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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Medieval Books to Study - Huzzah!

Hi Rebecca,

Our three children (ages 8-15) will be studying the middle ages next year.  What are some of your favorite Progeny Press guides for that time period? 
Your guidance would be most appreciated!
Thanks and blessings in Christ,  Laura

Dear Laura,
We have a variety of titles available that will work quite well. Here is our current list of medieval titles and their descriptions: Huzzah!
The Minstrel in the Tower (grades 2-4), The Sword in the Tree (grades 2-4), The Whipping Boy (grades 3-5), The Door in the Wall (grades 4-6), The Bridge (grades 4-6), Crown and Jewel (grades 4-6), The Two Collars (grades 4-6), Redwall (grades 5-9), The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (grades 4-7), Prince Caspian (grades 5-7), Voyage of the Dawn Treader (grades 5-7), The Horse and His Boy (grades 5-7), Crispin: The Cross of Lead (grades 6-8), and for high school, Hamlet (grades 9-12), Macbeth (grades 9-12), Romeo and Juliet (late medieval, early Renaissance, grades 9-12) Beowulf (very early medieval, grades 10-12), and all four of the Lord of the Rings titles (grades 9-12).
Following are descriptions to help you choose.

The Minstrel in the Tower by Gloria Skurzynski:
Roger and Alice live alone with their mother in a tiny cottage. Their father, a knight, left five years earlier to fight in the Crusades and never returned. When Roger's and Alice's mother falls dangerously ill, she sends them on a quest to find an uncle they never knew they had. They take with them their mother's lute. "Show him the eagle carved on the back," she tells them. "Ask him to come quickly. Quickly!"
Things become complicated when they are captured by outlaws, and their lute--the only proof of their identity--is stolen. Knowing that at least one of them must escape for their mother's sake, they come up with a plan. Alice, the better climber of the two, climbs out of the tower from a high window. Now she must journey alone, find her uncle, and persuade him to help without the lute to prove her identity. With courage and cunning, she must convince her uncle, save her brother, and ultimately her mother.
An excellent choice for good 2nd and 3rd grade readers, or for reluctant 4th graders or those just coming up to speed.
Setting: France, 1195
The Sword in the Tree by Clyde Robert Bulla
Eleven-year-old Shan, son of Lord Weldon, is happily training to become a knight. But everything changes when his long-lost uncle arrives; and when Lord Weldon mysteriously disappears, Shan's uncle takes over the castle. After hiding his father's sword, Shan and his mother go into hiding; but Shan plans for the day when he will reclaim his birthright. Shan even dares to go before King Arthur in Camelot, seeking help. Will it come in time?
An excellent choice for advanced 2nd and 3rd grade readers.
Setting: Medieval England, in the time of King Arthur
The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman
When the prince is a brat and you aren't supposed to punish him because he is 'royalty,' what is a king to do? Call the whipping boy; he takes the whippings the prince's guardians aren't allowed to give to 'Prince Brat.' This high-paced story begins with the prince making trouble - again. Jemmy, the whipping boy, is called for and receives the prince's punishment - again. This becomes the pattern for every day: the prince refuses to learn his school lessons and Jemmy gets punished. The prince pulls a prank, and Jemmy gets punished. Jemmy decides, however, that as long as he is there he might as well learn proper manners and how to read and write, even if the prince won't. Then, one fateful night, the prince decides to run away and needs someone to carry his basket. Jemmy is drafted, and their adventure begins.
Setting: London or Paris, late medieval, early Renaissance
The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli
Robin, son of Sir John de Bureford, has been told his whole life that one day he, like his father, would learn the ways of knighthood. Yet one day, while his parents are away, Robin is struck by an illness that leaves him unable to use his legs. Left alone in plague-ridden London, Robin is taken to the monastery of St. Mark's by a kind monk named Brother Luke.
Robin is saddened by the fact that, as a cripple, he cannot become a knight like his father. "Thou has only to follow the wall far enough," Brother Luke tells Robin, "and there will be a door in it." While recovering at the monastery, Robin discovers that door. He becomes skilled at woodcarving and swimming, and is taught to use his mind as well as his hands. He is also taught a more valuable lesson in patience.
When he is well, Robin is sent to the castle of Sir Peter de Lindsay, where he was to learn the ways of knighthood, but now he will simply serve as a page. Robin wonders what sort of page he can be with crutches and, consequently, without free hands for service, but when the castle falls under attack, it is Robin who must save the lord and all his people.
Setting: England 1300's
The Bridge by Jerri Massi
Princess Rosalynn of Bracken is left in the care of loyal Sir Reynald while her father, the king, is off visiting a neighboring castle. Then Reynald learns of an impending attack from Folger, a neighboring country much larger than Bracken and connected to it only by a suspension bridge. Acting quickly he devises a plan to save the princess and hopefully save Bracken as well. The princess is carried away from the castle by Herron the Rider. When enemy soldiers chase them and Herron is wounded, he leaves Rosalynn in the middle of the forest and then leads the soldiers away. So Rosalynn is left to begin her journey through perilous, enemy-filled territory - her life in danger with every step. In the process, a wise woman will help her and guide her to greater understanding of herself and others.
Book 1 in the Bracken trilogy. This title is out of print and the novel is difficult to find. We have just a few copies of the novel left.
Setting: imaginative medieval
Crown and Jewel by Jerri Massi
