Mary Mae and the Gospel Truth

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Overview

Ten-year-old Mary Mae loves to sing hymns with her Granny, go to Sunday School, and learn about trilobites. She has lots of questions about how the earth looked millions of years ago. Trouble is, Mary Mae’s mother thinks it’s wrong to believe the world is that old. Mama believes God created it six thousand years ago and she believes that nobody should teach Mary Mae otherwise. When Mary Mae starts taking her questions to church, asking how God created the earth in six days or how eight people could take care of ...

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Mary Mae and the Gospel Truth

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Overview

Ten-year-old Mary Mae loves to sing hymns with her Granny, go to Sunday School, and learn about trilobites. She has lots of questions about how the earth looked millions of years ago. Trouble is, Mary Mae’s mother thinks it’s wrong to believe the world is that old. Mama believes God created it six thousand years ago and she believes that nobody should teach Mary Mae otherwise. When Mary Mae starts taking her questions to church, asking how God created the earth in six days or how eight people could take care of animals on an ark, Mama puts her foot down: homeschooling. Mary Mae must decide where her loyalties lie: with science and Miss Sizemore, with God and Mama, or somewhere in the middle.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Mary Mae’s inquiring mind and keen observational skills get affirmation from her fifth-grade teacher but distress her creationist mother. Refusing to take her pastor’s advice to “trust the Bible scholars,” Mary Mae ends up with more and more questions as she tries to reconcile the Bible’s account of creation with what she’s learning in class about fossils and the age of the earth. Eventually, Mary Mae’s questioning leads her frustrated mother to yank her out of school to provide Bible-based homeschooling. “Why can’t you be my sweet little Mary Mae?” she asks. “It’s all so easy if you just believe what the Bible says and don’t go asking no questions.” Dutton (Dear Miss Perfect) sensitively navigates the sticky debate between creationism and evolution both through the young narrator’s delightful curiosity and honest questions, and through the various responses she receives from numerous caring adults, who all strive to provide truthful guidance. Concluding with a pastor’s affirmation that faithful people can have different opinions, it’s an honest portrayal that respects both viewpoints, as well as those that slot somewhere in between. Ages 8-12. (June)
Publishers Weekly
Mary Mae’s inquiring mind and keen observational skills get affirmation from her fifth-grade teacher but distress her creationist mother. Refusing to take her pastor’s advice to “trust the Bible scholars,” Mary Mae ends up with more and more questions as she tries to reconcile the Bible’s account of creation with what she’s learning in class about fossils and the age of the earth. Eventually, Mary Mae’s questioning leads her frustrated mother to yank her out of school to provide Bible-based homeschooling. “Why can’t you be my sweet little Mary Mae?” she asks. “It’s all so easy if you just believe what the Bible says and don’t go asking no questions.” Dutton (Dear Miss Perfect) sensitively navigates the sticky debate between creationism and evolution both through the young narrator’s delightful curiosity and honest questions, and through the various responses she receives from numerous caring adults, who all strive to provide truthful guidance. Concluding with a pastor’s affirmation that faithful people can have different opinions, it’s an honest portrayal that respects both viewpoints, as well as those that slot somewhere in between. Ages 8–12. (June)
From the Publisher
"Mary Mae’s inquiring mind and keen observational skills get affirmation from her fifth-grade teacher but distress her creationist mother. Refusing to take her pastor’s advice to "trust the Bible scholars," Mary Mae ends up with more and more questions as she tries to reconcile the Bible’s account of creation with what she’s learning in class about fossils and the age of the earth. Eventually, Mary Mae’s questioning leads her frustrated mother to yank her out of school to provide Bible-based homeschooling. "Why can’t you be my sweet little Mary Mae?" she asks. "It’s all so easy if you just believe what the Bible says and don’t go asking no questions." Dutton (Dear Miss Perfect) sensitively navigates the sticky debate between creationism and evolution both through the young narrator’s delightful curiosity and honest questions, and through the various responses she receives from numerous caring adults, who all strive to provide truthful guidance. Concluding with a pastor’s affirmation that faithful people can have different opinions, it’s an honest portrayal that respects both viewpoints, as well as those that slot somewhere in between."—Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Very few books for this age group tackle religious subjects as this one does, in a way that shows respect for all sides. Dutton allows Mary Mae to retain both her questions and her faith; instead of a definitive answer, she shows evolutionists and creationists working to find a small, shared piece of middle ground. Mary Mae is a memorable character—spunky but not defiant—whose search for truth drives the narrative."—Kirkus Reviews

"This is a great story with valuable lessons. Told in an Appalachian dialect, it not only depicts real feelings about religion, but also shows the people behind them as good. It is both a lovely coming-of-age story and a lesson in respect between religion and science."—School Library Journal

