Sometimes you just need a story to bring you into a particular historical setting. This is especially true for children, who like to have something familiar and relatable as an anchor when studying the past. Louise Vernon's historical novels aren't history, but they present historical figures, events and issues in a way young readers can comprehend.
Her subject is always Church history, and her heroes and heroines are children at the center of fascinating periods like the Reformation or the birth of Methodism in England. The narratives are balanced between traditional elements of fiction (action, character development, etc.) and the lives of famous Christian leaders, missionaries, and Reformers.
It's important that kids understand there's a human element to history, expecially the history of God's people, and these books communicate that truth masterfully. Vernon isn't the finest stylist, but her prose is easy to read, descriptive, and quite a bit better than plenty of the stuff kids are given to read these days. Who could object to fiction that provides examples for kids to imitate drawn from the lives of men like John Wesley, Johann Gutenberg, Martin Luther, and the Pilgrims?
Each book is slim and engaging, and would make an excellent supplement to any study of Church history, especially the period of the Reformation. Don't substitute these in place of a more thorough course or survey, but your kids will likely learn to love the topic quickly if they get a chance to experience some of its more intriguing moments from the perspective of children who might have been there.
- Beggar's Bible (Jan Wycliffe, first English Bible translation 1320-1384 England)
- Ink on His Fingers (Johann Gutenberg, movable type 1395-1468 Germany)
- Man Who Laid the Egg (Desiderius Erasmus 1466-1536 Rotterdam)
- Thunderstorm in Church (Martin Luther, Reformation 1483-1546 Germany)
- Night Preacher (Menno Simons 1496-1561 Germany)
- Secret Church (Menno Simons & the Anabaptists)
- Strangers in the Land (Edict of Nantes, Huguenots, 1598 France)
- Bible Smuggler (William Tyndale 1494-1536 England)
- King's Book (King James Bible, 1611 England)
- Peter and the Pilgrims (Pilgrims 1620 America)
- Key to the Prison (George Fox, Quakers 1624-1691 England)
- Heart Strangely Warmed (John Wesley, Methodists 1703-1791 England)
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.
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