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Posted July 29, 2013
The Secret Church is a small chapter book, that was written from the perspective of one child, Richard, during the period of the Anabaptists. I believe what the author, Louise Vernon wanted, was to write a captivating children's adventure from a young persons perspective. This, she accomplished. The book gives a fine introduction to a difficult period in church history; persecution is dealt with in honest terms, and throughout the book the author brings in people who lose their occupations and their homes because of their belief. Menno Simons, the leader of "The Brethren" movement is brought in near the end of the book and a basic understanding of this time period will be obtained.
The main story line follows the fictitious adventures of Richard as he moves from being a young Catholic boy, to when he has to make a decision whether or not to help his relatives who are Anabaptists. Of course, the risk of being associated with heretics would cause a little heart pounding for any young reader. Richard's cousin Otto takes a large role in the book as does Trudi, a feisty friend whose father is not passive in his views of Anabaptists. As the book progresses, readers will be able to watch with Richard as his parents become convinced of their false views and take a stand for Christ as a result of the influence of Otto's parents.The struggle with Richard's own flesh ensues, and it is not until the end that Louise Vernon writes of the victory of Richard taking a stand for his beliefs.
My only criticism of the book is the lack of adult interaction. I think it would have been better if the author had constructed more interactions between Richard and his parents as there is not a lot of adult dialog and Richard mainly discovers what's going on with the Anabaptists and his parents' conversion from his own volition. Parents are the ones who are to guide and raise their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. I didn't see this actively happening. Even so, with some parental clarification/editing I think it could be a great read, and most young readers would find it a thrilling book.
The Secret Church reminded me a little of the well known "Trailblazer Series." The book was well written, and the story line moved along quickly, which, if you're reading this book aloud, will guarantee cries of "Don't stop reading yet! What happens next?" I've often wished that there were Christian historical books available for the 4th-7th grade reading level. This fit the bill.
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