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Before the Dawn: A Tale of Wycliffe and Huss Review by Kendra Fletcher

Emma Leslie
Salem Ridge Press LLC
4263 Salem Drive
Emmaus, Pennsylvania 18049

Homeschool graduate Daniel Mills began publishing out-of-print books through his company, Salem Ridge Press, in 2005. He has chosen books that are rich in their content, tell beautifully crafted stories, and are "living" in terms of their scope and relevance to life today.

One of Daniel's reprints is Emma Leslie's Before the Dawn, originally published in 1880. Set in both England and Bohemia between the volatile years of 1382 and 1453, Before the Dawn tells the story of the spread of Protestantism through the writings and translations of John Wycliffe and John Huss.

Young Conrad is the son of a lady-in-waiting to Queen Anne, but the whereabouts and details of the life of his father remain a mystery. He knows that his grandmother is ashamed of and even antagonistic to any details pertaining to Conrad's father and history, but he doesn't learn why until he becomes a follower of Wycliffe himself.

Before the Dawn moves along at a quick pace and is packed with interesting period details. Geoffrey Chaucer becomes a character in the story at one point, and an astute observer will note the links between the religious happenings of the day and Chaucer's characters in Canterbury Tales.

Because Before the Dawn was written over a century ago, there are terms and phrases unfamiliar to the modern reader. No worries; each one is highlighted and defined page by page, making it easy to understand what the writer's intent is. I read Before the Dawn aloud to my children and found it easy to define the words to them as we went along.

I appreciate good historical fiction written about time periods and events that aren't commonly covered for young readers. As we study history, such people and events tend to come alive and take on a human element if I read a piece of well-written historical fiction aloud. I read Before the Dawn to my 12-year-old son, 10-year-old daughter, and 8-year-old daughter, and all of them enjoyed the story on different levels. As an independent read, Before the Dawn is appropriate for 12 years and up.

Product review by Kendra Fletcher, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, March 2010