Podcast 34: A Kids’ Review of Amish Fiction

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.

lily lappNow, 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.


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6 Responses to Podcast 34: A Kids’ Review of Amish Fiction

  1. Emily September 15, 2013 at 11:00 am #

    Great points, Anne! I love your gospel focus. Thanks for helping us process this genre a little better.

  2. AnneB September 12, 2013 at 8:59 pm #

    A while back I reviewed a book by Suzanne Woods Fisher and although she is widely published and has a regular show based on “Amish wisdom”, I have concerns. As I listened to the intro to her show and the first part a while back, I was struck by how much the focus was on our efforts and not God’s. If we “simplify” our lives like the Amish, then our lives will be better. Really, the point isn’t to focus on the Amish people’s wisdom, but rather the wisdom of God’s Word. I have stayed away from the kids’ Amish fiction and I was glad to read your review of it. Honestly, it just confirmed what I suspected would be the case. One of the key beliefs that Amish people have and the reason they seek to live simple lives-is because they believe they can be sanctified in this life–by their works. This really goes against what the Word says. The only one who was perfect was Jesus. We can’t be in this life. For by grace we are saved through faith…

  3. Pat August 31, 2013 at 8:13 pm #

    Several years back one of my daughters read three books by Mary Christner Borntrager: Ellie, Rebecca, and Rachel. I think that was maybe all she had written at that point, although I see there are more now. The author was actually Amish, so I felt they were fairly accurate. Our biggest problem after she had read them was her absolute fascination with the Amish! For quite a while we wondered if we would lose her, given the opportunity:-) We certainly had some great discussions regarding the Amish, and how so many of them had kept the lifestyle but lost the faith that it stemmed from. Rather like many Jews?

    Yonie Wondernose by Marguerite de Angeli (I probably butchered that spelling) is more my speed! That has been on our list of family favorites for many years, as well as her other books for children that she sets in interesting cultures. Very old fashioned!

  4. Janie August 31, 2013 at 6:12 pm #

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Rebecca!

  5. Emily August 31, 2013 at 5:59 pm #

    ohAmanda, so glad I could be of service! I know a lot of people love Amish fiction, and there is a lot that’s wholesome about it. (In a 50 Shades world, that means a lot!) But I do think there are some reasons to be cautious with it as a genre. And anytime I can work the words “bonnet ripper” into a post, I try to do it! : )

    We are actually working on our podcasts right now. I believe you can access them via RSS, but we may not have them for iPhone until the new year. I will definitely let you know when we get things sorted out, though! Thanks for asking!

  6. ohAmanda August 31, 2013 at 1:23 pm #

    I’m so glad you said this about Amish fiction! I’ve never been able to put my finger on why it’s not one of my fave genres–and this is it!

    ps–I’m trying to subscribe to your podcast on my iPhone and can’t find it. What should I search for?

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