This book is Volume 3 in a four-volume set chronicling church history from its very beginnings through the 1800s missions movement. Subtitled "History Lives," these historical books intermingle historical essays with fictionalized historical biographical accounts of key people in church history to bring history to life for young readers (ages 9-14). Volume 3, Courage and Conviction, covers the period from AD 1517 to 1700, highlighting great men of God who had the courage to stand for reformation: Luther, Erasmus, Calvin, Bunyan, and more.
In addition to the 12 short biographical features in this book, there is a detailed timeline of key events and several short chapters providing deeper insights into key issues specific to this period--issues such as the Catholic reformation, religious wars of the time, the settling of the Americas, confessions and catechisms, and the "enlightenment and awakening" of the church. At the end of the book is a chapter that summarizes several more important figures in early church history.
And now the part I've been waiting to write in this review: These books are awesome! Although they are targeted for ages 9-14, I don't know of a single adult who would not be educated, moved, and challenged by these incredible stories. Authors Mindy and Brandon Withrow are obviously some of the finest professional historians. Their passion, attention to truth and detail, and extensive research shows from the first page to the last. I felt confident that I was not reading false information or stories that were based on assumptions or overly fictionalized.
But best of all, Mindy and Brandon are fantastic writers. This is writing at its finest. The descriptive writing is captivating and leaps off the page like a surround-sound theater. The character descriptions and personalities are painted vividly and established solidly. Emotions are fully captured, making me smile, cry, laugh, ache, and cheer. I wanted to leap to my feet and get on board with these passionate men of faith. I wanted to walk to the gallows with them (and I'm really only a middle-aged wife and homeschooling mother of four!). And the good writing does not stop there. Even the dialogue is brilliant, effective, and pleasingly realistic, always reflecting the different personalities. It was easy to put myself in the shoes of the people in these stories. As I read about Queen Jeanne d'Albret, the "Deborah of the Huguenots," leading the war for religious freedom in France, my heart was right there with her. I could feel the breeze that ruffled her 17-year-old son's hair as she ran her hand through it and then placed him in charge of her dwindling military. With tears but also with the assurance that God was worth fighting for, she commanded him to lead the troops into battle. I could feel her strength as she trusted in God's providence and eternal riches, and I wanted to shout with her, "Our God is not dead!"
Knowing that much of the information was based on the actual journals and letters of those involved, I was so deeply moved by the passion and commitment of these men and women who had the courage to stand alone and sacrifice all for God's perfect truth. May we all be this open to God's truth and have such courage to stand for it--especially in this day and age! Courage and Conviction and the other three books in the series are a blessing and an inspiration, and that is an understatement. I won't even loan them out! I'll tell others where to buy their own! Hint: Visit the website, and soon!