Home Education~Ministry Moments~Hearth and Home

Thursday, April 11, 2013

TOS (Book) Review: Before the Dawn, A Tale of Wycliffe and Huss (Salem Ridge Press)

     My sons devour books. (at about the same rate that they devour milk and cereal!)  This is of course a wonderful thing...until we run out of books to read!  Oh, sure there are lots of books to read--but I mean good books.  And by good books I'm referring to ones that are quality literature and that teach (or at least encourage) good moral values.  In our day and time, it is no small feat to find such a book.  How thankful I am to have been introduced to  Salem Ridge Press Publishing and their books.
     Salem Ridge Press was established in 2005 to "bring back the very best children's books of the 1800's and early 1900's."  There are 30 titles on their website you can choose from.  More are on the way!  (There are books on Church History, World History, American History, Allegory, Adventure and books for Young Readers.)  The publisher says he sometimes jokes that their number one rule is "No Kissing!"  They do edit some of the writing and illustrations as they see a need.  Modesty and wholesomeness are very important to these publishers. 
     This is a review of a title from the Emma Leslie Church History Series: Before the Dawn, A Tale of Wycliffe and Huss.  I choose to read the book first.  I plan on assigning it as summer reading for my eldest in the next month or so.   I think he will enjoy it as much or more as I have. 
     Before the Dawn is recommended for ages 12-adult.  The cost is $14.95* for soft cover or $24.95* for hard cover.  Before the Dawn can also be purchased as a 12-Book Christian History set.
Before the Dawn photo sr-beforethedawn_zpsfc11a7d6.jpg

     My interest in reading, and having my children read this book was for many reasons.  1) We have recently studied this period in World History.  2) I want my children to read about real heros  3) I have found out over the years that Historical Fiction is one of the most effective ways to learn history  4) I wanted my children (and myself) to be challenged and inspired by the martyrs that went before us.  5) I thought it would be interesting and novel to read a book written so long ago.  (Before the Dawn was originally published in 1880.)  6) I wanted my children (and myself) to learn more about church history. 
     There were a few things I first noticed about the book before I even started reading it that were different from other historical fiction.  There are a lot of "helps" in the book to give the reader a better grasp of what they they are reading.  These "helps" include:  1) Definitions of difficult words are given at the bottom of many pages.  This comes in very handy since many of the words used in the book are no longer used today.  (My son looked at one of the pages as I was reading and thought this extra help was great!)  2) References from the Bible are also at the bottom of the page if there is a quote from the Bible on that page.  3) Maps in the front of the book  4) Important Historical Dates are given at the beginning of the book.  5) Historical Notes are given.  This includes historical figures mentioned in the book.  I found this to be most useful.
     I have thoroughly enjoyed this book.  I would definitely recommend it to a well-read 12-year old or older.  It took a little effort to read in the "Old English" style of writing.  (I mean, it was written in the 1800's after all!)  This took me several chapters to get used to.  I did get used to it, and I'm sure my kids will too.  In fact, I think it is a benefit.  It has to do the mind good to read a wide variety of literature.  The language and words used can be very beautiful.  Literature should not have to be overly-simplified for us or our children to enjoy it or learn from it!
     There are three levels on which I experienced this book:  simply enjoying a good read, learning some very important church history and most important of all, a spiritual eye-opening one. 
     The author, Emma Leslie, did a superb job in bringing together so many things that were taking place in history and the end of the 14th and the beginning of the 15th century.  The title, Before the Dawn, represents the time in History before the Reformation.  There were many people (with Wycliffe and Huss amoung their leaders) who wanted reform...they were waiting (and waiting) for that glorious day to "Dawn". 
    Like most historical fiction, there is a fictional (yet believable) story woven throughout the historical events.  Even though you know what will eventually happen to Huss, you get caught up in the fictional story of a young crippled boy named Conrad.  This boy lives with his mother and grandmother, but with a father no longer present. No one seems to give him a straight answer about his father.  His "grandam" particularly hates "Lollards" (those that are against the Catholic practices and beliefs of that day).  His mother seems to be unsure of what she believes.  Conrad has encounters with several (many of them famous) Lollards along the way. His beliefs are challenged and he eventually turns to "Lollardism", but will he turn to Christ?  The reader follows Conrad on two journeys: to find his mysteriously missing father and most importantly, his spiritual journey. 
     On a spiritual level, God has used this book to cause me to think about martyrdom and what I believe---and what I would stand up for.  It has helped me to look at my life and ask the question, "What are the most important things?".  When God is trying to get my attention about something, he usually has to repeat Himself---at least three times.  During the few weeks it took me to read Before the Dawn, I attended a "Secret Church" Simulcast.  We prayed for the persecuted church.  I'll never forget when David Platt quoted Pascal,  "'I believe those witnesses that get their throats cut.'"  Also during the time period that I was reading this book, my family and I watched "The Bible" miniseries on TV.  During the last episode it showed how so many were martyred for their belief in Christ.  Since the time of Christ many have died for their belief in Him.  We need to make sure to never forget those that have led the way...or the ones that still stand strong today, no matter the cost. (AND to pass this on to our children!) God has used a book, a sermon and a movie to light a fire under me.  What faith, what deep conviction and what great resolve the Christian martyrs have---and still have today! 

One of my favorite quotes from Before the Dawn:
"...these new doctrines taught by Dr. Wycliffe: they are old, old truths that were taught by the Lord Jesus Christ and His apostles and the early martyrs of the Church; but as the Church grew worldly, proud, and self-seeking, these truths became buried and forgotten, except as they lived in the hearts of a few of God's chosen people."

Check out what the rest of the "CREW" had to say HERE
(Reviews on American, World and Church History!)  

*All prices were correct at the time of this posting.  Prices are subject to change.

No comments: