When I was growing up, Seventh-day Adventist kids’ books were characterized by a kind of didactic earnestness. Bad deeds were punished, good deeds were rewarded, and lessons were always learned. Adults and other authority figures were always right and trustworthy.
Times have changed. Seth Pierce’s new series, The Misadventures of Peter Paul Pappenfuss, features a ten-year-old hero — or perhaps anti-hero — who is not likely to feature in any of Uncle Arthur’s bedtime stories (except maybe as the bad kid who gets his come-uppance in the end). But Peter Paul is not really a bad kid — he’s a mischievous, troublesome, and painfully honest kid with a good heart. He’s sometimes bored in school or in church (his dad’s the pastor); he doesn’t like selling chocolate bars to raise money to go to Pathfinder Camporee, and even when he tries to do the right thing, trouble seems to ensue.
The breezy honesty of these books, and the way they’re grounded in everyday reality, makes them refreshing to read and easy for kids to relate to. But they’re not lacking in spiritual lessons either. In each story, Peter learns something about God’s will for his life, and the lessons are all the more powerful because they’re not cookie-cutter platitudes.
These were very popular read-aloud books in our house, but 8-12 year olds will also enjoy reading them on their own. I would recommend them to any Christian family with kids in that age group (although they are published by an SDA publishing house, the stories are geared for Christian readers of any denomination). They will provoke a lot of laughs, but will also help kids think about taking their faith more seriously. They may even help to remind mischievous little boys that God doesn’t love only the well-behaved little girls like Peter’s “perfect” sister Mary — He loves, and has a place in His plan for, every kid.
I usually issue a disclaimer when I review a friend’s novel, and I’m fortunate to be able to count Seth as a friend. Many years ago, about ten minutes after I met a then-very-young Seth Pierce, he began asking me about being a writer and getting your work published. I encouraged him to keep at it, and I’d love to be able to take some credit for his brilliant career on the basis of that, but I’m pretty sure a writer as talented as Seth doesn’t need anyone to claim credit for his success. I’m not only impressed he wrote books as fresh, funny, and enjoyable as the Peter Paul Pappenfuss books; I’m impressed an Adventist publishing house released them, and I really hope there are more to come.