If you've had any experience with curriculum tie-in novels, you probably don't expect much from them anymore. They tend to moralize, or patronize the students, or simply fail to present a compelling story. Historical Novels for Engaging Thinkers aren't just exceptions to the norm, they're in a different class altogether. Not only do they actually teach, they're simply fun to read, and kids will no doubt tear through them much faster than necessary.
Four books cover four time periods and four general worldviews: ancient/polytheism, Medieval/monotheism, early modern/naturalism, and modern/pantheism. Each one is written by Jennifer Johnson Garrity and illustrated in black and white by her daughter, Kelsey Garrity. These aren't just dry informational texts; these are historical adventure novels filled with everything you'd expect from a good story.
Garrity doesn't waste her time explaining period or regional terms in the text, instead reserving definitions for the glossary at the back of each text. She also avoids a common mistake to which historical novelists are prone: anachronism. Because these are part of Marcia Brim's Tools for Young Historians history and worldview literacy program, characters think and act the way they would have in their respective contexts, not like people in the 21st century West would speak or act.
You probably want to keep these away from kids much younger than the suggested 5th-8th grade range. Some of the content is fairly disturbing (in The Jeweled Astrolabe there's a graphic description of gangrene, for instance), and even a lot of students in the target age group may have a hard time with the violence. There's nothing offensive, just a few mildly mature scenes.
These aren't falsely Christian, either; characters don't magically turn from their culture to find the true God, or anything as historically improbable as that. You will need to talk to your kids about these books, because the author doesn't provide any kind of in-text rebuttal of false ideas, she simply presents them faithfully and well.
Again, these are actually well-written. Garrity has crafted stories that can be read with pleasure on their own, that genuinely reflect the time and place they're supposed to depict, and that offer a taste of worldviews Christians find foreign. Even if you don't plan on using Tools for Young Historians, these stories can provide some great entertainment and conversation-fodder for the whole family.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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