16th century

Galileo's Leaning Tower Experiment

Wendy Macdonald
Paolo Rui

Science readers are to be found if you look around enough as this book demonstrates. It is the fictional story of Massimo, a boy who regularly throws his uncle's lunch off a bridge to his boat as his uncle rows by below. Galileo happens to see that the bread and the cheese land at the same time. The story ends atop the leaning Tower of Pisa, as legend suggests Galileo did.

The Blood Red Crescent

Henry Garnett

The year is 1570. The Turkish Ottoman Empire has wrested control of the Mediterranean Seas, instilling fear in all who wish to sail there. They have been raiding the coastal towns of Italy, France and Spain, plundering and burning, and kidnapping Christians as slaves. On top of this, the Sultan has been rapidly increasing his fleet of galleys and Corsair pirates have been massacring more and more Christians or kidnapping them as slaves.

Much Ado About Nothing

Book cover: 'Much Ado About Nothing'

This is an admirable portrayal of one of Shakespeare's great comedies beautifully filmed on location in Italy. It is a love story that also laughs at love and a drama that ends up being "Much Ado About Nothing." It is so refreshing to see that Kenneth Branagh (director, adapter and co-leading man) appreciates Shakespeare as Shakespeare rather than trying to add on modern nonsense to make it more accessible. Instead, Branagh assists in making Shakespeare's timeless story accessible through good acting, beautiful scenery and an amazingly faithful script.

Saint Philip of the Joyous Heart

Francis X. Connolly

The lovely story of the 16th century priest and saint of Rome whose joy brought many away from the evils of the day. He patiently bore a great deal of emotional persecution from some fellow priests, but eventually won his tormentors over to the love of Christ. Many insights into the meaning of a vocation and how to spread the joy of Christ.

Saint Ignatius and the Company of Jesus

Book cover: 'Saint Ignatius and the Company of Jesus'
August Derleth

Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the well-known saint/scholar, founder of the Jesuits and author of the Spiritual Exercises, was a surprisingly simple and humble man. Although he was rather arrogant and adventurous as a young soldier, a serious battle wound forced him into an extended bed rest. Restless and bored, he finally gave in to reading the only two books available to him - The Life of Our Saviour and The Lives of the Saints.

Red Hugh, Prince of Donegal

Book cover: 'Red Hugh, Prince of Donegal'
Robert T. Reilly

The true story of Hugh Roe O'Donnell, an Irish prince who fought the English Invaders at the time of Queen Elizabeth. This is a fast paced story - quite exciting and with a touch of romance. The hardships endured by Red Hugh, particularly during his imprisonment, are a bit graphic, but probably not too intense for mid-gradeschoolers and up. We are reminded of Red Hugh's faith when he asks the English to let him see a priest. The request is refused and the reader is introduced to the tactics of indoctrination, used to attempt to sway the hero from his Irish and Catholic loyalties.

A Man for All Seasons

Book cover: 'A Man for All Seasons'

This is a VERY well-done rendition of the story of St. Thomas More. Thomas More was a well-respected lawyer who was named Chancellor of England under King Henry VIII. He is a model statesman - modest, intelligent, and principled. He was martyred for not condoning the actions of the King toward the Catholic Church and his first wife. (Quite a refreshing contrast to modern-day politics!) I would suggest this for high school students as younger students (unless they are familiar with the story and accustomed to somewhat complex dialogue) may find it "boring".

Saint Thomas More of London

Book cover: 'Saint Thomas More of London'
Elizabeth Ince

An interesting and readable life of Thomas More (1477-1535): the great saint, scholar, father, lawyer, statesman, author, patriot and lover of the Church. The author, a descendant of Thomas More, has included many interesting details and anecdotes that bring this great man to life and help us better understand who he was. Even as an adult who became interested in St. Thomas More from the movie A Man for All Seasons, I found many tidbits that helped fill in the details not present in the movie - particularly regarding More's life before he became Chancellor of England.

How the Reformation Happened

Book cover: 'How the Reformation Happened'
Hilaire Belloc

This book is a surprisingly readable and interesting account of "How the Reformation Happened". Although it is written from a Catholic perspective, Mr. Belloc is very fair in dishing out the blame to the appropriate people on both sides. The years covered are 1517 (when Martin Luther affixed his protest against the Indulgences to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany) to 1648, but also includes commentary of the implications of the "Reformation" on our own times.

Stars of Fortune

Cynthia Harnett

Set in England, mid 1500s, Catholic perpsective. As explained in the postscript, this book is the author's recreation of a legend surrounding the home belonging to the Washington family (who claims our first president as a descendent). According to the legend, Elizabeth I was once hidden in the house while fleeing pursuers. The story takes place during the tumultous reign of Mary I (eldest offspring of Henry VIII) at which time the "old religion" has been reinstated.


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