Book Review of NAZARETH NEIGHBORS by Sheila Deeth

Nazareth Neighbors by Sheila Deeth (Cape Arago Press: 2014), 181 pages.

I just finished reading an advance copy of Nazareth Neighbors by my friend and author, Sheila Deeth. I was charmed. Sheila has taken Jesus’ parables from the four gospels and retold them using the narrative of Jesus’ childhood. She imagines Jesus as a small child, a school age boy and a teenager, growing up in Nazareth in Mary and Joseph’s home. By reimagining the parable of the good shepherd, the prodigal son, the lost coin and the pearl of great worth, and many others through the lens of a child, she is able to make the underlying lessons accessible and easy to understand.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from Nazareth Neighbors.

“Do you suppose that sweet little boy, Jesus, growing up in the nice normal town of Nazareth, on its hill above the vineyards of the Jezreel Valley, knew what was going to happen at the end of his story? He obeyed his parents for all those years, growing ‘in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.’ Then he obeyed God, and gave his life for us.” (p. 3)

 

This is the frame of reference from which the narrator tells these stories about young Jesus Christ. In this next excerpt Sheila Deeth examines the parable of pouring new wine into new wineskins, but again from the vantage point of a young boy growing up in his parents’ home.

 

“Mary finally found a piece of cloth that was nearly right for Joseph’s robe. Then she asked Jesus to get a bowl of water from the river for her. He hurried away down sandy streets, feeling the wind on his legs. Then he scooped up water in his bowl and ran back with cold wet trickles dibbling onto his knees.

“Mary soaked the new piece of cloth in the water, rubbing it with stones and tugging and stretching at it, until she was ready to sew it onto Joseph’s robe.

‘Why do you do that?’ Jesus asked. ‘Why are you making the cloth all messy?’

‘I have to make it match,’ said Mary.

‘But the colors don’t match,’ said Jesus, and he was right. The robe was brown, and the cloth was grayish white.

‘I know,’ said his mother. ‘But I have to make the material match. If I sew something too new or too old into the hole it will just tear away. Then we’ll have a bigger hole to mend.’

 “When Jesus grew up, he remembered Mary’s cloth, and he remembered how to mend holes. When some important church leaders asked why he’d chosen such poor, uneducated people to be his most important disciples, Jesus explained, ‘I’m teaching something new. I’m filling in the holes in what you’ve learned. But I can’t teach people who think they’ve already learned it all. That would be like sewing new cloth onto an old garment. It would tear away and everything everyone knew would fall out through the hole.’” (p. 8)

 

This sweet vignette helped me better understand the new wineskin parable. Since I’ve never seen a wineskin I always had trouble visualizing what the difference was between old and new wineskins. Sheila points out that the parable isn’t really about the wineskins, it is about the old and new covenants. This final excerpt illuminates the parable of sowing seeds. Some seeds fall in rocky soil, some fall on the path, some fall amongst the weeds, and some seeds fall in rich soil.

 

One rainy morning, Mary gave Jesus an extra thick slice of bread for his breakfast and some goat’s milk to drink. Then Joseph took Jesus by the hand and said, ‘You’re a big boy today, young man. Today’s the day you start helping me in the fields.’

‘I want to help in the workshop,’ Jesus replied, but Joseph said he’d have to be even bigger to do that.

“Jesus and Joseph set off with their donkey through the streets of Nazareth. Jesus’ friends were kicking a rather soggy ball around. But Jesus splashed proudly in puddles, thinking how nice it was to be doing something new. Soon he’d even be old enough to go to the synagogue school. And after that he’d grow up to be a carpenter, just like his cousins.

The red roof of the synagogue shone in the falling rain. Jesus dawdled, staring at the older children who’d gathered on its walls. He even began to climb the hill toward them, but Joseph pulled him back. ‘Not yet, young man. You don’t start school today.’

‘But I want to study the scriptures,’ Jesus said. ‘I want to learn about God.’

‘Today you’re going to study God’s creation,’ Joseph replied, ‘and learn about seeds.’ So Jesus shook the rain out of his eyes and followed Joseph and the donkey to the field. A heavy sack rattled on the donkey’s back, and Jesus asked what was inside. ‘My tools,’ Joseph replied.

‘Oh good,’ said Jesus. ‘Can we do some woodworking in the fields? Are we going to make a gate?’

‘No,’ said Joseph. ‘These are my tools for plowing. I’ve got my blade and handle and grain, and the donkey’s harness too.’

