Finding quality reading material for your voracious readers can be a challenge! There’s a lot of junk out there…
What Is The Heart Changer?
Written for kids in the 7-12 age range, this middle grade novel is a fictionalized account of a biblical story. That means it looks at a familiar story, but adds details and embellishments that are not covered in scripture.
It’s a fun way to imagine what life could have been like during this time period. And to become more familiar with the story.
But, it’s important for kids to know that this is just one person’s imaginative retelling of a story in the Bible. It is not inspired by God, like the actual account in the Bible. Instead, it is a fictional story.
This novel is 112 pages long. It’s available for purchase in both digital and physical formats. I received a physical copy. It’s a nice paperback book.
What Is the Story About?
Do you remember the story of Naaman from 2 Kings chapter five? He was the Syrian Captain of the Host. In the Bible, Naaman is described as follows in verse one (KJV):
Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honourable, because by him the Lord had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valour, but he was a leper. ~ 2 Kings 5:1
As the biblical account continues, Naaman is eventually sent to Elisha the prophet for healing by the king of Israel.
Expecting great things, Naaman hurriedly seeks out this prophet. But, things don’t go according to Naaman’s plan. Instead of being healed miraculously by Elisha, a messenger comes to the door.
This messenger tells Naaman to go dip himself in the Jordan River seven times, and then to return.
Naaman gets mad! This is not what he, the mighty captain of the host, had in mind. Indignant, he plans on ignoring this advice.
Then, one of his servants convinced him to try. So he begrudgingly does. And he is healed!
The Heart Changer
This novel is told from the point of view of a character briefly mentioned in verse two of this story:
And the Syrians had gone out by companies, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid; and she waited on Naaman’s wife.
In the book, this little maid is named Miriam. And she’s a bit angry and confused about being in Syria. She’s been taking as a captive, and forced into servitude.
Now she’s supposed to serve the wife of the commander who helped capture her and raided her home. She’s bitter and feels like God has left her. She struggles with her faith and wonders if she is being punished by God .
But, God hasn’t left Miriam. He’s just preparing her to be a part of something special. To play a part in the healing of Naaman, and helping him to see that God is real.
Miriam has a special mission.
The Opening Is Strong
The Heart Changer opens amidst the battle between Syria and Israel where Miriam is taken captive. There’s a lot of drama that sensitive or younger readers may find too much.
It was tastefully done, but still accounts for a young girl (she’s 12 in this book), being taken as a captive. War isn’t pretty.
The author uses literary devices and imagery to help draw readers into the story. As you read, you become attached to Miriam and feel her pain and struggles.
Adjusting to her new life is hard. And she has bitterness to overcome. In short, her heart needs to be changed by God so she can play a pivotal role in Naaman’s recovery.
Can you imagine helping the person who stole you from your home and maybe even destroyed your family?
Only God can change a heart that much. Loving your enemy and truly wanting to help them is tough from a human perspective. We want revenge, not healing.
But as Miriam grows closer to God, she slowly has her heart changed.
How We Used This Book
I read this book in advance of having my nine-year-old daughter read it. Since it was a debut novel by a new to us author, I wanted to check it out first.
Though I am not in the target age range, I found myself drawn into the story. I enjoy reading fictional accounts of historical events, and it was neat to look at the story of Naaman from a new perspective.
When I read the story in 2 Kings, I never really spent much thought about the girl who gets the whole journey to the Jordan started. But truly, she was a slave who was able to tell her masters about God and how He could heal the leprosy.
After finishing the book, I gave it to my daughter. There are a few intense moments, but I knew they wouldn’t be too much for this particular child.
When she is finished reading it, I plan on using The Heart Changer as a read aloud for my other middle grade children. I think they will all be encouraged by it.
The Teacher’s Guide
On the Ambassador International website where you can purchase this book, you can download a Teacher’s Guide.
To access the download, you click on the white square that reads, “The Heart Changer Teacher’s Guide.”
The PDF guide is several pages long. It has activities and information designed to help students learn more about the novel and its author. You’ll find:
- An interview with Jarm Del Boccio, the author
- Comprehension questions about the story
- Research ideas for leprosy, the setting in the story, and discovering why God allowed Israel to be taken into captivity in the first place
- Devotional recommendation to point students to the One who can change their hearts
- Two Syrian recipes to try
The Teacher’s Guide is a fun resource to help students dive deeper into this book.
What We Thought of The Heart Changer
I enjoyed reading this novel. It was well written and appropriate for most middle grade students.
My daughter hasn’t yet finished it, but here are some of her thoughts about it:
I feel sorry for Miriam. She was taken from her home and feels like God left her.
I like thinking more about a story in the Bible I didn’t know much about.
If you’re looking for a wholesome novel for your readers, definitely give The Heart Changer a try!
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