Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Salem Ridge Press {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

I love books, especially historical fiction, and my daughter is developing a love for historical fiction as well. We were glad to have the opportunity, through the Schoolhouse Review Crew, to review a book from Salem Ridge Press. Several options were offered, and Kennady chose a book titled Margarethe.
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Salem Ridge Press is a publishing company dedicated to bringing quality children's books from the 1800s and early 1900s to a new generation of readers. The founders, Daniel and Christiana Mills, are both homeschool graduates, and are committed to providing wholesome reading for families. They firmly believe (and I agree with them!) that what we read matters, and is a major influence in our values and character.

Salem Ridge Press chooses books that are well-written, teach godly values and high moral character. On rare occasions they decide to slightly edit passages to make sure that there are no unnecessary derogatory comments or embraces. The website explains more about how their books are chosen.

Members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew were able to choose from a variety of the historical fiction titles available, and Kennady asked to read Margarethe - A Tale of Luther and Zwingli, by Emma Leslie. Emma Leslie was a prolific children's author of the Victorian era, and many of her books were published by the Religious Tract Society. She wrote extensively about church history.

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Margarethe is the elder daughter of a German nobleman, who has little interest in religion. She doesn't believe God cares about her or anyone else, and that she will never be able to please him in any case. She also wants nothing to do with her father's plan to marry her to Count von Schonstein's son, Eric. Her beloved younger sister, Else, is sent to a convent, and Margarethe realizes that it is because her father's declining wealth cannot provide an adequate dowry for both of them. Their older brother, Fritz, brings Margarethe an indulgence purchased in Juterborg and explains that it provides absolution for any sins she may still commit, but Margarethe doubts that it will be effective and finds that it doesn't ease her misgivings about being acceptable to an angry God.

Margarethe finds out about another religion from her elderly great-aunt - a religion that teaches that God is loving, and that people can communicate directly with him. As the family and their friends hear more about the teachings of Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli, Margarethe and others eagerly embrace this faith.  Margarethe also finds that the young man her father wishes her to marry believes as she does, and she agrees to a betrothal.

The stories of Martin Luther and of Ulrich Zwingli are told mostly through dialogue between the characters in the book rather than through direct interactions or narrative. For instance, Martin Luther is summoned to appear before the Pope's legate at Augsburg while Margarethe is staying with friends in Zurich where Ulrich Zwingli has become the new cathedral preacher. Margarethe is eager to hear news of Germany and how Luther has fared, and all this is related to her by a travelling merchant. She reacts to news and asks questions and the merchant offers his opinion and commentary throughout the dialogue.

How did we use it? Since Kennady chose the book, I let her start reading it first! She has been reading it a chapter at a time, but has found the writing style and vocabulary to be a challenge, so she is reading slower than usual. Originally, she wanted to make it her bedtime reading, and I offered to read it aloud to her if she found it difficult, but she was determined to read it completely on her own. So, she hasn't finished it yet. When I realized she wouldn't finish it prior to my writing this review, I told her we had to share it and I would read it on my own too. Obviously, I read much more quickly than she does!

We have been reading this for personal enjoyment, but it would have been an excellent choice for reading to go along with a study of the Reformation or a history of Europe.

What we liked best:
  • it is simply a good story, enjoyable to read!
  • I especially liked that so many aspects of the Reformation were included within a compelling story that demonstrated how real people were affected by these events, and what they may have thought or felt about them.
  • many of the unfamiliar words were defined at the bottom of the page on which they appeared, which is very helpful for younger readers.
What I need to mention:
  • because the book was written over 100 years ago, the style and vocabulary is unfamiliar, and will pose a challenge for many readers. The footnoted definitions help a lot. Kennady has been doing well with it, but the reason she decided to read it during the daytime rather than before bed is because she feels better able to concentrate on the more difficult words during the day.
  • I offered to read the book aloud to her, but as I started reading it myself, I realized that it would probably be difficult for the hearer to follow. I enjoy reading aloud to my kids, but I don't think this style would make a very good read-aloud for us.
Our bottom line: Since I like teaching history through stories, I will be watching for similar titles from Salem Ridge Press to use alongside our history studies. This book was an enjoyable read and an excellent and age-appropriate commentary to introduce young readers to historical events.

Would books from Salem Ridge Press be a welcome addition to your bookshelves? Here's what you need to know:

Visit the Salem Ridge Press website at:
See a complete listing of the titles offered, including a list of historical fiction titles by time period at:
You may also read a sample chapter of Margarethe.

Pricing: Margarethe is available as a softcover for 14.95, or as a hardcover for 24.95. Prices of other titles vary, and there are some bundled packages available as well. 

Recommended ages: Margarethe is recommended for ages 12 and up. Other titles offered vary. 

Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog for more information and to read other Crew member reviews. Crew members reviewed a selection of books from Salem Ridge Press - so be sure to check out their thoughts on the other titles!

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