In the six years that this website has existed, I have never come across any resource that has challenged me so greatly as a set of four novels by Brimwood Press.
It has taken our family three years to read these books – not because of their length (they are relatively short novels) and not because of their difficulty level (they’re written on a level that our children can understand), but because I had to wrestle through sharing with my family a novel that reads from an opposing worldview. This is different for me. Very different for me. I like to stay in my sheltered little world of God-centered books and characters and dialogue. But that is not reality. The reality is that there’s a whole world of other religions that think differently about Christianity than we do. This brings me to a thought I had last year as we tackled the study of polytheism and Buddhism and Hinduism. Within a culture that worshipped all sorts of other gods, how did the founders of the church do it? How did the apostle Paul, for example, connect with a pagan culture in a way that turned hearts toward Christ?
Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, “We will hear you again on this matter.” So Paul departed from among them. However, some men joined him and believed… Acts 17:22-34
Paul learned about their faith and then drew them in as a result of that knowledge. Because Paul was attentive to the beliefs of the surrounding culture, he knew that the Greeks worshipped many gods and used this very thing to share the Gospel with them. But this is a bit of an aside to my thoughts about these novels. There’s actually a much greater reason I would recommend this set of four books for families with students ages 10 and up. Before I tell you why I’d recommend it, let me give you a short summary of each book and our experience with each.
Historical Novels for Engaging Thinkers
Historical Novels for Engaging Thinkers was created to provide a means for exploring worldview with your children (specifically recommended for grades 5th through 8th, although I’d say 5th through adult). It consists of four books as follows.
As slaves in a Sumerian palace, Tabni and her mother face death when their queen dies due to the belief that the queen will need their service in the afterlife. Tabni makes a daring escape but constantly fears that the choices she makes in order to survive will unleash the fury of the gods.
While this book presents life through the eyes of a teenager of polytheistic faith, we can see her struggles with those beliefs. This provides a springboard for discussion about questions such as: What would it be like to believe in an angry god? How is the God of the Bible different? How can we offer encouragement and hope to someone who lives in fear?
Note: For a deeper study with older students (and parents/teachers!), a Companion Guide “Christian Theology and Ancient Polytheism” is also available from Brimwood Press.
As a son of a Jewish doctor, Gavriel’s career has been chosen for him, although he dreads becoming a physician. An unexpected door opens for him to travel as a trader, and as he faces dreadful circumstances at the hands of the Crusaders, he discovers his true calling.
After reading this book, I set aside the final two novels for two years. This novel presents Christianity as it was seen by Jews and Arabs during the time of the Crusades. It’s not a pretty picture, y’all. Because of my deep struggles with sharing this book with my children, I contacted Marcia Brim and told her I just didn’t know how I would be able to proceed with the other books. With all our children in elementary school at the time, I wasn’t prepared to embark on a journey through worldview like this one. It made me uncomfortable, it left so many questions unanswered, and I really just didn’t like it at all. The amazing thing was that Marcia thoughtfully responded to my questions and even invested an enormous amount of thought and time to create a free study guide to help parents walk through studying this book with their children. (Download the free study guide for Jeweled Astrolabe.) Now that we have a Challenge B student, and because I’ve become much more comfortable with handling questions and controversial issues, my views of this book have changed drastically. It’s a great book to read with older children who are ready to venture more deeply into the art of dialectic (aka, logic or reasoning) – if you as a parent are ready to do so. With the study guide now available, I feel that parents who fear introducing other worldviews such as this to their children are much better equipped to do so.
In the midst of the Reign of Terror, Josette finds herself catapulted into a mysterious world as a maid in the Duplay family, whose host is the powerful French revolutionary Maximilian Robespierre. As the city around her whirls in chaotic madness, Josette discovers the brokenness of a world without God.
Our family has chosen this book as our favorite book (thus far) about the French Revolution! (And to think we waited two years to read it just because I struggled with The Jeweled Astrolabe!) Although presented from an atheistic worldview, it reveals Josette’s inner struggles as she considers the existence of God. This book reveals the impact that the Reign of Terror had on the people of France. Excellent book!
