Big Year for Lily, A (The Adventures of Lily Lapp) by Suzanne Woods Fisher and Mary Ann Kinsinger. Revell, 2013. 272 pgs. Ages 8-up.
With the popularity of Amish fiction for adults (a new Amish fiction book comes out every four days, last I heard!), it’s not too surprising that some of the genre’s authors would pen books for kids, too. We’ve already covered Wanda Brunstetter’s Rachel Yoder Collection, but today my daughter and I take a look at the Lily Lapp series by Suzanne Woods Fisher and Mary Ann Kinsinger.
Now, I do have a few qualms about Amish fiction, which I don’t have time to go into fully today. (Here’s an article that does go into great detail: Bonnet Rippers: The Rise of the Amish Romance Novel.) But in essence, here’s an overview: 1) Most Amish fiction today is written by non-Amish people, some of whom know very little about Amish life; and 2) Many of these non-Amish writers are evangelical Christians who tend to impose their own religious experience onto the Amish world.
I’m happy to say that the Lily Lapp series avoids both these errors. While Suzanne Woods Fisher is a well-known writer of Amish romance, Mary Ann Kinsinger runs a blog largely devoted to her journey from an Amish childhood to her Christian beliefs of today. In other words, she knows first hand what it was like to be an Amish child, and many of the stories here are drawn from her childhood.
Unfortunately, I did find that this book–while clean and written in an engaging way for kids–tended to glorify man’s own efforts and minimize God’s grace. That’s not to say it is a bad read. It’s certainly no more man-centered than the American Girls series my oldest daughter adores. (I’ve written more on that here and here.) But ultimately, Lily justifies herself through her relationships with her family and friends rather than with God. And I don’t know a more powerful false gospel than that.
Because this book is about an Amish family, unlike the American Girl books, God is already a character in the story. Bible verses are quoted and the characters attend church, so to leave God and His grace out–well, in my opinion that’s just a missed opportunity. That said, I still recommend this series as a much better read than many books out there for kids these days.
Worldview/Moral Value: 3.75 (out of 5)
Literary Value: 4 (out of 5)
For now, though, I’ll turn it over to my daughter who was gracious enough to sit down with mom and tell me her thoughts on the Lily books. (One quick note: Rebecca does reference some food issues. For those with inquiring minds, it’s because she has a number of significant food allergies.)
Podcast 34: Lily Lapp Books
Have your kids tried any Amish fiction yet? Any favorites or things you don’t like about them? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
We enjoyed Busy Times during my girls’ early years, and I’ve written about that in our $20 Bookshelf Challenge: Best Books for Beginners. Plus, don’t forget our entire middle reader section, filled with recommendations about good books for this age group.