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Heroes Every Child Should Know Review by Donna Campos

H. W. Mabie
Yesterday's Classics
PO Box 3418
Chapel Hill, NC 27515

Heroes Every Child Should Know is a 6 x 9-inch glossy soft cover book of 380 pages with no illustrations. The heroes include Greek characters of mythology, people from the Bible, St. George, King Arthur, Siegfried, the Cid, William Tell, George Washington, Father Damien, Alfred the Great, Abraham Lincoln, and more, for a total of 20 in all. Each chapter includes a story about one particular hero. Chapters range in length from only four pages to as long as 29; more than half had over twenty pages. The book is an unabridged re-publication of a work that was originally published by Doubleday in 1906. Material was drawn from seven different publishing companies and 11 different literary works. The book attempts to bring together heroic men of different races, periods, and types from intelligent and authoritative literature. It is intended for pleasure reading or historical reference and is appropriate for ages 10 and older.

Excellent for anyone seeking a range of heroes and an inclusion of good morals and true virtue, Heroes Every Child Should Know consistently points toward God as the grand designer of the lives of these heroes. There are many tidbits of information included in the reading that will be enjoyed by all ages. The chapter on Sir Galahad includes the poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson, the lineage of Joseph of Arimathea (who is dressed in red armour), and the comment that perhaps Sir Galahad would achieve the holy grail, from which our Lord ate and Joseph of Arimathea brought to Britain after Christ's death. Many of the stories are connected to the Crusades and offer a glimpse into the anger and frustration many people felt over having the promised land taken by enemies of God. "The Cid" speaks of taking from others, "booty won from the enemies of God and of the faith." The book occasionally includes statements that will need parental and historical explanation, which is likely why it is recommended for those over ten years of age. We supplied further explanation for passages like " . . . being banished men; who must live by taking from you and from others as long as It shall please God." The writing in the chapter on King Richard is particularly of an older writing style and includes statements rarely heard today, like " . . . whom he loved not nor trusted."

We particularly enjoyed the chapter on William Tell, as it includes direct reference to behavior and discipline and is a fantastic story of family. At one point, the son is direct about not wanting to behave. William Tell, as his father, is equally direct in his response: "But I won't be a good boy, if you leave me at home," muttered the little rebel. "Then you must be whipped, sir," said his father, "for we love you too well to permit you to be naughty without punishing you." As I read this portion I was thrilled to see such a straightforward statement that even children can understand. Another wonderful quote about William Tell that could be used for encouraging our children in the gaining of knowledge was the following description of him: "In short, he was a person of strong natural talents, who observed on everything he saw, and acquired all the knowledge he could."

Much in the book is fantastic information our family enjoyed as we read it aloud together and as older children read on their own. I wasn't overjoyed with the inclusion of mythical figures, but the admiration of them and their fantastic stories did, indeed, influence other true flesh-and-blood heroes, so I understood their presence in this book. We do wish the author had included references to the origin of each story. Some stories include publishing credits, but we wanted to see a notation for every chapter. This information would allow us to research further when desired. And date/time frame information is also necessary to smoothly follow a timeline of the individuals and more easily use the literature for school.

Our family has recently had a renewed interest in all things American, so we were drawn to the chapters on George Washington, Robert E. Lee, and Abraham Lincoln. When referencing George Washington, the author firmly gave credit to the Almighty God for using Washington at such a necessary time in our history. Another favorite quote regarding all patriots was also found within these pages: "Homage we should have in our hearts for those patriots and heroes and sages who with humble means raised their native land--now our native land--from the depths of dependence, and made it a free nation." The reality of the experiences and long travels of Robert E. Lee was obvious in the account of his returning home being unable to recognize his own young son--so very sad. And, of course, as many homeschoolers know, Abraham Lincoln provides ample encouragement for developing one's mind as well as virtuous character: "He broadened his mind, enlarged his outlook, and led his companions rather than let them lead him."

There is much to be learned from history, and some of the best knowledge is found in the experiences of Christians who have walked the road already. We appreciated the inclusion of Biblical characters as real people, not merely "characters in a story," as is often the misconception. The general timeline order makes the book a winner for use with history coursework, even without the exact dates. It provides a broad overview of history that may draw a reluctant history student into the enjoyment of learning history. Heroes Every Child Should Know is an excellent addition to our homeschool library and will be to yours as well.

Product review by Donna Campos, Senior Product Reviewer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, June 2009