“‘What is that?’ Simon half-whispered his thoughts aloud. Ignoring the icy fingers of wind that slipped down his coat neck, he trained his eyes on the strange object at the water’s edge. There was something mysterious about the smooth object embedded in the beach’s shoreline. It glowed.”
Thus begins Taryn Hayes’s new youth novel, Seekers of the Lost Boy, a story set in the Western Cape of South Africa.
The tale focuses on a homeschooling family, the Wards, who embark on a journey to track down the author of the message in a bottle. What they learn in the process about their country and themselves is more than they ever set out to accomplish.
Several components make this book unique. Firstly, the fact that the main characters are homeschooled gives a refreshing glimpse into the perks and potential drawbacks of this particular educational choice. Since our family happens to homeschool, my kids loved being able to relate to main characters in a way that they have never been able to relate before. Weeks after we finished the book, I caught my son borrowing a phrase used in the book by the Ward family, as he announced, “I finished my seat work.” Seekers of the Lost Boy, among other things, gives flesh to the stereotypical skeleton of homeschooling that many people never get to see or understand.
Another unique aspect I appreciated about this book was how historically informative it was for our family. Though I am an American, my husband and children were all born in South Africa. Seekers of the Lost Boy was a wonderful launch pad for me to delve into more details about South African history with my children.
As the story weaves through flashbacks of apartheid and the forced removals in District Six, it provided a great platform for family discussion, and even prompted me to check out children’s books from the library on the life of Nelson Mandela. I also found myself clicking around on Google to show my kids pictures of the former and present District Six.
My greatest motivation for passing this book on to others is the clear gospel message that it contains. I really appreciated the way Hayes intentionally and lucidly wove the truths of the gospel into the fabric of her novel.
In terms of constructive criticism, one component that could be enhanced, in my opinion, is the spiritual development of the characters. Without giving away too much of the storyline, there are conversions that take place amongst some of the characters. I would have loved to see more about how the gift of salvation specifically affected those characters who were converted, and how their lives were changed in practical, day-to-day aspects — but rumor has it that this may be the first in a series of adventures for the Ward family. If so, I look forward to seeing how their newfound faith plays a role in their family as they grow in grace and sanctification.
Overall, I am grateful to Taryn Hayes for making this book a reality, as it not only provided much enjoyment for me and my kids as we read it together, but also resulted in fruitful discussion for us as well.
This wholesome, educational tale is one I have already purchased three times to give to American friends and family members as a gift. If you’re looking for a good story and a fun and easy way to learn more about another culture, pick up a copy of this book.