Princess Rosewyn, the daughter of Queen Rosalynn and King Herron, spends her time climbing trees, riding pigs, and taking dares. She despises royal manners and is always looking for a bit of adventure. In this pursuit she inadvertently stumbles upon the secret plot of Sir Blackroot to overthrow her royal family. She then meets her wise and wonderful grandmother, the Wise Woman. Together they escape the palace to find a way to save her family and the tiny kingdom of Bracken. When her grandmother is captured, Rosewyn spends time in hiding with humble miners. Soon, however, her whereabouts are discovered and the Princess must flee yet again across the wintry countryside. Eventually rejoining her grandmother, Rosewyn must regain her strength in order to find her parents, the King and Queen, and expose Sir Blackroot's plot for power.
Book 2 in the Bracken trilogy. This title is out of print with the publisher and is difficult to find.
Setting: imaginative medieval
The Two Collars by Jerri Massi
Krea, a humble slave girl, is a juggler in a traveling troupe led by a wicked master. When she falls ill one day and it appears she will die she is rescued by the Wise Woman, who buys her from her terrible master. The Wise Woman nurses Krea back to health with comfort, love, and acceptance. She teaches the girl not only a physician's trade but also honor, loyalty, and the value of compassion. The kingdom of Bracken is in danger and Krea becomes a courier in the service of King Reynald. Reynald's cousin, Frederick, has plans to overthrow Reynald and take the throne. In the midst of her runs as a messenger, Krea finds herself captured by her former master. Once again the Wise Woman comes to her rescue, and together they seek a way to save King Reynald and Bracken. Amidst brewing war, she will help Krea understand true freedom.
Book 3 in the Bracken trilogy. This title is out of print with the publisher but we still have a limited supply!
Setting: imaginative medieval
Redwall by Brian Jacques
Peaceful Redwall Abbey is suddenly threatened by Cluny the Scourge, a terrible one-eyed rat and his horde of minions. Matthias, a quiet and unsure young mouse novice monk rises to the challenge; but he needs the sword of Martin the Warrior! What clues lie in the old sayings and tapestries? Will he find the sword and shield in time? A marvelously epic tale filled with rich characters, true good, and frightening evil.
Setting: imaginative, medieval
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
In this tale symbolic of the gospel, during World War II, four children, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, are sent to stay at the country home of an old professor. During a game of hide-and-seek, Lucy steps into a wardrobe, only there seems to be no end to it. Just when she thinks she's found the back she steps out into a wintry forest - and the land of Narnia! There she meets a Faun named Tumnus who tells her how the White Witch has used her magic to make it always winter in Narnia, but never Christmas. Later, they all discover the land of Narnia and meet Aslan, the Great Lion and true ruler of Narnia.  Though Aslan's return brings hope to the Narnians, that hope is crushed when Aslan gives himself in sacrifice to save Edmund from the Witch. Who will save Narnia now?
Setting: imaginative, Britain, and medieval Narnia
Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis
When Caspian's parents die, Miraz, Caspian's uncle, assumes the throne, to rule until Caspian grows old enough. But when Miraz has a son and heir of his own, he seeks Caspian's death. Caspian flees into the wilderness where he encounters a pair of Dwarfs and a talking Badger - creatures who inhabited Narnia before Narnia was conquered by the Telmarines, Caspian's people, and driven out by Miraz. There are many of the Old Narnians living in hiding, but with Caspian on their side, they seek to overthrow Miraz and drive the Telmarines from Narnia. Caspian gathers an army of Old Narnians, but Miraz learns of their plans and sends his own armies to search for them. When Caspian's army suffers a series of setbacks, Caspian decides to blow the Horn of Queen Susan which he believes will bring help - possibly in the form of Aslan, the Great Lion, himself. When and how will help appear?
Setting: imaginative, medieval Narnia
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis 
While visiting their nasty cousin Eustace, Lucy and Edward are transported back to Narnia, to the ship of Caspian, now king of Narnia. To their dismay, Eustace gets dragged along with them! Caspian has set sail for the Eastern Islands to find seven lords who were banished there by his evil uncle. But the Eastern Islands are full of strange places and people, and Eustace learns some particularly difficult lessons. Dragons, treasure, and a quest will bring them to Aslan himself!
Setting: imaginative, Britain, and medieval Narnia
The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis
The horse, Bree, and his boy, Shasta are fleeing their slavery, heading north to Narnia and freedom. Along the way, they join the horse, Hwin, and her rider, Aravis, fleeing an arranged marriage. Together they ride north across the desert. Meanwhile, the vengeful Calormen prince Rabadash determines to destroy Archenland and invade Narnia to capture Queen Susan and make her his bride. Shasta and Aravis discover his plan and must warn Archenland in time, or all is lost. Their journey to "Narnia and the North" will involve difficult and dangerous situations, through which they come to realize that they are being guided by none other than Aslan himself! The surprise that awaits Shasta at the end of his journey is more than he ever dreamed of.
Setting: imaginative, medieval Narnia
Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi
2003 Newbery Medal winner.
The boy had always been called "Asta's son," but when Asta, his mother, dies, the village priest reveals that his Christian name is Crispin. He also gives Crispin his mother's lead cross and promises to reveal what the words etched on its surface mean. But before he can tell Crispin, the priest is murdered and Crispin accused of the crime. Believing the cross holds clues to his father's identity, Crispin flees, eventually joining up with a traveling juggler named Bear. Full of surprises, thrills, twists, treachery, contentment, and a hearty dose of what life was actually like in the 14th century, Crispin is also a story of faith, developing maturity, and learning what freedom and manhood really mean.
