Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Not-So-Random Shelf: Nonfiction

If you were asked to guess Mary Pope Osborne’s undergraduate degree, what would you guess? If you’re familiar with her Magic Tree House series, you might guess history. English literature is sometimes a good guess when guessing an author’s degree. Would you guess religion?

I did not know that Mary Pope Osborne graduated with a religion degree until I read her fabulous One World, Many Religions. One World, Many Religions is a great overview of the major world religions. Osborne takes complex and sophisticated theology and transmits them in an accessible and lively style. Vivid photographs (many of children) give a lovely added touch to the book. There are some gaps in the books, notably in mentions of rituals of young adulthood. While Osborne discusses initiations into adulthood for some religions (such as the Bar/Bat Mitzvah for Jewish adolescents), she doesn’t mention the sacrament of confirmation, which is undertaken by youth in the Catholic church and several Protestant faiths.

My Friend’s Beliefs: A Young Reader’s Guide to World Religions is also a worthy examination of world religions. While One World, Many Religions is an overview of world religions, My Friend’s Beliefs goes into extraordinary detail about the religions. The major world religions receive their individual chapters, which include a basic overview of beliefs (which gets rather sophisticated), history of the religion, key terms, famous leaders within the religion, and an introduction to a young person involved within the faith. At the end of the book, readers are introduced to smaller faiths within Christianity (Moravian Church, Quakers, Christian Scientists).

While the information contained within the book is fascinating and well delivered, the presentation of the book is a bit disappointing. All pictures are in black and white and are rather small. The text is crowded. These minor complaints do not overshadow the many positive attributes of this absorbing book.

These two books serve as thoughtful and worthy introductions to religions. Adults who are interested in learning more about religions would find these books informative and appealing.

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