The publishers of this book very kindly sent me an e-copy for me to review.
This book is part of the ‘Trailblazers’ series produced by Christian Focus 4 Kids (CF4K). It is aimed at 9-14 year-olds. I had previously read ‘A man in Christ’, which is one of the ‘grown up’ biographies of Hudson Taylor by another publisher. I therefore came to the book with a knowledge of and interest in the life of Hudson Taylor.
I am a huge fan of Hudson Taylor. This book reminds us that he, ‘longed after holiness, usefulness and nearness to God.’ The book is a clear reminder of God’s faithfulness. Hudson himself was quite a sickly boy, and yet God used him in an extraordinarily powerful way in circumstances that were more often than not very difficult. God’s strength in our weakness is one clear message of the book.
On the plus side, the book tells the story of a man made remarkable by his complete reliance on God. It shows that he had a perspective on this life that allowed him to see beyond personal tragedy to the God that holds all things together. His faith is testimony to the way in which God is able to work in His people. His desire to serve the people of China and bring the gospel to them is an example each Christian can learn from. He had a sense of urgency in the task God had given him.
Also on the plus side, there are questions at the end of the book to get young people thinking around some of the topics raised. It’s great to see publishers encouraging readers to engage with the text rather than just read it!
However, I didn’t personally like the way in which the book was written. First of all, a large proportion is devoted to Hudson’s life before his move to China, which seemed to me to be disproportionate. Also, the style of writing didn’t work for me personally. The book is written largely in the form of journal entries and conversations between key characters. My understanding from the blurb is that many of these are based on actual events, but are not actual journal entries or conversations. For me, this style is unnecessary, as I think a straightforward recounting of events could be written in a way that appeals to young people. The book is also written through the eyes of Hudson’s sisters and mother (mainly his sister Amelia). I did wonder if this might make it more appealing to girls than boys, as it may provide a different ‘slant’.
Furthermore, there are a number of mistakes (editorially, not factually) in the text, which I found a little frustrating. I suppose a number of young people wouldn’t even notice these, but I felt it suggested the production of the book had been a little rushed. If a story is worth telling, it’s worth telling well, and this is certainly a story worth telling.
I would encourage young people to read about and learn from the lives of Christians who have served God both in their own countries and overseas. There is much to learn from someone who follows God closely, and Hudson Taylor was one such man. However, given my reservations about the book, I’m not 100% sure that all those who read this particular book will necessarily be enthused by it. That said, there are others who have found it helpful.
Have you read any good books lately?