Children aren’t much interested in history if it’s presented to them as a meaningless string of dates and names of battles, and who was Secretary of State. That’s how they taught history in the government schools when I was young. (Probably they still do; I mean, is it really in their interests that we know history? But that’s a subject for another day…)
What children like are stories, stories about people. And this book goes about the telling of this very important story in just right way for the younger audience. It’s the story of a little girl who lived long ago, “… in the days of kings and queens, and knights and peasants…” and it explains what was going on in the little girl’s world, and the theological error that made the Reformation necessary, in a way that even youngish children can begin to understand.
I don’t know of a better introduction to the Reformation for a very young audience. It’s a tricky thing to explain to that age group; the theological, ecclesiastical and political situations are above their level of understanding, but if you leave those out entirely, the telling of the story is pointless. Somehow this book manages to balance the giving of just enough information to explain why the events in the story happened, without bogging the reader (or listener) down with information they totally can’t understand.
It does this by describing Katharine’s life in the convent: her work helping to care for the sick, but also the endless prayers for the dead, the masses in Latin which she can’t understand, and all the tedious empty efforts to try to earn salvation. The book goes on to describe Katharine’s dawning realization that her life in the convent was not according to teachings in the Bible, hence not God’s will, and to tell about her daring escape from the convent with several other nuns.
Of course Martin Luther and his bold stand for the truth of Scripture figures large in the story, so it’s a nice introduction to him as well. As Katharine ends up marrying Martin, the story goes on to explain the important role she played in supporting and encouraging his work by managing their house, their children, their farm and the entertainment of the constant stream of guests to their home. It must have been a very full life.