Setting: 1300s medieval England
Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Two night watchmen at the castle at Elsinore have seen a ghost they believe to be the former king of Denmark, the father of Prince Hamlet. The soldiers entreat Horatio, Hamlet's confidant, to wait with them for the ghost's appearance during the night watch. Horatio is horrified by its resemblance to the dead king. The men ask Hamlet to join the watch, and when the ghost appears, it reveals to Hamlet that it is, indeed, the spirit of his father. The ghost informs Hamlet that his father was murdered by Claudius, the current king of Denmark. Claudius, Hamlet's uncle and brother of the former king, has not only usurped the throne of Denmark, but has also taken Gertrude, Hamlet's mother, as his wife. Hamlet vows to avenge the death of his father and says he will put on an "antic disposition" to distract others from his genuine purpose. His indecision and his madness - feigned or real - result in tragedy for himself and all those around him.
Setting: medieval Denmark
Macbeth by William Shakespeare
A classic tragedy full of ambition and betrayal, superstition and murder. After meeting three witches who prophesy that he will one day become king, Macbeth sets off a chain of chaos throughout Scotland when impatience drives him to kill his friend, kinsman, and king. Now king himself, Macbeth struggles to prevent the rest of the witches' predictions from coming to pass as his authority begins to crumble, his wife slowly descends into madness, the fires of rebellion ignite throughout  Scotland, and even the seemingly favorable predictions the witches gave him come to have a double edge.
Setting: 1000AD Scotland
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
One of the most well-known love stories of all time; a love "too rash, too unadvised, too sudden." Romeo and Juliet engage in a controversial affair against the wills of their feuding families, utilizing the help of a priest to sanction their marriage. Through circumstance, blood, deception, and tragedy, the story unfolds. Will the young lovers overcome generations of pain and hate? Or will the feud between their families overcome them?
Setting: late medieval, early Renaissance Verona, Italy
Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney
Beowulf is the first great English, Anglo-Saxon, literary epic, chronicling a hero's exploits as northern European clans teeter between Christianity and the old religions. A monster, Grendel, has descended on Heorot, mead hall of King Hrothgar, bringing death and chaos for 12 years. Beowulf, hero of the Geats, travels to the land of the Danes to free them from Grendel's grasp. With boldness and God's help, Beowulf defeats Grendel and Grendel's mother when she comes seeking vengeance. Finally, at the end of a long reign as king of the Geats, Beowulf faces a dragon to save his people and burn his name into the pages of history.
Setting: very early medieval/ancient, Northern Europe
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
The prequel to The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Bilbo Baggins is a respectable hobbit - one of a race of small, quiet, country folk who inhabit The Shire, their pastoral corner of Middle-earth. One day he receives an unexpected visit from the great wizard Gandalf and thirteen dwarves. The dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield, have decided to return to the land of their ancestors and reclaim the treasure taken from them years before by Smaug, a terrible dragon. On Gandalf's recommendation, Thorin and his company wish to enlist Bilbo as their burglar. Although the idea of adventure appeals to something deep within him, Bilbo would much rather stay at home where he is comfortable and safe. Nevertheless, Bilbo is drawn into the quest and soon faces trolls, goblins, and worse as he travels the great distance to the Lonely Mountain, where the dwarves' treasure awaits - as does the dragon.
Setting: imaginative fantasy medieval
The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
The first volume of The Lord of the Rings.
Frodo Baggins inherits a ring from his uncle, Bilbo, who then disappears—thus begins Frodo's epic quest through Middle-earth. From his humble and comfortable life, Frodo is thrust into a world so much bigger than he imagined. How can one small hobbit make a difference against overwhelming odds and evil, and why continue when failure appears certain? The Fellowship, a group of nine, is commissioned to carry the One Ring to Mordor and destroy it. Facing Nazgul, meeting elves, the loss of a dear friend, and chased by orcs, the adventure begins.
Setting: imaginative fantasy medieval
The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien
The second volume of The Lord of the Rings.
The epic myth begun in The Fellowship of the Ring continues. Frodo and Sam have left their friends to take the One Ring into the heart of Mordor and destroy it. While searching for Frodo, enemies attack and carry off the hobbits, Merry and Pippin, and the remainder of the Company races against all odds to their rescue, finding war, treachery, unexpected allies, and the joyous return of an old friend.
Setting: imaginative fantasy medieval
The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien
The second volume of The Lord of the Rings.
The conclusion of Tolkien’s epic myth, The Lord of the Rings. Frodo and Sam continue their hopeless trek across the devastated and evil land of Mordor, intent on destroying the One Ring in the fires of Mount Doom. As they struggle to reach their goal, Sauron throws his numberless horde against the woefully out-matched men at Minas Tirith. But out of apparent doom rises a new king and new hope. Aragorn and Gandalf risk all, leading an assault on the Dark Lord himself in an attempt to distract him from the Ringbearer and perhaps give Frodo time to destroy the Ring. But can Frodo resist the temptation of the Ring?
Setting: imaginative fantasy medieval


