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Book Review: Monks and Mystics by Mindy and Brandon Withrow

Author: Mindy and Brandon Withrow
Genre: Historical Fiction, Non-fiction
Pub. Date: January 2006
Format: Paperback, 223pp
Publisher: Christian Focus Publications

Over the weekend, I completed reading Mindy and Brandon Withrow�s book Monks and Mystics. A book geared to the 9-14 age range, the book presents church history from both a fictional and factual perspective. It part of the History Lives series that began with Peril and Peace, a book about ancient Christians. Vignettes of some of the more significant persons in the Medieval Church, written as fiction stories but based on historical documents, dominate the text. In between, short chapters containing significant facts about the period are presented.

While in no way comprehensive, this book does an excellent job of both making history interesting and real to the age range it targets, and of teaching church history to children. I would, in fact, think it an excellent text to use as a basis for an upper elementary or middle school Sunday school class on church history. It would also be useful in Christian schools. As a supplemental text it is perfect.

Although an adult, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. So much so, that I ordered the first book the next day and plan to order any successive books as they become available. The stories were interesting and well-written (although on pg. 77, there is on paragraph that repeats, something the editors must have missed) and capture well the characters of the historical figures.

To an adult, some of the language might feel condescending or childish, but the Withrows do not shy away from using technical terms. Often the characters explain the terms in words that could be understood by a 9 year old in their speech to each other. (In truth I understood some of the terms better than I ever have before!)

It is unfortunate that these books are printed by such an unknown publisher. They are available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon, but only online. It is unlikely they will make it into the stores and I wonder if the major Christian retailers will pick them up. They are a valuable resource for the Christian family, so I recommend buying them before they go out of print.

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