Emily, Age 14, read the book for this review, and I'd like to share her synopsis:
Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers is the story of two American children, a brother and a sister, Drew and Annie, who are staying in a small town in the British countryside for the summer while their mother is there on business. One day while exploring they find the town’s old church and an old gentleman inside playing the pipe organ. The old gentleman, because of this, is called Mr. Pipes. Over the chapters, and days, that follow, the children learn from Mr. Pipes about British hymn writers and their lives. They learn about a different hymn writer in each chapter, but refer back to the previous hymn writers a lot. They talk about how their hymns affected the next hymn writer. They talk about how words like wretch and worm come up a lot in the hymns because the writers understood how sinful they had been. The children have many adventures with Mr. Pipes while they are learning about the different hymn writers. The adventures vary from learning to row and sail Mr. Pipes’ little fishing boat, named Toplady, to going to London by train for a day, to having tea. They have a wonderful time and learn about how God changes the lives of all sorts of people. Each chapter includes the lyrics and sheet music to at least one of each hymn writer’s well known songs.
Emily and I talked about the book, and it reminded me about a book I have about Hymn stories (written for adults.) One major difference is that "Mr Pipes" introduces the writer and their story first, then highlights one or two of their more well known hymns, whereas many hymn history books focus almost soley on the hymn & the brief time of the writer's life when it was written.
When we talked about who to recommend this book to, Emily had some great insights. While it would work wonderfully for a family read-aloud, she pointed out that the younger listeners would enjoy the story, but probably miss some of the significance of the writer's personal relationship with God, and their inspiration. As a self-read, Emily would suggest a minimum of 3rd grade, but Jr. High and older would be better because of the understanding of struggles the writer's were facing, both from within and without. She also pointed out that it takes a while to get into the story, so not to just read the first chapter and quit because you might not be a fan of Drew and Annie at first. Christian Liberty Press recommends it for grades 7-10.
At 242 pages, the PDF version has a lot in it. Read about British (& Scottish) hymn writers, learn some history, print out the sheet music and give it a try. Perhaps you and your children will be inspired to write some hymns of your own, or at least spend some time worshipping God through music.