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The Renaissance and Reformation

By Ellwood W. Kemp
Yesterday's Classics

PO Box 3418
Chapel Hill, NC 27515

The Renaissance and Reformation is fifth in the seven-volume "Streams of History" series by Yesterday's Classics. This series is aimed at students ages 10 and up. This slim, modestly priced book is a mere three chapters (62 pages), and it tracks the main events that led Europe out of the Middle Ages (covered in the previous volume in the series). It offers a good review of the previous time periods, putting people, places, and events in order and in context, and it deftly shows important relationships. Its narrative style and vivid imagery are pleasantly unlike other history texts I have read, and the book is certainly appropriate for students to read independently, especially those who find traditional texts dry and unappealing. The book does not include tests or review questions; nor does it have a resources page for further study, although the stories will whet the appetite of the readers and make them want to find out more!

I would use this book as part of a bigger history program. Maybe the whole series could be used for a year of study. It could also be used as a part of a unit study, as a supplement, or as fodder for a student discussion group. As a Christian, I consider it an important book by itself for putting into perspective names like Martin Luther and John Calvin, the impact of the invention of gunpowder, and the culture before and after the invention of the printing press.

Pros: I found that once I fell into the rhythm of the book, I couldn't put it down. It is honestly not a book I would have chosen based on the title or even the cover. However, the old adage "You can't judge a book by its cover" was certainly true this time. I found myself taking notes and wanting to talk about what I had read. I am now planning to collect the other volumes in the series for the classroom and to keep. At less than $8 per book, they won't break the bank either.

Cons: The writing style is very good, but it is certainly unlike other history texts I have read. That may be a turn-off for some, but I found it worthwhile to persist. This would not work well for a homeschool that depends on self-contained or complete curricula.

Ultimately, I believe this book, or any in the series, is worth checking out. You might find that you don't "get" it or that your kids wouldn't appreciate it. However, you may, like me, find that what's between the covers is a treasure waiting to be discovered.

Product review by Krystin Corneilson, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, May 2009

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