Background: I saw these books in Veritas Press’s catalogue. After looking at sample pages of them, I thought I would give them a try with my history-phobic 5th grader. This review is from a confessionally reformed perspective (original Westminster standards).
Verdict: I would use these books as supplements in my homeschool, but only with my own edits and commentary.
What I Liked:
- The concept of weaving history facts into a fictional adventure is intriguing and attention-grabbing for students who don’t take to traditional history materials
- It is nice to have a supplemental overview of many of the highlights of world history
- Despite being overviews, the books contain an abundance of historical information. What isn’t directly in the text is placed in sidebars throughout the books so students can learn even more about the cultures being studied. For example, there is a chart about Egypt’s many gods and a photograph of the Rosetta Stone in the section on Egypt.
- The books introduce the reality of persecution, which is something Christians have had to deal with for centuries and of which children should be aware
- There is a lot of great theology in the books. In particular, the sovereignty of God in history is repeatedly emphasized. Students also learn about the inherent sinfulness of humanity and how it relates to different historical events and political arrangements
- The books present the Creation, Fall, Deluge, etc. as actual historical events, which, from a Christian perspective, are
- The books present more than one point of view on different topics such as “manifest destiny” so that students can come to their own conclusions
What I Didn’t Like:
- Although the concept is great, I would like to have seen more:
- more about the persecution of Christians in the main characters’ time and how they deal with it; and
- more incorporating history facts into the actual plot instead of just telling them to students
- At times the books seem preachy, with the characters travelling from time to time just to receive a series of lectures. As in the last point, the books would be even better if there was less telling and more showing. Of course, that would have made the books longer, which is also a consideration to take into account.
- There are numerous Third Commandment violations/minced oaths that I had to edit out, ie. “Jeez” and “Sheesh” for “Jesus”
- There are instances of bad language that I had to edit out, ie. “heck” for “hell”
- There are several Second Commandment violations/images of Jesus that I had to edit out
- There are some factual errors I had to correct. For instance, Volume 1 states that Noah’s Ark landed on Mount Ararat, whereas the biblical text states “the mountains of Ararat.”
- Sometimes an overly rosy view of history is presented. For instance, students are given the impression that the conversion of Norway to Christianity was a great thing. There is no mention of the fact that that conversion was often done by force, which is contrary to biblical principles.
- For a book written by and for Protestants, I would have liked to have seen Protestant theology emphasized over Catholic theology:
- For instance, when discussing eschatology, Catholic Futurism and Catholic Preterism are presented as the only two options. There is no mention of traditional Protestant Historicism (though admittedly this position is in the extreme minority these days).
- In addition, the invention of manmade songs for worship is treated as a wonderful development (which follows the Catholic normative principle of worship), whereas from a historic Protestant perspective such songs are considered a violation of the Second Commandment (following the Protestant regulative principle of worship). Although many Protestants follow the normative principle today, it would be nice if they were made aware that historic Protestantism adhered to a vastly different theology than many forms of modern Protestantism.
- There are also several passages that give readers the impression that a person is “holier” if he chooses to live as a monk or experiences phenomena like stigmata. This, again, is contrary to the Protestant teaching of vocation, ie. that all vocations are holy and that church officers are not a cut above the rest of us.
- There seems to be a tendency to portray Catholicism as the default view of Christianity. For instance, when the kids “play church,” they don robes and carry croziers, etc. These are all Catholic trappings that are not used in historic Protestantism, nor are they found in the Bible.
Overall, these books are a useful addition to my homeschool. I blacked out all objectionable language and put stickers over the images of Jesus. Any topic that I thought needed some additional commentary was given a star in the margin as a reminder to me to address as my daughter reads the books.
So far, my daughter is enjoying reading Volume 1. She has had no complaints as of yet. I hope that these books will help her see that history can be exciting and that God is ever-present in human affairs.