Yang Sunjin is forced to attend a school run by Japanese during Japan’s occupation of Korea. His hatred, humiliation, and anger drives him off the Buddhist path as he confronts injustice. He wrestles with his faith as he is challenged by ideas that are sweeping through Korea.
Rebel on the Path brought our family into a world of conflicting cultures and religions while introducing us to an often overlooked part of World War II history. We were provided with great opportunities for worldview dialogue as we considered beliefs central to Buddhism.
Thoughts about Historical Novels for Engaging Thinkers
Over time, I’ve come to recognize the importance of presenting my children with opposing viewpoints while they are still with us. Even with my initial concerns regarding this book series, my desire has always been that our family will explore these issues together – when our children can ask questions in a safe environment, and where we can provide them with tools for investigating truth. (But that’s more easily said than done!) Although this may have been challenging and uncomfortable at first, it’s been a beautiful experience to thoughtfully seek truth together as a result of exposure to stories that are told from a perspective different from our own. As our family has considered each character’s worldview, each character’s choices, and each character’s thoughts, we’ve received an inside look at other religions and explored ways in which we can share “the hope that lies within [us], with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15)
I highly recommend this series to parents of children ages 10 and up, especially if you are seeking ways to expose your children to other worldviews. Our oldest son was 10 years old when we first started reading these books. I’ve found that if a couple of your children are younger, they will still participate in thoughtful discussions. (Our 7-year-old very much enjoyed Beneath the Cat’s Claw and Rebel on the Path.)
Each book introduces the reader to foreign terms & vocabulary and comes with a glossary. The Jeweled Astrolabe is a bit harder to read because of the terminology used, but with the glossary, I was able to make substitutions to help our younger children understand what was happening.
As a final note, I wanted to mention that Brimwood Press has designed and published products to encourage Christian parents to open up dialogue with their students to bolster their faith. Our family had the great privilege of meeting them face to face when we traveled through California in May.
While Gary and the boys joined Geoff for a game of hockey, Marcia and I talked and talked and talked about things like…. worldview! (Would you believe that?!?) What a joy!
Free Samples and Free Shipping Site-wide!
Don’t forget to download and read the free samples from Brimwood Press to see if these books are something your family would be interested in exploring together:
- Secret of the Scribe Sample
- The Jeweled Astrolabe Sample
- The Jeweled Astrolabe study guide
- Beneath the Cat’s Claw Sample
- Rebel on the Path Sample
From August 15 through August 31, 2016, receive free shipping on any orders at Brimwood Press! Enter coupon code “Back2School16” at checkout. You may want to check out these other fantastic products available from Brimwood Press during the free shipping promotion:
Writing Historical Fiction Using Your Family Tree. Walks you through the process of writing historical fiction using your ancestry.
Introduction to Worldview. Great introduction of abstract concepts using concrete objects!
Understanding Centuries with a Toothpick Timeline. If you’ve struggled with understanding centuries, this is a great study to gain a better understanding.
Conversations from the Garden. Devotions based on Genesis.
Christian Theology and Ancient Polytheism. Companion theological study for Secret of the Scribe.
Calendar Quest: 5,000 Years of History in 16 Lessons. What we’re using this year for our history study.
This giveaway ended on August 18.
I am so excited to announce that Tammy D has won the Historical Novels for Engaging Thinkers Bundle (4-book set)!
Thank you to everyone who took the time to read, enter, share, like, pin, tweet, or comment!
And many thanks to the Brimwood family for offering this giveaway!
Rules: This giveaway is open to United States residents, ages 18 years and older only. Giveaway ends at 11:59 PM (ET) on Thursday, August 18. Entries must be recorded within the Rafflecopter form. The winner will be selected at random using Random.org via RaffleCopter and will be notified via email. You must enter a valid email address to win. In the event that the winner cannot be contacted by email or does not respond within 72 hours, the prize will be forfeited and and an alternate winner will be selected. By entering this giveaway, you indicate that you have read and agree to abide by these rules.
Disclosure: I received this product in exchange for a review. The opinions expressed herein are my own honest thoughts and have not been influenced by any outside source. This post contains affiliate links. To find out why we use affiliate links, I encourage you to read our disclosure policy.