Children's Literature - Susan Treadway M.Ed.
Mary Mae is a very inquisitive ten-year-old girl living near fossil-rich Cincinnati. This story begins at her family's home church with rousing music, praises to God, and a new outreach "a-saving souls for the Lord." Much energy combines with increasing fervor as Mary Mae searches for earthly and spiritual knowledge, but mostly to learn about fossils in connection with earth's ancient history. Mama, however, will not hear of it. God created all things in six days—period. The Bible clearly says so. In public school Miss Sizemore says the earth is more like millions and billions of years old, so Mary Mae wants to find out more. She is quite excited to dig for fossils with classmates. She starts a small collection hidden in an old cigar box kept in her bedroom. And she asks questions of anyone who will listen. Granny is available for Mary Mae's ponderings and then even helps put those thoughts to music. They enjoy singing together most every day about different topics since they create the lyrics themselves. Granny is the one who does not put Mary Mae off to the side or discard assorted notions. Thus, when her friends practice for a puppet show about the Book of Genesis to be presented at the church potluck, assorted situations come together. Questions burst forth, Mary Mae collects more fossils, Miss Sizemore talks about pre-dinosaurs in southern Ohio, and discovery takes on a deeper meaning for both adults and children. At one point, Mama puts her foot down. Mary Mae will be schooled at home—period. Not what anyone planned, but it will be done. While Mama tries formulating curriculum as required by the state and the puppet show takes shape, Mary Mae, as Mrs. Noah, continues asking questions and Granny provides stability. However, a visiting pastor and his wife spark new insights about fossils and truth and God's creation in their own back yard. In the end Mama and Daddy, Mary Mae, Granny, Sister Coates, Brother Lucas, and their friends realize something quite profound. Pastor Tilbury says that "everyone's got a right to their opinion" and "I say dig all the fossils you want. They's proof of God's early Creation." Happily, Mary Mae returns to Miss Sizemore's classroom, Sister Coates preaches on the Beatitudes, Mama is pleased, and a growing fossil collection has a prized place on a special shelf made by Daddy. There are splendid cross-curricular opportunities beyond history and religion, including Appalachian dialect, relationships, generational dynamics, and lively dialogue that should not be missed. Reviewer: Susan Treadway, M.Ed.
School Library Journal
Gr 5–7—Mary Mae has always accepted the conservative, religious teachings of her family, including a very literal interpretation of the Bible. However, the arrival of her granny and a new teacher cause the 10-year-old to question everything she has ever known. When Miss Sizemore starts to teach the class about fossils, Mary Mae begins asking questions of the adults in her life, and her mother decides it would be better for Mary Mae to be homeschooled. At no point in the story does the child ever question the existence of God; she only sees God doing things in a different way. While her mother chooses to see science as an enemy to her beliefs, Mary Mae sees it as an extension of God's work. Miss Sizemore opens her up to a new world, where inquisitiveness is not only valued, but is key. Here the relationship with Granny is also crucial to the story; she is always there to listen to Mary Mae and does not discourage her. This simple act of support gives the child the confidence she needs to not give up her quest for knowledge. This is a great story with valuable lessons. Told in an Appalachian dialect, it not only depicts real feelings about religion, but also shows the people behind them as good. It is both a lovely coming-of-age story and a lesson in respect between religion and science.—Kerry Roeder, The Brearley School, New York City
Kirkus Reviews
Ten-year-old Mary Mae loves questions. She adores her teacher, Miss Sizemore, who shows her fossils found right in her school's backyard. She adores her Granny, who plays the guitar and will make up songs about anything. And Mary Mae loves Jesus with all her might. But she doesn't understand why her church teaches that the earth is 6,000 years old, while Miss Sizemore says it's more like 6,000,000. Her Mama doesn't like Mary Mae's questions. Don't they show a lack of faith? Very few books for this age group tackle religious subjects as this one does, in a way that shows respect for all sides. Dutton allows Mary Mae to retain both her questions and her faith; instead of a definitive answer, she shows evolutionists and creationists working to find a small, shared piece of middle ground. Mary Mae is a memorable character-spunky but not defiant-whose search for truth drives the narrative. (Fiction. 8-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547249667
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 6/28/2010
  • Pages: 129
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 680L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Sandra Dutton grew up the daughter of Sunday school teachers in Ohio. She was as curious about Genesis as she was about the fossils in her backyard. She says, “I wrote this book for kids like me who love discovering things, whether in the Bible, the backyard, or a history book. I want them to have the courage to ask questions.”  She has two grown sons and lives with her husband in Maine.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 12, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Kira M for Teens Read Too

    Mary Mae is a Christian. She's also a lover of the sciences. When her teacher starts teaching her class about evolution, Mary has a hard time reconciling the Bible's version of creation with science's teaching of evolution. Her mom says that God is right and the Bible is God's word, but there is evidence supporting her teacher's theory. Can Mary find a way to mesh her love of science with her love of the Bible? A quick read for people who like Christian fiction. Although the characters seem a little one-dimensional, the message to be yourself and to follow your dreams is a good one. Those who enjoy inspirational, realistic fiction will like reading MARY MAE AND THE GOSPEL TRUTH.

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