Portraits of Faith: *Pilipinto and God’s Servant Ruth

A missionary daughter in the 20th century and a pagan-born woman of ancient Israel offer two inspiring examples of faithfulness in difficult circumstances.

*Pilipinto: The Jungle Adventures of a Missionary’s Daughter by Valerie Elliot Shepherd, illustrated by Jim Howard. P&R Publishing, 2023, 63 pages.

Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 8-10

Recommended for: ages 6-10 as a read-aloud, or independent readers ages 8-12

Valerie Elliot was ten months old when her father, Jim Elliott, was murdered by men of the Waorani tribe in the Ecuadorian rain forest. Two years later, two Wao women left their violent tribe and eventually connected with Valerie’s mother Elisabeth. As she got to know them and their language, they begged her to return with them to their people and teach them  God’s way to live. During a night of intense prayer, Elisabeth turned to Nehemiah 9 and heard the Lord’s direction to go and live among those who killed her husband. The next day, she packed up a few possessions, took Valerie by the hand, and walked into the jungle.

Elisabeth Elliott has told her own story in Through Gates of Splendor and other books. This is Valerie’s story, told from the viewpoint of a lively little girl whose friends call her “Pilipinto” (butterfly). She sees her world through bright, eager eyes:

The air is filled with damp, earthy smells and the sweet pungent odor of tropical flowers and fruits. Pilipinto loves these smells. She especially loves hearing the gentle pat, pat, pat of raindrops dripping from the leaves. She observes tiny brilliant-colored birds sipping the droplets. She sees bright green tree frogs sitting peacefully on leaves.

This child-focused memoir was earlier published by Vision Forum as Pilipinto’s Happiness, now out of print. Pilipinto is an updated edition with additional material. Not having read the original book, I can’t tell exactly what has been added, but the story is as fresh and engaging as ever. Young children will be fascinated with the details of life in the jungle—two-foot earthworms, pet monkeys, and dangerous snakes—and will probably agree with Pilipinto that grubs are not for eating. Photos and original watercolor illustrations enhance the text. Excerpts from her mother’s journal add an adult’s perspective from time to time, but the storyline is always from a child’s eye view, including the gospel explanation and the concluding assurance of belief in Jesus: “He will take care of you just as perfectly as he took care of Pilipinto. He will be with you and love you more than you know.”

Overall Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

  • Worldview/moral value: 5
  • Artistic/literary value: 4

God’s Servant Ruth by Douglas Bond, illustrated by McKenna Shaffer. P&R Publishers, 2023, 34 pages.

Reading Level: Picture Book, ages 4-8

Recommended for: ages 4-8 as a read-aloud, or independent readers ages 6-10

The book of Ruth is a gem of a story and an oasis of simple faith and obedience during the turbulent age of Israel’s judges. Douglas Bond, novelist and hymn-writer (as well as a friend of Redeemed Reader) has applied meter and rhyme to create an appealing read-aloud. “Let’s meet this clan from Israel,/ Where God’s own children dwell: . . .” Elimelech, Mahlon, and Chilion are dispatched early, as in the biblical account, and Naomi’s despair is clear to even the youngest listener. Ruth’s refusal to leave her is touchingly rendered. God’s faithfulness in tragedy and his long-term sovereign plan is a consistent theme, enhanced by the often-overlooked fact that Boaz’s mother was Rahab the harlot of Jericho. The author concludes with an original hymn, “We Worship Christ, the Cornerstone,” which readers can hear on his website.

The lilting rhymes and colorful illustrations make this an appealing read-aloud, though a few of the lines scan a bit awkwardly and some of the rhymes fall flat. (Truth is rhymed with Ruth a few times too many.) But as a faithful re-telling, God’s Servant Ruth would be hard to top, and the story is shines as the unfolding of God’s ultimate plan of redemption. A glossary of unfamiliar words and a list of review questions follows the main narrative.

Overall Rating: 4

  • Worldview/moral value: 5
  • Artistic/literary value: 3.5     

Read more about our ratings here.

Both of these books were received gratis from the publisher in exchange for a fair review.

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Janie Cheaney

Janie is the VERY senior staff writer for Redeemed Reader, as well as a long-time contributor to WORLD Magazine and an author of nine books for children. The rest of the time she's long-distance smooching on her four grandchildren (not an easy task). She lives with her equally senior husband of almost-fifty years in the Ozarks of Missouri.

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