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Gytha's Message: A Tale of Saxon England Review by Kathy Gelzer

Emma Leslie
Salem Ridge Press
4263 Salem Drive
Emmaus, PA 18049

Gytha's Message is a recently republished historical novel taking place in Saxon England during the time of William the Conqueror. It was originally published in 1885. The author, Emma Leslie, was a Victorian author of over 100 children's books. Salem Ridge Press is a publishing company founded by homeschool graduate Daniel Mills, whose desire to see quality children's literature from the 19th and early 20th centuries reprinted was planted in his mind after he read two such books in his early teens.

Gytha, a Viking slave girl newly arrived in England in 1053, has a rough road ahead of her as she finds her way into the household of a family with no regard for God or the church. Gytha's faith is a source of strength and hope for herself as well as a witness to those around her. The theological issues facing her and those she serves are timeless and applicable to Christians everywhere. "Why doth the world lie in wickedness? Why are there any slaves if God is kind? If God is so near, verily I marvel that this world is so ill-managed, for not a day passes but we hear of some evil deeds." These are questions we still ask today. The book is unabashedly Christian and promotes high morals.

Two helps available to the reader are page headings--a different one for every page--which serve as a quick summary, and definitions of archaic or difficult words at the bottom of the page on which the word appears.

The back cover says this book is for ages 10 to adult. I think it would be a pretty precocious ten year old that would be able to read this book alone. The archaic English is a bit challenging. Though the phraseology can be difficult, the book is beautifully written and could be used to familiarize children with that style of English. As a read-aloud, this book could work for even younger children. Parents will want to note that there are references to drunkenness. And Catholics may be offended by the author's view on praying to saints.

As a homeschool mom, I found myself wishing for additional helps. A brief synopsis of the historical background, a list of main characters and how they relate to one another, discussion questions at the end of chapters, and an annotated bibliography are a few things that could have been included.

All in all, Gytha's Message is an excellent piece of children's historical fiction with strong moral themes, including faith through hardship and the bonds of family.

Product teview by Kathy Gelzer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, April 2007