I purchased Into the Book with my own money and I’m reviewing it because I want you to know about it.
We’re studying the doctrine of the Bible this year in our home. We’ve covered the authority, inspiration, and inerrancy of Scripture from a number of different sources. We’ve read about the canonicity, clarity, necessity, and sufficiency of God’s Word. We’re also delving into philosophy and apologetics.
As I was putting together resources for our study this summer, I came across Patricia Roberts-Adams’ work on a book table at the writer’s conference I attend each year. Every time I passed it in the first three days of the conference, I couldn’t help thinking that teaching fiction that touches the Bible, is aimed at young adults, and involves a talking mouse could go one of two ways. Either it was going to be a disaster, or it was going to be brilliant. There wasn’t going to be an in-between…..
I was right.
After meeting and speaking with the author, Patricia Roberts-Adams, about her theological influences, her vision for the book, and her motivation for writing it, I decided I couldn’t leave without knowing whether or not Into the Book: An Adventurous Journey Inside the Gospel of John (Smart Mouse Press, 2013) was a genius work of art.
It turns out, it was a good gamble for me. Into the Book is well-written, well-developed, and engaging for older students—talking mouse notwithstanding. The theme of the book centers on a question from CS Lewis, and though the book has more teaching than The Chronicles of Narnia series, I can’t help thinking Reepicheep would be proud. Into the Book certainly doesn’t contain any more teaching that The Screwtape Letters does.
Josie Watkins is a college student majoring in philosophy. She’s forced to take on the job of dealing with her grandmother’s estate after the woman’s death. With a head full of the teachings of philosophers like Ludwig Feuerbach, Heraclitus, Rene Descartes, William Blake, Jacques Derrida, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Socrates, Josie is mysteriously sucked into the book on her grandmother’s side table where she joins an agnostic mouse named Soc Rat Es (Socs) in an unwilling (for her—willing for him) journey through the book of John.
Josie and Socs are merely observers of the biblical story, with all quotes from the Bible taken directly from the New American Standard Bible, the New International Version, The New Testament in the Language of the People, and the King James Version. The biblical figures don’t interact with Josie and Socs, apart from a few times that Josie feels certain Jesus is looking right at her.
Into the Book centers on CS Lewis’ premise that Jesus can be either a deceptive charlatan, a lunatic claiming to be God, or fully God and fully man, but he cannot possibly be solely a good teacher. Jesus claims deity throughout the book of John, and there is special emphasis given to this testimony. Josie and Socs discuss the identity of Christ throughout the story, while Josie raises every argument against deity and the miraculous that she can muster. Her character arc, and that of her mouse companion, are fascinating.
As a parent, I found one of the really attractive aspects of the book as a learning tool to be the chapter notes at the back of the novel. These include bibliographical references, but some chapters have short biographies of the philosophers referenced. I read these to the boys after we finished each chapter, and I feel like the biographies really enhanced our understanding of the philosophers, their thoughts, and the arguments against the Bible. Which, in turn, helped us think clearly about the testimony of the Scripture passages we “experienced”.
Socs (the mouse) had been conveniently present at a number of apologetics discussions between Josie’s grandmother and her pastor during the end of her life, and is thus able to present some outside testimony. The mouse is also quite well-read. For a mouse. Who talks.
Perhaps because the book centers on Lewis’ argument concerning the identity of Christ and his influence is clear, there are a couple of brief discussions of free will that I wasn’t entirely comfortable with. They were, however, immediately juxtaposed with Jesus’ actual teaching in the book of John. I felt like these moments provided a great opportunity for discussion about what Scripture says about calling and justification.
Into the Book was a great choice for our family, and it provided numerous opportunities to discuss worldview, truth, and—best of all—Jesus. It’s a perfect fit for the dialectic stage of development (around grades 7-9) where students are learning to assimilate the information they’ve gathered and create arguments, as well as for the rhetoric stage (grades 10-12) when young adults are ready to begin formulating persuasive arguments.
You can find Into the Book: An Adventurous Journey Inside the Gospel of John at
Other books for older students reviewed on Thinking Kids:
- Backchat: Answering Christianity’s Critics by Chris Sinkinson
- God’s Story: A Student’s Guide to Church History by Brian Cosby
- Water the Earth: A Student’s Guide to Missions by Aaron Little
- Rebels Rescued: A Student’s Guide to Reformed Theology by Brian Cosby
- Bitesize Theology: An ABC of Christian Faith by Peter Jeffrey
- Grace Works! (And Ways We Think It Doesn’t) by Douglas Bond
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- Christian Books for High School
- Christian Books for Kids’ Devotions
- Christian Books about Parenting
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~ Danika Cooley
Danika Cooley is the author of When Lightning Struck! The Story of Martin Luther (Fortress Press, 2015), Wonderfully Made (CF4K, 2016), and Bible Road Trip. Her work has been featured in internationally-recognized children's magazines over 150 times.