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Joel: A Boy of Galilee

by Annie Fellows Johnston
253 pages, Historical Fiction
Reviewed by Lorewen

Good, uplifting and edifying read.

Plot

Joel, a crippled boy living in busy Capernaum with the family of his uncle, a Pharisee, meets a kindhearted carpenter who grew up with Jesus in Nazareth. Through his friendship with the carpenter, Joel comes to know and eventually love Jesus Himself. For the last year of Jesus' ministry, Joel follows Him everywhere He goes: watching His miracles, hearing His teachings, and finally witnessing the fulfillment of His most important mission.

Morality

Very high. Kindness, self-sacrifice, compassion, and forgiveness are all beautifully held up as qualities to strive for - with the most beautiful and important of all being love for Christ. In the beginning, Joel hates the boy who crippled him, but when he realizes that he cannot look Jesus in the eyes with hatred in his heart, he forgives his enemy. As he spends more and more time with Jesus, he finds himself even able to love his old foe, and wants him to know Jesus too.

Spiritual Content

Jesus is really the main character of this story, in a sense, and His Father is mentioned frequently as well, as is the "Comforter" occasionally. There are a few appearances of angels, always biblically accurate. Miracles, both spiritual and physical, are a major part of the story. The Temple and its rituals, especially those practiced on Jewish feast days, are discussed a few times. Everything, from the direct biblical quotes to the most fictional parts of the book, is true to both the letter and the spirit of the Scriptures.

Violence

Joel was crippled by being pushed down a hill, which is described in retrospect and without detail. Joel talks, and frequently thinks, about bad things he would do to his enemy if he had a chance. Twice, a major character wishes he were dead. A character is blinded. A character dies of sickness. A leper is described. Joel sees Jesus on the cross after He is already dead and watches his burial. Throughout the chapter about Jesus' death, the emotions of those who loved Him, especially Joel, are vividly described, but the physical events are very vaguely referenced. The only descriptive word used is "tormented."

Drug and Alcohol Content

Wine is drunk, but not to excess.

Sexual Content

A man embraces his wife.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

Joel calls his enemy a "dog of a Samaritan" once. One boy calls another a "Jonah," meaning someone who brings bad luck.

Conclusion

'Joel: A Boy of Galilee' is a beautiful story of Jesus' ministry on earth. Joel's childlike faith and love for Jesus calls the reader to have the same, and Jesus Himself is portrayed as being full of wonderful love and compassion but also power and majesty. The author's descriptions of things, especially scenery, are vivid and lovely and they draw the reader into the tale.

Fun Score: 5
Values Score: 5
Written for Age: 11-12

Review Rating:

Average rating: 5 stars
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