17th century Historical Fiction

I, Juan de Pareja

Book cover: 'I, Juan de Pareja'
Author(s): 
Elizabeth Borton de Trevino
Copyright: 
1965
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

I, Juan de Pareja, is biographical fiction, set in Spain in the first half of the seventeenth century. It tells the story of Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velazquez, the Court painter in Spain, through the eyes of his personal servant, Juan de Pareja. Juan was part of Diego Velazquez's inheritance, and became his personal aide. Because of his nature, Juan doesn't resent his master and becomes a beloved member of the household.This story tells of the mutual respect that two men, even though one is a black slave and the other his master, can have for each other. Although it is forbidden for a slave to learn or practice the arts in Spain at that time, Juan pays close attention to his master and learns to paint in secret. But is learning to paint worth his guilt? Is it worth the guilt of having stolen paints and the terror of being discovered?I, Juan de Pareja, is an excellent story that I'd recommend for children ages 9 to 16. The reason I recommend it for older children is that there is some wanton cruelty, and death is a sub-theme of the novel. It can also be used as a read-aloud to older children and would be an excellent addition to your study of Spain or the Renaissance. This book should be readily available at your local library, or even a good used book store.

Review Date: 
7-25-2000
Reviewed by: 

Madeleine Takes Command

Book cover: 'Madeleine Takes Command'
Author(s): 
Ethel C. Brill
Copyright: 
1946
Publisher: 
Bethlehem Books
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
204 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

The thrilling true story of fourteen-year-old Madeleine de Verchères, who in 1692 defended her family's seigneury (a type of fortess) and its occupants from the fierce Mohawk Indians for an entire week with only the aid of her two younger brothers, an elderly servant, one faithful full-grown man and two cowardly soldiers who were of little help. Although the basic outline of the story is well-documented, this story fills in all of the interesting (and likely) details surrounding this event that is still commemorated near Montreal with a statue of this young heroine.

The story is exciting and, while not quite graphic, probably intense enough to make it unsuitable as a read-aloud for very young children. Children beyond fourth grade or so will find it interesting and exciting, with many details of bravery, clever strategies and God's providence.

The story is an excellent supplement for the study of Canadian and/or North American history. The authors portrayal of the interactions with the Indians are quite fair - placing a great deal of the blame for the cruelty of the Indians upon the heads of the white men (both from France and England) many of whom repeatedly betrayed their trust and used them for their own selfish interests.

Highly recommended.
See our review of the audio version.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
4-45-01
Reviewed by: 

Madeleine Takes Command (audio)

Book cover: 'Madeleine Takes Command (audio)'
Author(s): 
Ethel C. Brill
Copyright: 
2000
Publisher: 
Bethlehem Books
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

Madeleine Takes Command is a story of heroism. Based on a true account in the winter 1692-93 in the wilderness of French Canada, fourteen-year-old Madeleine, along with her brothers, twelve-year-old Louis and ten-year-old Alexandre, hold down the fort against a raiding Iroquois party.

The story opens with Madeleine's mother regretfully leaving with her three youngest children to go to Montreal on business. As the oldest child of the seigneur, Madeleine is left in charge of the estate. With the constant threat of raiding Iroquois parties, burning, killing, and destroying, tension builds as Madeleine anxiously awaits her mother's return. Suddenly, while on patrol in the woods, the garrison is attacked and the tenant farmers are either captured or massacred as they make their way to the fields. Madeline, her brothers, an elderly servant, and two useless, cowardly soldiers are left to defend the fort and the remaining wives and children of the workers, who huddle together in the blockhouse.

Through Madeleine's ingenious ideas, they are able to present the appearance of far more militia men defending the fort. Hoping for reinforcements, they must battle against the constant threat of an open assault, as they observe the Iroquois darting in and out of the woods, threatening to do more harm, yet their biggest danger may be their own fatigue from the constant watch.

Who is to blame for all the fighting? The author presents a fair account of the turbulent times, giving blame equally to all sides and prodding the reader to reflect on the true Christian response to war and hatred.

Since this is a recording, the narrator also plays a role in the story. The narrator in this production is a woman with a sweet and soft-spoken voice. Her French pronunciation is impeccable. It is the suspenseful storyline, rather than her presentation; however, that carries the listener's interest. With each new turn of events, my children eagerly anticipated the next chapter. Will the reinforcements come in time to save the fort?

Additional notes: 

4 Hours (3 Audio Tapes or 4 Audio CDs)

Review Date: 
7-7-04
Reviewed by: 

The King's Daughter

Author(s): 
Suzanne Martel
Copyright: 
1974
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
231 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

This engaging novel is centered around a young orphan from France, who is married off to a Canadian coureur de bois. The heroine, Jeanne Chatel, is spunky and determined to succeed in the wilds of 17th century Canada. There is considerable Catholic content in the novel. Jeanne is an orphan, and is raised by Catholic nuns in France. She travels to America with Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys, who went on to found schools and chapels, and started the Congregation of Notre Dame in Montreal, Quebec.

The novel has considerable historical content. We see the dangers faced by settlers in New France from Jeanne's eyes, as she struggles with raising her family and enduring the ever-present possibility of an Indian attack. Jeanne's husband is a coureur de bois, and we learn about this unique lifestyle. The book would be thoroughly enjoyed by girls, twelve and up. The author weaves a bit of romance through the story, and this would have high 'girl appeal'. It has an exciting plot, and would enhance any study of early Canadian history.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
1999
Reviewed by: 

The Outlaws of Ravenhurst

Book cover: 'The Outlaws of Ravenhurst'
Author(s): 
Sr. M. Imelda Wallace, S.L.
Publisher: 
Lepanto Press
Binding: 
Sewn Hardcover
Number of pages: 
233 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

This is a lovely and engaging story set in early 17th Century Scotland and Colonial America. A mysterious "gray-cloaked" stranger leaves a toddler to be found by a passing priest. A young boy notices that he looks surprisingly unlike his "twin." It is a story of a boy being suddenly thrust into great challenges to faith and life. Secret passages, mysteriously changing identities and subtleties of who you can trust surround a story that stirs the blood to stand up for the faith - inspired by true stories of long ago. Devotion to the Eucharist and Our Lady come alive in noble characters who are boldly ready to die for their faith.

The story is Catholic through and through, but the characters are so real and the enemies are not exaggerated. I was pleased to see that not only are Protestants not demonized, but seen as fellow-sufferers (however misguided) under corrupt men . The action will keep you on the edge of your seat while surprises await you at every turn. My children and I really enjoyed this story as a read-aloud.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Additional notes: 

Donated for review by Lepanto Press.

Review Date: 
3-23-01
Reviewed by: