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Living History Books
by Helene A. Guerber

Reviewed by Martha Robinson

Purchase details: H.A. Guerber history books. Reprinted by Nothing New Press. Please support HomeschoolChristian.com by buying these books from the Christian Book Distributors links in the text below.

Christine Miller, a leader in classical Christian education, has republished the works of H.A. Guerber. Written in the late 1800's for grammar school students, Miss Guerber's books bring the "story" in history to life, but they do it with a rigorous vocabulary and depth of study that is not seen in books of the twentieth century, and certainly not in recent books. Black and white illustrations and maps appear frequently in the volumes. Each of the books also includes a list of living books recommended by Mrs. Miller, a timeline, a bibliography for the information in the publisher's preface, and an index.

The Story of the Greeks ($21.95, 205 pages) has fascinating storybook style tales of virtually all the famous Greek names, battles, and places. Emphasizing that the Greeks told many stories to their own children, this book introduces an astounding amount of material in brief stories that are appropriate for narration or even bedtime reading. Noble pursuits, honor, Greek children, and heroes are among the topics.

The Story of the Romans ($21.95, 202 pages) traces history from "the first settlers" in Italy to the fall of Rome in 476 A.D. in chronological order. In the publisher's preface, Mrs. Miller points out viewpoints that are different than the author's in regards to the original people of the Italian peninsula. Then, the story proceeds with an emphasis on people and events. Brutal topics such as gladiators, slavery, and atrocities committed on Christians are presented in a way that encourages discussion on the decline in morals and differences with Christian cultural values and the Romans'. While enough information is given to get a clear picture of the brutality, the emphasis is not on the events, but rather on the horror that people could be so cruel. Throughout the years after Christ's time, the persecution of the Christians is a consistent part of the story. In the back of the book, a very detailed timeline allows the reader to relate the story to dates.

The Story of the Thirteen Colonies ($23.95, 240 pages) begins with general information about the indigenous people of North America. Mrs. Guerber's opinion that "The Indians were so simple that they believed all this nonsense [in regards to Pagan religion]..." reflects the popular belief of the day that the natives were inferior beings. She then moves on to the history of the United States, beginning with the Vikings' discovery. "The aim has been not only to interest children in the great men of their own country, but to stimulate them to the cultivation of the lofty virtues of which they read, and to instill within their hearts a deep love for their native land. All of the main facts in our early history have been given as simply and vividly as possible, and the lessons of patriotism, truthfulness, courage, patience, honesty, and industry taught by the lives of our principal heroes are carefully enforced." The author presents the Christian history of our country with emphasis on Puritan, Quaker, and Catholic settlements, and clearly shows us that the brave and good beat out cowards and evil.

The Story of the Great Republic ($23.95, 252 pages) picks up with American history where The Story of the Thirteen Colonies left off and continues up to the assassination of President McKinley in 1901. Christine Miller made adjustments to this volume including the removal of some words that were in common use during Mrs. Guerber's time, but are considered offensive now, and the addition of biographies of two black heroes, Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver. Again, Mrs. Guerber writes in an interesting storybook style with dates and details about people and events in American history. Because this book was written in the early 1900's, it has the perspective of recently passed history for this period with in-depth information that does not appear in current texts. While the original market for this book was elementary students, the quality of material makes this text suitable for students of all ages, including most of the adult population whose knowledge of American history is sorely lacking.

Recommendation: If only the population of our country today had this depth of historical knowledge! These books are intended for early elementary students, and yet, only a small fraction of educated adults would have a background to compete with these. They will be beneficial to all family members.

While there are some issues that the parent may want to address in the interest of today's world, the issue of Indian intelligence, for example, Mrs. Guerber's books offer an astounding level of information with stimulating vocabulary and interesting stories. The author designed these stories for use in a classical learning environment with oral and written reproduction (narration) as a primary method of study. The books are written from a Christian perspective, making them ideally suited for those who choose to teach using the Christian Trivium rather than just the classical approach.

Good and evil are clearly delineated in these books. The characteristics of heroes are shown in a positive way, while the depths of evil are clearly presented through the horror of deeds. H.A. Guerber's books will be a strong addition to a child's moral development in his formative years.

HomeschoolChristian.com resources related to this review:

HomeschoolChristian.com's History Resources Section for ideas, links, and information!
Review of All Through the Ages
Review of The Story of the Renaissance and Reformation by Christine Miller
Review of the Famous Men series
Review of the Young American Patriots series of historical fiction
Review of the Trailblazer Books of Christian-based historical fiction

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