  1. Hi Rebecca! Mydaughter is doing A Beka’s 6th grade history with all the bells and whistles: quizzes, tests, worksheets, maps, etc and it’s proving to be incredibly tedious (like if she were going to be in a history bee) and the test scores a bit demoralizing. A friend of mine recommended that as an alternative my daughter read Story of the Middle Ages (Christian Liberty) and supplement with three of your literature guides. (My daughter has already done some American History and Ancient history (The Mystery of History as a 5th grader), that's why she recommended we progress to Medieval times. I know that history should have some kind of continuity, but I'm just lost and would love any feedback that you can give with recommendations for this year (and possibly 7 and 8th grade if that's not pushing it). Thanks so much!



    1. Dear Tiffiney,
      Sorry about the delay in answering, I've been remodeling and off of work. :-) I am now back!! Medieval times are so much fun to delve into. I would begin with The Door in the Wall, then progress to Crispin, Cross of Lead ( a deliciously rich book of history, adventure, and what it was actually like living through plague, and feudalism in the middle ages). After this I usually recommend going into something imaginative/medieval as it wraps up the year on a lighter note. I would suggest either Prince Caspian, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, or Redwall. I would do Redwall if she is a good reader.
      As you continue into 7th grade and 8th grade, look at the following progression through history. Three I'd choose for 7th grade - early American and World History:
      The Witch of Blackbird Pond is set in 1687 in Connecticut, a touching story of a girl coming of age and learning to serve and think of others instead of herself.
      Amos Fortune, Free Man is set in the 1700's in New England and deals elegantly with slavery and is the real life biography of an inspiring Christian man.
      Treasure Island is set in the mid 1700's and is an adventure classic no child should miss.
      For 8th grade, I'd do four guides to prepare for high school:
      Give Me Liberty, a fabulous story of the American Revolution (1770's) from a young boys eyes and a very solid Christian background.
      The Scarlet Pimpernel set during the French Revolution (1793-94). This is a high school guide that is easy enough to do in 8th grade. It is funny and reminds me of a Zorro styled hero who will sacrifice to save others.
      Carry On, Mr. Bowditch set from 1773-1838, a fascinating true-life biography of a brilliant young man from his boyhood and self-education to becoming the master of his own sailing ship. He also revised and created navigation charts that are still used to this day.
      Swiss Family Robinson, a high level guide and Christian adventure classic that no one should miss. Challenging and fun!!
      This will leave you in history right before the Civil War in the late 1800's to begin in high school. I hope this helps and wish you the best of fun and learning in the coming months!


Have a similar issue or question? Let me know and I will be more than happy to help out!