“When they reached the field, Joseph rested the wooden yoke on the donkey’s neck and attached the plow. The dusty ground had turned into thick soggy mud. But the mud crumbled like cake as Joseph guided the donkey and plow over it.

“Jesus rolled the earth between his fingers. ‘It feels like bread dough,’ he said, but Joseph said, ‘Don’t eat it.’

“Jesus pointed to some stones tossed up by the plow. ‘They look like raisins, Dad!’ But Joseph said don’t eat them either. Instead he asked Jesus to pick up the stones and move them out the way. Soon the field was full of churned up earth, black and shining in the rain, with rows of stones like fences at the edge. ‘What do we do now?’ Jesus asked.

‘We plant the seed,’ said Joseph. He pulled a bag out from the bottom of his sack and hung it around Jesus’ neck. The cloth was scratchy and heavy, and seeds flowed like a river in its folds.

“Joseph tucked a bigger sack under his arm. Then he showed Jesus how to scoop the seeds and scatter them on the ground, like waterfalls of grain. ‘Don’t let too much seed land on the road though,’ said Joseph, pointing to flocks of birds which swooped down hungrily to eat whatever they could. ‘And not on the rocks; there’s not enough soil there for them to grow in.’

“Jesus scattered his seeds very slowly and carefully, shouting at the birds when they got too close. ‘It’s not your seed, birds. This is to make people’s food.’ Then he tripped over some thorns, and Joseph pulled him out.

‘Don’t let too much seed land in the thorns either,’ said Joseph.

‘Don’t let me land in the thorns!’ Jesus replied, rubbing mud over his scratches and cuts, while Joseph smiled at him.

“When all the seed had been scattered, Joseph pulled one of Mary’s old long brushes out of the sack on the donkey’s back.

‘What do we do with that?’ Jesus asked.

‘We spread the earth on top of the seeds so birds can’t eat them all.’ Then Jesus swept the brush gently back and forth until all the seeds were hidden. The brush was ruined afterward, of course, but Joseph said he’d make a new one soon.

“In spring, Jesus started going to school, but he checked on Joseph’s field every day before walking up the hill. Tiny seedlings appeared from the seeds in the ground. Some plants grew tall really fast, but then they withered in the sun. Others poked their heads above thorns, then shrank away and died. But the seeds sown on well-tilled soil grew thick and strong until harvest. Joseph’s two bags of grain turned into more than a hundred bags. Then Jesus smiled, pleased at what his work, and God’s sunshine had done.

“One day, Jesus told his friends to make their lives like a farmer’s well-tilled field, so the seed of God’s word wouldn’t land on dry stones or be choked by weeds, but would grow a hundred-fold in their lives too.” (pp. 52-54)

Nazareth Neighbors is 57 chapters long. Each chapter is two to four pages long and covers one parable. Each chapter ends with a simple prayer. Reading one chapter to a child at bedtime could be a lovely bedtime story. Nazareth Neighbors is now available in an e-version at amazon.com. A hard copy version will be available from Cape Arago Press in April, 2014.

 

Other books by Sheila Deeth include:

The book review of Nazareth Neighbors originally appeared on jaynechaseloseke.com on April 2, 2014.

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Book Review of CHRISTMAS! By Sheila Deeth

Christmas! by Sheila Deeth is a 31 page book, written for families. Christmas!_Genesis_t_Cover_for_Kindle

Have you ever owned an Advent calendar and not been quite sure how to best enjoy it?  Ms. Deeth’s book may be the answer you are looking for.  Each page has about 100 words, which walk the reader through the books of the bible chronologically.  Page 1 tells the story of creation from Genesis.  The story of baby Jesus birth is on page 25.  A family could read one page from Christmas! each night before opening a door on their Advent calendar.  Deeth’s writing style is family-friendly.  She uses humor and dialog to illumine aspects of biblical stories which interest children.

Christmas! is available on-line at http://sheiladeeth.weebly.com/, as well as at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Kobo and Goodreads.

http://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Genesis-Revelation-100-words/dp/1478149132/  Amazon
http://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Genesis-Revelation-words-Bible-ebook/dp/B00AKSL35S/ Amazon kindle
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/christmas-genesis-to-revelation-in-100-words-a-day-sheila-deeth/1112663681?ean=9781478149132 Barnes and Noble
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/christmas-genesis-to-revelation-in-100-words-a-day-sheila-deeth/1112219753?ean=2940044703674 Barnes and Noble nook
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/179427 smashwords ebook
http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/christmas-genesis-to-revelation-in-100-words-a-day kobo
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6277300-christmas-genesis-to-revelation-in-100-words-a-day Goodreads

The book review of Christmas! by Sheila Deeth originally appeared on jaynechaseloseke.com on November 20, 2013.

