Thursday, April 11, 2013

REVIEW: Margarethe from Salem Ridge Press

It's no secret that I love living books. I love them so much, I'm working on starting a library so other people can enjoy them with me. I've heard good things about Salem Ridge Press and the books they publish, and was delighted to receive Margarethe to read and review with my girls.

Salem Ridge Press was established in 2005, with the mission to reprint quality children's books from the 1800's and 1900's. I've heard a lot about their books from homeschool librarians, and have wanted to read one. When our copy of Margarethe arrived in the mail, I started looking it over in preparation for reading with the girls, but quickly absconded with it and spent the weekend reading the entire thing before beginning it with them. Our book is a nicely bound paperback, and is also available in hardcover. The font is a nice size for easy reading (this has become more important to me now that my eyes are, ahem, getting older), and there are words, possibly unfamiliar to the reader, defined at the bottoms of the pages. This is a great feature - I present vocabulary to the girls at the beginning of any reading, and this made it easy to do that. The book also includes historical notes, a timeline of important dates, and a map of 16th-century Germany. The story was written over 100 years ago, so the language is a little different than what we read today, but we had no difficulty with it.

This is a wonderful story, set in Germany and Switzerland in the early 1500's,  at the time when Luther and Zwingli were preaching the Gospel and speaking out against some of the practices of the Church at that time. The main character is, of course, Margarethe, a strong-willed German girl, daughter of a knight, who has decided she hates religion and will no longer participate in the sacraments of the Church. Her sister, Else, is sent to live in a convent, leaving Margarethe essentially alone in her father's lonely castle. Through a pamphlet her brother brings to her, written by Martin Luther, she learns the truth about God - the he loves her! She teaches the Truth to the people in the village near her castle, and goes on to spread the Word to others, even at the expense of her relationship with her father.

Here are some things that stood out to us from the book:
  • My husband was raised in the Lutheran church, so it was fascinating to read about Luther and how the Reformation began.
  • My family and I have recently started attending a local Moravian church. The brochure we received from them states that they have Protestant roots that predate Luther, and this book mentions John Huss, who preached 100 years before Luther; he sowed the seeds for what would eventually become the Moravian Brethren. Reading the little bit about him in the story inspired me to learn more.
  • My oldest daughter has been struggling with her faith. I loved that she heard about another girl of a similar age who struggled with the same thing and came to know the truth about God. I hope it will inspire her to seek to know Him more closely for herself.
  • We learned what a precious gift it is, to be able to read the Bible in our native language. Margarethe longed for a German Bible; at that time, the only thing available was the Latin Vulgate and the Church discouraged "regular" people from reading it. We've known some missionaries who work to translate the Bible into other languages for people, and this story illustrated very well why it's so important.
The author of the book, Emma Leslie, was an English author who lived from from 1837-1909, and wrote over 100 books for children. Margarethe is one book in her Church History series, a set of historical fiction books, intended for children ages 12 and up. To date, Salem Ridge Press has republished the first 12 books, which span from the time of Paul to the beginnings of the Reformation, and they hope to publish the remaining 12 titles, which will cover from the time of the Reformation through the Methodist revivals in the 1800's. They are written from a reformed perspective, meaning that the characters rely on the Bible rather than the traditions of men.

If this book is any example, I would love to read them all! I plan to look at more titles to see how they correlate with our history studies, and hope to incorporate them. If you would like to read more about the books Salem Ridge Press has to offer, check out their Complete Listing page. You will find the books listed alphabetically by title and author, as well as by time period and by recommended age range. These are lovely books and I hope you will take a little time to find out more about them.

Margarethe - $14.95 paperback, $24.95 hardcover

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