Title: A Piece of the Mountain
Author: Joyce McPherson
Major Themes: Blaise Pascal, France, Theology, Family Read-Alouds, Nonfiction Science, 17th Century History, Europe, Mathematics
Synopsis: Blaise Pascal, a French scientist and theologian from the 1600s, made one of the most famous wagers of all time.
Many years ago when I ran a small Christian bookstore, I happened upon Joyce McPherson’s biographies of Godly men from the Reformation days. At that time, there were few Christian biographies available for children, so I was quite pleased to have these in stock. I never bought my own copy, though, so never read any of them to my own children until I found a used copy of A Piece of the Mountain recently. It was quite interesting to read it again after 25 years, and see how it compares with more modern books. I still found it very interesting, but some of my children struggled with it somewhat. The one who has a scientific bent enjoyed it, but some of the others thought it was boring.
A Piece of the Mountain tells the story of Blaise Pascal, who lived in France during the 1600s. As a boy, he was a brilliant thinker. His father didn’t want him to study mathematics, however, because he was afraid the boy would neglect his other studies! As he grew older, Blaise studied geometry as well as mathematics. He made some important discoveries about vacuums, and at the same time studied his Bible voraciously after seeing the lives of two monks who cared for his father after an accident.
Though the Catholic church remained strong in France throughout the Reformation, a group of monks and nuns at Port-Royal promoted doctrines such as salvation by grace, and the sovereignty of God. Blaise was quite influenced by them, and, though he never joined the monastery, though his sister joined the convent, he was a defender of the beliefs preached at Port-Royal for the rest of his life. Pascal’s wager with a nobleman, about how a person should live his life, is a thought that will remain with you for a long time.
A Piece of the Mountain is rather a “meaty” book. There is a lot of theology explained in it as part of the story of Pascal’s life. Though he suffered ill physical health most of his life, his spiritual health was excellent. Any young person who is interested in theology will greatly appreciate this book. Those who like science will find the chapters about Pascal’s investigations very interesting, as well!
Listening Level—Ages 8 – 12, 10 – 12, Family Friendly
Reading Independently—Ages 12 – 15, 15 and Above