Saturday, July 07, 2007

Henty: Lion of the North

Several years ago, Henty books were all the rage among some homeschoolers. Although some homeschoolers hated these historical fiction books, many were ga-ga over them. Some families said they were dry. Others said the books were full of adventure and had noble heroes and that the stories would help build character while being entertaining.

I wasn't interested. "So many books; so little time," y'know.

But we got to the point that I wanted to know more about the history of the Thirty Years War. The kids had no driving, desperate need to study a different time period in history, so we bought two Henty books set during the Thirty Years War. We also bought Genevieve Foster's The World of Captain John Smith which covers events throughout the world from 1580-1631. (We love these Foster books!)

So yesterday we finished our very first Henty book. It was okay. I have absolutely no desire to read other books of his unless it's something that will be hard to get information on. We'll be reading Won by the Sword to get the second half of the Thirty Years War. But I'm not going to bother with his books on Egyptian history or the Civil War.

Lion of the North was hard to read. There were so many characters to keep track of, so many battles, so many numbers thrown around (how many soldiers in each army, how many infantry, how many cavalry, how many dragoons). We heard more than we could absorb about the strategy and tactics and maneuvers of various battles. The vocabulary was way beyond me, but the boys helped me out with military terms, and we hauled out the dictionary frequently. Henty's sentences have as many subordinate clauses and prepositional phrases as does the Apostle Paul's writing. It took me till we were halfway through the book before I got the feel of it well enough to "edit on the fly" as we read. Forget making it understandable to the kids -- I needed to dumb it down so that I could understand. (Do you know how puny-minded I feel when I think that there are 12-yr-old homeschooled boys who read these books for jollies??)

All that said, though, it wasn't too bad a story. We learned about the era. The story was definitely a boy-story, but there was a wee touch of romance in there. I won't know until we read the next one, but I suspect that Henty was a "formula writer" from 150 years ago. Some parts of the story just didn't quite add up, but it was okay anyhow. We do need a break, though, before going on to the next volume. We have a math story to read, and a Freddy book, and the Foster history book on the time period.

1 comment:

  1. We also love the Foster books! There's one about William Penn that is out of print now--I have looked for it a few times on Ebay, etc., and you can get it but it goes for $30, $40, $50 or more!

    I don't like Foster quite that much!