Once in a while, Rorate reviews books for our readers we believe will be beneficial to them or their families, helping them grow in the Faith. We receive no compensation for this -- ever. We do it only as an act of charity, the same reason for which we take the time to run this blog.
Today's review is of the Sophia Institute Press' "Crossbows & Crucifixes" which is a children's book written by Henry Garnett in 1905 and billed as a novel of the priest hunters and the brave young men who fought them.
When I read this book to my two oldest children (boys ages six and four, our girls are just too young) a couple of things were quickly apparent: one, that young boys love hearing about "fighting," which any parent of boys already knows; and, two, while the six-year-old boy listened intently, it was a little too much for the four year old.
The content itself wasn't the issue -- the four-year-old could easily be entertained if it was made into a movie. However, being this is set in 16th-century England, and written in the early 20th century, the language is difficult at first for a younger child to understand. The six-year-old for the first couple of chapters had to repeatedly ask what words or phrases meant, but that's a good thing, because he learned a lot. It's not every day that a child hears words like "pursuiviant"!
If you are like me, you went through your phase -- or maybe never got out of it -- of reading everything you could of the 16th-century Heretic Revolt (the so-called "Reformation"), and yet wondering how to ever translate this to children. It is critical that they know the what Catholics before them went through, but the graphic nature of most books on the period is too much for young minds.
"Crossbows & Crucifixes" does a wonderful job of explaining what happened, letting the child know priests and those who protected them suffered and died for their Faith, but without the graphic depictions of that suffering.
While the book is a work of fiction, what is portrayed did indeed happen many times in real life, but with fictional characters. And while the characters are fictional, the book nicely weaves in some real-life legends, like St. Edmund Campion. And many of the main characters are young men which children can better relate to and, God willing, model their lives after.