I love celebrating Advent. Our family celebrates slightly differently every year, the main “tradition” being our Advent wreath. But, with people often asking me about Advent and how it should be celebrated, I do enjoy having resources to point them toward, especially resources that both explain Advent and provide guidance for the celebration.
Ishtar’s Odyssey is one such resource. In content, this book is primarily a story. It’s an enjoyable story, full of adventure and excitement. And, of course, it ends at the manger.
So, before I share my favorite aspects of Ishtar’s Odyssey, I will touch on the story itself. How does it align with the biblical narrative? How much liberty is taken? How well does it handle application?
- If parents read the introductory material in Ishtar’s Odyssey (highly advised!), Ytreeide makes it a point to point out that this is a work of fiction. And, as such, it works well to paint a historical scene. I love that! Historical fiction brings familiar information to life, drawing the truth of history closer to our hearts, allowing us to live out those truths.
- So, how does it align with biblical narrative? Well, I could not find a way it contradicted Scripture. Some might disagree with Ytreeide’s interpretation of the biblical narrative, but, in all honesty, there are a lot of gaps in Scripture. We don’t know the timing or the exact nature of every detail. Ytreeide’s literary license honors the integrity of Jesus’ birth – delving the spiritual truths while honoring what’s actually in the text.
Having that groundwork laid, let me point out what I really like about Ishtar’s Odyssey.
- The supplemental information is exceedingly helpful. Ytreeide offers a history/explanation of Advent, a discussion on the benefits of using fiction to bring Scripture to life, menu suggestions for identifying even more closely with Ishtar’s culture and experiences, and a calendar to help plan an Advent observance.
- The story is divided beautifully! Because the exact length of Advent adjusts each year, it is hard to provide a daily reading to cover all of Advent. Ytreeide provides distinct, manageable readings for the definite Advent days, then offers a calendar to help parents know how to combine the final parts of the story to fit that year’s exact schedule.
- Each day’s reading finishes with an application thought to encourage family discussion.
If I were to choose a negative, I would probably come back to the application/discussion starter that ends each chapter. Sometimes, we go too far when we take a story and lay out an application rather than letting the readers/hearers digest and apply for themselves. Sometimes, instead of making the application, simply asking questions is a better route.
In the final reading sections of Ishtar’s Odyssey, that’s exactly what Ytreeide does. He uses simple, one-line questions to spur thought and discussion. In the earlier reading allotments, however, he goes ahead and provides an application.
While this application is not a true negative, I can see how using a simple, one-line question throughout the book could be useful. Perhaps provide the application as well as an option to guide parents. But, for those who would prefer to nudge their children to draw conclusions, the question might be a more useful tool.
But, does that truly detract from Ishtar’s Odyssey? No. Because, in all honesty, parents can use the application portion however they please. In fact, my primary reason for bringing it up is to simply encourage parents to consider asking questions instead of feeding their children the application. But, it’s helpful for us to have a starting point, isn’t it? And the included information provides just that.
So, bottom line, I would definitely recommend Ishtar’s Odyssey as a family Advent resource.