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Yussuf the Guide Review by Nancy Wagner

George Manville Fenn
Salem Ridge Press

This is classified as historical fiction for ages 12 through adult, and the story takes place primarily in the country of Turkey in the 1800s, I believe, although it is not stated specifically. The book was originally published in 1887 by Mr. Fenn, who was a popular English author of books for boys in the late 1800s. It has been reprinted by Salem Ridge Press as part of their program to make available quality children's books from the 1800s and early 1900s to today's generation.

Young Lawrence, in his late teens, has been somewhat of an invalid since nearly drowning in icy water. And now that he is an orphan and has only his father's executor, his lawyer, a professor, a family friend, and his housekeeper, he is mainly depressed. Being kept inside and inactive (as was the fashion in those days) by his over-doting housekeeper simply adds to his weakness. His prognosis is dire. The doctor finally recommends a change from the rainy, cold temperatures in England. The Professor and the lawyer take him on a trip through Turkey on an archeological expedition. As they encounter dangers along the way, their Muslim guide, Yussuf, remains true to his charges and fights with them as needed. Through it all, Lawrence regains his color, strength, stamina, and joy of living. All participants emerge better for the adventure, emotionally and physically.

This is a delightful book. Once you are used to the old-fashioned language and get through the background material of the first twenty pages or so, you find the characters in Turkey outfitting for the expedition, and then the adventures begin. This would make an excellent read-aloud for a family. While there are guns and fighting, those elements are not overly done or particularly graphic. The biggest reason that I can see for recommending the book for age 12 and up is the vocabulary used, but younger children would enjoy hearing the story read aloud, even if they did not understand every word.

This is not an overtly Christian book, although the characters have a Christian outlook. There is a pervasive distain toward the Muslim "barbarians," but that was typical of the time period. I recommend this book for teenage boys especially.

Product review by Nancy Wagner, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, December 2007