I have heard it said that a truly great book is one that both adults and children will enjoy. Allowing for the fact that there are some topics which have a level of age-appropriateness to their impact and value, I think this statement holds a lot of truth. When a book that is beloved by children is still appreciated by adults, it is fair to say it is a truly great book.
And I don’t know about you, but I always find it delightful when a beloved childhood book proves just as satisfying and worthwhile read over again as an adult.
The Bishop’s Shadow was an enjoyable surprise in this respect.
I had loved it as a child, and believed it a worthwhile children’s book, but what I didn’t realize was how applicable, beautiful and touching its lessons and truths would appear to older eyes.
Theodore (Tode) Bryan’s instinctive and devoted love of “the Bishop” (real life Episcopalian minister, Phillips Brooks) and his desire to follow in his hero’s worthy steps, rang a chord with me that it had not really touched when I was a child. And the way in which the lonely but grateful street boy responds by spreading sunshine around him struck me as a beautiful lesson I could definitely use today.
I remembered it as a pleasing story of a Victorian waif who “rose.” What I hadn’t remembered, was that he did more than rise—he reached out and lifted others, too.
And after all, isn’t that what we’re all called to do? To live as shadows—not just of holy men and women who have gone before us—but of Him of whom all goodness is but a faint reflection, a feeble shadow, deepening and brightening as we draw nearer to His presence.
- Title: The Bishop’s Shadow
- Author: I. T. Thurston (ed. Joyce Nolt)
- Publisher: Joyce Nolt
- Genre: Victorian children’s fiction
- Number of Pages: 192
- Theme: Redemption and love
- Age Range: 12-15
- Source: Gospel Publishers
A rough, ragged street boy in a large Victorian metropolis, Tode Bryan has never really had a chance. And until he met Nan and Little Brother, he didn’t really want one, either. But slowly, the crack in his heart, opened by his affection for an innocent baby, widens to admit a deeper, more profound love and reverence. Tode’s admiration of “the Bishop” leads him on an adventure he would never have anticipated, an adventure that completely changes his life—and the lives of those around him.
The Bishop’s Shadow is a heart-warming and sometimes heart-rending tale of a lonely street waif and the man who first opens his heart to the love of Christ. A beautiful story for both adults and children, the book reminds us all that the Christ-life is more than acknowledging our sins. It takes commitment, love and patience—and a willingness to be His “shadow” in reaching out to the hurt and broken around us.
SAW Rating System
We have recently altered our reviewing system using the model of our poetry grading worksheet. For an explanation of the new system, see our introductory post.
Command of language—7/10
Impact of the book—9/10
Innocence regarding evil—7/10
Active promotion of good—9/10
Level of spiritual challenge—9/10
Healthy view of life—7/10
Items of Note
Romance and morality
The rough, hard world of a Boston slum is the backdrop of the story, and while the issues are handled fairly sensitively, there are some concepts or scenes that might be disturbing, among them the following:
Several scenes of accident or violence, involving injury and blood. These scenes are not overplayed but might be disturbing to a sensitive child.
Some of the effects of poverty are depicted in similar fashion.
A dog is mistreated on two occasions but sustains no lasting injury.
Three words that have changed meaning (gay, promiscuous and queer) are used in their older senses.
“Dear knows” and “La” are used as a replacement for a careless use of God’s name.
Several words/phrases are used that would be considered racially inappropriate today, but do not really appear to be intended derogatively in the author’s context.
Alcohol and drug use (includes tobacco)
Several instances of alcohol abuse and its negative consequences. One scene in a tavern when the hero goes to find another boy and persuade him to come home to his parents.
This book is written from an Episcopal perspective, including some references to offices and orders of service in the Episcopal church. However, it does not push any strong doctrinal bias and would be very applicable to a wide range of Christian backgrounds.
The main character—a homeless street waif—struggles to overcome the lying, stealing and swearing of his past life. These sins, while mentioned, are not glorified or described in overmuch detail, and no actual swear words are recorded.
Anger and revenge form a sub-theme at points. They are never portrayed in a positive light, and the main character eventually learns to love his enemies.
Family roles and behavior
A wayward teenage son is rebellious towards his parents and jealous of another boy. Some dysfunctional or partially dysfunctional families are portrayed, chiefly as the effects of grinding poverty and misfortune.
Mature subject matter
The version of the Bishop’s Shadow which we have reviewed was edited in the early 2000’s by Joyce Nolt. We cannot speak to the content and/or language of any other edition.
The Bishop’s Shadow—A Story of God’s Love and Redemption
Redemption is a concept that really excites me. My heart just throbs at the idea of reaching out in love and compassion and making a difference to the hurting, broken world around us.
I can’t tell you how delighted I was to discover that The Bishop’s Shadow, a favourite childhood novel of mine, was also a story of love and redemption. A story of how one man’s kind deeds and holy life can fire a wondrous series of changes and influences far beyond what he could accomplish on his own.
The way in which Theodore Bryan “shadows” the Bishop, and sheds light in a dark, loveless community are truly inspiring.
And they remind us that—after all—we can each do our little part to alleviate the suffering around us and be shadows ourselves—of the Bishop and the of the One whom the Bishop served with his whole heart and life.
Looking for other worthwhile reading material? Take a peek at another of our vintage book reviews, Clean Your Boots, Sir?
- Bessie in the City—Book Review
- Clean Your Boots, Sir—Book Review