Friday, September 14, 2012

Book Review: Heroes of God's Church

Heroes of God's Church by Father P. Henry Malimore, S.J.D.

This book is one of the recommended texts for volume 3 of RC History's Connecting with History. Most of our books for volume 3 will be from the beginner level (K-3), but I grabbed this one from the grammar level because it came highly recommended on the discussion board and First Son will be in the logic level the next time we go through this volume. It did not disappoint.

It's an expensive book, but it's beautiful. The hardcover is cloth (mine is blue) with gold-colored embossing. There's something wonderful about putting such a beautiful book in the hands of my children. The single full page black and white illustrations for each story are well done. The book covers a wide chronological range as well, so it can be used at the advanced beginner and grammar levels for multiple years: Saint Cecilia is first (early 200s) and St. Therese is last (late 1800s).

A wide range of individuals are featured so every child should find at least a few stories that resonate. Each saint's story is presented in such a way as to develop virtues in the reader.
[W]e have endeavored to stimulate interest in each saint by presenting him or her as a real human being who lived in a real world among real people and not as a superbeing surrounded by miraculous wonders. We have tried to make the saints human, admirable, and lovable, and therefore imitable. In order that children may learn that sanctity is not confined to any special nation or historical period, or time of life, or social or financial condition, saints have been chosen from various nations, from all periods of time, from all ages of life, and from all strata of society.

The stories are divided into sections that allow for very easy reading. They vary in length a little, but I have planned to divide a story into no more than two readings for First Son to accomplish on his own. He'll read these independently in place of his usual independent saint reading (twice a week) and then narrate to me. He's in third grade, but his reading level is probably higher than that. So far he's only read one of the stories, but he seemed to read and understand it easily.

At the end of each story are a few questions, true/false statements, or discussion prompts that some children and parents may find useful as a starting point for narrations or written work.

The book was originally published in the 1930s, so a few of the "heroes" are now saints, like St. Damien of Molokai.

Some of the language is a bit out of fashion ("savages" in the chapter on St. Isaac Jogues, for example), but these few words are easy to discuss.

We read stories of the saints as part of our history studies, but my main focus on the saints is providing our children with stories of valor of faith. I'm looking to instill in them a great love of God and the realization that there are as many ways to serve our Lord as there are people. As time goes on, I hope they will begin to consider their own place in the world and within God's plan. This book is a wonderful contribution toward that end.

I decided to use this book after I had purchased our history books, so I picked up my copy on Amazon using a gift certificate. (Because my actual cash homeschooling budget was fairly well depleted at that point, I had to use gift certificates or go without.) For those planning ahead, I would recommend purchasing it from RC History. The price is the same, it counts toward free shipping if you spend $50, and it's wonderful to support a family-owned business and the contribution they make to the Catholic homeschooling world. (I don't receive anything if you make a purchase at RC History.)

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