Saturday, November 04, 2006

Peril and Peace

Peril and Peace
Volume I: Chronicles of the Ancient Church
Mindy and Brandon Withrow

Peril and Peace is the first book of a series that seems to be growing all the time. The Withrow couple is answering the quest of many searching for a readable and interesting church history book for young people...a living church history book, if you will.

This first volume begins with in 59 AD with Paul. From the first few lines, I was hooked. The writing transports you to the time a place. You feel like you are right there, part of the landscape.

“The sea surged, and a wall of foamy water forced him below the surface. He thrust his head above the waves, sputtering for air in the driving rain. ‘It’s not that far. Almost there,’ he told himself. He’d have reached the shore by now if the surf didn’t keep pushing him under. Another swell broke over him, dragging him toward the beach. He stopped struggling and held his breath, letting the furious water propel him forward. When the foam drained away, he was left behind on the sandy strip, exhausted, his tunic twisted around his legs. He coughed up seawater. ‘This is how the prophet Jonah felt when he was vomited up by the fish,’ he thought.”
And so goes the writing, through six more centuries and two hundred pages.

Scanning the table of contents, Peril and Peace covers greats such as Polycarp, Origen, Athanasius, Ambrose, Jerome, and Benedict with more sandwiched between. Of the twenty chapters averaging about twelve tightly written pages, fourteen are biographical and the remaining six are shorter segues. These transition chapters, like What was the Ancient Church?, Worship in the Ancient Church, how Did We Get the Bible?, explain much accepted or taken-for-granted information.

The two page Ancient Church Timeline in the beginning of the book is thorough but not overdone and filling in gaps that are not always specified in the narrative. A nicely done map of the Ancient world with major cities rounds out the book.

The Withrows began writing these church history books for their nieces and nephews. With that kind of vested interest, it is no wonder that the writing is so well done–just like a long, wonderful story told to eager little ears.

That’s fine with me if these books are for young readers. Juvenile books are some of the best history around, in my opinion. Bringing history to life causes me to appreciate, and remember, history better than many "adult" books or textbooks can anyday.

The second volume in this series, Monk and Mystics (Medieval Church) is already out, and Courage and Conviction (Reformation Church) is due out in January. A fourth volume is brewing and will cover the First and Second Great Awakenings.

I always find it interesting to read about the authors of books I really enjoy. This husband and wive couple have blogs that will interest many bibliophiles. Brandon’s blog is found here. Mindy’s Literary Review blog is full of interesting book reviews. To top it off, they have a History Lives blog, too, devoted to this wonderful series.

Thinking back to how I came across these books, I think someone posted about Peril and Peace in the Autumn Reading Challenge. I was intrigued by the title, searched for more information, but did not follow up on it. Shortly after that, Vox Vendsel joined the Autumn Reading Challenge and perusing her blog, I found the Withows’ blogs and finally met up again with Peril and Peace. Oh, the places you can go on the Internet!

I am privileged to have found these resourceful and interesting people. Especially to find that there are common bonds and kindred spirits here too.

Make haste and get thee this book!


Sherry said...

This series sounds like something I would like to use as we start studying through history (again) next year. I'm wondering if I can correlate this book with Susan Wise Bauer's Story of the World.

Jennifer said...

Are you familiar with the Cybils? You could nominate this, or another favorite Middle Grade/YA Nonfiction book.

It sounds interesting.

SeasonalSoundings said...

Yes! Withrow's book is perfect to use with SotW. I really meant to include that in my review. The chapters can easily be used independent of each other. Perfect!
Also, the Withrow's have SWB's adult History of the World blog on their site so they must be familiar with her. Connections, connections!

Thanks for the heads-up about Cybils. It is loading very slowly, but I'll check it out.

Mark Traphagen said...

Westminster Bookstore (, on the Withrow's "home turf" (Westminster Theological Seminary) has these for less than Amazon.

Sarah said...

Oh, thanks loads Janie!! I can't wait to get this.

Thanks for the message about Judaism in France, too. I'm not sure how scrupulously accurate it was, but it certainly is very, very difficult to feel "at home" in France if you're Jewish (or Muslim or Pentecostal).

SeasonalSoundings said...

Thanks! I'll pass it on.

FYI, you may have noticed the comment above yours about P&P (and M&M) at WTS...I checked it out and they have them for $6.84 each (with $5 shipping, I think).
P&P at Westminster

Might be cheaper unless you are ordering with Amazon free shipping.

I'd love to know a "kid's perspective" of the book when "I" reads/hears it. I can't wait to use it in a traditional classroom!

Mindy said...

Thanks for such an articulate and encouraging review of our series, Janie! The feedback we've received from kids has been very positive, but it's great to hear the same from educators.

I was homeschooled, and did have the homeschooling and Christian school communities in mind when formulating this series, so hope you all can make good use of it.

And yes, Brandon and I are familiar with SWB--haven't met her yet, but she has spoken at Westminster, her alma mater and soon to be Brandon's as he finishes his PhD in Historical Theology this year.

Thanks for reading!

Ruth Rachel Vendsel said...

Janie, I was so happy to see you had picked up the Withrows' books and posted this excellent review. They are good friends and great writers. I hope that lots of home educators who happen by here discover their books. Thanks for helping spread the word!

I am thoroughly enjoying the Autumn Reading challenge. I made it through all 1183 pages of Kristin Lavransdatter - I'm not sure I would have been able to do that without the challenge, so thank you! I'm currrently reading Eugene Peterson's "Eat this Book" (which I think you would love). Still loving your blog.

Kind Regards,

Trivium Academy said...

Hi! I found the Withrow books through Westminster and I'm in the process of finalizing a schedule to read the History Lives Chronicles and SOTW series together.

I'm also including The 100 Top Important Events in Christian History and possibly Trial and Triumph (Ambleside Online suggestion). I came by to read about the 4th book and I saw that someone mentioned correlating the books.

: ) Blessings