21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on April 6, 2010
Bringing history to life by presenting it like a novel, Monks and Mystics is one of the most entertaining history books you or your child will ever read. It is the second in the "History Lives" series by Mindy and Brandon Withrow and covers the "Chronicles of the Medieval Church."
The majority of chapters present part of the story behind an important figure in the early church, written with the action, dialogue, and description of a good novel. Interspersed between these chapters are a few short, strictly nonfiction chapters, explaining such things as how the pope came to be, how Islam affected Christian history, and the councils of the Medieval church.
The novelized chapters cover Gregory the Great, Boniface, Charlemagne, Constantine and Methodius, Vladmir, Anselm of Canterbury, Bernard of Clairvaux, Francis of Assisi, Thomas Aquinas, Catherine of Sienna, John Wyclif, and John Haus.
Although a book covering Christianity during this time period must focus on the Catholic church (because there was no other church), the authors stress: "Modern Protestants disagree with quite a few medieval ideas, but that does not mean that the men and women of the Middle Ages were always wrong or that they did not love God's Word. In fact, despite their differences, later Protestants admired many medieval thinkers...Like Christians of all eras, they made both positive and negative contributions to the church."
Although Medieval Christians are perhaps best known for the Crusades, they also translated the Bible into several languages for the first time, including English. Constantine and Methodius even created a written Slavic language so they could give the Slavs a Bible. Like Christians of all eras, they also strove to help the needy, teach the gospel, keep the church pure, and deal with the politics surrounding them.
What I Like: The concept behind these books is excellent. Very few of us don't enjoy reading a novel more than a dry history book. Monks and Mystics gives us the best of both worlds by giving us historic fact combined with good story telling.
What I Dislike: My only gripe with this book is its treatment of the Crusades. Unfortunately, many people have forgotten the fact that Muslim armies invaded Europe, hoping to make them Islamic lands, and Monks and Mystics doesn't seek to remind anyone of this. It almost seems as though the Withrows wish to make the Crusades apolitical and non-religious. This is not to say Europeans were without fault during the many Crusades, or that some endorsed the Crusades for political reasons or personal gain. However, there were understandable reasons for Europeans to fight many of the Crusades, also. (For a few ideas about the real history of the Crusades, click here.)
Overall Rating: Despite this flaw, however, the book is Very Good, overall.
Christian Children's Book Review
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on January 24, 2007
This book, and its companion, Peril and Peace, is a well-written collection of narratives about important Christians. The stories are descriptive and interesting, and give you a real sense of "being there". I never studied church history as a child, and I enjoy reading these stories aloud to my 10yo son as we study history. I highly recommend this book to other homeschoolers, parents who want to help their kids learn about church history, and even adults who want an enjoyable introduction to the lives of important Christians of the past. I'm looking forward to the next book in the series!
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on August 31, 2007
As a homeschooling mother, I am always looking for ways to bring curriculum to life. As I was preparing our study on the Middle Ages, this book literally dropped from the shelf into my grasp. Whether it was a divine appointment or not, I have found Monks and Mystics to be a great addition to my son's studies. He loves the conversational style and remembers the factual information much better than through purely textual accounts. I plan on purchasing all the books in this series as our studies progress!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 17, 2015
Like the first volume in this series, Peril and Peace, we found this book to be absolutely fascinating. The authors have done a superb job of bringing the medieval church to life through stories of famous people from various times. Some are heroes; some (in my opinion) are villains. All are real people who really lived. Also included are short chapters between the longer stories of the people, about various topics such as how the pope came to be called that, what Islam is, or the Crusades. All in all, this is a good supplement to any study of the Middle Ages, and I’m glad to have found it to read to my boys!