Ten Things you may not know about Sheila Deeth.

Today I am hosting my author friend, Sheila Deeth.

Sheila Deeth is an author who writes children’s Christian books and adult contemporary novels.  She has enjoyed writing since childhood, and decided to write professionally about ten years ago.  Sheila has a clever way of combining math concepts in her books, such as Divide by Zero.  She also has written a number of Christian children’s books which are largely available through Cape Arago press.  Sheila has been a wonderful inspiration to me in my writing journey.  I appreciate her friendly encouragement and her charming British accent.  I encourage you to discover the charm of Sheila’s children and Young Adult books.  What follows is a short primer to answer the question:  “Who is Sheila Deeth?”  Enjoy.

 Ten Things you may not know about Sheila Deeth.

Ten is such a good number isn’t it? Ten fingers; Ten Commandments; two digits; ten favorite children’s books; ten best… whatever?  I had to write a blogpost recently listing “seven things you may not know about me.” But I’ve looked around the internet, and “ten things” seems much more common. So here’s my attempt to tell a fellow author ten things about me.

  1. I lived in the States for ten years (see, I said it’s a good number!) before I was allowed to become a citizen.
  2. The judge who welcomed me made a wonderful speech. I can’t remember if it had ten points, but I do recall him reminding us our diversity is something to be proud of, a vital part of what makes America strong, so I’m proud to say I’m an English American.
  3. I grew up Catholic but my Mum is Methodist. My husband grew up in the Church of England. My uncle served a term as President of Gideons in England. My brother’s a priest, and I’m an ordained, but inactive, elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA), so I’m proud to say I’m a Catholic Protestant, or better still, a mongrel Christian. (I do love those sweetly unique, intriguingly different, and ridiculously healthy mongrel puppies! And I wonder what life would be like with ten dogs!)
  4. I earned my BA in mathematics as from Cambridge University in England. Then I specialized in mathematical astronomy during my post-grad year, so I’m proud to say I’m a mathematician and a scientist.
  5. I have loved reading and writing ever since the day I learned to hold a book and a pencil. Sadly it took a while for me to reach that stage as I was an eager teller of stories but a slow learner.
  6. I learned to call myself a writer when I met the author Jane Kirkpatrick—technically I won her in a raffle, or won an hour (plus significantly more than ten minutes) of her time. She assured me that if I loved writing and actually wrote words, then I fulfilled the definition.
  7. I learned to call myself an author when I received my first royalty check and had to declare it on my taxes.
  8. I have three sons, all of whom did way too much math in high school, and all of whom were excited when their ages moved into double figures. The one who’s nearer thirty now seems less pleased by his advancing years, and I feel old.
  9. My youngest son writes wonderful stories and plays, which I hope you might get to read sometime.
  10. And ten years ago (what a wonderful number) I started seriously trying to get my work published. Since then I’ve found or been found by four different publishers—and I’ve got to admit, four’s a pretty good number too!

So, that’s me. And this is my latest book, sixth in a series, written for parents, grandparents and kids, mathematicians, scientists, readers of the Bible, lovers of historical fiction, and any other devotees of short tales.

Bethlehem’s Baby:

Meet the Emperor Augustus’s advisors, the quiet research student helping wise men study stars, the shepherd whose granddad keeps complaining, an Egyptian fisherboy, a Roman soldier, and more in this set of forty 5-minute read-aloud stories based around the events of the Christ Child’s birth in Bethlehem.

Purchase links:

Amazon kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00EY172MA/

Barnes and Noble nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/bethlehems-baby-sheila-deeth/1116985949

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/bethlehem-s-baby

Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/357261

Find out more about the Five-Minute Bible StoryTM Series on the publisher’s website: http://capearagopress.com/Five-Minute.html

Connect with Sheila at:

Sheila Deeth: http://about.me/SheilaDeeth

Blog: http://sheiladeeth.blogspot.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/sheila.deeth

Fan page: http://www.facebook.com/SheilaDeethAuthor

Twitter: http://twitter.com/sheiladeeth

Goodreads: http://http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2853735.Sheila_Deeth

The author interview of Sheila Deeth first appeared on jaynechaseloseke.com on November 11, 2013.