Title: Something to Sing About
Author: C. C. Payne
Publisher: Eerdmans Publishing C.
Audience: 8 and up
Summary: Jamie Jo Morgan has a problem: she is afraid of bees, She once saw a movie in which a young character died from bee stings so she’ll only go outside if her mother is with her carrying a fly swatter. Mrs. Morgan has a problem because she loves the church choir so much that she’s always early for rehearsal yet she is a terrible singer and someone has suggested that auditions be required. The family life is complicated by the return of the older, twice-married son, Pate. Jamie Jo begins to deal with her fears when a new neighbor, Rafi (with her puppies), moves in across the street. To get a puppy and gain a friend Jamie Jo will have to go outside. Mrs. Morgan accepts her exclusion from the choir that she loves with grace. Then one Wednesday evening, choir practice night, a gas leak causes an explosion and fire in the church. . Miraculously, no one is hurt because everyone was late to choir practice. Mrs. Morgan, the only member who was always early, was spared because she no longer sang in the choir. Now Mrs. Morgan makes strawberry pies to take to members who insisted on auditions in order to exclude her. The pies open doors that had been closed and before the summer is over, the church as well as the building, is restored. As Pastor Cooper says, “There’s a purpose in all things.”
Literary elements at work in the story: This story is based on an actual event: a church explosion that killed no one because the choir members were all late. Payne weaves a narrative of life in a small town (Franklin, Kentucky) around this incident. The collection of individuals are stubborn, critical, fearful, angry, gracious, and good. The narrator is a 10 year old girl who makes amusing observations about grown-ups, God, and the church. When an upper elementary girl says, “Give me a good book to read,” put this one in her hand.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? The date of this story is uncertain but it’s a time when men are still in charge and one car per family is the norm. The culture is one of a small, rural, southern community. Race, economics, and ability play no part in this particular situation.
Theological Conversation Partners: “Everything has a purpose.” says Pastor Cooper, a sentence repeated several times in the book. While there are a number of ideas that merit attention-Mrs. Morgan’s attempts to follow Jesus, her love of the church, parental expectations, Mr. Morgan’s attitude toward the church, prayers-the central idea seems to be the purpose in events. Does everything that happens fulfill God’s will? Has everything been determined by God? “Everything has a purpose” is not quite Paul’s idea in Romans 8:28. “God works in all things for good…”TEV, RSV. ( It should be noted that the NRSV does not translate the verse that way.) Psalm 138:8 says “The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me”. Does purpose mean God’s will? This is a good opportunity to think about how God works in our lives and how God accomplishes His will. Ephesians 1:8b-10 speaks of God’s will and purpose. It’s a bit different from Pastor Coopers but worth trying to understand.
Faith Talk Questions:
- Mrs. Morgan is hurt by her exclusion from the choir but she continues to participate in the church. How does she explain this to Jamie Jo?
- Mr. Morgan’s attitude about church is different. Why?
- Jamie Jo and Rafi confess to each other their fears: bees and burglars. Does everyone have a fear that’s not quite reasonable? Does it help to share it?
- Jamie Jo asks, “Does God love everyone the same?” How would you answer that?
- Jamie Jo connects events in her mind-suppose her father hadn’t married her mother, suppose she and Pate had not been born, suppose her mother had still been in the choir. Does God plan each event? How does God work in our lives?
- Jamie Jo is mad because she has to admit that she was wrong about saying she was allergic to bees. Her mother says many things are worse than being wrong. Sometimes being right isn’t that important. Do you agree?
- Mrs. Peck has driven friends and family and Mrs. Morgan from the choir because she is a perfectionist. Is wanting things to be perfect wrong? What’s the problem?
- Psalm 138:8 says “The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me?” Does God have a purpose for you? If so, what do you think it is? How do you find out?
This review was written by regular contributor Virginia Thomas