise Words: Family Stories That Bring the Proverbs to Life by Peter J. Leithart
(Canon Press, 2003, 134 pages)
These modern fairy tales are written in the tradition of Grimm’s fairy tales, and each story illustrates a passage from the biblical book of Proverbs. The stories are loaded with traditional fairy tale characters and themes. Some show the trials and triumphs of good characters while some are darker, chronicling the demise of bad characters. To my mind, Leithart strikes just the right balance between happy endings and slightly grisly elements in order to keep kids interested. My daughter loved these stories, and since they each take about five to ten minutes to read aloud they are good bedtime reading.
Leithart is a theologian whose scholarly work covers a range of disciplines, including the convergence of literature and theology. This book makes for an interesting example of how theological concerns can inform the structure and message of children’s literature. Some of the stories suffer from morals which override the narrative – in these instances, the point being made by the story becomes more important than the story itself, and the result is that the story can become unnecessarily complex. For the most part, however, the stories move crisply and keep the reader eager to see what comes next.