(C) Ages 8-10, (D) Ages 10-12, (E) Ages 12-15, Book Reviews, Christian, Discussion Starters, Family Read Alouds, Historical Fiction, Middle Grades, Nonfiction, Starred Reviews
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Monks and Mystics by Mindy and Brandon Withrow

Book 2 of the History Lives series offers an exciting look at the Medieval Church: its movers and shakers and controversies. Part of our Church History Series.


Monks and Mystics: Chronicles of the Medieval Church (History Lives Series, vol. 2) by Mindy and Brandon Withrow. CF4Kids, 2005. 224 pages.

Reading Level: Middle grades, ages 10-12

Recommended For: Independent reading for middle grades, ages 8-12; family read aloud for ages 7 and up

From Gregory who didn’t want to be pope to Francis who threw away his father’s wealth to Catherine of Sienna who swayed emperors to John Hus who was burned at the stake, the Medieval Church was filled with heroes, troubled politics, the beginnings of Reformation, the rise of Islam, the Crusades, and the Great Schism between West and East. Popes rose to power and hobnobbed with Emperors. Monasteries blossomed, universities were founded, and the printing press was “discovered” in Europe (it had been in China for centuries). And yet, this is the time period commonly called the Dark Ages! This second volume in the History Lives series covers a millennium of history in lively prose, interesting factual essays, and the drama of the budding discontent of the early Reformers. Much of the turmoil of the Medieval Church set the stage for our contemporary divisions of Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant churches as well as the backdrop for the current Islamic tension in the Middle East.

About the Series: Each title in this five volume series looks at a particular era of the Church. Volume 1 covers the Ancient Church (3 BC- 550 AD), Volume 2 covers the Medieval Church (550-1500 AD), Volume 3 covers the Reformation Church (1500-1700 AD), Volume 4 covers the Awakening Church (1700-1860 AD), and Volume 5 covers the Modern Church (1860 AD to present). Mixing lively introductions of key church history figures with nonfiction essays about significant events in the life of the church at large, this series offers an engaging look at the church throughout history. Timelines, a bibliography of key sources, and dates and locations for each person and event add layers of historical depth. The series is billed as nonfiction, but the stories about individuals mix historical fiction with short biographical paragraphs: each story plunges the reader into the action of an important event in the life of the person before finishing with a paragraph or two that outlines the rest of the character’s life. Essays cover major heresies, creeds, councils, schisms, and such events as the Crusades or the persecution of the early church. An attempt is made to cover more than just the European/American church as well, particularly in the volumes covering more recent history. Overall, this is an excellent introduction to church history for kids and their families that offers both factual information in the essays and a “feel-like-you’re-there” sense in the stories themselves.

Cautions: Violence (many heroes of the faith suffer great violence and martyrdom for the faith)

Overall Rating: 4.5

Worldview Rating: 5

Artistic Rating: 4

For more reading about church history for kids, see our Church History October Series!

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