The Serpent Slayer and the Scroll of Riddles adapts adult theology to a middle-grade audience, wrapped in an adventure story.
The Serpent Slayer and the Scroll of Riddles by Champ Thornton and Andrew Naselli. New Growth Press, 2022, 136 pages.
Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 8-10
Recommended for: ages 8-12
While running from the town bully, Emmet and his twin sister Nomi discover a shed door behind a tangle of vines. Doors invite opening, so Noma finagles the lock and the two find themselves in a cluttered room where one particular object one object catches Nomi’s interest. It’s a wooden box with drawers, like for holding art supplies. Drawers are for opening. Inside the third drawer they find a small parcel with their names on it. That’s strange, but even stranger is the object with in: a twelve-sided sphere with a small window on each side.
They’ve seen something like it in a little shop called Scrolls & Lit, so to the shop they go. There they meet the proprietor, an old gentleman who invites them to call him Mr. Mag. He tells them that the device they’ve discovered is called a Tólfandlit (meaning “12 sides”). By itself it’s merely an interesting novelty, but in connection with a Tólfandlit scroll it has certain powers . . . as the twins soon find out. For no sooner does Mr. Mag connect the device with a scroll in his shop than the kids tumble through another dimension to land in a book—tome travel, as it were. Emmet and Nomi are not unfamiliar with this book; they’ve heard it read and taught in church. But they never grasped its significance for themselves.
The Serpent thread
Through an unfolding series of rhyming riddles, they walk through the story of the Bible by experiencing some of its “dragons”: the original tempter, Pharaoh, Goliath, and Herod. They learn how the serpent has always worked his wiles against God’s people until God’s champion appeared: the serpent slayer. Understanding the story as never before, the twins come to see how it applies to their own lives.
Scroll of Riddles is an adaptation of Andrew Naselli’s theological primer for adults, The Serpent and the Serpent Slayer. Though more a teaching device than a novel, it’s written in a lively style that will keep the interest of readers 9-13, and a Reader’s Guide at the end will drive the story home.
Overall Rating: 4.25 (out of 5)
Worldview/moral value: 5Artistic/literary value: 3.5
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Also at Redeemed Reader
Review: Champ Thornton’s Radical Book for Kids earned a star from us for its delightful, biblical randomness. See also his advent devotional, Wonders of His Love.Review: The Ology by Marty Machowski is another accessible doctrinal guide for kids, and his Dragon Seed sets the Bible story within a fictional context.
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