Review: Uncle Bob’s Red Flannel Bible Camp: from Eden to the Ark, by Steve Vernon

Cover art: Uncle Bob's Red Flannel Bible CampUncle Bob’s Red Flannel Bible Camp: from Eden to the Ark, by Steve Vernon (Stark Raven Press, 2014)

Author Steve Vernon is a storyteller, and what richer source of tales than the Bible? With biblical literacy ebbing, a fresh delivery of the classic stories may be just what people need to spark an interest.

Uncle Bob is the flannel-shirt-wearing narrator, telling his nephew about the action running through what the youngster thinks of as a dry book. (Bob nabs him escaping from Sunday School.) Uncle Bob promises:

The Bible is full of battles and death-defying escapes and lions and even a dragon or two. There is war and there are heroes and there is more special effects than you could shake a star cruiser at. [Introduction]

I picture Uncle Bob as a cross between Red Green and Bill Cosby’s Noah routine, but a bit more off-the-wall. Bob’s interpretation of the classic Bible stories from creation to Noah plays a bit loosely with the facts, and he throws in plenty of nods to current culture. In his own crusty way, he tries to disprove the folks who claim the Bible is down on women (although he’s perturbed that many Old Testament ladies aren’t named.)

Here’s how the author describes Uncle Bob:

Uncle Bob is just a little teapot of a man with the sort of question mark slump in his shoulders, a breath that smells a little of tobacco and Listerine, and a belly-bulge… [Introduction]

Can’t you see—and smell—him? Steve Vernon has a definite talent for painting 3-D word pictures.

If you don’t like offbeat humour, this is not the book for you. It’s not for children, but teens and adults will find some chuckles and the occasional insight.

Two of my favourites:

Chapter 1: [as God created light] I prefer to think of the light as shining right out of God like it was part of him that he was allowing us to share in.

Chapter 3: Once a body gets to wondering, sooner or later they are bound to wander.

Some readers will find the book irreverent. If that’s you, give it a miss. I’m sure the author—and rustic Uncle Bob—means no offense.

Personally, I chalk those moments up to Uncle Bob’s hyperbole and his figures of speech. What he’s trying to do is personalize God to the nameless nephew in the context of men the boy would know from his community. Much like the Huron Carol casts the Nativity in a North American winter setting with the Great Spirit.

The two spots most likely to cause contention are when Uncle Bob refers to God having a cigarette (stopping to rest after the work of creation) and cussing (Bob’s clumsy attempt to set up a joke). The Bible reveals God as holy and majestic, and we know He wouldn’t literally do either of these things, but I think He’s also big enough that He’d see the intended humour and not see contempt or disrespect. I mention this in detail, though, because different readers have different sensitivities to this sort of thing, and life’s too short to waste reading something that makes a person angry.

The book gave me a few smiles, and that quote I shared about the light blessed my spirit. I hope Uncle Bob can encourage readers to check into the Bible for themselves.

I really enjoyed Steve Vernon’s young adult book, Sinking Deeper Or My Questionable (Possibly Heroic) Decision to Invent a Sea Monster. Most of his fiction is in the horror genre, which is out of my range. For more about the author, visit his blog, Yours in Storytelling.

Steve Vernon’s intent is to produce a string of Uncle Bob books to touch on the remaining highlights of the biblical narrative, and book two, Uncle Bob’s Red Flannel Bible Camp: from Babel to Bulrushes, is now available. There’s also Uncle Bob’s Red Flannel Bible Camp: Genesis for Kindle, which combines Eden to the Ark and Babel to Bulrushes.

[Kobo review copy from my personal library.]

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