Saturday, August 26, 2006

Dispelling the Tyranny

Dispelling the Tyranny: The Sequel to When the Morning Came, Piet Prins
(Inheritance Publications, 1994), pb., 152 pp.

As mentioned in the subtitle, this is the sequel to When the Morning Came, which we really enjoyed. In this book Martin, his father and Boudewyn are not satisified with their safety in exile but long for the freeing of their homeland from Spanish tyranny. They join with the army of Count Lodewyk, brother of William of Orange, to invade the Netherlands in order to drive out the Spaniards. This has been a fun way to learn about this era of history which is not often discussed.

We enjoyed this book, though it was not at the same level as the first book. The story itself just was not as compelling. This was made even more difficult by the reliance on Dutch place names which were difficult to pronounce and unknown to us. This seems to be a result of the fact that it was originally written in Dutch. Thus, the original audience would have probably recognized the place names. For us however, these were obstacles which made the story difficult to follow. There were also more instances of awkward sentence construction in the translation.

In spite of these criticisms, my boys are clamoring for the third book. If you can simply decide upon a pronunciation for names (right or wrong be consistent), navigate the place names, and help your children keep up with who is in view (I would often add, “That’s the bad guys,” or “These are the good guys”), then there is good action, nobility and sacrifice and good examples of perseverance.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

When the Morning Came

When the Morning Came, by Piet Prins
Struggle For Freedom Series 1
(Neerlandia, Canada: Inheritance Publications, 1989), pb. 158 pp.
Trans from original Dutch

I was greatly and pleasantly surprised by this book. The combination of our previous experience with translations from Dutch, little experience with this publisher and being a bit behind schedule, I almost skipped this book. My boys and I, however, are very glad I did not. This is an excellent book on many accounts. It is the best book we have read in connection with the history of the Reformation. I have commended other books sometimes commenting that they were not exactly great stories, but they got the point across. This book, however, would be a great story even if it did not also communicate important truths. It rises just about to the level of the Allen French novels which are among our favorites. I have been amazed at how good this book is.

The story is set in late 16th century Netherlands during the persecution of Reformed Christians. Martin, the main character, is a 12 year old boy whose family gets caught up in the persecution. Separated from his parents who have been arrested for their faith, Martin and Boudewyn, the brave, strong blacksmith, make daring rescue attempts, and must risk a harrowing flight for freedom across lands hostile to their faith hoping to reunite with Martin’s parents.

The first kudos to this book come simply because it is a compelling story. So many books fail at this point being merely sufficient stories and conveying a good point. This one though was compelling. I found myself on edge waiting to see what would happen next. The author masterfully moves from adventure to adventure. This was certainly an action-packed tale. Quite often adults can see where things are going in these stories, but I was kept guessing in this one.

Secondly, there is a good presentation of the faith here in various ways. On the one hand, in the midst of the action, the characters are ever mindful of their reliance on God and pray regularly for His aid. Often in action-packed stories this is missing. Or, if it is not missing, it is presented in an awkward or cheesy way. In this book it came out very naturally which then provided a good example for my boys and provided a platform for good discussion. The characters brave many dangers and are able to do so clearly because they believe God is in control. If God wills he can deliver them, and if not they will go down bravely. This is the sturdy stuff I want to put before my boys.

Developing the second point further, the key characters here are real men (it does seem to be targeted primarily at boys). These Christians are not the weak-kneed sort so often presented in our culture. Martin’s Dad hides a seller of Protestant tracts knowing the danger and then refuses to give him up in spite of the fact that it will likely cost him and his wife their lives. At the same time they will not lie to save themselves. Boudewyn is a blacksmith who knows the Bible well and shares it freely and boldly. He is also a giant of a man who takes on large groups of the enemy when they come against Boudewyn, Martin and company. Since he has no wife or children Boudewyn will be the last man behind so that the others may escape. Then there is Hinne the hunter, Frank Abels the sailor and others. This element again comes across naturally and not forced.

There is even a conversion account. It is not the pre-packaged sort however. It simply comes as Boudewyn boldly asserts the place of Scripture and reads it. Another man then begins to read the Bible and eventually finds himself believing the truths found there, trusting God, and being freed of his bitterness towards his persecutors.

Lastly, the suffering of the people of God is clearly presented. This book probably communicated this more effectively to my boys than any of the other Reformation books we have read so far. Our prayer after reading often dealt with thanksgiving for our religious freedom, our access to the Scripture, and our local church.

We strongly recommend this book. This is not one to endure but one to relish. The inside cover of this book suggests this was to be part one of five. We have volume two and have eagerly begun reading it already. Apparently volume three is also available, but I have not found so far any evidence that volumes four and five ever appeared. Apparently Piet Prins is now deceased. He created a great story in this one, one that even comes through well in the translation.

Update: I just received word from the publisher that vol. 3 is inded available and volume 4 is expected to be available in April 2008.