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A One-Way Ticket to Salvation

Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler, (Little, Brown and Company, $17.99, YA), is reviewed by Rita Zobayan.

RP-CoverWriting an engaging memoir is tricky business, and writing one about a personal faith-based journey even trickier. Aaron Hartzler manages to convey his coming-of-age story with an earnest, often funny and sometimes heartbreaking memoir, Rapture Practice. In it, he grapples with trying to be the young adult that his parents desire him to be while coming to terms with who he really is and living the life that he wants – no easy feat and especially so as he is raised in a strict Christian household. Seemingly innocent everyday activities such as listening to pop music, watching movies and hanging out with friends become causes for lying, hiding and rebelling. Whether he’s performing a taboo song at the school vocal ensemble, sneaking into forbidden movies such as Pretty Woman or secretly forging a friendship with an individual whose parents are divorced, Aaron earnestly tries to balance his desire to please his parents and to experience adolescence as he chooses. Ultimately, however, he knows that he cannot have one without imposing consequences on the other, and that is the heart of this book. Rapture Practice is a moving story and an important one for adolescents struggling with identity and parental expectations.

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Philosophy for Middle Grade Readers

Lives of the Great Spiritual Leaders ($19.95, Thames and Hudson, middle grade readers) is the first book of its kind I have seen. 20 of the most powerful spiritual leaders from Moses (1250 BC) to the Dalai Lama (present day) are featured in this book, giving middle grade readers background and highlights of a wide variety of philosophies. Listed in chronological order of when he or she lived, each leader’s nationality, religious association and basic doctrine is listed, followed by more details about that individual’s life. We learn about how Socrates showed the people of the world they do not really know the answers to questions they think they understand, how Gandhi taught his people to peacefully protest against injustice to make positive changes and how Mother Teresa gave her life to the poorest of the poor.

From the most famous spiritual leaders in the world, to the lesser known, what I love about this book is that author Henry Whitbread gives us enough information to get a basic sense of the background, beliefs struggles and accomplishments of each individual. Every section of the book is complemented by excellent quotes, photographs and illustrations. No matter what religion a child follows, an important part of a well-rounded education is learning about other religions and philosophies and the spiritual leaders who made great impacts on the world. This book should be on classroom shelves and in the libraries of families everywhere.

This book was reviewed by Debbie Glade.

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